A Christmas Miracle: Ryder and Lucky Short

A Christmas Miracle 

 

A Ryder and Lucky Christmas Short

 

M. Andrews

 

Copyright M. Andrews 2016

 

Chapter One

 

Ryder

 

I sit at my desk looking blankly at the computer screen. I’m supposed to be working on my report concerning the drug bust my team aided in early today. All I can think about is Lucky and Lily and that today would have been Lily’s first birthday.

    Lucky was seven months pregnant when she miscarried. We thought we were out of the woods with this one. Lucky’s two previous miscarriages happened when she was still in her first trimester. So, when she made it past the first then the second trimester and she was still pregnant we thought we could finally enjoy this pregnancy. We bought clothes, baby furniture and Lucky painted the nursery pink and gold for our little girl, who was due to arrive just before Christmas. Lucky said she was our little Christmas miracle.  

    I was working the night shift when the call came in. Brooke’s trembling voice on the end telling me Lucky was in surgery fighting for her life completely gutted me. I almost ran several people off the road trying to get to the hospital. Lucky was still in surgery when I finally made it to the OR waiting room. The nurse informed me that the placenta had detached from the uterus and caused several tears and Lucky was hemorrhaging blood. To save her they had to perform a hysterectomy. Rendering her completely unable to have children. The doctors did everything they could to try and save the baby, but she went too long without oxygen and she didn’t make it.

    Both Lucky and I spiraled into darkness after we buried Lily. A part of both of us died that day. Leaving a void that at the time we thought could never be filled again. Lucky couldn’t get out of bed for weeks and I buried myself in work. Taking on double shifts as much as I could, so I couldn’t think about Lily or my wife, who was slowly deteriorating. When work wasn’t an option alcohol numbed the pain and the anger that plagued my mind. We were both hollow shells of our former selves. Two zombies just existing. It wasn’t until I came home to find Lucky unconscious in bed with an empty pill bottle lying next to her that I woke up and realized we both needed help. 

    I took a leave of absents after Lucky was released from the hospital. We both did therapy, together and on our own. Lucky blamed herself for what happened. She believed it was god’s punishment for her indiscretions in her past. It took months of ongoing therapy and anti-depressants for her to realize she wasn’t being punished. Her body just couldn’t handle carrying a child to full term. I stood by Lucky’s side through everything. I let her down after Lily died. I was a selfish asshole. I let my own anger towards the world consume me to the point that I almost lost my wife. It took us a year to finally get to a point where we could be happy again. It’s still going to take work to get to the point we were at before the miscarriage, but I know we will be able to get through it together. 

    I shut off my computer, deciding my reports can wait. It’s more important that I be with Lucky and not at work right now. Stepping outside, I tighten my grip onmy coat as the cold sends a chill down to my bones. It’s after sunset and the temperature has dropped at least ten degrees. I start walking down the steps of the precinct when I here the faint sounds of a baby crying. Who on earth would be crazy enough to bring their baby out in weather like this. I keep walking. As soon as I reach the lower steps, I feel this pull to go find the source of the crying.

    I follow the cries to the alley between the precinct and the fire station. There is a young girl sitting on the cold ground clutching a baby close to her chest, trying to get the infant to stop crying. I step closer and I can see she is wearing a thin green jacket that is made for spring weather not the bitter cold of winter. 

    “Are you alright?” I ask. 

    She looks up at me with a frightened look in her dark brown eyes. “I’m not going to hurt you. I promise I won’t hurt you, I’m Officer Callahan,” I say, trying to comfort her. 

    “Can I see your badge?” she asks with a shaky voice. She might be scared but she is a smart girl to verify that I’m a cop. I open my jacket and unpin my badge from my dress shirt and grab my ID from my back pocket and hand them to her. She stands up from the ground and steps under the light from the street lamp, giving me a better look at her face. She looks very young. She can’t be more than sixteen, maybe younger. Her tear stained cheeks are red from the cold. I glance down at the baby bundled up in pink hospital blankets. The infant can’t be more than a couple days old.

    She takes the badge and ID from hand and examines them for a moment before handing it back. “Hi Officer Callahan, I’m Lily Reynolds.” As the words leave her lips my heart stops inside my chest. Her name is Lily. I can barely get my brain to communicate to my mouth that I need to say words. It’s my Lily’s birthday and here standing before me is another Lily, who with her light brown hair, round face, her leggings and bohemian dress looks like she could be Lucky’s daughter. 

    “Well, Miss Reynolds, what are you doing out here in the cold with this baby?” The words come stammering out of my mouth. 

    “I had my baby three days ago and my mother in her infinite wisdom said if I was old enough to have sex and get myself pregnant that I was old enough to take care of myself.” She even talks like Lucky. 

    “Why don’t we get out of the cold and go inside the precinct.” I suggest. 

    I lead us back inside the precinct and into the break room. I pull one of the chairs out for her. She sits down still holding tight to the tiny infant in her arms. I can’t believe a mother would abandon her daughter and her grandchild. I'd love to wring that bitches neck right now. 

    “Would you like some tea or water. We might have some hot chocolate somewhere around here.”

    “Tea would be nice, thank you.” She gives me a half smile, then turns her focus back to her baby. 

    “Tea it is. Is there any family I can call to come and pick you up?” I ask. 

