December 22nd

A distant relationship between father and son is further stressed when the family gets together for Christmas.

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3. Valerie

 

By the time Mike returned it was 10’o clock and we all decided it was time to go to bed. We said our goodnights and went to our rooms. I wasn’t really tired so I lay in bed staring at the ceiling. This got boring after an hour so I decided to go relax at the fireplace. I slowly creaked open my door and snuck to the living room.  Once I got there I kindled a small fire and sat in my rocking chair. Not too long after sitting I heard footsteps down the hall.

“Dad what are you doing up?”

 “You stalking me now?” I asked.

“No dad just heard your loud footsteps. “ He said playfully sitting on the couch.

We both sat in the orange glow of the fireplace, watching the embers float up into the air and disappear.

“Amy told me that you told Ally a story.” Mike said cutting the silence.

“Yeah. What of it?”

Well dad the fact that Ally responded to you is a miracle. She usually won’t react around anyone.”

“Hah. I don’t know how to tell stories like your mother did.”

 I just mentioned her and a sharp pain pierced my heart. Mike could probably see the pain in my face and said,” I really miss her too dad.”

 Hearing him say that made me really angry.

 “Do you really?” I sneered at him.

“You didn’t give a damn about her when she needed you most.”

Before Mike could respond I got up and went to my room. I closed my door and sat on my bed. My face felt really hot and seemed to be emitting heat of its own. He didn’t care at all. I know the lord said don’t go to sleep angry but I couldn’t help it. The pillow and mattress wrestled me all night. The pillow wouldn’t stay fluffed; the mattress would thrust springs into my back. It was as if my anger was absorbed by these inanimate objects and thrown back at me. This was to be a restless night.

                An aroma of bacon filled the house waking me up. It was a nice way to wake up in the morning. I was still tired from last night’s battle with my mattress but motivated enough to get out of bed for breakfast. Walking into the kitchen was like walking into an Ihop. Ally was at the table eating pancakes, Amy was pouring glasses of milk and Mike was cooking some bacon on the stove. The sizzling of the bacon was a symphony to my ears.  Amy saw me enter the kitchen and cheerfully greeted me,

 “Good morning Jorge! You woke up just in time. Breakfast is about to be served.”

 I took a seat at the table across from Ally. She wasn’t as barbaric as other 6 year olds her age. She neatly cut the pancakes with her fork and slowly chewed her food. When our eyes met she quickly looked back down to her food.  Mike came over and put a plate full of bacon and pancakes in front of me. The steam slowly rose from the plains of the pancakes and the bacon sizzled lightly being fresh off the stove.

“Here you go dad.” He said in a soft voice.

 “Thank you, Mike.” I responded. I could feel the heavy tension between us.

To ease it a bit I said,” This looks great.”

I took a bite of the pancakes with some bacon on it. It tasted good, really good.

“Jorge I was wondering if we could all take a walk through the forest today. Were me and Mike live we don’t get to appreciate nature like this. “She looked at me with hoping eyes.

“That sounds alright to me. I could use some fresh air.” I lied not really wanting to leave my cozy warm home. 

                After breakfast we all got ready for the small hike into the woods. Stepping outside was like stepping into a beautiful painting. The trees were sprinkled with snow; the sun peaked through the clouds in the sky. The forest and I have become good friends over the years. She listened to my thoughts and mended my pain with her beauty. Amy seemed over excited about this hike. It was as if this was her first time seeing the outside world. We didn’t see much other than a few squirrels scurrying up trees. We saw a bird here and a bird there.  Ally and Amy kept running ahead leaving me and Mike alone. I didn’t like it.

                After a few hours we stopped and rested. I was tired. Man I really am getting old.

“I think we should head back to the house.” Amy said seeing the exhaustion in my face.

Mike agreed.

“Alright give me a minute and we can start heading back.”

