We are holding hands across the front seat of Sam’s car on our way to my parent’s house in Makah for a New Year’s get together. Sam’s mom, Allison, is asleep in the backseat. I had offered her the front seat but both she and Sam insisted I take shotgun.
“A little, ” Sam admits with an anxious chuckle.
“It’s okay, ” I tell him. “They’ll love you.”
I squeeze Sam’s hand and he lifts my fingers to his lips, kissing them gently.
“Who’s running tonight?”
“Nobody, but they’re each supposed to run a quick lap, every time they get a chance.”
I nod. “Things been pretty quiet lately?”
“Yeah, which is good, but also means Jacob probably won’t be phasing anytime soon.”
“You’re ready for him to take over?”
“More than ready. It’s okay being in charge, but it’s a lot of responsibility. I’d rather spend more time with you, ” Sam explains with a smile. He leans over and kisses my cheek, never taking his eyes from the road.
We slow down at the edge of town and I direct Sam through the streets to my family’s small house. The house isn’t really that small in comparison to the majority of homes in Makah, but it is compared to where I live now.
Allison yawns from the back seat and both Sam and I glance back to see her stretching, her eyes glazed over from her nap.
“This one here, ” I say to Sam, pointing to the yellow house.
He pulls up next to the curb and we climb from the car. Sam retrieves the soda we brought from the backseat and then joins me and Allison on the sidewalk. I let us into the house and we follow the noise to the kitchen.
“Emi!” My two year old niece cries, running towards me.
I let go of Sam’s hand and lift her into my arms.
“Hi, Claire!” I exclaim.
“How are you, Em?” My mom asks.
“Good, ” I say taking hold of Sam’s arm and smiling at him. “This is Sam, and his mother, Allison. And this is my mom, Christa, my dad, John, my brother, Luke, and his daughters Cally and Claire, ” I introduce everyone, pointing and gesturing to each person as I say their name.
They all say hello and greet each other and my mother leads Allison further into the kitchen, chatting up a storm. Sam strikes a conversation with my father, and they head outside leaving me with Luke and his girls.
“Where’s Amy?” I ask about Luke’s wife.
The last time I talked to Luke was just before Christmas and he and Amy were not having the best time. She was hardly ever home and when she was, she was sleeping, leaving Luke to take care of the girl’s, provide money to pay the bills, cook, and clean.
Luke shakes his head and a look of sadness crosses over Cally’s face. I make a mental note to ask later when the girls aren’t around.
Mom ushers me and Allison into the kitchen and the men go to the family room with Claire. Cally disappears outside, a notebook in her hand.
I join Mom in loading the dishwasher, our backs to Allison who begins wiping down the counters.
“We’re so glad you could make it,” Mom tells Allison. “You must have done well in raising your son to make Emily leave Makah for him.”
Allison nods, “Thanks for having me. He’s a good boy. I think he could make any girl fall for him.”
I frown, upset at her seeming disbelief in the reality of our love. Pretending to look at the clock, I sneak a glance back to see that Allison is yawning, forcing a break in her words.
“But he’s very lucky to have Emily. She’s a hard worker and not totally dependent on Sam like some of his girlfriends in the past have been.”
A glare forms on my face. The only other girlfriend Sam has ever had to my knowledge is Leah and I hate what she’s implied about her. As I reach for another dish, I find that we’ve finished.
“Anything else you need, Mom?” I ask.
“Nope, I think we’re set.”
I reluctantly leave the kitchen and head outside since through the window on the backdoor I can see Cally still in the yard. She’s sitting on a swing staring at the ground in deep thought. The notebook is on the grass a few feet away. I take the 2nd swing and sway lightly back and forth.
“How’s it going, Cal?”
She sighs. “I don’t know.”
“Life giving you some pretty sour lemons?” I ask.
“Yeah, I guess,” Cally hadn’t looked at me until now when she turns her head up and I see the wet streaks running from her eyes.
“If you ever need to just talk, call me. Or have your dad drive you up. I know how rough things can get sometimes. I can always come find you too. Okay?”
Cally sniffs, “M’kay.”
We are quiet for a moment and I am about to go find Sam when she speaks again.
“It’s just…I’m afraid my mom’s going to leave us, you know? I heard you and Dad talking when we were at your house just before Ann and I came back from the beach.”
Alarm crosses through my mind but I keep a neutral expression. “You did?”
“I’m sorry, Cally. It’s just…sometimes couples just can’t be happy together anymore. It might mean that things will get even better for you guys. Wouldn’t it be easier if you didn’t have to be rejected by your mom every time you want her to do something with you? She wouldn’t be around to ask, but what if your dad found someone else who stayed home with you and Claire all the time? Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Cally sniffs again and shrugs.
“You know Seth’s older sister Leah?” Cally nods and I continue, “Well she and I used to be best friends. We did everything together. We even made a pact that we would help each other plan our weddings. Then boys came along. She started dating Sam Uley—”
“Wait, ” she stops me. “Sam that came with you tonight?”
I nod, “I hadn’t been going to Leah’s as much after that since we were both more busy with our lives. I hadn’t even met Sam officially, only seen him from a distance and in pictures. One day, I went to visit and I got to where we were all eating before Leah did. Sam was already there. I suppose you could say it was love at first sight. Everything was different after that. And even though they loved each other, it just wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes it’s not.”
After a while, we all end up in the backyard, watching the display of sky fireworks set off by the town. It’s eleven-thirty and Claire has been asleep for a few hours inside on the couch. Cally insists on staying up until midnight but she yawns more and more as the time goes by.
I’ve hardly been with Sam all evening because he’s been busy talking and laughing with my family. He was the one who put Claire to sleep, rocking her and singing, since she wouldn’t let anyone else. That makes me look forward to our future; on those sleepless nights when our baby won’t stop crying, Sam will get up and gently rock them to sleep, allowing me a few much needed minutes of sleep.
“How’s it going, beautiful?” Sam’s familiar voice whispers warm into my ear.
I smile and turn to him, wrapping my arms around his waist.
“Good, except I’ve hardly seen you tonight, ” I say.
“Well you were right, they love me, ” Sam says with a smile.
“I knew they would.”
Sam doesn’t say anything and instead kisses my head. Luke comes to stand by us and Sam lets go of my so we can both face him. He keeps one arm wrapped tightly around my waist.
“So, Amy?” I ask Luke.
“She’s supposedly at a party for work. One that families weren’t invited to,” he explains. His face is worn and he looks much older than the last time I saw him, only weeks ago.
I draw my lips into a hard line. “You don’t think that’s where she really is?”
“No. What kind of workplace does that? And more importantly, what kind of mom abandons her family on a holiday to go to a work party?”
Sam and I don’t answer his questions.
“I’m sorry, Luke. That must be hard.”
He nods and his eyes travel to Cally who gets closer to sleeping every minute. She’s now moved to a lawn chair and her chin rests in her hand.
“I’m happy for you though, sis. You two seem perfect for each other.”
I smile and turn to see that Sam is too. He kisses my lips quickly just as my parents and Allison come to join our circle.
“Thanks,” Sam says to Luke and then turns to my parents. “You raised the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met.”
My parents smile and as happy as I am, the smile on my own face falters as Leah enters my mind.
“It’s time, it’s time!” Cally exclaims, looking at her watch. “Ten!”
I join in counting, as do the others, grateful for the distraction from my thoughts.
Later when it is time to leave, we say our goodbyes and climb in the car and head home.
We are all tired and I’ve lost my excitement for the new year, my thoughts focused on Luke and Amy, on Leah.
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