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Alt 08 Şubat 2021, 16:31   #1
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Üyelik tarihi: 25 Şubat 2015
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Standart A Tale of Two New Years

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Alex stood in the predawn darkness of his driveway, the only light coming from the open tailgate of his red jeep. ?How many times are you going to make sure you?ve got everything?? he asked himself, but ran through his checklist once more anyway. He knew all the Christmas presents were there, along with his suitcase, laptop and briefcase, but, anxious as he was to get on the road, he was vapor-locked by the nagging suspicion that he had forgotten something - after all, he couldn?t just hop in the car and drive back a six-hundred miles. Attributing his sputtering mind to having risen at five in the morning, he closed the tailgate and went back into the house.

Alex went into the kitchen, filled his travel mug with fresh coffee, making it light and sweet, and cleaned up the remnants from breakfast. He grabbed his coffee and car keys from the counter, locked the house and got into the car. After starting the engine, he took a quick look at the passenger seat ? smokes, gum and a Snickers bar; everything a man could need for a long solo drive. Well, that, and coffee. He fired up the CD player on all disc/random. The changer was loaded with five discs he had burned expressly for the trip, an esoteric mix of jazz, soul and rock, but all up-tempo to keep him rolling down the road. In deference to the season, a disc containing Christmas music had been a last minute addition.

Alex had been anticipating this trip for over a month, ever since his mother had insisted that he come home for an extended traditional family Christmas.

Obviously she had planned her speech when she called, ?After all, Doug and your sister, are bringing their two kids all the way from Ohio. I?m having all the relatives for Christmas dinner. It looks like there should be about fifteen of us. Just one more thing. I?m sorry, but you?ll have to stay at The Old Mill Inn instead of here, I?ve already promised your sister the bedrooms. Don?t worry. We?ll pay for the hotel.?

?Mom, you don?t have to pay for the room. I can certainly afford a couple of nights in a hotel.?

?Oh no, you won?t! Stay through New Year?s, instead of the quick visits you?ve made since moving to Virginia. Your father and I see so little of you anymore.?

There had been no point in arguing; her mind was made up. ?Shit, I hate New Year?s? he had thought, as the tumultuous break-up with Kim three years ago crashed into his mind. That?s why Alex had moved to Virginia, hoping a new job and new scenery would expunge the pain. It had worked, in part ? Alex enjoyed his new job and had managed to make new friends, but he had not had a serious relationship since and every New Year?s had been a lonesome, melancholy affair.

?Alex, are you listening to me?? said his mother, slapping him back to reality.

?Yes, I?m listening, but I was thinking. That?s an awfully long time,? he said, trying to find an excuse to avoid New Year?s. ?I had been planning to get away for awhile, maybe go skiing...?

?You can go skiing anytime. Besides you could catch up with some of your old friends. And you won?t have your family forever.?

?Great, a family Christmas guilt trip. No way out of this one.?

?Okay, mom, I?ll stay the week.?

?Lovely, now when will you be arriving? So I can make the reservation right away??

As time passed, Alex grew more receptive to the visit. The last he?d heard, Kim had married and moved away. Renewing acquaintances should be fun; hopefully, his friends would forgive his self-imposed exile. Although he loved his mother dearly, by staying in a hotel, he might avoid too much quality time with her pushing him to get married and give her more grandchildren. Doug, his bother-in-law, was downright funny, and a gathering of the clan was always a good time, provided it was kept to just a day. More than that, and his aunts got their claws out. His nephews were just the right ages, five and seven, so that Christmas was a wondrous, magical event. Now that some serious snow was in the forecast, Alex was giddy with anticipation. Since the storm was coming from the northwest, he?d be driving into it, so he hoped to arrive at to his parents? house before too much snow accumulated.

Around three in afternoon, Alex was only seventy miles from home when he saw the first flakes. Initially, they were small and provided no hazard - the wind and traffic swept them from the road. As he gained altitude, the snowfall increased dramatically. Within half an hour, there was an inch of dirty slush on the road that periodically erupted from the tires of semis, blinding him until the groaning wipers could push the dense grey mass aside. Perry Como?s rendition of Let It Snow was a cruel joke. ?Shut up you hack,? Alex shouted as punched a button on the stereo and turned off the music to concentrate on his diving. Six cigarettes, several prayers to Our Lady of All-Wheel Dive, and ninety minutes later, Alex?s exit mercifully appeared.

