Christmas was upon them again. Michael had invited his whole team to his home for a feast to end all feasts. They had begun their ritual poker nights, but had also added game nights for the inclusion of all. The children enjoyed being able to have each other sleep over, which gave one parent or the other time to themselves.
Justin had begun circulating again, often bringing a date with him. Some were coworkers. Surely they would understand the travails of police work and not demand him to be more careful. And, for a time, he seemed happy.
But, now, he was beginning to get a case of melancholy. Or perhaps he had been successfully hiding it with his usual bravado. Who could truly tell? Michael had known that something was eating at his friend but had no idea exactly what. Was it his job? His current marital status? Or was he still missing Evangeline?
It could be almost anything. Or nothing at all. It was, however, causing a problem. There were days that the Cajun was irascible. Almost unsociable.
Justin entered the front door and sat down upon the couch. Michael went into the living room and sat down in the easy chair. After a few moments, he looked over at his friend. “Want to talk?”
Justin looked up, surprised. “Never t’ought you to be one o’ dem people who talked much of feelin’s.”
Michael smiled sadly. “I do when they affect my friends.”
Justin put his head in his hands. “God, I miss ‘er, Mike. More dis time o’ year dan any other. This was our favorite time o’ year. We did special t’ings around Christmas. Now…it ain’t de same.”
Michael looked down. His friend had a point. “No, Justin, it isn’t the same. It hasn’t been for a long time.It probably never will. I agree. But we all have to move on somehow. Not let it get us down. Sure, it’ll hurt for a long time, but that shouldn’t stop us from living.”
“I know, Mike,” the Cajun replied quietly, “but I–I don’ know how t’ git past it all. I try, but it’s still dere. I wan’ t’ find happiness again, Mike, really I do. I wan’ t’ give the kiddos a new mama, but I can’t git past this.”
Michael rose and went to his friend, placing his hand on his shoulder. “We all understand, Justin. We know you struggle with this. Let us all help. We may not totally understand what you are going through, but we are here for you.”
“Merci, Mon Ami,” came the acknowledgement, “I am sho’ grateful for your being there fo’ me. I know we all fam’ly, dat ain’t de problem. It’s dat I still love ‘er.”
“You will always love her, man,” Michael stated, “that won’t change. She was a big part of your life. Hell. She was a big part of all our lives. We loved her just as much as you did.”
“I know, Bro,” the Cajun replied solemnly, “I jus’ wish it’d git easier. Not hurt as much.”
The hotel room at the resort was nice and cozy. Misty was enjoying herself. It had been the best holiday she could remember. Great food, great drinks, hot nights, and learning how to ski was a blast. She had caught on rather quickly. Each day, she got batter until she was finally able to master the expert slopes.
She was a natural! But then, she believed that most athletic things came naturally to her. At least, she liked sports and loved to exercise. Perhaps she had done some sort of sport when she was younger. Gymnastics, maybe?
It really didn’t matter. All she knew was that this had been the most wonderful gift ever. She loved skiing. And she was spending quality time with her beloved Morgan. It made it all worthwhile.
Morgan watched Misty as she flew down the slopes. He was happy to see her enjoying herself. That had been his intent. To let her enjoy herself.
She was finally letting her guard down and having fun. And he was having fun watching her. But, then, he had fun just being with her. There was never a dull moment.
He had found ways to get her to relax enough to allow her sense of humor to emerge. She could be quite the little riot. Quirky, her wry humor tended to be unpredictable. She would come up with something hilarious seemingly out of the blue. And it endeared her to him.
Arlene sat the Ham on the table before the guests. She had spent all morning preparing this feast. She hoped it all turned out as it was supposed to. It should.
Michael rose and said grace, then began cutting the ham. “Who wants to be served first? Danforth? Reilly? Justin?”
Instead, he began taking the plates of the women and children first. Then, he served Justin, Reilly and Danforth. His plate was last. he sat down as the potatoes, green beans, yams and gravy began their trips around the table.
He smiled. Everyone had begun to enjoy the feast. He only hoped that they could continue to do these sort of gatherings. After all, they were all like family. And family did things together.
Even Justin was beginning to lighten up and enjoy himself. Maybe their little talk had done some good. Michael hoped so. He cared too much to see Justin that depressed.
“Remember to save room for dessert,” Arlene reminded, “Sasha and I spent all morning on some very special desserts.”
“And I won’t be too happy going home with any of my famous sweet potato pie,” Sasha interjected, “I don’t think Marv will be too keen on eating pie every day until it’s gone.”
Danforth smirked. “Oh, I don’t know, Love. I might.”
“Sandra might take some off your hands,” Reilly remarked, “she knows how much I love sweet potato pie.”
“Steve,” his wife began, “You would eat it every day if you could. The poor sweet potato farmers would have a tough time keeping enough sweet potatoes in the stores to satisfy your demand.”
Laughter erupted from Justin. For the first time in three years, the small group heard him laugh. He looked over at Reilly. “Mon Ami, dere’s other t’ings dan sweet potato pie.”