Read Part 4 HERE.
The pop and crackle of a speaker sounds as the pilot’s voice is heard throughout the plane.
“We will be landing in Oakland Valley, Minnesota in 5 short minutes, please remain seated and fasten your seat belts.”
Lucy suddenly begins to feel anxious again as she starts to fidget.
Silvia turns to her.
“Chin up kind eyes, you’ll be just fine. I’m sure of it.” She says, her eyes smiling with faith.
Lucy smiles at her thankfully, as the plane begins its landing.
Soon enough Lucy finds herself walking through the terminal, her coat in her hand and her carry- on over her shoulder, as she looks for a familiar family face amongst the crowd.
She sees Silvia once last time, she winks at Lucy and nods her assurance as she is greeted by her two twin daughters.
Lucy waves with a smile.
Silvia hugs her daughters with a big smile forming across her face, as she whispers Merry Christmas to Lucy.
“Merry Christmas, Thank you.”
Silvia smiles as she and her daughters walk away to baggage claim.
Lucy turns and searches the crowd again. She finally sees him; her older brother, standing there with a big goofy grin on his face as he holds up a paper sign that reads Lucy Michaelson.
Lucy laughs and walks over.
“Joey! So mom sent you, huh?”
“Eh, I may have volunteered.” He says “I’ve missed you around here, it’s not the same without you.”
Lucy smiles hugging him.
“Really, with the sign?” she point to it laughing.
“What-it’s been over year, I didn’t know if you’d recognize me.” He jokes.
Lucy rolls her eyes jokingly.
“Come on, let’s go grab your luggage and get you home to the crazy clan. I swear I’ve gotten about 20 calls already to check if you landed yet.”
His phone rings again.
“Make that 21,” Joey says laughing as he answers his phone, as they walk toward the luggage area.
“Hey mom, yup, the prodigal child has landed, in route in just a few.”
Lucy laughs as she grabs her luggage.
The drive into town hits Lucy like a snowstorm.
New York hasn’t gotten its snowy white carpet for Christmas just yet, but good of Oakland Valley was blanketed with layers and layers of crisp white powder.
The trees are covered, icicles hanging from tree branches as the moon bounces of their glistening crystal. Red bows and cane canes dress each bark as house after house is lit up in Christmas extravagance and cheer.
Lucy sees something that transports her back to a time, a time when things felt just a bit for simple.
A young adolescent Lucy runs throughout the town square being chased by Joey as he throws snowballs at her. A young boy pops up in front of her, “follow me,” he says grabbing her hand, he takes off running as Joey continues to throw snowballs at her from afar. “I know how to keep you safe.”
“Dean…Where are we going?” Lucy says as he pulls her into an area of trees.
“Here, get in,” he says showing Lucy a hallowed out tree. “You can take cover, and he’ll never know where you went.”
Lucy smiles and rushes in, Dean follows as Joey runs past them not seeing where they went. The two children laugh.
“That was a close one.” Lucy says laughing
“See, I told you, I’ll always protect you.” Dean says smiling at a rosy cheeked Lucy.
“You’re the best friend a girl could ever ask for.” Lucy says kissing his cheek. “Now. Let’s get him.” She says with a mischievous look as she goes off running after her brother with a handful of snow.
Young Dean smiles after her as he touches his cheek. He lets out a nervous sigh and rushes after her.
“Hey Lucy, wait up for me.” He calls.
Lucy’s brought back to reality as she hears kids running through town and sledding.
Joey notices, “Hey, where’d you go just now? You kind of spaced.”
“Yea I’ve been doing that a lot lately. This place, it brings back a lot of memories.”
“Ah, Dean, right?”
Lucy sighs, looking out the window as they pass Dean’s childhood house.
“I wish I could tell you no, but of course being here just makes me think of him. It’s why I have such a hard time coming home.”
“It’s probably why he hasn’t been home since you guys broke up. I imagine it’s hard for him too.” Joey says looking over at Lucy.
“Do you ever…talk to him?” Lucy says nervously.
“Nope, no one really has. I mean I’m sure his old man has heard from him, but nobody in town really asks. It’s just kind of a rule now.”
“Oh,” Lucy nods, looking out the window, guilt sweeping over her skin.
Joey pulls into their drive way.
Lucy smiles as she sees her mom peek through the living room window.
She waves excitedly as the whole clan rushes to greet her at the front door.
Lucy rushes out of the car, as Joey grabs her suitcase.
“Mom!” Lucy runs up the stairs and hugs her tightly
“Sweetheart, I’m so happy you made it home.”
