I stopped my car in the parking lot above the Poughkeepsie Station. I shouldn’t have been nervous, but I was. Blake Hartt and I had been in each other’s minds for years. I grabbed the twin hot cocoas from the cup holders and closed the door with a swing of my hip. I could see my breath. It was surely cold enough to snow. My mittens protected me from the heated cups.
I came to find Blake, I would start at the top of the station. There’s a
balcony that peers over the platform, giving me a view of everything
within a few miles. A train had just stopped and hurried commuters
poured from its doors. The thick clouds gave sweet Blake a wide expense
of shade, so he could be anywhere.
I sighed after scouring the platform. Maybe Blake’s inside? Maybe he’s visiting Beckett?
“If I was a snake I would’ve bit you.”
I loved his voice. It made me smile before I even turned to face him.
“Hello, handsome.” I handed him his cup and hugged him with my now free arm.
held on for longer than was appropriate. He felt cold through my
jacket. I wanted to stuff him in the car and throw the heaters on. I
assessed him because it was a habit, maybe from having kids. I checked
his coat --it was at least warm. His eyes were clear and jade, as usual.
He looked healthy. I was relieved.
“I do know how to make it from one day to the next.”
“Am I that easy to read?” I questioned.
“Do you want to go inside? Are you cold?” he asked.
My heart crumbled a bit, that he would ask this of me when his home was the very nature that surrounded the station.
“No, it’s crisp and lovely outside.”
“You suck at lying.” He raised his eyebrows.
“So I’ve heard. Take me somewhere nice Blake.” I put my hand in his and squeezed.
Blake smiled at me and led me down the road to the edge of the Hudson River. We sat on a bench and looked at the choppy water.
The wind made me slide on my sunglasses despite the lack of sunlight to keep my eyes from tearing up.
“So, Merry Christmas,” he offered.
His rolled up cardboard piano poked out of his pocket. I watched as his fingers brushed against it.
“It is that.”
spent a few minutes in silence before I had the courage to ask him, “I
have to write a Christmas post for Omnific and I had to pick a
“And I won? You’ve got the Devil? You’ve got Beckett?” He was teasing me.
“Of course I picked you. Plus I wanted to visit, it’s been a while.” I sipped my cocoa and he mimicked me.
He looked at his hands, “Really, Debra you should’ve asked one of the others. You know I have…” he swallowed, “nothing.”
I looked at his hands as well, knowing he hated talking about it, hated shedding light on his situation. Blake was homeless.
“Beckett would be happy to have you live with him.” I stopped talking when he shook his head and gave me a sharp look.
“I don’t take charity.” He touched the piano again.
bit my tongue. I knew how it was for him, the choices he made. Blake
loved being in the woods, loved walking under a canopy of leaves. He
didn’t want to impose on his brothers or anyone else.
I switched the topic. “So tell me, are you a Holiday type of guy? Like what does Christmas mean to Blake Hartt?”
took a relieved breath. “I’m a huge fan of Christmas lights. I love
walking around at night, seeing the houses lit up. It’s like people
finally let you know they like to have a good time, stand out from the
rest. Did your husband put some up this year?”
rolled my eyes, “Not yet, we are at odds. I want big and gaudy and he
likes classy white lights. I’m still trying to get an inflatable Santa
on the lawn.”
“Don’t force that poor guy into inflatables. We’re lucky he puts up with you.”
I playful punch his arm. “All you dudes stick together. It’s not fair. So what else matters to you at this time of year?”
it was a mistake, coming here to talk about the most materialistic time
of the year with a man who had everything he owned on his person.
He blushed. I smiled. “What is it?”
He bit his bottom lip before answering, “Well, there’s this girl.” He corrected himself, “Woman. She rides the train everyday.”
I put my drink on the bench and clapped. “Tell me more.”
He put his hand behind his neck and looked so excited. “Well, she’s really nice to everyone and she likes her music.”
I knew there was more. “And?”
looked into the distance his voice barely more than a whisper, “And she
smiles at me every time she sees me. Even though she knows. I mean she
has to know that I’m…”
swept though my body. A woman treating his delicate soul with kindness
made me love her. Maybe she’d be able to see how exceptional Blake was,
pending address not withstanding.
now that it’s Christmas? She’s been giving me twice as many smiles. So
that’s what this time of the year means to me. Her smiles have doubled.”
He finished his drink and motioned to mine.
I nodded that I was finished and Blake took our cups to the recycling can.
Debra, you need to get back to that family of yours. Plus, you’re
freezing.” He held out a hand and we headed back to my car.
I’d deny it, but it would be a lie and he’d already pointed out that I suck at it.
He asked for my keys and opened my car door for me. After making sure I buckled up, Blake gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
He smelled like mint and cocoa.
“Hey, Blake. How’d you know her smiles doubled?”
He closed my car door, so I rolled down my window, in anticipation of his answer.
“Simple. I count them.” He blushed again.
“You count her smiles?” My mouth dropped open. It was so freaking romantic.
“We’re up to 86.” He shrugged and looked towards the train platform. ”She’s on the next one. I’ve got to get down there.”
“You do that, baby. And she’s a very lucky girl.”
He rolled his eyes before trotting off to meet the train.
I pulled away I realized I’d talked to the perfect character. The best
present any of us ever gets for the Holidays is kindness.
well now that I am done crying, I will say that the second best present
any of us ever get is a picture of Satan Jack from Deb’s other
series---dressed as Santa:
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