Three Roads Chapter 60: Andie MacDowell Never Lies
Eric waited patiently as the elevator creaked dangerously as it rose the four floors of the Sociology Department building.
"Come on!" Eric said excitedly as the elevator sounded, notifying him that he had reached his floor. He was out of the elevator before the doors fully opened and he raced down the hallway to the office that Cooper was working in. He carefully looked into the office and saw Cooper talking on the phone. Cooper motioned for him to come in as he helped the caller. Eric fidgeted as he waited, causing Cooper to smile. After what seemed like several minutes, but was only a minute at the most, Cooper ended the call.
"Do you have to pee or something?"
"What? No...You won't believe this!"
"What won't I believe?"
"My mother is coming over for Christmas! She just called me and said that she couldn't imagine spending Christmas without her son!"
"Wow, that is amazing. Good for her."
"What?" Eric said immediately his face dropping.
"Nothing, I'm happy for you. I'm glad she's coming over. It'll be nice to have all of our families there."
"Are you ok?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"You just don't seem...surprised."
"I am. But I also like to believe in the best of people and I was pretty confident that she would be there. She does love you."
"Then I bow down to you, cause I didn't think she was coming, but this so amazing."
Eric was too excited about his mother's change of mind to take on about Cooper's odd behavior, so he let it go, "Anyway, I'll pick them up probably mid day Christmas eve and take Jamie out or something."
"Sounds like a plan. I found out good news too today." Cooper said wanting a change of subject.
"What's that?" Eric said disappointedly.
"I can graduate this spring."
"Yep. I've got 4 classes to take next semester to complete everything. Kind of crazy."
"I'm getting pretty close too, I should make an appointment to check."
Cooper nodded, "You really should. You better hurry we're two days away from the end of finals."
"Time's just flying by isn't it? By the way you look really cute in your Santa hat." Eric smiled.
Cooper had been wearing it almost continuously for the last two weeks, "Thanks. More people should be in the Christmas spirit."
"Well, I certainly am now. I'm gonna go see if I can catch my advisor, you're off in an hour right?"
"Yep, I'll see you here."
"Are you doing anything for Christmas?" Jack asked suddenly as he and Tim watched television.
"Oh, I'm probably just going to stay the night at my house or Tati would hate me forever and then probably dinner with just the three of us."
"I see." Jack said quietly. He waited for Tim to ask him what he was doing, but when it became clear that Tim was not going to ask, Jack cleared his throat, "I'm not doing anything."
"You're not doing anything with your friends you've been hanging out with so much?"
"No, they're all going away for Christmas."
"What about your dad?"
"Don't know, don't care."
"I need to check with my dad first just to make sure it's ok, but it shouldn't be a problem, you can join my family if you'd like."
"That'd be fantastic! Thank you." Jack said leaning over and giving Tim a kiss.
"I said I have to check with my dad first."
"I know, but your dad sounds like a cool guy."
"Is your mom coming over?"
Tim shrugged uncomfortably, "I'm sure she will at some point to drop off presents for Tati. And you don't always have to bring my mother up like that. I've talked to her a few times since then and the world has ended."
"Yeah, but you guys don't really have a relationship."
"Uh huh and you don't have one with your dad, but that's by your own choice."
"Can we change the subject?"
"Please." Tim said.
"I just wanted to say that I really appreciate you being there for me. I know I can be a little difficult at times..."
"That is an understatement."
Jack rolled his eyes playfully, "I appreciate you letting me stay here and being nice to me even though sometimes I can tell that you don't want to. You put up with me which is more than I can say for a lot of people."
"You don't always make it easy, but you're welcome."
Jack smiled, "Have you thought about any new year's resolutions?"
Tim laughed, "It's not even Christmas yet, and I don't normally make them because I never keep them."
"Well I've already decided one. I want to go out more."
"As if you haven't been already."
"No no I mean branching out more. I basically hang out with the people I did on campus just in college. I want to meet new exciting people and I want to lose my virginity."
"What's wrong with that?"
Tim scoffed at him, "You can't plan to lose your virginity. It happens when it happens. What about waiting for the right guy to come along?"
"Your first was Toby right?"
"And are you ok with that?"
"With only having been with one guy like that? It doesn't bother me."
"No, I meant with Toby being that one guy."
"Yeah. I'm glad it was him. Obviously, it didn't work out, but not everything is supposed to last forever."
"Well, I want to get over with already. Who knows how much longer I'll be on Earth."
"Don't say things like that." Tim scolded him.
