|“Please, you have to leave! I don’t deserve you. I’m broken and there’s only one person who can put me back together.”
“Let me help you.”
“No, you can’t. You don’t know me like he does.”
“But baby, I do. You can’t see it now but I make you better. I push you to do what scares you. And that goes both ways. I was scared to love again, but you pushed me. Gave me hope. You’re not the only one with a painful past. We both have different reasons to be scared. That’s not a reason to give up. I’m not letting you go.”
“But you have to Christian...”
A loud, rattling noise startles my slumber. Our obnoxious heater breaks my dream, but I’m okay with it. It was not a pleasant one and the sweat on my forehead and chest is a clear indication.
I jump to my feet. The argument from my nightmare has me twisting with curiosity. Is my subconscious trying to tell me something? Am I pushing Christian away because of my own insecurities? Or am I just feeling incredibly guilty for breaking his heart? As much as I love him, I can’t walk away from the possibility of Ryan and I. I owe it to myself to see where we are headed— if we’re meant to be.
I insist on a cold, heavy-pressured shower to awaken my mind, but what I don’t expect is to be reminded of some of my last steamy memories with Christian. Two hot showers we shared, and the latest, seeing him naked for the first time. That’s not going to be easy to forget. But I have to try.
It’s Christmas Eve morning, one of my favorite days of the year. My entire family cooks together most of the day, and I’m eager to start. I pair my black leggings with an ivory sweater, pull my hair back into a side braid and enter the already full kitchen. Jason and Kelly are busy prepping the ham, Ben is forcefully peeling potatoes, and Ryan is multitasking with two dishes, green bean and corn casserole.
My gaze at his attractive stature is lengthy. His backside is looking exceptionally hot, his jeans formed nicely, making his rear squeeze worthy. I resist the urge to touch him in such a playful, sensual manner. My brother, Jason, has no idea of our new existing relationship. Kelly is the only one that knows what has transpired over past 24 hours. Even though said she was happy for us, I felt a weird vibe from her. I don’t think she is pleased with how Ryan and I finally got together, especially the way Christian was hurt in the process. She cares about him and who wouldn’t? He’s a great guy. I feel bad that she had to be the one to console him last night. I don’t have the courage yet to ask how he’s doing.
I sneak up behind Ryan, lightly stroking his arm. “How can I help?”
“Hey, you.” His voice cracks, as if I startled him. “You wanna mix this for me?”
I take the spoon from him and smile. “Gotta say, I’m surprised you trust me with this.”
“Well... I’ll be watching you’re every move, so you’re less likely to poison us all.” His devilish grin reveals his cute dimple.
“Ha!” I punch him in the arm, but deep down I’m fighting the urge to hug and kiss him.
“How did you sleep?” He asks, squeezing one of my shoulders.
“Honestly, not that great.”
“Same, for me, but I expected as much.”
His poor black eye is swollen. I hate that it’s a reminder of Christian. I’m tired of having mixed emotions. It’s exhausting.
“There’s something we need to discuss later,” Ryan states. “I wanted to wait until after Christmas but after last night and the way things have escalated, it can’t wait. Plus Kelly already threatened me.”
“Okay, I’m ready to hear whatever you have to say.”
“Not here, but later, at my place.”
The severity in his voice has me worried. What could he need to talk about that’s bothering him so, and why does it also have Kelly concerned as well? I’m anxious to find out.
“Help me look for the french onions in the pantry?” Ryan’s smirk is cute and amusing, as he pulls me by the waist into our large stocked closet.
I’m abruptly kissed within seconds of the door closing, his thirsty lips eager to cover mine, to taste me. I’m surprised by his enthusiasm and longing. It’s clear now— how much he’s been holding back, but I wonder for how long.
Our careless, erratic movements cause my elbow to knock over a bag of cookies, not even phasing Ryan. He is fixated with keeping his lips attached to mine. He tastes so good.
I pull back for a moment, testing his response. He immediately looks shaken.
“No, I was just wondering how long we’re gonna hide this.” I start to trace his collar bone with my finger.
“You mean from Jason?”
“Hmm,” he ponders, nuzzling my neck, before finding my lips again.
