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Point of retreat, p.4

  Point of Retreat, p.4

   part  #2 of  Slammed Series

Point of Retreat

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  sauce. When she’s finished eating, she takes a drink and looks back up at me.

  “Before,” she whispers unsteadily. “When I asked if this had anything to do with my mom, you said ‘not in that way.’ What’d you mean by that? Are you saying tonight has something to do with her in a different way?”

  I nod, then stand up and take her hand and pull her up. I wrap my arms around her and she leans against my chest and clasps her hands behind my back. “It does have to do with her, Babe.” She pulls her face away from my chest and looks up at me while I explain. “She gave me something else…besides the letters.”

  Julia made me promise not to tell her about the letters and the gift until it was time to give them to her. They’ve already opened the letters; the gift was meant for Lake and I. It was intended to be a Christmas gift for us to open together, but this is the first chance we’ve had to be alone.

  “Come to my bedroom.” I release my hold and grab her hand. She follows behind me until we get to my room where the box Julia gave me is sitting on the bed. Lake walks over to it and runs her hand across the wrapping paper. She fingers the red velvet bow and sighs.

  “Is it really from her?” she asks quietly.

  I sit on the bed and motion for her to sit with me. We pull our legs up and sit with the gift between us. There's a card taped to the top of it with our names on it; along with clear instructions not to read the card until after we open the gift.

  “Will, why didn’t you tell me there was something else? Is this the last one?” I can see the tears forming in her eyes. She always tries so hard to conceal them. I don’t know why she hates it so much when she cries. I run my finger across her cheek and wipe away a tear.

  “Last one, I swear,” I say. “She wanted us to open it together.”

  She straightens up and does her best to regain her composure. “Do you want to do the honors, or should I?” she asks.

  “That’s a dumb question,” I say.

  “There’s no such thing as a dumb question,” she says. “You should know that, Mr. Cooper.” She leans forward and kisses me, then pulls back and starts to loosen the edge of the package. I watch as she tears it open, revealing a cardboard box wrapped in duct tape.

  “My god, there has to be six layers of duct tape on here,” she says sarcastically. “Kind of like your car.” She looks up and gives me a sly grin.

  “Funny,” I say.

  I stroke her knee and watch her poke through the tape with her thumbnail. Just when she breaks through the final edge, she pauses.

  “Thank you for doing this for her,” she says. “For keeping the gift.” She looks back down at it and holds it without opening it. “Do you know what it is?” she asks.

  “No clue. I’m hoping it’s not a puppy-it’s been under my bed for four months.”

  She laughs. “I’m nervous,” she says. “I really don’t want to cry again.” She hesitates before she finally opens the top of the box and folds the flaps back. She pulls the contents out of the box as I pull the cardboard away from it. She tears the tissue away and reveals a clear glass vase. Inside the vase, it’s full to the brim with geometrical stars in a variety of colors. It looks like origami. Hundreds of thumbnail sized 3-D paper stars.

  “What is it?” I ask her.

  “I don’t know, but it’s beautiful,” she says. We continue to stare at it, trying to make sense of the gift and the contents inside of it. She opens the card and looks at it. “I can’t read it, Will. You’ll have to read it.” She places it into my hands.

  I open it and read it aloud.

  Will and Lake,

  Love is the most beautiful thing in the world. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest things in the world to hold on to, and one of the easiest things to throw away.

  Neither of you has a mother or a father to go to for relationship advice anymore. Neither of you has anyone to go to for a shoulder to cry on when things get tough, and they will get tough. Neither of you has someone to go to when you just want to share the funny, or the happy, or the heartache. You are both at a disadvantage when it comes to this aspect of love. You both only have each other, and because of this, you will have to work harder at building a strong foundation for your future together. You are not only each other’s love; you are also one another’s sole confidant.

  I hand wrote some things onto strips of paper and folded them into stars. It might be an inspirational quote, an inspiring lyric, or just some downright good parental advice. I don’t want you to open one and read it until you truly feel you need it. If you have a bad day, if the two of you fight, or if you just need something to lift your spirits…that’s what these are for. You can open one together; you can open one alone. I just want there to be something both of you can go to, if and when you ever need it.

  Will…thank you. Thank you for coming into our lives. So much of the pain and worry I’ve been feeling has been alleviated by the mere fact that I know my daughter is loved by you.

  Lake takes my hand when I come to a pause. I wasn’t expecting Julia to address me personally. She wipes away a tear from her eyes. I do my best to fight back my own tears. I take a deep breath and clear my throat, then finish reading the letter.

  You are a wonderful man, and you’ve been a wonderful friend to me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for loving my daughter like you do. You respect her, you don’t need to change for her, and you inspire her. You can never know how grateful I have been for you, and how much peace you have brought my soul.

  And Lake; this is me-nudging your shoulder, giving you my approval. You couldn’t have picked anyone better to love if I would have hand-picked him myself. Also, thank you for being so determined to keep our family together. You were right about Kel needing to be with you. Thank you for helping me see that. And remember, when things get tough for him, please teach him how to stop carving pumpkins…

  I love you both and wish you a lifetime of happiness together.


