Authors: MJ Fields
“I don’t anymore. She doesn’t want me to stay in. She’s doing nothing here with her life. The first time I came home, I told her she needed to do her thing, that I had changed. She didn’t listen.”
“Then why not just break up with her?”
“I like having someone at home. I like getting letters in the field.” He looked back up. “I’m a fucking asshole.”
I shook my head. “You’re not. She’s stupid.”
He sighed and shrugged.
“I’m not stupid. I’m going to be so busy at school for seven years, Luke. Seven. Break up with her. I’ll write you.”
“Ava …” he said in a tone that made me feel like he thought I was stupid or maybe not worthy.
“I write you letters, anyway,” I told him immediately. “And when you come home, I’m always here.”
“This won’t always be home for me.”
“Pft, like it will be for me,” I said, acting like it was no big deal. And it wasn’t. He was my home. He just didn’t know it yet.
“Sex isn’t a once a year thing,” he told me.
“So tell me you’d be okay with me fucking you and others.”
No, but after me, you’ll want no one else,
I thought to myself.
“As long as you’re okay with the same,” I told him.
His eyebrows shot up as he studied me.
“What? I’m not ready to settle down. I have goals and dreams and aspirations.”
He turned and started to walk away.
“Where are you going?”
He stopped and looked back. “If I come back out here and you’re gone, it means you’re smarter than I am. If I come back out and you’re still here, I’ll know you mean what you said. If we do this, it’s physical, Ava. That means you don’t tell anyone—”
“I won’t,” I said almost too enthusiastically.
“Not even Harper,” he said.
“Of course not Harper,” I huffed.
He looked me up and down again. “You should be gone when I get back.”
“You should break up with that bitch before you come back out.”
The corner of his mouth quirked up, and he nodded.
I look out the window as the plane takes off out of LaGuardia. The city lights are always beautiful in the evening from up here. The lights at Christmastime are even more beautiful, especially as the falling snow eclipses them momentarily. It’s as if they are dancing, waving good-bye to the travelers like me who are leaving the hustle and bustle of city life to return home to family and friends for the holidays.
When the dancing, twinkling lights can no longer be seen, I lean forward and remove my new black Louis Vuitton Heritage high boots then lean down and grab my Louis Keepall 45 Bandouliere graphite, digging through it until I find the little black pouch my ruby red patent Tieks are in. They are the most comfortable pair of shoes a girl could wear. I also pull out the pink blanket I have had since birth, Bingo.
I’m going to the place where I am from, a place where I have always felt adored and loved—home. I have always been my dad’s princess, and I still hold that title. I’m going home to a place where I can walk outside, take a deep breath, and smell the fresh country air. I’m going home to a place I can laugh at things that are not politically correct, that I can say whatever I want and not worry what others think. They don’t judge me, because they know me. They know my heart. I’m going home to the place where I have no ladder to climb or egos that require stroking, because they know me, and I don’t need to prove that I am who I say I am.
The seat is big enough for me to fold my legs up beside me. I place Bingo against the cabin wall and lay my head against it as I lean back in my seat.
I just celebrated Christmas with my Mom, her new husband Robert, and my brother Logan. Watching the two of them literally trip over themselves to try to outdo my father is almost sickening. It was no Christmas.
Unlike my brother, I actually try to ignore and push away the hurt that comes from a family being torn apart by lies and infidelity. “They didn’t divorce us; they divorced each other,” I always tell Logan, just like Dad has told us on several separate occasions. It’s honest. It’s real. It is their truth. It doesn’t make it hurt any less. It doesn’t mean it’s our truth.
My younger brother Logan and my truth is that, after the initial shock and pain wore off, the two people—our parents—we thought were deeply in love weren’t. They hadn’t been for years. We sought out a reason because it didn’t make sense.
That truth about love is even more painful because it involves the same two people, the ones who taught us what love is, who unknowingly lied to us and changed a part of us that should never have been changed, because in truth, there should be no lies. In love, there should be no hate. In life, when you come home, it should be a place where you don’t feel yourself being torn apart.
