She kept her eyes on the Christmas tree as he walked through the door and wrapped his arms around her. His breath felt warm against her neck as he offered her a gentle kiss, “Are you going to be alright?” She nodded staying in his embrace. “You weren’t expecting so much friendliness, but this is a small town.” He led her to the couch grabbing his grandmother’s afghan to place around her shoulders.
“If someone recognizes us,” She bit into her bottom lip as he held her face in his hands. “I know it’s been a year, but.” She tried to back away from his embrace.
“It’s been more then a year Hilary,” He unlaced his boots and kicked them aside. “You already know what I think.” He placed a gentle kiss on her lips then stood away from her.“Coffee?”
“Yes please,” She gave him a slight smile as he left the room. Her eyes returned to the tree, shivering she could hear a memory laughing.
“It’s my turn to put the angel on top!” The two children both had their tiny hands wrapped securely around the crystal ornament. “You did it last year!” the little girl released her grips for a second as her brother triumphantly knocked her down and held the angel away from her.
“It’s tradition! I do it every year!” He fought her away from his prize. “I am the oldest!”
“Two minutes!” Hilary heard herself say aloud.
“I didn’t realize I was being timed.” Padrick handed her the steaming coffee and took his place beside her.
She kept her eyes on the tree longing for another glimpse of her brother, but there was nothing but the glitter of tinsel. Slowly the memories were filtering back to her. She bit her lip realizing she knew what he looked like, the fire black hair, the freckled white nose and puppy dog eyes. She could finally remember what he looked like. The little memories were coming back, the simple things, she closed her eye breathing in the steam from her coffee. A little more time, and maybe, just maybe she would remember everything.
“Tell me what you see.” Padrick wrapped himself around her as she continued to look at the tree. “Two minutes, you weren’t talking to me.”
“I was arguing with Austin. He,” Her memory faded as she lost sight of the entire scene, she drew a deep breath, and smiled at Padrick. “It was just a memory.”
“Aw yes, big brother by two minutes.” He tried to keep the conversation casual watching her face as the memory disappeared. He rested his chin on her shoulder and kissed her curled fingers. “Did you see him?”
She nodded but remained silent. “It’s such a pretty tree this year.”
“It is,” He agreed.
“I should go check on Sabrina.”
“No.” His embrace tightened as she tried to move, “I don’t want to be left alone with your ghosts.” He pulled her onto his lap offering a gentle kiss.
Her smile faded slightly as she pulled out of his embrace “I don’t want to go out in town again. I don’t think we’re ready yet.”
“We need to talk about Bryan.” He placed his mug on the coffee table and grabbed her hands before she could get up. “The sooner you face him, the sooner both you and Sabrina will heal.”
“If he finds out about you”
“He will find out about me. I’ll call him myself. I am tired of sharing my family with him!” He realized too late that his patience had been replaced with animosity.
She placed her hand over his as he reached for the telephone receiver. “Please, don’t.” She held on until he returned to the couch. “Please, Padrick, maybe, can we just wait a little longer.”
“I want to talk about Bryan Hilary.”
“Let’s just enjoy Christmas, please Padrick.” She sat beside him, “I am not inviting your ghosts, why are you insisting on mine?”
He didn’t answer. She picked up his coffee and handed it to him.“Fine.” He took his coffee and took a long swallow before returning the mug to the table. “After Christmas,” He wrapped himself around her again, “We’re calling a family meeting.” He kissed the top of her head, “and we are inviting all the relatives.”
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