Desire Love and Passion
Author:Lesia Reid

chapter 15

It was Christmas Eve. The fashion show was over a month ago. They had barely spoken since. Willow planned on moving back to her house after the holidays. Though Edna told her she was always welcomed to stay, Willow wanted her own space again.

Her cousins were visiting for the holidays and the house was especially loud and festive. Her two youngest cousins, Haley who was sixteen and Faith, who was seventeen, had the biggest crush on James. He stopped by once, and they went on a giggle fest for almost an hour. Tonight she could tell he had arrived because she could hear them giggling and running down the stairs. She went out to see him.

“I thought you were spending Christmas with us,” she heard her grandmother say to James. They were in the kitchen.

“I would love to,” he said, “but I always spend it with my closest employees.”

“Willow is going to be so disappointed,” Edna said though she had never discussed the matter with Willow.

“I am sure she will understand,” James said. “I’ll come by on Boxing Day, if that’s okay.”

Willow withdrew and went back upstairs to her room. Though she had not discussed it with him or her grandmother, she was looking forward to seeing him Christmas Day. She had taken the time to put some thought into her present.

She heard a short rap on her door a few minutes later.

“Come in,” she said.

He came into the room, a big smile on his face. She got off the bed and went to him. They hugged and shared a short kiss.

“Are you staying?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

“No.”

“Oh.”

“It isn’t that I want to go,” he said. “You are here, with your family. Henry, Larry, Cassandra and the whole group of people that live at my house, they’re my family.”

“So bring them here,” Willow said. “We can have Christmas together. I’m sure Nana would love Henry’s skills in the kitchen, even yours.”

“She suggested the same thing,” James said. “But tomorrow is a day for family.”

“We are your family,” she said with a hand on her belly. “And I talk to Cassandra all the time, even Larry’s not been like the Grinch lately. We have the space. If you stay over here with me then everyone else can hole up in the guest house.”

“You’re making this difficult,” he said. “Good thing I know it’s only hormones talking. I have to go.”

“I got you a present,” she said. “You cannot open it before tomorrow night.”

She gave him the small box from her bedside table.

“I have your present here as well,” he said. “And since I have a time restriction, you cannot open it until tomorrow night, too.”

He gave her a square box, about three inches thick. She was disappointed as she guessed it was jewelry. She walked him downstairs and to the door. Her cousins giggled as he kissed her briefly on the lips and left.

“I thought he was staying for Christmas,” Kenneth said entering the room with a reindeer hat on and eggnog in his hand.

Willow never ceased thinking how much he looked like her father. She could imagine her father exactly like that. The thought brought her some joy and some sadness.

“He had other plans,” Willow said.

“Nonsense,” Kenneth said. “Mother, did you ask James to stay for the holiday?”

Kenneth went into the kitchen to talk to his mother. Willow went back upstairs. Christmas was a difficult holiday for her. It had always been that way since her parents died. She’d spent a lot of it since with Michel and his family, but it was not quite the same as a Harper Christmas. As a kid, they would come over on Christmas Eve, just like now when everyone was still on their way or was already here. The house would be filled with the joyful noise of people discussing politics or some crazy subject. The kids would be running around having discretely stolen sips of Edna’s eggnog that was laced with rum. Come midnight they would start ripping presents open. There would be mayhem and paper everywhere. Until now, Willow didn’t realize how much she’d missed that. She also didn’t realize how much she’d wanted to share that with James.

She curled up in the bed with her e-book reader. The noise downstairs and the smells from the kitchen lulled her to sleep.

Knocks on the door woke her. It was Christmas morning.

“Who is it?” She turned towards the door.

The door opened and a tall lanky figure walked in.

“Ambrose!” She shouted and got off the bed. She hugged her cousin fiercely.

“Oh my god,” he hugged her back. “You look so much like Auntie Akyini. I can’t believe it.”

“When did you get here?”

“In the middle of the night but I had to go help dad drag your boy toy back here.”

“What?”

“You look so radiant,” Ambrose said. “I couldn’t believe I was speaking to you on the telephone. I am so glad you are alive and back with us. And your guy is downstairs making breakfast.”

“What guy?”

“Oh come on,” Ambrose said. “You’re pregnant with the richest man in the world’s baby and you were going to let him spend Christmas all by himself.”

