Sweet Christmas Kisses
want you to try to eat a little something, Aaron. You might not realize it, but some nutritious food will make you feel better.”
     “I feel better already.” There was no humor in his chuckle. “I can’t even remember if I showered yesterday. The days…”
    She smoothed a hand over his shoulder. “They run together. I know.”
    While they ate the crisp salad and juicy chunks of chicken, Christy kept the conversation as benign as possible. The topics she chose were completely mundane; the impossible procedure change that had been implemented that lasted only two days because it had thrown the entire hospital into near chaos, the new family that had moved into the house across the street from her, the new nurses she’d met and become friends with during a recent mandatory refresher course she’d taken.
    He hadn’t asked about the box she’d delivered, he hadn’t even glanced at it. And that was okay. He might not feel strong enough to handle his daughter’s belongings just yet. But there would come a time when he would be desperately grateful that he had them.
    “So,” she said, the tiny word tentative, “have you started back to work?”
    Aaron picked up his glass of water and took a drink. “Not yet. I have facility managers who keep calling meetings. I keep missing them.”
    Christy speared a slice of cool cucumber. “Well, that just means you’re not ready yet.” She crunched the crispy vegetable, then she swallowed. “You shouldn’t wait too long, though,” she told him gently.
    He winced visibly, and she remembered feeling the same way when good-intentioned people told her the same thing. It was good advice then, and it was good advice now, no matter that he had difficulty hearing it.
    “I know,” he said. “I know. I keep telling myself I need to do it. Just get myself packed and start making the rounds. But…” He shook his head and set his fork down. “It’s… difficult.”
    Instinct had her reaching out to him, sliding her fingers over his forearm. “I know it is. It’s damned difficult.”
    “Everyone keeps telling me it’ll get easier.” He gave the box on the desk a darting glance; for just a split second, his gaze made contact, and pain registered on his face in the form of a frown. His jaw tensed and he looked into her eyes. “I know they mean well.”
    Christy tightened her fingers. “They do. They only say it because they want you to feel better. But you and I both know that the hard truth is, it doesn’t get easier. There’s a hole in your heart that can’t be filled. It’s just something you have to learn to live with.”
    He nodded.
    “And that’s why it’s important that you keep yourself busy,” she told him. “Go back to work. Meet with those managers. Immerse yourself in someone else’s problems. Help them find some solutions. That’s the only way you’ll find a bit of respite. Focus on something else.”
    Aaron picked up his fork and poked at the pieces of succulent chicken. “I know you’re right. I do. I’ll get on it this week. I’ll set up some meetings.”
    His spine straightened as he absently chewed. “It’ll mean a couple of weeks away. I’ll have to make some travel arrangements. Airline tickets. Rental cars. Hotel reservations. That kind of thing.”
    In just the ten to fifteen seconds he’d spent contemplating getting back onto the swing of working, his gaze had cleared a little. Christy knew in her heart this was what he needed.
    He talked about the cities he’d visit—Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, Boston—and the gym owners and managers with whom he’d meet. He ate with more gumption, and soon cleared his plate of food.
    “You’re right,” he finally told her. “I need to get out of this house. Get back to work.”
    “It’ll be tough.” She had to be honest with him, but she was certain she wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t already know. “But just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
    “Keep

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