but as they both come to find out, there are always hardships to endure
and old demons to face no matter how beautiful your backyard is.
Reaching the Point
of No Regrets
Chapters 18 & 19
Copyright© 2013 Drew Miller
All Rights Reserved.
Image Credit: Picture purchased and licensed for use from 123rf.com. The model(s) in this image is in / and are no way connected with this story nor supports nor conveys the issues and situations brought up within the story. The model(s) use is solely used for the representation of looks of the main character(s) of this particular story. ~Sephrena
Four days later in the afternoon, I arrived at our new apartment in California in our Camry, and I was a busy bee from the moment I stepped out of the car. I was two and fro, quickly unloading the fully packed car after grabbing the keys from the rental office. By the time the sun was setting low, the to-do list was nearly all marked off.
I finished putting away the few groceries I had bought. Then, I opened the blinds and sat down in the corner of our living room and rested a bit. I didn’t get to rest long too long though. The familiar deep hum of an engine and the accompanying gentle screeching of brakes had me making haste toward the window. My pulse quickened as if I had just jogged up three flights of stairs while I watched Matt maneuver the truck alongside the curb in front of our modest two bedroom.
Before he had a chance to wave, I flew down the steps and rushed out across the perfectly manicured lawn toward Matt’s outstretched arms.
“Can you believe it? We finally made it!” I shouted.
“Home at last,” he said, surveying the lot and the block as a whole. He embraced me and gave me a quick exuberant kiss. Then, he looked up at our apartment before smiling at me. “What’s for dinner honey?”
I put my hands on my hips. “I don’t know? What are you planning on cooking dear?”
“So, what did you buy at the store?”
“Just the essentials: breakfast stuff mostly. I was thinking, why don’t we order some takeout or something? How does Chinese sound?”
“Sounds good to me,” he said. “I’m starved. I pretty much just drove straight through since this morning, munchin’ on what was left in the cooler. Why don’t you go ahead and order while I start bringing in a few boxes.”
“Don’t you want to rest a bit?”
“Not just yet. I know if I sit a spell, I won’t be able to get back up. Besides, we’ve still got some daylight left.”
Back inside, I opened one of the boxes and began unwrapping some of the dishes. A few trips by Matt up and down the stairs later, I said, “Ta da! What do you think?” I had made a make shift table out of a couple of the boxes.
“Nice. Now all we need are some candles for ambiance.” He sat down in the corner with a sigh and looked around. “That’ll do it for now. We can bring the rest in a little later after I’ve loaded up on some food. My fuel gauge is runnin’ on empty.” Resting his head in his hand, he studied the room before his eyes were drawn to his growling stomach. “When’s the food going get here?”
“Shouldn’t be more than a few minutes,” I said.
The food arrived and I loaded up both our plates.
“Here you are,” I said. “This is so Japanese. Don’t you think? Just sitting on the carpet and eating. I kind of like it.”
“Aside from the fact that we’re having Chinese takeout, it’s very Japanese.”
“Alright smart-ass. Very funny…Anyway, Samantha was right about this place. They actually mixed in the sweet and sour sauce and red peppers with the chicken for a change.”
“Yep. It eats pretty good. I could certainly get used to eating like this every night.”
I crossed my arms and shot him a withering glare. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothin’. All I was sayin’ is that this food is really good.”
“Uh huh. Uh huh. Yeah, I get what you’re saying. Basically you’re sayin’ it’s a lot better than what I usually make.”
“C’mon babe. You know that’s not true.”
“Isn’t it? Don’t placate me. You know how I hate that. Just be honest with me. I know I’m not as good a cook as Samantha.
“Jesus Katie! What bug flew up your butt just now? Can’t a guy just enjoy his first meal in a new place with the girl he loves without…without bein’ subjected to the damn Spanish Inquisition?”
I was taken aback to say the least by Matt’s uncharacteristic harsh reply to my overreaction. I just sat there for a few moments with my mouth gaping open and a stunned look on my face as if I was a bully and the quiet kid I had been teasing for the entire school year had finally stuck up for himself. Yet despite Matt’s well justified reaction, the only response I could muster was to overreact some more as if he had announced that he did indeed hate my cooking and he was leaving me for a real girl that could satisfy his appetite in more ways than one. I started sobbing like a little girl.
