High school senior, Luke Ryan, may have gone all-star in baseball the previous year, but nothing about his current life resembles that famed reputation. With Christmas break on the horizon, he resents the compulsory trip to visit his estranged father in California. Not only is he forced to abandon his mother over the holiday, but his pianist girlfriend, Andrea, also--who seems too preoccupied by her Christmas Eve charity concert to care that they’ll be apart. On the way to California, he meets free-spirit Charli who spins his world in a completely different direction. Once in his old stomping grounds, he’s forced to face the reality of his sister’s death and his parents’ divorce. Decisions assail him over his future, his girlfriend, and his home. Is he destined to move back to California to secure a baseball scholarship or does God have another plan for his life?
“Here.” Mom handed me a wrapped package as we pulled up in front of the airline drop-off at the Raleigh-Durham airport.
“What’s this? I thought we said we’d celebrate Christmas when I got back.”
“It’s not from me. Andrea dropped it off when you were gone last night.” She leaned in as if to give me a kiss on the cheek or forehead like when I was little. Instead, she smoothed a piece of my dark hair into place. “I feel like I should tell you something important—advice or something, but you’re pretty much all grown up. Three more months and my baby will be eighteen.” Her expression turned playful as she gave me a light pat on the cheek.
“I better get going before you’re towed by airline security.” I slid closer to the door and grabbed the handle. Before opening it, I turned back to her. “I hate leaving you at Christmas.”
“I know you do, but I’ll be fine with Aunt Renee and Ray and the girls. I won’t be alone. Don’t worry about me.”
“Love you, Mom.”
“Love you too. Have a good Christmas.” I hopped out and grabbed my bags from the trunk.
I waved goodbye and headed inside to check my luggage. A biting wind shot through the entryway to the terminal just as I started to enter the automatic doors.
I did hate leaving Mom for Christmas. I knew she’d be OK with my aunt and uncle and cousins, but it wouldn’t be the same. This was supposed to be our first North Carolina Christmas. Instead, it had turned out to be her first Christmas alone. The first Christmas since my older sister, Monica, passed away after being in a coma from a car accident. The first Christmas since she and Dad divorced. I couldn’t believe what a jerk Dad was being, forcing me to come back to California and leave Mom. No, that wasn’t true. Dad was being true to form.