Home for the Holidays
“You’ll want your left lane pretty quickly to head south on the freeway.”
We pulled smoothly out of the gas station and Sky eased leftward as I suggested. I still marveled that we were even on the road together. By his own admission, Skyler held no emotional stock in Christmas.
I never thought Skyler would want to go home with me over the holidays to meet my family. No matter how you did the math, I was old enough to be his mother. My mom only knew that I’d been seeing someone since my divorce went through. To her credit, she never pressed for details.
In my opinion, she only felt glad that I finally found some happiness. If it were possible I’d say I loved the woman more every year. Dad, too, for that matter. They were really cool now that I’d grown up into a responsible adult.
“What are you thinking, Karen?”
“How lucky I am to have you and my family.”
Glancing at me earnestly, he asked, “You really think they’ll like me?”
“You keep asking that and getting the same answer. Of course they’ll love you. You are a smart and funny individual who makes me smile and laugh.”
“Won’t anyone think I’m mooching off you or something? I could have a more lucrative job, ya know. Hell, I slept up to this point of the drive because I was out last night partying.”
“You might have partied but your band had a gig first and foremost. Besides, you’re taking some college classes now. That’s commendable. So what if you’re a musician working part time? I’m proud of that, too. You’re following your dream with true talent.”
He stared at the road after that. I knew thoughts were swirling behind that smooth brow. He fidgeted in his seat. I’d thought that taking over the drive once he woke up would ease his tension but apparently he just continued imagining some embarrassing moment with my folks that I remained sure wouldn’t happen.
“They really are neat people.”
“I’m sure they are if they raised you.”
He clenched my steering wheel so hard I swore the sedan complained with a small groan from the column. I resisted the urge to tease him. Skyler wouldn’t if our situations were reversed. I put on some favorite music instead. Soon he sang along, his baritone voice more lovely than what came out of the car stereo. When an instrumental came on I asked him a question.
“Did you bring your acoustic guitar?”
“Should I have?”
“You know I brought mine hoping we could do a duet and show my family what you’ve taught me.”
He smiled mischievously. I should have known better than to ask. Skyler would have sooner traveled without a change of underwear than leave home without an instrument.
“You were too busy picking out an outfit for the Christmas Eve church service to notice what I packed, weren’t you? I just realized that I’m not the only one who’s a little bit nervous despite all your talk.”
“It’s not that,” I retorted honestly. “My parents’ friends from church are very prim and proper. I’d hate to under-dress for the occasion.”
“We could have just stayed home, naked in your bed.”
“Our bed,” I corrected. Skyler had finally moved in with me.
“And that doesn’t make you nervous at all?”
“That they’ve never met me and we’re living together.”
“They are three hours away one direction.”
“So you could keep your dirty little secret.”
“Whoa! Where did that come from? Are you nervous because you think I’ve been hiding you? Because the truth is that I just didn’t want them worrying that I’d made a move too quickly after the divorce.”
“Well, if your folks’ church friends wouldn’t approve, what makes you think they will?”
“I never said that. I said I wanted to dress nice. I haven’t seen these people in a long time. As for the rest, our living arrangements are none of their business and, anyway, I lived with my husband before we were married.”
“You don’t even like to say his name anymore, do you? What about your family? Do they miss him?”
“What does that have to do with anything? Are you sure you wouldn’t rather stay in a motel? I could pick you up in the morning and we could head straight home.”
“No. That’s silly.”
“If you’re not comfortable meeting my family, I don’t want to force you.”
“You’re not forcing me. I’m coming along of my own free will.”
I could feel my annoyance rising. What did he want me to do or say? Suddenly, everything either of us said seemed to lead toward a verbal sparring match. I opened the novel I’d brought and pretended to read.
Finally I managed to let go of my angst and get drawn into the story open before me. All the tension between Skyler and me flew from my mind. I looked up when he took an exit many miles later.
“Good catch. I meant to tell you again which route to follow.”
“I remembered, Karen, because I really do want to be here.”
“Thanks, Sky. That means a lot.”
His smile meant even more, as did the reaction of my Mom and Dad at the house. They hugged Skyler like one of the family while my brother took our bags to my old room. To my even greater surprise, a new queen size bed greeted me in place of my old one. I’d gone to unpack my dress for that night so it wouldn’t wrinkle. Dad eventually followed me up the stairs while Sky helped Mom in the kitchen.
“Your Skyler is really very nice, Karen.”
“He is. Honestly, I should have brought him home sooner to meet you. I think I’ve found the real thing this time.”
Choosing not to comment on how my ex-husband had never come to visit, he simply said, “I’m so happy for you!”
“Me, too,” I replied, suddenly uncomfortable. As is my way, I changed the subject. “Thanks for the new bed, Dad.”
“We figured it was time. You shouldn’t have to sleep in that twin bed every time you visit. And now I’m glad we did it since you brought your young man with you.”
“You really don’t mind if he sleeps in the same room with me?”
“We’re all adults. I wouldn’t expect you to suddenly stop sharing a bed just because you’re under our roof for a few nights.”
Trying to play innocent, I said, “What do you mean?”
“Your mother and I talked before you got here. Margaret figured out that you and Skyler have been living together by the sound of your voices. You’re very at ease with one another. That’s more important than any marriage certificate.”
I blushed. He gave me a hug.
“Merry Christmas, Karen.”