I can’t help but moan. His fervent touch and impulsive manner stirs a spark inside me, one I have never quite felt with him before. I’ve always adored Ryan, found him attractive, even desired to kiss him, but now that his mouth is glued to mine—I want him differently. He’s sexy as hell and it’s turning me on.
“I don’t know.” He pauses from my lips for a moment, causing me to pout. “How do you think he’ll react?”
“Honestly, it could go either way. He could be thrilled or furious.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of. I suggest we wait a bit. At least until after Christmas. Your brother deserves a peaceful, joyous holiday.”
“I agree. He’s been stressed and working hard. But in the meantime...,” I wrap my arms around his neck, “....we shouldn’t waste a minute while we’re alone.”
Happy with my proposal, his lips curl and blue eyes soften.
“Come here,” he says, his voice low and smoky. I’m embraced with one more long, tongue induced session. This time he’s the one that moans.
I have to admit sneaking around is kinda hot. My body is tingly at the thought of more stolen kisses and secret encounters. Not to mention my pulse is racing from our elusive behavior.
The heavenly smell that is orbiting around the kitchen sweeps over me as we exit the pantry. Sweet and savory scents fill the air, adding to my already highly enticed mood.
“So is Christian going to be joining us for dinner,” Jason inquires.
I’ve yet to inform him of our hasty, unraveled relationship. I can’t explain the “how” without revealing my new relationship with Ryan. So for now, I have to stall.
“No, I don’t think he’ll be over tonight,” I say, nonchalant.
“That’s too bad,” he says, flipping his baseball cap backwards. “He’s going to miss a great dinner.”
We usually have Christmas movies playing through out the day and pause from cooking every now and then to watch some of them. But the one movie we all watch together every year is “National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.” It was my parents favorite and has become a tradition.
It doesn’t take long for us to finish cooking all the delicious food. After nibbling on some cinnamon rolls, I’m taken by the hand and led out back. Ryan embraces me as soon as we enter his place. I breathe in his intoxicating scent as he kisses my ear, his hand gently cupping the back of my neck, the other on my face. He runs his thumb over my lower lip, teasing me.
“I could kiss these lips all day,” he breathes, before devouring my mouth.
We move to the living room, still wrapped in each others arms. He can’t seem to get enough of me. I’m pressed against the wall with his warm body. His hands and arms remain a gentleman but his lips are full of passion and desire.
Things are really progressing. If anything, I expected Ryan to take our relationship slow. Christian and I went at a snails pace in comparison. I’m not complaining, just surprised. Of course, Christian had good reasons for moving at a slow pace and I was ok with that. Ryan and I have known each other so long, been friends forever, and apparently have no reason to restrain ourselves from normal relationship activities. We’re both adults, even if we don’t always act it.
“Yes,” he pauses.
“I thought we we’re going to talk.”
It’s not that I want to stop kissing Ryan, but his so called “discussion” needs to happen. It’s keeping me from fully enjoying his hot and heavy affection.
“I’m sorry if I’m going too fast,” he admits. “We can slow down.”
“No, that’s not why I stopped. I just really want to know what’s so important? As soon as you tell me, we can pick up where we left off, I promise.”
“Okay, let’s sit on the couch.”
His gorgeous dark hair and lightly stubble face is illuminated by the sun shining through the window. He’s so attractive without trying. His expression could use some work though.
“What happen to your smile?” I ask, joining him on the black leather sofa.
“It’s on layaway.” He turns his well maintained body my way. “Listen, I have some news that’s not going to be easy for you to hear.”
“Just spit out.” I lay my hand on his leg. “It can’t be that bad.”
“You know that I’m going back to school to get my doctorate and that I’m going to be teaching as well.”
“Well, the school I’ll be at is about 300 miles from here.”
My jaw hits the floor, and once I pick it up, it drops again.
He’s not actually leaving me. He wouldn’t do that. I clearly misunderstood him. But his words say otherwise.
“I was offered the job a few weeks ago.”
I’m flabbergasted. Mute. Unable to comprehend any words or make words.
“Ally, say something,” he demands, rubbing my thigh, which is numb and unresponsive.
“This is a sick joke,” I finally respond. “You can’t be serious.”
