New Year’s Day was spent at the Davis’ home. The only real objective was to watch as many football games as they could in one day. The basement hosted a large screen television, a pool table, and lots of other games and activities.
Ashley dozed off lying on the sofa with Paul’s little sisters and brothers climbing all over her.
As Paul sat off to the side playing a game of UNO with his little brother Mark and their little sister Samantha, he couldn’t help glancing over with contentment at the beautiful woman resting on his couch all snuggled up next to his baby sister Stephanie. He thought about what it would be like to have her holding his baby in her arms. He wanted that so badly.
Paul was reminded of the conversation a few weeks prior when Ashley had accused him of letting his body think for his mind. She wasn’t really that far from the truth; he did want her in so many more ways than he was normally willing to admit to himself.
But it was more than that. It was the thought of her being there every morning when he woke up, and having his babies, and being partners in every way possible.
As if sensing his gaze, Ashley opened her eyes sleepily and smiled softly back at him. He suddenly felt a really strong desire to take her and sneak away together and have her all to himself. He quickly shook the thought away, knowing how easily that could get them into a lot of trouble. Especially in his vulnerable frame of mind. He smiled lightly back at her, then turned his attention back to his siblings and tried to shake off the thoughts that kept creeping back into his mind.
“Touchdown!” Donnie called out, shaking them all from the stupor that had fallen over the room. “Sorry,” he grinned sheepishly when he realized that he’d startled everyone. He reached over and gave his older brother Steve a high-five then turned back to the television.
Ashley stretched and untangled herself from Stephanie and little Shawn. She yawned and reached for her glass of Diet Coke, before realizing that it was mostly melted ice and little else. Paul jumped up to grab her glass and walked over to the wet-bar in the corner of the basement to get her a refill. He grabbed a bowl of popcorn on his way back and plopped down on the sofa next to her, handing her the drink.
“Hey,” Samantha called out to him. “You’re supposed to be playing with us.” She waved his UNO cards at him and he sighed wearily and wrinkled his nose before reluctantly getting up from the couch. He was reminded again that it was probably a good thing that his family was there and that he wasn’t alone with Ashley. She smiled up at him and thanked him for the pop.
At halftime, they hauled out the Karaoke machine and made fools of themselves singing along to goofy songs and sounding pretty off-tune. Everyone but Sarah. She had a beautiful voice and everyone stopped what they were doing and listened intently whenever she had the microphone.
Ashley’s sister had once been the popular girl at school who wore the queen’s crown several times and always had a string of friends hanging on her every word. Paul wondered what had happened in Sarah’s life that had caused her to have so little drive now. All she did was hang out at their parents’ home and be pretty and sweet. She didn’t have a job or go to college or have a boyfriend. Paul wondered what Sarah was ever going to do with her life. Oh well, it wasn’t his job to worry about her or be judgmental. He just sat back and smiled as he enjoyed the beautiful music.
The end of the football game on the big screen quickly turned into a pick-up game of flag football in the yard. The snow wafted down from the dark sky, illuminated by the back porch light and softened by the relative warmth of the day. Jackets quickly came off, leaving hooded sweatshirts as the only protection from air that was cool enough to turn noses red and fingers numb. Sweat gave way to shivers when everyone was too tired to play anymore and hot cocoa was passed around while they warmed themselves by the fireplace. A new year had begun, and the excitement of it subtly masked the changes that loomed ahead.