“What is it?” I asked, eyeing the neatly wrapped package that Beau placed on the table we had only put together several days ago, making it our final piece of furniture that needed assembling in the house.
In a matter of weeks following the return of my children, we managed to find a house that felt like it was truly our perfect home. It had plenty of room for my girls to play, a room that had become my sanctuary, and even a beautiful den that Beau made into his study. All in it all, things for my family were slowly starting to come together and feel right. With Beau beside us, holding my hand, I felt that for the first time in a long time we were a family. And feeling his hand upon mine while we stood in the dining room, I was guided back to our present time, which happened to be Christmas Eve. Beau had returned to us after spending the day visiting his children, which I understood and found very admirable. He truly was a sweet man who never failed to prove that he was an excellent father. But I never doubted that for a second, of course.
“It’s something you’ve been waiting for, for quite some time now,” He smiled, slipping his arms under mine when my body refused to animate.
There was no use in further questions when I knew exactly what it was he meant. There was only one thing I had waited for that brought gargantuan goosebumps to my flesh. And I knew very well that inside that neatly packaged box, I would find something that would always be considered a miracle in my eyes and the key to a normal life for my children.
“Oh, this is it,” I giggled, covering my mouth to keep my voice from startling my children in the next room. “I cannot believe this is it, Beau…” I could have remained standing with his arms wound around me while I allowed tears to stream from my eyes, but it would not have been enough. No, I had to spring from his hold on me and face him, to wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him with what strength I had left after losing it to my excitement.
“This,” I motioned around us. “None of this could have been possible without you, my dear. I am forever grateful for everything you have done for me and my girls. T-thank you so much.”
Beau’s eyes did not widen, but his brows furrowed before reaching forward to wipe the tears from me eyes. “Why are you crying, sweetheart? This is a good thing, right? You’re so welcome, but come on now,” He chuckled and leaned in forward to kiss my forehead, “Do you want to go tell them the good news?”
Of course I wanted to! Why on Earth would I want to waste anymore time crying and making it more dramatic on my end when my girls were so close to feeling the rhythmic beat of their little hearts?
Beau led me away from the table with my hand hugged by his till we stopped in front of the archway that would lead us into the den. It was where Beau worked on grading papers and also where we all spent time together on most days. But what made that area even more special than it already was, was that it was home to our Christmas tree that we picked out and decorated together with beautiful ornaments and glistening lights. This holiday was made to be more special than any other day now that Mai and Mia was running around, so I made it my goal to make it the best. Now that I was offered some help, had access to more resources, and had less fear of going out, I was able to transform our home into a warm and inviting holiday home. Of course, I was not responsible for all of the decorations around the house.
“My, my, hold on, Ms. Everglow,” Beau beamed.
“What is it? Should we not tell the girls of the cure?”
He shook his head only to cup my chin and nod up, to point out and thick bunch of green hanging above us. I was no stranger to the origins of mistletoe, for my mother used to have it around our old home as well. Ah, and that would meant that I was no stranger to the traditions that were tied to the leafy bunch.
My face was urged forward, nearly brushing my lips against cheek, but there was no rush. Beau hold onto me as long as he could before his lips parted and he smiled kindly, planting a gentle peck upon my lips. It was a small and simple gesture, but it meant the world to me coming from him. It was now clear by that point in our relationship that we were no longer mere acquaintances sticking together till a deal would come through. No–acquiring the cure was a great aid, but my feelings for Beau were on an entirely different scale. I saw him not as a businessman looking to settle with someone till his job was done, but someone who made me feel that way I used to–alive.
“Now then,” the man sighed happily. “When were you thinking of telling them about their long-awaited gift?”
I stood twisted, wearing a pondering expression, for I had not thought about it all that much. Having the cure to a new beginning for them present on that day was a surprise enough for me, so I had no way of jumping to a decision till an idea struck me like a bolt, electrifying me from the inside. My children were all too familiar with the traditions and tales of Santa Claus, magic, and Christmas morning, but they never truly had a chance to experience the full effect that I once had with my family. Not having to fall into a gentle slumber, my girls never knew what it felt like to wake up groggy, yet exited to run out of their room to see what Santa had left them.
