One More Daybysweethomealabama©
He had gone through the motions this year, and every year for the past three. He'd adorned the tree, hung the wreaths, strung the lights. Nothing looked quite right though. Nothing felt quite right. He just didn't have her touch, her flare for making the holiday special. She'd made everything special.
Now sitting in the living room, in front of the fire and his not-quite-right tree, he took a long pull from the scotch he'd poured himself. And the familiar ache that had been his only companion for the past three years settled into his chest.
She'd been everything he'd ever wanted. He'd fallen in love with her almost instantly. Of all of the things that a man could take notice of, it had been her eyes that had first caught his attention. They were large and long-lidded, a beautiful tawny color, framed by thick ebony lashes. Her hair had been a long, wavy, raven colored sheet that fell just short of her waist, and her skin was the color and texture of warm cream. She was caring, devoted, delightfully uninhibited, and she had a way of looking at him that made him proud to be the man he was.
She'd given him a beautiful family. Three sons. The first was exactly like his mother. He had the same whiskey colored eyes, the same compassionate manner. And also like his mother, he wore his heart on his sleeve for the world to share, and more often than he would admit, to break.
Their second son couldn't have been more like his father. He had the same deep, bottomless brown eyes, the same dark hair, the same olive skin. He was always quiet, always reflective, and always too smart for his own good.
But the baby of the family had been their true work of art, a blending of both bodies, minds, and souls. With his thick curly hair, cherub face, and gentle manner, he'd charmed everyone he'd ever met.
He could see them now, all of them. They'd been his whole life, his reason for getting up every morning and doing what he had to. He let his thoughts drift back into the past; to the last time he saw her smile.
* * *
It was the night before Christmas Eve. The floor of their living room was covered in scraps of brightly colored holiday paper, ribbons, and bows as they sat wrapping the gifts that were to go under the tree. The bottle of wine they'd been sharing sat half empty on the coffee table, and the fire hissed quietly in the hearth.
She hummed along to the Christmas music flowing from the CD player, making him smile as he stole a sideways glance at his wife. Her furrowed brow and pursed lips had him suppressing a laugh.
"It's just gift wrap baby. They're not going to care if the creases aren't straight."
"I care," she replied. "It has to be perfect."
"Why does it have to be perfect?" he asked, his own brows knitting as he taped down the edges of the package he was working on.
"Because if it's not perfect they'll end up in therapy, talking about how scarred they'd been in childhood. And they always blame the mother."
"Thank God for small favors," he laughed out loud. Then, capturing her hand in his, he gently kissed her fingertips. "It'll be perfect. It's always perfect. You're perfect."
She grinned devilishly at him, placing a suggestive kiss on his lips. "Keep talking like that and Christmas might come early for you."
"Might?" he questioned. "This is my best stuff. I thought that would get me laid for sure."
Her head tilted back as she let out a soft laugh, and he placed a light, lingering kiss at the base of her throat. When she looked at him, her eyes still twinkling, he couldn't help but gather her close and cover her mouth with his own. He gently parted her lips with his tongue, and he felt her whole body sigh. It was a sensation he'd felt a thousand times before, and yet it still sent a small thrill coursing through him.
Her arms slid up around his neck as she deepened the kiss for both of them and his hands slid underneath her sweater to caress the smooth skin of her back. He buried his face in her neck and breathed in the scent of her...lavender, mint, vanilla, and something else that was distinctly female.
He felt her teeth gently graze his ear lobe. Her hands snaked between their bodies and she began to make quick work of the buttons of his shirt, tugging it free of the waistband of his pants before sliding it away from his chest.
He laid her back just long enough to lift the sweater up over her head before pulling her back against him. He loved the feel of her skin and longed to have every inch of it pressed against his own. With an expert hand he unfastened the clasp on her bra, while the other held her firmly in place against his chest. A low, sexy laugh bubbled up from her throat and he grinned boyishly at her before claiming her mouth again. She'd always chided him on just how many bras he'd had to remove to get that particular technique just right.
