32 White Christmas
Here lies Tony Russo. A father, a husband, and a great man.
I laid out the flowers on his snow covered grave. The stone spoke truth, but I knew half the town didn't believe it. As far as they knew he was a drug dealer who endangered the lives of three families.
After everything that happened I still couldn't get over that. I hated it. Tony made the ultimate sacrifice for my mistakes and his reputation was ruined for it.
"I'm sorry Tony. I really am. More than anything that's happened I'm sorry I did this to you."
I sat in the snow. I didn't care that I'd get a little wet for it. I found myself a little weak in the knees trying to speak my mind to him. Even if it was too late I thought it was better than nothing.
"You gave so much for me. You gave your life and even then, you didn't stop giving. Your reputation went to hell and it's because of me."
I whipped at the tears rolling down. My cheeks went cold in the gentle breeze.
"I'm not going to forget you. You and grandpa did so much for me even after you were gone. Im going to love you two old bastards till the day I die."
I stood up brushing snow off my seat and legs. I just kept crying. Like my eyes sprung a leak. Some snotty brat kid who couldn't control himself. I felt so stupid.
"I hope I make you both proud where I'm going... And don't worry about the three-oh-two. Its staying with me and I'll take good care of it. Both of you taught me how to work on cars you know I can do it."
I laid my hand on the stone and closed my eyes giving a silent prayer up to God. I never really knew if I believed in Him. God was always elusive to me. I always admired those who could get that relationship with Him. Tony and my Grandpa were both those kinds of people. In respect for the both of them I prayed, and I even gave one for my Grandpa too.
"Love you guys."
I could barely get the words out before a sob choked out. Wiping my eyes I turned and trudged through the snow back to my car. It stood halfway on the road still running so it stayed warm. The Mustang got going eagerly down the road.
My phone buzzed away softly in my Jacket pocket. I pulled it out and put it on speaker so I could still work the stick and talk.
"Will you be back tonight honey?"
It was my mom. Worried and supportive all in the same tone.
"Yes mom, I'm meeting Johnny and Jessica for a little bit. I'll be heading out tomorrow with Jess."
"You're sure this is what you want to do? No way I can talk you out of it?"
I laughed to myself taking a slow turn into the town square.
"Now you want to talk me out of a higher education?"
"It just seems so soon after all that craziness. I feel like you should relax at home, and maybe see a counselor or something."
"Mom I've had plenty of time to relax. Too much if you ask me. It's time for me to do something."
She sighed a bit defeated.
"Fine, but you better not leave without a goodbye."
"Of course not, and I'll be a phone call away at all times."
I pulled into a parking space outside the ice cream shop. Jess was meeting me there before we linked up with Johnny, Kirin, and Nathan. With my hands tucked away in my jacket pockets I sauntered up to the booth Jessica was sitting at.
Her silky smooth black hair was a bit longer now then the when I saw her after she caught a bus back home. That was back in October. I had noticed that before, but now that things weren't so tense I had the chance to admire it. I did like her hair longer anyways.
She looked up from her usual root beer float locking eyes with mine. Those soft browns set perfectly in her warm smile. I slipped into the booth in front of her. Her black turtleneck was stylishly pretty, and went with her jacket that cut off mid rib very nicely. She ran her hand back through her hair then shot me a wink.
"How are you feeling this morning?"
"Everything still hurts. Of course, doctors said I shouldn't have any long lasting injuries after this. Guess that's a small miracle"
"Or a big one considering what you put yourself through."
I chuckled quietly to myself gazing around the small shop. I could still faintly remember when I came here after class to study and share notes. I could vaguely remember bringing Sara a few times too. It all seemed like another life. So far away from who I was now.
As if God himself had a sense of Irony in stepped Sara and her new man. Jessica had told me his name was Beck I recalled. She breezed past us with her nose upturned. Jessica smirked laughing a little under her breath.
Sara went right up to the register and ordered something before shooting the two of us a look like she smelled something bad. This time she did nothing to me. It was weird. I was so far away from the guy she had cheated on so long ago that I felt like a different person.
I shared a wild smile with Jessica before she lunged across the table giving me a wildly passionate kiss. I was stunned beyond words. Sara's eyes lit up with something half way between disgust and anger. Jessica stood up taking my hand and pulling me out of the booth.
"Let's get going Jack. We got friends to meet."
She pulled me along right out the front door. I heard behind me Sara getting into an argument with Beck over something. Probably her reaction to what Jessica did to me. I felt bad for Beck. Maybe he wasn't a bad guy, but I knew Sara all too well.
Jessica hopped in the passenger side, and I cranked the Mustang.
"Go hard Jack. I want to scream the whole way there!"
"I sense an innuendo in that one."
"I meant for you too. Now punch it."
I did. I peeled tires out front just to steam Sara even more, and then drove within reasonable limits to the meet up.
"I didn't scream at all..."
Jessica pouted in the passenger seat.
"Middle of the day on Christmas Eve, and there is snow on the ground. Did you want me to get pulled over?"
"Could have ran from them..."
