Page 15

 Penelope Ward

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“Who’s Allison?” Denise interrupted.
My brother had clearly been good at keeping my secrets.
“Allison is Callie’s new therapist and your brother-in-law here is smitten.”
I broke in. “Mom, you wanna know something?”
“Yes, honey. What?” She smiled.
Like I said, my control over this situation was dwindling and I responded, “You are absolutely friggin’ right. I was smitten. She is amazing.” I felt a rush of heat in my face at the balls it took to admit that small part of the truth in front of my mother.
Caleb laughed heartily, then downed his beer.
“Well, what are you going to do about it?” she asked.
I shook my head, not knowing what to say or why I even told my mother how I felt about Allison.
Then, she gave me a brilliant idea.
“Cedric, Allison doesn’t come back to work until the Thursday after next because Callie and I are visiting your aunt in Maine. I had meant to give her a Christmas gift at my party, but she left suddenly. I have the gift wrapped in my car. I was going to drop it off at her house this week because I am going to Malden to meet with some people on the board of Bright Horizons. Why don’t you find out if she is home and tell her you are dropping it off as a favor to me tonight?”
It seemed a little nuts. I mean, why couldn’t my mother wait to give her the gift the next time Allison worked with Callie? But if this gave me even a shitty excuse to go to her house and see her, I might need to take what I could get.
I didn’t respond, just sat in deep thought.
Of course, my mother had no idea what I’d really be getting myself into. I hated that my mother thought all of this was so innocent but I had gone too long to ever tell her the whole truth now. I sometimes wished I could get her take on the true dilemma I faced.
“Well, you think about it, Cedric. I am not going to put any pressure on you. She may not even be home,” Mom said before resuming her dinner.
My mother was right. Allison was probably with friends tonight.
As Denise, Mom and Callie cleared the table, I followed Caleb downstairs to the basement to help pick a movie for after dessert and to get his take on things.
“So, Mom’s on to you, huh?” Caleb smirked taking a swig of beer and plopping down on the leather sectional.
“If she only f**king knew. I realized tonight that I am also deceiving Mom with this whole charade.” I sighed.
“Cedric, please. Stop doing this to yourself. You have every right to feel the way you do. You need to let go of the past and move forward. Just think about you and Allison and nothing else. You deserve to be happy, dude.”
“I can’t stop this thing if I tried, man. It’s a runaway train that’s about to derail,” I said as I joined him on the couch, leaning my head back.
Just then, we were interrupted by Mom, Denise and Callie, all of whom were walking down the basement stairs carrying a different dessert and some paper plates and napkins.
We turned on the DVD player and opted for It’s a Wonderful Life, mainly because it was Dad’s favorite and he was always here with us in spirit. This movie always depressed me though, even before Dad died. Now, it was even more bittersweet.
My family sat together cuddled on the couch eating apple pie and chocolate cake, transfixed by the movie. Callie was the exception and opted to watch Anderson Cooper clips on You Tube with her headphones on.
I escaped upstairs to sit by the fire again, taking a bottle of Shiraz with me from the basement bar.
I stopped by the kitchen first to open the wine and pour a glass, then returned to my spot on the recliner right in front of the fire in my brother’s living room. The Christmas music still played low from the iPod speaker. I took a sip of the wine and looked down at my watch. It was only 8:30.
I leaned my head back, closed my eyes and imagined Allison straddling me on this chair in front of the fire. Just the thought was enough to make me hard. I shook my head to get the image out so I could think straight. I couldn’t. Remember that runaway train? It was about to derail.
I took my phone out of my pocket, hit her name and typed.
Merry Christmas, Allison.
I closed my eyes and held my phone, having no clue whether I would hear from her. My hand shook when I immediately heard it chime back.
Allison: Merry Christmas, Cedric. Where are you?
Cedric: At my brother’s in New Hampshire. How about you?
Allison: I just got home from dinner with my friend Danny.
Danny? Is she dating him? Fuck. And then as if she could read my mind…
Allison: Danny and his boyfriend live over by Fenway Park.
