Legal Jargon: Blah blah blah… Yes it looks like them, but I get to keep 'em
Subtext: Not a scrap of subtext here. I prefer down right main text! Hey, why wade in the kiddy pool when you can skinny dip in the Jacuzzi? Though, I wouldn't call this a PWP. If this is illegal in the state in which you live, print it out and make a run for the state line.
Violence: Mistletoe and fake snow will never be the same again.
Language: These are real people and even during the holidays they say some naughty words. Don't worry they're not like my neighbor who thinks the greatest word in the English language is the f-word.
Dedication/Thanks: Happy holidays everyone!!
Note: I apologize for this belated tale. However, seeing as though people won't be receiving the Christmas cards I sent out until after the New Year, it shouldn't be a surprise. It's just a cute little ditty to get me over the post-holiday blues.
Contact: Feel free to send me (BluDreamscape@angelfire.com) your glowing praise or your criticism. This is the second shot at a story let me know if I met expectations or fell short.
December 20, 2003
There are few places on this earth that can send the strongest of men and the cleverest of women screaming into the night; this is one of those places. It's the kind of place that people, if given a choice, would rather roll around in broken shards of glass than get within 500 feet of it. Just the thought of it sends a shiver down my spine. That's right; I was headed towards the seventh circle of hell, better known as the mall at Christmas time. God help me.
Nothing can suck your Christmas spirit away quite like the traffic around the mall as you look for a parking space. It always looks like a sea of metal with not one empty space. I didn't even bother trying to find something that was remotely close to the door. At this point I was just hoping that I could find something that was within seeing distance of the entrance.
Like every year, it was hard for me to imagine that the holidays were upon us again. I almost forgot that in Arizona the seasons don't seem to change it just gets a little bit cooler. There's no snow gently falling, or people bundled up so much that all you can use to identify them are the eyes that peek out. I'd been back for a few weeks and hadn't had to look at the weather channel once.
A half hour later and I was still looking for a spot. I always complain about those people who stalk shoppers from the mall entrance to their car. Now I was one of those people. A family of five dragging their weight in shopping bags meandered up the lot just in front of me. I find it oddly amusing that I would dislike something until it's convenient for me. I wonder what that says about me?
I snapped out of my reverie in time to notice that the family had stopped next to an SUV, today's mini van. I flicked my blinker on and watched and waited. The father had clearly had enough of the whole shopping excursion as he stuffed the packages in the back.
Two cranky children were making the mother's life difficult as she tried to coax them into the SUV. The relief that colored her face after she closed the door could make someone believe she didn't have the kind of headache that makes a woman wish her head would just implode and put her out of her misery. The half eaten candy cane stuck in her brown hair was testament to the kind of day she's had. Suddenly my parking troubles don't seem all that big of a deal.
I sat there as patiently as I was capable of while they pulled out of the space. Their rear window was covered in stickers proclaiming that their child is an honor role student at his or her elementary. What exactly does that mean? How do you have an honor role student in kindergarten? Does that mean that their kid didn't eat paste regularly? If so, that would explain why my parents had no such stickers on their cars.
Finally they pulled away. It was all I could do not to do a happy dance in my seat. Wouldn't you know that just as I am starting to pull in, a little green bug flies into the spot from the opposite direction? At first I was stunned, until I realized that this would mean another half hour of hunting for a spot.
I slammed my hand on the wheel and tried to come up with something to yell out the window. Eventually I remembered that I had a horn and that I could use it. I seem to be one of those people that forget they have a horn until it's too late to really use it. It's the kind of thing that has to be used in the heat of the moment.
I sat there glaring and listening to my useless blinker click on and off. It's bad enough to get cut off, but when you get cut off by a Volkswagen beetle, it just makes you want to vomit. I just knew some prissy young thing without a care in the world was in there loving the fact that she has absolutely no sense of morality when it comes to the parking lot. She's probably the kind of person that when she's at the laundry mat she'll remove other people's wet clothes and plop them on the floor so she can stick her dirty clothes in the machine. Never before had I understood road rage till just then.
Now someone was honking behind me as I gawked at the little green car, if you can call it a car, and then at the rearview mirror. How dare he honk at me, I'm too busy honking myself. I'm not sure why I was waiting to see who was driving. Maybe I'm a masochist. I know that when push comes to shove I'm not going to say anything to this persons face. I might give them the finger or something else as ladylike but I won't be yelling at them. I know better than anyone that I am allergic to confrontations.
The man in the truck whizzed by me, his hand out the window, as if to tell me where to go with my anger. Oh yes the Christmas spirit was alive and well there in the mall parking lot. Finally the door to the little green golf cart of a car opened up.
That was it; I was going to say something to this person. Be assertive. You are a pillar of strength. Don't them walk all over you. That became my new mantra as I gave myself a bit of a pep talk.
Just as my passenger window came down and I was ready to launch my verbal assault, I found myself looking at Mrs. Claus. I kid you not, there was Mrs. Claus climbing out of her green bug. Apparently Santa was too busy to send the sled with her. The speechlessness that came over me at just that moment might've had something to do with the fact that I was checking out the young Mrs. Claus. Apart from the fake gray hair and ridiculously short red velvet outfit, she was quite lovely. Is checking out Mrs. Claus some kind of sin? Good grief why didn't I just ogle the Easter bunny while I was at it. What was wrong with me?
Snapping back into the present I got ready to tell this woman exactly where she could put her parking skills. Again I was struck dumb when it was her flashing me a particular had gesture. That's twice in 10 minutes that I have been given that sign and it was getting on my very last nerve. Not to mention the fact that if I told anyone that Mrs. Claus was in the parking lot telling me what she thought of me they would laugh me out of the room.
After all this, I could only watch as Mrs. Claus sauntered by me. I was beginning to wonder if I was loosing my mind. The whole situation was a little too surreal and frankly, it was giving me a headache.
Eventually, after 4 people calling me names, 3 honking their horns, and a near miss with a soccer mom, I found a parking place. To say that I was at my limit of frustration would be the understatement of the decade. I glanced at myself in the mirror and saw the frown marring my face. With a deep sigh I pushed away the frustration. I pulled my shoulder length black hair up into a pony tail. It was time to get down to the business of shopping. It was Christmas after all so I started humming a carol in hopes of forgetting that debacle.
