The Fourth Christmas

The Fourth Christmas

When I was fourteen I caught Eric Thorsten kissing Rachel Wiggins behind the school. The memory is burned into my brain because it was the very first time I felt jealousy. I remember thinking, as I picked up the small rock and hurled it toward Eric’s back, that it was strange that I had gone fourteen years before feeling this. I had never before felt so uncomfortable – helpless, hopeless, and angry all at the same time. I managed to duck around the corner right when I saw the stone hit the small of his back, right above his belt.

Bree spends several years trying to get over what she hoped was just a school girls infatuation. It wasn’t. Eric is the only man she’ll ever love, he’s perfect for her except that he doesn’t want the same future she does. She’s far too stubborn to give up her dreams. It may take four Christmases for Eric to recognize that Aubrey is everything he needs, he can only hope she’ll forgive him.

At the beginning of the spring quarter I got a text from Eric and it surprised me.  We hadn’t texted or talked in months.

Eric:  I just saw your Christmas present to Ben.  Classic!

I had found a picture from the July 4th football game that someone had taken at the exact moment Ben was hit by the football I threw.  His face was screwed up in pain and shock and blood was dripping down his chin.

Me:  It was one of my favorite memories from the year; I just wanted to make sure it was appropriately immortalized.

Eric:  Send me a copy, please.

Me:  Ok.  Where did you see it?

Eric: Ben has it on his TV stand.

Me:  Sweet.

Eric:  He also has a picture of you throwing the ball.

Me: Why?

Eric: Because you look hot.  He’s giving me a copy of that one too.

Me: Awkward.  Your fiancée might disapprove.

Eric:  You haven’t heard?  I disengaged.

Me: I’m sorry?

Eric:  I hope not.  When will you go back home?

Me: Not for a while.  Softball started and I’ve got internships this summer.  Can I ask what happened?

Eric:  I’ll send you a pic of her baby boy, his name is Trayvon, after his dad.

Me: Ouch.

Eric:  Glad Alex convinced me to wait for a paternity test before I married her.

Me: Me too.

A few moments later a picture of an adorable infant with rich brown skin, an afro, and dimples appeared.  Clearly not the offspring of the brunette and my Nordic God.

Me:  Oh my God, he’s really cute!  You sure you don’t want to claim him.  I doubt you could produce anything that adorable!

Eric:  Funny, Bree.  You dating anyone?

Me: Yeah.  Let me send you a pic.

I sent him a picture of Alexander Skarsgard and waited.

He sent me a picture of a bum with the caption, “That’s funny because Ben said this was your new guy.”

It went on like that for the next couple of weeks.  He’d text me before a game wishing me good luck.  A couple of times he sent cookie bouquets.  I would send him a thank you with a picture of an actor.  I was working my way through the cast of TrueBlood and I had photoshopped myself into in various seductive poses with them.

In the fall, Emily and I started our final year of school.  James carried a weathered post it note in his wallet that was attached to the back of a picture of Emily.  I thought it was very sweet.  James said he was happy to hear that because Eric had a picture of me in his wallet too.

It took me a couple of weeks before I had the time and the nerve to ask him. I texted him on a Wednesday night after a particularly emotional day with a group of girls that were new to the foster care system.  It made me wonder what Emily’s childhood was really like.  She didn’t like to talk about it so I never pushed her.  Today, though, I would have loved it if she was there helping me with these girls.  All I could say was that life gets better.  Focus on what you want and work towards it.  Two of the girls looked positively haunted by their pasts and I wondered if they could ever move forward.

I texted Eric that night about his job.  It had to be hard to see what mean people were capable of on a daily basis.

Me:  Had a hard day today.  How do you handle how ugly people can be?

Eric:  I assume you don’t mean a bad hair day ugly.

Me:  Be serious, please.

Eric:  I drink.

Me:  That’s not cool.

Eric:  I also play the lottery.

Me:  Really not helping.

Eric:  I’m sorry.  I focus on the good.  The people that I help.

