Authors: Heather D'Agostino
I WAS NUTS
pure and simple. I don’t know what possessed me to stop and help him. “You still love him, you idiot,” I muttered as I slowly made my way home. The snow had stopped coming down a while ago, but the roads were still pretty bad out near my parent’s house. The plows only made it out here about twice a day, so on days like today, when the snow fell constantly, it was easy for the roads to pile up.
When I finally pulled in the driveway, I could see my dad pushing the snow blower along the sidewalk in front of our house. He’d cleared the driveway, and as he blew the sidewalk out, Daniel shoveled the steps. I couldn’t help but laugh as I parked and climbed out of the car. Dan looked pissed, and my father didn’t seem to care. I’m sure he was angry that I couldn’t help and all the work was falling on him, but honestly, if I weren’t hurt, I wouldn’t even be here.
“Where have you been?” he grumbled as I hobbled up the steps past him.
“Out,” I shrugged a shoulder as I maneuvered the best I could around him pausing only to open the door.
“Doc called while you were out. Mom said something about you getting fitted for a boot,” he said. “I think they were talking about you not needing the crutches anymore.”
“What?” I grinned slightly as I thought about how much easier it would be if I only had to deal with a boot. The break hadn’t been that bad, and I guess staying off it for two weeks had helped a lot.
“Go ask her yourself.” He rolled his eyes as he turned away from me.
“Well, you’re in a fine mood.” I rolled my eyes with the sarcastic bite.
“Whatever. I’ve been stuck here while you’re out.” He finished the last step and paused as he ripped the hat off his head and ran his hand through his sweaty hair.
“I’m going to the tree lighting tomorrow. Wanna come?” I tossed over my shoulder as I reached for the door knob.
“Already going. I’ve got a date,” he grinned. “Mom said I could have the car for the night too, and I’m not driving you,” he shot back.
“Well how am I supposed to get there?” I scoffed.
“Call one of your friends,” he groaned. “Or better yet,” he grinned. “Call Ty. I’m sure he’d come and get ya.”
“You know if I wasn’t hurt, I’d get you right now.”
“Sure you would,” he taunted. He bounded closer to me before stopping in the doorway. “You still like him. I’ve seen the look. I may be younger, but I’m a guy, and if my ex called and asked me for a ride, I’d be there in a heartbeat. I’ll even call him for you.”
“Oh, no you won’t,” I snapped as he started to reach for my pocket.
“Fine,” he sighed. “You do whatever you want, but… I’m still getting the car,” he laughed as he walked away, leaving me there standing on the porch in the cold.
“Crap!” I muttered. This was just great. Tyler was going to love this. I knew as soon as I called him he’d make some crack about me wanting to be around him more or something. It seemed I couldn’t win. No matter what I did, the universe was just not letting up. It seemed to be sending me a message, I just hadn’t figured out what that message was.
WHEN I GOT
the call from Mia last night asking if I could come and get her today, I thought she was joking. She’d made so many points that this wasn’t a date when we were at the diner that I thought it was some sort of cruel joke to see if I’d really jump when she said to, but she assured me that she truly meant it. Dan needed the car for a hot date, and me being a guy totally understood. It also helped that this meant I’d get her alone for a few extra minutes. It was a win, win.
“Do I have everything?” I muttered to myself as I glanced in the backseat of my rental. I was trying to make things somewhat nice for Mia so I’d packed us camp chairs and blankets. I figured with her being on crutches it would be nice to sit. I also had a thermos of hot chocolate, her favorite. I snickered as I thought about the last time we’d had hot chocolate together. We’d gone camping at a cabin and spent most of the weekend snuggled in front of a fire making love. I knew tonight was going to be a far cry from that trip, but I was hoping that when I offered her the beverage, she’d remember like I had.
I let my eyes do one last sweep of the car before climbing in and beginning the drive to her parent’s place. It wasn’t far, and the roads were in much better shape today so the drive was quick. When I pulled up in front of her house, her dad was stringing Christmas lights along the roof. “Evening Mr. Callahan,” I waved as I climbed out. “I would’ve helped if I’d known you were going to be decorating.” When Mia and I were together, I was a part of all of these traditions.
“I didn’t know you were coming over,” he called from his spot on the ladder.
“I’m taking Mia to the tree lighting,” I scrunched my brow. “Didn’t she tell you?”
“No, but that doesn’t mean anything. She hasn’t really been talking to us lately. She spends all her time locked in her room, or at the studio. I don’t know what she’s doing there other than making herself feel bad.”
“This time off has been rough on her, huh?” I mused as I let my voice trail off.