The mall is the greatest place on Earth to people watch. You can see anything there from the greatest joys in a stranger's life, as their long time love pops the question. Or you can see the greatest tragedies in life, as a stranger tackles another for the very last thingamabob. Christmas at the mall just seems to amplify everything.
Once I got into the mall I loved it. The key to holiday shopping is to have a battle plan. You can't just go in there and wander around like an amateur. No, you have to know exactly what you are looking for and where to go. Otherwise you'll be left behind in the food court while someone else walks home with the one toy your nephew wants for Christmas.
I was walking the mall on a mission. I understand the meaning of Christmas isn't in the superficial things, but I still can't help it if I want to get my family the perfect something. I had spent my down time while traveling between appearances in front of my computer pretending to write material and thinking of just what that perfect something would be.
Dad was always the easiest to shop for. My father, Jake Foster was where I got my height and most of my features. His once dark hair is now silver but at least his blue eyes still twinkled like they did when I was little. My favorite thing about him is his voice. He has one of those voices that soft and gravelly; it makes him sound like the suburban God Father. He would be easy to shop for. He was a book fanatic, a trait that I'm proud to say we shared.
My mother, Irene Foster, was and will always be impossible to shop for. She is one of those people that refuses to tell you what she would want for Christmas, and would even go so far as to say something like, "I just want my children to be happy." That's a wonderful statement, and of course I love that she says that, but it's not like I can just pick that up for her at the Sharper Image. I can hear her now, "Oh don't get me anything." She can't actually expect me to not get her anything does she? Good grief. I could only hope that I would spot something that she would love along the way.
My brother, Jason and his wife Alison were already taken care of. They had just recently had a new baby about 10 months ago. That was one of the reasons I came home that Christmas from my latest trip, this time to Colorado. I couldn't let the holiday go by without meeting the little rugrat, so I came down to spend time with the family. I decided to send Jason and Alison on a trip skiing in Aspen. A friend of mine lent me his condo for a week after New Years. I was going to be the official baby sitter for the 10 month old adorable terror. I had no doubt that the happy couple would miss little Ryan, but they really needed some time together.
A stop to buy the entire toy store was a must. It may not have been the whole store, but after walking around with the bags for awhile it sure felt like it. With my luck Ryan will be more thrilled with the boxes that the toys came in.
I'm one of those people that no matter how much I don't like them, I am compelled to check out the pet store. I know it's just going to make me sad but there's no stopping me. I peeked through the glass at all of the doggies wanting to take them all home. It was at that moment that I figured out the best gift to give little Ryan. I knew that my brother would probably kill me but he would love it as well. All it meant was a trip later in the week to the Humane Society.
Finally, my shopping was coming to an end. That's probably a good thing seeing as though I was exhausted and ready to fall over. Before heading to the car with my 3 million store bags, I sat down with a cookie and a soda and did some more people watching.
It is possible that in a crowded room, you can still feel lonely. It seemed that everywhere that I looked as if there was a couple in love. It had been a long time since I looked at someone with the eyes of love. In fact, I'm not sure that I ever really have. At 29 I was ready to accept that it may never happen. So at the moment, I was sublimating my loneliness with cookies. Not the fairest trade off, but I'll take it.
It was at that moment, as I was drowning my self-pity in Dr. Pepper and chocolate, that I heard some arguing. Me being the people watcher that I am, I couldn't help but look in the direction of the sound. I guess this would be the equivalent of mall rubbernecking. I should've felt ashamed; but really, who wouldn't at least be a little curious.
Sometimes you see things and you feel like rubbing your eyes to make sure it's not your imagination or you're not dreaming. There over by the fountain yelling was Mrs. Claus. After my previous encounter with her I shouldn't have been surprised to see her going at it with someone else. What did surprise me was the fact that she was arguing with an elf. Not just any elf, but one that was at least a foot taller. It looked like a red faced villager was tormenting the Jolly Green Giant.
Next thing I know the elf was pulling off the grey wig showing everyone watching that Mrs. Claus did indeed have blonde hair. She made a grab for the wig to no avail. It was getting to the point that they were beginning to draw a crowd. I think everyone else witnessing the event was at a loss just like me. Finally, I'd had enough. I can be chivalrous. Who cares if this woman was the same woman that I was cursing during my entire trek in from the parking lot. I was determined to not be petty. After all, without the gray hair, the woman was rather attractive. At the time I had no idea that it might not turn out as I had expected.
I tossed away what was left of my snack and headed for the fountain. As I got closer I was able to hear what was really being said. The little blonde wasn't happy with the taller elf, and he was looking like he was ready to toss her off the nearest building.
"Give me back my hair you Peter Pan wannabe!" The blonde's face was turning red with her hands on her hips. People in the next county could tell she was about to blow.
"Listen I don't care what you want, you're driving me nuts. You won't give me what I want so you can just kiss my green ass!" He had one of those smirks that was infuriating when directed at you.
For some reason I felt for this woman. It can't be easy cavorting around the mall looking as she does without having to deal with people like that elf.
"Excuse me, but why don't you give the lady back her hair." There was something I never thought I'd ever say. At this point I'm feeling pretty good about myself as I mentally pat my back for the good deed for the day.
The young Mrs. Claus sent me a surprised look and then smirked at the elf. "You heard her."
"Back off," he said to me. Can you believe that, what a jerk?
"Look, just give it back to her and we can all go on our way." I could be the voice of reason. I never have before but trying something new never hurts.
"Lady, mind your own business," he said to me before looking at the blonde and grabbing her arm. He spoke to her in a barely controlled voice. "I don't have to take this crap, we're leaving."
"The hell we are, I gave these people my word." She was now trying to shake his grip loose and I could feel my own temper shake loose. There is nothing I hate more than watching someone manhandle another.
All it took was one shove and the elf was flying into the fountain. He came up sputtering and I could only stand there staring as the drenched elf looked at me as if I was evil incarnate, from his point of view I probably was. Mrs. Claus could only gasp with her hands over her face and eyes. The mall had grown silent if that is even possible. I wouldn't really know all I could hear was a little voice in my head screaming, "RUN!"