"I'm serious. You don't ever get feelings like that? Like something bad is going to happen to you?"
"Not really no."
"I can't believe they let us out so close to Christmas." Joey complained as he tapped his fingers idly on the desk.
"I know. Finals are done Friday and Christmas is Tuesday it's ridiculous," Richard agreed, "but I don't mind it that much."
"Cause I spend half the day with my mom and half the day with my dad. It makes me miss before they got divorced when we were a happy family."
"I haven't seen either of my parents in years and I don't care too," Joey said, "David and I usually sleep in and open presents whenever we get up and then make a nice dinner."
"You don't ever wish your parents were around?"
Joey shrugged, "In a perfect world sure, but it's not and even when I lived in their house, it wasn't like I was there to them, so no. What my brother and I do works for us."
"You never really said why you don't get along with your parents."
"I don't like living in the past, but to make a long story short they never abused me or anything, they just never really took the time. I don't think they ever really wanted children. So when David became of age, we moved out. He didn't mind and neither did my parents so..."
"I didn't mean to pry." Richard said.
"It's ok...Chase hi."
"Hey. Am I interrupting?"
"No," Richard said, "I was just about to leave." That wasn't true, but Richard felt the need to let Joey and Chase talk by themselves.
"No need," Chase said putting up the hand that wasn't holding a gift, "I just came to drop this by...for you." He motioned to Joey as if the clarification was necessary.
Joey was genuinely surprised, "Wow...thanks. I didn't get you anything."
"It's not necessary. Um...I'll give you this gift under one condition."
"And that would be...?"
"You promise not to open it until Christmas day."
Joey laughed, "Ok, I can do that."
Chase handed the gift over and then stood around awkwardly while Joey stared at the package and Richard sat in the corner silently smiling.
"So um...Merry Christmas and I'll speak to you soon."
"Yeah...thanks again." Joey said patting the package.
Richard nodded goodbye as Chase walked out the door and then he turned to Joey with a goofy smile on his face, "Joey has a boyfriend."
"Seriously, that was kind of cute. He was so nervous."
"Probably because you were over there smiling like a dufus."
"I offered to leave."
"Well when you and Brian say your goodbye's I'll be eavesdropping just like you were."
Brian was relieved to be done with his last final. All he wanted now was a huge hamburger from his favorite eatery on campus. He ordered, and walked around the nearly empty seating area when he saw a familiar face.
"Hey, mind if I sit."
"No," Jon said motioning to the chair, "have a seat."
Jon closed the textbook in front of him, "Pretending too. I just didn't want to study at home. I get distracted too easily."
"I'm so glad to be done. I just want to go home, see my family, and not think of school for a long while."
"And not see your boyfriend?"
Brian gave him a funny look and Jon tried to put an innocent look on his face, "What? I thought you wanted to break up with him."
"No, I said I just didn't know how I was supposed to feel. This is like my first relationship. It's normal to question I think."
"Maybe, but it's barely been two or three months and the excitement has already worn off; that's probably not a good sign."
"You seem to have all this knowledge about relationships, why aren't you in one?" Brian said testily.
Jon smiled, "Do you not remember my whole speech about the hunt?"
"You and Eric used to date once right..."
"Why do people always bring that up? I'm not an asshole you know. Most of the people I seek are aware of what's going on. I liked Eric."
Jon's jaw visibly tightened but he recovered quickly, "If you call a few drunken make out sessions liking someone then...ok sure I liked Tim."
"Sorry...I just felt like you were making fun of my situation." Brian said.
"I wasn't. Just trying to get straight to the point. But this break will be good. If you miss him, then you know you should stay around, if not...well then you know what you have to do."
Brian sighed, "Yeah, you're right."
Toby spotted his car in the parking lot and smiled. Done with another semester, he was looking forward to kicking back for most of the break. The tennis season would be starting up quickly soon after and he was determined to keep in good physical and mental shape. He heard loud giggling as he turned the sound back on his cell phone. He looked up to see Bliss and Melinda a few cars away from his. They chest bumped and Toby couldn't help but laugh. He called out to them and they waved.
"Are you done too?" Bliss yelled.
"Yes, I am."
"Woooooooooo!" She screamed as she ran towards him. He braced himself for impact and found himself caught up in giggles as he took Bliss in his arms. Melinda walked over to join them and he was silently thankful that she also didn't try to leap in his arms, "When are you leaving to go home?"
"Half an hour. All my stuff is packed, I just need to go get it from my apartment and then it's about a two hour drive home." Bliss smiled.
