All I Want For Christmas Is You: Holiday Love #5-Home
The moment she heard the hum of the garage door, she sucked in a breath, closing her eyes in anticipation of her husband’s footsteps on the stairs. Just two years ago, you never could’ve told Alicia that she’d one day recognize the way a man’s step fell on hardwood stairs. But she knew the sound of Kyle’s walk, as surely as she knew the sound of her own breath leaving her lips. She knew the cadence of his weight on those steps, just like she knew the smell of his hair, and the brush of his fingertips against her skin.
The light from the TV flickered its soft glow over the otherwise darkened bedroom, playing the music channel because she loved listening to the Christmas station, especially when Kyle was traveling. The music made her feel warm, settled. The way she felt with Kyle.
She’d left the light on for him downstairs, just as he knew she would. In the early days of their dating life, he’d teased her about her need for structure, the way she habitually did things— like never leaving dishes in the sink at night, or making sure that her shoes were always lined neatly by the front the door before heading to bed, or the way her wash cloths always had to match her towels when she was bathing. The little things he used to tease her about, the things that used to amuse him seemed only to annoy him now. Lately, he didn’t look at her the same.
Over the past year, the love they’d shared, the excitement had shifted to mundane. Kyle’s mother, Joanna, said that was the “hum” of marriage. It was the quiet moments, the monotony of the days spent together that really defined spending a life with someone. Alicia had nothing to compare her advice to, so she tried to take it at face value. Her mother passed away when she was only 12 and she and her brother Alex spent much of their time between aunts they barely knew and didn’t care to know them. Alex joined the military right after high school, and these days they only spoke a few times per year. He was stationed overseas and preferred it that way. Alicia left California and gone to college in Virginia on a full scholarship, where she’d met Kyle her senior year.
She’d been eager to get married; to be settled into what she hoped would become her life. He was eager too, though now, two years later, she wondered if she wasn’t just the missing piece to a puzzle that he’d constructed long before he’d met her. She wondered if it was her that Kyle loved, or if it was what she represented.
There was no question that Kyle was it for her. She loved him in a way that surpassed love and entered into a state of being. She existed and therefore, her love for Kyle did too. He was in her skin, in her spirit, where he’d embedded himself after only their first date. His smell, he way his eyes shaded with intrigue whenever she spoke, the way he was able to coax her into talking, really talking, beyond surface-level and seemed genuinely intrigued by the things she said. The way, after that first night, he hadn’t tried to kiss her. Instead, he drew her close, running his fingers down her face and pressed his forehead to hers, shocking her, arousing her, capturing her.
She was used to men wanting sex from her. They’d wanted it since she was 13 and she’d given it without much pause, not just because it felt good physically but because it felt good emotionally. But with Kyle, she waited, because it was important to him, and it therefore, became important to her too. They didn’t make love until their wedding night, the night she understood what it meant to become one with another person--- mind, body and soul. Kyle owned her. And to think that they were now drifting apart made her ache inside.
Alicia lay in bed, watching the snow fall lightly just outside of her window, illuminated by the dimming street lights, listening for the fall of her husband’s footsteps in the house they’d purchased only three months ago. The home was nice and spacious, but modest, given Kyle’s recent signing package. But neither one of them required much in the way of material things—that was another thing she loved so much about him. Her husband was cool. Down-to-earth. He didn’t speak to hear himself talk. Instead, he listened, putting everyone around him at ease. It was no wonder the media loved him.
She sighed. She wondered if she’d put too much pressure on him, laid too many expectations on him, expected him to fulfill too much. Joanna had warned her early on about those women who became lost in their marriages and in some warped reversal of intent, ended up alienating their husbands. So, Alicia busied herself at work, taking on extra tasks. She spent more time at the gym and even joined a pottery class, which she thoroughly enjoyed, even though she was terrible at it. Kyle had smiled when she’d brought him home a new coffee mug. She messed it up though, and the handle was crooked. He’d pulled her onto his lap, nuzzling his nose into her neck.
“I tried, dude. But I failed pretty miserably,” she admitted, frowning as he examined the smooth blue surface of the mug. “Look at the handle.”
Kyle chuckled. “The handle is perfect. See, it fits my finger just right, baby.” He grinned, holding up his pointer finger, which he’d broken playing football back in middle school.
She rolled her eyes and he’d laughed, dipping his hand under his oversized college sweatshirt that she always wore around the house and pressed a kiss behind her ear. They’d made love that morning, right there, in the kitchen. But that was over a month ago and even that moment of playfulness had come as a surprise.
Kyle’s footsteps became louder and a second later, he entered their spacious bedroom room.
“How was the flight?” she asked, her voice carrying over the soft sounds of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
“Too long,” he answered, his deep voice tired. He came and leaned over the bed, dropping a kiss on her cheek, surrounding her with his scent and she inhaled, wishing he’d linger a little longer. But he pulled away. “I need to wash the airport off of me.”
Alicia held her breath, listening to the familiar sounds of him undressing and the sound of the water from the master bath turning on as he showered. He didn’t take long, and less than 10 minutes later, he pushed open the door, leaving the trail of his woodsy body wash in his wake as he climbed into the king sized bed next to her. Alicia thought about pretending to be sleep but Kyle knew her too well. Nat King Cole’s voice drifted quietly from the TV speakers and she bit her lip.
"You left your hair thing plugged up again," Kyle said, in between a yawn. Her back was to him and she sighed.
"I keep telling you it's not on though."
