Color of You
We Need a Vacation Coda
“Did you drizzle the milk?” Alan asked, staring at the tray of scalloped potatoes I removed from the oven. “You’re supposed to drizzle. Otherwise it gets lumpy and gross.”
“It’s not lumpy,” I protested while sprinkling chopped parsley over the dish.
“They don’t look like dad’s scalloped potatoes.”
“Yeah, well, Dad is Martha Stewart. If you’re hungry, you get the cheap, knockoff version by Mandy Stewart.”
The cordless phone on the wall rang suddenly. Ten bucks it was my wayward husband.
I grabbed a hand towel and wiped my fingers as I walked across the room, fetched the phone, and answered. “Hello?”
“Hey, darling. What’s your ETA? I’ve made the best scalloped potatoes yet.”
Felix made a sound under his breath, and I could hear him moving about the gift shop of his apple orchard. “We just closed.”
I frowned, took a step back, and peered at the clock on the wall. “Jesus. It’s almost eight o’clock.”
“I know. But this is my busiest time of year,” Felix said with a tone of apology. “Making money now gets me through the lean months—”
“You don’t have to explain it to me,” I said quickly. “I get it.”
I heard a door open on his end, and the reverberation of a big room suddenly folded in on itself. Felix must have walked into his office.
“I still have to clean and do the end-of-day paperwork,” he continued.
“Dinner’s about ready.”
“I’m so sorry. It’s going to be at least another hour and a half.”
I turned around. Alan was leaning against the island, staring expectantly. “Don’t clean anything.”
“We’ll be over there in twenty minutes.”
“Bo,” Felix started. “Just save me a plate—”
“Since when has telling me what to do ever worked?” I asked, grinning.
Alan rolled his eyes.
“Twenty minutes,” I reiterated. I said goodbye, hung up the phone, and told Alan, “Let’s pack up dinner and go help your dad.”
“I think Dad deserves a vacation,” Alan said as I parked beside Felix’s car in the otherwise abandoned lot of Snowy Ridge.
“He does,” I agreed, turning the engine off.
Alan got out of the passenger seat, balancing Tupperware full of potatoes and meatloaf in his arms. “Don’t you think a trip would be nice?”
“Oh sure.” I hurried ahead of Alan, up the porch steps, and unlocked the gift shop door.
Alan walked through the dark room toward the café in the back. He set the Tupperware down on a table, flipped a light switch, and helped himself to a few plates from the kitchen around the corner.
I started for the office down the hall to the left.
“Bowen?” Alan called.
“What?” I halted and turned around.
Alan hurried toward me, wet boots squeaking on the floor. “I don’t think I was obvious enough with the ‘dad deserves a vacation,’ thing. Can we go to New York City for New Year’s?”
“New York?” I echoed in surprise.
“Yeah,” Alan said, his eyes growing wide and hopeful.
“Uh… what about somewhere closer to home? Like Boston or—”
“Language, Alan,” I chastised.
He made a face. “Come on.”
“It’s kind of hard to spring a surprise trip to New York City after I’ve spent my last paycheck on Christmas.” I smiled and ruffled his hair. “Maybe we can schedule that for next year.”
“No, no. I’ll be a senior next year. It’ll be too stressful.”
“We can stay with Scarlet,” Alan continued. “You guys won’t even have to pay for a hotel.” He pointed his index finger at me. “She told me we could always stay with her.”
“That’s… true. She did.”
Alan took out his phone, opened the internet browser, and held it out. “Amtrak isn’t that expensive.”
“Have you planned this trip out already?” I asked, scrolling over the train ticket options before looking at the teenager.
Alan shrugged. “Yeah. We can watch the ball drop in Times Square.”
I winced at the very notion of being shoulder to shoulder with over two million people in the freezing cold, screaming at a lit-up disco ball.
“I really want to go to some of the comic and game shops,” Alan said as he snatched his phone back. “And cooking stores for Dad. And remember that chocolate restaurant you mentioned?”
I put my hands out to stop him. “Okay. Let me think about it. Go heat up dinner.”
Alan frowned, but nodded and walked back to the café.
I went into Felix’s office, knocking on the partially closed door as I pushed it open. “Ho, ho, ho, Mr. Hansen.”
Felix looked up from his computer screen and smiled lightly. “Mr. Merlin.”
I strode across the room, stopped beside his desk, and leaned down to kiss his mouth. “When’s the last time you ate, Handsome?”
“Around one or two o’clock.”
“Alan is heating up dinner in the café. And maybe it’s a little lumpy, but I think the potatoes taste great.”
Felix’s smile grew, briefly softening the lines of exhaustion around his mouth and eyes.
“And we’ll clean up the shop while you finish the paperwork.” I leaned against his desk briefly.
Felix leaned back in his chair. “Thank you.”
I held out my hand. He put his left in mine, and I turned it over to study the wedding band around Felix’s finger. “Let’s take a trip.”
He cocked his head to the side. “Where?”
I smiled, brought his hand up, and kissed his ring. “New York. How about it, my mountain man?”
Felix looked surprised. “Um… when?”
“Next week. For New Year’s.”
“Next week? Bo—”
“The Christmas rush is over by then,” I said. “Isn’t it?”
“And you’ve been busting your ass this month.”
“Scarlet will let us couch surf.”
“I don’t want to impose—”
“We can ride Amtrak. The three of us can do it for about three hundred bucks.”
“Really? That’s pretty afford—” Felix made a face suddenly and let go of my hand. “This is Alan’s doing.”
“What gave it away?”
“The fact he’s been asking to go to New York since we began dating,” Felix replied.
“You can’t tell me you’re not captivated by the idea of ushering in the new year in the greatest city in the world.” I stood, leaned over his chair, and put my hands on the arm rests.
Felix stared up at me, then smiled again. “I admit, it sounds romantic.”
I leaned down and kissed him again.
“We have to go to the game themed café in Manhattan!” Alan shouted, appearing in the doorway.
Felix and I startled.
“Alan,” Felix said sternly. “I haven’t said yes.”
“Yeah you did,” Alan replied, grinning. “You say yes to anything romantic.” He finger-gunned us and left the room.