“Hey kiddo! So good to have you home.”
Lucy hugs her dad.
“Okay okay, my turn,” her younger sister Ava says reaching for her.
“Ava, you look beautiful oh my god! You’re such an adult now. When did that happen.” She laughs hugging her tightly.
Joey’s kids come running out, Taylor about 8 and little tommy around 4, their mother Jennifer in tote.
“Aunt Lucy!” they both exclaim.
“Hey guys, oh goodness come here, I’ve missed you,” she says kneeling down to hug both Tommy and Taylor.
Lucy gives her sister-in-law a big hug too.
“Ok I know we’re all excited that little Lucy has found her way back home, but can we maybe make our way inside, my butt is freezing out here!”
Everyone laughs as they head back into the house.
Lucy walks in and instantly a feeling of calm rushes over her.
It’s true what they say she thinks, you can always come home.
She stills taking it all in, the wooden floors, the cabin esque feel, the fire place crackling, the tree glistening of gold and the many ornaments the family has accumulated over the years. The smell of roasted chicken and baked potatoes for dinner, one of her favorites. And the kitchen table covered in mom’s famous Christmas cookies. Home. It felt like home. As her family member find their rightful place in the living room, Lucy’s eyes make note of all her favorite memories.
“Hey you okay?” Ava comes over looping her arm with her sisters.
“Yea, I guess I just didn’t realize how much I missed this place.”
“Well you came home just in time, because now you get to be here when my new boyfriend Billy comes to meet everyone.”
Lucy’s mouth drops open.
“Shut up! How am I just now finding out about this boyfriend of yours?”
“Well I wasn’t sure it was gonna last, but it’s been about 3 months, and I really like him.” Ava says with a giddy voice and a glazed over look on her face.
“Good for you. I’m happy for you. But word of advice if you like him, and he treats you well, don’t let him go. I learned that lesson the hard way.” Lucy says hugging her sister into her side as they walk over to the couch.
“Lucy sweetie, we made a plate of food for you. Are you hungry? I can heat it up for you?”
“Oh that’s ok mom, I got it,” Lucy says getting up and walking into the kitchen.
A few minutes later Lucy makes her way into the living room with her plate as she sits and talks with her family, they reminisce about town traditions and the big Christmas events coming up.
Tommy and Taylor have fallen asleep on the floor nearby.
“Well it’s getting late, thank you guys for waiting up for me, you really made my homecoming incredibly special. But we have a big day ahead of us, so why don’t we all get some sleep?”
“Yea, I suppose we should all turn in.” Lucy’s mom says turning to her husband as everyone begins to stand and head towards the stairs to the bedrooms on the second floor.
“Good night everyone.” Lucy says. “Thank you again, I’m really happy to be home.”
“Well we’re happy too,” her mom says hugging her.
Lucy sits up in her room. Her mind unable to relax.
She looks outside. A new snow fall is gently whispering in the wind.
She smiles and grabbing her slippers and a robe heads back downstairs.
Lucy makes her way into the kitchen. She opens the fridge to find a pitcher of what she can only assume is Grandma Addie’s famous S’mores hot chocolate. She smiles grabbing a mug and heats it up in the microwave as she grabs a few of her mom’s Christmas cookies.
She hears footsteps and turns to see her sister-in-law Jennifer walking into the kitchen.
“I guess we both had the same idea,” she laughs.
“I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes to snack at night,” she smiles. “Grab a mug there’s plenty to go around.”
The two women sit at the kitchen island chatting over s’mores hot chocolate and Christmas cookies.
“So how are you Luc-how’s New York treating you?”
“I like it, most of the time,” she laughs. “But sometimes it just doesn’t-”
“Feel like home?” Jennifer says with a knowing look and nod.
“No it doesn’t. I mean I love my job and the people I work with. And having Kinsley there with me, is definitely a huge deal. I don’t know what I would do without having a fella Oakland Valley friend with me. But it just always feels like somethings missing. Or someone.” Lucy’s voice trails off as she looks off into a memory. Dean’s face coming into mind.
“You know, I think it’s worth doing a little digging while you’re here.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well I mean, this is where he lived his whole life right. Dean. His father’s still here. Maybe he has some way you can contact him.”
“I wouldn’t even know what to say to him.”
“I just think that you guys, wow you had something real. I mean I remember coming into this family and just thinking, wow they’re going to go the distance.”
“How do you do it?”