?Thank god,? Alex said to himself as he eased onto the ramp and out of poker oyna the frigid quagmire of the interstate. The hotel was just across the overpass, so as quickly as he could, he parked, pried his fingers from the steering wheel, checked in, and started unpacking. The hotel had recently been renovated and his room was typical for a moderate hotel. A king-sized bed dominated the space, flanked by the bathroom on the side nearest the door, with a desk, coffee table and two uncomfortable looking chairs squeezed into the space nearest the window. An armoire opposite the foot of the bed housed a television in its upper half, with drawers for clothes in the lower. The only significant open space was near the entrance as a concession to the physics of operating the main door and the closet that opposed it. The cramped quarters did not bother Alex. The room was clean and he did not anticipate spending much time in it awake.

Realizing his mother had probably conjured up images of him in a dreadful accident, he called her. She was greatly relieved that he was safe and at the hotel. He would be over as soon as he took a shower and changed.

Shortly, he was headed down the narrow road that wound through a bird sanctuary and led to his parents? house. He drove slowly ? relaxed from the shower and the contrast in driving conditions. The staccato of road spray had been replaced by the low hum of the engine as the tires moved silently through the snow. He had forgotten how beautiful the area could be as the headlamps illuminated the descending flakes, which blew against the trees abutting the road, forming half-pipes on their trunks. Alex turned the stereo on. ?Okay, Perry, now you can sing.?

Ten minutes later, he pulled into the drive, killed the engine and lights, but did not immediately exit the car. Rather, he contentedly gazed at the snow falling about the familiar white two-story colonial. Until moving to Virginia, it was the only home Alex had ever known. An illuminated Christmas tree warmly beckoned from behind the picture window of the otherwise darkened living room at the far end of the house. At the near end, he could see his family had witnessed his arrival, rising from their chairs in the den that flanked the front door, which presently flew open and issued forth his nephews. Smiling broadly, clad only pajamas and snow boots, they shouted ?Uncle Alex! Uncle Alex!? Alex?s sister Nancy was close on their heels, vainly attempting to get the boys back in the house. Yes, Alex thought, it was good to be home, and felt foolish for his initial reluctance to return.

Alex exited the car and, after hugging his sister, helped shepherd the boys back into the house. Once inside, the remainder of his family greeted Alex loudly. His father, bless him, presented a short, neat single malt as the group moved to the family room. There, the warmth of the fireplace and the whisky chased away the chill of the night.

The evening passed quickly, as everyone caught up on each other?s lives over dinks and dinner; all the while, the boys ricocheted about in uncontrollable excitement. By nine, Alex was whipped and bid everyone goodnight. He did not envy his sister?s task of getting his nephews to bed and was glad for the quiet the hotel would provide.

*****

Alex enjoyed himself immensely for the next few days. He slept late into the morning of Christmas Eve, spending the balance of the day with only his parents and sister?s family. However, Alex and Doug did a commendable job exhausting themselves and the boys playing outside, building snowmen, sledding in a nearby hayfield and having snowball fights. Dinner was a quiet affair and the boys fell asleep lying before the fire. Doug and Alex poured them into bed. Presents were arranged under the tree and everyone retired.

In contrast, Christmas Day was a tumultuous affair. Alex was jarred awake at six a.m. with a call from his sister, urging him to come to the house as soon as possible. She wanted to await his arrival before the boys could open their presents, but she had already been holding them off for an hour and if Alex did not get there soon, the house might not be standing when he did. Grudgingly, Alex threw on some clothes and drove over. Fortunately, his mother offered up fresh coffee and pastry, while his father made the rounds with spiked eggnog. Properly fueled, Alex rejoined the living.

The boys attacked their presents; paper and ribbon flew about while delighted voices filled the air. The adults waited for the frenzy to subside before attempting to retrieve their gifts. All too quickly, the morning passed. Everyone became involved in clearing away the carnage and preparing for the arrival of the guests. Alex made a brief return to his hotel for a shower and fresh clothes. By three, everyone had arrived. Conversation and laughter mingled with the delicious aroma of roast beef escaping from the kitchen. The celebration proceeded harmoniously ? reminisces exchanged, baby pictures passed around, jokes told, the departed canlı poker oyna fondly remembered, and all concluding with farewells and promises to get together more often, much as Alex imagined was being duplicated in many homes that day.
With the tumult of Christmas over, Alex contented himself for the next few days relaxing with his family. Intentionally ignoring his laptop and anything related to work, he played with his nephews, both outside in the snow and indoors with their new toys. He began reading one of the books he had been given, a newly released techno-thriller, that was a pleasant distraction while sitting by the fire, sipping whisky and occasionally staring out at the snow covered countryside.

