“A mother, a real mother is the most wonderful person in the world.” – Wendy (Peter Pan)
I snapped awake about seven in the morning Christmas Day….with the urge to piss like a race horse. I ran to the bathroom but when I was finished, I heard Jackie and Harold arguing. I was tired as hell but something told me to listen in.
“I’m telling him today.”
“Harold, He doesn’t need to know what happened, he’s not our son. As for Brian, right now he is better off not knowing. I’m not making Christmas more complicated.” Jackie said thoughtfully. They were getting breakfast ready and I wondered what they were talking about me for.
“Complicated? Those boys need to know the truth. I was not raised to be a liar, damn it! It’s bad enough Robert Carter was a deadbeat.” Harold whispered in angry tones.
“Shhh! I’ve heard enough. We’re not lying to the boys. I just ain’t telling them right now. Someday I will, but I don’t want you jabbering on to them about it….” Jackie hissed.
I slipped back around the corner, heading towards my room and letting them continue to argue. It was something that could wait until later.
I didn’t understand any of it and my head hurt thinking of what Harold had said about my dad. I went back to my bed and slept for another hour before we were all woken up to unwrap presents. I watched Kevin, smirking as he picked up the box I’d gotten him.
“What could it be?” he asked jokingly, pretending to shake it. Me and Brian sat in our T-shirts and boxers on the floor while the three parents sat on the couch. It felt like Christmas back at home.
“A toilet seat?” Kevin exclaimed as I cracked up laughing.
“Yeah, remember I said I would send you one? Well, I couldn’t fit it into a mailbox, so I wrapped it up.” I joked. I handed him another box and winked.
“This is your real present.” I said. I got him a new pocket watch, as his old one had broken recently. He handed me a box as well and I opened it.
It was a Harry Potter book and a watch. I laughed at the book, it had just come out that year and we’d talked about it at Thanksgiving. Kevin and I always had a tradition of giving one fun gift and one that meant something as well. So far we’ve been pretty good at it. The watch had Mickey on it, of course….the hands pointing at the hour and the minutes.
“Turn it over.” Kevin said. On the back were some numbers engraved into the watch. I teared up, it was the day my parents had passed away. I wasn’t sad about the gift, I liked that he did that, it really touched me. It hurts to remember them, but I won’t forget what happened. I stood up and hugged him, not controlling myself as I cried.
I finally settled down and gave Brian his present. It was a book about farming that he’d had his eye on for a while.
“Wow, this is cool. Thanks, Nick.”
“It is tradition to give another present at my house, so here.” I handed him another box and it was a Woody bobblehead. It was really cheesy but he laughed at it.
“I’m gonna put this in my car.” he chuckled as he put it back under the tree. He reached and got a gift out, it turned out to be some art supplies for class that I needed, and a Buzz Lightyear shirt.
“You’re always gonna be Buzz to me.” he said, patting me on the shoulder. It was then that….as I looked at him, it felt right for him to call me Buzz. I was finally getting comfortable around him as if we were family.
It was really a nice moment until I let out a huge fart. Why do I gotta ruin everything?
“Gross, Nick!” Brian exclaimed, moving away from me and pretending to air out the living room as everyone laughed.
We had ham for christmas dinner this time, with some vegetables and buttermilk biscuits. It wasn’t as fancy as Christmas Eve, but we still enjoyed ourselves.
“That was a lovely dinner.” Kevin remarked. It really was. For dessert we had a homemade apple pie with ice cream. I swear if I ate like this every day I would not fit into my jeans.
“Have some more, Nick. You’re so thin.” Jackie said, putting another slice of pie onto my plate. She was such a sweet woman, Brian was lucky. Several times during the trip to Kentucky I wished to trade places but I don’t think I’d have it any other way. I liked living with Kevin when I wasn’t at school, even though he seemed more like a friend than a parent.
Harold kept eyeing me from across the table, this time it wasn’t a glare but a look of remorse, as if he’d felt bad for how he was treating me. I didn’t hate the guy at all, just had a feeling he wasn’t thrilled about me or Kevin being there. After dinner was over he asked me if I wanted to sit on the porch with him for a bit, so I went.
“Nick, I just wanted to say I was sorry for misjudging you.” he drawled. It was chillier than normal outside.
“You don’t like me, do you Mr. Littrell?” I asked flatly, pulling my Mickey sweatshirt on.
“Now see here, son. I never said that. When you got here I thought you were some spoiled city kid. But I can see you aint one.”
What the hell was that supposed to mean?
“I knew of your father back when you was just a baby. There’s something you need to know….” Harold started, but Kevin came out onto the porch. He glared at Brian’s father and the two of them exchanged looks as if they were speaking through telekenisis.
“What’s going on out here?” Kevin asked.
“Just talking.” Harold said, and Kevin raised an eyebrow before looking at me. I just shrugged. Mostly because I was cold but also confused, I headed back into the house….the two of them started to argue. Something was definitely fishy.
That night before bed, Brian and I sat in his room, talking.
“Do you ever feel like the grown ups are keeping something from us?” I asked cautiously.
“No, why?” he wondered, sitting Indian style on the bed.
“Everyone’s been acting funny.”
I debated on telling him what I heard his parents say that morning but thought better of it. He was so happy, there was no reason to cause problems.
“I dunno. So Kevin told me your birthday is in a month?”
“Yeah, the big 2-0.” I said. I wasn’t excited about my birthday because it was around the time…..the accident happened. We tended not to celebrate it back home, just treating it like any other day.
“So what do you want to do for your birthday?” he asked.
“Nothing special. I’m not big on birthdays.” I replied softly. I finally told him I was tired and headed off to bed, leaving him confused and deep in thought. We were leaving the next day to go back home and Brian was coming with us. He didn’t feel like spending holidays at home this year, and I couldn’t blame him. We would be going back to school before we knew it, and things would go back to normal.
That nagging feeling that something big was coming just wouldn’t leave, and I hoped to God it was wrong.