Authors: Tracie Puckett
Tags: #Young Adult, #Romance, #Contemporary
Webster Grove: Under the Mistletoe. Copyright
© 2012 by Tracie Puckett. All rights reserved. No part of this
document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise, without prior written permission of the author.
Dad, because you loved me.
Saturday December 03
“How long have you been seeing Mr. Rivera?”
The glass didn't make it to my mouth. My hands, like the rest of my
body, suddenly went numb at the accusation. Water rushed down as we
jumped from either side of the booth and worked quickly to soak up
the spreading liquid. After managing to dry the table, he met my
gaze and raised his eyebrows again. “So?”
“I don't know what you're talking about-”
“You can't lie to me,” he said, raising the orange juice to his
mouth. “Fess up.”
“I'm sorry, but I think you're reading way too much into-”
“You wanna talk about Thanksgiving?” He squinted his blue eyes and
lowered his gaze, doing an uncanny impression of a cop in an
interrogation room. Without the confession he was hoping for, he
rested his arms on the table and leaned forward to whisper. “I
watched you open the door to him wearing nothing but a towel,
Steph. You let him in, for only a few moments, and then he left.
And you didn't take your eyes off of him until he was outta
“He brought me-”
“I see the way you look at him.”
“And the poem.
. Classic move, there.”
,” I said, shutting him up. He shined his cocky smile
and crossed his arms, basking in my defeat. “I can see how that
“It doesn't look
“Shut up! Okay... just let me explain.”
Wednesday November 23
“What do you mean I'm on my own for Thanksgiving?” I yelled across
“Calvin and I are spending the weekend in the hills, Baby,” she
said. “We rented a cozy little cabin out in the secluded woods
“When are you leaving?”
“Of course you are...”
Why did I expect any different? Only Caroline Ghijk would plan a
holiday trip and exclude her own flesh and blood. I'd like to say
this is the first time my mother was careless enough to flee on a
whim, but that's not the case. The woman is nothing more than a
child at heart; a 15-year-old teenager trapped in a 33-year-old
body. Moving around, not staying put, jumping place to place...
whatever you want to call it, it's what she does best. Ever since I
was a toddler we've been on the move; new houses in different
cities across nearly every state. Webster Grove brings house number
eighteen and school number eleven. You want to talk about
indecisive? Caroline Ghijk is the queen of cluelessness.
“Don't be mad, Baby,” she said, pouting her lips. “Mommy needs a
“It's been a long time since I've packed a bag and jumped in a car.
I'd think my own daughter could be proud--”
Mom's need to relocate at the drop of a hat is far from
restlessness. In fact, she's been hiding from my abusive and
psychotic biological father, Richard Levin, since she was only
eighteen. I have no memories of the man, but she promises me
there's nothing about him worth remembering. A string of bad
childhood decisions led to her teenage pregnancy and the eventual
birth to a six pound bundle of joy; me: Abcdef Ghijk, born December
I wasn't born a natural cheerleader for the world renowned English
alphabet. However, being referred to by the first eleven letters of
the ABC's isn't something that happened as coincidence either.
Changing my birth name, Baby Levin, to Abcdef Ghijk was just
another ruse in mom's scheme of running and hiding. No one would
suspect a teenage, white, native Georgian female could have a name
that sounded like it had gone through a meat grinder.
Caroline's long, wavy blonde hair swung from a ponytail high on the
back of her head. “I'm sure you'll enjoy the time to yourself,
“Right. Just let me know when you're leaving,” I said, turning away
and walking into the foyer and up the staircase.
At the end of the second-floor hall was a single door; the entryway
to my lavender painted bedroom... the only place I truly felt at
home. Inside the room was a queen size bed, covered with
cream-colored bedding and purple accent pillows. The side wall was
decorated with an array of clothing designs hanging above a wooden
desk below. At the furthest point, and my favorite feature, was the
large window overlooking the backyard. The view, however, was
slightly obstructed by a giant oak growing alongside the house.
That very tree played culprit to a late-night escape only a couple
I settled in the chair and clicked away at the computer, signing
onto Skype in hopes to track down my best friend Bridget. I let the
call ring on for a few moments without an answer.
“Figures,” I mumbled, pushing myself back from the desk.
Bridget's behavior has been completely inexcusable for weeks;
ignoring calls, not speaking when spoken to, and rolling her eyes
at anyone who tried to cheer her up. While she views her period of
mourning as textbook heartbreak, I view it as a desperate call for
attention. It had been well over a month since Bridge found out her
childhood friend and secret crush, Nathaniel Bryan, was ditching
her for homecoming to escort the perky and pretentious Rachel
Canter. Since, she's been impossible to get along with.