"And you Melinda?"
"I don't even know where my suitcase is."
Bliss laughed, "You should get on that."
"Why? I only need a plastic bag or two if it comes to that. The holidays aren't about clothes, it's about getting your eat on!"
"Ain't that the truth." Bliss nodded.
"Yes, I can't wait," Toby said, "It'll be great to have all of our families there."
"Too bad Eric's mom isn't coming." Bliss said sadly.
"No, she is. She changed her mind all of a sudden."
"Oh, good for him."
"I was gonna say," Melinda interrupted, "What kind of woman wouldn't spend Christmas with her kid?"
Both Toby and Bliss shrugged, "Well, I need to go or I'll never find my suitcase."
"Oooh, give me another hug." Bliss squeaked as she put her arms around Melinda.
"I'll call you...and what about you? When do your parents get in?"
"Early on Christmas Eve. My grandmother has already put a lockdown on the kitchen when she comes. Cooper's family is coming in the day before mine and I don't know when Eric's mom and Jamie are coming over since she just decided to come."
"That sounds like so much fun! Well Merry Christmas and I'll see you in a few weeks! We should all go out dancing or something."
Toby nodded, "We'll make plans after the break."
*****A FEW DAYS LATER*****
Eric sleepily exited his bedroom and stumbled to the bathroom. He'd lived in the house long enough that he could successfully navigate most of it with his eyes closed. The cats were usually smart enough to run when Eric was stumbling in their direction, but every so often his own cat, Stevie, would give a hell raising meow because Eric had accidentally stepped on some part of her body. After relieving himself, he heard Christmas music playing softly from the living room. His mouth fell open when he got his first peak of the room before it fully came into view. Lights had been put on nearly every wall, ornaments decorated the counters and available shelf space, and the softest wisp of cinnamon could be smelled flowing through the house. Standing on a small ladder in the middle of the living room was Cooper.
"Wow, we already had decorations up, but it looks like you went all out."
Cooper turned to him and stepped down the ladder, "Good morning sleepy head."
"Is it that late?"
"No, it's only ten. But I've been up since five to make sure all the decorations were up before everyone gets here and Toby left not too long ago to get his family from the airport."
"And what about your family?"
"Angela called a few minutes ago to say that they're all showering and should be ready in an hour or so. So you should go get dressed and come to breakfast with us."
"Come on! I've met your mom several times."
"Yeah, but she didn't know we were dating then."
"But I've seen her since then."
"Oh, right," Cooper lied, not wanting to disclose that since Carol had confided in him about her cancer, that he`d seen her several times since then, "Well, so what. They want to meet you, and you don't have a choice."
Eric smiled, "Fine, I'll go shower and get dressed...hey what's that on Stevie?"
"It's a ribbon."
"You put a ribbon on my cat?"
"I was wrapping Christmas gifts earlier and she wouldn't leave me alone so I put a ribbon on her."
"How would you like it if I put something on Degrassi?"
"You wouldn't be able to, my cat isn't retarded."
"If you don't apologize, I'm not going to breakfast."
"All right all right. I'm sorry. Do you want me to take it off?"
"Come here Stevie." Cooper said as he walked toward the cat, but he was too slow and before he had the chance, Stevie scooted off and ran to hide under the couch.
Cooper put his hand up defensively, "I tried."
"Is this where we are going for breakfast?" Cooper's mom said disapprovingly.
"Yes, why?" Cooper said already knowing what she was going to say.
"This place doesn't look clean."
"Mom's a bit of a germophobe." Cooper said to Eric.
"I am not. I just don't like to eat in places that could leave me ridden with diseases."
"Mom's also has a flare for the dramatic side." Cooper's sister Angela laughed.
"Yes, let me tell you how this morning will go," Cooper smiled at Eric, "no matter how clean the seats are she will wipe them down with napkins she carries in her purse."
"And the table will also be wiped down." Angela added.
"Then she will complain about the food no matter how good it is, and say she could do a better job."
"And at some point during the meal she will swear that something is in her food." Angela finished.
Eric tried to keep from laughing, not sure if Cooper's mom would be upset, but Cooper and Angela had no problem enjoying a good laugh at their mother's expense.
Pauline Hwang looked at her husband, "You're going to let them talk to their mother like that?"
Daniel Hwang shrugged, `I didn't hear anything." which caused Cooper and Angela to laugh even harder.
After they'd all ordered and sat down Angela decided to start in on Cooper, "So, how in the world are you able to handle my brother without killing yourself?" She said smiling at Eric.
