"The minor's parents have until 5:30 Central Time on Christmas Eve to reconsider their surrendering of custody of the minor to the uncle..."
11:30 AM Christmas Eve
Paul grimaced as he pulled out his cell phone and turned it on. There was still a chance that he had missed the call saying that Josh's parents had changed their mind.
A wet snowball made contact with the side of the truck and Paul grinned. He pulled the vehicle to a stop long enough for a thin body to throw itself into the truck bed as another snowball made contact with the side again. Paul couldn’t help but to laugh as he watched his nephew Josh's two friends slowly creep in the thick snow towards their target.
Paul turned around as Josh frantically tapped on the back window. "Lemme in!" The kid begged and Paul simply shook his head. If the Texan-born Josh thought he could start a snowball fight with his northern born friends, then Josh could get himself out of this. Besides, Paul had one last gift to wrap.
Paul held up five fingers and Josh nodded. Five hours until Josh was expected home from playing with the neighbor boys. Five hours until their newly created Christmas Eve tradition began.
The year had been a rough one for both of them. Josh had been kicked out of his home and Paul had taken him in because the kid had nowhere else to go. There had been that awkward period of adjustment, but after a few weeks, things just seemed to have clicked.
Josh grinned and scrambled out of the back of the truck and Paul continued down the driveway. This last business trip was a complete success. The paperwork had been signed and every legal matter had gone over smoothly. Now, the clock was ticking until Josh knew. For the first time in this entire process, Paul was worried; what if taking this step was too soon for Josh?
He tucked a thick envelop into Josh's stocking with a small smile. What was done was done. The count down had begun.
Five hours later, Josh pounded into the house and up the stairs to change. Paul chuckled softly and shook his head. No one would be able to recognize Josh as the same quiet kid that came to Montana three months ago.
Finally, Josh emerged from his room, clutching a small package nervously as he settled onto the couch next to his uncle.
"Uncle Paul, I just..."
Paul smiled gently as Josh's voice cracked painfully and pressed on. "I wanted to thank you for everything; taking me in, loving me as your own son, and mostly just showing me the love of God."
Hastily, Josh handed Paul the package and carefully unwrapped it. Quietly, Paul gazed at the sketch of the mountains, complete with colors of a sunset.
Unsettled, Paul cleared his throat and stood. "Josh, all of those business trips I've been taking these past couple of months weren't as fruitless as I led you to believe. You see, I've been in Texas working to make sure that you wouldn't have to go back home unless you chose to."
Josh's young face contorted in a combination confusion and fear. "Uncle..."
Paul smiled gently as he walked over to Josh's stocking and plucked the envelope out. He checked his watch and grinned; 5:30 in the evening. The court ordered deadline had officially passed.
Paul extended the envelope to Josh and quietly continued. "The judge has granted me custody of you...that is if you want it."
Paul blinked several times as without warning; the thin teenager thrust himself up and wrapped his arms around Paul's neck. "Thank you...I want it, I just didn't know how to ask if you--"
Paul's smile broadened as he wrapped his arms around his nephew. "Merry Christmas, Josh, and welcome home, my son."
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