Matt ran his fingers through his hair. “Oh boy,” he began.
With shame in my eyes, I avoided his eyes. “I’m…I’m sorry Matt. I really am. I don’t know what’s with me sometimes. I can’t explain what came over me just now. I’m sorry I ruined dinner. I’m sorry I ruined this perfect evening.”
As I slowly started to get up, he said, “Katie. Let me ask you something. Did you remember to take your pills?”
“My hormones you mean? Umm…Let me think…Yeah. I think so…Maybe. Now that you mention it, I really can’t remember. These past few days have just been a blur.”
“There you go. That might be all it is.”
“Maybe. But that’s still no excuse for me to bite your head off.”
Matt managed a smile while he poked around the bottom of the takeout container with his plastic fork. He took another bite and chewed over what he was going to say for a few moments. Then he stifled a belch before addressing me with kind eyes and a calm voice seemingly free of any resentment. “Just promise me one thing babe. Don’t less Miss Hyde crash the party when Samantha and Jake come over to visit and enjoy some of your fine cooking. And it is fine cooking by the way. Okay?”
I nodded my head and managed a sheepish smile.
Taking the next logical step to salvage the rest of the evening, I stood up and walked over to the kitchen counter. I grasped the dewed wine bottle and gently lifted it out of the ceramic chiller and filled my glass. “Would you like some more dear?”
Matt flashed me a warm smile before saying, “Just bring the bottle on over and I’ll tell you when.”
The wine certainly worked its magic. It quickly ironed out any kinks following the brief intrusion of Miss Hyde until the evening was flowing along as smoothly as Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of Summertime and the Living’s Easy emanating from the Bose CD player on the countertop.
By the time our wine glasses were as empty as the wine bottle, I was filled with the most wonderful feeling of calm euphoria. My body and mind were perfectly drained as I’m sure Matt’s was judging by his drowsy eyes.
Eventually, we were able to convince our lethargic bodies that our backs would prefer a soft bed to the hard floor. I commanded my sore body upward and relished the delightful sensation of gliding across the soft and cool carpeting toward the bedroom. Matt wasn’t too far behind.
I opened up the windows a little more before climbing into bed to join Matt. I let the cool refreshing west coast breeze ripple my nightie. The silky fabric brushed up against my refreshed skin. I closed my eyes and savored the experience even more as I thought of the sticky sultry nights back east.
Matt was already half asleep by the time I crawled into bed. I cuddled up next to him and kissed him before whispering some sweet nothings into his ear.
He rolled over and gave me a kiss. “Sorry babe, but I’m way too tired. Good night.”
We had an apartment warming a couple of days later before Matt started his new job. It was just us and Samantha and Jake. Personally, I liked it because it was more laid back.
I was freshening up in the bathroom when there was a knock.
“I’ll get it!” said Matt.
I finished putting on my earrings and wasn’t too far behind.
Matt opened the door to the sight of Samantha looking as radiant as she did at her wedding, and Jake looking as laid back and jolly as ever with that genuine smile of his.
“Let me be the first to officially welcome you back to California!” announced Samantha. She set down one of those reusable green shopping bags before giving me a big hug. “It’s so wonderful that we’re finally neighbors!”
Meanwhile, Matt and Jake enjoyed a hearty handshake. “How was the trip out?” asked Jake.
“Thankfully, pretty uneventful,” said Matt. “Still trying to get used to west coast time though.”
“I hear you there,” said Jake.
After our embrace, Samantha picked back up the bag and handed it to me.
I peered in at the contents and smiled. “Oh, thanks for bringing some wine.”
She said, “We got it from Napa Valley when we were on our honeymoon. We’ve been saving this bottle for a special occasion and figured why not tonight?”
I set the bag on the counter. “Let me go ahead and put it in the fridge to chill for a while.”
“There are some assorted cheeses as well,” added Samantha.
“Perfect!” I said. “We’ve got plenty of crackers…Why don’t you guys have a seat while I get everything ready?”
