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Original release date: November 13, 2015

Notes [Last revised May 13, 2016]:

– All characters are the product of the authors’ imaginations.
– All characters engaging in sexual activity are over eighteen.
– This is our submission for the Winter Holiday contest 2015.
– This story is fairly lengthy, detailed and has a long lead up.
– We have made numerous corrections to the story, however, no significant plot or character changes.

I’d been pacing around my apartment for the last thirty minutes gathering my thoughts as well as some last minute items for the trip. My anxiety about today had been building over the last couple days and the pacing was just an outlet for what came next. Finally, limiting my retraced steps to my small kitchen, I resolved to sit on the kitchen stool which was neatly placed with its back against the side of my avocado colored refrigerator. It faced the tan wall phone which was just to the right of the fridge, so I could sit, rather than pace, while using it. The phone had a long cord and if I didn’t sit, I’d be tangled in it if I allowed myself to pace while talking, even for short calls.

Settling onto the seat, I relaxed a bit and felt the metal seat-back of the step-stool chair make contact with the side of the refrigerator. A nearly imperceptible rattle from their contact stopped abruptly as the compressor clicked off. I took a deep breath and I lifted the headset to listen for a dial tone while my right index finger automatically found the holes as I dialed out the sequence of numbers I’d known even as a small child. My finger traced through each number until it hit the cold metallic stop. The rotary wheel returned slowly and methodically clicked through each number.

When the sequence was complete I waited several moments and finally heard the sounds of the caller ringback tone on the other end. I began to daydream about that song ‘Ring, Ring’ by Abba while the phone must have rung six or seven times. Feeling like I was actually sitting by the phone, waiting all alone, I began to wonder if Mom or anyone was home. I had to call, it was expected now; any out of the ordinary travel required it. It was something we all did now. I was about to hang up and call her office when she answered.

“Tova Aaron, can I help you?”

Mom always answered her phone with her name, even at home. I guess it was a residual idiosyncrasy of her job. She was a lawyer, although now semi-retired.

“Hi Mom. It’s Maya,” I said. I could hear the slight noise of papers she must have been rustling in her office.

“Hello, dear. I’ve been expecting your call. I can hardly wait to see you. We’re going to have a full house, you know? Everyone is coming.”

“I am really looking forward to seeing them all. I’m about to leave. Are you sure you don’t need me to bring anything?” I asked, as I habitually twirled my fingers in the coils of the phone cord.

“No, dear. I think I have everything covered. I have two turkeys, half a dozen extra legs, makings for the biscuits, gravy and dressing. Several of the others are bringing dishes too. Please, drive safely,” she said somberly.

“Okay, Mom. I will. I love you,” I said, as I tried to ignore the undertone her last words carried.

“I love you too, dear.”

Mom was going all out for this particular Thanksgiving. The invitation cards and numerous follow-up xerographed and mimeographed letters had come in the mail over the past few months. Each contained revised lists of dishes that might be made, timing, contingency plans, sleeping arrangements, activities and all sorts of minutia ad nauseam.

My younger brother Michael and I would be the odd ones out. I guess Mom reasoned that since we were still in school, we didn’t need to be quite as involved. It’d been like that for us for quite a while now. Michael was a senior in high school and I was in my first year of college. We still weren’t expected to prepare any dishes or even really help, we were continuing to be sheltered. Our older brothers and sisters along with their respective spouses that lived nearby would be bringing their favorites or specialties and had more responsibilities.

Rousing from my thoughts after I hung up, I forced myself to finish packing. Only a few final items went into the medium size suitcase. I put a couple of course books into my backpack and then located my small purse and keys. Taking one last look around I decided I was done and snapped the brushed nickel latches on the ivory colored leather suitcase closed. I picked it up and moved it to the heavy metal clad door where I gathered my purse from the desk, slung the backpack over my shoulder and moved these all awkwardly through the doorway.

Once through, the industrial gas closer forced the door shut with a bang that echoed down the halls of my apartment building. Pressing the thick brass key into the lock, I then clicked the deadbolt tight. I carried the heavy case down the hall and around the corner, all the while thinking that I’d probably over packed again, I pressed the down button for the elevator. A whoosh of air came up as it arrived. The doors opened with a ding bursa escort and I entered placing my suitcase on the floor. Inside the wood and brass adorned carriage, I pressed the star and awaited as it descended rapidly to the lobby.