Me:  I don’t think I could handle working in an inner city.  I’ve been too sheltered all my life.  All I need is hot cocoa and a grilled cheese sandwich.  These girls are so scared.

Eric:  I’ve seen it too.  I’m glad you had a sheltered life.

Me:  I couldn’t do this every day.

Eric:  I’ve come to that same decision.

Me: Really?

Eric:  That’s why I play the lottery.

Me:  What would you do if you won?

Eric:  I would sweep you off your feet and try to make up for the last six years.

Wow.

Me:  Hmm.  What makes you think I’m sweepable?

Eric:  It’s a gut feeling.

Me:  I can’t be bought.

Eric: I know, but I can be very charming.

Me:  I call bullshit.

Eric: You’re mean.

Me:  That’s what my boyfriend says too.

Eric:  Bring him when you come for Christmas.  I want to meet him.

Me:  Maybe.  You’ll be home for Christmas?

Eric:  Absolutely.  Do you have a date for Misha’s wedding?

Me: Obviously my boyfriend.

Eric:  You need to work on your punctuation.

Me:  ?

Eric: Obviously, my boyfriend.

Me: Very funny.  Driving home now.  TTYL

My pulse fluttered and I could feel the blush creeping on my face.  I avoided Emily and headed straight for the shower.

At the end of summer I received a text from Eric that blew me away.

Eric:  I’m moving back to Friday.

Me:  That’s great.  Are you going to work on the police force?

Eric:  Maybe.  Probably not.

Me:  What are your plans?

Eric:  I need a break.  I’m going to veg for a while.

Me:  I hope Louise’s cooking has improved.  She always catered when I was a kid.

Eric:  I’m thinking of buying a house.

Me:  Ohhhh!!!!  I want to help pick it out!

Eric:  Yeah, sure you do.

Me:  I do.

Eric:  If you won the lottery, which house would you buy?

Me:  Adkin’s old house, and as long as I’ve got millions to spend I’d invest in a ketch for the dock.   Warm teak on the inside.

Eric:  You going to pick out the window treatments for the house too?

Me:  No – the view is too pretty.

Eric: I’ll take it into consideration.

Me: You do that.

Eric: You want to be my cook?

Me:  No.

Eric:  Housekeeper?

Me: Absolutely not.

Eric:  You’re not very useful.

Me:  I’m extremely valuable; you just are too stupid to recognize it.

Eric:  I was…

I didn’t respond back and he didn’t say anything for quite a few days.  He sent a simple text, a picture of the boat dock with the “Welcome to Friday Harbor” sign.  He had made it home.

My first response was to borrow Emily’s car and return immediately but I had to work.  Besides, it would be Christmas soon and I would be taking off the entire break.  Emily and I had arranged to work Thanksgiving in order to have extra time off for Misha’s wedding.  I waited a week before I texted him.

Me:  How’s the house hunting?

Eric:  I don’t know.  I thought I wanted a house but it seems like a lot of space for just me.

Me:  True.  Get a good kitchen.

Eric:  Will you cook?

Me:  I can cook, but not for you.

Eric:  Why not?

Me:  Because you don’t have a kitchen.

Eric:  You want gas or electric stove?

Me:  I prefer gas, but it’s not my kitchen.

Eric:  You prefer gas?  That explains why you haven’t been dating.

Me:  I’ve been dating.

Eric:  No, you haven’t.

Me:  You are mistaken.

Eric:  I better not be.

I didn’t know what to reply.  It had gone from being lighthearted teasing to something that felt more serious.  He left me off the hook for a couple of weeks before I texted him out of curiosity.

Me:  How’s the house hunting going?

Eric:  Still hunting.

Me:  Are you still vegging?

Eric:  Kind of.

Me:  Do you want to be a cop still?

Eric:  Not really.

Me:  What do you want to do?

Eric: …

Me:  Very funny and yet so sad for you.

Eric:  Why?

Me:  I am way out of your league.

Eric:  Mighty presumptuous, I didn’t say anything.

Me:  Doesn’t change the facts.  I hope you find your home.

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