“Does the cure take effect after they drink it?” I asked, murmuring to avoid being heard by the little ones.
“I think it should, but there are instructions and some warnings inside the box that I got from the facility. Why? What are you thinking of, hun?”
“Christmas morning, Beau,” I grinned widely. “Is that not every child’s dream? To wake up and wipe the sleepiness from their eyes only to find that they have been visited by Santa?” I stopped myself after Beau began to eye me with interest. “They knew from the start how it all works, but I have never wanted anything more than to surprise them on Christmas morning. Perhaps it is just silly. I apologize.”
But by the time I got to explaining, or at least attempting to, why all the little moments meant so much to me, Beau and I were forced to step back with haste when my girls ran between us, snickering and squealing about how excited they were about having a nice holiday in a place that would now always be considered our home. Alright, I guess it would have been correct to say that Beau was the one who stepped back, even joining in on the snickering, while I jumped back as if I had seen a ghost.
“Where on Earth do they get this energy?” I exclaimed after my hand gripped the emerald trim of my dress.
“It must be the Christmas spirit, don’t you think?” Beau chuckled and nudged me before pulling me in close with his arm wound around my waist so he could walk us down the small step and into the study where the girls had already situated themselves without even paying any attention to us. Hectic as it might have been, I was still so happy to know that they had their innocence and childish antics despite their true age.
We stopped to watch them from afar as they played on the couch, using their colorful imagination to pretend they were racing in cards that zoomed around at speeds reaching that of light. I could not help but smile at the sight, for I knew that it would not be long before their pale flesh would no longer be coated with a glow and their cheeks would be warm to the touch.
“You’re smiling,” Beau commented while I leaned against the bookcase to continue admiring my children. “I guess this is really important to you, right?”
I nodded. “More than anyone will ever know. This life that we have to exist with was never a choice to them and I only wished for them to be free of it. This cure is a beautiful gift to us and it makes me so happy to know they will be able to begin their life as normal mortal girls. Do you think they will be happy, Beau?” I asked when I turned my head to him.
“Nonsense. You mentioned a while back how they questioned their own existence after being in the presence of their mortal friends, right? Lotus, I have no doubt in my mind that your girls will be soaring on cloud nine when they find out what you got them.”
“W-what you got us,” I corrected him before my fingers laced with his.
When the only sound that remained was the ongoing giggled of Mai and Mia, and the crackling soundtrack of the fireplace, I was led out of the den and back to the dining room to stare at the box I was anxious to open. Hmm, perhaps I was a bit nervous as well, for I could not help but think of my brother who had taken the same cure and allowed his existence to be wiped from this Earth. Part of me continued to wish for a pulse that perhaps even Beau would admire when his hand would brush against my cheek. Ah, the dream of being mortal once more was one that never failed to leave me.
After I forced myself from my still state, I did the honor of lifting the top off of the box and glanced inside it to find two vials–one for Mai and one for Mia. Inside the box were instructions and many pages of fine print that Beau took care off. Swishing pages between his fingers, I picked up the small vials that did not look inviting. If anything, they looked threatening, really. But while I admired the intricate design engraved into the glass, Beau leaned against the table and cleared his throat audibly to grasp my attention.
“Says here that the cure should take effect almost immediately after ingestion. It is a fast-acting liquid and should only be taken by the designated immortal child.” Beau read on. “Due to its quick results, the ones taking the cure should not be operating any heavy machinery,” He chuckled before continuing, “And they should not be forced to partake in any activity that requires too much energy, like running, jumping, or swimming.”
“Please continue,” I asked quietly while keeping my eyes peeled on the swirling liquid inside the glass.
“The main side effect that has affected nearly one hundred percent of users is intense fatigue, which makes sense, I guess. I mean they are gaining some weight and stress with their heart clicking back to work, right?”
With a quick rub of his chin, Beau muttered to himself before glancing at me. “Um, the cure doesn’t,” He bit down on his lips when I turned to look at him before he offered me a kind curve of his lips. “The cure is perfect the for girls, Lotus. Everything will be okay, so I think your plan to give them the best holiday is going to work. But to ensure that they actually wake up early tomorrow would mean that we would have to give them the cure soon.”
