I quickly pulled my phone out and sent Michelle a text.

Can the kids come outside for a while?

 

She didn’t respond, but a couple minutes later, Matthew came running out the front door dressed in black snow pants, his navy blue winter coat, winter hat, and gloves. He ran over and threw his arms around me as Michelle closed the door.

“Where’s Maura?” I asked as I picked him up.

“Maura didn’t want to come out. She’s watching My Little Pony or something.” He shrugged.

“She passed up snowman building for ponies?”

Matthew pulled one corner of his mouth up and nodded. “She’s crazy.”

I laughed out loud. “She is, but let’s build the biggest snowman anyway.”

“Yes!”

I set him down and we got to work. “Let’s make this bottom a little bigger, okay? Can you help me push it?”

He nodded and leaned his hands against the huge snowball I’d already started, grunting and groaning out loud as we pushed it together to make it as big as we could. Then we started on the middle section, rolling and rolling it together until Matthew said it was the perfect size. I lifted it on top of the bottom part and we stepped back to look at it.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“I think it’s perfect!” he cheered.

“Ready for the head?”

He turned and looked up at me. “I want to do that one by myself.”

I motioned toward the ground. “Have at it, big guy.”

Standing there with my arms crossed over my chest, I watched Matthew make a tiny snowball, no bigger than a golf ball, and hold it in his hand. I almost jumped in and told him to start with a bigger one, but then I remembered how my asshole father had never let me do things on my own. I always had to do them his way. So I shut my mouth and let Matthew build the head just the way he wanted. Getting snow to attach to the little snowball was hard, and he threw it down in frustration.

“Just keep rolling it. It’ll stick. You got it,” I called out.

He picked it up again and started spinning the ball through the snow as he crawled on his knees behind it. The bigger the snowball grew, the bigger his smile grew.

“Viper! Look!” he yelled proudly as he tried to lift the basketball-sized snowball in the air above his head.

“Good job, bud! Whoa! Careful!” I rushed over and put my hand on it before he dropped it and lost his mind. “Here. Hold on tight.” I lifted him with one arm and put my other hand under the snowball so that he thought he was doing it himself, and we put the head on the top of the snowman together.

“What do you think?” I asked as Matthew beamed at our snowman.

“I think it’s awesome.”

“I think it needs some decorations,” Michelle called from behind us.

We turned around and she was standing on the porch holding a few things. Matthew squirmed out of my arms and ran over to grab them from her. We tied an old red scarf around the snowman’s neck, used a carrot and grapes for his face, and found rocks and sticks for his arms and buttons.

“I think he’s done,” I said as we put an old sun hat on his head.

“Not yet.” Matthew shook his head. “He needs a name.”

“He does need a name. You’re right. Any ideas?”

Matthew pulled his top lip in and thought hard about it. “How about Earl?”

“Earl?” I repeated with a loud laugh.

He nodded.

“Whatever you want. If you want Earl, Earl it is.”

The front door opened again and Michelle called Matthew’s name.

“Do I have to come in?” he whined.

She nodded. “It’s lunchtime.”

“Can I come back after lunch?” He pulled his hat off and slinked toward the house sadly.

“We’ll see. Come on.” Matthew walked past her into the house and she looked out at me. It took all I had not to run up to the porch and wrap my arms around her, but instead I gave her a tight smile and quick wave before I walked back to my car. I started the engine and plugged my phone back in, noticing that I had a text.

Brody: Just checking in on you. I talked to Andy and he said you slept in your car last night. Have you completely lost your fucking mind?

 

I laughed out loud.

Yes, I did and yes, I have. I’m not leaving here until I win her back.

 

Brody: And what if that never happens?

 

Not an option.

 

Brody: Well, I’m crossing everything for ya, buddy. I hope it works out. I really do.

 

Thanks. Can you also do me a favor?

 

Brody: Sure

 

Can you thank your wife for me?

 

Brody: Kacie? Sure. For what?

 

For giving me the kick in the balls I needed. I knew that I needed to talk to Michelle, but I was too scared to come over here without a plan. After Kacie ripped me a new one, I thought about it a lot and decided it wasn’t so much the words I used, but the feeling behind them.

 

Brody: Look at you. My little Viper is all grown up. I’ll let her know. Good luck, brother. Keep me posted and let me know if you need anything.

 

Actually, I do need one thing. Have you left for the airport yet?

 

Brody: Not for a couple hours. Why?

 

Half an hour later, Brody’s black pick-up truck pulled up behind mine and I hopped out.

“You’re the best!” I rubbed my hands together as he walked around the back of his truck and pulled two big red plastic gas cans out. I took them from him and walked back to my car.

“Nice snowman.” He nodded toward the yard as he followed me.

“Thanks. That’s Earl.”

“Earl?” He laughed out loud.

“Yep. Matthew named him,” I added. I unscrewed the gas cap and lifted the first gas can, pouring it into my tank.

Brody leaned against the back of my car and shook his head. “You’re really going to sleep out here again?”

My eyes lifted to his and I spoke in a low, steady voice. “Yes, I am.”

“In that case . . .” He turned and walked back to his truck and pulled a large bag out of the front seat. “Here. This is for you.”

I frowned down at the bag. “What is it?”