I watched as the soaked elf sloshed in his pointy green shoes out of the fountain. He didn't speak he just climbed out and stood in front of Mrs. Claus and I. Snagging the droopy hat off his head he thrust it into her red velvet chest. Suddenly her eyes swung to me and instead of a slightly grateful look all I saw was a scorching one. I may not be the brightest woman in the world but I was beginning to think I might have miscalculated something.
"I…. Quit!" Those were the only two words he spoke. When I look back on it I'm glad that's all he did. I watched him slush away towards the mall entrance as Mrs. Claus ran after him begging him to stay.
Personally I don't know why she would bother. He wasn't exactly the nicest guy from what I saw. I knew I would find out what was going on soon enough when Mrs. Claus came back over. I bet you're wondering why she would come back to talk to me seeing as though I don't think my natural charm impressed her. She would come back for at least one reason; I had her hair.
It was clear she was unsuccessful when she came storming back as he continued walking away. The heat from her glare warned me that now would not be the best time for a little witty repartee. I just waited for my head to be handed to me so I could go home and pretend this day never took place. I should've known that things are never that simple.
"What the fuck is your problem you whacko?" Those were the first words she spoke to me. Oh joy this was going to be fun. Not.
"Excuse me?" I asked figuring that staying noncommittal would keep me out of harms way.
"Do you always go around shoving people when you don't like what they say? Should I watch out so that you don't push me in there?" She was fuming now. I was more like a deer caught in the headlights.
"I was trying to be helpful?" I hate when I say something and it comes out like a question. One of these days I'll learn to curb that particular habit. Apparently she wasn't thrilled with my answer either. If flames could spurt from someone's eyes I would be ducking about now.
"You failed miserably! God what am I going to do now? I have hundreds of kids waiting to sit on Santa's lap and you lost me my elf. I should never have volunteered to do this in the first place…" She was rambling now like she was thinking allowed. It was clear that her grip on her sanity was faltering.
That would have been a great moment to make my escape, but I was too confused about what was going on to think clearly. My confusion was beginning to stir my anger once again. What is it with this woman and her ability to irritate me?
"That… elf… grabbed you! I don't care if he does work for you he doesn't have that right!" I felt like I was speaking the obvious. Surely everyone who was watching us in curious fascination could see that, why couldn't she?
"That elf was my brother you maniac, and now I'm screwed!" I could see the wheels begin to spin in her head and I was scared. There is nothing more frightening than an angry woman looking for vengeance.
"Your… your brother?" Well crap. Here I thought I was saving a damsel in distress, but really I was interfering in a little sibling rivalry. I was beginning to understand her anger. Thinking back I can see how I misunderstood the whole situation. Maybe in a few years she would find this whole thing funny? I looked at her again. Okay, maybe not.
"Yes! He was a ticked off at having to wear that ridiculous outfit. I may have told him he would get to be Santa." This admission caused her to smirk. It was the first time I saw a little warmth in her bright green eyes.
Discretion is the better part of valor, at least that's what I hear. So at this point I knew it was my turn to fall on my sword. Why wouldn't I after seeing something other than anger from Mrs. Claus.
"I'm sorry. I thought… well I thought he was hitting on you…" I looked down sheepishly waiting for my brain to stop mentally kicking my own ass.
I heard her snort a small laugh as she looked up at me. She ran her hand through her messy short blonde hair as she let out a sigh. All of a sudden it was as if I could see a light bulb light up above her head. That could be nothing but trouble. She tossed a half of a grin my way from perfect lips like it was the most natural thing in the world moments before her gaze became a wicked one.
"Hitting on me? No… But I do know how you are going to make up for this mess you created," she said in a singsong type manor.
"Crap." I should have known to just run away screaming. That had disaster written all over it. I learned one thing in that moment that I'll never forget; never trust a beautiful Mrs. Claus when she has you in her crosshairs.
"Oh my god! I'm not wearing that are you crazy??" I asked looking at the pretty blonde nutcase holding out a pair of green tights.
"You cost me an elf, and now you're going to give me an elf." I could see she was serious. What I couldn't believe was that she thought this idea of hers was sane.
I admit I did feel a little guilty for running off the former elf, but not this guilty. I just wanted to do some Christmas shopping not humiliate myself and deal with hundreds of children high on candy cane sugar.
"Look…" She paused while waiting for me to fill in the blank.
"Kay," I said with a sigh.
"Look Kay, I need an elf. You happen to be freakishly tall enough to fit into the tights. The solution is obvious." She was talking to me in the same way one would talk to a toddler that was getting ready to pitch a fit. I was thinking about pitching one at that very moment.
"First of all Mrs. Claus…" I was just about to get on a roll.
"Whatever. First of all Julie just because you happen to be the size of a real elf does not make me freakishly anything. Second, who the hell ever heard of a tall elf anyway? Third, this solution is not going to happen!" There I felt better after venting.
"Fine, then you go out there and tell all of those kids that they can't sit on Santa's lap. Then you tell their parents why they just waited in line for 45 minutes for no reason whatsoever." I could tell by her tone she was about as happy with me as I was of her.
I looked to all the faces of the kids in the line and knew that I had no other choice. I know, I know, call me a sucker. It wasn't their fault that I chose this day of all days to try to be gallant. What was I thinking?
"Fine," I grumbled between my teeth. "Why would you have this extra costume waiting here anyway?" Now I was just being cranky. Did it really matter why there was another green monstrosity on standby?
She chuckled evilly and answered, "That was Brandon's backup in case one of the kids had an accident."
Oh my god I didn't need to know that. I wasn't sure what was worse, the fact that soon I would be wearing tights and green pointed shoes with bells on them, or the fact that she seemed to like the idea so much. Okay, I hated the shoes more. At least when she smiles it's an attractive view if not an infuriating one.
Julie was enjoying this way too much. Her eyes were sparkling as she sat there smirking. I knew I was beaten and that the only thing I could do was to just make it through the day. I waited for her to leave but she just stood there watching me, mocking me.
"Do you mind? If I'm going to humiliate myself I'd rather not have to give you a show first." What I wouldn't give to remove her smirk.