    “No. My grandparents passed away four years ago and my dad bolted the day I was born. It’s just me and little Charlotte here.” She runs her finger along Charlotte’s tiny cheek. “I tried going to the shelters the nurse at the hospital told me about but they were all filled up for the night. I thought that maybe if I came here someone could call social services and find me a place, since I’m only fifteen, but then I panicked when I realized they could separate me and Charlotte. I don’t know what to do or where to go and I’m scared.” The tears start streaming down her cheeks. The thought of this poor girl and her baby out on the streets alone breaks my heart. Sending her into the system is almost as bad as her sleeping in the streets. I can’t let this happen to her, not when I have a warm house and a spare bedroom. 

    I walk around the table and kneel in front of her. “Lily, my wife and I can help you and Charlotte. We have a spare room you can stay in until we can reason with your mom to let you come home.”

    She wipes the tears from her cheeks only to have more tears follow close behind. “You don’t have to do that. You don’t even know me.” 

    “I’m a cop and I’m also a good people reader and I can tell you are in trouble and you are telling me the truth. If I let you leave here without doing anything to help and if anything were to happen to you or Charlotte I would never forgive myself. You can stay for the night then tomorrow my wife can take you to talk to your mom.” I give her a warm comforting smile. Resting my hand over hers. 

    She looks over at me and returns my smile. “Okay. Thank you, Officer Callahan.” 

    “You can call me Ryder. Now let’s get you that tea and see if we can find a car seat for Charlotte.”

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Lucky

 

It’s after nine when I step out of my studio. I’ve spent most of the day in there painting and sketching. My therapist told me on days that I feel the darkness creeping in I should use my art to express what I’m feeling. Though the dark days are getting fewer and fewer it’s days like this that trigger it the worst. Today I should have been celebrating Lily’s first birthday. Watching her eat her first piece of cake, help her open her birthday presents and sing her to sleep after a long day of play. 

    I recovered from my previous miscarriages within a couple of months, but this one hit me the hardest. I had already bonded with the baby that was growing inside me. Felt her kick and move around in my belly. I sang to her every night, heard her little heart beating. Every month that went by that I was still carrying Lily I felt like this was it. We were finally getting the baby that both Ryder and I so desperately wanted. 

    That day is still vivid in my mind. Ryder left for work at six sharp he kissed me goodbye then leaned down to kiss my baby bump. I cleaned up the dinner dishes then took a hot bath. I crawled into bed and an hour later I woke up in excruciating pain and when I threw back the blankets and sheets and my nightgown were covered in blood. I called for an ambulance then tried calling Ryder but kept getting his voicemail. I called Brooke and she ran through the dark street of our neighborhood to my house. She held my hand all the way to the hospital. When I woke the next morning, and saw the look in both Brooke and Ryder’s eyes I knew Lily was gone. Not only was my baby gone but my ability to have more children was taken away from me as well. 

    I felt this massive hole inside me and it felt like I was being pulled down into the darkness. It consumed me. I stayed in bed with all the windows and doors shut. I wanted to stay in the darkness where I felt the safest. Ryder was a mess; he drank away his feelings. I blamed myself for not only losing my baby but for also dragging Ryder into hell with me. One day I couldn’t take seeing the pain in his face or the excruciating pain I was drowning in. I decided it would be better for everyone if I wasn’t around anymore, so I took an entire bottle of pain killers. I thank god everyday Ryder came home early that day. 

    Ryder insisted not only I see a therapist, but that we see one together. I agreed without hesitation. I knew it was time for me to stand and fight the demons that were living in my head. I had to save my marriage and to save me. 

    Every day I feel a little better. I’m still taking the antidepressants, but I’m no longer walking around like a dead person. I started teaching classes at the art school again and Ryder and I are even closer now than ever. I take every day as it comes and with Ryder by my side I know we can get through this. 

    On my way downstairs, I stop by the storage closet in the hallway and grab the last box of Christmas decorations for the tree. It’s two days before Christmas and we are just now getting to putting up our tree. It’s Callahan tradition that the tree doesn’t go up until the day before Christmas Eve. We didn’t have any holiday traditions in my house growing up. My mother paid a designer to come in and decorate our house for Christmas. Having these Callahan family traditions makes me feel apart of something. 

    I drop the box next to the tree and head into the kitchen to start on the hot chocolate for us to enjoy by the fire when we finish decorating the tree. Just as I grab the cream out of the fridge, I hear Ryder call out for me from the foyer. 

    “Welcome home baby. I was just starting on the hot chocolate.” I round the corner and stop in my tracks when I see a young girl taking a baby out of a car seat. “Looks like I need to make extra.” 

    “Hey babe, I tried calling you to give you a heads up, but I’m guessing you were in your studio. They will be staying with us for the night. This is Lily and her daughter Charlotte.” Ryder explains. That’s my husband Mister night and shining armor. Always bringing home lost puppies and now lost people. Lily.

    “Lily, this is my wife Lucky.” 

    “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Callahan. I promise me and Charlotte will just be here for the night. You won’t even know we are here.” She stands up and faces me and I swear looking at her is like looking a me when I was in high school. 

    “Oh don’t be silly sweetheart. You are welcome to stay if you want. Come into the living room and let’s get you and Charlotte warmed up.” I take her hand and lead us into the living room. Ryder follows close behind us. I grab the blanket hanging over the back of the couch. Lily settles onto the couch with the baby. My heart aches a little seeing that tiny infant in her arms.

    “Are you hungry? I could make you some soup or maybe a grilled cheese. Grilled cheese and tomato soup is my favorite when it’s cold out.” 

    “You really don’t have to go to all the trouble, Mrs. Callahan.” 

