Before long 6 months had passed since Elizabeth’s death. Things had not been easy without her. Jay still hadn’t gotten used to not having her at the end of a phone, or standing in the front row of the home town shows he played.
Abigail still couldn’t get her head around the idea she no longer had her to paint with, or go to musicals with or even to drink with. With Christmas just around the corner it was starting to dawn on both of them that it would be a little different to their normal traditions. Jay would alternate between hosting an ugly Christmas jumper party at his apartment that he and Elizabeth would always organise together, with returning to Ireland to visit family. Abigail traditionally spent it at home with her close friends and family. Elizabeth had often joined them on Christmas Eve for dinner.
Jay waited at the airport with his luggage, he hated travelling. He always worried he’d get on the wrong bus, train or plane. He sat on one of the benches with his headphones in when he finally found his gate and had to wait to board his plane. No Closer To Heaven by The Wonder Years calmed his nerves. He sang it quietly to himself. He watched all the kinds of people walk by as he waited. He liked to make up backgrounds and stories for them, he would often have mocking conversations in his head when he saw people talking or arguing. It always kept him amused. It was a game that Jay and Elizabeth had come up with not long after they met, it would always keep them entertained in restaurants. They would mimic people’s voices and dub what could be said after picking a character each.
Abigail pulled up at her parents house. The wind was cold, she wore a pretty red Christmas jumper, the kind that would not impress the judges at an ugly Christmas jumper party. She loved Christmas, it was her favourite time of year, the music and the movies just made her feel comfortable. She loved decorating her apartment and she loved decorating her parents home even more so. Josh and Alex arrived not long after Abigail did.
He had a window seat. He watched the world passing by as they took off, as the ground got further away he felt more at ease. He found it relaxing that for a short while he could leave the world behind. The music that orchestrated through his ears gave him the perfect soundtrack to his flight. After touching down in the airport he was greeted with a nice chauffeur sign that read “Mike Rotch”.
“Hilarious.” Jay said with a straight face.
“I knew you’d appreciate it.” Sammy smiled.
Jay cracked a smile and hugged his cousin. They left the airport and began their long journey to Galway.
Abigail spent the day putting up the decorations with Josh and Alex. Her mother cooked dinner while her dad pottered around in the garage, none of them really knew what he did in there but it kept him happy. It was 10 days until Christmas, the decorations were being put up a little later than normal this year. The music was on and Abigail smiled as she watched her brother and his fiancée dancing around the living room to Fairytale in New York.
Jay got out of Sammy’s car after they parked at his Mothers house.
“Hey...” Sammy got Jay’s attention. “You okay?”
“...yeah I’ll be okay. Just ready for all the awkwardness.” Jay answered.
She opened the door and let Jay in.
“Hey guys! I have a present for you all!” Sammy called out.
“Jay!” His niece Renee shouted excitedly as she ran up to him and got picked up by him.
“Hey petite.” Jay said as he carried her.
“I missed you!” Renee announced.
He smiled and kissed her head. He walked into the living room to see loads of his family sat there. Marie, his big sister, got up and greeted him with a big hug. Marie was the oldest followed by Clara. Jay was considered a baby still.
“Where’s Ma?” Jay asked.
“She’s upstairs with Clara. Just go up.” Marie informed.
Jay put Renee down and headed upstairs to see Clara and his Mother. He leant on the door frame of the office room. He watched as his mum struggled to show Clara a video of a penguin being tickled. He knocked on the wall.
“Oh! Hey sweetie!” His mum jumped up and hurried over to hug him.
“Hey Ma.” Jay greeted.
She held him tightly for an extended period of time, he looked at Clara and rolled his eyes jokingly over her shoulder.
“I’m so sorry about Elizabeth baby.” She began.
Jay sighed, he knew it wouldn’t take long until people brought it up.
“It’s okay mum.” Jay tried to reassure.
As the night went on more people arrived at Jay’s mums house. Jay found himself floating from room to room not really knowing what he was looking for. Aoife, his cousin, was the next to knock at the door. Jay opened the door and let out a huge smile as he saw her stood there. Aoife was shocked, she immediately leapt onto him.
“Oh my god! You came!” Aoife exclaimed.
