Home > Here with You (Winter Valley #3)

Here with You (Winter Valley #3)
Author: Claudia Burgoa

 


Thoreau’s Prologue

 

 

Thoreau, age eight

“Granny, look what I made at the library!” Elisse, Morgan’s younger sister, races into the house, her long braids swinging from one side to the other.

I finally sigh with relief, knowing my best friend is home. He and I used to be inseparable since we were born only a couple of weeks apart. It all stopped last year when I moved out of Winter Valley.

I hoped he’d be waiting for me when Mom dropped me off. I planned to go to the hill to sled with him. Then, later today, we could go to my old house where Grandma lives and play video games. But that fell through when Granny Bradford opened the door and told me he went out with his mom and siblings.

So here I am, holding yarn for a sweater she’s making for the children at the orphanage. She says it’s the least I can do to help those in need. I guess she’s right, but maybe I should also ask Dad to donate money. They could use more than just sweaters. Dad insists I need to learn what to do with the Foster fortune. I don’t understand what that means, but we could start by helping others.

“Elisse Anabel Bradford, stop right now. You’re dragging snow into the house.” I hear Elisse’s mom chiding her.

She comes to a halt and heads back to the entrance. “Sorry, Mom, I wanted Granny to look at the ornament before we wrap it.”

“It’s just an ugly ornament,” one of her brothers says.

“Shut up, Colt!”

“Children, stop fighting, or you won’t be making cookies with us.”

“Granny, look what I made!” Elisse comes running toward us and halts when she sees me. Colt races toward her, snatching whatever she’s holding, and runs toward the stairs.

“Mom, Colt stole my ornament!”

“It’s for her boyfriend.” He uses his mocking tone that upsets Elisse.

I place the yarn carefully on the couch next to Granny Bradford and head to catch him. Morgan is by the door, taking off his boots.

“You’re here!” He smiles.

I wave and run up the stairs. I hate when Colt is mean to Elisse. He does it often, and even when he says it’s what brothers do to little sisters, I hate it. I guess it’s because I don’t have my little sister anymore. When I reach the stairs, I hear something crash and shatter.

Elisse yelps. “You broke it.”

Instead of launching myself and pushing him for being mean to his sister, I begin to pick up the pieces. “We can fix it, Elisse, I promise.”

It might be a lie because some pieces are almost as tiny as dust particles, but I pick up as much as I can, and then say, “Let’s go. We’ll ask your mom for glue. We can make it better.”

Elisse stares at the floor, big fat tears rolling down her cheeks. “But it won’t be the same.”

“You never know. Everything in life is fixable…” I remember the words Dad said when Tilly died, but I don’t finish the phrase. He was right though, everything in life can be fixed, except for death. After my sister died, everything broke at home, and no matter what we do, we can’t put our family back together.

 

 

Elisse’s Prologue

 

 

Elisse, age fourteen

“Aren’t you overdressed for a Saturday afternoon?” Colt, my obnoxious brother, asks.

I glare at him. So what if I wear my fancy Christmas dress from last year, the high-heel shoes I wore for winter formal, and my dark-brown hair in a fancy bun. I can do better than jeans and a t-shirt or sweats.

“This is a free country, and I can dress however I want.”

“On a Saturday?” He glances at me as if I’ve grown a second head. “The days you wear raggedy sweats and your old UGG boots to help Mom clean the bed-and-breakfast?”

I lift my chin. “The B and B is clean.”

He narrows his gaze. “Of course, you woke up at four in the morning. Again, what’s with you today?”

I clear imaginary lint from my skirt. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He nods, walks toward the dining table, and grabs a cookie.

“Leave those alone. They aren’t for you.”

Slowly, Colt munches on it. After he swallows, he asks, “No? Then who are they for? Morgan?” He releases a loud laugh. “You missed your big brother.”

I give him a sharp nod. “As a matter of fact, I did.”

“Uh-huh.” He continues eating the cookie. Once he’s done, he dusts his hands. “Or, and hear me out, I have a better theory. This is about his best friend. You’re hoping Thoreau will come over, see you, and fall in love with you.”

He hugs himself and starts making kissing noises. “Ooh, Theo, I love you.”

“I’m not,” I argue.

But he’s not wrong. I am waiting for Theo. Colt wouldn’t understand if I explained to him that he’s… well, I don’t think I can describe it either. Thoreau Foster is important to our family. Up until his sister, Tilly, died, he and Morgan were inseparable. That’s when his parents divorced. His mother moved to Denver, and he went to live with his father in Boston.

We only get to see him once a year during the holidays. He and his mom spend the two weeks with his maternal grandmother. Since I might only get one chance to see him every year, I want him to see me at my best. There’s nothing wrong with that. He’s always been good to me. We’re talking saving the last piece of peppermint bark Granny Bradford prepares, bringing me a cupcake from his grandmother’s house, and telling Colt not to be an asshole to me.

“I think you’re in—”

“Are you making fun of your sister again?” Mom enters the room.

“No, I wanted to grab a cookie, and she’s not sharing.”

“When are you leaving for college?” I almost growl.

He grins. “I’m here for a few more years, little sister.” He grabs three more cookies and leaves.

I huff and cross my arms.

Mom stares at me and runs a thumb under my eye. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you want me to help with the eyeliner? It’s a little—”

“No, I don’t want anything. I’m going to change and forget that today happened at all.”

I head toward the staircase, almost stomping my feet when the door opens. It’s Morgan. I smile and jump into his open arms. “You made it home.”

“How are you, squirt?”

I smooth my dress. “Elisse. That nickname is for little children.”

He arches an eyebrow and crosses his arms. “And you are?”

“Not.”

Morgan nods a couple of times. I glance at the open door and spot a black SUV. “Should we close it? Or is Theo coming inside?”

He looks at his backpack, then back at me. “I only came to change. We’re going to Aspen with some friends.”

“What? How about Christmas?”

He pokes my nose. “That’s in a few days.” He glares at me. “Though I see you’re ready for it.”

My stomach drops. “So what? Are you not staying? We’re picking up the tree. It’s a family tradition.” My voice comes out a little too desperate.

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