“She is. You’re the first one here.”
“Figures.” I grinned. “I have the shortest commute.”
Just as I was about to head to see Susan, Roger’s voice stopped me. “Hey, Amelia?”
“Since Susan’s been back, we really haven’t had a chance to talk. I’ve always felt a little strange about not telling you myself about us getting back together.”
“You didn’t owe me any explanation. I already explained to her that nothing happened between you and me.”
“I know you did. I’m really happy that you two have become friends. And I want you to know that I was truly grateful for your friendship, too, at a time when I really needed it.”
“I’m really happy for you guys.”
“Thank you.” He paused. “What about you?”
“What about me?”
Roger tilted his head. “Are you happy?”
“I am. Just a little lonely with Justin gone.”
“You know, you used to tell me that there was nothing going on between the two of you…”
“At the time, there wasn’t. I’d always had feelings for him, though.”
“He’s coming back, right? After the tour?”
“Is that what he wants to do with his life? Be a touring musician? Live on the road?”
“I’m not sure if that’s how it’s always going to be. He works in software sales, but that’s not his dream. Music is his dream. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so he had to take it.”
“Who’s he on tour with again?”
“Wow. Yeah. That’s pretty big stuff.”
After a bit of awkward silence, Roger asked, “Are any of those guys still married?”
“You mean Calvin and his band?”
I had to think about it. “Now that you mention it…I don’t think they are.”
Roger hung up my coat as he said, “I suppose marriage doesn’t really mesh with sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Not to mention constantly traveling. You know, things had never been harder for me than when I was physically away from Susan and Alyssa. I don’t know too much about Justin, but it seems like he’s very fond of Bea. If he wants to be a father to her, absenteeism really doesn’t work. I figured that out the hard way, and that was without the additional complication of fame.”
“I don’t think he’s figured out whether he wants kids.”
“Well, don’t you think it’s time he did, if he wants to be with you?” Roger must have sensed that he was stressing me out. “I’m sorry, Amelia. I’m just looking out for you.”
“I appreciate that. But I’m just looking for eggnog tonight, nothing more complicated than that, alright?”
Closing his eyes briefly in understanding, he chuckled and said, “You got it. Let me grab some for you.”
Through the muffled laughter of their guests, who were dressed in a rainbow of ugly sweaters, my thoughts kept me distracted. Even though my conversation with Roger had long ended, I’d spent the remainder of the party pondering everything he’d said. It was nothing I didn’t already worry about, but hearing the concern come from someone else—someone who understood the long-term responsibilities of fatherhood—was eye-opening.
Back at the house later that night, I rocked Bea to sleep in front of the tree to the sounds of a children’s choir CD of Christmas carols. Earlier in the week, I’d wrapped some presents and placed them under the tree. They were all for Bea and included a small box that Justin had shipped to her to be opened on Christmas morning.
I didn’t need anything this year; Bea was my Christmas gift. She was the greatest gift from God and had taught me more about unconditional love than anyone or anything else ever had. She’d given me a purpose. I kissed her head softly, vowing to always be there for her no matter what happened with Justin. I vowed to be the type of mother that I never had.
Still in my Christmas sweater, I placed a sleeping Bea in her crib, taking a moment to look around and admire Justin’s handiwork in the nursery.
Back in my room, I couldn’t sleep. I’d just nodded off when my phone chimed, waking me up.
Amelia: Wide awake now.
Justin: Will you call me? I don’t know if Bea is near you and don’t want to wake her.
He picked up on the first ring after I dialed him.
His voice sounded sleepy. “I woke you, didn’t I?”
“Yes, but it’s okay. I’d rather speak to you than sleep. Where are you?”
“I’m at the hotel in Los Angeles. We’re off the buses till Christmas night.”
“That must be a nice change, getting to sleep in a real bed.”
“It only reminds me that you’re not here with me.”
“I wish I were.”
“It’s really bugging me that I can’t be with you guys for Christmas.”
“I don’t understand why they don’t give you Christmas off.”
“Calvin’s always done Christmas shows. It’s sort of his tradition. It sucks. You’d think none of these people have families. I feel bad for the crew members with kids.”
“It doesn’t really ever end, does it?”
Justin sounded confused by my comment. “What in particular?”
“I mean, this tour will end. But the life of a musician never really does.”
“It’s not like I won’t have a choice in the matter. I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything I don’t want to.”
“Yes, but after this tour, so many more people will know who you are. The opportunities will start coming, and fame will be addicting. That was the point of all this, right? To grow your music career? Are you really going back to your software job, like none of this ever happened? What exactly is going to happen?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far. I just want to come home to you first. That’s all I want. I won’t be going away again anytime soon after that.”
“But you might be going away again at some point. This isn’t just a one-time thing, right? It never really ends.”
“Why all of the worrying all of a sudden, Amelia?”
“I don’t know. I guess I have too much time alone to think.”
“I’m sorry. But the truth is, I just don’t have all the answers tonight. I can only tell you what I’m feeling right now, and that’s that I don’t want to be here and would give anything to be home for Christmas with you and Bea.”
Rubbing my tired eyes, I said, “Alright. I’m sorry. It’s late, and you must be tired.”
“Don’t ever be sorry for talking to me about how you feel. Remember, you promised to be honest with me if something is bothering you.”
Just when my nerves had started to calm down, it sounded like there was a knock at his door.
“Hang on,” he said.
My heartbeat started to accelerate when I heard a woman’s voice in the background.
I couldn’t make out what she was saying but could hear Justin say, “No, thanks. I appreciate it, but no.” He paused. “Alright. Good night.” I could hear the door click shut.