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This time last year, she was on her way to happily ever after, even if the events of her life didn’t fall in, what some would deem, the appropriate order. She was for once in her life happy, though happiness had the tendency to flee once reality settled in. They had it all; a beautiful son who shared the best of both of their features, family that supported them and each other but that was no more. What Crosby did to their family was unacceptable but sometimes Jasmine felt she too was somewhat responsible for what severed her and Crosby’s relationship.
Stepping out of her closet, Jasmine swung a flattering sleeveless red dress draped on a hanger in her right hand while scanning the floor for the perfect pair of heels, attempting to divert her mind from what was to come. She’d have to face Crosby and that pitiful, longing face he adorned when he looked at Jabbar… or her. She wanted to forgive him because she truly loved him but something deep down inside her would not allow her to. Perhaps it was because she was stubborn and controlling or perhaps it was simply her pride or maybe it was because of past disappointments in her life. She was always prepared for the ground to fall out from under her feet. Never let a man get the best of you, her mother’s words reverberated from the numerous times she spoke to her about the subject of her own absent, dead-beat dad. But Crosby was not her father. In fact he was a terrific father, always wanting to spend quality time with Jabbar, present during this pivotal time of their son’s life. No, Crosby was not her father but he was a man who made a terrible mistake and was obviously so very remorseful for his actions, holding on to a regret that caused him to sell his houseboat and purchase a fixer-upper in an attempt to win back her heart. Win back his family. She remembered when he asked her to come by and see the house. They were in the hospital parking lot and he pulled out her drawing from the back pocket of his jeans. The drawing she drew during their pre-marital counseling session. He held onto it all that time, perhaps trying to wrap his mind around how he would be able to make her ten year plan come to fruition. So why could she not let this go?
Staring at her reflection in the mirror, Jasmine did not see the woman she knew she was meant to be. What she saw was a bitter and lost soul, wandering around searching for perfection, knowing well that perfection did not exist. Not in anyone, least of all herself. She even engaged in the same act of betrayal with Crosby recently; sleeping with him after a night of music, dancing, drinking and reminiscing, completely disregarding the relationship she’d began with Joe, without an inkling of remorse. To make matters worse, it didn’t even feel like cheating because it was done with the father of her child.
A forced smile appeared while creamy red lipstick glided across her lips as she put the finishing touches on her face, wanting to look her best. If this was the season for wishes to come true and miracles to occur, she could only hope for one thing. Forgive Crosby once and for all; first in her heart, then with her mouth. Her smile faded as realism established itself once more. It was far more complicated than that and who was she kidding, really? Definitely not herself.
“What are you doing,” she spoke to her reflection, hoping the voice of reason deep within her would respond with words of wisdom. Was she really all out of hope? Shaking her head and inhaling deeply, she turned on her heel and headed out of her door and into her son’s room.
“You ready to go, little man,” she asked Jabbar, who sat on the side of his bed, legs swinging from side to side.
“Yep,” he said with a big bright smile. “Daddy said Santa left a HUMONGOUS present for me at Grandpa Zeke’s and I can’t wait.
“I bet it’s something you’ve always wanted,” Jasmine said, tucking her son snugly into his jacket. “Come on. We don’t want to be late.”
He sat on the back porch swing as cold winds swaddled his body, causing a slight shiver to run down his spine. It was seven thirty and Jasmine and Jabbar where as of now a no-show but he still held on to the hope that they’d be there. It was all he had. Hope that she would come around and see that he acknowledged the damage he’d done but that he was more than eager and willing to put two-hundred percent into making things up to her and to Jabbar. He wanted to be the other half of their unit in raising their son and aid her in holding down a household but that dream faded long ago… maybe even before he cheated.
The truth was Jasmine was a control freak. There was no doubt about that and he felt he was constantly being patronized for being himself. When she accosted him in the kitchen that day about how to properly load a dishwasher it was a bit much and possibly sent him slightly over the edge. Yeah, he wasn’t the poster child for responsibility but he wasn’t an idiot either. He knew that with a child and a wife came additional challenges and trying tasks. The fact was he was never really given a chance and his ideas were always shot down. Though none of this mattered when it came down to what really tore them apart. One night with Gaby and his world crumbled down like an imploded casino in Reno, to be replaced with a tall, dark and what some would call handsome resort called Dr. Joe, who was everything Crosby was not.
Jasmine and Jabbar deserved the very best and Crosby was willing to do whatever it took to ensure they received the very best. He meant what he said to Jasmine the day after they slept together. There was a huge part of him that was deeply in love with her but that part continuously hurt her and he honestly did not want that for her anymore. He’d kept his distance after that day, not engaging in any additional small talk between the exchanging of Jabbar. It was tough but he did it.
“Goose,” his mother stepped outside on the porch, approaching her baby boy. “It’s almost time for dinner. You comin’ in?”
“Yep,” Crosby said giving Camille his full attention. She opted to take a seat beside him and patted him on the knee, a gesture so small, always seemed to bring him some comfort and peace.