    “Please call me Lucky and it’s really no trouble.” God, she reminds me of me the first night I snuck out of my parents’ house and ran away to Ryder’s when I was twelve. “You sit and relax while Ryder and I make you some dinner.” 

    “Thank you, Mrs... um Lucky.” 

    I leave Lily and Charlotte in the living room and grab Ryder by the arm and haul him into the kitchen. “Okay start talking,” I order. 

    “I found them in the ally by the precinct. Her mother left her in the hospital after she had her baby. Told her not to come home that she was old enough to take care of herself now. I couldn’t just leave them out there to freeze to death.”

    “And the mother of the year award goes to. Jesus her and my mother must be related. She seems like a sweet girl. Reminds me a little of me. Before I became a soulless, black hearted witch.” 

    “Your heart isn’t that black, you're letting her stay with us. I thought you could go talk to her mom in the morning, maybe convince her to let them come home.”

    “A mother like that is not so easily convinced once their minds are made up. They can stay until we can figure this all out. Social services are out of the question. They will bounce her from home to home until she is eighteen then she’ll be out on the street again. They will probably try and convince her to give up her baby. The fact that she didn’t have an adoptive family in line before she had the baby tells me she wants to keep it. If they are going to be staying for a while we will need some supplies. Bottles, diapers, formula and some clothes for the baby.”

    “Make me a list and I will go get.” 

 

******

 

I flip the golden brown grilled cheese onto a plate and add it to the tray with the tomato soup and glass of milk. I take the tray to the living room. Lily is cozy on the couch with Charlotte feeding her a bottle. And it looks like Spike has made himself a new friend as he is nestled down by Lily’s feet. 

    “I see Spike has made himself right at home,” I chuckle, setting the tray down over Lily’s lap. 

    “He jumped up here right after you left. He’s a sweet dog.” 

    “Old Spike here was another one of Ryder’s rescues too.”

    “So I’m like a dog, huh?” she giggles. 

    “You are definitely cuter than Spike.” Spike lets out a disapproving groan. Out of the corner of my eye I see Lily trying to eat her soup with one hand while trying to feed the baby with the other. This has disaster written all over it. 

    “Here let me finish feeding her while you eat. You need your strength after having a baby.” Lily hesitates at first, but she guides the infant into my arms. The sweet baby smell fills my senses as I gently rock her. 

    “Well, hello Miss Charlotte. That sure is a pretty name for such a beautiful baby.” I coo. 

    “I named her after one of my favorite authors, Charlotte Bronte.”

    “Jane Erye is one of my all-time favorite books. You have some big shoes to fill little miss.” I look down at little Charlotte and she’s got a death grip on my index finger and she’s staring up at me with those big blue eyes. She’s the most beautiful little baby I have ever seen. I thought holding her would make the feelings of losing my Lily come flowing back to the surface, but all I'm feeling is complete bliss. 

    “Once Ryder gets back from the store we will give little Charlotte here a bath then you two can get some sleep.” 

    “Thank you so much for taking us in, for everything. I don’t know how I will ever be able to repay you.” 

    “Don’t even worry about it. Just focus on this baby and recuperating. Tomorrow we will get everything figured out.” I give her a reassuring smile. I don’t know how well it’s going to go with her mother, but if she refuses to change her mind, then Lily and Charlotte can stay with us. 

 

Chapter Three

 

Lily

 

 

I gently wash Charlotte in her new princess pink bath tub in the kitchen of the nice police officer and his wife’s house. Three days ago, this wasn’t where I imagined I would be. I shouldn’t have been surprised. My world has been turned upside down since the day the two pink lines came into view on that home pregnancy test. I knew sleeping with Cole was a mistake, but I thought I loved him and he loved me. But as soon as I told him I was pregnant he bolted. Saying it was his parents doing. I knew it was a lie. He didn’t want to be tied down with a kid, not when he had a path laid out for him by his parents. 

    I hid the pregnancy from my mom for as long as I could, but as soon as my baby bumped popped there was no hiding it. She wanted me to give Charlotte up for adoption. I considered it at first, but in my heart, I knew I couldn’t give my baby up. I foolishly thought that after Charlotte was born, my mom would change her mind. Alas it did nothing to change her mind. She stayed at the hospital long enough to hear from the doctors that I was okay, then she bolted for the nearest exit. 

    The hospital let me stay one extra day to see if I could find someone who could take me in. None of the handful of friends that I did have stuck around after I got pregnant. It was like I had the plague no one wanted to be near me. I was an outcast while Cole still flourished. Three weeks before Charlotte was due to be born I received papers in the mail from Cole’s family lawyer. He signed away all parental rights to Charlotte. Leaving me in to take care of our baby on my own. 

    One of the nurses was nice enough to load me up on samples of baby formula, blankets and diapers. She even gave me a list of shelters around the city. Unfortunately, by the time I made it to these places they were at capacity. It’s winter so everyone is looking for a warm place to sleep. After the last place turned me away, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was at my last resort, turn myself into social services. I didn’t want to do it. I’ve heard the horror stories about kids my age getting bounced around the system and I sure as hell didn’t want to hand over my baby to them, but I had no other options. 

    I think an angel was watching over us when Officer Callahan found us in that ally. At least for tonight we have a safe place to sleep. I just hope Lucky can convince my mom to let me and Charlotte come home. Otherwise I don’t know what will happen to us. 

    Lucky holds open a towel for me to place Charlotte in. Her first bath went far better than I had hoped. Some of the babies in the nursery screamed their heads off when the nurses would give them a bath. Charlotte, so far has been a super chill baby. 