After I sliced up the cheese and arranged it on a platter, I turned on the oven light and had a peek inside at our browning entrees.
Samantha breathed in as deeply as I did when I truly savored the west coast breeze for the first time that night in the bedroom. “My goodness that smells good!” she said. “What are you making?”
“Twice baked potatoes,” I said. “It’s Matt’s mom’s recipe. It should be ready in about twenty minutes…Do you guys want something to drink while the wine chills? We’ve got sodas, iced tea, water, and some beer.”
“Iced tea please,” said Samantha.
“Me too,” said Jake.
After handing Samantha and Jake their ice tea, I smiled a knowing smile at Matt. “I know what you want honey.” I returned with a soda for myself and a beer for Matt.
While our mouths started watering as the aroma continued to drift into the living room, Samantha pulled out her digital camera and showed us some photos.
“Here are some more of Napa Valley,” she said.
“That’s just gorgeous country,” I said.
“Like a little slice of heaven,” said Jake.
“Let me show you the Bed and Breakfast we stayed at,” said Samantha.
She took us through a slide show of all of the idyllic scenes, of a fraction of the Valley’s beauty that was breathtaking enough even when rendered only in 2-D.
“Here are some more pictures from the wedding,” said Jake.
“That’s a cute one,” I said, pointing to one of Matt and Jake smoking their cigars, with Jake doing his best imitation of Groucho Marx. Matt and I busted out laughing at the next one. “Oh my God! Look at Andrea. I think she definitely had quite a bit to drink that night.”
“She’s a real card after the wine eats away at her inhibitions,” said Samantha. Her jolly smile subsided and she looked thoughtful for a few moments before speaking again. “I don’t know if you know, but she had her surgery earlier this year.”
I looked at her in disbelief. “Already? Wow. It’s amazing how time flies.” I took another sip of my wine and finally managed a smile after a pang of jealousy asserted itself. “That’s great. I’m really happy for her…So, how are the other bridesmaids doing?”
“Pretty good,” said Samantha. “Still one day at a time for some of them, but they’re gettin’ there.”
I nodded my head in perfect understanding. It was a long road indeed.
Samantha continued to scroll through the pictures until she got to the last bridesmaid. And there was Yen, drunk and singing her heart out on stage. I fought back tears during the awkward moment of silence that ensued. None of us wanted to talk about the painful truth of not knowing where the vivacious girl in the photograph was.
Thankfully, the timer went off shortly thereafter and startled the sad thoughts, sending them retreating to the recesses of our minds.
The rest of the evening was about as pleasant as the aroma of baking potatoes. When the night came to an end, there was a happy parting between us and I felt as satisfied as my full stomach.
“Good night,” said Jake. “See you tomorrow evening at the restaurant Matt.”
“Looking forward to it,” he said.
After they left, Matt helped me with the dishes.
“You don’t have to help me if you don’t want,” I said. “You’ve got a big day tomorrow.”
“I want to,” he said. “I need to keep busy.”
“Are you nervous at all?”
“I’ve got a few butterflies. Nothin’ like the opening night of a play, thank goodness.”
“I imagine it doesn’t get more nerve wracking than that,” I said.
“That’s for sure.”
“You’ll do fine. It’ll be routine before you know it, just as fast as all of the scenery around here will become as familiar as back home.”
He simply smiled at my attempt to set his mind at ease, but his smile disappeared as quickly as the remnant drops on the plate he was holding after a quick wipe. Now the smile ran away from my face, for the contemplative look on his face triggered a memory of a conversation we had had at the café years ago, the conversation about a place just becoming a place after a while. But with Matt by my side, I couldn’t imagine that ever happening.
Soon, the pleasant little domestic scene in the kitchen came to end and gave way to an even more pleasant scene in the bedroom.
After we made love, I lay awake for a time while Matt contentedly snored away. Right before I fell asleep, I experienced perfect contentment now that some butterflies of my own had finally settled down.
Matt settled into his new job just fine and it seemed he was on a fast track to a promotion if he wanted it. But for me, it was a whole different story. As the weeks passed and late spring turned into summer, I found myself having trouble getting into the groove, and I was pretty sure it had to do with a certain reminder that I usually kept tucked between my legs.