“I’m not playing with you. This is real. I’m really leaving, but it’s not forever.”
“Not forever! Seriously! A doctorate can take what, five years. And 300 miles away? We won’t even see each other! How can you do this to me? How can you leave me, especially now?”
Tears are uncontrollably streaming, my chest is pounding, and my throat has the biggest lump in the world attached to it.
“Ally, please calm down. It’s going to be ok.”
I leap to my feet and start pacing his living room, my hands running frantically through my hair, messing up my long, fishtail braid.
“I can’t do life without you. I need you here with me. Please, don’t do this!”
“It’s already been finalized. I know it probably sounds selfish, but I need to do this. I’ve been avoiding my future for awhile. Ever since Emily passed away Ive been putting my life on hold and now it’s time for me to do something with it, follow my dreams. Please understand. This isn’t about leaving you. It’s about me finally becoming an adult.
“I do understand following your dreams, but does it have to be so far away?”
“It’s the job I was offered, and one of the schools I applied and got accepted into. I’m sorry. I never expected to be in this situation. You were with Christian and I honestly thought that would make it easier for both of us.”
“I wouldn’t want you to leave no matter what! Christian, or no Christian. I need you, Ryan. You know that.”
“You’ll always have me. No matter where I am.”
“It’s not the same and you know it!”
I can’t take another second, my anxiety is threw the roof. I storm away, barely able to see the door from crying so hard.
“Ally, wait,” he says, following me.
“Just leave me alone!” I slam the black door in his face and dart for the house, skipping every other stone as I run.
As soon as I slide open the glass door, Kelly approaches me, concern in her voice, “sweetie what’s wrong?”
“Ryan’s leaving us,” I cry, already on my way upstairs.
I collapse on my bed, face first into my pillow. I weep so hard, I don’t hear anyone come in. A soft rub on my back startles me.
“It’s just me,” Kelly confirms.
“Can I come in?” Ryan’s asks.
“No, go away. I don’t wanna talk to you.”
“Ally, you’re acting like a five year old,” Kelly says, boldly.
“I don’t care.”
“Can you give us a minute?” She asks. “We need some girl time.”
“Yeah, of course.” Ryan leaves the room, but I’m still inconsolable.
Kelly convinces me to sit up on my bed. The new bedspread she bought me is a gorgeous mess, fluffy and white like a perfect cloud. She gave me it last week as an early Christmas present.
“Ally, there is no one in this world that loves you more than that caring, stubborn, panicked guy downstairs. He adores you, sweetie. I know you guys can work this out.”
“No, you don’t understand. My biggest fear has always been that he would leave me and after everything...”
I can’t even finish my sentence. My core won’t stop shaking.
Kelly rubs my back and shoulders, desperately wanting to soothe my crushed spirit.
“Please don’t make me go downstairs?” I plea, my arms wrapped tightly around my stomach.
Kelly sighs and ponders quietly for a moment. “I’m gonna get you an anxiety pill. It will help you relax. I’ll be right back.”
She gives me half a tablet and tells me to stick it under my tongue to let it absorb quicker.
I’ve had to take this type of medicine before but it’s been years. I want it to calm me, so I can at least breathe normally.
“Listen, I know you’re upset and with good reason, but it’s Christmas. Can you try to pull yourself together for the family?”
“Yeah, just give me a few minutes and I’ll be down to watch the movie.”
She hugs me nice and snug, kissing the top of my head before exiting my room.
I feel a little better, emphasis on little. The medicine has mellowed me out enough to join everyone in the family room, where they are about to start the Christmas classic.
“You alright, kiddo,” Jason asks.
Ryan sits next to me on the sofa, and speaks softly, “Ally, can we—“
“I’m not talking to you.” I quickly interrupt.
Jason turns in his chair. “Ah, so you finally told her,” he says, putting my sour mood in context.
“Yeah, maybe we better change the subject,” suggests Ryan, “or better yet, start the movie.”
I roll my eyes, then amble my way to the kitchen to pour myself some sparkling white-grape juice. Ben is at my side as I finish.
“I’m sorry you’re sad on Christmas.”
“Thanks, Ben.” I give him a side hug and muster a pathetic attempt at a smile. “I just wanna feel numb so I don’t have to feel anything at all.”