They let their tongues dance together as their hands began to search and explore, making sure all the things they loved were still in tact. He gently cupped her breast in his hand, rolling the nipple between his thumb and forefinger. She let out a breathy moan as her back arched, encouraging him to take the hard nub between his lips and tease it with his tongue.
She had already removed his belt and unfastened his pants and zipper. He inhaled sharply when he felt her hand take hold of him and begin softly stroking, making his already hard member ache to be inside her.
He laid her back on the floor once more and peeled her jeans down her hips and legs. Looking down at her, the anticipation of feeling her moving beneath him, of having that mile of leg wrapped tightly around his waist, was damn near more than he could bear. He lay down beside her and kissed her hard this time, his desire to take her growing with every second.
He felt her body tremble slightly as her hands dug into his hips and she pressed herself fully against him. He pushed the silky, navy thong she was wearing aside and his fingers sought out the silky wetness where her thighs met. He slipped two of his fingers gently inside of her. She reached down and pressed against his hand with her own, forcing his fingers deeper inside.
He felt her muscles begin to tighten their grip on his fingers and knew her climb had begun. He eased himself on top of her and settled between her legs. She took hold of him once more and guided him to her opening. He glided inside her slowly, and her legs came up to wrap around him. Her ankles pressed against his hips, urging him to go deeper. He held himself inside her; savoring the sensation of her velvety, wet heat wrapped around him, until he felt her hips begin to grind against him.
Their lovemaking was slow and clingy. He kissed her deeply until he could hear her breath coming fast and shallow. Her thighs tightened around his ribs, making him quicken his pace, his thrusts now deep and hard. He knew she was on the edge as he felt his own orgasm building. Just as he exploded inside her, she cried out, her fingers digging into his shoulders and her face burying into his neck to hide her moans.
He collapsed on top of her, and she kept her body wrapped tightly around his, her fingers stroking gently up and down his back. He lifted his head to look into her face. She smiled dreamily up at him, lifted her head to place the lightest of kisses on his lips. Then she pulled him back down to her, and he knew he didn't have to say a word.
* * *
The firelight reflected in the tears that threatened to spill down his face as he recalled the last time he'd been with her. He raked his hands roughly through his hair, trying to physically push the memories aside. But they stayed. They played out like a motion picture every time he closed his eyes. He knew he couldn't fight it, so he shut his eyes tightly, and kept them shut.
* * *
Christmas Eve. They were baking cookies and the kitchen counter was covered in flour from one end to the other, what little icing hadn't made its way onto the cookies now coated the breakfast table, and everyone was having the time of their life.
The phone rang, and she walked across the kitchen to answer it with a hand dusted with powdered sugar.
"Ma'am this is the frame shop at Michael's. We were able to get your order ready a little early. If you'd like to come pick it up we're going to be open for another hour."
He saw her eyes light up and a wide grin spread across her face.
"That's fantastic!" she replied. "I'm on my way right now."
She turned and hung up the phone then wiped her hands with a dishtowel before removing her apron.
"I have to go run a very quick errand guys. I'll be back before you know it."
"But it's Christmas Eve Mom and we haven't finished the cookies yet. Do you really have to go?"
"Tell you what," she said to the imploring faces looking up at her. "Why don't you grab your coats and come with me?"
Smiles broke out immediately all around and three flour coated little boys were stuffed into their coats. When he reached for his own jacket, she took it from him and placed it back on the hook.
"Sorry, but you're not invited," she told him. Then she smiled at him coyly and gave him a sly wink.
"Oh, I see how it is. Fine, go without me." Then he grinned back at her, placed a kiss on the tip of her nose.
"Okay guys, pile in," she said as she pushed her children out the front door. She turned back to him and placed a quick kiss on his cheek. "We won't be more than an hour tops. Love you." And she closed the door behind her.
When two hours had gone by, he called her cell phone, mildly annoyed that she had obviously changed plans, but got no answer. Three hours passed and he found himself more concerned than annoyed, and worried at what could be keeping them. Hour four had him pacing the floor, dialing her number every other minute, desperately wanting to hear her voice and know that they were okay. Then, five hours after his family had walked out, the doorbell rang.
