Amaya smiled at her grandmother’s friends as they partied the night away. It was nine o’clock and the guest were still eating, drinking and being merry. There was no sign of them slowing down. Sarah, Amaya’s grandmother, was holding court with Tristan’s grandfather, Curtis, sitting right next to her on the couch.
They’d cleared the room except for a few chairs and the couch. Tristan borrowed a few more chairs from his friend to round out the seating. She couldn’t stop her eyes from drifting toward Tristan. He stood near the front entry, collecting coats and older women. There were five gathered around him touching his arms and laughing at something he said. He was being a good sport.
The lights looked amazing outlining the windows, across the garland on the fireplace mantel, and around the balsam pine tree standing in the front window. It had been decorated by the four of them, Amaya, Tristan, Curtis and Sarah. There had been no awkwardness, it was if they had been doing this together forever.
“Amaya, come over here,” Sarah said, motioning with her hand. “You need to meet my friends.” Amaya pushed off the door jam and walking into the group of seniors. The fawned over her, telling her that she’d saved Christmas, what a perfect idea it had been to decorate her grandmother’s house. After being introduced to everyone in the room she hadn’t already met 100 times, she escaped the crush of people and walked toward Tristan.
“Here, use this,” one woman said, shoving a plastic plant into Amaya’s hand. She glanced down at it and frowned. Mistletoe.
Did she have the guts?
He saw her coming over the top of the heads of the women who crowded around him and he smiled. She was coming to rescue him, he knew it. Her light brown hair was pulled up away from her face and neck. He’d been thinking about her and about the column of her neck.
“Did you see that new movie?” one of the women asked, pulling on the sleeve of his sweater.
“Um, no I guess I didn’t.”
“Hi Tristan,” Amaya said. The ladies scattered away.
“Amaya. You look nice tonight.”
“I have something for you.”
He raised his eyebrows and waited for her to continue. She brought out mistletoe from behind her back.
It took no time for him to realize her intent. She touched her lips to his. They were soft and melted into his. He put his arms around her waist and pulled her closer. She let out a little purr and that one noise was like a switch going off in his brain. He pushed her away and she swayed backward.
What was he thinking? He was still grieving the death of his wife? He wasn’t in love with her? He didn’t know her? He hadn’t created lifelong memories with her? His grandfather had probably seen them kissing. That was going to cause problems.
Her eyes snapped open and he knew he was in trouble.
“Amaya. I’m so sorry.”
She put her hand up to his face, her lips pursed in disapproval.
“Please. Let me explain.” He saw the tears in her eyes and his heart cracked worse than when his home burned to the ground. “I’m sorry. I didn’t expect…”
She spun on her heels and all but sprinted down the hall toward the kitchen. He hesitated, not sure if he should follow her or give her space. He touched his lips with his fingertips. He could see feel the pressure of her lips on his. And he could smell the scent of her shampoo, probably because he was still using it when he showered at her place.
Tristan glanced around the room. Most of the partiers glance away before he could catch their eye. His grandfather, however, had no problem making eye contact and shaking his head. Sitting next to him glaring was Amaya’s grandmother. Oh...
His first thought was getting out of range of the angry grandparents. He didn’t do anything wrong, Amaya kissed him. She started this and somehow he wound up the bad guy. He’d have to make it right. He headed for the kitchen.
When he got there, she was gone. Vanished. He looked out the back door, but didn’t see her in the yard.
Retreating back to the living room and the party, he dreaded talking to his grandfather. If Amaya was angry at him, then it might jeopardize his grandfather’s relationship with Amaya’s grandmother. Tristan knew they were getting closer every day. He’d be surprised if Curtis came home after the club house was rebuilt.
“What did you do?” Sarah asked.
“Nothing. She kissed me. She had mistletoe.” Tristan tried to stage a good defense, but he knew he didn’t stand a chance.
“I told you not to hurt my granddaughter.”
“I know, Sarah. I didn’t mean to.”
“Did you find her?” Curtis asked.
Tristan shook his head.
“You need to find her and make things right,” Curtis continued. “That girl is a gem.”
“I’ll talk to her, but later. I’m going to go get some air.”
Tristan rifled through the jackets on the banister looking for his. Once he found it, he was out of there. Amaya wouldn’t be gone forever. She’d help them clean up or he’d come back tomorrow to do the dishes and rearrange the furniture.
The sounds of the paper grew quieter and quieter the further he walked away from the house. His thoughts were jumbled and he didn’t understand what he was feeling. It had been such a crazy four weeks since the fire.
His grandfather was deliriously happy. Tristan on the other hand was…confused. He hadn’t kissed another woman since the death of his wife. He hadn’t realized that he wanted to until Amaya. When he realized she was going to kiss him, he felt elated, happy, giddy. Once it happened he felt guilt. That’s what had made him push her away. They had never spoken of his wife, never suggested that there might be more than a friendship.
He stopped when he reached the golf course and the charred remains of his life with his wife. He had no more mementoes, no pictures. He sucked in a deep, cold breath and let it out slowly.
Light over on the second fairway caught his attention. He hadn’t notice it before, but there in the middle of the property was a tree dressed in white twinkle lights, sparkling and saying “Merry Christmas.” Who had done this? Who had taken the time to run an extension cord from the neighbor’s house? He knew there was only one person who would be that thoughtful.