“There’s vodka in the pantry.” He winks.
I know that my brother is only kidding and that he doesn’t really want me to drink alcohol, but it’s tempting. I could put it in my juice and no one would know.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say, nudging his shoulder.
He gives me a cheesy grin, grabs several gingerbread cookies and leaves me alone in the kitchen, allowing me to contemplate my choices.
I over hear laughter from my family, possibly from the Christmas classic or maybe something completely irrelevant. But it makes me realize I need a stronger buzz. There’s no way I’m gonna make it through this night without it.
I drink some of my juice, then grab the vodka from the pantry and sneak some into my glass, quickly putting it back before anyone notices. I dim the lights, return to the couch and sip my drink.
Half way through the movie, Ryan decides to approach me again. I’m relaxed enough that it doesn’t bother me.
He leans over, his leg brushed up against mine and says, “can I hold you, please?”
I gaze at him and nod my head yes, already letting my body relax into his shoulder. He wraps his arm around me and uses his other arm to interlock his fingers with mine. Our hands rest on his lap.
Some people become mean when their intoxicated others are silly and lose control. I become affectionate. At least for the time being.
“Pause the movie,” Kelly blurts, standing from my brothers lap. “Potty break.”
“Really?” Ben asks. “It’s not like it’s Stat Wars.”
“Because you haven’t seen that a million times. Just do it,” she insists, running to the bathroom.
“You want some more to drink?” Ryan asks, noticing my empty glass on the coffee table.
“Nah, I’m good, babe, thanks.”
“Babe?” Jason asks, peering our direction.
“Uh, did I say that?” I struggle to explain. “I um—I must be really tired. You know what—I think I will get some more juice.”
I give Ryan an apologetic look before darting off and leaving him with both my brothers.
Of course Jason isn’t phased by our cuddling, he probably expects it under the circumstances. But I accidentally say one unfamiliar word and he’s suddenly confused? Truth is, I am too. I have no idea where babe came from. The alcohol has affected me more than I thought.
“So when do you actually start?” I hear Jason’s loud voice, causing me to retrace my steps.
Ryan clears his throat. “Well, the quarter starts mid February but I should be moved in and on campus by the end of next month.”
The knot in my chest starts to grow again. This is worse than I imagined. I assumed Ryan would be starting his new career in the fall, maybe leave during the summer to get settled. But he’s leaving next month! How could he forget to mention that part!
I want to sprint into the room and scream, but somehow resist the urge. No one is going to watch me fall apart again. It’s humiliating.
Feeling utterly devastated, I proceed to the pantry, where I grab the clear bottle of alcohol and pour about two shots into my glass. It burns as I gulp it down, causing my body to shiver and jerk from the pure taste.
My stomach is a little queasy, so I bite the head off a gingerbread man and sulk for a few minutes.
Before I decide to rejoin my family, the doorbell rings.
“I gots it,” I yell, suddenly feeling giddy and carefree.
My trek to the front door is not an easy one. My knees are wobbly, eye sight is impaired and overall balance could use some work.
I open the door and see Christian, looking very attractive in his button up dress shirt and jeans. He’s holding a box wrapped in Christmas paper.
“You’re heeeere,” I say, slurring my words. “Come in, come in, chill with us. We have cookies!”
I open the door wider, but fall backwards into it. My arched back is the only thing keeping me upright.
“Have you been drinking?” He asks, helping me steady myself, his hands moving from my waist to my fumbling arms, dropping his gift as a result.
I lose my balance and sink into him, my head bobbling from his rapid beating chest.
“I really like this shhhirt.” My hand circles one of his buttons. “Is it new?”
“Ally, look at me.” He lifts my face with urgency and gazes at me with a worried brow. “Why are you drunk?”
“No, no. I’m just a little buzzzed. I’m fine.”
“No, baby, you’re not..” Christian grabs me under the arms and sets me down carefully on the edge of the stairs. “You’re completely wasted. Stay here. I’ll be right back.”
As he leaves the entry way as a spinning figure, I rest my fuzzy head against the railing, and think how happy I am that Christian showed up. Christmas Eve just got interesting.