I walked through the richly decorated anteroom and out of the high-rise apartment building onto the parking deck. It was a bright clear fall day and I was glad for the wool coat I’d worn. On the deck I located my silver Thunderbird and set my case down at the rear bumper. Inserting the chrome plated key into the keyhole, I twisted until the heavy trunk lid clicked open. I placed my case and backpack into the deep well and made one last check that I had a lighter weight sweater in my backpack.

The days had been rather atypical this year; the mornings were quite cool but the afternoons were almost hot. The drive was only about ninety minutes or so down MA-24, but Mom would have given me a healthy helping of guilt if I hadn’t called. I climbed into the burgundy colored leather seat and put my purse in the passenger floorboard which was similarly colored carpet to match the interior. Placing the key into the ignition, I gave it a turn and the massive engine turned over slowly and then roared to life. In spite of the car’s length it maneuvered easily out of the parking deck with its advanced power steering. Once out of the structure, I began the short peaceful drive towards what I still considered my home.

I was having a variety of mixed feelings about the whole event. Thanksgivings always put my emotions into a heightened state. It had always been that way; even before Dad had died. It was a time when we all got together. Despite the enjoyment that came with it, Thanksgiving always wrought upheaval into our lives as well. The house would fill with brothers, sisters, spouses, their children, uncles, aunts and grandparents. We didn’t see them most of the time, but this one day of the year was a special gathering holiday. My immediate family consisted of mostly nonobservant Jews so we didn’t really celebrate many occasions, but Thanksgiving was something everyone held dear. This year, there would be at least eighteen of us in the family home according to the last hand written note. The house was plenty big enough since Mom and Dad had always planned on a big family with lots of grand-kids.

The entire extended family had gathered in our parents’ home for as long as I could remember during the week of Thanksgiving. That was even the case the year Dad died. He’d been killed the day before Thanksgiving and two weeks short of his fifty-ninth birthday. The years that had passed since then hadn’t made the holiday any easier for many of us. Yesterday had actually been the fourth anniversary of his passing, if one were to celebrate such things. That had been the last Thanksgiving the whole family had been together and unfortunately, it’d been for his funeral. That event seemed to have put the reunions on hiatus for the past few years. The first year was skipped because Thanksgiving actually fell on the date of his death. Then there seemed to be some inertia to getting the event going again.

When Dad died, Michael and I were devastated. We had been the only two children still living in our parents’ home and had been the only two for several years. Dad doted upon us in the latter years of our parents’ growing law firm. Their success had given them much more free time with us. The fact was, Michael and I were probably the closest to him. He and Mom simply hadn’t had the same amount of time to devote to the older children. They’d been there, but frequently our older siblings had interacted more with our live in nanny. So, even though they had Dad longer, having all grown to adulthood before moving out, it seemed like Michael and I had gotten to experience him more deeply woven into the fabric of our lives.

Even now, I think that since Michael and I had still been living with our parents, it made it feel like the impact upon us was the largest. Dad always made time for us and was deeply interested in everything we did. His absence wasn’t merely the loss of a father figure, it was like losing our best friend and confidant. Our sorrow, nevertheless, went mostly unnoticed as we were plunged into the abyss together. We weren’t neglected, it was simply a very complicated time in our family’s life for everyone involved.

The accident had happened while our Dad (Seth) and our youngest brother (Frank) were returning from a case in another state. It was Frank’s first big case. Dad had been so proud when Frank passed the Bar at age twenty-six. Dad’s death had just been the first bad news though; the second part was Frank had been mostly paralyzed from the waist down. He might still practice law, but he’d do so from a wheel chair.

The day following the accident, the remainder of the family had arrived for our father’s burial and directly following the service, they came to our home to observe the seven-day mourning period, “sitting Shiva” required by Judaism. This was mostly done out of respect for our grandfather, who was a practicing reformed Jew, but also for the other members of the family that bursa escort bayan followed these traditions. The house was full of mourners, each wearing their torn outer garment, a ritual known as keriah, but there were constant and unavoidable interruptions, which hampered and detracted from Dad’s remembrance.

