Matthew ran ahead of me and looked out the window. “He’s gone!” he cried out.

“He is?” My heart sank, but I wasn’t surprised. I knew he wouldn’t last. I walked over and stood above him, peeking out the window, too. Sure enough, no Viper. He’d seemed so sincere when he was talking to me that I really thought he meant what he said, but old habits die hard. “Maybe he’ll be back later,” I said unconvincingly to Matthew. “Come on. Let’s go in the kitchen.”

His shoulders slumped, but he turned around and followed me anyway. Maura climbed up to the kitchen table and started coloring furiously as I scanned my pantry for something to make them for dinner. I let out a heavy sigh. “Guys, we need to go to the grocery store tomorrow.” My stomach growled as I thought back to the Thanksgiving feast in a box and wondered how long it would take them to get that together if I called now.

As I walked back into the kitchen, the doorbell rang.

Matthew’s face shot up to mine with wide eyes. “Maybe Viper’s back!” He sprinted toward the front door and I followed. On the other side was a man in a royal blue polo shirt with a wide smile, holding two pizza boxes.

“Hi?” I said as I pulled the door open.

“Hi there. I have your pizzas.” He held the boxes out toward me.

“Uh . . .” I looked down at them and back up at him. “I didn’t order any pizzas.”

He pulled them back and looked at the receipt stapled to the top of the box. “You didn’t?”

I heard a car door slam. “Wait! Those are for me.” Viper popped out from around the corner of the garage.

“Oh, sorry about that.” The pizza guy turned back and walked down the sidewalk a little bit. They exchanged the pizzas and money and he headed toward his car.

“You’re still here?” I said to Viper as Matthew wrapped his arms around my thigh.

Viper looked up at me and nodded. “I told you I wasn’t leaving until you talked to me. It was cold, so I got in my car.” He grinned and nodded toward the garage. “Hope you don’t have to go anywhere. I’m parked behind you.”

I fought back a tiny smile that threatened my lips.

“Oh, and wait.” He lifted the lid to the top pizza box and walked over. “This one is for you guys.”

“It is?”

“Yeah.” He shrugged. “I wasn’t gonna get dinner for me but not for you. It’s your favorite . . . extra pepperoni.”

I took the box from him and we stood there and stared at each other for a few seconds. It was freezing outside, but the air between us was warm and intense. It was clear we both had so much to say but neither of us knew where to begin.

“Okay, well, I’ll be in my car.” He smiled and disappeared around the side of the garage . . . and I didn’t stop him.

As the kids ate their pizza and blueberries, Matthew chattered happily about the snow that continued to fall outside and Maura nodded, probably only half listening to him. I, on the other hand, couldn’t get my mind off the stubborn man currently eating pizza alone in his car in my driveway. My brain was exhausted from swinging back and forth like a pendulum. One side was angry and felt like he deserved to sleep in a cold car by himself, but the other side wanted to go out and bring him into my warm house, at least to the couch.

After we finished eating and cleaned up, we headed upstairs. I tucked the kids in and peeked out my bedroom window, just barely able to see the back of his car sticking out behind the garage. Clouds of white smoke billowed from the back of it and I knew that he must have been really cold and started his car. I climbed into my warm bed, feeling a little guilty that I was letting him sleep in the car, but also hopeful that he’d finally reached out.

I’d known the moment I met Viper years ago that he was a complex, stubborn man. Mike had told me stories about him that made my head spin. When Viper and I had finally gotten together, I knew he would never be typical with me either. His whole life was on his own terms and he never did things the way they should be done, but this last several weeks had shown me just how complicated he really was. Nothing about him was cut and dry, black and white.

He was one big gray area. But . . . that gray area is what I loved most about him. It’s what kept me on my toes and feeling alive. I just needed to sort out how much gray was too much.

 

 

My past was . . . colorful . . . and I’d definitely spent a night or two in my car, but never for such an important reason. My refusal to leave was dramatic, but so was my need to be with Michelle and the kids. I meant every single word that I’d said and I needed her to see that. I was done running. I was done turning my head when shit got too serious. Things had spiraled too fucking out of control over the last several weeks and I’d let my pride get in the way of my heart. I could never get back the time I’d missed with her and the kids, but I would never, ever be away from them like that again . . . if she’d let me back in.

I ran my car on and off all night, both to charge my phone and warm the inside up a bit. Thankfully I had a couple extra hoodies and a blanket in the backseat so it wasn’t too bad, but the next night was supposed to get really, really cold. But I meant what I’d said to her. I was in it for the long haul.

As I sat in my car, replaying my conversation with Michelle from the day before over and over and over in my head, one thing she’d said kept coming back to me.

“How are you going to fix that?”

They were just seven little words from her mouth that she probably didn’t think twice about after she’d said them, yet I couldn’t stop thinking about them. That was it. I needed to show her, not tell her. I needed to do something drastic, something totally un-Viper like to prove to her that I was serious about being here and never leaving her and our kids again. I made two quick phone calls, and just like that, my plan was set in motion. In a few shorts hours, I would be able to show her just how serious I was.

In the meantime, I needed something to keep my mind busy. Sitting in the same position for hours on end was not only hurting my knee, it was driving me insane. I got out of the car and bent over, picking up a pile of snow in my hand. I formed it into a ball and tossed it in the air a few times.

Hmm. Good packing snow today.

I put it on the ground and rolled it across Michelle’s front yard, making a huge snowball . . . or the perfect base for a snowman.