Day after day, I kept thinking about the casual mention of Andrea’s SRS during our apartment warming. The fact that she had never been so content or felt so complete only served to sharpen my own pangs of incompleteness. And that sense of incompleteness gnawed away at, day after day. And the seemingly endless parade of beautiful real women that frequented the restaurant where I worked didn’t help matters either.
By the time late summer rolled around, I was obsessed with the idea of going under the knife as soon as possible. On a late August day before my evening shift, I vividly remember logging in on my computer at the apartment and going online to check the balance in my special savings account for the umpteenth time. There was $5800 in the account, a fair amount, but still, it was only about one-third of how much I needed for the operation. Growing increasingly impatient, I knew there were two quick options to make up the difference: get my dad to loan me the money, or swallow some of my pride and dignity and become an escort again.
I logged out and let out a deep sigh. I looked at my ring and thought back to Samantha’s wedding reception and that perfect moment outside the reception hall under the soft light of the full moon. I couldn’t help but shake my head, for it was hard to believe that Matt and I had been engaged for over two years! And if the snail’s pace at which the balance in my account was growing was any indication, it seemed as if Matt and I were on our way to breaking the Guinness world record for the most protracted engagement.
For whatever reason, on that particular August day, those thoughts were the straw that broke the camel’s back. I decided then and there that two years, two months, and one day was long enough. It was time to take charge and expedite matters.
I grabbed the phone book and flipped to the letter E. I think my mouth gaped open when confronted with the sheer number of agencies, a number that was only rivaled by the surplus amount of lawyers taking up page after page of this thick book that was sitting on my lap.
Choosing one at random, I picked up my phone, dialed the number, and hit send after hesitating for a few moments.
The phone rang for quite a while, and with each passing second, my pulse quickened a little more, apparently trying to keep pace with the incessant tapping of my foot.
The phone rang for about the eighth time, but before I could hang up, breathe a deep sigh of relief, and perhaps call the whole thing off, I was preempted by the voice of a rather cheerful young woman belatedly picking up on the other end.
“Uh…Good afternoon,” I lamely began. “I’m calling about a job…Uh huh…Yes. I do have a fair amount of experience. I used to work for an escort agency in Virginia some time ago. The only thing is, I was a TG escort back in Virginia…Oh. I see…You’re not looking for T-girls…Yeah. I understand…Oh, you do? Sure. If you could give me their number that would be great…” I fumbled for a pen and a post-it before cradling the phone against my shoulder. “Uh huh…Mmm hmm…Got it. Thanks Tara.”
I hung up, but I didn’t immediately dial the number. I should have been happy that the first place I called was able to help me out by referring me to an agency that was looking for “girls” like me. But I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt at once again going behind Matt’s back. And I felt that pang of guilt even more sharply when I kicked back on the couch and surveyed the living room.
My eyes landed on a picture of Matt and I, the one taken at Samantha’s wedding just after Matt had proposed to me. Frowning, I looked down at the purple post-it and wondered if I should call, if it was worth it to jeopardize the future happiness that the girl in the photo had just gotten an inkling of on that perfect night.
After pondering the matter for a while, pondering what would be fair to the girl in the photograph, instead of impulsively dialing the number, I folded up the post-it and stuffed it deep down in my pocket. Such a bold move as taking up my old occupation certainly warranted some further consideration.
But, as it turns out, further consideration is a relative term to be sure, for further consideration turned out to be less than a day. I called up the agency, and after a brief interview, I got a good vibe about the whole operation and told them I could start the following week.
And what an interesting start to the following week it was! It was like déjà vu, only in reverse.
My “first” client was really shy, and his demeanor kind of reminded me of the way I carried myself all those years ago.
It was a Wednesday evening, and I was lying on the bed in the dimly lit modest motel room, a room seemingly indistinguishable from countless others where innumerable secret late night rendezvous such as this one had taken place.
I was about to check my watch again with the accompanying restless sigh when my client, a thirtyish looking balding man, popped his head out of the bathroom.
“Just give me a few more moments,” he said in a nervous tone of voice. Then, in an almost singsong voice, he said, “I’m almost ready!”