Frank’s immediate care and recovery needed lots of supervision and it required Mom’s attention as she sought out top surgeons to oversee and direct the surgeries he needed. All of these additional burdens meant we couldn’t observe Shiva as completely as some would have liked. There were simply too many other matters to attend. We did have an opportunity to mourn and remember Dad but these other events conspired to isolate Michael and myself. Together we suffered in codependent silence.

Somehow, Mom hadn’t fallen apart during the events that followed and having to see to Frank’s care helped her focus on something she could do to make things better. She and Dalia had alternated turns being at the hospital. Dalia was the youngest of our older sisters and she’d just gone through a rough divorce that June. She and Frank were actually fraternal twins who had always been very close and following the accident she moved back into her old room in our house for several months. Luckily for Michael and I, she’d stayed on with us while Frank was slowly recovering. We’d relied on her for information, since she was more forthcoming with us than Mom was. She thought we were old enough and should know about Frank’s condition.

The doctors were saying he would never walk despite the fact that he had some minor movement in his toes. Even though I was fifteen and Michael was fourteen, our Mom thought we should be sheltered from the events as much as possible. She was probably hiding her grief from us, but at the time I’d been consumed with our loss. As I looked back now, I have to mark this as the beginning of Mom’s over-protection of us. Of her eight children, we were the youngest by nearly ten years. She didn’t let us go to the hospital or the convalescent home while Frank was undergoing rehab. Dalia gave us less sanitized details of Frank’s ordeal.

Our older siblings and their families were all in the home for several days around that Thanksgiving as well, which contributed to the chaos. Our oldest brother, Ben (age 29), was there with his wife, Anna, and their two children, Lev and Aya. Our oldest sister, Rachel (age 28), and her husband Jon had their daughter, Mellony. David (age 27) and his wife Colleen had their young son Zach. Sarah (age 26) was accompanied by her husband Robert. Dalia (age 25) was helping Mom the most as she and Frank had always been so close. That left us in the buzz of all the comings and goings of siblings, aunts and uncles, our grandparents, a live in house keeper / nanny, various attorneys from the firm and visitors galore.

The trauma to the entire family was seismic and the aftershocks of Dad’s passing touched everyone. In hindsight, I know everyone was doing the best they could, especially Mom. However, at the time it seemed like Michael and I were left to our own devices to sort things out. It simply never occurred to anyone that we might need therapy or counseling, instead we got sheltering. I thought about this as the miles of leafless trees passed outside my window while I drove on autopilot. The solitude of the soft white noise from the tires on the road lulled me back into my thoughts as my mind continued to try and work through these issues.

Those months of suffering following our Dad’s death put Michael and me on a path inward away from everyone. Initially, we were merely lost in the shuffle of all the family. Then there was the intense focus on the recuperation of Frank with the aid of Dalia in the family home until they moved closer to the firm and rehabilitation center. On very few occasions, did we actually see Mom cry, but the day they moved out had been one. Perhaps having completed this goal, which had so consumed her time, she finally had the time to consider her loss of Dad. We had both noticed and her sorrow saddened us as well, there seemed to be nothing we could do.

During all of the upheaval in our home, there was an initially unnoticed side effect of our despair. Michael and I were suddenly failing at school and it resulted in both of us being held back a year. It made our high school life become a bit lonelier for us as our few friends advanced. The disassociation from our friends pushed Michael and I even closer together in a self-reinforcing cocoon of solitude. We were together so much that we’d often slept in one another’s rooms.

At some point I began to obsess about our dependency upon one another. It was like a slight itch in the back of my mind that I kept going back to, but could never scratch. To me our interdependence seemed like it might be getting out of control. I began worrying about how much we needed to be with one another. Eventually, these concerns had prompted me to start reading; what I couldn’t get in the library, I found or ordered from the bookstore. Self-help books began to populate my shelves. Lots of it was total quackery escort bursa and I knew it. Quaint ideas about life altering schisms were my bête noire. The books that kept and held my attention were ones that had factual information backing their claims. I quickly found that I knew what I wanted to be. I didn’t need tests or councilors to tell me.

