A Christmas Surprise
A sneak peek at something I have coming down the pipeline!
“Dusty!” My name was yelled from the house. “Come in here.”
I was sitting on our porch, a blanket over my lap from the cold. It wasn’t too bad where we lived, but it was still chilly. The ground had frozen earlier, but my dad must’ve been up and walking already that morning. A pair of footsteps had left a trail up along the ridge that led the way to where our neighbors’ house was.
Unlike our house, that only had one string of lights on a single tree outside because that’s all we could afford, our neighbor’s were decked out. They always were. Phillip Reeves and his wife, and their son had a lot to celebrate this year. Even over the two hills separating our land from theirs, I could hear the game being played from inside their home. It was matching the game my dad was watching, the one he wanted me to come in and sit with him for it.
I couldn’t, though.
It was ridiculous, maybe, but a seed of resentment had taken root in my belly and it hadn’t left all year long.
While the Reeves were having a full-fledged party, watching their son play in the national championship for Seabet University. It was his first time playing and as a freshman he had blown everyone’s expectations away for a rookie wide receiver.
I didn’t know why Phillip Reeves and his wife hadn’t traveled for their son’s game. It might’ve been because it was rumored their main company was having problems and they feared being away for too long, or who knows. I know it wasn’t because they worried about us, about how they laid my father off as being their plant manager or how we’d have to sell this house because of that firing, or how my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer last month.
She never smoked a day in her life. She was never around anyone who had.
She’d been healthy, happy, and humble. Now she was fighting for her life because the doctor said we might get one more week with her. One week. I knew that was the other reason my dad wanted me to go inside. He was proud of our neighbor, even if he shouldn’t have been.
Our neighbor was a celebrity where we lived, but then again; he would’ve been no matter what. His dad owned half the town. The Reeves were powerful and influential in so many pockets in our little town so it wasn’t fair. None of it was.
He already was given local notoriety, now he had national notoriety.
My neighbor was the football star growing up. He’d shown his talent early on, leaving to go on football training camps year around. I want to say that’s why our old friendship had faded, because he was too busy for me, but that wasn’t the truth.
He came back in sixth grade, walked into school, took Emily Camp’s hand and went right past me. He never looked at me. He barely spoke a word to me after that. He was popular. He was on the path to become a star and I was forgotten. So since then, even when he graduated last year and went to college, and I was in my senior year of school, I still hated him. Loathed him, in fact, and that was why I didn’t move from where I sat on our porch.
I had one more night in this home.
We were moving tomorrow into a smaller townhome to be closer to my mother
“Dusty.” My dad’s voice was gruff, louder as he had come to the doorway. He opened it, standing there. “Come inside. He’s about to score the winning touchdown, then we have to head back to town for your mama.”
I sighed. “We shouldn't have let her talk us into coming out here tonight.” We should’ve been at her side nonstop.
“Come on, Honey.” He came out to pat my shoulder. “We only came out to pick up a few things before the movers get everything else tomorrow. Your mama needed to rest, otherwise you know she would’ve tried to stay awake the whole time for your birthday.”
That’s right. Today was my birthday.
A lump was in my throat and I was trying not to cry.
A new wave of cheering rose up from the Reeves house and my dad sighed. “That must’ve been it then, huh? He won it for them.”
Star wide receiver. 3rd and 2nd. A QB that was known for his passing. Yes. It was a good guess that he had passed to my neighbor who did in fact, just cement his team’s win just now. Everyone was proud of him. The town. All the hospice staff taking care of my mother. His family. My own, I knew my parents looked at him as if they raised himself themselves, and to an extent, until my fifth grade, they had. Didn’t matter he was a boy and I was a girl. We’d been inseparable until that summer when he left for an extensive football camp.
But I wasn’t.
“Come on, Dusty, sweetheart. Let’s pack up and head back. I know your mama will be wanting you to give her a hug after his win tonight.”
I heard what he wasn’t saying, but asking. He was asking me to put on a happy face. He was asking me to express how proud I was of our neighbor too, and not to let her know that all the while everything bad that had happened to us over the last year since he left, he’d been the one I started to loathe the most.
I knew it wasn’t right.
I shouldn't care that he ignored me from my fifth grade through my eighth grade. Or that he was a dick to me when I joined high school until he finally graduated. It was all done. He left immediately after he graduated. That a little over seventh months ago. Before that, he had lived his life, all fancy and full of lights while my family was withering away. I just couldn’t help it because I never got another best friend. There’d been one or two friends who I hung out growing up, but no one was like him. So while I hated him, there a small part of me still ached for that best friend that I needed to lean on in this time, but where was he?
He didn’t exist anymore.
I could hear his family and their friends moving outside to their back deck, and I took that as my cue. I didn’t want to hear more of their happiness, so I stood up and went back inside. It was a twenty minute drive to town.
My mother died an hour later.