A minute or so later, the bathroom door slowly creaked open until it was ajar, but the light was turned off. I waited for the man to emerge from the shadows, but at first, all that emerged was that nervous voice of his.
He cleared his throat and spoke with more deliberation. “Umm…I’ve slipped into something a little more…more comfortable. Just promise me you won’t laugh when you get a good look at me. Okay? I’ve never…I mean this is the first time I’ve ever let anyone see me like this, so I’d really appreciate it if you don’t laugh or anything.”
“Trust me hon, you’ve got nothing to worry about. I’ve pretty much seen it all.” But still, he had yet to cross the threshold into the light. Finally, I patted the bed in an attempt to lure the skiddish animal that this homely man had become all of the sudden. “It’s okay. Come on over. Don’t be shy.”
When he stepped into the light, I realized why he had never let anyone see him dressed the way he was now. Despite lots of makeup to go along with his shoulder length red wig, white pleated skirt, and matching blouse that was about one size too short, showing off his ample bosom courtesy of some rather large breast forms, this guy did not make for a very pretty woman. Even in the forgiving dim light of this place, he was easy to clock.
I smiled at him in an attempt to set his mind at ease, but I think he misinterpreted it as a suppressed grin, for he slumped his shoulders and took a deep breath.
He said, “Maybe this was a bad idea.”
“There’s no need to feel embarrassed,” I assured. “Trust me. I’m not judging you. Whatever you get off on is fine by me.” Upon hearing those words, his face brightened a little and he took a couple of tentative steps toward the bed. All the while, I tried to set his mind at ease as he awkwardly traversed the gulf between us. “So, what’s your femme name hon?”
In a soft and apparently well rehearsed falsetto, he said, “Sophia. But you can call me Sophie if you like.”
“That’s a very pretty name. It’s nice to meet you Sophie.”
Was I right? Talk about your deju vu! Now I knew exactly how Virginia felt on that fateful night back in the late winter of 2012. And I knew I was probably going to experience innumerable moments of déjà vu like this until I finally saved up enough money so I could quit this racket once and for all.
During the remainder of my time together with Sophie, as she confessed her long suppressed desires, I kept telling myself that well before this time next year, I would be finished with this whole TG escort nonsense; after all, you can’t be a TG escort if you no longer meet one of the “requirements.” And with a little luck, that “requirement” which had disgusted me for so long would finally be turned into one of the most obvious prerequisites for being a woman after my surgery in Trinidad.
I kept telling myself that my foray into the seedy world of escorting would be a short one. I had to keep telling myself that to bolster my resolve so I could continue sacrificing my dignity on a weekly basis, just as I had to continue telling myself that I was doing the right thing by keeping Matt in the dark about my temporary part time return to my old profession. But no matter how much I clung to my rationalizations, as the weeks turned into months, the seedy nature of my work began gnawing away at me even more so than the sense of incompleteness that motivated me to take up escorting again.
Strangely enough, during the whole time I was engaged in the war of attrition raging between me and my conscience, I never thought I’d get caught. I’m being completely serious. So much time passed without being discovered that I came to believe I was too careful and too clever to be caught. It was like I was a cashier who kept stealing from the register, emboldened each time she got away with it until stealing with impunity seemed guaranteed. But on a random chilly October evening close to Halloween, I found out that sometimes, what we perceive as guarantees are just illusions. I opened the apartment door to the sight of Matt sitting at the kitchen table with his arms crossed.
“How was work dear?” he asked, with a hint of acid dripping from his voice.
Having just returned from entertaining a client, my heart started to race. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play innocent with me. You told me you had to work tonight, but I stopped by and they told me you were off. So who is he?”
“He? There isn’t anyone else besides you Matt.”
“You really think I’m supposed to buy that, what with you sneaking around and all?”
“If anyone should be suspicious, it should be me!” I fired back. “I mean, since we moved here, you hardly touch me anymore! We sleep together but only in the sense that we’re in the same bed.”
“Don’t try and turn the tables Katie,” he said. “I’m working my tail off and I’m exhausted a lot of the time.”