Beau was right about that, so we had to hurry with the preparations. Wanting to surprise my girls, we had decided to approach them with the cure once everything was ready, which meant having to make the liquid a bit more inviting. We tried to keep the holiday vibe by mixing the brilliant azure liquid, which was said to be tasteless, in with a cup of warm cacao. No matter what age, the warm liquid that trickled down the throat did nothing but soothe and warm even the coldest of creatures. Indeed, it was the perfect drink on a day where snow continued to fall, coating the green with a glistening, pure blanket.
After we mixed in the cure to the point not even the lightest tint of blue was visible, I placed the mugs on the tray that would be carried to my girls. My mind was already racing, reciting what it was I wanted to say. What speech did I have prepared in response to their reaction? What if they no longer wanted this and refused to take the cure? With each passing moment that I held the tray in my hand, I felt my thoughts being devoured by every negative scenario that was conjured by my mind till Beau’s tender grasp caught my hand while walked back to the den where my girls seemed to be in the middle of a duel of some sort.
“Rock, paper, scissors, Mia,” Mai grinned while tapping her fist against the palm of her hand. “On the count of three, we will draw and then we will see who gets to be the one to come downstairs first tomorrow.”
Flustered, Mai’s twin allowed her brows to scrunch together while tapping her fist against her palm as well. “Why do I have the feeling that you find some way to cheat, sister? Let us play fair.” Before the girls duel commended, Mia caught sight of us standing with the tray of steaming mugs. “Mama?”
Now that the attention was turned to me, I lowered my gaze to them then back to the cure containing drinks. Now where would I start?
“My girls,” I began with trembling lips that wanted to much to curl and reveal my pointed ivories. “There is something I need to talk to you about, so I do apologize for having to ask you to cease your play time.” With their eyes now fixed on me and their hands at their sides, I stepped forward with Beau right behind me with the tray that he took from my hands. Perhaps he figured it would be best to keep the cure safe and away from my trembling hands.
We walked to the center of the den where the crackles of burning logs echoed and gave off warmth that even pinched my cold flesh.
“Is something wrong, Mama?” Mai inquired as she and her sister walked to me. “You have that strange look on your face? Did something happen?”
“I guess you could call it that, my beautiful girls. Perhaps you could. You do recall what it was that led me away from Sunset Valley in the first place, correct?”
They nodded slowly.
“Beau,” He chimed in.
“Yes, Beau, I apologize, dear. Beau has been so kind to us and made it so that today is possible.Mai, Mia,” I stumbled with my speech as I clenched my fists. “It is a bit nerve-wracking to me right now, to speak to you because I feel nothing but joy and excitement for you. I just hope that you two will feel the same upon knowing the contents of the drinks we have made for you.”
Mai sniffed dramatically and giggled. “It’s just cacao, Mother. It is not like it is laced with some magical witch’s brew.”
“Ah, yes you are correct about the absence of something that would hurt you, but there is something there that is a gift for you two.” I rubbed my eyes and smirked. “Goodness, I cannot piece my words together right now without making it sound strange. My darlings, what is inside your drinks is what we have been waiting to acquire for a long time. It is the reason that I left Sunset Valley and the reason why I am so happy today. By drinking this right now, you will be,” I stopped and looked back at Beau, smiling. “You will be like your friend, Atoli. You will breathe and do all the things that children with a pulse do…”
It was then that Mia chirped and gripped her sister’s arm tightly. “The cure, Mama? The cure is in the drink!?”
I nodded slowly, reaching out to grab the two mugs from the tray that Beau was holding. With no trace of the cure in the drink, I offered the mugs to my girls, who stared at them for a mere second before taking them in their hands. The look of uncertainty was evident on their faces, but it was clear that their desire to growth like their friends and have other mortal experiences was strong. They looked to me and even glanced at Beau before bringing the rim of the mug to their lips after muttering their thanks. The den froze when the mugs were tipped back and the girls gulped down every last drop of the drink.
