I spent the rest of the time left at home trying to figure out what the hell was going on with me. Something was obviously wrong, since what Houston told me made no since. Everything around me was weird and I myself had no idea why this was happening. I hoped going to my parents’ house would help but I kept getting a feeling that I was just gonna come out with more questions.
I drove the car with Charlene sitting next to me in a mauve dress and her hair done up with her bangs hanging slightly, and some matching eye shadow. “Did you remember the presents?” Charlene asked.
“Hmm…I don’t know, maybe they fell out a few miles back.” I said with a smile. She punched me lightly in the shoulder,
“Shut up, I just want to make sure.”
“Charlie, calm down, they’re back there and they ain’t going anywhere until we get to my dad’s.” I said. She’d been slightly frantic through out the drive, I had chalked it up to it was because she was still trying to get my family to like her or something like that, I found it odd that she wanted them to like her so much though, if I was already engaged to her it shouldn't matter right? “Everything will be fine.”
“Okay…” She said.
She didn’t take her eyes off of me for a minute and to be honest I didn’t completely like the feeling of being stared at for long periods of time. I turned my head and caught her eyes in mine, “Is there something wrong?” I asked.
“Are you sure you-“
“You’re okay?” I finished her sentence for her slightly exasperated. I was getting tired of having to constantly answer that question.
“I’m sorry, it’s just I want to make sure that you’re okay before we got there.”
“Wow, I wish you said something before we came this far.” I said sarcastically and laughed a little bit.
“I’m gonna tell you what I told you this mornin’ and the day before,” I told her, “I’m fine okay?” I threw in a smile and that sealed it for the rest of the drive. ‘Thank god dad didn’t move.’ I said to myself. I really wasn’t in the mood to have to learn the new way to a house. I saw Jacks car and one I guessed to be Mike’s. We parked ours across the way and I sent her on ahead while I got the gifts together. ‘My god, what did we buy these people?’ I thought.
A few seconds passed before the door opened and I believe that was the first time I have ever went slack-jawed at who and what I saw at the door. ‘I can’t believe it…’ I said to myself still in shock at the time, ‘Liz is wearing a dress? And it's pink!?’
I stood there for a second and I think she noticed my stare, because she gave me that, “what-the-hell-you-lookin’-at?!” stare that I became very familiar with over time. “Chase!” she exclaimed.
“Oh, I’m sorry I just…” I couldn’t resist, “I was just wondering where Elizabeth was.” I said with a smile. That moment right there and the face she made was well worth the oncoming attack which surprised me that I barely noticed it coming. She was able to actually clip me on the cheek. ‘Did she just…’
“Elizabeth!” A voice called and she stopped to look behind her. “I told you no fighting!” She exclaimed again. I was surprised at how Lori sounded; her accent is so thin you can barely hear it her hair is tinged with gray now as well. She wore a cream colored dress and her wire-rimmed glasses and a pair of high-heels which gave her a few inches to just reach her head to my jaw line.
“But mom he-.” Lori stopped Liz before she finished. After I heard Liz speak I noticed the same thing about her accent like her mother it was almost non-existant, and she had grown up a bit. Taller and allowed her hair to grow out slightly longer. It didn’t change anything of course I knew this was all just something…
“Thanks Lori.” I said with a smile. As Liz stormed off I let out a small chuckle.
“No problem Chase.” She said returning the smile and tried to come in for a hug, but I still held the presents.
“Oh, sorry about that.” She said with a slight chuckle. She hugged Charlene and the two turned to leave. “Just leave the presents by the tree Chase.” Lori called Liz and Charlene went off into the kitchen while I made my way to the living room where Dad had placed the tree. It was big and shiny, ‘I see dad and Lori allowed Liz to decorate the tree this year.’ I said to myself.
I set down the presents next to the rest of the stuff under the tree and stood straight up when I heard a voice. “I thought Santa already made his rounds this year?” I heard someone say with a slight tinge of enjoyment in his voice.
“Well you see, it was the strangest thing,” I said with a smirk, “these things just showed up at my place so I figured I’d drop them off and see if anyone wants them.” I turned and behind me I saw the man I had been hoping to be the only one who hadn’t changed, I found it odd to see how much he had. “How you doin’ dad?” I asked with a smirk. His hair had gone grey, and the wrinkles became more evident on his face.
“You tell me.” He smirked.
“How’s the transition?” I asked,
“To the cane.” I said smirking,
“What makes you-” I had to interrupt him,
“You’re favoring your left side suggesting something happened and on the way in I noticed several scuff marks which were perfect circles suggesting that someone had walked in with a cane recently. That and your left hand is recently calloused so it’s pretty simple to say that you’ve been using a cane.” His smirk turned into a smile and laughed. Dad came in to hug me which I gave back.
It was good hugging the old man, he smelled of old aftershave and good booze, I grew up with that smell and could have picked the scent out anywhere. “It’s good to have you back Chase.” He whispered.
“Back?” I asked, “Where’d I go?” He shook his head after he released me from the hug.
“Nowhere, it’s just been awhile since you’ve done that.” He told me, ‘Really?’ That confused me a little bit,“It’s refreshing to see that you still got it.” I looked at him with a questionable look at first. ‘What did he mean by that?’ I asked myself.