"I'd like to know this too." Pauline said seriously.
Eric laughed, "Um, I think I'm used to it now, I'm no longer surprised by the outrageous things he says or does."
"That is such a lie! You are so easy to embarrass." Cooper leaned over and kissed Eric's cheek and Eric turned a bright red that would have made Rudolph proud.
Angela laughed, Cooper's mother shook her head disapprovingly, and Cooper's dad looked on in shock, "I'm embarrassed for you." he said kindly to Eric.
Eric didn't know what else to say but, "Thank you."
"You know Cooper used to talk about you all the time before you guys got together." Angela mentioned.
Cooper shrugged, "So what? I talked about Toby too."
"No, but it was different. I could tell you liked Eric from the start."
Cooper waved his hand dismissively, "You couldn't tell anything."
"How did you guys meet anyway?" Angela asked.
"Uhhh...I think the first time I saw him was in the shower room at school." Eric said, before blushing again.
"And it was love at first sight." Cooper smiled.
"No, it wasn't. I thought you were a jerk the first couple of months."
Everyone, but Cooper laughed, "That's the Cooper I know." Angela said.
Cooper was about to stick up his middle finger, but thought better of it with his parents there.
"And then yeah I think he was looking for Toby one day and he wasn't there, but he looked upset so I invited him in."
"And the rest is history."
"No...you made me very uncomfortable."
"My good looks tend to do that to people." Cooper said seriously.
Angela took a grape from her plate and threw it at her younger brother, "Wow, someone is full of themselves."
"It seems as our son is just as ridiculous no matter what state he's in." his mother said. His father nodded in agreement.
"How did I make you uncomfortable?"
"You just were...weird. I mean it's all history now obviously, but yeah, you were strange."
"Well, I'm glad he met you," Angela said, "he'll never admit he said it, but he said that you have a very good handle on keeping him in check."
"Do I?" Eric said smiling at his boyfriend.
"Should I give you another kiss to demonstrate?"
"Damn, that smells good." Cooper said upon entering their apartment.
Eric agreed, "It does."
"Hey!" Toby said coming out of the kitchen, "the apartment looks good."
"Thanks." Cooper curtsied.
"Two things," Toby said, "one, that was really gay and two, I need to give you guys a heads up about something. My family brought an unexpected guest."
Eric smiled, "It's ok. The more the better."
"Yeah, Black people are cool with me." Cooper said.
"It's my crazy Uncle Chales."
"Chales? What kind of name is that?" Eric asked.
"His name is Charles, but it's too long to say, so we just call him Uncle Chales."
"Charles is too long to say?" Cooper smiled.
"Wait, he's crazy?" Eric asked.
"Not crazy, in the traditional sense. More just like...well crazy. He's not that bad, but basically he showed up at my parent's house and he didn't have anywhere else to go, so they reluctantly invited him to come along. He's good people, I just thought I'd let you guys know."
"Right." "I need to go call my mom and see if her and Jamie are ready to be picked up. I'll be back."
"You want to meet my grandmother?"
They walked to the kitchen and Cooper saw a small elderly woman stirring vigorously.
"Just right." She mumbled before turning around, "you must be Cooper."
"This is my grandmother, Vivian."
"Nice to meet you." Cooper said as he kissed her hand.
Toby rolled his eyes, but his grandmother giggled, "I've heard a lot about you."
"Hopefully all good stuff." Cooper said.
Toby smiled, "Is there anything good to say about you?"
"Well, I have a really big...thirst for knowledge."
Toby grabbed Cooper roughly by the arm and led him out the kitchen, "We'll be back grandma."
When they were safely out of ear shot, Toby gave Cooper a stern look, "I didn't think it was necessary to say it, but you are not allowed to mention any part of your body, it's function, if it works or not, or it's size, while my family is here."
"Sorry, it slipped out. My filter isn't on yet, I was waiting for Eric's mom to arrive."
"It'd probably be a good idea to put it on now. This is for your own safety, never say anything inappropriate when you're in reaching distance of my grandmother. See this scar?" Toby asked pointing to a small scar on the side of his forehead.
"A shoe that my grandmother swung at me when I cursed in front of her. She may be old, but she still moves like she's twenty."
Cooper nodded, "Gotcha."
"You guys ready?" Eric said as he entered his mother's apartment."
Jamie lifted his hands excitedly to the air, "We are!"
"Good good. I'll take your bags down to the car."