There were no spontaneous displays of lights or mystical smoke that engulfed the room. No, it was like a tea bag being placed in boiling water– slowly releasing its dye into the water that would spread and engulf it whole. It was exactly like that. Now that the cure taken with the warm drink, my girls stood before us while looking at their hands that slowly lost their glow. It started with their legs then their torso and their arms till it reached their faces. Flesh that once held minimal color was stained a rosy tint at the cheeks, which signaled that they had warm blood flowing within them.
“Would you look at that,” Beau smiled while I stood speechless.
My girls were transforming before my eyes and it all felt like a dream to me. The day had come and I could barely express the way I felt knowing that they would never have to wear the dreaded makeup to cover up their skin or even hide inside the house to stop the constant suspicion from our neighbors in our old town.
When it seemed like the transformation was completed, the girls stopped and brought their hands to their chests in utter shock. Could something have taken them by surprise? Oh how I hated not knowing what they were going through.
Coughing, that was soon followed by wheezing, made my girls start feeling each others faces before turning to us. At first I paid no attention to the movement of their lips, but to the expanding of their chests.
“Y-you are breathing?”
They looked at me with eyes that I once saw in the mirror back when I was younger, back when I was what they were now: mortal. Their eyes did not glow or glisten in any unnatural manner, but with their own human sparkle, which led me to believe that was it. The days of sheltering them from suspicious eyes were over and they were now free like I had always wanted them to me.
“M–Mama,” Mia inhaled deeply before giggling. “We’re breathing, Mama!”
“We can taste the air!” Mai added, gripping her sister’s arm.
“Sister, we do not taste the air; we merely breathe.”
I must have still been in a state of shock because Beau squeezed my hand lightly before squatting down to get down to the same level as my girls. He looked them in the eyes and reached out for them to take his hands.
“How are you girls feeling? Does anything hurt or feel funny?” He asked, running his thumbs over their small hands that clearly warmed him.
Pondering for a moment, the girls shook their head and giggled before coughing due to how rapidly they were inhaling and exhaling to the point it was starting to look a bit comical. I guess breathing was a bit difficult to get used to since they never experienced it. I often wondered if I would remember what it was like to breathe if I was given that chance once more.
“Nothing hurts, Beau. Thank you so much!” The girls exclaimed before twirling and laughing. Within seconds they were looking around only to be scooped up into our arms. Beau, with Mai in her arms, held her close while I brought Mia against me when she ran to me. In that moment that her warm hands touched my arms, I escaped my trance and picked her up only to sway from side to side with her in my arms.
The warmth of her touch was enough to prove to me I was not dreaming and that we were in a moment that was very much real.
“T-thank you, Mommy,” Mia breathed against my neck. Her moist breath felt damp against my frozen flesh and it had my eyes gloss once more. What I thought would take forever to happen if ever at all, was now real and no longer a vision.
“You are so welcome, my love. A-and look at you,” I sniffled. “You feel so warm. You can run around and play with your sister and your friends without the sun hurting you. Is that great?”
“It is!” Mai squealed. “We can wear short-sleeved shirts and no more makeup will ever be needed!”
“T-that is right…”
After standing with the girls in our arms, I turned to Beau who only offered me a wink before kissing Mai’s cheek who giggled at the chilled touch.
“Now, is there anything you little ladies want? Surely you must be craving something that’s new? How are you feeling?”
Mia remained quiet against my, only murmuring things I could not pick up clearly, which left the announcement to her sister.
“Mm, I feel a grumbling in my stomach that is something like our friend Penelo described. She once said that she was so hungry that she could eat a horse because her tummy was rumbling loudly.” She gasped. “Hungry! Mia and I must be hungry!”
Since I was unable to say more than a single word without tripping over my own words and sobbing hysterically, Beau looked at me again and adjusted his hold on Mai, slightly bouncing her against his side.
“Well, alright. I think this calls for a Christmas Eve dinner, right? I don’t know about you girls, but I do think that pizza sounds pretty good right about now, hmm?”
Immediately starting to wiggle in our arms to get down, the girls beamed happily while waving their arms around to express their sudden love for a food they were never truly allowed to enjoy because of their condition.