She left me with a chuckle and a flick of her wrist in farewell to get dressed. As the door closed I could hear her call out to me, "What makes you think I'm going to miss the show?"
Typical that I would be left in a room with tights in my hand while all I want to do is chase after an aggravating blonde. I suppose it could have been worse, my family and friends could be in line waiting to hop on Santa's lap. Okay, I just have to remember to breathe, just a few hours. What could possibly happen?
Jingle... Jingle... Jingle...
Every single step I took I was reminded that I looked like a fool. I opened the door to Santa's little shack and walked out to be greeted by a few hundred people. Leaving behind my dignity I walked out much like someone awaiting their execution.
Other than my height I guess I fit in at "The Workshop". Everything was decorated like most malls do. There was fake snow, candy canes, and a big red man in a suit. At least no one was laughing at me, not that I could tell with the roar of blood rushing to my head.
I take it back, there was one person laughing at me. The only reason I could tell was by the huge smile that covered her face. I'm not sure what she found so funny seeing as though she was running around looking like the Fredrick's of Hollywood version of Mrs. Claus. Who ever designed her costume should be given a medal.
It was my job to escort the children from their parents and plop them on Santa's lap. Then Mrs. Claus would take their picture and I would give them a candy cane and lead them towards the exit. What I wanted to know is how Julie got off so lucky? All she had to do is click a picture. On the plus side, her being behind the camera did give me a great opportunity to watch her without her knowledge.
If it wasn't for her infuriating personality, she would be the most attractive creature that had crossed my path in a long time. She had a small frame but used it well. I'm not sure if it was her high level of confidence or her activity level, but she radiated a feeling of strength and softness. The view almost made that whole experience worthwhile, almost.
I knew the first thing that was going to give me a headache was the music. It sounded like Alvin, Simon, and Theodore were singing Christmas carols with spirit. That didn't even take into account the hundreds of children that squealed in joy or fear as soon as I started to bring them near Santa. Either way, my eardrums will never be the same. If that didn't give me a headache, Santa's grabby hands would.
"Go on, go get me another," said Santa with unpleasant slap to my green backside.
I glared that the jolly little man wishing that I could show him what to do with one of the candy canes. The problem was I didn't want all of the kids to watch Santa meet his maker. Something told me that might scar the little ones for life. So I did what any good elf would do, I swallowed my pride again and refrained from decking him.
Teeth clenched I went to retrieve a small boy who was here to see Santa for the very first time. The excitement in his eyes was something that only small children seem to have anymore. I have no idea when adults loose that love of life, but it was refreshing to be around those who still thought Christmas was magical.
"Hello, welcome to The Workshop. What's your name?" See I could be a great elf. If only my pointy left ear would stay on I might make a convincing one.
"Jose." His voice was small with a mixture of wonder and fear. I can't blame him really; I would be scared of a pointy eared green giant too.
"Well Jose, how old are you?" I asked while kneeling down so we were closer to eye level.
He held up four fingers and then immediately hid his face from my view behind his mother's leg. I know he was thinking that if he couldn't see me, than surely I couldn't see him. What a cutie.
"You wanna go see Santa, Jose?" The mention of the red velvet man got his attention as he nodded towards me.
I led him away from his parents towards the lap of dreams, the lap that makes your Christmas whishes come true. I found out later that we make the parents wait behind so that the child feels free to ask Santa for what ever he or she wants. Otherwise well meaning parents start talking for their children. It's Mrs. Claus's job to relay the message of Christmas whishes to the parents.
Once Jose got going there was no stopping him. He asked Santa for every toy ever made and every animal he could think of. Good luck Jose, but I didn't think his mother was going to go for getting him a new elephant. Just a guess but I'm thinking his mom was thinking more along the lines of a new toy truck.
Another picture of Santa and one of his followers was done, 200 more to go. Mrs. Claus whispered a few ideas into the waiting mother's ear and I gave the little man a candy cane.
That is how the most of the day went. Sure there was some crying, screaming, and biting; but that seemed to be the exception. The parents presented the biggest problem. I will never understand why a parent wouldn't just let their child have this moment and not spend the whole time grousing and complaining. There came a few times where I couldn't tell who the adult in the family was.
Break time came and all I could think about was putting my feet up. Why Julie knowingly volunteered for this I'll never know, but we were now about half way through. Thank god.
Santa, Mrs. Claus, and I went back into Santa's shack for a few cold drinks and a place to sit. I needed to use the mirror in there anyway to glue back on my ear. Why the kids keep trying to pull it off is beyond me. They probably knew it looked ridiculous on me too.
As I was looking in the mirror I felt it, a hand traveling up my tunic. For one brief wonderful instant I thought it was Julie until I heard her looking through her bag across the room. I think that was the moment. That right there was where I lost my ability to bottle my temper. It was time for Santa to loose a hand.
Spinning around I nailed him with a glare. "Get your grubby hands off me!"
He just laughed at me and shook his belly like a bowl full of jelly. There really isn't anything on the planet less attractive than that. When I was a kid I think I thought that phrase was endearing. Now that I see it I know better.
"Oh come on honey, I'll show you a merry Christmas…" He stared making another grab for me. I can't believe that he would think that I, or any woman for that matter, would fall for that.
"Listen buddy, you try that again and your chestnuts will be roasting on an open fire…" I was seriously considering tossing him out of the work shop.
He just laughed at me again. I hate when people laugh at me when I'm teed off. It just makes you angrier. The worst part is once they start laughing they won't ever stop. That's the point in which I felt like my head was going to explode.
Ignoring him seemed my only option at that point. Well ignoring, and staying outside of arms reach. What a bizarre day, I was beginning to wonder if I woke up this morning in the Twilight Zone.
Let's review shall we? In one day, I have been given several rude gestures, ogled Mrs. Claus, attempted to drown an elf, dressed in tights and pointy shoes, and was assaulted by a horny Santa. There's a Lifetime movie in there somewhere I just know it.
While my mind was wondering Santa left the work shop to visit the little helper's room. I can't tell you how glad I was for a moment of peace and quiet.
"Boy you sure told him." Sarcasm was just dripping off her voice. So much for my peace and quiet, I should've known.