"Thank you. I just need to use the bathroom and I'll be ready to go." Carol smiled.
"OK, Jamie and I will go wait in the car."
Eric grabbed his mother's bag and made sure Jamie was ok carrying his own backpack down the stairs. He loaded everything into the trunk of his car while Jamie settled in the back seat.
"This is gonna be so much fun!"
"I think so too, you'll get to meet Toby and Cooper's family." Eric smiled.
Jamie nodded, "Cooper told me already."
"He came over like...three days ago and told me I'd get to meet his mom and dad and sister and Toby's too."
Eric turned around to face Jamie, "What did he come over for?"
Jamie shrugged, "Here comes Aunt Carol."
As Eric exited his room, Toby was coming out of the bathroom.
"How's your mom?" Toby asked.
"Her and Jamie are settling in. I've been trying to get you alone all night. Come here." Eric said walking into the bathroom.
"Lock the door." Eric said.
"You're freaking me out a little bit."
Eric gave him an exasperated look, "I know this sounds crazy, but I think my mom and Cooper are planning a surprise for me."
"I know!" Eric smiled.
"Why would you think that?"
"When we were waiting in the car for my mother, Jamie told me Cooper came to their house a couple of days ago."
"How is that possible? He doesn't have a car."
Eric's shoulders slumped, "Oh yeah."
"You sure Jamie wasn't just making stuff up."
"Well no, but it was the way he said it and anyway when my mother walked in the door, her and Cooper gave each other a look. It was really quick, but I saw it. They're hiding something."
"Couldn't it just be that they are a little uncomfortable around each other?"
"I guess, but why would Jamie make that up?"
"I don't know," Toby shrugged, "it's what little kids do."
"Wait a minute...are you in on it?"
"In on what?"
"No, I'm not."
"Then why are you smiling?"
"Because you're a dork. If there was a surprise, I'm sure I'd know about it, but since there isn't, I don't know anything cause there's nothing to know."
"But if there were a surprise and you knew about it, wouldn't you say the same thing?"
"I guess I would. Can I leave now?"
"Yes, and don't tell Cooper or my mother that I've caught on, it's no fun that way."
"Whatever you say."
Toby exited the bathroom quickly and Eric, after checking himself in the mirror, also exited the bathroom.
Eric looked around to see a fit Black man covered in tattoos motioning for him to enter Toby's room.
"Can I talk to you for a second partner?"
Eric smiled. He normally would have been scared had he been approached by this guy on the street, but because it was Toby's uncle and everyone in the house would hear him if he screamed, he knew he would be safe, "Hi, you must be Toby's uncle Charles."
"I am. Come here for a second."
Eric walked into the room and heard the door close behind him, "Lookie here, I don't know you and you don't know me, but trust you don't want to know me."
"Huh?" was all Eric managed to say.
"I saw you and my nephew coming out of the bathroom and I try not be in his business cause he's a grown man, but you better treat him right or you'll have to deal with me and mine."
"Oh, Toby and I are just friends, we're not a couple."
"He's not my boyfriend."
"Oh, my bad." Uncle Chales said as he pulled Eric in for a hug, "It's all good it's all good."
"Easy mistake." Eric said faking a laugh.
"All right then partner, I'll see you later."
Eric hurriedly left Toby's room and bumped into Cooper on the way out, "What?" Cooper asked upon seeing the look on Eric's face.
"I think I just almost got shot."
It was getting late and everyone was beginning to tire from the hectic day of traveling.
Carol was in the kitchen making herself and Toby's mother a cup of tea. Her back was to the door, but she knew immediately that it was Cooper standing in the doorway.
"Do you need any help?"
"No, I'm ok thanks."
"I don't mean to pry..." Cooper started.
"You do mean to pry." Carol said.
"Ok, I do, but it's only because I think Eric has a right to know."
"This isn't the time to talk about this, everyone is around and I just want to enjoy the holidays ok?"
"Please don't make me keep this from him." Cooper pleaded.
Carol picked up both glasses of tea and then cleared her throat, "I appreciate everything you've done this last month or so; it's been very sweet, but let us just enjoy the holidays before I become the mother with cancer ok?"
They could hear footsteps approaching the kitchen so they quickly stopped talking. They both pretended to be preoccupied with other things, but Eric caught on immediately, "Is everything ok?" he said trying to suppress a smile.
"Everything is fine."
"Tea, coming through." Carol said. She gave Cooper a weak smile as she walked by.
Eric took this moment alone to give Cooper a hug, "I love you."