    “You are very good with her. You're a pro already with this stuff.” Lucky comments as I swaddle Charlotte in her new blanket. 

    “Once I decided to keep Charlotte, I took as many parenting classes as I could and I read every parenting book I could get my hands on. I wanted to be as prepared as possible for her arrival.” 

    “It’s very brave what you are doing. Most girls your age would have taken the easy way out and given up their babies.” 

    “Too bad you aren’t my mother. She thinks what I’m doing is going to ruin my life like keeping me did for her. I was an accident. My dad told my mom that he would be there for my mom after I was born, but he skipped town the second I was born. My mom blames me for the fact that her life didn’t go as planned. She had to give up a scholarship to Yale, so she could raise me. She was going to be a doctor and now she's working at a dead-end job she hates.” 

    “I am all too familiar with the mom guilt trip of you ruined my life, so I’m going to make yours miserable. Both my parents had no right being parents. Neither one of them new shit about raising kids. My nanny was the closest thing to a mother I had. I can see you love your daughter and the best thing you can do for her is love her in the way you never were. Show her how much she means to you every single day.” 

    I follow Lucky down the hallway. She opens the door to one of the bedrooms. I step inside the room and I’m in awe of how grand the space is. It’s bigger than my whole house. There is a queen-sized bed against the far wall covered with fluffy pillows in shades of gray and teal. A newly built bassinet is standing next to the bed. There is a sitting area near the bay of window and the walls are covered in some of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen. This whole room is in my style if I had the money to buy all this stuff. 

    “This room is amazing,” I say laying Charlotte down in the bassinet. 

    “Thank you, I did all the decorating myself. You make yourself at home. There is plenty of food down in the kitchen. Ryder and I’s room is just down the hallway. If little Charlotte decides to pull an all nighter, you can come wake us up and we can take a couple of shifts, so you can sleep.” All their generosity is overwhelming me. The tears are welling up in my eyes. I feel so emotionally and physically exhausted I can’t fight the eminent breakdown. Lucky sees my tears and pulls me into her arms. 

    “I’m sorry. I think everything is catching up to me. I’m just so tired and everything you and your husband are doing for me and Charlotte is just so kind and...” Before the rest of the words can come out I start to sob uncontrollably. I’ve had a brave face on all day. It wasn’t until I was around Ryder and Lucky that I felt safe enough to finally let go of the emotions I had been fighting back all day. 

    “Shhh it’s going to be okay, sweetheart. You just let it all out.” And that is exactly what I do. Every pent-up feeling come pouring out of me and Lucky just holds me in her arms letting me cry all over her. This woman is truly an angel. 

 

Chapter Four

 

Ryder

 

Lucky comes strutting into the bedroom, looking sexy as fuck in my SWAT t-shirt. She grabs her book off the nightstand then slides into bed next to me and wraps my arm around her and rests her head on my shoulder. 

    “How are Lily and Charlotte doing?”  

    “Charlotte has a nice full belly and is sleeping peacefully and Lily is enjoying the soaker tub. She deserves to relax after the good cry she had. It just breaks my heart to see such a sweet girl get kicked to the streets. I can’t wait to give her mother a piece of my mind tomorrow.”

    “As long as it’s just your mind she gets a piece of and not your left hook. I still have the scare on my chin from that time you cold cocked me at the lake after I threw you off the dock,” I say, rubbing the tiny scare on my chin. My jaw still aches when it gets colds. 

    “You deserved it, that water was freezing. We need to be serious and talk about what we’re going to do if Lily’s mother doesn’t want them to come home.” She sits up and faces me. “I think we should let them stay here with us.”

    “Lucky, I don’t want you to get your hopes up incase this doesn’t work out.” Lucky has already been through so much already. I don’t want to see her get hurt again. 

    Lucky straddles my lap and cradles my face in her hands. “Ryder, I love you so much, but you can’t keep treating me like I’m going to break. We got dealt a shitty hand in life. We survived all of last year and if we can survive that we can survive anything.”

    “I’m sorry, babe. It’s just ingrained in my DNA to protect you.”

    “That’s one of the things I love about you, but I don’t need you to always protect me.”

    “That’s easier said than done, but I will try to hold back. I think as far as Lily and Charlotte are concerned I think we need to sleep on this and see what happens with her mother.” I suggest. 

    “Okay fine, we will talk more about this in the morning. Right now, my head is spinning and I could use a little distraction only my hurricane can provide.” She gives me a sultry grin as she pulls off her shirt, tossing it to the floor. 

    “With fucking pleasure,” I growl, flipping her onto her back. She whispers an I love you before sealing her lips to mine. 

     

    

 

Chapter Five

 

Lucky

 

 

I stand outside a tiny run down brick house just outside of the city. Before Lily passed out from exhaustion she gave me the address to her mother’s house. It’s going to take everything I have not to strangle this lady. Especially after holding Lily for two hours while she cried in my arms. This girl has gone through so much thanks to her saint of a mother maybe she should just live with us. At least with me and Ryder she will be around people who care about her and her baby. 

    The door opens and a pitch faced woman greets me with a scowl. That face sends a chill down my spine. Add in a gallon of Botox and lip filler and this woman could be my mother’s sister. 

    “Are you Janice Reynolds?” 

    “Yeah and whose asking?” She snarls. 

    “My name is Lucky Callahan. My husband found your daughter and grandchild in the ally by the second precinct last night.” Her face doesn’t even flinch when I mention Lily and Charlotte. There is no emotion anywhere on her face. 

