Disclaimer: I don't own anything, not making money with this
A/N.: Sorry, I had to repot this story, because there was one chapter missing and I was too stupid to just add that one. Thanks PariyAmy who betaed the whole story
Eight years ago – do you regret anything?
I walk through the deserted hallways of the building. Everyone was home by now. It was the peaceful time for being together with your family. My family was nearly complete at home, only one was missing. I enter the dark library. Only the lamps on the desks are switched on. The dark wooden furniture makes the whole room seem like a crypt. There are no students around. Most of them already left the beginning of the week – at least my students did. One is still there. He's sitting at one of the desks, absorbed in his work. I walk over to him. He doesn't even recognise me when I stay next to him.
"Didn't you forget something?" I ask him; panicking and confused eyes shoot at me.
"Dad? …Okay…right…" He says. I didn't mean to scare him like that. He takes some deep breaths to win back his composure.
"What are you doing here?" He asks me, unbelieving that I'm standing in front of him now. I can't believe he has really forgotten. This boy already starts to be like his Mom.
"Well, it's one day before Christmas…or well, you know Chrismukkah. My eldest son is at home, my youngest daughter and my wife. Only one is missing and I just wanted to make sure that you manage to come home in time, because I doubt your Mom would appreciate it, if you miss out her new traditional pre-Christmas-Chrismukkah-dinner." I tell him. My wife had invented this tradition when Seth had turned six and after we moved to Newport. It gives you some time only alone with your family. Then we had needed it. Christmas is awfully busy in Newport. And here? Well, it's not like we are having too many mandatory visits to make or invitations to hand out. In general it's only the five of us and Summer. Since we moved from Newport to Berkeley our life became much quieter and everyone appreciates that; and I know someone who does in particular.
"C'mon kid, next year is still some time left. I'm sure you can need a break." I tell him. He had turned back to his books again, as if I wasn't there.
"Just…this…one." He says, not looking up from his piece of paper. I tacitly agree and sit down in front of him. He had spread all his books and papers all over the desk. I doubt that the other students in his year are as hard working as he is. I fear he might overdo it one time. I don't have to wait for too long and he starts putting together all his papers and books.
"Are you finished?" I ask him.
"Uh…yeah…think so." He answers. He looks tired. He has dark circles under his eyes. I don't know what he's doing wrong. When Seth arrived from the east coast he looked better than ever.
"If not, I know someone who would likely lock up all your books, somewhere where you'll never find them again." I warn him. I don't want him spending all the vacations over his books. Hell, I'd like to spend some time with him again. Lately we haven't even seen him. He came home when we had already been in bed; although we only fell asleep when we finally heard him coming up the stairs and closing the door to his room. And he had already been gone when we got up. Well, I'm still better off than his Mom, because I still have the chance to meet him on campus, but his Mom hadn't seen him for a week. He stows all his books and writing pads in his bag and then gets up. I get up too and then we leave the building. A cold wind blows into our faces. Berkeley is a lot colder than Newport, indeed; but it's also a lot nicer than there. My son rubs his hands to make them warm. I put and arm around his shoulder.
"You know you don't have to work that hard." I tell him. He should enjoy his time as student and not waste every minute in the library.
"At least you should know how hard it is to meet all requirements for a scholarship." He tells me.
"Well, you don't need it. We'd support you as we'd support Seth." I tell him, notwithstanding the fact how proud it makes you when both of your sons have received scholarships. He only shoots his glance at me.
"And you know, no matter how many exams or coursework you'll fail, we'll always love you." I tell him. Sometimes he still isn't sure how this family-thing works. I think he just needs some more time to figure it out completely.
"Yeah…but you know…"
"You, and your never ending pride. I know. I hadn't been different in your age."
"But you complain about it."
"Well, you also know that I had someone who was distracting me enough." I tell him. "C'mon, wanna have a beer?" I ask him. He looks at me confused.
"And what about the…Christmas-Mukkah…whatever dinner?" He asks me.
"We still have a few hours. Don't worry I have planed everything and I know when we come home; I won't have too much from you. Your brother already complains the whole week and your Mom too. You should be prepared for them." I let him know and he offers me a lopsided smile. We enter the bar I used to go when I'd been a student. Nothing had changed. Even the decorations for Christmas are the same. I order two beers and nobody even dares to ask whether the young man next to me is already of age. We clink bottles and take a sip. I watch him carefully. It's awful how similar the boy is to his Mom and me. The few years he'd lived with us have had a huge impact on him.