"I love you too."
Eric sighed, "This is going to be the best Christmas ever."
"I hope so."
Eric let go of his boyfriend, "Let's go back to the others."
"There you are," Cooper's mother said as they entered the living room, "I think we're about to go."
"Back to the hotel of course."
Angela looked at her mother, "Please tell him you're joking or his voice is going to go up like ten octaves."
"Yes, please tell me you're joking. We already agreed you'd stay here."
"I know, but things are a little cramped here don't you think?"
"No, I don't think so!"
Jamie laughed at how high Cooper's voice went and Eric had slowly moved away afraid that Cooper might explode.
"You and dad are going to take my room. Angela is going to take the couch, Toby's family is going to be in his room, and Carol and Jamie are going to take Eric's room, while me and the guys are going to sleep out here! We have to all wake up together on Christmas morning."
"Boy, I know you're not yellin at your mother like that." Vivian Black said.
"Mom, put the shoe down." Toby's mother, Connie said.
"I want to sleep out here with you guys." Jamie whined.
"Sure buddy, if you want." Cooper smiled before turning back to his mom, "and we're all going to be one happy family!"
"Fine," his mother said giving up, "I'm headed to bed then, I've had a long day and I'm tired."
"Yeah, it is getting late." Toby's father Jeffery agreed.
"Well you all know where you are sleeping and I will be waking everyone up promptly at 6." Cooper yelled above the commotion of people moving around.
Toby could see his parents in the crowd waving and jumping with huge smiles on their face. He couldn't see himself, but he knew that he was extremely happy.
"And the winner of this year's Tennis Championships is...Toby Black!"
He waived to the crowd that roared with applause. Someone in the crowd was ringing a bell and Toby thought it was odd to bring a bell to a tennis match. He knew it was futile, but he tried to find the person in the crowd with the bell. He became more confused when the sound of the bell got closer. His eyes opened and he realized he had been dreaming, but the sound of the bell was ringing more insistently than before.
"Ho Ho Ho!" Cooper yelled as he ran around the house ringing the bell.
Jamie was running behind him yelling, "Wake up, it's Christmas!"
"Cooper stop ringing that god damned bell!" Angela yelled before putting the pillow over her face.
"Someone make him stop." Toby mumbled.
"I nominate Eric." Angela said.
"Cause he's your boyfriend."
"He's your brother."
Cooper ran into the living room and at just the right moment, Toby stuck out his foot causing Cooper to fall gracelessly to the floor.
"Motherfucker! Where is your Christmas spirit?" Cooper said glaring at Toby.
"Where is your sanity?"
"Just don't go back to sleep! Ang, I'm gonna go start in on mom now, cause she'll take the longest to get ready and I want to open presents this century...oh Mom!"
Everyone waited patiently at the dinner table for Vivian to serve the peach cobbler she had made for dessert. Eric had been waiting patiently all day for his surprise, but it hadn't happened. He expected to receive whatever the surprise was this morning while everyone opened their gifts, but that didn't happen. He had spent enough time with both his mother and Cooper and neither had given even the slightest hint that they were going to reveal their surprise anytime soon. He wondered when they planned on giving it to him.
"Everyone got a present except the cats." Jamie said to no one in particular as Rafa walked by.
"That's not true, I brought Degrassi a present. He opened it by himself."
"You're such a liar." Toby scoffed.
"He did! Don't be jealous because my cat is brilliant and yours doesn't do anything.
"So let me get this straight..." Angela started, "you put the package in front of him and he opened it?"
"Did he open his presents as gracefully as you did?" Eric laughed.
"Hey, I do not let things like tape and several boxes get in my way and yes, Degrassi had no problems opening his present."
"Sometimes, I wonder how you came out of me." Pauline said looking at her son.
"Well you see mom, when a man and a woman love each other..."
"Ok, I'll be quiet now."
"You guys must miss this," Connie said to Angela, "he must be fun to have around all the time."
"Eh," Angela said jokingly.
"You must feel the same way," Carol said to Toby's parents, "Toby's a fine young man."
"I used to get sad," Connie started, "but I'm glad he's doing something positive. So it's ok."
"And it's nice that he's in driving distance, even if it's a few hours, but Cooper I don't know how you fly cross country." Carol continued.
"Mom's only ever been in a plane once." Eric said.
"And once was enough for me. Especially with all this talk of terrorism I'm too afraid."
"That's why I only ever wear tennis shoes when I get on a plane, just in case I need to spin kick a terrorist." Cooper said.