“Marriage? All the Michaelson’s are paired off, and happily so. Where I inherited this fear gene, is beyond me. Anytime a guy gets too close, I bail. It’s like I feel like I have to beat him to the punch, or something. I don’t know, there’s definitely something wrong with me.”
“No there isn’t. I’m not going to lie to you. Marriage is work. There’s a lot of trying to balance give and take. Compromise is a must. You are constantly thinking for two, and when kids come along, well you’re thinking for a whole family. But it’s about love at the root. If there’s true love there, the work is worth it. So maybe Dean just wasn’t your one. And that’s ok.”
Lucy looks at her.
“No. He was. He was it. I just let him slip away.” Lucy says coming to the realization.
“Well then I think maybe you have some work to do, hmm?” Jennifer says.
“I’m still so angry at him though, for the way he ended things.” Lucy says getting fired up.
“Ok look, maybe that’s worth exploring too. Look I don’t know all the details, but I do know that you both really never had that awkward aftermath that most long term couples go through. You broke up and then you were just out of each other’s lives. You need to see him, face to face.”
“What if he doesn’t wanna see me? What if he hates me?”
“The way that boy loved you. I highly doubt he’d be disappointed to see you. At the very least, he’ll just enjoy how gorgeous you still are,” Jennifer smiles and Lucy laughs.
“Thank you.” Lucy says
“I’m just saying if you do that, find a way to contact him. Because if he sees you, something tells me he may just feel the same way you do.”
Lucy takes her sister-in-law’s extended hand, as they clink mugs.
“Good night.” Jennifer says with a sweet smile
“Good night, try to get some sleep.” Lucy says smiling back.
“You too, big days ahead.” Jennifer says heading back upstairs.
Lucy looks outside, the snow still coming down.
She walks to the front door, grabbing snow boots and a coat her heads out for night time walk.
Lucy walks through town.
A sweet serene quiet graces the night.
As light polls gleam and glisten through the snowflakes as they dance.
Lucy tilts her head back sticking her tongue out she catches one.
She laughs, and looks around. The town dressed in Christmas. She breathes in the cool crisp air.
Lucy stills. Hearing the familiar voice behind her, her pulse quickens. She closes her eyes thinking she’s dreaming.
“Lucy.” He says again, this time more certain, more stern like he used to say when he was trying to get her to talk and open up to him.
Lucy turns, mentally kicking herself for her current appearance.
“You’re here? In Oakland? What happened to New York?”
“It’s still there. I’m just home for Christmas. What-a-what about you? I thought you hadn’t been back here in years?”
“I haven’t. But I figured it was about time. I left a lot of loose ends back here, when I left.”
“I bet you did,” Lucy says looking away.
“I just meant that I came home to help my grandfather with the carnival this year, I always used to. And now that he’s been slowing down, things have been kind of harder for him to do while I’ve been away.”
“Oh well that’s good, that you’re here to help him.” Lucy say trying to seem uninterested for some absurd reason.
“I was kind of hoping I’d run into you.” Dean says his eyes sweet yet smoldering, looking into Lucy’s.
And, butterflies. Butterflies everywhere, Lucy thinks.
“Were you, now?” She says calmly.
“Yea. It’s been awhile.”
“3 years.” Lucy says, folding her arms over her heart, Dean notices.
“You look incredible. Even more breathtaking than I remember. And trust me, your body is burned in my mind forever.”
That’s just like Dean. To compliment me when I’m standing in front of him in pajamas, with no makeup on, in the middle of a semi snow fall, at 4:30 am. She thinks, remembering how he always complemented her no matter what.
Lucy looks away, unable to take the slightly sexual tension being created between she and Dean.
“I should really get going, I’m here for my family too. So, I’d really like to focus on them. I guess I’ll see you around now that we’re both in town.”
Lucy turns on her heal, her head spinning, her heart pounding.
“Lucy?” Dean says making Lucy’s skin heat.
“Yea?” She faces him.
“Is that really it? After all these years? That’s all you really wanna say to me?”
“You don’t wanna hear what I have to say, trust me.”
“Right. So you’re still sticking to that same story. That I broke your heart?”
“I understand that I hurt you, but you hurt me too, so bad. And the worst part is, you still til this day, don’t see it. And you just blame me. My heart was in this relationship too Lucy. And when we broke up, two hearts got broken, not just yours.”
Lucy stills baffled.
“Look whatever, I hope you have a good time with your family. Merry Christmas,” he says walking off in a rush.
Lucy sits on a nearby bench, looking after the man she continuously seems to let go.
To be continued…
*I do not take credit for any images used in my edits or otherwise.*