    “If you're here to try to convince me to take her back, you are wasting your breath. Lily made her bed and now she has to lie in it. No one helped me when I was stupid enough to get myself knocked up.”

    “So because your family abandoned you, you think that it’s okay to do that to your daughter. You are some piece of work lady. If you didn’t want your daughter, you should have given her to a family that would have taken better care of her. A family that wouldn’t have abandoned her when she needed them the most.” 

    “I did the best that I could with what I had and I don’t need someone like you telling me what a horrible mother I am. I gave her a roof over her head and clothes on her back what else do you expect from me.” 

    My fists clench at my sides and it’s taking everything in me not to knock her head off right now. I would give my left arm to have a daughter as wonderful as Lily and this piece of garbage is just casting her off because of one indiscretion. A mother who truly loves her child would never do something like that. 

    “I can see I am getting nowhere with you, so how about this. You give me all of Lily’s things and I will take her off your hands.” 

    “Fine she’s your problem now. All her stuff is in boxes in the garage. Take it and get out of here,” she says, slamming the door in my face. God this woman is infuriating. 

    I stomp over to the garage and pull the door up. I see a bunch of boxes sitting by the door with ‘Goodwill’ written on them with black marker. Jesus, she was just going get rid of everything that has to do with her daughter. Had I not shown up today everything Lily owns would have been gone. 

    I load the boxes into my car and put this house in my rearview mirror. One thing I love about my husband is that he believes everything happens for a reason and over the past few years it’s started to rub off on me. I’m starting to think there is a reason he found Lily in that ally. Maybe she was meant to find us. I’ve been in her shoes before. My parents kicked me out when I wouldn’t follow their rules anymore. I know I can help her. I know without a doubt Ryder and I can be the parents she deserves. 

 

Chapter Six

 

Ryder

 

The timer on the waffle iron pulls my attention away from baby Charlotte. I heard her starting to fuss on my way down to the kitchen and scooped her up so Lily could get some sleep. Lily was up with Charlotte for most of the night. I’ve been attempting to keep Charlotte awake. I remember Brian telling me that’s what they did when him and Brooke were having trouble getting Matthew to sleep at night. But my efforts have failed as she is passed out in her bouncy seat. She’s four days old and she’s making it very clear we are working on her schedule. 

    I flip the waffle onto a plate just as Lily comes walking into the kitchen.  She takes a seat at the bar and slides the bouncy seat closer to her. She leans in and gives Charlotte a kiss on her forehead. “Good morning, how did you sleep?” I ask, sliding the plate across the counter to her. 

    “For the small amount of sleep I did get it was great. This looks and smells delicious. I haven’t had homemade waffles in a long time.” She drops chunks of butter into each indent then proceeds to douse the whole thing in half a bottle of syrup. 

    “Sweet tooth I take it.” I chuckle as she shoves a huge bite into her mouth. The syrup dripping down her chin. 

    “You remind me so much of my wife right now. Pancakes are her weakness.” 

    “I love pancakes too. Well I love all breakfast food actually,” she says, shoving another big bite into her mouth. “Speaking of your wife, where is Lucky?” As the words come out of her mouth I hear the door to the garage slam shut. By the sounds of the angry foot stomping that comes to follow, the meeting with Lily’s mother didn’t go well. 

    Lucky walks into the kitchen with a scowl on her face that could make toughest of men run for the hills. She has smoke coming out of her ears and I hope she didn’t kill the woman. I wouldn’t turn her in if she had. That woman doesn’t deserve to be a mother after the way she treated Lily and Charlotte. 

    “So your mother is a monster and it was a good thing I went to see her instead of you, Ryder. She would have made you break your no hitting women rule.” 

    “I told you it wouldn’t help. Once she has made up her mind there is no changing it.” Lily lets out a sad sigh. 

    “Well screw her. You can stay with us.” Lucky announces. I grab Lucky by the arm and drag her into my office. 

    “Lucky, are you sure you really want to do this? After everything that has happened in the…” before I can finish she cuts me off.

    “Ryder I am very well aware of what has happened to us over the last year. This girl needs our help and you of all people. The man who believes everything happens for a reason. A man who believes in luck and chance. Her name is Lily for god sakes, if that isn’t the biggest flashing sign that she was meant to be here with us then I don’t know what is.” 

    “I feel it in my bones these girls were meant to be here with us, but are you really sure you can handle raising a fifteen-year-old and an infant?” I ask, thinking she might be biting off more than she can chew. 

    “Ryder, I can’t think of anyone more perfect than me to help this girl. You know I’ve been where she is, different circumstances but I know what it’s like to have your family give up on you and I know I can give her the love that she needs. I’m ready to do this. We are doing this and if you are a good boy…” she snakes her arms around my waist. “I will put on that sexy Santa’s helper costume on for you tonight.” She bats her lashes at me. 

    “You think bribing me with sex is going to sway me, huh?” 

    “It’s never failed me before.” She replies cockily. She’s right this woman has me completely pussy whipped and I’m okay with that. 

    “Alright let’s do it.”

    Lucky squeals excitedly and leaps into my arms, raining kisses down over my face. “I love you Ryder Callahan.” I was worried about how Lucky would react to me bringing a fifteen-year-old and an infant into our house. In true Lucky style, I think she’s going to go one way, but then she does a complete three-sixty on me on goes the complete opposite direction. I have never seen her happier or more in her element than she is doting on Lily and Charlotte. I think this is going to be a good thing for all of us. 

    “I love you too Lucky.” I say, capturing her lips in a soft kiss. Even through all the darkness we have gone through together, I still love this woman more than anything in this world. 