"Does he say these crazy things at home?" Toby asked Angela.
"Unfortunately, they've become common place."
"I'm serious, it's something I think about. Not to be racist or anything, but this one time I was on a plane and we were on the runway waiting to get clearance to take off and this middle eastern guy in a turban stood up and looked around and then sat down. I was scared sh...like crazy."
"Hell No," Uncle Chales piped in, "I would have been looking at that dude like he was crazy and told him when I move you move...just like that."
Everyone laughed except Vivian, "Hush with all of that."
"You know your likelihood of dying is higher in a car than a plane." Toby said.
"Oh no, we have to drive to get home!" Jamie yelled looking at Carol with a terrified look on his face.
"You'll be fine baby. The Lord is watching over us all." Vivian said before giving Toby a look of warning, "Can we talk about something positive?"
"Yes, I agree. Let's talk about all the presents I got this year." Cooper smiled.
"Today was a good day." Tim sighed.
Jack nodded, "It was. Thank you again for letting me come. It would've sucked with nothing to do."
"No problem." Tim smiled as waited for the traffic light to turn green.
"Tathiana is so cute, she's really funny."
"I know, I love being around her, it reminds me to live life a little bit more cause she's so boisterous."
Jack nodded, "I think all little kids are like that, it's too bad we get jaded."
Tim looked over at him with a smile, "You're too young to be jaded."
"Oh yeah, cause you're so old."
"Who said I was jaded?"
Jack looked away from Tim quickly and looked out the window. He was silent, but Tim could see that his body seemed to be convulsing just a bit which caused him to look over, "Are you crying?"
Jack nodded, but didn't say anything.
"Why are you crying?"
"Cause I checked my phone all day and my dad didn't call me. He didn't even call his own son on Christmas."
Tim was speechless. He didn't know whether he should comfort the boy or point out his hypocrisy, "Maybe you should call him when we get home."
No, if he doesn't want anything to do with me then I don't want anything to do with him." Jack said wiping his eyes.
"Jack, I have to say I'm surprised. I thought you didn't care."
"I don't." he said stubbornly.
"Oh, come on, you're crying because you miss him. Just call him and get over it already.
"You don't understand."
"You only get so many chances to correct your mistakes you know, before it's too late." Tim didn't know why, but he'd felt the need to say that to Jack.
"Well he's the reason we're not speaking so he can fix it." Jack said.
Tim realized that the moment of weakness or whatever it was had passed and that Jack was back to being stubborn, "Fine, just remember this is time you can never get back."
"It was a really good idea to have our families here. I have to give you props for that." Toby said as he handed the clean plate to Cooper.
"Thanks," Cooper said drying the plate a quickly as he could, before being passed another one, "I know I have moments of stupidity, but I like to think that they are soon followed by impeccable brilliance."
Toby ignored his friend`s last remark, "So I guess there was no surprise for Eric."
"What do you mean?"
"He was convinced you and his mother were planning something."
"Like what?" Cooper said growing more and more alarmed.
"I don't know."
"Why would he think we were planning something?"
"That's what I said, but apparently Jamie told him you'd been over their house a few days ago, but I told him little kids make things up all the time. But he thought I was in on it too, so he didn't believe me."
"Holy shit." Cooper said throwing the dish towel down and running out of the kitchen. Cooper moved so quickly that he didn't realize that he had passed Eric on his way to Eric's room. Eric smiled. Somehow they must have forgotten about the surprise and now it was about to happen.
Jamie was on the floor of Eric's room playing with a toy car he had gotten as a gift earlier that morning and Carol was sitting on her son's bed reading from the cookbook Eric had given her.
"Hey Jamie can you excuse us for a second."
Jamie, barely even acknowledging them, took his car and stepped out of the room.
"He knows something is up and he thinks it`s a surprise." Cooper said as soon as the door was closed.
Carol stood up, "I don't understand."
Cooper hurriedly recounted what Toby had told him and Carol held her hand over her mouth, "Oh my God."
"Where's my surprise?" Eric asked when Jamie walked into the living room.
"I don't know you tell me."
"What are you talking about?"
"Nevermind." Eric said running into the hallway. He walked slowly making sure to step over the floorboard that always squeaked in the hallway. He put his ear to the door and tried to concentrate on the whispering voices.
"I'm sorry to put you in this position, but I need a little longer." Carol said.
"I can't keep this from him, Carol. I feel like I'm betraying him."