“Yeah well, I had the time off to make it down a little before Christmas this year so I’ve got a couple of weeks here to catch up with everyone.” Jay explained.
“It’s so good to see you! You know it’s been what, six years?” Aoife stated.
“Sounds about right. Come on let’s get you a drink.” Jay lead her through to the kitchen.
He held out a bottle of whiskey and Aoife shook her head lightly, smiled and raised her eyebrows. Jay’s jaw dropped.
“No way?” Jay asked.
“Yes way.” Aoife smiled.
“Holy shit F!” Jay exclaimed. “Congratulations! I’m so glad it finally happened after all this time!”
Jay hugged her and put his hand on her stomach.
“It’s 2 months in. I’m so excited.” Aoife stated.
“What are you going to call it?” Jay asked.
“If it’s a girl then Aurora, but I’m not sure about a boy.” She explained.
“It’ll come to you, I’m sure.” He kissed her head and they went out to the garden.
Abigail kept checking her phone to see if she had any messages.
“What’s the matter doll?” Her father asked.
“Oh... Nothing.” She spoke. “I just keep thinking I’ll hear from him.”
“He’s probably just having a catch up with his mum. You said he sees them once every other year, there’s a lot to talk about.” He answered.
“Yeah, I guess.” Abigail put her phone down.
“Why don’t you go surprise him?” Josh asked.
“It’s kind of rude to turn up unexpected.” Abigail replied.
“But he will love it. I’m sure he’s going to miss you. Why not surprise him on Christmas?” He suggested.
“Wait, Josh no.” Her mum interrupted. “You can’t leave us over Christmas. It’s a time for family.”
“He is family. He’s been like a guardian angel the past few months. We’ve had ups and downs but he’s become part of the family.” Abigail responded. “Do you really think I should go?”
Josh looked at Alex for approval.
“Do it.” He confirmed.
Aoife and Jay sat in the garden talking about the past 6 years.
“They’re so sweet.” Marie said.
“They’re related.” Clara replied.
“Don’t make it gross. You know what I mean.” Marie shot back. “They’ve been close ever since they were kids. It’s like they’ve never been separated.”
“They’re literally Irish twins.” Clara joked.
“Except instead of being from the same mum a day apart, they’re different mums on the same day.” Marie stated.
Jay and Aoife barely paid attention to the other people inside. They spent their time just talking about life. He remembered why he always loved it when Aoife stayed with his grandad for a week when they were younger. They had been raised together, as family and as friends.
“So, I’m guessing you know about the accident?” Jay asked.
“Yeah.” Aoife replied. “I nearly flew out.”
“How comes you haven’t brought it up?” He queried.
“It’s none of my business. If you wanted to talk about it with me you would.” She explained.
“Fair enough.” He replied. “Well, when Elizabeth died I was right next to her. For a long time I wished it was me instead of her, to a point where I have often dreamt I made a deal with the devil to keep her alive.”
“Fuck, Jay.” She was speechless.
“It’s been a hell of a challenge trying to come to terms with the fact that it happened.” Jay explained.
“How have you managed to hold on?” Aoife asked. “You haven’t touched...”
“No. No. Nothing like that, I refused to take it even for the injuries I had.” Jay interrupted. “I have basically made myself try to look after and watch over her best friend, and she’s basically done the same for me.”
“I can guarantee she is looking down and she is proud of you.” She reassured.
“I hope so.” Jay replied.
Abigail sat on her bed in the darkness on her laptop looking at flights to Ireland. Josh knew where he had grown up so he could help her find where he was staying easily. She booked the tickets and began to pack her bags. She would be leaving in 6 days, to her that wasn’t enough time to prepare, but she did her best.
Renee came running into the garden and dived onto Jay. He fell backwards on purpose as he caught the flying toddler. She giggled as he pretended he couldn’t get up because of how heavy she was.
“Aoife, your friend is here.” Marie called through to the garden.
The curious infant jumped up and ran to the door to see who it was.
Aoife smiled at Jay.
“What?” Jay asked.
“Okay, so you know how for like the past... 6 maybe 7 years you been single? Well you remember how I promised I’d introduce you to Anna? Well she’s here. She’s been here every year for a while in hopes you’d turn up.” Aoife grinned.