With a sigh I turned around on the woman who was a walking contradiction. On the one hand I was attracted to her, on the other I wanted to strangle her. I couldn't help but wonder if anyone would notice if I buried her body in all of the fake snow around this little wonderland.
Julie had taken off her hair, the gray hair, and was leaning back in one of the folding chairs drinking a bottle of water. She could even make drinking look arrogant. Maybe she wasn't, but at that moment, arrogant was the only way I could describe her.
"Is there some reason you feel the need to torture me?" I asked wondering what it is that I did to make this woman enjoy my distress.
"Don't flatter yourself, this is hardly torture," she said with a smile. I think it was the first time that she smiled at me and there was warmth behind it. I was just so confused.
"Whatever you say Julie. Why are you here doing this, we all know why I am?" I asked
"Why are you?"
"Because you made me!" Was that not clear to anyone with a pulse?
"I didn't make you do anything. You did this because you didn't want those kids out there to be disappointed." She had a gentle smile on her face as soon as she started talking about the children waiting outside.
"Okay I see your point," I conceded.
"Besides, you look better in tights than my brother ever did," she said just before winking at me.
Unfortunately, I had chosen that moment to take a sip of water. I guess I could add nearly choking to death to my list of odd things that occurred today.
"Are you alright?" she asked genuinely concerned.
Now even if I wasn't okay I wasn't going to say no. I mean I don't know anyone who says they are anything but fine after they choke on water or something as ridiculous when a woman winks at them.
"Sure, fine, just went down the wrong way." If she believed that I have some ocean front property in Nevada she might be interested in.
She just smiled and let me off the hook and said, "Well we should probably get out there. I'll go hunt down not-so-Saint Nick." She patted my knee and walked out of the room.
With a deep breath, now that I could breathe without coughing, I headed out after her. Let's just hope the second half is uneventful.
I'd never been so uncomfortable in my entire life. It's never easy to be wearing tights, a tunic that wouldn't fit a smurf, a hat that is not only pointy but too big for my head, shoes with bells on, and horrible pointy ears that are always falling off. I could live with just that. Unfortunately, a little girl named Lisa thought I needed some of her soda. Too bad it all ended up in my shoes. She made me feel better by running her chocolate covered fingers through my hair. I planed to burn that outfit and spend at least 36 hours in the shower.
After the last kid snagged his candy cane from a weary looking Mrs. Claus, I was more than ready to make my escape. Who ever said no good deed goes unpunished wasn't kidding.
Julie blew out a breath after the last child left. I could tell that she was just as happy for this experience to be over as I was. I was just thankful that I didn't have to deal with the parents like she did. I probably would be in jail by now if I had. My patience would have snapped like a twig.
She looked up at me, her relief obvious in her small smile. She walked over and placed her hand on my shoulder. That in and of itself made me smile right back. She might be maddening, but she grows on you.
"All we have to do is cleanup this mess and close up." Her exhaustion was apparent in her soft voice.
"What do you mean cleanup? I don't know about you, but I'm going home." I was amazed. Did she really think I was going to help clean this mess?
The place looked like a disaster area. Give me a break, I had already been suckered into dressing like an idiot, there was no way I was going to stick around here any longer than necessary.
It was obvious that my answer aggravated Julie. I'm sure if she had the energy I would be sporting a few broken bones and one or two internal injuries. As it was, I knew I was going to be on the pointy end of some verbal barbs.
Her voice was a mixture of astonishment and rage as she glared at me and said, "Do you always do everything so halfassed? That's right run along to your home under the bridge; I'd hate to see you have to suffer."
It was clear she wasn't going to thank me for going out of my way today and helping her. She makes it sound like I was begging off work that I had a responsibility for. I didn't ask to be here, remember? Whatever was left of my nerves and temper snapped.
"First of all, trolls live under bridges not elves. Secondly, you're one to talk when you look like a piece of Santa's little eye candy. Lastly, I could have left along time ago, but I didn't. Do I get a thank you? Noooooo."
I was on a roll now. If I was paying attention I would've noticed that her face was changing into a frightening shade of crimson. My speech was interrupted when I felt my shopping bags being thrust into my hands by an angry Mrs. Claus.
Her voice was even, the only hint of her fury was the fact that it had dropped several octaves as she addressed me, "All I've heard all day is how this has inconvenienced you. I didn't force you here you're an adult and you make your own choices. You don't seem to care that we made a lot of children's Christmases this year."
Her hands gestured around the little workshop in the mall, "Look around, these parents couldn't have afforded to bring their child to Santa. Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe the world doesn't revolve around you. Maybe during Christmas it's better to think of someone else rather than the petty tasks you missed out on?"
I was stunned into silence. I don't know why I didn't notice before then but there were several signs around pronouncing that today's visit from Santa was sponsored by several charities. Suddenly, I remembered all the little kids that I was helping to get on Santa's lap. Most needed new shoes or their clothes were obvious handmedowns. They didn't ask for unreasonable gifts. Most of the little ones just wanted one item. It was like a light bulb had gone on in my head and it became clear that I was ashamed of my behavior.
Julie had turned away from me as I absorbed what she was telling me. Finally without looking at me she spoke in a voice that now sounded disappointed, "Go home, I don't want your help anyway."
For a moment I wanted to say something. I wanted to apologize, to explain. Then I realized there was nothing to explain, she was right. I was only thinking of myself. I didn't know what else to do at that moment. If I was disgusted with my lack of observation, then I wonder what she must think of me. Instead of saying something, I turned and walked away afraid to look back.
There's something very satisfying when the weather matches your mood. The rain was hitting the windshield as I headed back towards the hotel. For once I didn't have any music on in the car. I really didn't want to listen to more carols and I had forgotten my CDs. The only sound in the car, apart from the traffic outside, was the wiper blades moving back and forth.
I was still amazed at my behavior. I never used to be like that. I could remember a time when I was an idealistic teenager wondering what, if anything, I could do to help. I remembered that I hated people like the ones it seemed I'd become. I hated those that couldn't see past themselves to help someone else. Years before I would have probably had fun spending my day like I had today. When did it all change? I definitely had something to think about.
