I heard the kids come downstairs together. I heard their voices as they tried to make sense of the piles of toys. This is yours, Jason told Lillie. Is this mine? Collie asked. Look! Jason whispered loudly. What’s that?
I opened my eyes. 7:04 am.
I sat up, in my pajamas. I headed into the living room, a few steps away.
“Good morning! Merry Christmas! Gosh, look at all this stuff!”
I hugged each of the kids, and hovered around their piles of goodies, keeping my voice low. Look, this glows in the dark! Hey, did you notice the other doll? Is this CD for you, Jason?
The stairs creaked as Lucy came down. “Good morning, everyone! Oh my, look at what Santa brought!”
We fell into our natural rhythms, attending to the kids and their excitement.
Secretly, we were hung over, operating on next to no sleep.
The rest of the family had arrived on Christmas Eve. All were holidaying at the house, but most staying at nearby motels and bed and breakfasts.
A longstanding tradition has me in the kitchen most of the afternoon, preparing Christmas Eve dinner. It’s a simple meal, and I always make the same thing, but it requires some prep time.
Lucy and I were with the kids and her mom before everyone else arrived. But Lucy and I had very little time alone to process what had happened the night before. After so much animosity, we had made love. We had talked. And Collie had busted us.
That morning, we ascertained that Collie had not made too much of his discovery—or at least, he didn’t seem too. He had filed it away, I was sure, until he could make sense of it, without involving too many grown-ups in his mental processes.
As Lucy’s mom made lunch for the kids, Lucy and I secreted away to wrap presents. We established an efficient assembly line. She alluded to the night before. I dropped my scissors and kissed her. I held her. “I’m so glad we aren’t fighting,” I said. Me too, she said. I put my hand on her face. We went back to wrapping.
After lunch, we walked the kids to a nearby carousel. The boys rode their own horses, as I rode with Lillie. At each pass, I smiled at Lucy. We have not been able to look at each other for over a year. This felt right, much better.
Her family began to arrive after lunch, and we were drawn into other people’s lives and stories. Tales were exchanged about troublesome flights, rental cars, cat feeders. They vanished to wrap gifts as I cooked dinner.
My ex mother in law’s ex girlfriend arrived. I served drinks, then dinner. It went off without a hitch, peppered by amusing stories about my ex father in law’s quirky ex girl friends.
My children were all ears. All these attitudes about exes were registering.
Our family has many Christmas Eve rituals. We sing, the children recite poems, and snacks are left for Santa. After the children go to bed, all the Santas prepare for Christmas morning.
When everything was all set and done, Santa’s helpers retired to their hotel rooms. Lucy and I poured drinks and repaired to the study to unwind.
We turned on the television to find a movie in which Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep were star-crossed lovers, commuters who met on a train. They were married to other people, but their banal conversation led to an intense physical relationship.
“This is confusing,” she whispers.
“But it’s very common, I think,” she says, kissing me.
“Maybe so,” I kiss her back. “But I can’t believe this is us.”
I followed Lucy’s lead. She snuggled close; I snuggled closer. She kissed me; I kissed her. Her hand went up my shirt; my hand touched her breast.
We were side by side. I rolled over to be on top of her. I felt like an acrobat. My body was so light.
I was in her, on top of her, kissing her. Our mouths were alive. That was in itself so electrifying. She had eschewed my kisses so very long. For years, a passionate kiss had been met with an admonishment to brush my teeth. My advances were met with rebuffs.
I had lost track of how to make love to her, years ago. It was so easy now.
We were coupled in the dark, surrounded by window full of stars, warm together surrounded by the cold sky.
As we kissed, I grabbed her hips and pulled her on top of me.
I held her hips as I fucked her. I was surprised to remember how slender she is. I pulled her over so easily. I pushed up into her, my thighs bumping her into air. I pulled her nipples into my mouth.
“You made me cry,” she whispered.
“When did I make you cry?’
“It was a long time ago.”
I embraced her. I embraced this moment. So maybe this is how we forgive one another and move on, I thought. By loving one another, by caring about one another, now.
“I’m sorry I made you cry.” We kissed. She pulled me closer as we fucked.
We were so well joined, so physically one with one another. We pushed into one another, breathed into one another’s mouths.
Let’s forgive each another.
“You broke my heart into a thousand pieces,” I said. Intense. Tender.
“You broke my heart too,” she said.
“I’m sorry I broke your heart,” I said. She is quiet. So much for mutual forgiveness.
We fucked silently. “I want you to cum for me,” I said. She said she had not been able to get off with other men. I didn’t know what was happening between us. But she should have this opportunity to cum.
“Okay.” She focused. She pushed into me, her eyes closed, working hard.
“It’s your fault too, you know,” she said, trying to let go.
“Cum for me.”
Lucy’s orgasm is like a safe to be cracked. It is secured if you don’t have the combination. But if you ascertain that special sequence, all the locks tumble into place easily.
No one among her pathetic lovers has bothered to learn the combination. I work the locks.
They tumble. Lucy cums.
“You got your wish,” she breathes. I hold her close.
I flip her, back in our familiar terrain. She gets off on top of me, then I flip her. That’s how it once worked.
We fuck quietly, trying to avoid discovery by our kids and her mom, I wonder: am I now having an affair with my ex wife? No one can know?
We talk as we touch and kiss. I am excited at how we are opening up and sharing.
She ventures another insight. “You waited too long to open your heart.”
So long as we are forgiving one another, I am hers. But if she wants to blame me for her pain, that’s another story. She dumped me. There is too much pain to assume as my own responsibility.
I sit up. I am still in her. I find my t-shirt and put it on. I look at her,
“We can make love. We can talk about what went wrong between us. But we can’t do both at the same time.”
She nods. We fuck for a while. But I am done.
We doze off. I am not really asleep. She says she should go to bed; I let her go. It’s 3am Christmas morning.