Cedric: Ah, I see. Was it a good time?
Allison: Yes, it was. What is everyone doing over there?
Cedric: Watching It’s a Wonderful Life down in the basement. That movie kind of depresses me.
Allison: Oh my God…me too. My mother loved it though.
Cedric: I’m sorry.
Allison: Sorry for what? It is depressing.
Cedric: I know, I mean, I am sorry that your mom is not with you tonight.
Allison: Thanks. Me too.
I knew what I had to do next.
Cedric: Allison, how late will you be up?
Allison: Pretty late…why?
Cedric: My mom asked me to drop off a gift for you that she forgot to give you last Thursday…on my way home tonight if you were around.
Allison: I’ll be around. Sure. That is so nice of her.
Cedric: Great. I’ll probably leave here in about twenty minutes, so I’ll be there sometime after ten.
Allison: Sounds good. I’ll see you soon.
Cedric: Ok…see you soon.
My heart was pounding out of my chest. I was going to see her tonight. What a Christmas this was turning out to be.
I immediately went to the bathroom, grabbing the first toothbrush I saw not knowing whose it was and brushed my teeth. I wet my hair back and stared at myself in the mirror. I’ve looked better, but if I had known I would be seeing Allison, I might have dressed differently. I was wearing a maroon button down shirt, rolled up at the sleeves and dark jeans. I hadn’t shaved for a couple of days, but it would have to do.
I ran down the stairs and pulled my mother aside letting her know my plans. She gave me her keys and I ran out to the driveway, took the wrapped present out of her glove compartment and transferred it to the passenger seat in my car.
I went back in the house, returning the keys, putting on my black North Face parka and hugged and kissed each of my family members goodnight.
Caleb patted me strongly on the shoulder, since he was the only one who knew how difficult the situation with Allison really was for me.
I felt bad leaving early, but my mother was practically shoving me out the door when she found out I was going to take her up on that idea.
I got in my car and blasted the heat because it was freezing out. I put on some smooth jazz and tried to relax as I pulled out of my brother’s driveway.
As I sped south down I-93, I thought about what I would say to her when I saw her. I needed to tell her how I felt about her without scaring her off. I hoped that she would invite me to stay beyond just handing her the gift, so that I had the chance to talk to her for once.
I finally got to her exit and drove slowly down the side streets leading to her house. I parked across the street from the two family house where she lived. Once I looked up into her second floor window, I really started to freak out.
Be certain to take your vitamins, as this is your low point of the month, my Gemini friend. It is a good day to curl up with your favorite book or video, sip herbal tea and avoid the world. Tomorrow brings new energy.
I couldn’t believe this was happening. Cedric was coming over…on Christmas night. We would be alone. This was so dangerous, but I was not about to stop it.
I didn’t care about his girlfriend right now. And why wasn’t he with her tonight anyway? The consequences of this couldn’t compete with the uncontrollable desire I had to see him. I just wanted to look into those beautiful blue eyes tonight. I wanted nothing more than to get lost in them and forget about the despair of being alone on Christmas without my mother.
Dinner with Danny and Paolo had been good. They actually invited a few other nice people and put together a Mexican buffet-style menu. Danny knows that Mexican is my favorite type of food.
But seeing Danny and Paolo all over each other and so in love only reminded me what I am lacking. I ended up making up a story about not feeling well and leaving early, because I wanted to go home.
Soon after I got in, I kicked off my shoes, went straight to bed and laid down staring at the ceiling.
A few minutes later, my phone startled me when the text came in.
Merry Christmas, Allison.
It was a Merry Christmas…now.
I needed to look better than ever before. After our texting exchange ended and I knew Cedric was coming over, I sprung up and ran to the bathroom. I tied my hair up while I showered, careful not to get it wet, because there would be no time to wash and style it before he arrived.