 

Chapter Seven

 

Lucky

 

 

“Okay Miss Lily and Charlotte, Ryder and I talked and we want you to stay with us,” I announce, stepping into the kitchen. 

    “I can’t let you do that, you barely know me. We’ve imposed on you enough. I’m sure we can get into a shelter tonight.” She sets her fork down on her plate then reaches for Charlotte and starts to walk for the living room to the foyer. 

    “Lily, you don’t have to do this. I know how hard it is to accept help. It took me years and a lot of mistakes before I could finally ask for help. I don’t want to see you make the same mistake. Think about what is best for Charlotte.” I step between her and the front door. “Let us help you, please.” I plead with her. I know if she steps out that door we will never see the two of them again. 

    “I don’t know, Lucky. I don’t want us to be a burden.” Her eyes dart between me and Charlotte. I can see the glint of worry in her dark brown eyes. 

    “We want to do this for you, Lily. You will have a roof over your head, food and help with Charlotte. You don’t have to do this on your own. Please, let us do this for you.” I rest my hands on her arms as I continue to plead my case. 

    “You’re not going to drop this, are you?” 

    “No she’s not. Once Lucky sets her mind on something, she won’t stop until she gets what she wants. Case in point this money pit of a house. It has character Ryder. I’ll help you fix it up. Three years and two contractors later.” Ryder speaks up from behind Lily. 

    “This house turned out amazing, so shush.” I glare at him from over Lily’s shoulder. I turn my focus back on Lily. “It’s also Christmas Eve and you're not allowed to say no to any request from a Callahan.”

    “When did we start this little tradition, because I have a list of requests of my own.” Ryder folds his arms across his chest and cocks an eyebrow up at me. 

    “Hush with your requests.” I fire back. 

    “Is this what I have to look forward to living in a house full of women, coming in last?” He pouts. 

    “You better get used to it fast, because Charlotte and I are staying.” Lily smiles back at Ryder. 

    “A smart ass and she’s gonna stay. I love this girl already.” I chuckle. “Okay Ryder, you go unload all of Lily’s stuff from my car and we will get you two all settled in. Sound good Lily?”

    She nods and mouths a thank you as the tears well up in her eyes. 

    “Welcome home.” 

 

***** 

I pull the tape off the last of Lily’s boxes while Lily finishes hanging up her clothes in the closet. I open the flaps and find the box filled with sketch books, journals and stacks of water color paintings. 

    “Lily did you do all of these yourself?” I reach into the box and pull out one of the sketch books and flip open the cover. The first drawing come across is a beautiful mix media composition with vibrant water color flowers, chalk drawn butterflies and the words “dream big” written across the page. “Lily these are extraordinary.”  

    “Thank you. It’s just a hobby of mine,” she replies. 

    “Have you taken any classes?” 

    “My mom said it was a frivolous hobby that wasn’t worth wasting money on.” She lets out a low sigh. 

    “I teach classes down at the Seattle Art Institute. I can get you into one of my classes if you want.” 

    “You teach art?” she asks with wide eyes. 

    “Follow me.” I beckon her to follow me out into the hallway with my hand. We walk down the few short steps to the attic door. Lily follows me up the narrow staircase to my studio. I flip on the light switch and step aside so Lily can take it all in. She looks around with wide eyes. 

    “Wow. This room is amazing. You did all of this?” She looks over her shoulder at me and there is a sparkle of joy in her eyes. 

    “This is what my parents too called a useless hobby and now it’s my career. I’ve been painting and sketching since I was old enough to hold a crayon. And against my parents’ wishes I went to art school in San Francisco.” 

    “Is that what made them kick you out?” she asks. 

    “That is was. My parents wanted me to be a lawyer. Could you imagine me as a lawyer?” I giggle as I walk over to the spare desk sitting in front of the wall of windows on the far side of the studio and I start clearing away the clutter to make space for Lily. 

    “No, I don’t see you as the attorney type. Your paintings are amazing. I could spend all day in here looking at them all.” She kneels down and flips through the stack of canvas’ leaning against the wall.

    “You are welcome to use the studio anytime you want.” 

    “Really?” her face lights up with the biggest smile. “Thank you so much.” She stands back up and walks over to where I’m standing and envelops me in a big hug. 

    “You’re welcome sweetheart.” I embrace her tighter. “You take your time and look around. I’m going to go down to the kitchen and pop open a tube of sugar cookie dough and start making some cookies for us to decorate after we decorate the tree. I will warn you Ryder is the biggest Christmas nerd on the planet, so prepare yourself to get an over dose on Christmas joy later.” I smile warmly. 

    “I could use a little Christmas joy.”        

 

Chapter Eight

 

Lily

 

 

The soft hum of Christmas music stirs me awake. I look over at the clock by the bed. It’s after six, I’ve been asleep for six hours. This is the most sleep I’ve had since Charlotte was born. In the hospital, the nurses took Charlotte to the nursery at night so I could sleep, but I still couldn’t sleep for more than an hour before my eyes sprung open again. The stress of where Charlotte and I were going to live weighed heavily on me. That weight was finally lifted when Ryder and Lucky said we could live with them. 

    I knew Lucky going to talk to my mom wasn’t going to do anything to change her mind. I was praying it wouldn’t. I didn’t want to raise Charlotte in that toxic environment. She deserves to be raised in a home where the people around her love her. From the first moment, I stepped foot into this house I felt at home. A home filled with love. A real place where I could raise my baby. I didn’t want to go, but I also didn’t want to be a burden to them. To my mom I was a burden. A daily reminder of what she gave up to have me. I didn’t want to be that for Ryder and Lucky. Lucky wasn’t about to let me leave this house, not without a fight. 