After the girls were let back down to the ground to rush out of the den, I was left alone with Beau who did nothing but smile after promising to join them in the kitchen where he would make the pizza he had promised. But before he followed through, he stopped to look at me.
I must have looked like a complete mess as I stood there crying as if I had not cried in ages. Perhaps it really did feel like that. I cried like a mother normally would when feeling the warmth of her baby’s hand against her skin for the first time. Mai and Mia would always be my babies and I felt more than blessed knowing that I was able to bring warmth to their lives with Beau’s help.
“Oh no, Lotus,” He chuckled before reaching forward for me to walk into his embrace. Though it was no the same warmth that I felt from my daughter, I still felt better the instant his lips touched my forehead. “Don’t cry, beautiful. Did you see how happy they are? It’s because they have a loving mother like you. You have done a wonderful thing for them, Lotus. Please don’t cry.”
I knew he was right about that and it only forced words out of my mouth and into the open. They were the words that had circled my mind since hearing the news of my brother’s demise.
“I-I want the cure too, Beau. Would it be possible for me to acquire it as well? I could pay you more if I had to.”
“I could be warm like that too. I could be like them and everything would be okay, would it not? Would you not like to feel a heartbeat when we are together?”
When my head lowered to his shoulder, Beau’s hold on me loosened and he helped me step away from him. He never pulled me away, so I knew that nothing good could come of it. Would he not let me be mortal? Was that it? N-no! I given the choice, I would have thrown away immortality for a mortal life with Beau. I would have done it without even thinking twice about it.
“I would help you, Lotus, if the cure worked for you.”
“What do you mean?”
Sighing, he brought his hand to his hair, to run his fingers through it slowly before speaking to me. “Look, I know how much you want this, but it read that it was not possible.”
“Excuse me? How is that so?”
“When I was reading the instructions, I noticed that it said that the cure was not only for immortal children–those who did not have a choice. Then there was the fine print that read that immortals who have been around twice as long since the age of their turning were not eligible for the cure due to distinct genetic mutation that was found to be irreversible.”
I stood still feeling like my dreams were being crushed repeatedly by words that I knew Beau would not make up just to keep me from abandoning the life I was finally beginning to embrace. Knowing very well that he had simply recited what was written in dark type, I lost every wish to speak of my now unreachable desire. I was not angry at him, but at myself for even allowing that ounce of hope to brew inside me like a virus–harmless at first, but lethal in the end.
“I’m so sorry that this happened, but if I could have told you sooner, I would. I didn’t know that it was like this, I promise…”
“It is alright, Beau,” I muttered.
He knew well that I was not okay and that it was not alright, but perhaps he understood that it was not something I wished to discussed when there was so much be thankful for. After all it was I who was to be punished for my sins, not my children, right?
So all was right with my existence, perhaps.
For the sake of my girls and Beau, I gathered myself together and curled my lips, for I was not going to let the news ruin our holiday after we put so much effort into making it spectacular. Because despite some setback, I was still so incredibly happy to know that two lives would now be able to move forward.
Dinner, as promised, consisted of Beau’s homemade pizza that the girls shoveled down their throats at such rates that I had to reach over and ask them to slow down in fear that they would choke. Then again I was not surprised, for the food that they would ingest and use for energy was truly remarkable, especially since it was made by a man who did not need mortal food in order to survive. There never was a day where Beau did not impress me with his knowledge and ability to pull me out of a trench of sadness and confusion. So without dwelling on the news that ate at me, I sat back and simply took in that fact that I was lucky enough to be in the room with the three people who gave meaning to my existence.
Then when our meal time turned into a time for discussion, one of the side effects that Beau had mentioned earlier made itself clear in the faces of my girls. With eyelids that began to droop and cheeks expanding to keep back yawns, I knew that they were tired and what a sight it was. It was wonderful knowing that beds that were purchased as mere decoration in the past were now going to be used to ease them into a slumber where they would hopefully be sheltered by dreams that would leave them smiling while they slept.
Dressed and ready for bed, Beau helped me get the girls settled into their beds for their first night where they would no longer have to pretend to sleep. Equipped with a story they picked out on their own, we began reciting lines by taking turns to turn a story told by two people into one complete tale that made my children laugh drowsily before they found more comfort in the cushion of their pillows than the tale of a brave knight who rescued a princess from an eternity of sadness.