Jay shook his head and rested his head on his arms and knees as he became slightly embarrassed.
Anna came walking out into the garden lead by the hand of Renee.
“Aoife!” Anna exclaimed.
Aoife and Anna greeted each other with a huge hug. It had been a few months since they had seen each other, something very unusual for the pair.
“Anna, this... Is the infamous Jay that I’ve been trying to introduce you to over the years.” Aoife gestured.
Jay stood up and reached out to shake her hand but was greeted with a hug. He looked at Aoife over Anna’s shoulder.
“It’s so nice to finally meet you! Aoife has told me so much about you.” Anna greeted.
As the night went on Jay hung out with Anna and Aoife pretty much the entire time. Renee would constantly make an appearance and Anna would watch as he played with her. She smiled as he picked her up and chucked Renee about playfully.
“You’re really good with kids.” Anna pointed out.
“You think?” Jay rubbed Renee’s hair as she ran back inside. “I guess it’s just from having so many younger cousins on my father’s side I got used to how to play with them. Plus Ren is like my own, ya know? I’d give the world for her, she is so much like her mother.”
“Would you ever have kids of your own?” Anna asked.
Aoife looked at Jay and smiled before making a really poor excuse to run inside.
“I think so yeah. I mean, I’d have to find a committed partner first.” Jay joked.
“So you’re not with anyone?” She interrogated.
“Well... I’m not sure. It’s really complicated.” Jay began.
Anna and Jay took a seat by the pond and watched the fish.
“How so?” She asked.
“Well, I’m sort of with this girl Abigail. She’s amazing, but she is so afraid of admitting that we’re not just friends. Ya know?” Jay began. “I mean, she spends most nights at mine cuddled up to me in bed. We do most things a couple would do, we just don’t have sex.”
“Oh... Yeah that is a little complicated.” Anna observed.
“Yeah, so I’m sorry that F dragged you here for nothing all these years.” Jay joked.
“Don’t be silly. It’s great, I get on really well with everyone, they’re my second family. Your mum came with me for one of my first film auditions actually.” She reassured.
“Wow really? That’s kinda cool. Did you get the part though?” Jay asked.
“Yeah, I was the lead. It was just some really shitty independent movie.” Anna explained.
“What was it called?” Jay asked.
“Makeshift Love.” She replied. “It’s about a girl who falls in love with the idea of being in love, but can never find it. It’s a romcom about trying to find the one in modern day society on things like tinder and plenty of fish but exaggerated. It’s fairly predictable but it’s entertaining.”
“It sounds quite interesting. Maybe you can show it to me while I’m here?” Jay smiled and nudged her.
“Yeah, that’d be nice.” Anna smiled back.
After the gathering had calmed down late into the night Jay headed up the stairs to his old bedroom, which apparently had been untouched. Aoife and Anna were crashing downstairs on the sofas to save the long drive home. Marie and Renee slept in Marie’s room while Clara slept in the spare room. Their mum slept comfortably in her bed in love with the fact all her babies were under the same roof for the first time in many years.
Jay crawled into bed and just laid in the dark with his thoughts for a little while. He began to feel a strange sense of warmth inside. It had been a long time since he had been home. At least that’s how it felt, maybe it was just because it was where he needed to be right now. He put his headphones in and laid back down, the sound of Boyce Avenue’s rendition of I Miss You soothed him.
His hand gripped hers tightly. They laid peacefully in the wreckage. They both knew it could be the end, but neither cared right at that moment. It was just them, they still had each other by their side. Elizabeth looked at Jay, she smiled despite the pain. She knew that in a world of 7 billion and 46 million people where everybody has the audacity to think they matter, she had made a dent in the moon when it came to Jay, and he most certainly had done the same. She knew that in a moment that may not matter to the universe but it was the closest thing to god she had got. Jay squeezed her hand to let her know he was still there.
“I miss you, Jay. I love you.” Her voice echoed around his mind.
Jay jolted awake. It wasn’t a nightmare, it was just an unpleasant dream that made him feel human again. It wasn’t too unlike many others he had had before. He pulled back his covers and put on some tracksuit bottoms before heading downstairs. He walked into the kitchen and got himself a drink, he heard Aoife and Anna gossiping quietly in the living room while watching awful early morning TV. He went and showed his face.