“Come on! I see the way you look at other girls. Do you want a real girl now? Is that it?”
“Jesus you’re overreacting! Stop changing the subject for once and just be honest with me. Please, just tell me why you lied to me.”
“Okay, so you want to know the truth. Here it goes: I’m doing some escorting a few times a week so I can save up enough money to be a complete woman for you.” I pointed to my crotch. “I’m so sick and tired of having to hide it, of being reminded what I used to be every time I get dressed or take a shower. I swear, if I don’t have the surgery soon, I’m going to…”
“Going to what?”
“Never mind. Forget it.”
“For the love of God Katie, why didn’t you tell me sooner? I thought we didn’t have any secrets between us.”
“Maybe I thought you’d be happier believing that you had me all to yourself.”
“You should have told me. It’s not right you didn’t tell me.”
Now there was silence. Matt sat there with a drained expression on his face and I was fighting back tears. I ran to the bedroom, closed the door, and cried into my pillow. I fell asleep soon after, but Matt never came to bed.
And so it went for over a week. Even after I told Matt I quit escorting for the second time, it really didn’t change the situation all that much. The gulf between us just seemed to grow wider with each passing day. He kept finding excuses to come home later and later. I was pretty sure he was hitting the bars after work judging by how he’d stumble home.
After eight days, I finally decided enough was enough.
On that particular night, Matt and I were both working, but being a hostess, I got off a little earlier than he did. After work, I headed over to the restaurant where Matt worked and sat outside at one of the patio tables and waited. I felt a wave of déjà vu eating my dessert and watching Matt through the window.
It wasn’t until after 11:30 that Matt walked out through the front doors with his apron in hand, massaging his shoulder. I hurried over to him.
“Katie. What are you doing here? How long have you been waiting out here?”
Teeth starting to chatter, I said, “That…That doesn’t matter. I wanted to talk to you right away about something.”
“Okay. I was headed to the bar around the corner. How about we go get a drink?”
“Sure. I could definitely use one.”
Matt got started with a beer, but I needed something stronger. I ordered a jack and coke.
“Let me start by saying that I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about going back to being an escort. Second of all, I’m through. I’m through with the whole escort thing. For good, and I mean it. I don’t like how it makes me feel. I guess I’ll just have to wait a little longer for my surgery.”
Matt sighed before speaking. “Look, I can understand your being in a hurry to get your surgery, but I’m not in a hurry. Don’t feel pressured on my account.”
“I know, but still…I just wish it would happen sooner.”
“It’ll happen soon enough and then you can put the whole ordeal in the rearview.”
“I suppose. But I worry sometimes. I know I shouldn’t but sometimes I worry about you finding a real girl and falling in love with her.”
He shook his head and smiled. “Katie, I love you. You’re as real as any other girl I’ve ever known. I don’t care what’s between your legs.”
He lightly brushed his fingers against my cheek. Then, a tear coursed its way down my cheek and moistened his hand.
“I love you too Matt.”
And just like that, we made up and things slowly returned to normal.
I was glad we made up just in time to have a fun Halloween, and I was looking forward to celebrating Matt’s birthday in early November. However, the day after Halloween, Matt received a call from Joanne.
Matt stepped out onto the balcony to get better reception, but the way he kept periodically running his fingers through his hair started to worry me. He spent most of the conversation leaning on the railing and I could tell by his deflated posture that something serious had happened. I’ll give you two guesses, but you’ll only need one.
He just stood there after flipping his phone closed, trying to digest the enormity of the news he’d just received. I hurried out into the chilly night air to join him after I gave him a few moments alone.
Seemingly oblivious to my arrival, he was still leaning on the railing when I stepped out, and his eyes were fixated on some point off in the distance. Without even shifting his gaze, he spoke in a cold monotone. “He’s dead…My father is dead.”
Without thinking, I put my hand on his shoulder and lamely said, “I’m so sorry Matt.”
“There’s really no need to be sorry. It was just a matter of time. Mom and Samantha and me knew it was always just a matter of time after that stroke of his.”
“Did he have another stroke?”
He crossed his arms and turned toward me. “I’m not sure. Mom said he was killed in a car accident.”