The speakers on the computer sounded with a series of echoing bells
varying from high to low. Bridget, I noticed, was returning my
call. Sliding back into the chair, I clicked to answer and stared
at her from the other side of the screen. Her flaming red hair
hadn't lost its bounce; curls moved outward in every direction as
she looked at me, though her typically bright blue eyes were a dead
giveaway of her state of depression. She looked miserable sporting
dark, puffy eye circles.
“What?” she said monotonously.
“Just wanted to check in. I haven't heard from you in a couple
“Listen,” I started. “Mom and Calvin are taking a trip into the
hills for Thanksgiving and I was wondering if I could crash at your
“I don't think so, Steph.”
“Okay,” I said, admittedly disappointed.
“Nothing personal. It's just... well... I'm still in pretty hot
water with my mom--”
“Is that all?”
“Yeah, hang in--”
“Okay then,” she said. “I guess we'll talk later.”
She ended the call and disappeared without another word.
I took a breath and accepted the inevitable. Tomorrow was going to
come whether I had company or not. And since Bridget had sworn off
anyone who stayed in contact with Nate, I'd exhausted my resources
with one Skype call.
Thursday November 24
The house was empty. The sound of pots and pans banging around in
the kitchen was nowhere to be heard... the air was lacking the
smell of freshly baked pies...not a single child running or
jumping, playing games and telling secrets...no grandpa to snore in
the chair while his wife yacked on and on about the frigid
Not one sign of Thanksgiving in the Ghijk house this
Like every other holiday
, I reminded myself.
Mom didn't celebrate holidays. I'd never, not once in my seventeen
years, sat down to a large feast on the fourth Thursday of
November, trimmed a Christmas tree, or carved a pumpkin. Still,
being alone was a completely different story. I'll give credit
where it's due; Mom has always been here, whether we acknowledged
the festivities or not... well, until now. I guess having Calvin in
her life means our family should look forward to many new
traditions. I just hope that, for sanity's sake, all of those
occasions won't come hand-in-hand with my complete seclusion from
I plopped down on the couch and raised the television remote in the
air, clicking the power button to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day
parade. I threw my feet up on the coffee table in front of me and
closed my eyes, pretending I was in the New York crowd and enjoying
the festivities for myself.
, I thought.
Someday... when I'm a famous fashion designer... maybe
I'll have a nice little apartment somewhere on the Upper East Side
of Manhattan. I'll wake up on Thanksgiving morning, put on the
warmest coat I can find, and mosey on over to the parade route to
chat with my fellow onlookers.
For now, though, I reminded myself, I'm left alone on this
overpriced couch...somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
Who knows the exact moment I fell asleep? But I woke up two hours
later. The television was still on and unheard, masked by the sound
of wind gusts slamming into the side of the house. With nothing
else to do for entertainment, I drudged up the staircase and into
my mother's master bathroom, breaking every rule in the Ghijk
Household Handbook. Caroline's complete and established rules, by
the way, can be recited in less than three seconds:
anything that belongs to mommy
“Screw it,” I mumbled, filling the cast-iron bathtub with scalding
hot water and soaking beads.
I moved around the bathroom, lighting candles as I'd often seen mom
do in preparation for an hour of relaxation. I flipped off the
lights and stripped the satin pink pajamas to the floor. I slid
into the tub. Warmth encompassed my body, but not by the
temperature of the water.
With closed eyes and a rested head, my brain went straight to the
place it should never go, but always does...
The tan shade of Cuban-American skin.
Short, wispy black hair and chocolate eyes.
A nervous bite of the lower lip.
The way he commands a room.
The touch of his hand.
My name on his lips.
How it thrills me to know that my opinion matters to him...
And as they often are, my thoughts were interrupted by the reminder
that he was nine years my senior, the man who grades my English
my future step-uncle. Damn the luck,
I lifted my wet hands from the water and reached over to the small
table next to the tub. I turned on the iPod and shoved the tiny
headphones into my ears. Surely music would drown out all thoughts
of the seemingly unforgettable man.
Halfway through the first song I thought I recognized the sound of
the doorbell drowning in the background. I sat up and pulled the
ear buds away.
I settled myself back in just as the loud ring of the bell filled
the house once again. I jumped out the tub, not taking the time to
dry off, and wrapped a large, plush towel around my dripping
I shot out of the bathroom, down the stairs, and slid across the
foyer, leaving a long water trail with every step I took. I checked
the peephole and drew in a deep breath.
Holy crap. What is he doing here
I cracked the door, not exactly dressed for company, and poked my
soaking head outside.
“Hey, kiddo,” he said, biting his lower lip and holding a wicker
basket in front of him. “Happy Thanksgiving. Now, open up... it's
freezing out here.”