  “And all around my memories, you dance...” ~The Avett Brothers

  I put the card back inside the envelope and watch as Lake rubs her hands across the glass, spinning it around to view it from all angles. “I saw her making these once. When I walked into her room, she was folding strips of paper up and she stopped and put it aside as we talked. I forgot about it. I forgot all about it. This must have taken her forever.”

  She stares at the stars and I stare at her. She wipes more tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. She’s holding it together well, all things considered.

  “I want to read them all, but at the same time I hope we never need to read them at all,” she says.

  I lean forward and give her a quick kiss. “You are as amazing as your mother.” I take the vase out of her hands and walk it to the dresser and set it down. Lake takes the box and shoves the wrapping paper inside and sets it on the floor. She puts the card on the table, and then lies back on the bed. I lie down beside her, turn toward her and rest my arm over her waist. “You okay?” I ask her. I can’t tell if she’s sad.

  She looks at me and smiles. “I thought it would hurt to hear her words again, but it didn’t. It actually made me happy,” she says.

  “Me too,” I say. “I was really worried it was a puppy.”

  She laughs and lays her head on my arm. We lay there in silence watching each other. I run my hand up her arm and trace her face and neck with my fingertips. I love watching her think.

  She eventually lifts her head off my arm and slides on top of me, placing her hands on the back of my neck. She leans in and slowly parts my lips with hers. I become quickly consumed by the taste of her lips and the feel of her warm hands. I wrap my arms around her and run my fingers through her hair as I return her kiss. It’s been so long since we’ve been alone together without the possibility of being interrupted. I hate being in this predicament-but then again I love being in this predicament. Her skin is so soft, her lips are perfect. It gets harder and harder
to retreat every time.

  She runs her hands underneath my shirt and lightly teases my neck with her mouth. She knows this drives me crazy, yet she’s been doing it more and more lately. I think she likes pushing her boundaries. One of us needs to retreat…and I don't know if I can bring myself to do it. Apparently, neither can she.

  “How much time do we have?” she whispers. She lifts up my shirt and her lips make their way down to my chest.

  “Time?” I say weakly.

  “Until the boys get home.” She slowly kisses her way back up to my neck again. “How long do we have until they get home?” She brings her face back to mine and looks at me. I can see by the look in her eyes that she’s telling me she’s not retreating.

  I bring my arm over my face and cover my eyes. I try to talk myself down. This isn’t how I want it to be for her. Think about something else, Will. Think about college, homework, puppies in cardboard boxes…anything.

  She pulls my arm away from my face so she can look me in the eyes. “Will…it’s been a year. I want to.”

  I roll her onto her back and prop my head up on my elbow and lean in toward her, stroking her face with my other hand. “Lake, believe me…I’m ready, too. But not here. Not right now. You’ll just have to go home in an hour when the boys get back and I don’t think I could take it.” I kiss her on the forehead. “In two weeks we get a three day weekend…we’ll go away together. Just the two of us. I’ll see if my grandparents will watch the boys and we can spend the whole weekend together.”

  She kicks her legs up and down on the bed, frustrated. “I can’t wait two more weeks! We’ve been waiting fifty-seven weeks already!”

  I laugh at her childishness and lean in, planting a kiss on her cheek. “If I can wait, you can definitely wait,” I assure her.

  She rolls her eyes. “God, you’re such a bore,” she teases.

  “Oh, I’m a bore?” I say. “You want me to throw you in the shower again? Cool you off? I will if that’s what you need.”

  “Only if you get in with me,” she says. Her eyes grow wide and she sits up and pushes me flat on my back, leaning over me. “Will!” she says excitedly as a new realization dawns on her. “Does that mean we can take showers together? On our getaway?”

  Her eagerness surprises me. Everything she does surprises me. “You aren’t nervous?” I ask her.

  “No, not at all.” She smiles and leans in closer. “I know I’ll be in good hands.”

  “You will definitely be in good hands,” I say, pulling her to me. Just when I’m about to kiss her again, my phone vibrates. She reaches into my pocket and pulls it out.

  “Gavin,” she says. She hands the phone to me and rolls off.

  I read the text. “Great, Kel threw up. They think he has a stomach bug so they’re bringing them home.”

  She groans and gets off the bed. “Ugh! I hate vomit! Caulder’s probably gonna get it too-the way they pass crap back and forth.”

  “I’ll text him back and tell him to take Kel to your house. You go home and wait-I’ll run to the store and get him some medicine.” I pull my shirt back on and grab the vase that Julia made us so that I can put it on the bookshelf in the living room. We exit the bedroom in parent mode.

  “Get some soup, too. For tomorrow. And some sprite,” she says.

  When I set the vase down in the living room, she reaches her hand inside and grabs a star. She sees me eyeing her and she grins. “There might be a good tip in here. For vomit,” she says.

  “We’ve got a long road ahead of us, you better not waste those.” When we walk outside, I grab her arm and pull her to me and hug her goodnight. “You want me to drive you home?”

  She laughs and hugs me back. “Thanks for my date. It was one of my favorites.”

  “The best is yet to come,” I say, hinting at our upcoming getaway.

  “I’m holding you to that.” She backs away and starts walking toward her house. I turn to the car and open the door when she yells from across the street.

  “Will! One more time?”

  “I love you, Lake!”

  January 7th, 2012

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