Even as a young adult, it’s hard to juggle life between parents, so I decided to forgive the lie and try not to judge them, while Logan chose to deal with it in his own way, which is bed hopping. Boys, ugh.
I know she tried to act like it wasn’t a big deal when Logan and I decided Christmas should be the 22
this year, but it must have been. Regardless, I can’t imagine waking up on Christmas and not having my father’s childlike excitement almost screaming from his eyes when we walk down the stairs in the morning. I can’t imagine not waking up to him overdoing it while insisting that, yes, there is a Santa Claus, and yes, he actually was here last night as Logan tries every year since he was in sixth grade to convince him otherwise. Dad never cares, and I love him even more for it, whereas Logan totally calls him a dork.
I hold the blanket to my nose and inhale. The scent that I know is just a memory gives me a feeling of calm, of home, of love.
I’m going home for two weeks, and I am going to enjoy it. Not just enjoy it, I am going to love it.
I always do.
I close my eyes and picture Luke as I saw him last summer. I know he will look different now. He always does. He gets bigger, more defined, stronger. His eyes are more intense yet never show or tell me anything more than he wants me to know. His touch is less gentle every time I see him. Nothing like that first night at the pool, the first time Luke and I made love. I tell myself it’s need, desire, and love. We have never exchanged those three words, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
He asks me if I have been safe with my other partners, and I tell him what he wants to hear. I tell him yes. When I ask him, he nods. What he doesn’t know is there has been no one else in my bed or inside of me.
I’ve made out with other men and have been on dates, but no other man has been inside of me. I use them to get what I don’t get from Luke … yet.
When he leaves, he never says good-bye. I go through some type of sadness, but not a depression. After all, I know he loves me, and someday very soon, I am going to say those words to him, knowing when I do, he will return them.
Over the past seven years, I have kept my promise—well, except the part about telling Harper. When I told her I had slept with him, she and her now husband were going through a rough time. I did it because she was a mess, and I wanted her to see she wasn’t alone.
The other promise I kept was writing to him. At first, it was every week. Then, when he didn’t return a single one for four months, I sent one every two weeks. I was hurt when he still didn’t return my letters, so after a year, I sent one a month and continue doing so.
Every time I get upset about not getting one in return, I remind myself that he’s busy. He’s in the middle of some conflict or a war zone somewhere—he doesn’t have time to write.
Now that I have passed the bar exam, I have decided that, when I see him this time, I’m going to tell him how I feel. I’m going to tell him I want to be with him and will go wherever he wants me to go. I’m going to tell him I love him, and I always have.
In my daydreams, he smiles, hugs me, kisses me, and when he is finally inside of me, when we are physically connected, he tells me he loves me, too.
I should be nervous, but I’m not, not one bit. I know what our love is, and it is real. So real I can close my eyes and he is right there with me. And I know he can close his eyes and feel the same.
“There’s my baby girl!” I hear Dad’s voice boom through the airport as soon as I round the corner and walk toward the security glass wall.
I wave as he grins from ear to ear and waves back. Logan is next to him, rolling his eyes. He only stayed one day at Mom and Robert’s penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park before he flew home.
I hurry toward my dad, and as soon as I am near enough, he snatches me up in his big old arms, hugs me, and yes, spins me in a circle. I love the way my father’s hugs make me feel.
“My princess,” he says before planting a kiss on my cheek and setting me back on my feet.
“Daddy, you look amazing. Must be a Tessa thing,” I wink, and he shakes his head. “Married life treating you good, huh?”
“Tessa is wonderful.” He gives me a look that tells me not to push, takes my bag, throws his arm around my shoulder, and then we walk toward the exit.
“Where is she?” I ask. Normally, she would be with him.
“There is a houseful of people making Christmas cookies. You two up for that, or do you want to go home?”
When my parents divorced, Dad kept the house we were raised in. He chose not to sell it even after he and Tessa got married and moved in together. He said we had great memories in that house, and he wanted us to be able to come home whenever we wanted.