He stared blankly at the front door. Something inside him was screaming at him not to answer it. Then the bell rang again. His feet felt like lead as he moved them across the floor. He placed his hand on the knob and turned. He opened the door to find two uniformed police officers standing on his front porch.
"Are you Mr. Allen Shaw?" the older officer with the salt-and-pepper hair asked.
"Yes I am," he replied. "What can I help you with officer?"
"Are you the husband of Victoria Shaw?"
"Yes." The word caught in his throat and he had to swallow hard against the bile rising up in his chest.
He saw the man's creased features soften, the look filled with empathy.
Don't say it.
Just stop talking and walk away.
"...I'm sorry to have to tell you this..."
Please don't say it.
"...but your wife and children..."
He didn't hear anything else. The voice inside him that had been screaming before now roared with an anguish that reverberated in every bone in his body. He fell to his knees as he felt the world as he knew it crumble beneath him. The officers helped him to his feet and guided him to a nearby chair.
"I'm terribly sorry for your loss Mr. Shaw," the officer said kindly. "One more thing though. I'm not sure how this survived, the car was such a crumpled mess, but we found it in the debris and thought you might want it."
The other officer pulled a canvas portrait in a heavy oak frame from just outside the front door. He turned it around and Allen Shaw found himself staring into the faces of his family. He recognized the picture. It was a portrait he himself had taken of them six months ago. She'd commissioned someone to paint it. The officer leaned it against the wall, and stepped back, not knowing what to do or say.
"We'll leave you alone now Mr. Shaw," the officer with the kind face said. "Again, you have our deepest condolences." Then they left, leaving him to the empty silence of his home.
* * *
The tears no longer threatened to fall. Instead, they flowed freely down his cheeks and he didn't even try to wipe them away. Three years had passed and the pain wasn't any less, he'd just learned to live with it. He looked up at the portrait that now hung above the mantel, then drained the rest of his scotch.
He glanced over at the presents he'd bought for them, wrapped and stacked neatly underneath the tree. Tomorrow he would take them to the shelter he had visited every Christmas for the last three, then he would go to his sister's house and put on a happy face for his nieces and nephews. But tonight belonged to them. Tonight he would go to bed and long for them, and wish, like he had so many times before, for just one more chance to see and hold them all again.
He went upstairs and climbed between the sheets. Her scent had faded from them long ago. But every night he pressed his face to her pillow hoping to catch the smell of vanilla.
One more day is all I ask. Just one more chance to see them. One more chance to tell her that she was everything to me.
He closed his heavy eyes, and drifted into a fitful sleep with the single thought lingering in his head. One more day...
* * *
"Daddy wake up! It's Christmas! Wake up!"
He grunted, opened one eye and peered around the darkened room.
Still dark out. I must be dreaming.
Then he felt a warm, soft body press up against his, caught the scent of lavender and vanilla.
"If we don't get up soon, I think they might explode."
Victoria's warm, silky voice, still thick with sleep filled his head.
His eyes flew open and every muscle in his body tensed as he waited for something, anything to wake him. Then he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"Come on sleepyhead. We can't keep them waiting much longer."
He sat bolt upright in bed, and turned to look into the long, tawny eyes of his wife. Her ebony hair was rumpled and a pillow crease was pressed into her cheek. He'd never seen her look more beautiful.
He gingerly touched his fingertips to her cheek, ran his hands across her shoulders and down her arms. He looked at her with a wide-eyed expression that had her returning a puzzled one.
Then he pulled her fiercely to him and kissed her hard. When he finally broke away, she looked up at him, her eyes slightly dazed from the display of affection.
"Merry Christmas to you too," she said.
He was about to say something when he heard the shouting from downstairs.
He leapt from the bed and tore down the stairs to find his boys staring greedily at the pile of presents that covered the floor in front of the tree. He dove for all three of them and gathered them all up in a hug so tight and hard that all three of them were begging to be let go.
"Allen what's wrong with you?" his wife asked from the foot of the stairs.
He walked up to her and gently put his arms around her waist, smiling broadly, his eyes swimming with unshed tears.
"Nothing...nothing at all," he laughed.