I was glad that I chose to stay in a hotel. Family is a wonderful thing, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Feeling like I do, I was glad that I wasn't going to have to face them or their four million questions. How could they not ask questions if the saw me walking in the house dressed like an elf on a growth hormone?
All hotels feel the same to me. I've been in enough to know that as long as nothing is crawling around on the floor, I'll be fine with it. When I was younger I used to think they were the greatest thing in the world. Probably because every time I was in one, I was without my parents. That alone would've been exciting for me.
Last year I spent 40 weeks in hotel rooms across the country. That would have been enough to kill the allure of the road, but I had also spent 3 years before that in the same manor. I just hope that this will be the last hotel that I'll see for a long time. Those people that think there's any glamour in the life of a stand-up comic haven't spent a month going to places that can't be found on a map.
Enough was enough. All I had to do was make sure the deal for the new club downtown went through with flying colors. Other than the holiday, that was the reason that I was back in Arizona. My family had no idea at this point that I might be here to stay. Why get my mom's hopes up if it might not happen?
The shower was calling my name, more like it was screaming it at the top of its lungs. All I had to do was get into my room. Even with as many hotels as I have been to, I've never mastered the key card. I miss the age of keys, now you have to spend an hour just trying to get a little green light to pop on. One would think that with me being an adult, and there not being a child safety lock on the door, that I could get in. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. After cursing up a storm and looking at the card like it was at fault, I saw the little green light.
After waiting 5 minutes the water was still lukewarm and I had given up hope of a hot shower. Figures it would be the perfect ending to a perfect day. It might only be early evening, but I was beat. It's a scientific fact that after showering one doesn't feel the weight of worry like they did before they stepped in there. It doesn't remove the problems altogether, but it does make facing the rest of your night bearable.
Room service and sitting back on the bed with my laptop was about all I could handle. My family wasn't expecting me until tomorrow, so tonight was for me. With my hair wet and a pizza sitting next to me I booted up the computer. I was determined not to think about the mall, there was nothing I could do about any of that anyway.
Logging on I checked my email. That's the first step for any computer user. I was waiting to hear word about my bid for the club space I had my eye on. I hoped that it was accepted so I could move forward by renovating the space into a comedy club that could bring some talent to Tucson. The city was large enough to make the venture profitable, and the property I found couldn't be in a better location. That was my dream, to be around what I loved without the headache of having to deal with life on the road.
I was disappointed to see that there was no response from the seller. I did have 4 emails from people willing to sell me Viagra, so I guess that makes up for it. Not. A little sickened with me and my inbox, I started reading a story that I had been looking forward to. Reading had always been my favorite companion on the road. Loosing myself in the story of another has always given me the mental vacation I needed.
December 21, 2003
Visiting family is an exercise in patience. My first day back after not seeing them for three months and I'd already been nagged, insulted, criticized, and made fun of. That's not to say that I don't 'give as good as I get'. That's the beauty of family; you can get away saying to each other what no other on this Earth can.
My mother could tell me that I'm never going to get a man, she still thought lesbianism was a phase used to irritate her, if I don't settle down. However, if someone else said that to her; suddenly you would think she was the president of the local PFLAG chapter.
Dad could tell me to get a real job, that if I wanted to be a clown I should've joined the circus. He didn't see any merit in being a stand-up comic. He thinks it's about as worthwhile as walking around intersections trying to wash people's windshields. However, when he is in the audience and someone heckles me, it's all I can do to keep him from hitting a bottle over the person's head.
Jason, the brother that tormented my youth, is now my partner in crime. If we aren't tossing jibes at each other we are finding ourselves a new target. I don't think it's possible to have two more different people, and yet still have them be genetically linked. I was the extrovert, he was the wall flower. He became the family man, and I was alone in a hotel room. The irony of that doesn't escape me. The only thing that we have in common is our looks. We both have our father's dark hair and light eyes.
We do have one other thing in common, our taste in women. His wife Alison is beautiful in every way. She has that exotic beauty that's only outshined by her sweet personality. Why she chose my brother I'll never know, but I'm glad she did. Poor Ryan would be lost with just my brother running after him.
Toss those people, plus a few family friends, and a pinch too much noise, and you get the Foster house during the holidays. I had been told that this year mom is having some people from work over for dinner tonight to talk about the Christmas Eve party. Most people wouldn't find that a frightening thought. The problem was that my mom seems to befriend the most eccentric in the office. She thinks they add life and spirit to a party. I've heard that Mrs. Becker is about as eccentric as they come. At least we wouldn't be lacking for entertainment.
I'd been kicked out of the kitchen, my mother not trusting me to cook anything without having to call the fire department. My brother and I decided that was as good a time as any to play some pool. Why is it that when family gets together and decides to play a friendly game of anything, it turns out to be the beginning of World War III. I could see Alison scolding my brother not to throw any of the pool equipment at me. I could only smirk at the poor guy. It didn't escape my notice that there wasn't anyone there worried about me or my behavior.
There was laughter floating in from the kitchen as my brother heckled every one of my shots. I could only laugh when he put his big dark head right next to the hole to tease me. That would have been a great moment for the cue ball to get away from me and fly off the table. Instead, I missed the shot and stuck my tongue out at him.
"You suck," I told him. My witty repartee was amazing. There's nothing like being with my brother that suddenly turned me into a pouting four year old.
"And that's why I have someone…" He responded moments before my mother shouted at him for his behavior. His face fell like the chastised child that he was. Before he could even respond my mom had him running to answer the door.
The doorbell hadn't rung, but my mom can tell you it will 30 seconds before every time. She's like the John Edwards for doormen. On a good day she can even tell you who it's going to be. Tonight, we all knew it was Mrs. Becker. Her arrival was my cue to bring out some drinks. Even after all this time the family would still fall into the familiar rolls that we used when we were children.
The sounds of people greeting each other made me smile as I broke the ice lump up back into cubes. I could tell by the sound of the voices that my mother adored the group of new comers. I could hear them joking around and it was then that I realized something that made my heart skip a beat. I recognized on of those voices as one belonging to someone I thought I'd never see again.
"Hello Shrek," the amused voice greeted me.