By November of my senior year I’d already gotten accepted to the university I wanted to attend. I’d gotten a scholarship for school, but would need to pay for my own housing. The memory of the acceptance letter’s arrival stuck in my mind. As I had read it, I could remember thinking, The only good thing to come of our father’s death, was the settlement money. It was a fairly idiotic thought and I know that now. At the time there still weren’t many positive things to grab onto and somehow my mind accepted that ridiculous idea. If it hadn’t been for the medical expenses, our family would have had funds to send Michael and I to the top schools, just like our siblings. Insurance had covered some of these expenses, but from what I heard later, we were going through savings pretty fast.

In the end, the settlement with the corporation, responsible for the truck that flattened Frank’s cute little MG convertible, had added to Mom’s and Frank’s wealth some, but mostly it’d helped reimburse her for all of the medical care that he’d needed. However, it’d also consumed enormous amounts of her time. When she wasn’t dealing with Frank’s issues, she was working that case. All other cases had been pushed to junior attorneys in the firm.

Now going home to see Michael for the first time in nearly four months, I was worried how we would react to one another. Our dependency had only increased over the high school years. It was what had put me on the path to become a psychologist. My internal debate over whether to become a psychiatrist or psychologist had been fairly short once I decided I wanted a doctorate rather than a medical degree. We both needed help but I didn’t believe that either of us was in need of prescription drugs. So, I had thought, perhaps naïvely, that I might provide it for both of us. When I told him I was going to Harvard, it had nearly driven him into depression. However, when he found I was composing a letter declining the offer, he tore it up and selflessly insisted I go. It was that strength in him that convinced me we might eventually be okay.

We spent countless hours together the summer following my graduation from high school. We swam in the pool and the ocean, played tennis, road our bikes to the park and talked endlessly. We made a day trip to Boston with Mom to celebrate the bicentennial.

For his eighteenth birthday, on July 15th, I took him back to Boston with me to look for an apartment near the school. It was a combination trip, with the first part focusing on him. We went to a respectable restaurant and had a nice birthday meal and his first legal drink, although we frequently had wine at home. Afterward, we toured around the city a bit more and found a hotel. Then we spent a couple of days to find something that I felt would work and not eat through money too fast. We both agreed that the high-rise apartment was a good deal and would be safe.

At the end of the week, Mom made a trip in from her office to sign the lease for me and we returned home. The day we returned home was when Mike’s behavior began to spiral a bit as the reality of my departure settled in on him. From that night until I left for school, Michael and I slept in the same bed. He would barely let me out of his sight and desperately sought to spend as much time together with me as he possibly could.

I take the blame for letting it happen. I was concerned, but was unable to alter my behavior. It was never sexual, not once. Our isolation combined with the trauma had stunted our emotional and sexual maturation. Our social skills were fairly immature as well, although we had some activities outside the home, such as our involvement with the tennis squad. The fortunate side effect was that through our interaction and isolation, we had eventually excelled in our studies. The unfortunate part was that the emotional bond we’d formed was going to be challenged the day I left and I didn’t have the inner strength to soften the jolt Michael was about to receive. Honest introspection told me I was clinging to him as well.

The night before my departure culminated with an event that would change everything. Mike was steadily withdrawing that last week and I could see what it was doing to him. I’d tried to reassure him and encourage him to do well while I was away. Our last night together, he had cried softly against me in my bed. I’d taken his hands and squeezed them, but he was inconsolable. Hugging him closely only seemed to make the matter worse. When I pushed him flat and covered his face with kisses he hugged me back, but was still distraught. Finally, I’d kissed him on his lips. These kisses made him stop but as I lingered the kiss became distinctly unsisterly. We fell asleep in each other’s arms as we often did. However, that night something about the relationship had transformed. I wasn’t positive, but during the interaction as I had lain across his chest kissing him, I’d sensed he’d had an erection. It gave me a somewhat guilty feeling, since I knew that if there had been one, it had been caused by our contact.

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