“Everything okay?” Aoife asked as he entered.
“Bad dreams.” Jay simply answered.
“Is it...?” Aoife began, concerned.
Jay just nodded to tell her. He went and sat on the sofa next to her and rested his head on her shoulder.
“Wanna talk about it?” Anna asked.
“I don’t think we have enough ice cream for the three of us if we’re going down that route.” Aoife joked.
“I basically have these sometimes horrible and sometimes heartwarmingly heartbreaking dreams about a very dear friend of mine who died next to me in an accident we were in earlier in the year.” Jay explained.
“Oh. I’m sorry...” Anna wasn’t quite sure how to respond.
“Remember the last time you came and saw me?” Aoife asked.
“I do. Yes. Why? Where is this going?” Jay answered.
“Okay, so basically, the last time I saw Jay he was out here with this girl. Linda?” Aoife began explaining.
“Lily, but go on.” Jay corrected.
“Okay, Lily. She was this beautiful young lass, he had been with her a little while, and they came down to see us and it was the last time Jay made it to one of these parties.” Aoife explained.
“When we arrived Aoife opened the door and dived on me, that was it, Lily was jealous of her instantly despite the fact we’re related.” Jay continued.
“So I’m eventually left with Lily on my own and I try talking to her, but she’s just constantly blunt with me and very sarcastic.” Aoife told.
“So I come back in the room and I throw some screwed up wrapper at Aoife, and that was it. Lily jumps up drags me outside and starts to have a go at me. The next thing I know I’ve got Clara running up behind me and covering my eyes. When she hugs me to say hello, guess what happens?” Jay laughed.
“Lily picks up her things and storms out, flys back home and sulks.” Aoife finished.
The trio sat downstairs laughing and telling stories. It woke up Jay’s mum but she didn’t mind, she smiled to herself. It was nice for her to hear Jay was okay, she had been so worried about him. It was just impossible for her to visit, she was getting old and fragile.
Abigail laid awake looking through her phone, reliving old conversations she had had with Elizabeth. It made her smile. They were always the weirdest conversations. She decided to text Jay telling him she missed him. Almost instantly she got a reply asking why she was awake. When she replied saying she couldn’t sleep her phone began to ring.
“Hey,” she answered. “How is everyone?”
“They’re good, it’s nice to be home. I think I’ve needed it. How come you’re awake? Is everything okay?” Jay asked.
“I’m just having a restless night, I’m okay. What about you? I didn’t wake you did I?” She questioned.
“No I woke up earlier from a bad dream. I’ve just been downstairs hanging out with Aoife and her friend Anna.” Jay explained.
“Have you got much planned in your time out there?” Abigail asked.
“Not really, I’m just going to help Ma around the house a bit, spend some time with Ren, she’s apparently been asking Marie why I haven’t been around for a long time. So I wanna catch up with her. Without her dad she needs someone to be a male role model, and I’m nothing much but I need to be there when I can.” Jay explained.
“Bless your heart. You’re gonna make a great dad someday.” Abigail said softly.
“I’ve had that a lot today. It’s odd, I’ve never really thought about it.” Jay replied.
“When the times right, you’ll either go for it or you won’t.” Abigail stated.
Jay went and sat on the back door step, while Abigail laid in bed. The miles between weren’t comfortable for either of them but it was just one of those things. Abigail soon fell asleep talking to Jay on the phone.
“Love you Jay.” She whispered as she fell asleep on the phone.
Jay smiled to himself, he knew it was sleep talking rambling but he didn’t mind.
“Yeah, you too Abigail.” He replied before ending the call.
He stood up and walked back into the living room where Aoife and Anna had passed out. He tucked them both in and kissed their heads before turning everything off and heading upstairs. He put a tank top and a hoodie on and decided to go for a run. His headphones went in and he ventured around his old village. He ran past the old park he would play in as a kid, down the country roads, past his old friends house, to the local pub, around the village hall and to his old school. The fog was strong, he could see his breath clearly. The chill was nice, but he was sweating from the run. He could see the dew on the grass across the school field. He smiled as he looked back onto it, remembering his childhood before his parents separated and he moved to England. He soon headed back to his mums house. By the time he got back his mum had woken up and was drinking her morning coffee in the kitchen. He came in through the front and headed through to see her.
