Embers crackle in the hearth, the perfect backdrop for the evening. There aren’t too many days like this – haven’t been in a while. That’s life, I suppose. You grow up, and you have to face down reality. Days spent playing in the fields are a thing of the past, and the bills start piling up on the table no matter how hard you work.

But this weekend?

This weekend is different.

It’s the first time in a while that we’ve all been able to get together, my family and I. Usually, our schedules are too hectic to match up. But this week, it’s been a long time coming.

My sister is in the kitchen, trying to goad the children into helping bake cookies. I can hear Randy outside, with a couple of the other guys. It snowed last night, and their attempts at playing football have turned into a full-fledged snowball fight.

Speak of the devil – the front door swings open. Randy has snow caked to the front of his shirt. He grins at me, all tooth and gums. “You want to come out and join us? We could use a real sharp shooter on our team. Calvin’s got lousy aim.”

“I do not!”

Randy ignores Calvin. He leans against the door, looks me up and down. The edges of his grin soften. His head thumps up against the wall.

I sit up a little bit straighter.  The cider sloshes about in my mug. “What?”

“Nothing. Just – you look really nice tonight, honey. Like you’re actually enjoying yourself for a change. We should do this more often,” says Randy.

He’s trying to be nice, but I still roll my eyes. “What, take off from work and play catch up on the bills for the next two weeks?”

“We could downgrade. Get a smaller house, so you can work less hours. Actually have time for each other, for a change.” Randy abandons his post at the door in favor of tugging me to my feet. I barely have time to sit my mug down before I’m escorted outside, ushered into a snow war that we’re destined to lose.

It’s cool enough out that my long sleeved shirt is needed, but warm enough that I don’t feel the need to run for a jacket. The snow crunches under the soles of my sneakers. “We’ll talk about it later,” I tell Randy, giving him a quick, chaste kiss. “Let’s just focus on today for now. Okay?”

A hand on the small of my back – a fist full of snow down the front of my shirt. Randy shakes with laughter. “Okay.”

Written by Kaitelynn E Koontz

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