Then he kissed her again, so softly and tenderly that when he finally let her go she herself had tears in her eyes.
"Merry Christmas," he whispered to her. "I love you so much."
* * *
It was a perfect day.
The presents were unwrapped in record time, and breakfast was served in front of the tree so that everyone could eat while enjoying their new treasures.
A late morning snow had the ground covered with powder and he took the boys out to play in the back yard while she started Christmas dinner. They came in to be greeted by the smell of ham and hot chocolate.
All day he couldn't stop staring at any of them, couldn't believe they were here with him. He walked up behind his wife and pushed her hair aside to kiss the back of her neck. She laughed and elbowed him in the ribs, making him grin mischievously.
"Would you leave me alone already?"
He just laughed at her, and made his way back to the living room where the boys were watching a holiday movie on television.
After everyone was tucked in for the night, he sat with his wife on the couch in front of the fire. He held her close, listened to the sound of her voice as she talked to him about anything and everything.
The hour grew late, and her eyes grew heavy as the excitement of the day finally took its toll.
She stretched luxuriously beside him and he immediately felt his insides stir at the sight of her body arched and open.
"I think I'm going to turn in," she said. Then she stretched up and kissed him, letting her tongue flick across his lips before pulling away. "Could I talk you into joining me?"
He returned her kiss, his hands coming up to caress her face and tangle in her hair.
"Are you kidding? I've been waiting all day to get you naked."
She laughed and pecked him playfully on the cheek, then stood and began to walk up the stairs. Halfway up he grabbed her by the elbow and turned her around to face him. He stood incredibly close to her, then lowered his head to caress her neck with his lips. One arm came up to wrap around her waist and the other held on to the banister as he began to guide her body down to lie on the stairs.
She locked her legs, stopping their decent, and she laughed her low, throaty laugh.
"There is no way I'm doing this on the stairs."
"Why not?" he asked, as he continued his assault on her neck.
"You mean aside from the audience we would undoubtedly have...carpet burn wasn't on my Christmas list."
It was his turn to laugh. Then he took her hand and led her to the bedroom.
He began kissing her as soon as they were through the door. He wrapped his hands around her waist and held her back from him. He looked up into her eyes and began to slowly undress her, caressing every inch of her bare skin as it was exposed to him. When she was finally standing in front of him completely naked, he guided her to the bed and laid her down softly.
His mouth and tongue replaced his hands, and he kissed and tasted every inch of flesh on her body. He teased her nipples until they ached, buried his face between her legs and feasted until her body writhed with passion. Her skin glistened with the sheen of sweat that covered her, and her limbs quivered with tension.
She was begging him to take her, to bury himself inside her, and he was finally to the point that he could no longer deny himself the pleasure. When he slid into her, the craving for her that he had lived with for the past three years hit him like a wave. He began to pound her body hard, the desire in him so great he felt as if he would never be satisfied. He could feel all of the despair, loneliness, grief, sorrow he'd felt wash over him, and he poured it into her. He needed her, and he knew she knew it. He felt her arms and legs squeeze him tightly, felt her lips kissing any part of his flesh she could reach.
He buried his face in her neck as he drove into her harder still.
"Allen," he heard her gasp. "Allen, I love you. I love you."
He came with one last deep thrust, his body shuddering as he emptied himself into her. Then he laid his head on her shoulder, feeling her heart hammering against his chest. Her arms and legs trembled with exhaustion, but stayed wrapped around him, holding him close.
She began to stroke his hair, lightly kissed his forehead as he began to drift off to sleep with her still pressed beneath him. Just as he closed his eyes one final time he heard her whisper, "You can let go now Allen. You can let me go."
* * *
He awakened to the morning light streaming in through the window. He stretched out an arm only to find the sheets beside him cold and empty. But the heaviness in his chest was gone, and for the first time in three years he wanted to get out of the bed.
He went downstairs and brewed a pot of coffee, then stood staring up at the portrait of his wife and children. He climbed up onto the hearth and took it down off the wall. He traced the outline of her lips, ran his fingers along her oil-on-canvas cheek.