Here is the final part to the story.
Tuffer awoke to the smell of pancakes and coffee. He threw on a robe and dashed down the stairs. His mother was singing along to the radio while she whipped up hot cakes.
After pleasant greetings, the young man sat down to devour two stacks, a mug of coffee, and one of hot chocolate.A knock startled him. Who was at their door at nine on the day after Christmas? He peered around the corner of the arch to the kitchen. Lexie stood outside.
He turned the latch. “Hi. What are you doing here?”
“Can I come in? It’s freezing out here.”
“Sure, sure. I’m sorry. Come in. Have some hot chocolate.” He silently blessed his parents for remaining in the kitchen.
“You left your sweater at the house. It’s cold. You might need it.”
“Thank you. You came all this way just to bring me the sweater?”
“No. I came to return this.” She thrust the box with the bracelet into his hand. Her eyes filled, but she blinked back the tears.
“Keep it. I bought it for you. I want you to have it.”
“I can’t keep an expensive gift from a guy who doesn’t want to be with me.”
“It’s not you. I don’t fit in.”
“I don’t care if you’re like my father and Jo. Do you like being with me?”
He stepped closer, snaking his arm around her waist and pulling her to him. “I love being with you,” he whispered. Then, he put the package back in her palm. “Please keep this. I want you to have it.” He plaited his fingers through her dark blonde hair.
She rested her cheek on his chest. “I like being with you too. I have to get back. Dad’s making his world famous chocolate chip pancakes .”
“You’re going to keep the bracelet, aren’t you?”
“Are we going to keep seeing each other?”
“I hope so. I was an asshole. I’m sorry.”
He leaned down to kiss her then pointed straight up. “Mistletoe.”
She giggled, zipped up her coat, and was gone.
Later that afternoon, Ralph bundled his wife into their new car. Tuffer stood at the edge of the driveway and waved. His heart weighed heavy to see them leave. He counted them among his many blessings.
* * * *
Sunday’s game was in Nebraska. They were playing the Huskers. Before game time, Tuff spotted Rusty Fowler take his seat. The man stared at him, making looking away neigh unto impossible. They made eye contact. Rusty smiled, nodded, and raised his hand in greeting.
Tuffer nodded back. His mother had reminded him that it was Christmas and forgiveness was in the air. Relieved of his curiosity about his real dad, Tuffer had calmed down. He had agreed with Bev that Rusty had lost something he could never regain—Tuffer’s childhood.
His mother’s words had dissolved the hatred that had burned in him. Rusty had missed out on a lifetime with his son, but Tuffer had had a dad who was there, night after night, day after day, who cared for him and loved him.
So, why not acknowledge Rusty Fowler? What harm would it do to speak to him? “Best to let go of the anger and feel sorry for the man,” Tuff’s mom had said.
With peace in his heart, the linebacker trotted out to the line of scrimmage to play the game he loved, with a nod toward the man who had, perhaps, given him the skill to be a star.
Merry Christmas, may you all receive your Christmas wish this year, and every year. Thank you for reading my story. Please leave a comment as I love feedback