“She sure has been struggling that’s for sure.” He began climbing down the ladder as I moved up the front steps. “I’m glad she’s going out though. Getting things somewhat normal is exactly what she needs.” He wiped his hands on his jeans to get the snow off his gloves before reaching to shake my hand. “It’s good to see you back home, Ty.”
“Thanks,” I smiled just as the front door opened.
“I thought that was you I heard out here,” Mia’s mom smiled at me as she looked over her shoulder. “She’s coming in just a sec. You two planning anything for later?”
“Taylor’s having some friends over. I thought I’d take her to hang out with us. We won’t be out too late.” I glanced around; this felt odd. Mia and I weren’t the high school kids that her parents seemed to think we were. I hadn’t had an exchange with parents in a long time. The Callahan’s had always seemed to like me, but this was their daughter we were talking about. Even though I promised Mia that we were going to do the ‘friends’ thing, I couldn’t help but think about kissing her, and making her remember ‘us’.
“Quit giving him the third degree,” Mia’s soft voice chimed behind her mother as she struggled with an oversized coat.
“I’m just making conversation, honey.” Mrs. Callahan smiled as she stepped out of the way. Mia was standing there in a pair of skinny jeans, one foot encased in a big black boot while the other was daintily clad in a fur lined Ugg.
“Surprise,” she smiled softly as she lifted the boot. “I don’t need the crutches anymore.”
“That’s great,” I smiled back her as she awkwardly stepped forward. She reached for my shoulder to help steady herself as she ambled down the front steps before looking back at her parents.
“I won’t be too late, but don’t wait up.” She waved as determination spread across her face. “I hate this damn thing,” she muttered so only I could hear, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
“SO,” I GLANCED AT
her as we made our way down the dark snowy streets. “You don’t want them to wait up. Is there a reason for that?” I wagged my brows when I quickly glanced at her.
“Friends, Tyler!” she snapped as she shook her head.
“Yeah, yeah,” I chuckled. “You planning on meeting someone tonight and leaving me there?”
She sighed before taking a deep breath. “Other than the diner, I really haven’t left the house that much. Tonight’s the first time I’ve done more than shower and brush my hair. It feels nice to be among the living, and the doctor says that I may be able to get rid of this thing sooner than we originally thought.”
“I’m happy for you,” I smiled as I started to reach for her hand. It was a habit, and I had to force myself to put my palm back on the wheel instead of her thigh like I was itching to do. “You still ok with going over to Tay’s after?” I tried to sound nonchalant, but on the inside, I was as nervous as a prepubescent school boy.
“Sure,” she lifted a shoulder as she gave me a half smile.
When we finally arrived in town, I parked in the employee parking that Taylor had behind the hardware store. Technically, I should have parked in the lot that was cleared down the street, but with Mia’s leg I wanted to be close.
I helped her out of the car before slinging the shoulder straps on the chairs over my arm, and grabbing the thermos. “Sustenance,” I chuckled as I held it in front of her. She rolled her eyes and laughed before slowly shuffling along beside me.
The sidewalks were clear, but I couldn’t help wrapping my arm around her waist. She started to pull away, but when I told her I just didn’t want her to fall and hurt herself worse, she relented.
ONCE WE MADE
it to the town square, I set up the chairs and helped Mia sit down. I smiled as I folded myself into the spot beside her and opened the thermos. We passed it back and forth, slowly sipping the hot chocolate as the area began to fill with people. This was a big deal here in Cherryville, not as big as the Cherry Festival, but pretty close. The Masons had a huge farm on the outskirts of town, and each year they would cut down the biggest fir tree they could find. Last year’s topped out at twenty-two feet; at least that’s what Taylor told me. This year I wasn’t sure how big it was, but sitting here a few feet from it told me it was big. I felt like a little kid as I sat there peering up into the night sky. A blustery wind blew by causing me to shiver, and when I glanced at Mia, her teeth chattered.
“Cold night, huh?” I mused as I looked over at her.
“Just a little,” she giggled as she rubbed her hands up and down her arms.
“I could help with that,” I smiled as I watched the blush from earlier return to her face.
“Friends, Ty,” she scolded as she rubbed her arms again.
I shook my head at her stubbornness. “Come here.” I motioned her to get up, and as soon as she did, I didn’t give her a chance to fight me off. I gave a quick tug, causing her to spill across my lap. She laughed awkwardly as I shifted her tiny frame to fit right across my thighs. “Body heat will help,” I murmured right beside her ear as I wrapped my arms around her, holding her on my lap. She tensed as her back stiffened, and she refused to look at me.