Friday, December 12, 2014

Santa's Second Chance Part Three by Margo Hoornstra

       Ryan’s arms circled Stephanie’s waist as his warmth pressed against her from behind. “I’m so sorry I disappointed you.”
      Caught off guard, she was at a momentary loss for what to do. His lips nuzzled the side of her throat. Sharp tingles of need and wanting nearly swept her away. To be honest, she’d had her fill of pushing away from him. It would be so easy to simply rest her head on his shoulder, lean into the comfort she always found in his arms.
      Which right now wasn’t an option. If Ryan got all bent out of shape over something so minor as playing Santa for a bunch of harmless senior citizens, how in the world would he react when—if—they faced major decisions in their future? Where to buy a house. How to raise their children. On a deep breath, a mixture of resolve and regret, she eased out of his embrace.
      Letting her go without protest, his arms dropped to his sides. “Too soon?”
      Quick to turn away so he wouldn’t catch sight of unexpected tears, she nodded.
      “I’m really sorry then.” His voice was a low whisper.
      Infused with enough sadness to have her nearly scrambling back to him. “Me too.”
      Silence, oppressive and heavy, settled between them. She busied herself putting away ingredients, rinsing out dirty dishes she stowed in the dishwasher. Finally, she turned his way, leaning against the counter for support.
      “My dad had a short fuse. My mother did too. She’d challenge him when he exploded. Their shouting matches became legendary around the neighborhood.” Her inhale was shaky. “I don’t want that for my life.” Though her voice cracked, she managed to go on. “I can’t live that way, Ryan.”
      “No one’s asking you to.”
      “He’d stalk out of the house, just like you did.” Her face crumbled at the pain of remembering. “The last time, he never came back.”
      “Oh, Steph.” Ryan moved nearer. “That was him. Not me.”
      “Last night, it felt the same.”
      “It never occurred to me to not come back to you. My parents used to engage in shouting matches too. Non-stop. Neither one of them ever left, when maybe they should have.” When she had nothing to say to that, he went on. “What time does the party start?”
      She sniffed back tears before answering. “The luncheon is at one. San— the other festivities and gifts immediately after. Probably around three.”
      “Can we talk about this before you leave?” He hauled in a breath. “I realize just saying I’m sorry and laying out my reasons isn’t going to cut it.”
      The hopelessness in his tone spurred her into defensive mode. “What if what happened last night was just the beginning? I expect us to trust each other. Be able to depend on each other. All the time.”
      “Last night ruined that? I find that hard to believe.”  His hands came out, palms up.  “Look. I made a mistake. Things haven’t been going the greatest at work. A lot more responsibility and less time to finish projects. Not to mention fewer resources than ever before. I was being pushed in all directions there. Then I came home and—”
      “I gave you another job to do.”
      “I was wrong to overreact the way I did.”
      Shaking her head, she didn’t reply. Each and every time her parents fought, she swore to herself when she grew up and got married, things would be different. Anyone who walked out on her would do so only once. Yet, here she was with Ryan. Contemplating forgiving him.
      “My being overwhelmed at work is no excuse for taking it out on you.” He stopped just long enough to take a breath. “For the record, though, I did come back to you. Last night.”
      “And I wouldn’t let you back in.” Warm tears coated her cheeks as she gazed up at him. “That was my fault, and I’m sorry too. If I’m not here to support you, who is?”
      Gentle, caring, his arms came around her. Bringing comfort she sorely needed. “I promise never to walk out on you again.”
      Blue eyes shining with love for her darkened to a cobalt hue, and confirmed everything he told her was true. His lips covered hers like a butterfly touching down on a flower in springtime. Her arms circled his neck as she deepened the pressure of their kiss. Anger, disappointment, hurt, fear all drained away as love for Ryan and hope for their future together surged up to fill the void.
      “I should have been thoughtful enough to check with you first.” Still holding tight, she murmured the words as they came up for air. “Instead of offering you up for the job without asking.”
      “It’s really not that big a deal. I overreacted.”
      Arms stroking her back, he folded her against him. Holding her close, the steady rhythm of her breathing soothed him and he closed his eyes on a sigh.
      “It terrified me to see you hanging out there. Almost falling. That took guts.”
      “Not really. Just stupid desperation. Plus, I have to say, I was more than a little terrified myself.”
      Her giggle vibrated against his chest. “Either way, I now know the lengths you’ll go to in order to get my attention.”
      Blowing out a shaky breath, he pulled back to meet a warm brown gaze filled with love, and his own vision blurred. “We both do now.”
      She reached up to caress the dampness on his cheek. “I couldn’t stand to ever lose you.”
      Emotion clogged his throat and he drew her closer still while his heart soared. “I couldn’t stand to let you go.”
      “I wouldn’t allow you to.” Keeping her hold around his neck, she glanced over his shoulder and out the side window. “That particular Santa suit is toast, I’m afraid.”
      Without releasing her, he turned toward the bright red, sodden mess, still securely attached to the balcony above. Frozen stiff and solid as it flapped back and forth in a driving wind.
      “Good thing I called to reserve another one in my size. The one I’m going to purchase.”
      Brown hair swished over her shoulders as her head turned his way. “The one you’re going to what?”
      His lips brushed her temple. “Purchase. I’m buying myself a Santa Claus suit.”
      “You plan to make a career of playing the role?”
      “Every year.”
      Arms wrapped tighter, she relaxed into him. “Every year?”
      “Every year they, and you, will have me.” With a grin that felt fabulous, he checked the digital clock on the stove. “We have just enough time to pack up the cookies, pick up the suit and make it to lunch. But, first…”
      Head lowered, he brought his mouth down to seal his vow with a kiss.

       Join us here tomorrow for another great Christmas short story by Leah St. James! Also, please visit my website.


Donna Michaels said...

Awww, thanks for that wonderful ending, Margo. So glad to see them both admit mistakes and fears and feelings. Happy Friday!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Happy Friday, Donna. Glad you liked my ending, hope it made you smile.

Alicia Dean said...

Fantastic! Great ending to a wonderful story. I KNEW there was more to it than his refusal to play Santa. :) Yes, you definitely pulled it off. I totally understand where each of them are coming from. You did a great job of presenting both sides.

Jannine Gallant said...

No internet at I went looking for some so I could finish this! Great ending to a lovely story!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Alicia. Wow. Coming from you that means a lot. Thank you.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Jannine. Appreciate the effort. Keep your head down! ;-)

Alicia Dean said...

Aww you are so welcome! :)

Rolynn Anderson said...

What a lovely story, Margo. Ah, those childhood scripts that get played over and over until people say "No, I'm not doing that again!" Excellent lesson and loving story!

Diane Burton said...

Darn it. Donna beat me to the response. Okay, here goes anyway Awww. Such a good ending. I can see why both of them overreacted. Childhood can certainly bring about knee-jerk reactions, can't they? Great ending.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Thanks, Rolynn. Those internal tapes do run pretty deep, don't they?

Awwww. Thank you, Diane. It's nice to hear from a colleague I got the emotions right.

Christine DePetrillo said...

Nice conclusion. So sweet.

Melissa Keir said...

Great ending. I'm glad that they made up!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Thanks, Chris. They are in love. ;-)

Margo Hoornstra said...

Thanks for stopping, Melissa.

Patricia Kiyono said...

Love it! Great ending.

Barbara Edwards said...

Gee, I really like stories that make me smile.

Leah St. James said...

Sweet, fun story...not to mention some great visuals! :-)

KatB said...

Solid, satisfying conclusion. Thanks fo a great story and Merry Christmas! :)