Kristen’s parent’s house was small and it rested on a 45-degree angle along the road that fed into the downtown district of Cold Spring. An old facility was behind the house that stored privately owned boats during the winter. It was right on the cusp of the Hudson River and beyond that was the great landscape of upper state New York; flush and beautiful with mountainous greenery as far as the eye could see. When Thomas and Kristen arrived, her father was outside waiting to greet them and to speak with the tow-truck driver.
“There’s my daddy!” Kristen said. She saw that the driveway was empty and after seeing her father direct the driver to park in the driveway next to the house, Kristen turned to Dave. “You can park in the driveway,” she said while pointing at it. Her hand crossed Thomas’s line of view. He moved away from it slightly while digging into his pocket. Dave just nodded as Kristen brought her hand down.
After Dave parked the tow-truck, Kristen leaned into the passenger door and opened it. “Come on Thomas,” she said tugging at his coat sleeve.
“Ok, hold on,” Thomas turned toward Dave, but he was already out of the truck’s cab walking toward Kristen’s father.
“What are you waiting for,” Kristen said. Thomas just shook his head and followed her out of the cab.
“Hey Kristen, are you ok? You know, you have to make sure that everything is ok with the car before you take it for an extensive drive.” Her father looked at Thomas, “You brought her back in one piece though Thomas,” he said and smiled.
“Hey Mark,” Thomas smiled back.
Dave was walking back to the truck and waved to Thomas and Kristen. “Have a Merry Christmas,” he said.
“Hey Dave, wait,” Thomas jumped into a jog and started to dig into his pocket again. “Merry Christmas,” Thomas handed Dave a fifty dollar bill that landed right into his palm.
“Hey, thanks man,” he said and shook his hand. Thomas nodded and then turned back to Mark and Kristen. He saw the two at the end of a hug.
“How about you two get inside while Dave takes care of the car,” Mark said, “and go say hi to mommy Kristen; she’s been worried.”
“Ok, thanks daddy,” Kristen pecked him on the cheek and motioned Thomas to follow her. Thomas paused, then nodded.
“Ok,” he said, “Thanks Mark.”
Mark smiled and walked toward Dave while Thomas and Kristen walked up the driveway toward the back of the house.
The backyard faced the Hudson and it would have been a nice view if it wasn’t for the boat storage facility, yet the scenery overcame the eyesore and it was equally significant. Thomas followed Kristen up the back porch steps that led to a patio which extended along the backside of the house. He saw the white wooden rocking chairs mesh with the mint candy green color of the house’s siding. Small tables were between each and there were three of them. He reached the top of the stairs where he saw at the end of the porch the grill fired up, smoking from its tiny stack. The smoke flowed with a dance that crept through the air into the scenery that laid before him. He turned with the smoke and took a deep breath.
“Hey Mommy!” Kristen said as he heard her enter the house.
The door’s spring stretched, which snapped the screen door shut. The slam startled Thomas followed by Kristen’s mother’s voice.
“You finally made it, is everything ok?” Thomas heard her say. The smoke continued to lift into the air and the rays from the sun faded through them. Thomas turned away from the fading smoke and sun to enter the kitchen from the back porch.
“Thomas, what happened?” Kristen’s mother said as he guided the screen door closed.
“Hey Jan,” Thomas saw that she was cutting avocados on a cutting board.
“Come in here and help me with this guacamole Thomas and tell me what happened,” She didn’t take her eyes off of the cutting board with the avocados almost entirely sliced.
Thomas passed Kristen as she was on her toes reaching for a glass that was in one of the cabinets. As he passed her to squeeze by the tight space of the narrow kitchen, he caressed her waist and nearly touched the sink’s counter with his thigh on the other side.
“Hey bae,” she said and smiled.
“Bae?” Jan’s voice didn’t elevate in tone but sustained the inquisitive pitch that she conveyed with her first question.
“Short for babe mommy,” Kristen said as she brought down a glass and placed it on the counter. Jan paused cutting the avocados and looked at Thomas as he cleared away from Kristen.
“Is that what you call her during sex Thomas?” She asked him. Her eyes peered over the spider trim of her glasses and she didn’t smile; however, Thomas did to relief the awkward tension brewing inside of him.
“Oh mommy, stop it,” Kristen shuffled to the fridge and placed the glass under the water dispenser. Thomas heard the cup fill as Jan handed the knife to him.
“Finish cutting these and tell me about the car,” she moved to where Kristen was when she was grabbing the cup out of the cabinet and leaned against the counter facing Thomas.
“Well,” Thomas cleared his throat, “it was the engine coolant. I saw that the valve was spliced at the tip and . . .”
Jan started to chuckle, “Spliced at the tip aye,” she said playfully slapping Thomas as he cut the avocado. Thomas couldn’t help but blush and nodded.
“hahaha, stop mommy, you’re embarrassing him,” Kristen took a sip from her cup and stepped over to Thomas as he cut. She grabbed his cheek and giggled.
“Yeah, we had to pull over to figure that out and that was after the engine was smoking,” he said, then looked up at Kristen and winked.
“Well, that’s good you two lovebirds made it back. Thomas could you finish the guacamole, Mark can help you . . . I’ll be in the other room,” Jan said as she started to exit the kitchen while continuing to talk, “I want to finish this piece that I am learning on the piano,” her voice faded as she walked down the hallway and into that other room. It wasn’t long until Thomas heard it playing a tune.
The screen door opened and Thomas looked up.
“Ah she’s got you working in the kitchen I see,” Mark said. Thomas cracked a smile as he watched him approach over Kristen’s shoulder. Kristen turned to her father while sipping on her glass of water.
“Mommy said to help him,” she said over the glass’s lip.
“Mark,” the piano in the other room stopped playing, “help Thomas, would you,” Jan’s voice bounced off the hallway’s walls before ricocheting into the condensed kitchen.
“Yes-yes-yes,” Mark said as he half turned his head toward the hallway. He passed Kristen walking over to Thomas. “Don’t worry about this Thomas, you two should bring your stuff upstairs and get ready to leave,” he said. Kristen looked at her watch.
“Yeah, we really should,” she said.
They exited the kitchen, passing the living room that opened toward the staircase. The piano stopped playing.
“That was fast,” Thomas heard Jan say. Thomas leaned into the living room while Kristen walked up the stairs.
“Mark said he would finish it, we actually have to get ready,” Thomas said. Jan didn’t take her eyes off the sheet music displayed in front of her.
“What time is it?” she said.
“Close to six,” Mark said from the kitchen. Thomas turned his head down the hallway, then back at Jan.
“Oh dear,” Jan said. She bolted up from the piano, closing the sheet music and walked toward Thomas. She patted him on the shoulder. “Get upstairs and help Kristen, We’ll pack the food – Mark, get the tinfoil out!”