Dad didn’t see my look since he turned and he walked off to his study, I knew he always went there on Christmas; it was his tradition if you would. “C’mon Chase, let’s have a drink.”
“Really?” I asked,
“What’s keepin’ you Chase?” He asked, “C’mon.”
I snapped myself from my surprise, hopefully without being seen by pops and followed him into the study. It was weird to me, because as kids dad never let us in there, let alone let us drink with him. It was even crazier for me to walk in behind pops and see Jack and Mike already there holding their own drinks. “Bout damn time Chase.” Jack said after sipping at his drink and getting up from the seat he was in before I had arrived. Mike was leaning against one of dad’s book cases still nursing his drink.
“Why say that?” I asked with a smirk as dad, who went to his bar he had set up in there when we entered, came back over to me and handed me a drink, I inwardly grimaced when I realized when it was just orange soda. “Seems like you guys have already gotten started.” I added before taking a drink from my soda. “Thanks pops.” I said after I took my drink.
We all sat there talking about this and that. Jack was still enlisted, apparently he’s a combat instructor now and just got re-certified. Mike’s store apparently hit a milestone in sales or something and has plans to open another one somewhere, which was interesting in itself. Mike was never one for business. ‘Guess a lot has changed.’ I thought to myself before my father turned to me and asked. “What about you Chase?”
“Hmm?” I asked looking at him confused,
“How’s the life of a crime reporter?”
“Uh…” I tried to look like I was remembering something, but really I had no idea what to say. What could I? I couldn’t just pull something from my ass. That never works. “Definitely not what I expected,” I began, “But at least this town never fails to deliver on stuff to write.” I added with a small chuckle and each of them looked from one another. I didn’t like when they did stuff like that, made me feel like they were hiding something from me. I had to change the subject. “So how’s retirement treating you pops?” I asked, he sighted and his features softened.
“Oh, you know son,” He began looking from me to his drink, “It sometimes feels like I never left the job.”
“What do you mean?”
“It's because of your articles man.” Mike said quickly before Dad could say anything,
“It’s true Chase,” He replied, “The stuff you write always gets him a call about something. Mostly from his old precinct.”
“Really?” I asked looking from Mike back to Dad who shook his head, “Why don’t you say anything pops?” I asked concerned.
“Because I know you mijo, nothing I say changes your mind about how you handle business.” He stated but with a weird emphasis on you. ‘Why’d you say it like that?’ was what I wanted to ask him, but before I could he stood up setting his drink down and taking up his cane. “Enough of this.” He said pulling out the authoritative voice that always made us fall in line. “Let's go see how dinner's coming yeah?” He led the way out and my brothers followed closely by. I sat there for a moment, confused, everything is just so strange right then and no one could have told me why.
I made my way to the dining room and saw everyone already around the table smiling, laughing and just...enjoying a family Christmas dinner. “Baby,” I heard someone say, “there you are, get over here.” It was Charlene that called me over and motioned to the empty chair next to her. I did so and ate and joked with everyone; I think that night had some of my best acting. All through the dinner however; I kept thinking about two things: Brandon wasn't there...neither was Cam for that matter.
I finished before everyone else, no one batted an eye at that, I had been doing that for a while now and excused myself from the table. I went out through the back and made sure no one could see me as I sat on the wooden bench that had been at this house since we moved into the house when we were kids. We always talked about getting rid of it but never did. 'What the hell is going on?' I asked myself as soon as I sat down. Everything was just so bizarre. No one talked about Brandon, Cam or any of the crazy crap that's been happening around here. I put my head in my hands and tried to make sense of everything until I heard something, “Uncle Chase?” 'Huh?' “Uncle Chase is something wrong?” I looked up and standing in front of me with a worried look was a kid with light brown hair, brown eyes and looked to be around six or seven. It took me a second then it finally snapped,
“Terry!” I exclaimed happily. Normally that would scare someone but he just smiled and came in to hug me. “Hey kiddo,” I said letting him go from the hug, “How you've been?” Terry wasn't having any small talk though.
“Uncle Chase,” He said, the worried face returning, “Why are you outside? It's cold out here.”
“Why are you out here then?” I deflected, yeah it was childish, but he went into it easy enough.
“I saw you leave, you looked upset.” I chuckled and sat the kid down next to me.
“Naw, not upset kid.” I said with a smirk, “Just...very confused about a lot of things right now...”
“Is it about Uncle Brandon?” I quirked my eyebrow.
“What do you know about uncle Brandon kiddo?” He shrugged,
“Dad always pulls out his picture during Christmas time.” He stated, “Always says that it's so he knows we remember him.”
“Your daddy's right about that.”
“Do you know what happened to him?” I looked down at him, meeting his eyes.
“No.” I said simply, “But that only means I need to find out.” There wasn't even a moment to register he smiled wide and jumped off the bench.
“Alright!” He exclaimed happily.
“Whoa.” I said grabbing him as he was jumping and turned to take off. “Why are you so happy all of the sudden?” He just looked up at me with the same smile,
“Because when people say stuff like the super heroes always shows up!”
'Super heroes?' I let him go as he ran excitedly back into the house. 'How would he remember that...god help me.'