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Kelly wanted to make sure that you weren’t depressed or anything. I told her that it was just a hard time of year for you, what with your mom dying when you were just a kid and your dad disappearing shortly thereafter.” The softness in his eyes told me that he was truly concerned about my mental state. Part of me wanted to tell him to focus on his family, that I would be fine. “You know we both love you very much. You are part of our family, even if I don’t buy you as Santa Claus.”

I chuckled and looked down at the hideous outfit I was wearing. Kelly had decided to make the party more fun this year by making it a costume ball; everyone had to dress up in a Santa or Elf suit. Eric was dressed as Santa, when Kelly stood next to him as Mrs. Claus, you could see that they were meant to be together. I felt odd being Santa, but it was how the rest of the men were dressed, so I went with it. “I appreciate you guys more than you will ever know. What did the kids think of the gift I got them?”

Nice change of subject,” Eric grinned at me. He opened a bottle of beer and gulped half of it. He usually only did that when there was something on his mind that he couldn’t vocalize. He grabbed another bottle of beer, and finished off the first one. “I’m not sure they were thrilled with the college funds but they have plenty of toys. Listen, ah, Kelly wants you to stay tonight. I know you don’t want to, but it would mean a lot to her if you would stay.”

I’ll stay. I mean why not, that means I can drink more.” I drained the glass, and waited as a few of Eric’s friends passed through refilling their own drinks. When we were alone again, I refilled my glass. Eric had grabbed a third beer, signaling that something was definitely wrong. “What’s going on? You don’t drink this much without there being a reason for it.”

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