    I feel a real connection with Lucky. We barely know each other, but she gets me a hell of a lot better than my own mother. Lucky understands what I’m going through, she’s been in my shoes. It makes me trust her and that I can tell her anything. And she loves art just as much as I do. I am in complete awe of her talent. I think I spent two hours in her studio looking at her work. To have her as a teacher and a mentor is an honor. 

    I pull back the blankets and swing my legs over the edge of the bed, resting my bare feet on the soft beige carpet. I pull my long brown hair up in a messy bun. My eyes come into focus on a small tree sitting on the coffee table in the reading nook. I must have been sleeping hard, not to hear Lucky setting that up. 

    I pad down the hallway to the stairs. The railing is covered with pine garlands; red flannel bows and gold twinkle lights. The sounds of Bing Crosby singing White Christmas fills the air. Stepping down from the stairs, I can see the whole house has been covered in all things Christmas and the air is thick with the scent of fresh baked sugar cookies and pine trees. Two of my favorite scents. When Lucky said Ryder was a Christmas nut I didn’t expect anything like this. Every surface of the house is covered in either a tree, a Santa figurine, and garlands. It's like I stepped into Santa's workshop. 

    In the living room, I find Ryder up on a ladder putting a star at the top of a massive seven-foot tree and Lucky is in the kitchen singing along to the music while mixing what looks to be a big bowl of green frosting. They are both wearing Santa hats and Charlotte is in her baby swing covered up with a Christmas blanket and she’s wearing a red and white beanie. Spike is fast asleep next to Charlotte’s swing wearing reindeer antlers. This is exactly the daydreams I use to have when I was a kid. Dad stringing the Christmas lights, mom baking cookies while the kids waited eagerly to decorate the cookies. My mom wasn’t big on Christmas. All we had was a little fake tree that sat on our kitchen table and Santa never stopped by our house. 

    “It looks like Santa’s workshop exploded in here.” I giggle. 

    “Hey there sleepy head, did you sleep well?” Lucky calls out from the kitchen. 

    “I slept great. Thank you for helping with Charlotte so I could sleep.” I unbuckle Charlotte from the swing, needing her sweet baby cuddles. She coos the moment I cradle her in my arms. I still can’t believe I created this adorable little girl. I love her so very much. So much so it feels like my heart is going to burst. How is it possible to love something so tiny and so fast? I kiss her little chubby cheek and breathe in her sweet baby scent. 

    Ryder climbs down from the ladder and steps back next to me to admire his handy work. “So what do you think?” he asks, with a prideful smile on his face. Arms folded across his chest. 

    “I think it looks perfect. This whole house looks spectacular.”

    “You know, there is something missing.” Ryder changes his focus to me, tapping his index finger on his scruff covered chin. I have a feeling I’m about to be his next decorating project. He runs over to a box sitting on the coffee table and rummages through the contents. He has a Grinch sized smile on his face when he returns to where I'm standing holding something behind his back. He tells me to close my eyes. I start to close one, leaving the other half closed, trying to catch a glimpse at what he's hiding.

    “I said keep ‘em closed,” he scolds.

    My eyes squeeze shut and anxiously wait. I feel him slip a band over the top of my head. He grabs me by the shoulders and guides me across the room then directs me to open my eyes. I slowly open them and they immediately go to the tree head band sitting atop my head. The plush green tree is jutting out with red and gold bells hanging off the branches. I should be completely mortified right now, but I kind of like it. Makes me feel like I’m a part of the family. 

    “Aren’t you three just the cutest. I need a picture of this,” Lucky says, walking up behind us. She grabs her phone out of her back pocket and directs us to turn around to face her. Ryder wraps his arm around my shoulder and pulls me close to his side. He has a big goofy grin on his face. I never would have thought a big tough looking cop was such a big teddy bear. Lucky snaps the picture then squeezes in next to me and gets a selfie with me and Charlotte. 

    “We will print these out for Charlotte’s baby book.” Lucky smiles proudly as she gazes down the pictures on her phone. “I hope you don’t mind but we’ve been taking pictures of Charlotte all afternoon. Wanted to make sure to document her first Christmas.” She scrolls through the pictures. There is one of Ryder feeding Charlotte, another with her and Spike sleeping together on the couch and one of her cuddled-on Lucky’s chest while Lucky is cutting out cookies. Looking at these photographs is bringing on the tears again. I’m overwhelmed by all the love that is flowing in this house. 

    Lucky announces that it’s time to decorate the cookies and have hot chocolate. Laying Charlotte in her bouncy seat on the kitchen bar, I catch a glimpse of Ryder kissing Lucky under the mistletoe. They are sweet together. Lucky joins me at the bar and slides me a plate of cookies and centers the bowls of red and green frosting between us. I glance down at the plate of cookies and in between the shapes of trees, candy canes and bells, I notice a four-leaf clover cookie. 

    “So what’s with the clover cookies? Aren’t those for Saint Patrick’s Day?” I ask curiously. 

    “The four-leaf clover is very important to me and Ryder. When Ryder was a boy his mom gave him a small silver clover coin on his first day of kindergarten to bring him luck. On that day, my nanny gave me a dress with little green clovers on it. Ryder saw me on the playground in my clover dress and he thought it was a sign that we were meant to be together. He called me his Lucky Clover.”

    “Is that where your name came from?” 

    “It sure is.” She smiles proudly. “My real name is Nadine.”

