Thanksgiving Day Scene from Someone To Come Back To – Book One In The Omega Security Series – Where emotions run high
John looked over at Maggie. The closer they got to Richmond, the less she spoke and she hadn’t said anything at all in the last five minutes, which had to be some kind of record. He reached over and placed his hand on her thigh.
“It’ll be fine, Maggie,” he assured her.
She looked over at him and smiled. “That’s easy for you to say, you know these people.”
John laughed. “Yes, I do and that’s all they are, people, not girlfriend-eating monsters.”
Maggie laughed. She supposed he was right but she still couldn’t help being nervous.
They passed the university and were soon driving through the affluent neighborhood of Westham. A few minutes later John turned off the main road and drove along a secondary road from which he steered the truck onto a private driveway. Rock was going nuts with excitement and pacing along the back seat. Over the past few weeks Maggie had successfully trained him, with the liberal application of treats, to sit in the back. She reached behind her to pet him, wishing she could share his excitement.
A few seconds later the picture perfect colonial style home of a successful upper middle class family came into view. Maggie drew in a sharp breath. John squeezed her hand and smiled.
“I promise I’ll be by your side the whole time.”
Maggie smiled weakly and was just about to reply when the air was filled with a high pitched squeal.
“Uncy Don! Uncy Don! Wocky, wocky, I’m here.”
John burst out laughing. “They’ve sent their most evil emissary as the welcoming committee.”
Maggie looked out the window to see the most adorable two year old girl jumping up and down with excitement, her dark brown curls bouncing around her chubby cheeks and her caramel colored eyes gleaming with excitement.
She laughed. “She might not be able to swallow me whole but she looks like she could take a fair chunk out of me.”
John got out of the truck and scooped his niece up into the air, which resulted in more high-pitched squeals. Maggie got out and released Rock before he combusted. John had explained this is where he stayed when John was on deployment, so it was like his second home. He had also warned her she could expect to take a back seat in his affections as the dog adored the three kids. Judging from the way Rock was licking Sophie’s face, she didn’t doubt it.
A young boy of about eight years of age burst from the house and hurled himself at John.
John laughed. “Hey buddy,” he said as he reached down to ruffle his nephew’s hair.
A few seconds later an older boy appeared. She knew from what John had told her this was Marc, his oldest nephew but she wasn’t prepared for how much he looked like his uncle. John’s house was full of family photos of when he and his sister were children and it was as if Maggie was watching one of those photos come to life in front of her.
Marc was a much cooler emotional prospect than his siblings and approached with his hands in his pockets and the practiced nonchalance of a pre-teen but his smile gave away his absolute delight at seeing his uncle John.
John high-fived him as Maggie reached into the back of the truck for the flowers and post-dinner treats. When she turned around, a carbon copy of John’s mother was making her way towards them, a huge smile on her face. She and John took each other into a warm embrace and then she turned her attention to Maggie.
“Hi, I’m Juliette,” she said, her eyes brimming with kind curiosity and her hand extended.
Maggie shook her hand.
“Maggie,” she replied, “I’m pleased to meet you.”
Juliette’s smile widened.
“Oh these are for you,” Maggie said as she placed the flowers in Juliette’s hands.
“Thank you,” Juliette said and then motioned towards the house, “come on let’s get inside and rescue George from the kitchen.”
The two year old cherub known as Sophie had both her arms encircled around John’s neck and his youngest nephew, Luc, held onto his hand.
Marc fell into step beside Maggie, his hands now safely back in his pockets and his eyes focused on the driveway. Maggie could almost feel his shyness.
“Hi Maggie, I’m Marc,” he said in a quiet voice.
Maggie smiled over at him and said, “I’m very pleased to meet you Marc.”
Marc glanced sideways at her and smiled and again she was struck at just how like his uncle he was.
Sophie waved from John’s shoulder. “Hi Aggie, my name is Sophie, I’m peesed to meet you too.”
Everybody laughed as they went into the house and that set the tone for the whole day. The next few hours were a happy mix of laughter, teasing and easy conversation. Maggie was touched at the closeness between John and his sister and amazed at the loving relationship he had with the children.
She hadn’t really thought about this side of him and she felt another piece of her heart slip away as she watched the easy affection he shared with them. Juliette’s husband, George, seemed to pick up on her nerves and had gone out of his way to make her feel comfortable which had eased her stress levels considerably and she’d found herself enjoying the day much more than she’d thought possible.
They’d taken a break from eating after the turkey and Maggie, John, Rock and the kids had all gone for a walk but now everyone was seated back at the table as Juliette approached with a stunning looking cake.
Maggie wondered why there were a number of candles on it and figured maybe it was George’s birthday. Sophie bounced up and down with excitement on John’s knee and Maggie turned to laugh at him but the laugh died away in her throat as she noted his strained expression.
“I’m not sure if John has told you Maggie,” Juliette spoke, “but today is also our mother’s birthday.”
Maggie looked at Juliette and glanced quickly at John, who was staring steadfastly at the cake.
She turned back to face Juliette.