“You’re up and about early.” She observed.
“I couldn’t sleep. Thought it would be better to do something productive.” He informed her.
She smiled and continued to potter around the kitchen.
“Hey mum?” He started. “I’m sorry I’ve not been around much over the years. If there’s anything I regret right now, it’s the fact that I didn’t make more of an effort.”
“Don’t be silly, you’ve been a phone call away the entire time.” She replied.
Jay began to tear up, she saw the regret in his heart from the realisation that life is short. He wished he could give back the time he had so unfairly not allowed her to have with him. She opened her arms and hugged him tightly. As the tears rolled down his cheeks he felt safer than ever. Sometimes all he needed was a motherly hug.
“You know, the moment I heard about it I knew you’d come home this year. I didn’t know when, but I knew I’d see you. She was your entire life, you were each other’s better half & both of you knew it. I know that there are some thing’s you don’t want to talk to your mum about, but there are things we notice and know without you even saying.” She began. “I know it’s hard without her, it will never not be, but you will learn to live in memory of her. Right now you regret not spending time with everyone you love in fear of something happening again, but everything goes the way it does because that’s what the universe wants.”
“I just miss her so much mum.” Jay said weakly.
“Oh sweetheart.” She held the back of his head and rubbed his hair softly.
Renee came wandering into the room. She walked straight up to Jay. He dried his eyes and composed himself before picking her up.
“Are you okay Uncle Jay?” She asked.
He smiled and kissed her cheek.
“Yeah, I’ve got you. Why wouldn’t I be okay?” He asked with a slight waver in his voice.
“Because of your friend.” She innocently replied.
Jay’s heart sank. He felt his eyes going again. Renee gripped him around the shoulders and cuddled him. He smiled and hugged her back, the innocent caring characteristics she possessed made him feel at ease.
“I love you Uncle Jay.” She said.
“I love you too Ren.” He replied.
Soon midday came around, Anna and Aoife finally woke up and joined everyone else in the world.
“What’s happening today?” Marie asked Aoife as she entered the kitchen half asleep.
“I don’t know, I will probably drive me and Anna home at some point.” She started.
“Oh, Aoife, feel free to stay as long as you like. It’s nice to have all of you here.” Jay’s Ma offered.
“Are you sure?” She asked.
“Of course.” She clarified.
“Thank you, okay so I won’t be driving home just yet. I think I’m going to make Jay and Anna come with me to the coffee house down the road in a bit, you and Ren are welcome to join us. Then we can head to the park.” Aoife suggested.
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Maria answered.
Anna was upstairs in the bathroom freshening up, she opened the window to let the steam from the shower out. She heard Jay laughing so she looked out. She watched Jay chasing Renee around the garden occasionally tackling her or picking her up and tickling her until she couldn’t breathe because of her laughter. She smiled to herself, got dressed and headed down stairs.
The next few days dragged for Abigail, she just wanted her surprise trip to visit Jay to hurry up. When it finally came around she was nervous. She didn’t fly on her own very often, when she did it was always to places she knew. This time it was different. She had never visited Ireland, she had no idea where she was going, she only had directions to follow given to her by her brother.
Anna and Jay sat in the cold by the pond in the garden they had spent near every day hanging out since the family party. Aoife was smug with herself, she thought she had made the match of the century.
There was a knock at the door. Aoife opened it to see a petite redhead in a big grey Vans hoodie on.
“Uhm, is... Is Jay in?” She asked.
“Yeah, bare with me.” Aoife left the door open and headed to the garden to get Jay.
Jay came to the door expecting it to be someone he used to know. When he saw Abigail stood before him his jaw dropped. He swept her up and span her around as he greeted her.
“Oh my god. What are you doing here?!” He asked excitedly.
“I just thought I’d surprise you.” She replied.
“Well I’m surprised. Did you not want to spend it with your parents?” Jay asked.
“It was Josh’s idea, dad encouraged it and mum was a little peeved but I wanted to spend it with you.” Abigail smiled.