As I stepped out of the shower, I sprayed myself with a Victoria’s Secret fruity scent and walked over to the closet. I could not decide what to wear. I put on a cream colored lacy bra and matching thong…just to feel sexy. I wouldn’t be going there of course, tonight…would I? Clearly, I didn’t trust myself, or else I would have chosen the more comfortable granny panties.
I then picked an emerald green cotton fitted v-neck shirt and tight dark blue skinny jeans. I threw black leather high-heeled boots over the jeans and finished the look off by brushing my long hair, leaving it down. I gave myself a smoky eye and put some light gloss on my lips, puckering in the mirror. I had to admit; I looked pretty good for someone who was about to turn in for the night twenty minutes ago.
I went to the kitchen and took a bottle of cold Chardonnay out of the fridge. I hadn’t had too much to drink at Danny’s because I was taking the train home and didn’t want to be drunk and vulnerable on public transportation. So, I decided to pour a glass now to help loosen me up.
I suddenly started to get really nervous. I didn’t wonder if something was going to happen tonight…. I knew deep down, it would.
The only thing keeping us from each other last time was the fact that Callie was in the room. I could tell by the way he was looking at me that night and by the way he made me feel, that had we been alone, something more would have happened. And that scared me. Knowing what he later texted me that night…that I was beautiful…confirmed what I already knew in my heart. He wanted me. I wanted him. It was the reason I ran.
I figured I should have some kind of food to offer him when he got here, so I quickly put together a fruit plate since I had just stocked up at the market yesterday. I also cut some Cracker Barrel cheese onto Ritz crackers and arranged them on a plate. I nearly dropped the plate that I was carrying to the table when I heard a knock at the door.
My heart felt like it was thumping out of my chest and my armpits dripped with perspiration instantly.
Cedric was early.
“Just a minute!” I yelled as I gathered my bearings, taking in a deep breath.
He may not have heard me because the constant knocking continued and got louder as I walked toward the door.
I opened it and a wave of nausea and the smell of vodka hit me like a ton of bricks.
I hadn’t seen Nate since I ended our relationship. The man I was met with at the door was nothing like the man I knew before I discovered his addiction. His eyes were bloodshot red and his hair was dirty and inches longer than I had remembered. I usually like longer hair on guys, but Nate’s was just messy and unwashed. It was clear that alcoholism had been taking its toll during the months since our breakup.
“What are you doing here, Nate?” I asked nervously.
“Allison…we need to talk,” Nate slurred as he leaned against the doorway.
“I can’t, Nate. I am sorry, not when you are drunk like this.”
I started to close the door and he stopped it with his hand.
“Allison, please…it’s Christmas. I am so lonely. I miss you so f**king much.”
“Nate, please leave. I don’t want to see you like this. You’re drunk and you’re scaring me.”
I tried to push the door closed again, but this time, Nate slammed the door all the way open and pushed past me into the living room.
“Allison, you can’t shut me out like this. I f**king love you. I need you.”
He stumbled into the kitchen, grabbing the Chardonnay I had left on the table and started to drink it down fast like water. The glass shattered into pieces as he threw it on the floor. More alcohol was clearly the last thing he needed.
“Nate, you can’t stay. Please go home.” I was shaking.
I immediately remembered the last time that we were together when he hit me across the face after accusing me of cheating on him with Danny. He wasn’t even half as drunk then as he is now.
“Allison, we never got to talk…abou…about what ha…happened between us,” he said as he started walking slowly toward me.
I backed up into the living room, my back facing the window.
I grabbed my cell phone from my purse and held it in my hand in case I needed to dial 911. I felt nauseous as the smell of vodka got closer and closer.
“Who are you calling?” Nate backed me up against the window.
“No one,” I said as my hands that held the phone shook profusely.
“You’re lying.”
Nate grabbed the phone and threw it to the ground. His putrid breath hit my face as he pressed his body into mine.
“Nate, you’re scaring me. Please back away,” I whispered, barely having the energy to talk audibly because I was truly terrified that I didn’t know this person anymore. I didn’t really know anything about Nate on alcohol, except for the fact that he had it in him to use force against me when he was intoxicated like this.