I laughed loudly and came to a stop next to Johnny's car. Johnny was leaning against the driver door with Kirin and Nathan surrounding him. When we pulled up they all gave a wave excited to see us.
"Kept us waiting huh? It's cold as hell out here!"
"You think its cold up here in the Summer Johnny. Keep your pants on."
I said getting out of the car. I left it running to keep it warm even if it did burn some gas. We all stood together sharing oddly satisfied smiles. It was the first time since the last job that I had seen Kirin and Nathan.
Thanks to them the town didn't suspect Johnny and I of anything. All the questioning was sped up with Kirin's connections in the force, and with the story about Tony being a dealer so widely accepted no one questioned that a rival gang could have gone after a witness along with that witness's friends and family. I still hated that Tony had to be the fall guy for it. That would stick with me forever, but I couldn't thank him enough for giving everything he had for me.
In the end he told me not to blame myself. I always would, but at least I knew he saw good in me to the very end. I planned to make him and my Grandpa proud with the extra chance at life Tony gave me.
"This will be where we part ways for a while friends."
Kirin started smiling across us.
"Obviously I will keep in contact. Ricky had a large influence, and that might not just disappear with his death. I will keep my hands in the business to watch how that plays out. If any of you are in danger I will let you know."
He handed sealed envelopes to Myself, Johnny, and Nathan with a bubbly giggle.
"These are from Delila. I simply wouldn't accept any kind of payment from Franky, but Delila insisted on this."
I opened the letter to find three dollars. Johnny and Nathan had the same.
"She said she had been saving a little and wanted us to have it."
I pocketed the cash with a huge smile on my face. I didn't plan to spend it. Those three bucks were going in a safe the second I could get one.
"I wish all of you the best on your future endeavors. If you get into any trouble do not hesitate to call me. Shall we plan another meeting? To get together and see how things have gone? I would so hate to not see you all for too long."
We all exchanged looks before Nathan asked.
"How long should we wait before the heat is cool?"
"I'd say a year is a good number. What's say the rest of you?"
I shrugged with a big smile and a growing warmth in my chest.
"Sounds good to me. Christmas Eve next year. Where are we meeting?"
Johnny perked up raising his hand like he was still in school.
"We can do it at my bar in Florida! I know I'll have it up and running by then."
We shared a laugh. The first time in a long time I shared a real genuine laugh with a group of friends. In all honesty it was the first time I had more than one friend in a long time. Even if this friend group was completely crazy. They seemed like they suited me better than the goodie two shoes types I use to run with.
"Sounds like a plan to me. A year from now in Johnny's future bar in Florida."
I put an arm around Jessica and held her close. She didn't seem to mind at all. She leaned into me comfortably.
"We will be there. Nathan?"
"If I'm still alive. Hopefully I am."
We all agreed. This time tomorrow Johnny and I would be on our ways out of town in different directions. Kirin and Nathan said they would be out before midnight. I was sad to see all of them go. I got a bit choked up hugging them all good bye. Especially when Kirin wrapped me up in a big hug apologizing over and over about what he put us through.
We all finally split up and went our different ways. I was about to take Jessica home before she told me.
"Drive around for a while. I want a joy ride before I have to go back and deal with family."
I nodded smiling to myself. It was still crazy to me that she wanted to spend time with me. My head lazily turned to the right catching sight of her carefree smile and half-closed eyes.
When she caught me looking she returned the look then leaned in.
"Pull over. I think you've got something on your face."
"You want me to pull over for that?"
"Just do it."
I sighed pulling off the side of the road. A quite little two lane in the North side.
"What do I have on my face?"
She returned a devilish smile and grabbed the back of my hair tangling her fingers in it.
She whispered in a sultry voice. I panicked realizing things were about to get intimate. Before I could protest she kissed me. Slow, and deep, and sweet. I lost myself in it just as much as she did.
"I feel like I need to preface this relationship by stating that if you get in with some drug dealers again I'm done. Got it? I will leave if you pull some dumb shit like that again."
I nodded quickly as she put her free hand on my cheek. I brought my hand to hers and covered it softly. She was so warm I didn't want the closeness to end.
"As long as you don't do that you've got me. You've got me and I've got you. Whatever career path you take Ill support you... again baring anymore drug adventures."
I laughed and pecked her lips. I couldn't resist with them being so close.
"No more drug running. Promise. You still going to be a doctor?"
"Yeah might as well. I'll pick up music again, and if I'm still into it I'll do it on the side. If it makes money then it makes money."
"I'm planning on getting an apartment when I move down there. I couldn't stand a dorm. Do you think you might want to..."
She giggled at my hesitation.
"Move in? You bet that sweet ass of yours."
"You did say you would have something special for me on Christmas."
"But it isn't Christmas yet now is it?"
We both laughed and kissed softly again before she pulled away.
"Now on with the Joy ride, and this time I mean it. Make me scream."
I dropped the clutch in first and screeched all the way to second then revved out second into third. The three-oh-two pulled hard all the way up the road forcing her back in her seat. Jessica screamed in giddy excitement.
As the mid-day sun burned over head we blasted down the back road without a care in the world. The Mustang roared out over the trees as healthy as could be. Grandpa would have been proud.