It had been wonderful to shut out the world for a few days, but by the twenty-ninth, Alex felt some cabin fever setting in, so he decided to start phoning his old friends that afternoon, as soon as he finished his book. The house was maddeningly quiet because his father had said he was needed in the office, but that was probably a convenient excuse to get out for a while. His sister had gone out to visit one of her friends with Doug and the boys.

Engrossed in his reading, he had not heard his mother approach. ?Alex,? she said startling him slightly, ?I need a few things from the market. Would you mind running into town for me??

?Not at all,? he replied, ?As a matter of fact, I was getting a little claustrophobic anyway, so it?s a good excuse to get out for a while. What do you need??

?Not much. Here?s a list,? she said, handing him a scrap of paper with five items written on it.

?Looks like lasagna for dinner. That?ll be a nice change.?

?That?s what I thought too. You don?t need to go right away. I won?t need this until the afternoon.?

?That?s okay, I?ll go now,? said Alex as he put on his coat. ?Like I said, it?ll be good to get out. I haven?t been into town since I got here. This afternoon I wanted to make some calls and see about getting together with my friends.?

With that, Alex went out the door and drove into town. Not much had changed, which he found subconsciously reassuring. He turned into the lot of the supermarket, and, after meandering around the snow piles that the plows had created, parked.

Easily finding the items he needed, Alex moved towards the registers when a familiar voice shouted, ?Alex. Alex Schmidt. How the hell are you??

Alex turned to see his friend Tommy Anderson. Alex and Tommy had been best friends in high school and had remained close while Alex attended college. Tommy had opted to forgo that and went to work in his father?s contracting business. Tommy?s thick dirty-blonde hair topped a freckled, boyish face, which was incongruously connected to the tan Carr-Hart bunny suit and work boots striding towards him. However, there was no mistaking the twinkling brown eyes and broad grin.

?Tommy! Great to see you! I?m doing okay, how are you?? replied Alex as he switched the shopping basket to his left hand and firmly shook Tommy?s extended hand.

?I?m good. Great to see you too. Why didn?t you tell me you would be home for Christmas? We need to get together.?

?I was going to call you this afternoon.?

?How long will you be around??

?Through New Year?s.?

?Fantastic. Sorry, I gotta run. I just stopped in for a sandwich to go, but if you?re not busy tonight, why don?t you stop over for a beer or two? I?m sure Jane would like to see you too.?

?I?ll do that. What time?? asked Alex.

?Is eight okay??

?Works for me. Are you and Jane still on Cherry Lane??

?No, we moved to Smokerise. Number forty-two, but don?t worry; you can?t miss it. I went a little overboard on lights this year.?

?Whoa! Smokerise ? you?re certainly moving up in the world.?

?Kind of?well, I?ll explain it later. See you around eight,? concluded Tommy as he waved and headed towards the exit.

?I?ll be damned,? Alex thought as he placed the groceries on the conveyor, ?I guess you can go home again.?

After purchasing the groceries, Alex decided he should bring some beer to Tommy?s, so he walked to the liquor store across the parking lot for a couple of six packs, and then drove home, elated that his friendship with Tommy had not grown cold.

Once he was home and had given his mother the groceries, Alex advised her of his plans.

?Oh? Isn?t Tommy married to Jane Carouthers, who was such a good friend of Kim?s??

Fortunately, Alex was reaching in the refrigerator for a Coke when his mother spoke, and so he hoped she did not see him flinch. He closed the door and faced her. ?What does that have to do with anything? I didn?t date Jane. Besides Kim got married and moved to?umm?it was Connecticut, I think.?

?That?s right, but the dirt at the beauty parlor says she?s getting divorced and moving back to live with her parents.?

?So what??

?So, nothing. I just thought you might be interested.?

?Not really,? internet casino he lied, and then added as he left the kitchen, ?I?m going back to the den. I want to finish my book before dinner.?