That minute turned into an hour of rest. When we did start heading back I noticed that Amy and Ally were ahead of me and Mike again. Was this on purpose? Mike slowed his pace till he came to a complete stop and I walked ahead of him.

“Dad I really do miss her.” I stopped in place.

“Don’t start this again.” I growled at him. Ally and Amy continued walking until they were out of site.

“I know I messed up but I really am sorry about it!” Mike yelled back.

 I could hear the strain in his voice.

“She was there for two months mike. Two fucking months!” The anger built up inside me was now escaping though my words.

“I know. I was caught up in-“Cutting him off I walked to him and said in a cold tone,” All she wanted was for you to visit. Just one damn visit! You couldn’t even give her that.”

The sound of silence that followed ringed in my ears.

“I thought I would have more time.” I could hear the quivering in his voice.

“She was in a hospital Mike! How damn long did you think you had?”

 I was about to turn around and walk away when he said,” I regret not going to see her. I hate myself for it. I’m sorry about that, but you weren’t the only one that loved her dad.” With that he walked past me and left down the trail.

                I was walking in the forest alone. My heart was heavy with emotions. Hate, sorrow, yearning all flowed through me. I have no idea what I should do. Valerie? What should I do? When I reached the house I saw Mike and Amy through the kitchen window. When I got inside I went straight to my chair in front of the fireplace. No fire was lit. Ally was on the floor playing around with some Barbie doll. She must have felt my eyes looking at her because she turned around and stared at me.

“You like that doll?” She nodded.

“I see. I have a story about a doll. Would you like to hear it?” Another nod from Ally.

“Okay. It starts with me walking through the busy streets of Egypt. You know, where Moses was.”

She seemed to know what I was talking about so I continued.

“So there are people bargaining with each other, store owners shouting their products names and on top of all the chaos in the streets the sun was beating down on the city without mercy. I didn’t like the place very much but I wanted to bring something home to remember this uncomfortable trip. There were a lot of different things being sold but I didn’t know what any of it was. There were lotions, special rugs and weird balls of wheat. I wasn’t sure what they were for. Eventually I came across a stall that was selling doll looking things. They were made of straw and tied together with horse hair.”

Ally put on a confused face.

“Straw and horse hair, you could only imagine how ugly these things were. They couldn’t hold a candle to one of your Barbie’s.” A smile came from Ally.

“Even though they were hideous they were the only things I could recognize. Everything else was foreign to me. So I bargained with the merchant and in the end it cost me my watch. My watch! Just for a straw doll that probably took five minutes to make.” Ally didn’t seem to understand.

“Okay think of it this way. I take your doll and give you a rock.” I could see she didn’t like the idea as she held on tighter to her doll.

“Yeah, that’s how I felt.” I laughed a bit when Amy came in to the room and announced that dinner was ready. My smile quickly faded. I know the tension is going to be present because of the fight today. We all sat around the small round table and began to eat. Amy whipped up some strange salad with noodles and chunks of sausage. Oh god. With my trusty glass of water I will try to down this crime against all that is holy. It tasted as good as it smelt. Horrible. I have no idea how poor Ally put this stuff down. She must be use to this stuff.

“Jorge, thank you for taking us out today. It was so much fun; Ally and I had a great time. The trees were so beautiful…” Amy kept on talking but I couldn’t focus on what she was saying. Mike and my eyes met which only added to the tension that was already there. There isn’t much else that happened at dinner. Just silence as we ate.

                The rest of the day was uneventful. Ally was sent to bed early because it was Christmas eve. Mike and Amy were going to wake up early in the morning to place Ally’s presents for Ally under a tree outside. It was an interesting idea but they better hope no wolves come by and tear them up. While Mike and Amy cuddled at the fireplace I snuck into the kitchen and grabbed some pepto bismol from the kitchen closet. My stomach was messed up. That damn dinner. I spent the rest of the night in my room to prevent any confrontation between me and Mike. I stared out my window and noticed the ducks huddling on the side of the house. The lake was still frozen.

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