Beau was in the middle of a line, reciting the knight’s heartwarming speech directed towards the evil sorceress who kept his princess from him before I turned and motioned to Mai, who was already asleep and breathing deeply–a sound that was never heard in that room till that day.
“Wow, they really meant intense fatigue, huh?” Beau whispered and reached out for me to take his hand, but before I could get up, I felt a light tug on my dress.
“What is it, sweetie?” I asked, but instead of her speaking, Mai motioned for me to lean in closer. Goodness, that girl. “Okay, hun. Is something wrong?”
“We’re mortal now, Mama,” She whispered with a smile on her face. “Are you happy?”
I nodded. “How could I not be?”
“Good,” She burrowed her head deeper into her pillow when I brushed her hair from her face. “Does that mean that you will marry Mr. Merrick now, so that we could be a complete family and you could always be happy? We like it when you smile, Mama, and we like it when Mr. Merrick is here.”
Feeling my body tense up at her hushed question, I formed my lips into a thin line so I could kiss her head before I could lean back and get up from the bed to take Beau’s hand.
“S-sleep well, my dears.”
With Mai and Mia hopefully drifting and exploring the land where their dreams would take them, I was brought back to realize why it was that I chose to give them the cure that evening and not in the morning with the rest of their gifts. Though they knew of Santa Claus and all that went into Christmas, I saw no harm in going all out this holiday. I wanted my girls to experience a real mortal Christmas without having to pretend that everything magically appeared under the tree. I wanted them to be surprised and smiling just like I had always imagined them–rose-cheeked and alive. So while was freshening up in the restroom, I took it upon myself to leave our bedroom and bring down the carton full of presents that I had wrapped the last week or so. I wanted everything to be perfect for them because they were my gift and I would do anything and everything to make sure they were safe and happy.
“Woah there, Mrs. Claus, does Santa know you’re doing his job?” I heard Beau joke from behind me.
“I-I just wanted to set things up now that the girls are asleep.” Rubbing the soft fabric of the stuffed giraffe in my arms, I tilted my head to the side, wondering how many years would I have left to do this now that my girls would no longer remain the same age. Would they eventually find no joy in my effort and leave while I would remain the same?
“Lotus,” Beau started once I set the toy down and helped myself up from the ground.
In that moment I wanted to just drop my guard around him and tell him how awful it felt hating the skin I had to live in. I was sure he felt it, too, but he carried himself with such a collected temperament that I admired. I wished I could have felt beautiful when I could not imagine why he would want to continue to stay around me when I had to warmth to offer. I started muttering fragments of my worries and doubts that only became louder and more pronounced the closer he got to me.
Not letting me finish my thought, Beau wrapped his arms securely around me, pulled me into him, and planted his lips firmly against mine. He moved not with desire that defined some primal need, but with more passion than I had ever felt with anyone. His tender lips caressed mine while he waited for me to relax against him. He moved me deeper than anyone ever did and I never doubted that for a moment. With his hand resting securely on my lower back, Beau urged my body closer against his while our lips touched and moved lovingly–tongues performing the most sensual dance. All that time, Beau did not lead me to the couch or even to the ground where we would shed our clothes. In fact, he did nothing of that sort. We remained in the embrace beside the tree while we kissed as if there truly was no one else who could move us.
Feeling the moistness of his lips touch mine, I sealed his kiss and forced my lips away from his, that stole a soft peck when I brought my hands up to his chest. I had nothing planned to say till I looked up into his eyes, feeling the only thing I was still and probably always would be certain of.
“I love you.”
I could have waited minutes if not hours to hear anything from him after I allowed such intimate words to leave me, but Beau cupped my face in his hands and kissed me tenderly once more.
“And I love you, Lotus Everglow.”
“B-Beau, do you?” I stopped to look down, making me question more obvious with each passing second.