There was no doubt in who was speaking to me, "Hello Mrs. Claus." I turned around to find twinkling green eyes.
I couldn't help but needle her a little, maybe make her smile. "Shrek was an Ogre not an elf, Mrs. Claus."
She was smiling at me, a far cry from the last time I saw her. It surprised to find that I was glad to see her. I hadn't told my family about my mall excursion, so I felt like she and I shared a secret. I was determined to make this meeting end better than the last. I had no idea why it was so important to me but it was.
"Oh look, if it isn't the lunatic," said a tall dirty blonde haired young man. I knew immediately this was the elf that found his way into the fountain yesterday. Could the world be any smaller?
I looked at him and cringed, "Um yeah, sorry about the whole attempt to drown you thing." See, I could be an adult about this whole thing. I knew my pride was going to take the biggest hit as soon as Jason heard the story. This kind of thing is great fodder for a little sibling harassment.
His smile was warm and matched that of his sisters, "No problem. I guess if I was doing what you thought to JB I would want someone to step in." He shrugged like the whole incident yesterday meant nothing to him. I found that liked him, and it had nothing to do with the fact that he was letting me off the hook so easily.
"JB?" I asked somewhat confused.
"Bran's little nickname for me," Julie answered with a hint of a blush coloring her cheeks.
My mother took that moment as her chance to introduce the woman with them. "Kaycee, this is Marcy Becker. She works with me."
I smiled and held out my hand to her. She clasped it with vigor and pumped it. "Kaycee, aren't you just the cutest little thing, well not little. That's not to say that you're big either, just tall."
If I would have blinked I would have missed everything she said. As fast as she was talking, I had to take a moment to decipher what she said, "Um thanks. Please to meet you, and please call me Kay."
She smiled at me and looked at her children fondly and asked, "I see you have met my two angels?"
Her question caused both of the blondes to cringe and then flash a quick embarrassed smile. "Yes, Mrs. Becker. We met yesterday at the mall as a mater of fact."
The thought of the mall made me smile. Now that I could see I wasn't hated by either of them, I could see some of the humor in it. My smile only widened when I looked at Julie. If I thought she was cute when she was wearing the grey wig and red velvet suit, then she was down right stunning in her black slacks and green sweater. Her short blonde hair was deliberately messy which only gave her light hair even more brilliance.
I guess her mother saw where my gaze was, because she leaned towards me and mock whispered in a voice loud enough for anyone in the room to hear, "You, I like. She is single you know."
How she knew I would be interested in Julie as opposed to Brandon I'll never know. I hoped I wasn't making it so obvious that someone who didn't know me would ask me that. I really didn't have a response for Marcy. It's not like I could deny it, and I really didn't want to make myself look any worse towards her two children. I chose silence, after all, the last thing I wanted was to give my mother reason to jump in and tell them all about her search to find me the perfect husband. I figured if I didn't say anything then I couldn't shoot myself in my proverbial foot. This was one of those moments where a smile and a nod would have to do.
She slapped my back hard enough that I was worried I was going to pitch over in the middle of the kitchen and exclaimed, "Ha! I pegged you good! Now where's the eggnog?" I had a feeling she had already found the eggnog before coming over this evening.
Marcy left as quickly as she arrived, off to go talk up my dad. Watching her with my dad, I knew she was one of those people who are a walking whirlwind. She would definitely make dinner more exciting.
Snapping out of my thoughts, I realized that the room was now silent. Brandon and Julie were glancing around the room looking as uncomfortable as I'm sure I looked. Parents always assume that their children will get along famously if left alone in a room together. That might have been true when I was five, but at 29 that wasn't always the case. It's not like I could just ask them if they wanted to see my room.
I could hear the pool balls clicking in the other room and knew that when I left, Jason was playing with Alison. That seemed as good of an activity as any. Besides, there was always safety in numbers, and at the moment I was outnumbered.
Alison wasn't in the room. I figured she was off with Ryan or with my mom and dad. Jason was racking the balls as he looked up. His blue eyes sparkled and I knew what he wanted. He always got that look when he was looking to trounce me in something.
Looking up he grinned at the Becker siblings, "Ya'll wanna play?"
I looked to Julie and Brandon to gauge their reaction. Where Jason and I have vastly different personalities, those two looked like two peas in a pod. They were both nodding enthusiastically with a genuine grin lighting their faces.
"Guys verses girls?" I asked. I wasn't ashamed to admit that I wanted Julie on my team. I'm not a saint and I never will be. Being on her team will give me a chance to watch her unnoticed. I was all for that.
"What do you say, wanna make it interesting?" asked Jason. I really didn't mind since he and I were evenly matched.
I looked over at Julie who was shaking her head 'no'. I figured she didn't want to put up her own money. I really didn't mind treating. At least it might help her to see me in a better light. I hadn't tried to impress a girl like this since I was in elementary school and insisted on pushing Penny Jackson in the swing.
"You got a deal, what are the terms?" I asked with a cocky grin.
"Losers snag dishes duty tonight." He knew I hated doing the dishes. He doesn't mind doing them, but loves watching me moan and groan while scrubbing.
Just as we were shaking on the deal I felt a vicious poke to my ribs. Looking over I saw that Julie was anything but pleased. That didn't look good. Maybe she thought I wasn't any good, who knows. I gave her what I hoped would be a reassuring smile as the boys racked the balls.
Colors skittered everywhere like they were struck by lightning. Brandon was leaning over the table watching while he smirked. I was beginning to think I had miscalculated a little. When 3 balls sunk into the pocket there was no doubt I miscalculated. Crap.
I felt the poke in my ribs again as I looked over at Julie, "Was the fact that I was shaking my head to subtle for you, or would you rather next time I just hit you over the head?" She didn't look angry; she looked like a mother does when they are scolding their child for making a mess at a restaurant.
Just thinking about all of the dishes the group would create tonight I responded, "I wish you would have, we're going to be washing until were 60."
She gave me a smile and bumped my hip, "We'll survive."
There, at the pool table, we had established a truce. It was easier than I had expected. I guess all I had to do was stop acting like a fool. Normally, that would be a rather tall order but tonight I would manage.