“You know it’ll get better. It always does,” she said staring out into their yard. “It’s difficult and it’s trying but life wouldn’t be life without the trials now would it?”
“Mom,” Crosby began turning his body towards him mother. “When did you decide to forgive dad? Why did you decide to forgive dad?”
“Oh, Goose,” Camille let out a deep sigh. “I turned a blind eye for many years, holding on because of you all. Jasmine is not like me. She’s strong willed which can be a good and bad quality. You can’t really compare the two of us.”
She faced her son and took his hand in hers. “But I will tell you this. You’re father made the decision not me. Your dad became present. More present than he’s ever been. He knew what it took to get me to come back around and he did that. That whole I hear ya and I see ya mantra finally penetrated that thick head of his and we became a united front. Now he still has his faults but he’s present and in turn has allowed me to be present in his life. I’m no longer ignored and for once in a very long time I feel like I really matter to him.”
“Mom,” Crosby began just as Jabbar ran from inside the house.
“Daddy,” he yelled as he leapt into Crosby’s arms.
“Hey dude,” he said squeezing his son tight against his chest. “You ready for the big surprise?”
“Yeah,” Jabbar said, smiling ear to ear. He reached over his father’s lap to give his grandmother a kiss on the cheek.
Crosby came to his feet and made his way back into the house and found himself face to face with Jasmine. She was stunning, as always. He briefly made eye contact with her and acknowledged her presence with a smile as he and Jabbar passed her on their way to the formal living room to retrieve Jabbar’s gift, the smell of lavender and chamomile from her shampoo lingering in his nostrils as he left her behind. It was awkward. He didn’t want it to be but the truth of the matter was that it was and there was nothing he could do about it.
He wanted a real skateboard, not one of those kiddie ones where the wheels barely moved but to his surprise the gift was much cooler than anything he could ever ask for. It was his very own dirt bike, shiny and bright blue and green, like the one he saw at the sports store a few months ago with his dad. He couldn’t believe his eyes when his dad rolled the bike from behind the large spruce.
“For me,” Jabbar asked wide eyed and stunned.
“Yep buddy. Just for you,” his dad answered with an equally wide smile. “I pulled a few strings with the jolly fat guy.”
“Tell Santa I said thanks,” Jabbar exclaimed leaping to hug his father’s neck.
Jabbar stood in complete shock starring at his new dirt bike. He had the coolest dad on the planet. He’d be the envy of all his classmates.
“You wanna hop on, get a feel for it,” Crosby asked scooting his son towards the bike.
“Sure,” Jabbar replied, jumping on the bike with ease.
He leaned in and gripped the handles of his bike, gleaming with sheer delight. This was the greatest gift he’d ever had. Almost. His smile faded briefly and his brow furrowed a little. He tried to fix his face before anyone noticed but his dad came and knelt down beside him.
“What’s the matter buddy,” his father asked. He looked a little worried so Jabbar decided to put on his smile again. He hated when his dad looked like that. He looked like that a lot lately. “You don’t like it?”
“I love it,” Jabbar said, his big bright smile reappearing. “It’s so awesome.”
“Good,” Crosby said, coming back to his feet.
Jabbar looked up at his dad before speaking. “I’m hungry. Is it time for dinner?”
“Yep. Grandma Camille was just trying to lasso us all in.” Jabbar hopped off of his bike and grabbed his father’s hand as they made their way to the dining room.
He tried not to think about his Christmas list but he just couldn’t help himself. He received everything on his list that he gave to his mom and dad but the one wish he asked for in his letter to Santa hadn’t come true yet and he very much hoped that it did. He wrote the letter at school and sealed it up once he got home and begged his mom not to read what he wrote. She sent it off the next day without saying anything to him about it, so he was sure she hadn’t read it.
He took his seat at the table in between his mom and dad, hoping that his wish would come true. He wished that his mom and dad lived in the same house and that they would get married. He was really looking forward to being in their wedding, even though they told him they were not going to have one but he believed his wish would come true. Hoped it would because hope seemed to be all he had.
She loved Crosby’s family just as much as she loved her own. Not once did they ever treat her differently, even after Crosby’s infidelity. She felt at home with them, like she really belonged. And honestly, she still wanted to be a part of the Braverman clan but often brushed that notion aside, storing it in the never-gonna-happen file.
She and Crosby ate in silence with the occasional ‘can you please pass me the gravy boat’ entering the conversation amongst the Braverman chatter and she intently watched as Crosby graciously and patiently attended to Jabbar’s every beck and call. She’d done a lot of observing that night. It melted her heart to see the two men in her life together. And her heart nearly sank when she saw Jabbar’s face when Crosby presented him with his Christmas gift. He was so happy and should be able to feel that way all the time. Maybe she could make this work. Maybe they could make this work.
