Family in a Snowstorm
Ava Kelly © 2018
All Rights Reserved
The classroom was quiet, only the lingering memory of children’s laughter permeating the space. Daniel closed his laptop and stood from his desk for a long stretch. Air rushed out of him in a contented exhale. Another year had passed, another winter vacation waiting around the corner. The day had been sunny and bright, with a crisp edge of chilled air typical for December among the foothills of the mountains.
He checked his watch. Half an hour before Jeff and Abby were supposed to pick him up. He smiled with the recollection of a similar day the year prior as he righted the classroom. Some things were different this time around. He had a warm home to look forward to, and he’d taken care of all his holiday work already. Instead of Abby waiting for him, he was waiting for his two favorite people. Abby had been excited about something for the past week, Jeff declaring a surprise was coming, so Daniel had been quite motivated to finish all his reports and head home. He huffed a small laugh as he packed his laptop. A sense of childish giddiness had settled in his bones while he wondered what the two had planned.
Coat on and bag slung over his shoulder, he stopped next to the student desk closest to his own and ran his fingers over the indent in the side. Abby had had to be transferred to Ms. Evelyn’s classroom, and Daniel was sure she would’ve kicked up a fuss if it weren’t for the time they still spent together. Every day after school, Abby sat right there, at that desk, doing homework while Daniel graded projects or prepared for his next-day lessons.
It hadn’t been smooth, exactly, accommodating to the new life, but it had been very, very far away from hardship. He felt so lucky, sometimes, that he feared—
“Mister Wu, how do you do?”
Startled, Daniel looked up to see Amber in the doorway with an impish look on her face.
“How does Your Ladyship do,” he teased back. It had been Amber’s go-to joke ever since she witnessed the kids making the rhyme with his name in class.
“The Webers have been standing in the parking lot for the past five minutes,” she informed him, a smirk pulling at the side of her mouth. “Fidgeting.”
“Abby doesn’t fidget.”
Daniel had to agree with that, and he nodded. But Jeff, despite being bright and full of energy, only got anxious when something big was going on. Back in August, he could barely sit still for days before he blurted “I love you” to Daniel in the middle of the supermarket.
Chances were that whatever Jeff and Abby had been secretive about wouldn’t be bad, but Daniel knew there were only so many easy things in life before the universe slapped him with a twist.
“Are you okay?”
Before last Christmas, Daniel had been friendly with a lot of people, but none with whom he’d built a strong connection. With Amber, he had a system of trading teases during lunch in the teachers’ lounge. She was the nicest secretary the school had ever had, according to Principal Howards. But then, just before the end of the semester, Amber had asked Daniel for help with one of her psych projects, confessing she’d been secretly working toward a degree in education. It brought them together in ways Daniel hadn’t realized he’d been missing, her views on life optimistic, her personality wrapped in a tempered enthusiasm. Daniel shook his head to clear his thoughts, and Amber frowned, misinterpreting his reaction.
“Uh, yeah,” he hurried to reassure. “I just—it feels like I’m dreaming sometimes, you know? Waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
She relaxed, moving closer to pat him on the arm with an indulgent smile. “They adore you. Whatever comes, you’ll face it together.”
Amber had been friends with Jeff for years before Daniel even moved to the town he now called home. She’d known from the start about Jeff’s crush on Daniel, and had dropped hints for weeks last year, not that Daniel had recognized them as such. So if anyone was in a position to know how his and Jeff’s relationship worked, she was it. Daniel allowed a grin to push the worry away. She was right.
“So,” he said as they made their way toward the exit. “How many holiday movies have you watched so far?”
“How many are on the list?”
Daniel did a quick count. Christmas fell on a Tuesday, and school closed on Friday the twenty-first, so with a movie a day, that would make… “You won’t have enough to last until after New Year’s.”
“No,” Amber agreed. “I’m— Well, I’m meeting with—you know. The day after tomorrow. We’re going to spend the holidays together.”
Her nervousness echoed his own, and Daniel looked up at her. “She’s going to like you in real life too. Just be yourself.”
“Easy to say.”
“Hey, if I like you…”
Amber scoffed at him, but she seemed pleased.
They parted ways soon after outside the doors, her turning left and Daniel hurrying right, to where Jeff and Abby were waiting by the car.
The sun cast a low glow as it dipped beyond the mountains, the dark orange of the light bathing the parking lot in warmth. Jeff was fiddling with a flat parcel wrapped in creased red paper, while Abby held a small box in her mitten-clad hands as if it were made of glass. The postal service logo was stamped on its side.
“What’s going on?” Daniel asked when Jeff kept staring. No hello, no kiss, just wide eyes and shuffling feet.
A car door slammed somewhere behind Jeff, just as Abby caught his sleeve, pulling him out of his obvious stupor.
“For you,” he said, shoving the red package at Daniel.
Abby stepped closer, excited, while Jeff looked pale. Daniel frowned.
“Open it,” Abby urged, and Daniel complied.
It didn’t take long to slide the contents out of the wrapping—a thick envelope hosting a stack of paper folded down the middle. What was on the pages, though, brought a lump to his throat.
“Really?” he whispered, voice cracking.
Jeff nodded fast.
“It’s our Christmas present,” Abby chirped, “but we wanted to give it before.”
It was…it was the best. Each sheet held a copy of Abby’s records, Daniel’s name next to Jeff’s as emergency contact—the hospital, her physician, the library, it was all there. He had already been added to the school’s file, for obvious reasons, but this was proof Jeff trusted him enough with Abby that he offered him the spot of the other parent in her life. The last page—the notarized proxy allowing him to make decisions for Abby in Jeff’s name—had him speechless.
“Daniel,” Abby said, a wobble in her voice, just as Jeff asked, “Is it okay?”
“Yeah! Yes, sweetheart.” He bent to hug her, placing a kiss to the top of her head. “It’s perfect.”
He drew himself back up and wrapped his arms around Jeff. His collar smelled of concrete dust, the hands pressing on Daniel’s back large and tightening around him enough to steal his breath.
“Thank you,” Daniel whispered, sighing at the pecks Jeff placed on his cheek while Abby cheered from the side.
It was then that Daniel became aware of a stranger staring at them. The man had stopped mid-stride, a look of disgust on his face that raised Daniel’s hackles enough to scowl at him over Jeff’s shoulder. Before he could do anything, though, the man turned around and jogged toward the car parked there.
Abby was calling Daniel’s name, so he focused back on her as he released Jeff, the sound of an engine distant in his ears.
“Now, mine.” Abby pushed the box in his hands, grin so wide Daniel had to wonder if it hurt her cheeks.
“Are you sure you don’t want to wait until Christmas day?”
“Sure sure,” she confirmed with glee. “Open it now. We have more for the tree.”
“You’re spoiling me,” Daniel commented but accepted Jeff’s pocketknife to slice open the tape holding it closed.
The flaps of the box came up, the contents glinting in the decreasing sunlight. There, under plastic wrap, was the telltale top of a glass sphere. He pulled the snow globe out gently, revealing three figurines holding hands inside. They were obviously Jeff, Abby in the middle, and—and him. Daniel blinked.
It matched the globe Jeff had given him last June, the one with their house in the clearing and a tag on the base saying Home in cursive letters. This one proclaimed Family, and Daniel ran his fingers over the engraving.
Laughter bubbled out of him, right before Abby hugged him around the middle with a delighted squeal. Jeff’s arm was heavy around his shoulders, his lips warm where he pressed them against Daniel’s temple.
“Come on,” Jeff said. “Let’s go home.”