“Feliz navidad, feliz navidad, feliz navidad, prospero año y felicidad.”
I roll my eyes and look out the window. Yeah, this Christmas was going to be amazing and I say that sarcastically. There is absoloutly no way this Christmas will even be good, let alone amazing.
Anita bounces on the seat next to me, her little feet tapping to the music. I reach over and smash the power button and the music stops. Anita stares up at me with her wide brown eyes, her mouth quivering.
“Hannah,” Dad says without looking away from the road. “Turn the music back on.”
“It’s a stupid Christmas song that’s getting annoying,” I argue.
“I want to hear the rest of it!” Anita protests.
“Shut up,” I snap at her. “You don’t get a say in this.”
“Hannah May,” Dad warns, his voice hard.
“Fine,” I mutter. I push the button with a little more force than necessary and the music starts back up again. Anita instantly starts dancing to it and I feel like jumping out of the moving vehicle.
You might be wondering what my problem is. My problem, well… it’s moving. It’s the day after Thanksgiving and we’re moving to the middle of nowhere in North Carolina. Just weeks before Christmas and my parent’s are doing this to me.
The song switches to Jingle Bells and Anita starts to sing along in her high, little kid voice. Sighing, I slam my head back against the headrest.
“We’re almost there,” Dad says, sensing my frustration.
Anita stops to singing to ask a question. “How long?”
“Ten, fifteen minutes,” he says.
At least we’ll be there soon. Fifteen minutes seems like nothing compared to twelve hours.
Nichole: How r u doing
Hannah: Almost there
Nichole: cool call me when u can
Hannah: will do
“Do you think it’ll snow?” Anita asks, scooting forward in her seat.
“No,” I answer, slipping my phone back into my jacket pocket. “It’s North Carolina, not
New York. If it does snow, it’ll melt pretty fast.”
“When I lived here, we just got a lot of ice,” Dad says. He made a turn to the left and continued. “Did I tell you I used to live here when I was younger?”
Yes, a thousand times. I want to say but I know he won’t appreciate it.
“Yes,” Anita answers for me. “Over and over again.”
“I loved this place. So will you,” he smiles.
Anita giggles like a little kid at Christmas and wiggles in her seat. “I can’t wait!”
I look out my window and begin to think. It’s not okay that my parents can just uproot the whole family at a moment’s notice and move to the bottom of the United States. I had a life in New York, friends, school, I had it all. But I guess that means nothing to them.
Dad slowly applies the brakes and turns into a gravel driveway. The house before me is amazing. It’s set back off the road, surrounded by woods on two sides. The grey-blue color of the siding is a soothing color, instantly welcoming me. Past the woods behind it, I see a few black and brown cows grazing and a smile spreads across my face.
This could be okay.
It’s a two story house with a front porch that’s the length of the front of the house and a back porch that’s about twenty feet off the ground that wraps around the side and back of the house. Perfect white railings wrap around the front porch, a sturdy oak door, and a log bench off to the left of the door.
“It feels like home,” I whisper.
I jump out of the moving van and walk up the stone pathway that leads to the front porch but stop before stepping up. I reach out and touch the railing. A sensation goes through me. Home.
“A lot has changed,” Dad says, walking up next to me. “But it still feels like home. What’cha think?”
I think for a minute, still smiling. “I like it. It feels… right.”
“Good,” he nods and steps up onto the porch. Sliding his key into the lock, he pushes the door open and motions for me to enter.
I slip my shoes off before I step inside. The first thing I see is the stairway that leads up to the second floor. There are four steps, a landing, and then the stairs take a turn to the right, and led up, out of my sight. I feel coldness slipping through my socks and look down to see a white stone tile. It’s cracked in a few places, adding even more beauty to the foyer.
“Go look upstairs,” Dad says, propping the door open. “You room is the first one on the left.”
I run up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Where all this joy and happiness came from, I have no clue, but I am very excited. I open the white door and survey the room. White carpet, two windows, pink walls, and a dormer. It’s bigger than any room we had back in New York!
I reverently enter and stand in the middle of the room. It’s so pretty. The room seems so light and cheery as the sun filters through the windows. I laugh out loud and pull my phone out from my pocket. Opening the camera, I snap a few pictures of the room and send them to Nichole. I run back down the stairs and outside to take more pictures of the house.
Nichole: That’s beautiful!
Hannah: I know!!!! I love it!
Nichole: What’s not to love about it? It’s giant and magnificent.