"It dangerous, Alicia, either way. You might forget to turn it off one day. It's easier to just unplug it altogether, don't you think?"
No, she didn't think. But she bit her tongue, sighing silently.
"I'm not lecturing you," he said, as if he'd read her mind. "I'm just saying, baby."
"You're always just saying, Kyle," she mumbled irritably.
She tucked her hand under her cheek and closed her eyes, though her mind was racing, her body aching for his touch. There was a time when the second Kyle returned home, even from a two day trip, they'd be all over each other. She couldn't pinpoint exactly when that had changed. She only knew that it had, and she hated it.
“The driver played this song on the way from the airport,” he said after a few seconds, his baritone breaking over the quiet music. “It made me think about you.”
“Really?” she asked, closing her eyes as Nat King Cole crooned “The Christmas Song” softly. “Why?”
“It reminds me of home.”
She felt his strong hands wrap around her waist, as he pulled her against his chest and pressed a kiss to her nape, his favorite place. She released a breath, her heart thudding, her body alive because her husband was touching her and it was only his touch that both excited and grounded her.
“You’re my home, Alicia,” he murmured in her ear. “You know that, right?”
She released a breath and turned in his arms, searching for honesty in his eyes.
“Lately it seems like you're... distant.”
“Alicia,” he breathed her name, almost in warning, shaking his head. “Please, let’s not start this tonight, baby. I’m tired.”
“I’m not trying to start anything, Kyle.”
He released a heavy breath and ran his hand over his head.
“It's just, you’re on the road all of the time and then when you are here it takes a few days for us to sort of get back in sync and then you’re gone again.”
He frowned, clearly agitated.
“Baby, you knew what this life was when we started it together. Remember? We both understood that travel is part of the game.”
“It’s been different lately though. We don’t… communicate the same.”
He turned his head and looked at her, his brow furrowed. “We text all of the time, I call you at the same time everyday when I’m able to. We video chatted last night.”
“That’s all surface stuff though, Kyle.”
He released a heavy breath and ran hand down his face, his eyes on the ceiling.
A few long seconds ticked by. “I saw Brandy was there,” she said.
He stilled, his eyes narrowing as he took her in. Alicia stared back at him defiantly.
“I can’t control who comes to games, Alicia,” he finally said, his tone weary. “You’re worried about the wrong things.”
“Am I?” she retorted, arching a brow. “What are the right things then, Kyle?”
She sat up, heat flooding her cheeks as she thought about Kyle’s ex, who was now a celebrity in her own right. Alicia tried not to let things like that bother her, especially since she knew she was being insecure and picking a fight. But it was precisely things like the fact that her husband’s ex was a regular on television that made her feel that maybe she wasn’t cut out for this world. For his world.
“Lay back down, baby,” Kyle said, reaching for her waist and effortlessly dragging her back onto the bed next to him. He rolled over her, bracing himself on his forearms, careful not to put all of his weight on her. For a long second he just stared into her eyes as she tried to get a handle on what she was feeling so that she could express it to him.
“I know this isn’t even about Brandy,” Kyle finally said. “Because you know there’s nothing happening there.”
She looked away for a second before meeting his eyes again.
“I get that this adjustment has been hard for you,” he said, lowering his voice. “But I’m not a mind reader.”
“I know you’re not,” Alicia breathed, closing her eyes. “I’m sorry. It’s just I need…more of you.”
He blinked, confusion evident in his eyes.
“You already have all of me, Alicia.” He held up his ring finger and raised his brows.
She sighed. “That’s not what I mean.”
“So what are you saying? You want to start traveling with me?”
She shook her head. She loved her job and the independence that came with it.
“Would you like for me to retire early?” He arched a brow a small smile playing on his lips, and she rolled her eyes.
“So you’re telling me this is a no win situation for me? For us?”
“No,” she breathed. “But I’m not completely wrong here either, Kyle. Things are different.”
He looked off, toward the window, where the snow was now falling in thick sheets and sighed.
“You’re not the only one adjusting to this life, ‘Licia,” he said quietly, meeting her eyes again. She bit her lip, her body softening at the use of the nickname. “This has been major for me too.”
She started to respond but he cut her off, shaking his head.
“But my comfort, everyday is knowing that you’re my wife. Knowing that no matter what brand of crazy is going on that day or week, Alicia Nicole agreed to marry me. Knowing that I get to come home to you and just…breathe. That makes all the other stuff secondary. You’re my rock, baby. Our foundation—it’s here.”
He touched his heart. “And here.” He touched her heart and raised his brows. “Feel me?”
His brown eyes were familiar, sincere and full of everything she needed from him—his love. He ran his fingertips down face then drew her against his lips with a hand on her nape. He kissed her, then pressed his forehead to hers.
“I married the love of my life. Did you?”
She smiled against his lips and nodded.
“Yes. You know I did.”
Kyle kissed her again and she melted into it, releasing her fears, her doubts and insecurities, choosing instead to settle on what he was offering, what he always offered her… himself, his love.
“Cool, so now that we agree on that, can I make love to my wife now?” he asked, sliding his big hands down the length of her body. “Is that cool?”
She laughed as he chuckled quietly in her ear.
“Is that okay?” he asked, still grinning. She rolled her eyes and wrapped her arms around his neck, drawing him to her, feeling his smile against her lips when she kissed him.
And, as the softly playing Christmas music warmed the room and the snow fell silently against the windowpane, Alicia allowed herself to do what she’d done from the moment they’d had their fist date. She opened up her heart, and she welcomed Kyle home.