Buddy was looking forward to this Christmas unlike any
other Christmas in his entire life. Christmas growing up in Texas was exciting like it is for any
kid. That is, until Kenny started to drink and beat his mother and just generally be an asshole
to everyone...ruining their family. Then Christmas wasnâ€™t so much fun anymore. It was just a
short break from the loud, sad, horror show that seemed to hijack his interrupted childhood.
Christmas, after arriving in North Carolina, seemed to be
okay, but it took a while for Buddy and his mother to make their own new traditions for the
holiday. They were living someone elseâ€™s life at that point, and so they were doing someone
They had no family to speak of, no one to go visit, no one to
come visit them, no one to send Christmas cards to...not even to the nice ladies they met in
New Mexico. There was no receiving a gift in the mail, such as a dress shirt that didnâ€™t fit quite
right, from Daniel Juniorâ€™s Uncle Frank and Aunt Nikki. It was a strange holiday now. Just â€“
nothing, empty, voided â€“ but with reds and greens festively adorning the nothing, empty and
voided. That took some getting used to.
When Buddy first arrived in North Carolina, he still believed
in Santa Claus. Some of the kids at his new school talked about how Santa wasnâ€™t real, it was
just their parents pretending, it was just another lie about the world that adults told their
children. But Buddy kept it secret, like he kept a lot of secrets. He still believed.
He asked his mother, â€śHow will Santa know where to find us
if we ainâ€™t who we used to be?â€ť
â€śSanta knows all, son,â€ť she replied, rubbing his hand with
â€śDoes he know that Iâ€™m still me? Just that I have a different
name and a new home?â€ť
â€śI promise, Buddy, he will not forget you.â€ť
Buddy believed her and Santa did not disappoint. Years later,
he learned that Joe did his mother a favor, dressed up as Santa and put the presents under
the tree for her, just in case Buddy woke up in the night. Joe bought Buddy a brand-new Kelly-
green Schwinn from the big toy store in Durham and put a huge red bow on top of it. He
decided during that very first Christmas that Joe Horton was good people and he could trust
Joe being around his mother.
But this Christmas, more than twenty Christmases later,
Buddy was bringing Julie and Molly to meet his mother and Joe at Christmas dinner. This
Christmas, he would have a little girl in his life to buy presents for. This Christmas, he got to
play up Santa Claus and accompany Julie to the mall where she proceeded to have a photo
taken of Molly on Santaâ€™s lap â€“ but only after Molly stopped hopping long enough to sit down
and explain to him that she wanted Polly Pockets and a new art set for her room and a cure for
Watching the pure joy in the face of a kind and genuinely
open child, like Molly, tear into a cheerily wrapped Christmas gift would be a first for Buddy.
Since he had no siblings and no nieces and nephews or cousins, it would probably be the most
exciting part of his entire holiday â€“ being a witness to such a magical moment.
Buddy and Julie, with Molly in tow most of the time, started
spending lots of their free time together ever since that Saturday in late October at Floraâ€™s
Bistro. They would eat supper together almost every day, either at Julieâ€™s or at Buddyâ€™s and
sometimes at the Bojangleâ€™s close to the highway. Julie enjoyed leaving her sweatshirts and
jackets behind at Buddyâ€™s and poking fun at his assorted Kool Aid flavors resting inside several
plastic jugs, which he kept lined up like soldiers in his fridge. Buddy enjoyed keeping a box of
some chewy Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies in Julieâ€™s pantry and a container of grape Kool
Aid in the back of her fridge. He hoped someday, he would be able to leave his toothbrush.
Julie let Buddy go trick-or-treating with them on Halloween.
She invited him to have apple pie and vanilla ice cream with them on Thanksgiving, after they
got back from feeding the homeless Thanksgiving dinner at church. They took walks with Bo,
played at the park, enjoyed movies either in the theatre or videos at Julieâ€™s house. Molly read
to Buddy a few times, Junie B. Jones books mostly, but she started reading the Box Car
Children per Buddyâ€™s recommendation, and Buddy found himself being the new kid with a new
name in a new school in a new state all over again as he listened to her read.
Buddy taught Molly how to ride her two-wheeler, something
she couldnâ€™t get the hang of until he spent an entire Saturday morning, in late November,
working with her. She wore a pink jacket with a tear in the elbow and a pair of jeans over her
skinny legs. Her new white Nikes were bright as they sat neatly positioned on the pedals.
â€śNow listen,â€ť he told her in his best pep talking voice. â€śMoll,
you got to use all that energy you have hopping around all the time and put it into balancing
yourself. Once you feel it, it will be so easy to keep on going. Youâ€™ll wonder why it was so hard
to figure out.â€ť
He pushed her, as she sat on the bike, onto the grass. Molly
â€śI just donâ€™t see how the grass is gonna help,â€ť she said.
â€śThe grass keeps the bike from moving too fast. So, it will
give you confidence. Then when you have your confidence, we will move the bike onto the
sidewalk, and youâ€™ll be off.â€ť
It took him a couple of hours to get Molly to the point where
she was comfortable trying to ride the bike on the sidewalk. But as soon as he moved the bike
onto the pavement, she hopped on and rode away to the end of the neighborhood. There was
no stopping her.
When she finally came back to her house several minutes
later, she parked the bike and walked up to Buddy, hugging him with the mighty strength of a
small girl who just accomplished something big. It was the first time in his life that he felt like
he would make a good father someday.
(C) Dori Ann Dupree, 2019
What really makes a father? What kind of love resides in the heart of a man who takes on the
raising of another man's child and all the responsibilitiesâ€¦but under the law, none of the
Jonathan "Buddy" Cordova is a small-time criminal defense lawyer living paycheck to
paycheck and practicing law out of his house in Fayetteville. Viewing himself as a modern-day
Atticus Finch, he represents the poor, the indigent, the "probably guilty"â€”the kinds of clients
who usually end up in jail. He's shy, painfully awkward around pretty women, and carrying a
dark secret, but can't help falling for Julie Saint, a kindergarten teacher and army widow with a
Consumed with love for his ready-made family, Buddy relishes his new role of husband and
stepfather. Bonded over their mutual childhood losses, he and his stepdaughter become the
best of friends. But when tragedy strikes, and the past returns for its reckoning, Buddy must
find the strength to do what's right for his new family, even if it breaks his heart.
Fiction [Self Published, On Sale: June 11, 2019, Paperback
/ e-Book, ISBN: 9781543966657 / eISBN: 9781543966664]
Dori Ann DuprĂ©â€™s first work of fiction, Scoutâ€™s Honor, released to critical success in 2016, and
is followed by her 2019 novel, Good Buddy. She is also a veteran of the United States Army.
After her husbandâ€™s passing, she began blogging for the Hope for Widows Foundation, and
began her own grief writing workshop on a volunteer basis to help those struggling with loss
begin to heal through writing. DuprĂ© currently resides in Raleigh, NC and has two young adult
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