Hannah: :D Gotta go, ttyl
I slide my phone into my back pocket and jogged back into the house. Anita was standing in the middle of the foyer, arms wrapped around her stuffed teddy bear, smiling.
“Isn’t it nice?” she asks, her voice full of wonder and amazement.
I nod. “Yes, it’s…”
Someone knocks on the door frame and we turn around to see a boy about my age, dark hair meticulously messy as if he had spent hours getting each spike in place. His caramel eyes meet mine and they shine brightly with recognization.
“Almost perfect,” I say, the smile fading from my face.
“Hey, Hannah,” he says, nodding at me. “Mind if I come in?”
“Who is he?” Anita whispers.
“Jax Walker, the devil himself,” I growl. Instinctively, I pull Anita closer to my side.
“It’s nice to see you too,” he smiles his annoying smile.
I glare at Jax, unable to believe my eyes. This person, who had disappeared four years ago without any explanation, had the gall to show up here, on my front porch!
"I'mma have to ask you to leave," I say, forcing some kindness into my voice. "We're rather busy right now."
"That's why Mom sent me over. To help you unload the truck and to also tell you she's making some pizza to bring over for dinner," he looks down at Anita who is clinging to my leg. "Last time I saw you, you were just a baby!"
"She was two," I snap. "A toddler, not a baby."
"Potatoes Pototoes," he shakes his head. "Anything I can carry upstairs?"
"Hannah, who is this young man?" Dad asks, walking up to the house with a few boxes in his arms.
"Here, let me get some of those," Jax says, grabbing two of the boxes.
"Well hey, Jaxson! It's been a while," Dad exclaims.
That's an understatement.
"Yeah, it has been. Hanny and I were just talking about that," He looks at me out of the corner of his eye but I keep my face neutral. Or at least I think I am.
Hanny is my nickname that only my friends can use. You aren't a friend so don't call me that.
"Hannah must be happy to see you!" Dad smiles at me.
"Totally," I say sarcastically.
"Speaking of which," Dad shifts the remaining boxes in his arms and hands one out to me. "This one goes upstairs to your bedroom along with the ones Jaxson has."
"Lead the way!" Jax says as he nods towards the stairs.
I reluctantly peel Anita away from me and reach out for the box. WIthout looking at Jax,
I walk up to the stairs. I hear the sound of him following me but I don't want to look at him, let alone talk to him.
We reach the bedroom and I drop my box in the middle of the floor and turn around to leave. Jax grabs my arm, stopping me.
"What?" I say, irritated.
"You're still mad at me," he says, stating the obvious.
"Oh, no way! How could you ever get that impression? Of course, I'm still mad at you, you idiot! We were best friends for several years and then one day you stopped talking to me. No explanation, no text message to explain or say sorry, you just disappeared!"
"You're definitely mad at me," he mutters.
I roll my eyes.
"What can I do to fix it?" He asks, about to run his hand through his hair.
"Careful, you might stab yourself on those spikes," I yank free of his grasp and head towards the stairs.
"Hannah, I'm serious. I was going through a rough time and I didn't want to burden you with it," he sounds dejected, depressed, sorry.
"More like you didn't think I could handle it!" I turn around and yell at him. "You didn't think I could help you because I was a girl and couldn't relate to any of it!"
"I'm not sexist," he defends, looking taken aback. "I didn't tell anybody, not even my
Mom. Do you think I could put more on her after Dad's death?"
"No," I shake my head. "But I could have at least gotten a text message."
"I'm sorry," he says, looking deflated.
"It's too late, Jax. Four years too late," I turn and leave, not wanting to see him.
Unfortunately, he's helping us unpack so he's gonna be around for a while longer. I try my best to steer clear of him but I know it's kind of pointless. He lives next door. I'm going to have to get used to seeing him.
We've finished unloading the boxes and I quickly scurry down to the side of the house. There's a sliding glass door that leads to a living room and a blue door next to it, leading to a smaller room. Across the gravel driveway, I see a dirt mound covered on two sides by ivy vines. Up and over the mound is a pathway made from where someone cleared the ivy.
I need to clear my head so I decide to go for a walk. I walk up the hill and follow the path. It leads to the edge of the woods, the path cutting through a thorn patch and up to the top of our property.
Up here, there are three fence posts, forming a corner. I step up onto the lower bar of the fence and hoist myself up onto the post. I sit here, looking over into the farmer's field, watching the cows graze peacefully.