“No, he didn’t mention it,” she said quietly, as she sat there very much wishing he had and wondering why the subject of his mother seemed to bring him so much pain.
Juliette half-smiled and looked at John but he didn’t meet her gaze either.
“I blow, I blow,” exclaimed Sophie as she ratcheted up the bounce factor on John’s knee.
“No! Me, I want to blow,” shouted Luc.
Juliette laughed. “All the children have to blow out the candles together, you know that,” she admonished her youngest son as she set the cake down in front of John and Sophie. Marc and Luc crowded around.
“Bonne anniversaire Maman,” Juliette said in a quiet voice that splintered slightly at the end.
The children blew out the candles all at the same time and their happy faces were in stark contrast to the tight jaw and unsmiling face of their uncle John. Maggie continued to stare at him, willing him to look at her. She reached under the table and searched for his hand. She found it and laced her fingers between his. He turned to look at her and the pain in his eyes washed over her like a shockwave.
She wanted to take him into her arms and soothe it all away but even if she could get past Sophie, she knew it wasn’t going to happen. He had been very careful all day not to be overly physical. Maggie wasn’t sure why, maybe he was shy about showing his feelings in front of his sister or maybe he wanted to keep the heat factor under control. Either way, Maggie found it a bit strange, as back in Virginia Beach he could never keep his hands off her for more than five minutes and it wasn’t always in a sexual way. Whether they were sitting on the couch or out on the deck he would have his arm thrown around her or take a hold of her hand. It was one of the things she loved about him, amongst a long list of others.
Love. There was that word again and as she repeated it in her head, she knew she was totally in love with the man beside her. Seeing the pain in his eyes had caused her heart to swell with a need to take his hurt and ease it, to make it her own and free him of it. If that wasn’t love she didn’t know what was.
He turned to her and passed Sophie into her arms.
“I need the bathroom,” he told her in a tight voice as he walked past her in the direction of the hallway.
Juliette handed George a knife and followed her brother.
Maggie looked questioningly at George as he sliced into the cake.
His expression was one of grudging acceptance as he passed her a piece.
“Their mother’s death is still something that doesn’t sit easy between them,” he explained to Maggie.
Maggie was just about to ask how she died when Sophie dropped her slice of cake on to the floor and went into the kind of meltdown only a two year old was capable of.
Juliette came running back into the dining room when she heard the screams of her daughter and Maggie could see the tears hiding in her eyes.
“John has just taken Rock out for a few minutes,” she informed Maggie before she scooped Sophie up into her arms and tried to console her over the cake that was now splattered all over the floor.
“Okay,” Maggie nodded, wondering what it was about their mother’s death that caused such pain for the two of them.
John watched Rock disappear into the trees and let out a long breath.
“Fuck,” he exclaimed and the words formed a small breath-cloud on the cool Virginia air.
He dragged his hands through his hair in a vain attempt to calm the emotions swirling through his body. All the familiar ones were there, guilt, regret, sorrow and grief but they were overlaid with the ones he wasn’t so familiar with, happiness, contentment and joy. He’d been having one of the best days of his life up until Juliette had produced that damn cake. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to observe their mother’s birthday, he’d just have preferred it to be more of a private moment between him and his sister. He’d known the minute he’d seen the candles that the cake wasn’t just dessert and he’d been completely unprepared for the juggernaut of emotions it had released. And all that in front of Maggie.
Maggie. Watching her interact with the kids and engage in easy conversation with Juliette and George had done something strange to his heart. It was as if the bindings he hadn’t realized he’d wrapped it in had been loosened and he’d felt a happiness he barely remembered flowing through his veins.
“Fuck,” he swore again as he started to climb back up the hill to the house. He’d promised he would stay by her side throughout the day and here he was out in the woods caught up with the pain of his past when he should be focusing on the new-found happiness of his present.
He entered the front door only to find Maggie coming out of the downstairs bathroom.
“Hey,” she said, “you okay?”
He smiled at her and took her hand.
“Yeah, I’m fine, Rock just needed to go out” he told her, brushing off the concern in her eyes and continuing to walk in the direction of the dining room.
Maggie didn’t move, forcing him to stop.
“What’s up?” he asked
She took her hand from his and crossed her arms across her chest, protective and wary.
“I think we’ve just stepped into the ‘getting to know each other’ stage John but for that to happen, we’ve got to actually talk to each other. You and I both know it wasn’t Rock who needed to go out, it was you and you can try to hide what’s really going on with you as much as you want but at some stage you’ve either got to open up to me and tell me what’s going on or maybe we’re best rethinking this whole thing before it goes any further.”
John was taken aback at the depth of emotion quivering in her voice and the hurt smoldering in her eyes. He was so used to keeping his feelings to himself, to clinically compartmentalizing them and storing them away in a shiny safety deposit box in his mind, he hadn’t realized his actions had affected Maggie. How could he? He wasn’t used to having someone like Maggie in his life, someone who cared primarily about him and he most certainly wasn’t used to sharing his innermost thoughts and feelings. He stood in front of her now, not sure what to do.
She walked past him.
“Think about it John,” she whispered, as he watched her disappear into the dining room.
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