"So, how's your Mom?" We hadn't been able to claim an injunction, thus his Mom still played a role in his – our lives. I know only too well that he doesn't like this idea.
"Well, I haven't spoken to her since graduation day." He states and a little sadness sways together with his determinateness. I thought he'd be over his Mom by now. Today it's going to be eight years since the fortunate occasions that bestowed our own Christ child on us.
"She'll get over it. Do you plan to visit her?" Graduation day had been awful. His Mom had thought he'd come back with her – start to protect her and probably feed her, now where he had the 'education'. He had told her he was going to go to Berkeley and implementing his dream. She had slapped his face and said that now, when he was the one with his High School Diploma he thought he was something better than her. Then she had left. Her statement had been right. This boy was and always had been much better than her and all others who called themselves his family. He never had forgotten about his Mom, no matter what she had done to him. I wished he was more like his Mom and stop caring about her. This statement had hit him hard that day and he'd trouble coping.
"She's still an alcoholic with drug addicted boyfriends." He only answers.
"So, this is a 'no'?" I ask him. I know that this topic is a red flag for him. All these features have done too much hurt and harm to him.
"I don't wanna spend Christmas and New Year in hospital or bed or whatever again." He only answers. I look at him. I know exactly what he's talking about. Strange that right today he's thinking about this day as well. This feeling of having this day in mind had never before that strong in my mind. I look at him and the development he had made is incredible. He's not longer the too small and malnourished boy with the way too big blue eyes – carrying such a dark expression. Well, his eyes are still huge and blue, but the rest had changed. He had grown quite tall and his figure would never reveal the little boy he had once been.
"You know that this is not going to happen anymore?"
"You forgot the Christmas tree accident last year." He reminds me, with a soft smile on his face.
"Oh my God, remind me to keep Seth far enough from the tree." I say and he smiles even a little more.
"I think he can't cause too much damage when he's close to the finished decorated tree, never again allow him to place it into the socket." He answers.
It had been awful. Seth had tried to carry the tree and the way he'd been swaying with the creature should've been alarming enough.
"Seth, shall I give you a hand?" Ryan had asked. He'd probably saw what was coming up to us.
"No, no…Now…where…Summer and …I plan to move together…I need to …go through the stages…of being…a man." He had answered. Ryan had only chuckled a little and left it with that. Probably thinking Seth would cry out for help any second – as he uses to do. He hadn't. He tried to put the tree into the socket, but he didn't manage to do so. He pulled the tree out again, but then lost his balance and fall backwards.
"Seth! What are you doing?" Ryan had jumped to his brother's help and had tried to prevent the tree from falling onto his brother and tried to grab the tree, but Seth already fell and the stump was raised into the sky, leaving an awful laceration on Ryan's forehead; which had needed several stitches. Fortunately Seth got off lightly with only a bruise on his butt. We had nearly spent the whole day in the ER to get both boys checked out. My wife and I had been a little afraid of how Ryan would react after such an event on Christmas. It was, or still is, an open secret that Christmas is a sore point for him. At the end, the boys sat in the back of the car teasing each other whose stupidity has lead to this event. Ryan had been supposed to stay in bed for quite a while, because of his concussion, but we'd settled him on the couch in the living room. It would have been awful if Ryan has had to spend Christmas in his room or even hospital.
"This was the worst headache Seth had ever caused me." Ryan says laughing. It's good to see him laughing about such accidents. It could have ended up differently.
"That's what you're saying now." I take another sip of my bottle. I sigh. I look at the man next to me, but I can't forget the boy he had been. It's the fact that I've been watching him going to school and coming back day after day and now? Now he's attending university. Now he needs us at least still a little; but soon he'll be all grown up and able to stand on his own feet, and then?
"I can't believe that's already eight years ago." I say.
"Quite a long time, what?" He says. I can't make out what he feels about that.
"Also for the case I might say too much now, but do you regret that day?" I look at him. He takes a long sip from the bottle. I can see that he's looking for the right answer.
"What do you want me to answer? Of course my family…my Mom…they still mean something to me, but…not as much as they …I mean they're my family but…I don't feel form them like that anymore. On the other hand…I don't want to miss any of the days I…had with you…well…you know…despite…well…" He says. I understand him and I'm glad that he's still that open to me.
"I think the time you're thinking about is one, we all would like to forget." I tell him.
"Can we just change the topic? I don't like this melancholic talk. It's Christmas, let's find some cheerful topics." He says. He's right and so we start to talk about university life.
"Okay, I think we should head for home. I think some people are anxious waiting for us." I say and then we make our way. I again put an arm around his shoulder while we're making our way home.