All this time tugging on Jabbar’s emotions with “mom and dad are together” and now “mom and dad are not together” could have weighed heavily on the little one but he was a trooper. At least he kept up a façade. Jasmine often wondered if her pride was getting in the way of her son’s happiness. Was she depriving him of the one thing he wanted and needed most in his life because of her unwillingness to forgive Crosby?
“You alright,” Crosby finally broke the silence, staring at Jasmine with those piercing blue puppy dog eyes of his. He stuffed a big portion of au gratin potatoes in his mouth, chewed a bit, then swallowed hard. “You haven’t said a word to me tonight.”
“I,” Jasmine began, stuttering a little. “I’m fine. Thanks for having us over.”
“The thanks is all mine,” he replied with a sheepish smile. “Just glad you were able to come too. How’s Renee? She cook a big meal?”
“It was a quaint Christmas Eve dinner. She’s gone to visit my aunt Gracie in Los Angeles for Christmas so… I’m here.” She smiled and out of her discomfort snatched up her ice tea and took in a huge gulp.
“You know, maybe we should go and talk after dinner. Let Jabbar play with Max and Sydney for a little, while you and I catch up on some things?”
What did he want to talk about, she wondered? “Sure.”
He’d been impatiently waiting for the moment to talk to Jasmine about where he stood with her and their son, taking his mother’s word to heart. He was present and wanted to remain present in Jabbar’s life and hers. He knew Jasmine still loved him. He knew deep down that there was something in her that still loved him otherwise she would not have allowed him to remain in her place the night they slept together. They had been drinking but that was not drunken sex. Crosby felt that because of that he still had a chance and no matter how long it took, he would wait for that something to rekindle; The same spark that lead them to each other seven years ago at that wedding reception.
He skipped out of washing the dishes with his siblings, as was the ritual to speak with Jasmine on the patio. She met him out there, her shawl covering up her bare shoulders. In the dim light, not much was able to be seen but he’d dreamt enough about Jasmine as not to lose the image of her. He could pick her out of a pitch black room without a problem. After all, she was the mother of his son.
He gestured for her to take a seat next to him and turned to face her, studying how uncomfortable she really was. Her guard was up. He could tell by the way she sat up straight, shoulders back, direct eye contact and her jaw clenched every couple of seconds.
Attempting to ease the atmosphere, Crosby displayed his pearly whites before he began to speak, ever charming.
“I didn’t ask you to come out here to reminisce about what we had or re-hash the past. I’ve put it behind me. I’m happy for you and Jabbar and like I told you before I think Dr. Joe is a great guy and you deserve someone great in your life. I just want you and Jabbar to know that I’m not going anywhere. I have a commitment to you as the father of your child and to Jabbar as his dad to be forever present in his life and I fully intend to be that man. I just wanted to make that crystal clear.”
Jasmine only nodded in response but he could tell she was simmering on his words, as her jaw unclenched and she shuffled back in her seat, relaxing on the back cushions of the rattan sofa.
“And I want you to know that we need to always have an open line of communication between us at all times, for Jabbar’s sake. He’s been through a lot here in the last year and I want to make this as easy for him as possible.”
“Me too,” Jasmine replied. “Crosby, I’m sorry this didn’t work out for us.”
“Yeah, well, you can’t win ‘em all can ya?”
Jasmine smirked, “I guess not.”
“You ready to go back in,” Crosby asked, coming to his feet. “They’ll think we’re up to no good if we keep out any longer. There already at the back door listening.”
“I’m sure they are,” she said coming to her feet.
They walked together side by side until they reached the door. Crosby reached for the knob just as Jasmine caught him by the hand, clenching it tight in her own.
“Mistletoe,” Jasmine uttered breathily, staring into Crosby’s lit up eyes, dancing Christmas lights flickering on in off reflected in the blue irises.
Crosby smiled and gently leaned in for a tiny kiss, taking in as much of Jasmine as he could in that brief moment, with the hope that there would be more of that to come.
“Jabbar,” Sydney called out, tugging at her cousin’s arm but he wouldn’t budge. He remained in place, peering over the back of the sofa and staring out of the window. Swinging his arm loose from Sydney’s grasp, Jabbar turned to her and motioned for her to go away.
“I’ll be there in a second,” he replied as she pouted and stamped away.
Did he really see what he thought he’d seen? He rubbed his eyes with the backs of his hands and tried to zoom in, squinting his eyes to make out what the figures in the dark were doing. Were they kissing, he wondered? The door suddenly swung open and his parents came through, hand in hand smiling, while his mother wiped the corners of her mouth. They approached Jabbar, who pretended to be looking elsewhere as they drew nearer.
“Hey little one,” his father called out to him. “You wanna show your mom your dirt bike?”
“Yeah,” he replied with a smile, showing all of his teeth.
Jabbar hopped down, ran around the sofa and planted himself in between his parents, taking each of them by the hand and lead them to the formal living room. Maybe Santa did get his letter. Maybe it would take some time for Santa’s magic to work on his parents but from where he sat, it looked like it might work and that’s all he could hope for.