“He wasn’t alone,” Willow said. “He was with his friends and it wasn’t as if I didn’t ask. So where is this fiancée you told me about?”

“Downstairs with Marcus and mom.”

“Marcus is here?”

“In living color,” a voice said from behind Ambrose.

Marcus was the only child for her aunt Catherine. He was studying law at Harvard and she was certain her aunt told her he would not be there for Christmas.

Marcus muscled Ambrose out of the way as he gave his cousin a big hug.

“Welcome home, Claudia. I know Nana said you changed your name, but I have to get it out first.”

“Breakfast!” someone screamed from downstairs.

“I have to get dressed but, I’ll be down in a minute,” Willow said.

Willow expected James as Ambrose had already told her. She was surprised to see everyone she had lived with. Cassandra ran over and gave her a big hug as soon as she entered the dining room. She got hugs around from everyone and then James came towards her.

“Yes,” he said and pulled her into his arms. “Yes.”

He kissed her not caring that they were in a room full of people.

“You weren’t supposed to open that until tonight,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter. The answer is still the same. I will marry you.”

He pulled out the ring she had returned to him and slipped it on her finger, the room erupted into cheers. Willow had attached a simple note to the box. It read, you can have it all, Will.

And Christmas morning was as she remembered it as a kid; boxes and wrapping paper everywhere. She gingerly opened James’ present. It was not jewelry. On the top were pieces of paper that had been ripped in four. It was the document his attorney drew up when they found out she was pregnant. Underneath those papers, were several pages of various deeds. He had changed all the deeds for all the properties he owned to include her name. He had also signed his part of the documents. All they needed was her signature.

“Why?” she asked later when they were alone.

“You were right. A contract was not the right way to welcome a child into the world. Also, you said you could never live in my house. I wanted you to know you are always welcomed wherever I am. I did not want custody exchanges to be messy and uncomfortable. And since I am incapable of loving anyone else what do I have to lose?”

“I love you,” she said.

“I love you, Will. And I promise this time I’m not afraid.”

“No unresolved issues?” She asked.

“Not even with the ex.”

The roar of laughter woke her in the morning. James was not beside her. She showered and dressed quickly then headed downstairs. The laughter got even louder as she approached the media room where everyone seemed to have gathered. Above the sound of laughter, she could hear broken glass and the crunch of aluminum.

“You did not,” she said moving even faster.

“Remind me never to piss you off,” Ambrose said.

Willow could barely endure the sight of herself pounding furiously at the bright yellow vehicle. This must have been the fourth or fifth showing as someone was giving commentary. There was a shot of her climbing on the bonnet of the car with the bat. She did not remember doing that. The video really was hilarious. She looked seriously crazy when she came back with her cellphone camera.

“What did the message say?” Marcus asked.

“My lips are sealed,” James said. “I don’t want another Beetle destroyed, or worse. Let’s just say there will never be a cricket bat in our house…ever.”

The room erupted again in laughter and someone decided to start the video all over. James got up and joined her.

“I can’t believe you’re showing them this,” she said.

“Come on, you have to admit it is hilarious,” he said.

“I was mad at you. Shouldn’t you be remorseful or something?”

“I saw you laughing,” he said.

“I looked like a lunatic,” she said.

“If you’d had a ciggy hanging out one side of your mouth and a baseball cap on, then you would’ve really looked like a lunatic. It looks as if you’re just mad at the car. This is what families do, we embarrass each other. I’m just happy I’m not that car. Hey, I’ve been thinking. We should get married before the baby comes.”

“Okay. By the way, how did my uncle and my cousin drag you back here last night?”

“They didn’t have to drag, so to speak. I opened your present when I got home and I knew what it meant.”

“But I asked you to stay. I gave you the same offer.”

“When you made the offer I had no idea we would be engaged and I didn’t want to sleep under your grandmother’s roof in your room if we were not at the very least, engaged.”

“I’m pregnant with your child,” she said.

“Yes, when we were living under my roof. This is her house. I didn’t want to be disrespectful. That’s why I never stayed upstairs with you.”

“Well,” she said and turned towards him. “Since you’re going to be a gentleman, we’ll leave tomorrow so under our roof I can take my time remembering all the things I love about you.”

“I guess as long as we never have wine, candles, and condoms this experiment will go on forever.”