?So, what?? she thought, ?Bullshit! By the way he jumped as soon as I mentioned her name, he?s still not over her.? Alex had always been a terrible liar, which, to his mother?s thinking, was not necessarily a bad thing. ?But it sure explains a lot. No wonder he didn?t like my teasing him about getting married and expanding the family. I had no idea he was still lugging that weight around.? She made a note to discuss it with Max and see if he could have a heart-to-heart with their son.

As Alex sat in the Queen Anne chair by a window in the den, he muttered, ?She probably couldn?t keep her pants on after she got married, either.? He picked up his book and tried to read. Somehow the exploits of Jack Ryan lost their allure and Alex found himself re-reading each page, then each paragraph and when he could no longer hold onto a sentence, he disgustedly tossed the book on the floor.

The afternoon dragged by. Alex tried to occupy the time with numerous distractions but nothing ?television, a long drive, or an even longer walk in the cold ? could clear Kim from his mind. He knew it was irrational which only made it all the more infuriating. She had wronged him, he was sure of that, and broken his heart, so why did he still have such strong feelings for her?

Finally, it grew dark and his father returned from work. While Marge prepared dinner the men shared two short whiskies together, but that was all. As much as Max tried to engage him in conversation, Alex gave terse replies that did not invite further dialog. Max was perplexed. Since his arrival, Alex had seemed to enjoying the visit, but now it was obvious that he was deeply troubled. Maybe Marge would know.

?Let me go see how soon dinner will be. I?m starved,? said Max as he headed towards the kitchen.

As he entered, he drew Marge into the dining room and quietly asked, ?What?s with Alex. He?s so withdrawn and sullen.?

?I guess I?m to blame for that,? she replied and went on to explain their son?s reaction to her revelation of Kim?s divorce. ?I thought he knew. I think he still loves her but he?s angry at the same time. After dinner, maybe you can talk to him while I clean up.?

?I?ll try; but, damn it, he?s twenty-six years old. He has to live his own life and deal with the consequences. This isn?t the same as some skinned knee from falling off a bike. Besides, I don?t know what happened when they broke up. It was so sudden and he?s never confided in me what went wrong.?

?Do what you can,? she replied, then went back into the kitchen and called to Alex, ?Dinner?s ready!?

Over dinner, conversation with Alex was just as strained as Max?s earlier attempts, so it was an eerily quiet affair, with nothing covering the sounds of the utensils on the plates. When Max and Marge had finished, Alex was still picking at his lasagna.

Marge turned to Alex and asked, ?What?s the matter? This morning you said you were in the mood for Italian.?

?I was,? Alex replied. ?I?m just not as hungry as I thought.?

?That?s okay, Alex. We?ve been gorging ourselves for days. Just hand me your plate so I can clean up the dishes.?

?That?s okay, I can?? Alex began as he started to rise from his chair, but was then surprised to feel his father?s hand on his forearm, urging him to remain seated, so he weakly concluded, ?Thanks, Mom,? and handed her his plate.

Marge gathered up the dishes and withdrew to the kitchen.

?Alex,? said Max, ?I don?t know all that much about what?s bothering you, but your mother told me how you reacted today when she told you about Kim?s divorce and that you haven?t been the same since. I know nothing about your break-up with her, but it?s obviously still affecting you and preventing you from getting on with your life.?

From the way Alex nervously fidgeted with the napkin in his hand, Max could see he was upsetting his son, but as much as Max disliked doing so, he pushed on.

?I know you?re doing very well professionally, but personally, you can?t let your former relationship with Kim dictate how you?ll live.?

?Dad I?? Alex interrupted.

?Please let me finish and then I?ll listen as long as you want. When you moved to that new job in Virginia just a month after breaking up with her, I thought it was to further your career, which it has, but now I think you were also running away from a painful situation. You never confronted the grief; just kept it locked away somewhere and let it fester. That?s unhealthy. It?s like what I had to learn about dealing with the death of a loved one when your grandparents died. You?ve got to share the grief. Let it out. In your case, your relationship died, so you lost a loved one too. Given her recent divorce, the only difference is that your have a chance at resurrection, if that?s what you want. Here endeth the lesson.?

Despite his agitation, Alex still smiled at his father?s ending remark. Philosophically, Alex knew it was sound council; but was he emotionally prepared to accept it? If not now, when?
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