“I thought he had his license taken away after the stroke.”
“He did, but apparently that didn’t stop him. He probably blacked out and ran off the road. Thank God he didn’t kill anyone. He was one stubborn son of a bitch. I guess he must have had a death wish. The doctors told him to stop drinking what with the blood thinner he was on, but he didn’t listen. He was probably liquored up real good when he pulled out of the driveway, or already well on his way.”
I put my hand on his shoulder once again. “I’m sorry.”
“If there’s anyone we should be sorry for it’s my momma. He doesn’t have anyone else so she’s going to take care of all of the funeral arrangements. And God only knows how long it’s going to take to get his affairs in order before she can even sell the house. He left a pretty good mess before he went.”
“Are you going to go to the funeral?”
“I guess. Since I’m probably going to be out there anyway to help my mom out, I might as well. And that’s the only reason why.”
“Do you want me to come with you? I could try to do what I can to help your mom out.”
“Don’t feel like you need to. My mom doesn’t want us to feel obligated to come out. It’d probably be best if only I went. I don’t know how long I’m gonna be gone. It could be a week or longer. But I’m plannin’ on coming back before two weeks is up. Can’t afford to stay out there for longer than that.”
I nodded my head in understanding. We certainly didn’t want to dip into our savings too much. “Well, give your mom my best and tell her that I’ll be thinking of her.”
“I will,” he said. “Whew. It’s getting’ chilly. I think I’ll head back in.”
“Me too,” I said.
A few minutes later, Matt called Jake who was expecting his call. Joanne had already talked to Samantha.
After the call, he sat in the desk chair and swiveled toward me with his hands behind his head.
“Alright Katie, here’s the plan: Samantha and I are going to take the red eye after my shift tomorrow evening.”
“Do you need me to drive you guys to the airport?”
“Jake’s going to give us a ride.”
“I’m surprised she’s going.”
“She’s just comin’ to help momma out. Nothin’ more. She said plain as day that she has no intention of goin’ to the funeral.”
“I’m glad you’re not flying out alone Matt.”
He forced a half smile. “Me too.”
Let me tell you, that was the longest twelve days of my life. It had been a long time since I had been alone, and even though we talked a couple of times a day and texted each other more often, it was hard coming home to such a quiet and lonely apartment.
On the evening of day twelve, I met Matt at the airport. After he walked past the security checkpoint at his gate, he waved and greeted me with a relaxed smile while I jogged over to him. When we embraced, I could feel his strong heart pounding through his jacket like we had been separated for months.
“My God I missed you Katie!”
He wrapped his arms around my waist, pulled me close, and lifted me up and kissed me.
“I missed you too!” I said breathlessly. “Time just dragged by when you were gone. It seemed like weeks passed instead of days.”
“That’s funny. Out there, there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.”
“How’s your mom holding up?”
“Really well actually.”
“How about Samantha? How’s she doing?”
“It’s been pretty rough for her going back home and all.”
“Did ever change her mind about going with you and your mom?”
“Sort of. She kept a good distance from everyone else. I’m not even sure if anyone even noticed her there by her lonesome, let alone if anyone even knew who she was.” His somber expression softened a bit. “But she’s hangin’ in there, keeping busy helping mom out. She’ll be there a few more days.” He shook his head as we waited in the baggage claim area. “God, you shoulda’ seen the state of my dad’s place! It was like it hadn’t been cleaned in over a year. The bathroom was the worst. Samantha flat out refused to help clean that room. I swear to god, it took my mom about half a day to scrub all of the grime off. After we got the house in order after the funeral, the rest of the time was spent going through his paperwork and making about a thousand phone calls to figure out what was what. We still can’t find any kind of will. I guess he thought the grim reaper was never gonna’ come knocking on his door; either that or he just didn’t give a damn anymore. Anyway, I did my part to get things as straightened out as possible.” He grabbed his suitcase. “I’ll tell you Katie, I’m lookin’ forward to getting back to work tomorrow. It’ll be a vacation compared to the whole ordeal I’ve been through.”