“I love you just the way you are,” He smiled widely and traced his finger along my jaw. “I love how kind you are and how beautiful your soul is. Lotus, we share the same fate of being immortal and we have done things that we aren’t proud of, but believe me when I say this: being with you has made me feel more alive than I have in ages. I feel your warmth when we’re together and I don’t want that to go away. I don’t regret sitting down with you the day you showed up in Bridgeport, because you changed things, Lotus.”
“B-Beau, but immortality is not a good thing. Is it not a punishment?”
He smiled and tilted his head to press his lips against my neck. “I thought it was, but I’d like to look at it as a good thing now because with our still hearts and pulse-less bodies, I know that I could never lose you. Lotus, death can never part us…”
When we stopped to take in what we had just admitted, I did not hold myself back from bringing my hand to his cheek. I loved the way the palm my hand caressed him. We fit together in this world that was no longer truly ours. I was in love with Beau Merrick and I wanted him to know it, always. Without further hesitation, I reached forward to kiss him while my free hand reached to bring his to my waist, resting on the loops that would free the binding ribbon holding my dress securely against my skin.
That evening that melded with the following morning, Beau and I found each other stripped to nothing but our cold shells that housed a passion left untapped until that moment. There was no rush with us when all we wanted was to feel the intimacy that we so craved.
Among the crackling and popping of firewood, the den enclosed the sounds of gentle sighs and hushed moans from both of us while our lips remained locked and our hands curious, exploring each other’s bodies as if we had never done before. I had remained in Beau’s lap with my hips grinding slowly into his to see his lips quiver, aching for me to bring us closer before he eased my back onto the pillow he plucked from the couch, so I was no longer situated with my eyes level with his but with him hovering above me, whispering that he did not wish for what we had together to end.
I think I smiled then, for I wished the same.
When morning had come and Beau and I were forced to part from our bound embrace, we managed to catch the girls still very much asleep–giving Beau enough time to sneak upstairs to pick us up some sleep wear to make it seem as if we had been upstairs the entire night. Or at least to appear presentable for Mai and Mia by the time they would rush from their room and down the stairs to quickly peek into Beau’s study to see that Santa had not forgotten them.
Knowing that the girls would probably be starving with that breakfast being their second meal as living, breathing children, Beau offered to prepare them a breakfast of crepes with raspberry sauce and whipped cream to be swirled on top. They sure did enjoy that treat, but not as much as Beau enjoyed that morning’s conversation.
“So,” Mai swallowed hard to keep herself from breaking out into a coughing fit as she did last night. “I saw Santa, Mama. I saw him last night!”
Quickly glancing at Beau, whose brows were arched, I questioned my daughter.
“Yes, I really did! See, I got thirsty in the middle of the night and I walked downstairs for some water, but I heard sounds coming from the den.”
“I didn’t believe her, Mama, so I came downstairs to see for myself that she was lying, but she really wasn’t! We saw you too, Mother!” Mia added.
As if some sudden burst of realization had shot through Mai’s body, she slammed her hand down on the table and giggled. “Oh my goodness! That was you, Mommy! We saw Mr. Santa Claus kissing you and you were saying how much you loved him!”
Now that was the moment where a piece of the thin pancake slithered down the wrong tube, resulting in me bursting into a coughing fit that Beau helped with by reaching to pat my back.
“So you’re saying Santa was kissing your mother?” He asked, taking another bite of his breakfast.
Both the girls nodded that time while Beau turned to look at me, to wink before speaking.
“Well, it looks to me like Santa sure does love you, Ms. Everglow.”
Oh, that man would have had my cheeks blazing each moment his eyes would land upon me if only I had a pulse, but I knew that all I would be able to do was pretend and remember what it was like to feel the warmth of my cheeks when gazed upon my a handsome man. But to be perfectly honest, I believed that I was beginning to accept that fact. For as long as I had my memories, I would be okay.
And as all Christmases in my family ended with the smiles and giggles of my children, I was able to record that morning as one of my fondest memories, for we were no longer bound to a barn that only harvested moments of my existence that brought me ill thoughts, or even countless homes that were never truly ours to call our own, but to a house that was now truly a home.
With my girls given a chance to live the life I had always wished for them, and Beau, the man I loved, beside me, I was ready to begin anew with new memories that would carry me further along the road to accepting who I was bound to me.