It was our home. Every holiday, birthday, and memory we had all through school seemed to center around it.
“Are they at your house or Harpers?” Harper is my best friend and lives in the house she was raised in. Dad and Tessa live up the lane about a quarter of a mile.
“Harpers.” He nods.
“Sounds good to me. How about you, Loggie?”
He nods. “Sure.”
Dad throws my bag in the back of the SUV, and then we are off. We pull out of the airport and take a right. We pass the automotive factory then hang a left, following the path I have traveled a million times toward home.
Once we’re on Route 34, it starts to snow. I look up at Dad, and he smiles at me in the rearview mirror.
“Had to beg for that to happen, kids. You’re welcome.”
I giggle from the back seat and lean up, tapping Logan on the shoulder. He looks back.
“Santa’s coming soon, Loggie. What did you ask him for in your letter this year?”
Dad laughs while Logan rolls his eyes and says, “Aren’t we a little bit too old for that shit, Ava?”
I gasp and cover my mouth. “Daddy!”
Dad nods. “We’re believers, Logan. Do you need a reminder?”
“No,” he says immediately.
“Ava, I think he does.” Dad winks at me.
Logan threatens, “I swear to you, I will jump out of this—”
Dad and I start singing, “
Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Logan grumbles as we continue singing Christmas carols all the way home.
We pull down a dirt road lined with tall pine trees. Every third or fourth one is lit up with dancing, multi-colored Christmas lights.
“No white lights this year?” I ask Dad.
“Nope, Piper wanted colored ones, and whatever Piper wants, she gets,” he chuckles.
Logan looks back at me and snickers. I know he thinks I may be bothered by this. I’m not.
I roll my eyes at him and look at Dad. “She’s almost three now. It’s crazy that my best friend has a three-year-old.”
“It’s crazy that Dad’s a grandfather.” Logan laughs.
“Kind of,” I say, thinking I see a flash of hurt in Dad’s eyes through the rearview mirror.
Dad and his wife Tessa were high school sweethearts. Apparently, they had a rough go and broke up. Tessa met Collin Abraham and married him shortly after. They had three children—twin boys and Harper, my best friend. Our families were always close.
Collin was shot and killed. Then my mother’s secret affair was exposed. We found out shortly after that Dad had and always would love Tessa. True to a man with my father’s character, he went after what he loved, and he did it knowing he would have her back.
What should have been an awkward situation—your father marrying your best friend’s mother—was far from it. We all knew each other. Hell, we vacationed together, played sports together, did so many things together.
“Does she call you grandpa?” I ask, hoping to make him smile again.
He smirks. “Pop-pop.”
“That’s adorable,” I say, and it is.
Driving past Dad and Tessa’s house, I see a nativity set lit up in the yard.
“Baby Jesus needs a coat, Dad. This isn’t Jerusalem.” Logan snickers. “Oops, no he doesn’t. He’s God’s son; he’s probably warm.”
“It was his father who put him on the cross,” I remind him.
“How jacked up is that?” Logan laughs.
“Right?” Dad laughs, too.
We pull down the road and turn onto the paved driveway toward Harper and Maddox’s house. It’s lined with cars, most of which I recognize, all family and close friends. I don’t see Luke’s truck, but he will be there.
“Damn,” Logan sighs.
“It’s cookie time, Loggie,” I joke.
“Remember, Santa loves snickerdoodles,” Dad says, looking at me in the mirror.
I shake my head. “He likes cut-outs.”
“Not anymore,” Dad says as he parks the SUV. “He likes snickerdoodles.”
When we walk through the front door, we are greeted by the noise that surrounds the Ross family—laughter, talking, some music in the background—and it hits me. These people have always been my family.
Logan shrugs off his coat and hangs it up on one of the twenty or so hooks lining the wall of the back entry then helps me with mine.
“I raised a man.” Dad pats him on the back.
“And a princess.” Logan nods at me.