Eric burst into the room causing both Cooper and his mother to nearly jump out of their skin, "Tell me what?" Eric said staring at the both of them, "Where is the surprise?"
"There isn't a surprise." Cooper said, his voice cracking.
"What about all the awkward glances and conversation?" Eric asked. When nobody said anything he started to get angry, "Somebody say something, you guys are scaring me."
"Eric," Carol said sitting on the bed, "I don't want you to be mad at Cooper, I asked him not to tell you because I didn't want to worry you over nothing. I was going to tell you, I just needed a little more time...to be sure, but I have ovarian cancer."
Eric stumbled backwards a few steps, "Cancer?"
"Yes. It's a preliminary diagnosis. I've had a bunch of tests done in the last few weeks to determine how bad it is, if it's spread, and what stage it's in. I don`t have those results yet."
"Why did you tell him and not me?"
"He came over to ask me to reconsider on not coming here for Christmas. That was the day I found out. He happened to be there by chance, but he was wonderful in comforting me."
Eric looked over to Cooper, "I don't know whether to hug you or hit you."
"Be mad at me," Carol repeated, "he only did what I asked him to."
Eric took a deep breath, not sure he wanted to know the answer to his next question, "Can you be cured?"
"Like I said, I'm waiting on a lot of tests, but yes I can be cured."
"So then there's nothing to worry about." Eric said trying to smile.
"It's time like these when it's important to have faith." Carol said.
Eric walked over to give his mother a hug, "You'll be ok."
"I will be."
"I want to go with you when you get your results."
"That's not necessary."
"Yes it is and I'm not going to let you tell me no."
"Fine, but don't treat me like some invalid ok? We don't know what the tests are going to show, so there's no need to worry about me. Nothing has to change."
"Exactly." Eric said giving his mother a hug again.
"I'll leave you guys alone to talk." Cooper said.
The house had gone quiet by the time Eric emerged from the room with his mother. Toby, Angela, and Jamie were asleep in the spots they had occupied the night before, but Cooper was still up sitting next to the television with it as low as he could hear it. Eric sat next to him and took a hold of hold of Cooper's hand.
"Thank you for going to check up on my mother repeatedly these last few weeks. Really, I don't think I can express what that means."
"I'm not mad at you, she told me again that you've been trying to get her to tell me all month long."
"I believe it and I understand what a horrible position she put you in. Just promise me that no matter what you won't keep something like that from me ever again."
"I promise." Cooper said immediately.
"Thank you," Eric said laying his head on Cooper's shoulder, "I can't imagine losing my mother."
"Like she said have faith. Hopefully they've caught it in the early stages."
"Yeah, you're right," Eric yawned, "I'm tired, it`s been a long day. A good one, but a long one."
He walked to the bathroom and thought about all the fun he'd had today and he was glad that his mother was part of that memory. He didn't doubt that he would have enjoyed himself even if she wasn't there, but in light of what he'd found out, he was glad that everything had worked out. Not only was he thankful his mother had come, but he was thankful that Cooper had been there for his mother. He fleetingly wondered if this is the last Christmas he'd ever spend with his mother, but quickly pushed it out of his head. He looked at himself in the bathroom mirror and said, "Have faith."
Back in the living room, Cooper was snoring lightly and it made Eric smile. He carefully stepped over Cooper to turn off the television when he noticed Andie McDowell on the screen. He knew her mostly as a comedic actress and was surprised to see her looking so seriously on the screen and not modeling a new make up line. By the time he decided to turn the television up just a bit so he could hear what she was saying, the commercial was almost over, but the part that he heard shook him to the core, "As of now, there is no cure for ovarian cancer."
He looked at Andie MacDowell on the television screen no longer hearing what she was saying, but begging her to repeat the previous sentence all the same. He kept thinking back to the conversation he had with his mother and how she had reiterated that she could be cured. He immediately decided to believe his mother, but as he went to bed that night, one thought played over and over, why would Andie MacDowell lie?
Just wanted to leave a quick note saying that the cancer storyline appears to always be the go to whenever a tv show or story wants to be "serious". I want to make it clear that's not what I'm doing. Of course there will be plotlines that are advanced, changed, or dropped in some way because of the cancer storyline, but I'm doing it mostly because it's therapeutic and helps me clarify my own feelings over my aunt's recent death from ovarian cancer, but also because what my family went through watching my aunt is different from any portrayal I've ever seen in a movie. I don't know if my family's experience was just different or if the lifetime movies and two week cancer story arcs just weren't accurate enough. As always any questions, comments, and constructive criticisms can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.