    “I can see why you changed it to Lucky,” I giggle, spreading some green frosting over my clover cookie. “So you have known each other since kindergarten.  When did you two start dating?”

    “About four years ago.” 

    “Really? Why did you wait so long?” I ask.

    “It wasn’t for a lack of trying on my end,” Ryder says, joining us in the kitchen. 

    “I’m stubborn.”

    “Sure you could put it that way.” Ryder gives her a sideways glance. 

    “I didn’t want to lose my best friend if I fucked things up.”

    “Hey watch your mouth around Charlotte,” Ryder scolds. 

    “A real lady sometimes uses naughty words to express herself, Charlotte. Anyway, thanks to Ryder’s persistence I came around and it was the best decision I ever made.” She smiles lovingly at Ryder. 

    “Can I ask another strange question?” I set my frosted cookie down on the empty cookie sheet then grab a candy cane cookie. 

    “You can ask us anything?” Lucky says, still smiling at Ryder. 

    “How is it you don’t have any kids yet? You seem like you both would be great parents. You’ve been so wonderful to me and to Charlotte.” Both their faces drop and a sadness takes over in both their eyes. 

    “We tried to start a family, but due to some medical issues it just wasn’t in the cards.” Ryder sighs. That doesn’t seem fair that these two, who are so kind and caring have been denied the chance to have kids of their own. 

    “I had three miscarriages and the last one almost killed me. I was seven months along when I lost Lily.” Hearing the name come out of her lips makes my heart sink into my chest. They had a Lily. I can’t imagine what was going through Lucky’s mind when Ryder brought another Lily into her life, especially one that has a baby. 

    “I am so sorry and I’m sorry if me and Charlotte have brought up the pain for you again.” It would break my heart to know that our being here is hurting them, especially Lucky. 

    Lucky takes the knife from my hand and sets it on the counter then takes both my hands in hers. “Don’t even think that way. You and Charlotte have brought so much joy into this house. Having you two here has made both Ryder and I so very happy. We were dealt a crappy hand in the kid department and yes it sucks, but I think God has a different plan for us. I believe the reason why it was Ryder who found you in that ally was because we were meant to be your family.”

    “I never felt like I belonged with my mom. I’ve never fit in anywhere until I came here. I feel like I’m home with you and Ryder. I’ve been missing a piece of myself and I’ve found it here.” Lucky pulls me into her arms. Ryder follows suit wrapping his arms around us both.     

Chapter Nine

 

Lucky

 

It’s Christmas morning and I’m cozied up on the couch with my new little family watching A Christmas Story. We are all stuffed with eggnog waffles and bacon and running on no sleep. I look over to the other side of the couch to see Lily pasted out next to Ryder with her head resting on his shoulder while Charlotte is sleeping on his chest. This is the sweetest thing I have ever seen. Ryder is in complete heaven right now with a big sappy grin on his face. He hasn’t been able to wipe that smile off his face since yesterday. Watching him decorate cookies with Lily, telling her stories about the two of us as kids and making her laugh at his ridiculous jokes, made my heart burst with joy. I always knew Ryder would be a great father, I felt guilty for not being able to give him that opportunity. Now that Lily and Charlotte are here; he’s getting a second chance to be a father. 

    I slide closer to his side and reach a hand over to stroke Charlotte’s back. “You look damn sexy holding this baby.” I tilt my chin up to kiss his cheek.

    “You think I look sexy doing the dishes.” 

    “No, seeing you do the dishes is panty dropping sexy.” I correct him. 

    “That explains why whenever I unload the dishwasher you rip my clothes off.” he chuckles. 

    “Could you two not talk about your sex life in front of me and my child. I don’t want to hear about my parents having sex.” Lily says in a groggy tone. 

    Both of us laugh but our laughter quickly shifts to shock when the part about her calling us her parents sinks into our brains. “Lily what did you just say?” we ask in unison. 

    “I said I don’t want to hear about my parents…” Her head jolts up and her hand flies up over her mouth. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that.” Her words come out muffled from behind her hand. She has nothing to be sorry about, I’ve been feeling mothering tingles towards her all day. Ryder and I haven’t talked about adopting Lily. I know he would be in full agreement if I asked him. I may not have given birth to this Lily, but I think I was always meant to be her mother. 

    Ryder and I trade knowing glances. Sharing one deep conversation in a couple of glances. This comes from years of knowing one another. We can read what the other is thinking. 

    “Would you like us to be your parents?” Ryder asks, hopefully. 

    “We can make it official and adopt you. If you want.” I add. The way me and Ryder are smiling like a couple of lunatics at Lily, we’re probably freaking her out. She’s been through so much the past few days, I can’t imagine what is going through her head right now. She has a long road ahead of her at least we can take some of the pressure off by giving her a loving home. 

    “I want that more than anything.” An excited smile erupts across Lily’s face. Ryder and I let out a quiet cheer as to not wake up Charlotte.

    “This calls for a celebration. I think we have some sparkling apple cider in the fridge. I’ll go get it.” I get up from the couch, stopping to kiss Lily on the top of her head before heading into the kitchen. 

    I grab the bottle of cider from the fridge and pop off the top and pour three glasses. I return to the living room and hand Ryder and Lily each a glass. We hold our glasses up. 

    “Welcome to the Callahan clan Lily and Charlotte,” I say, as we clink our glasses together. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it through this Christmas. After losing our baby last year, I never thought I would get the chance to be a mother. Now with our two little Christmas miracles we are all getting the happy ending we deserve.