“Well, come in, I’ll introduce you to everyone.” Jay gestured into his mums house.
Renee was peaking down the stairs trying to see who was at the door being the nosey little rascal she was.
“Renee, come say hello.” Jay called up.
Renee ran down the stairs and dived onto Jay from about half way. He caught her and cuddled her.
“Ren, this is Abigail. Abigail, meet Ren.” Jay introduced.
“It’s a pleasure Ren.” Abigail smiled.
“Is she your girlfriend?” She asked innocently.
Abigail smiled and looked at Jay.
“Yeah, you could say that Ren.” Jay answered.
Renee held her hand up to high five Jay. Abigail laughed, it was adorable watching Jay with Renee.
“So, she’s Marie’s baby.” Jay informed. “Where’s mummy, Ren?”
Renee ran off to find Marie. Jay led Abigail through to the kitchen to meet his mum.
“Mum?” Jay asked.
She turned around and saw Jay with Abigail and her face lit up.
“Is this who I think it is?” She asked.
“Aye, Ma, this is Abigail. Abigail this is my Ma.” Jay introduced.
Abigail was greeted by a huge hug. Clara and Marie entered the kitchen and joined them.
“Hey Abigail.” Clara greeted.
“Clara! Hey. How have you been?” Abigail asked as Clara greeted her with a hug.
“Abigail?” Marie asked looking at Jay. “As in your new girlfriend?”
“Marie don’t start.” Clara cut in.
Jay brought Abigail outside to meet Aoife properly and introduce her to Anna.
Anna’s face dropped when she saw Abigail. She kept it civil to save drama. She knew it meant that everything she had wanted to do with Jay in the rest of the holiday was no longer going to happen.
Before long it was Christmas Eve, Abigail awoke next to Jay in his childhood home. She slipped out from his embrace and looked out of the window, it was barely sunrise, but the floor was coated white. She smiled to herself and headed downstairs with one of Jay’s jumpers on. She looked into the living room to see Renee sat in the dark watching TV. Renee was getting really into it. Abigail went and sat down on the sofa.
“What you watching, Renee?” She asked.
Renee jumped up and smiled, she ran to where Abigail had sat and dived on her and sat by her side leaning on her.
“It’s Pokemon!” She said excitedly.
“Yeah? What’s happening?” Abigail asked, knowing the answer.
“I don’t know!” She exclaimed happily.
Abigail smiled and laughed at her.
Jay awoke soon after. He rolled over and realised Abigail had gone, he sat up and rested his head in his hands for a moment before standing up. He stretched satisfyingly. His childhood room made him happy. He found comfort there. Jay could hear Abigail and Renee talking downstairs, so he decided to join them.
He stood in the doorway. Abigail was sat on the floor with Renee, both with their legs crossed facing each other, they were drawing each other with their opposite hands. Renee was giggling loads to herself while Abigail kept smiling at Renee’s innocence. Jay smiled to himself watching them playing together. He knocked on the door frame.
“Jay!” Renee immediately jumped up and ran to him, hugging him tightly.
“Hey petite.” Jay hugged her back, “mind if I join in?”
Renee took Jay’s hand and dragged him over to sit down with them. They sat in a triangle drawing the person to their left. They were giggling at each other’s results. They all looked deformed and messed up.
“How about we do it with our opposite hands and have our eyes closed?” Jay suggested.
So as Renee closed her eyes and began to draw Jay nudged Abigail and signaled to draw Renee properly.
“And times up! Open your eyes!” Jay announced.
Renee showed her drawing of Jay, it didn’t even resemble a face, but it amused them all. Jay then showed his eyeless sketch of Abigail, it was fairly good, it still looked human for the most part. Then Abigail showed Renee the sketch of her. She was amazed.
“Wait... You cheated!” Renee clocked on, laughing.
“You caught me!” Abigail played along. “But you can keep this.”
“Really?” Renee asked.
Abigail smiled and nodded and with that Renee ran upstairs with it.
Jay looked at Abigail. She looked back. He smiled and leant across to her and kissed her gently before sitting back down in exactly the same position. She blushed.
“Happy Christmas my love.” Jay said.