"It'd be nice to be a cow," someone says behind me.
Startled, I look to see who it is. "What do you want, Jax?"
"Nothing, just wanna talk," he answers, climbing up on the fence post next to me. "Ya know, you could hear me out for once instead of yelling at me and walking away."
"And you could have trusted me," I retort.
"Look, I'm sorry, I really am," he looks me in the eye.
I look away. "Sure."
I cut him off. "It's Hannah."
"Hannah, can you let me explain?"
"You have one minute, you better start talking," I say.
He begins. "After Dad died, I stopped believing in God. I was raised in church, you know that. I've grown up hearing everything about how God answers prayers and everything works out for good but when Dad died, it seemed like God had turned his back on us. Every night, I'd lay in bed, listening to Mom crying herself to sleep and I couldn't stand it anymore. I hated God. I wanted to do something to get back at Him. I was bitter at the world, Mom, God... you. "I got in with the wrong crowd at school and several nights, I was brought home by the police. Mom buried herself in her work as a way to cope with her feelings or whatever so I was alone at home most the time. I was mad at her for caring for her work more than she cared for me. I hated the school for making me waste so much time of my day doing nothing. I was mad at you and Nichole for not understanding."
"We couldn't understand because you never told us," I say gently.
"I know. And the funny thing is that you asked several times but I never told you. I wanted to reach out but I guess I thought no one would be able to understand," he bites his lip and looks down at the ground.
Silence envelopes us for a second.
"What exactly did you do to be brought home by the cops?" I ask.
"That's all behind me, Hannah. Just accept my apology?" He looks at me with hope in his eyes.
I jump down from the fence post before I answer him. "Nah. I like being mad at you. But... I'll forgive you. For now."
"Thanks," he smiles, jumping down to join me. He holds his hand out for a handshake.
"Truce?" I look at him warily before shaking it.
We walk back towards the house and I feel kind of happy. It's nice to have my friend back but it still feels odd. Like he didn't tell me everything or he's just doing this to appease his Mom.
"How's Nicks?" he asks, referring to Nichole.
"Still as mad at you as ever," I answer.
"You women are so petty!" he laughs.
"No, we just have good memories! And stop being so..."
"Sexist?" he finishes, his voice high as he tries to mimic me.
"No! So boyish!" I laugh, smacking him playfully.
I stop him, sobering as I do so. "Jax, you do anything to hurt me or my family again and this truce will be broken in a New York minute."
"I can tell you're from the big city," he says. "But that's totally fair."
"Good," I turn back to the path and try not to think about what Nichole will say when she finds out I'm talking to Jaxson Walker again.
"You what?!?" Nichole yells into my ear. "With who?"
"I talked to Jax Walker," I repeat for what seems like the fiftieth time. "Today. He's my next door neighbor."
"Girl, you have to move!" she exclaims. I smile as I imagine her flinging her hands around as she talks. "He's bad news, you know that!"
"We have a truce, it's cool," I say. I arrange my pillows on my bed and collapse onto them. "He does anything stupid to us again and I get to be mad at him forever."
"You know that boy better than anybody else. You know he's gonna do something stupid!" she yells.
"Nicks, calm down. It's fine," I assure her.
She sighs and I know she's done ranting.
"You know what you're doing," she says.
"I do," I say. "And I guess it's nice to have someone to call a maybe-friend in a new place."
"More like a Frenemy. He's nice sometimes and mean the others!" her voice fills with realization. "He's a terrible person! He's playing you!"
"Nichole Waters! Just... stop. He's changed... I think. He's different... maybe," I know that was lame but... what can I say? I think he really has changed.
"That was really convincing," she sighs, unappreciative. "Look, if you're sticking up for him, you do what you want with him. But let me know all the deets, especially if he has any cute friends."
"Oh my, Nicks, you're terrible," I laugh, relieved. This is the Nichole I know, not the one who yells my ear off for almost an hour. "But if there are, I'll get you some visuals."
"Thanks, Boo!" she says, a smile showing in her voice. "Hope your first day of school goes well for ya."
"Me too," I say, raising my eyebrows. "Talk to ya later!"
"Same," she pauses. "Lova ya, girl."
"Love you too," I hang up and lay my phone down on the floor next to my mattress. We weren't able to get my bed set up so I'm just sleeping on my mattress on the floor. I sigh and lay down, pulling my blanket up to my chin.