It was strange. As we walked toward the exit, he strode like he was on vacation. They say that there’s nothing like a funeral to make you really appreciate life. However, I think that was only part of the reason why he was walking with such an easy gait and was wearing such a warm and relieved smile. Maybe it was because his mind was uncluttered by one less “when is it going to happen?” worry. He seemed to be only looking forward right now just like I was after all of the soul searching I had experienced at the apartment during his absence.
During the drive back, I think I was looking as forward to some alone time as he was. When we got back to the apartment, we barely made it into the bedroom. The passion erupted to a high I hadn’t experienced in months. And, I’m happy to say, that wasn’t the highpoint of the year. Things just kept getting better from that point on!
One day in early December as Matt was getting ready for work, I said to him, “You’re going to make out like a bandit this Christmas. It’s gonna to be like Christmas and your birthday rolled into one.”
He chuckled while he finished adjusting his tie. “I’ve always wondered what that would be like.” Then, he looked at me and flashed me a toothy grin.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing. I just think you’re gonna to flip over one of the gifts you’re going to get on Christmas.”
“Is it a Mercedes?” I teased.
“Nope. It’s better than that.”
“Now you’re going to have to give me a hint!”
He put his thumb and forefinger to his lips and made a zipping motion. “You’ll just have to be a good little girl and wait for Santa.”
I gave him a playful nudge. “It better be like the best gift I’ve ever gotten or else you’re going to get it for keeping me in suspense for another three weeks!”
He gave me a wink. “It’s worth the wait. Trust me.”
I had never been so excited for Christmas to arrive since I was a little girl…I mean…You know what I mean. I had trouble falling asleep on Christmas Eve even though I was exhausted after taking on a part time sales job during the holidays and having the unique privilege of experiencing the frenzied last minute rush for myself. Then again, the tantalizing notion of receiving the perfect gift will do that to a person.
When I awoke on Christmas morning, I rolled over to snuggle with Matt a bit before getting out of bed, but when I rolled over, he wasn’t there. I groaned and snuggled with his pillow for a few minutes before dragging my body out of bed and getting ready.
Opening the bedroom door, I was greeted by a wonderful aroma before I heard all of the sizzling.
Whistling a Christmas tune, Matt flipped an omelet before acknowledging my presence. “I thought maybe we’d have breakfast first and not rush things.”
“That sounds good honey. We might as well savor it for as long as possible.”
We sat down at the table and Matt said grace. When I said amen, I really meant it for the first time in a long time.
I said, “Everyone talks about what they’re thankful for in November, but I’m thankful for this: for us still being together four Christmases later. I’m thankful that we found each other. Finding someone to share life’s journey with is all that matters.”
There were no words as he grasped my hand and gently stroked it, just loving gazes through the perfect moment of contentment that we were immersed in.
After the delight that was the perfectly browned omelet, we opened our presents hours after millions of kids had already woken up their bleary eyed parents and dove right in. Our Christmas was still going strong.
I got the usual gifts of books, jewelry, and some lingerie, but there was still one last present to be opened, the largest of the bunch. My pulse quickened as Matt placed it in my eager hands.
“Is this the…”
He nodded his head. “Yep. This is the big one.”
I held it up and shook it. “It’s light.”
I tore off the paper and peered in at more paper. My brow furrowed after I dug around and finally reached the bottom of the sea of tissue paper. I reached in, pulled out the very small gift, and stared at it with the most curious expression.
“Is this it?” I asked, holding up a red envelope.
“Trust me. Just open it.”
“Oh my God! Oh my God! Is this really for real?” He simply nodded and smiled. “I never in a million years would have guessed. Wow! Are you sure she wants to do this? I mean, ten grand is an awful lot of money!”
“Mom said something about not wanting to be in a nursing home by the time we get married.”
“Wherever did she get the money?”
“Don’t worry about that Katie. Just know that she has the means and very much wanted to give you the biggest gift you’ve ever received.”
I started wiping away tears of joy. “Do you know what this means? It’s finally going to happen! I can’t believe it!” I threw my arms around Matt. “I’m going to call Joanne right now! Then I’m going to call my dad. He’s never going to believe this! He’s finally going to officially have a daughter. This is the best Christmas ever!”
To Be Continued...
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