Brandon could make a living hustling pool tables across the country. The boys' victory was simple and complete. Julie and I didn't stand a chance. There was no way I was going to go double or nothing. So we continued to play until dinner was ready.
Dinner, as always, was a lively affair. If there was one thing my mother couldn't stand it was silence over food. I'm not sure why, but for her to be social there must be food out and about. Personally, I would think that this would make it more difficult to talk seeing as though you weren't supposed to talk with your mouth full. When I would bring this up to her I would get in trouble for being a "smart ass". The funny thing was my father would get mad at me if I was being, as he called it, a "dumb ass". Either way, I was getting in trouble.
Anyway, there we were eating and talking. Marcy Becker was by far the life of the party. If she wasn't regaling us wish an antidote from her extensive travels, she was asking such point blank questions that they caught everyone off guard. She had no problem asking the kind of questions that everyone in the room was wondering but no one was willing to ask. The fact that she and my pragmatic mother were friends boggled my mind.
"So what is it you do," my mother asked Julie. This was my mom's favorite small talk question.
"I'm an accountant." She answered politely.
"Oh isn't that nice, how exciting!" It's true, that's the kind of job my mother finds fascinating. Did I mention I must have been switched at birth? I could have easily predicted what happened next.
"Kaycee, honey, maybe she can get you a job where she works," said my mother with a look on her face like she had just solved a major crisis.
"Mom, I have a job." I felt like banging my head against the table in frustration. A meal cannot go by without my parents taking potshots at my chosen occupation. I feel like one of those fools in the dunking booth waiting to be dunked at the carnival.
"Well this would be a real job honey. You can't be a clown all your life." My dad just had to toss in his two cents. He sounded like he was explaining to Ryan why he couldn't run around naked after bath time.
"You're a clown?" asked Julie her brow raised. Just when you thought you were going to be able to make a good impression, leave it to your parents to ruin it.
"I'm not a clown, I don't wear big shoes nor a big read nose. I'm a comic." If only I could get my parents to abandon this line of questioning. It's not that I don't like people knowing what I do; I just don't like them talking about it with my parents, who think I should be doing anything but.
"Really, a comic huh?" asked Julie. The disbelief was written on her face. I could tell I had failed to wow her at any point with my charm or sense of humor.
"Yeah. Why is that so hard to believe?" Now I was pouting playfully.
It's not like I'm not used to this reaction from other people. For some reason they think that if you tell jokes for 5 minutes on a stage, that you are just the life of the party every other moment of your life. In reality, most comics are usually the most cynical, and sarcastic bunch of folks you could imagine.
"Well tell us a joke." This helpful suggestion came from Jason, the jerk. Too bad it just didn't work like that.
With a shrug I responded, "Okay, um, knock knock?" At my mocking him he tossed his roll at my head. That effectively removed me from being the center of attention as my mom began scolding him like an infant. Ha, take that you goober.
Throughout the rest of the meal, I took the opportunity to look across the table at Julie. She was really quite something; her laugh was infectious and I found myself laughing every time she did.
There are always scenes in movies where the beautiful female lead is put in slow motion as her smile lights her face. That's what it was like for me. Every time she smiled, it was in slow motions. Soon the whole meal became moments of her, her laugh, her smile, her voice.
People have told me that I'm attractive, but it really only matters how I see myself. I will forever be the gangly tall girl whose feet were always two sizes too big. So when looking upon someone like Julie, I'd never feel like I was in her league. The strange thing about being a lesbian is that when I see a beautiful woman I can be both attracted to her, and jealous of her. That's the nature of being women; we always compare ourselves to each other. Why we do this to ourselves is a question even the best scholars cannot answer.
I snapped out of my mental wandering when everyone's laughter broke my self induced trance. Julie was relating a story about something she saw on the news. I'm not sure what I found more enjoyable, he voice or her story.
"So this imbecile decided that it would be a good idea to steal one of the Salvation Army buckets from a 60 year-old bell ringer. He cased the bucket for five hours. Then he grabbed it and ran away into the street only to be hit by a car." She was laughing a little as she told the story and shaking her head.
This whole thing struck me as funny. Why would a person case a robbery for five hours only to forget to look both ways before crossing the street? My whole family had clearly fallen for the woman who told the story. She didn't act like what I would think an accountant would act like. In a way it made me want her more and feel less worthy of her. After all, I hadn't really given her any good reason to want to be with me. What was I thinking, I hardly knew anything about this woman other than she made a mean Mrs. Claus.
The rest of dinner flew by in a hurry. My mom and Marcy had made their plans for Christmas Eve. I wasn't paying attention; all I knew was that this was going to give me reason to see Julie again. That was enough for me. I'm sure my mother, the task master, would let me know anything that I had missed or anything I was responsible for.
All too soon everyone was saying goodbye. Marcy left me with a bit of advice that I'll always remember. That's probably because to this day I have no idea what it means. She must have thought it was important that I know, but all I could think about was how my mom had not lost her ability to befriend the kind yet peculiar members of the office staff.
She took me aside and whispered, "Now remember honey; don't squat with your spurs on."
Quick goodbyes were spoken knowing that we would be seeing each other soon. I followed them out to the car as I headed to mine. A quick wave later and they were driving down the road. Looking back I wish I could say it was more of a moment, but it wasn't. I guess it had something to do with the fact that I was still trying to figure out what Marcy had meant and why she would choose that moment. By the time I realized that I would never know, it was too late to take a moment for goodbye. Instead, it ended up being the same goodbye you give an acquaintance. It's not like I expected a friendly goodbye; but it's always nice to hope.
December 22, 2003
I kept hoping that today I would find out if my bid was accepted for the new club. I can only hope it was. I think the news of owing and operating this would make a wonderful Christmas present for my mom. Not only would I then have what she deems a "real job", but I would be home. Secretly, I think that's what she hates most about what I'm doing now. She likens me to some kind of modern-day vagabond. Sometimes I feel like one too.
The club would be a little smaller than I would like but I just knew I could make it into something special. It would be really important for me to have enough money to remodel the space. It used to be a bar, and while that helps me with some of my remodeling needs, I still need to have the kind of stage and audience seating that would allow me to bring in some of the bigger named talent.
For a moment, as my laptop was logging online, I wondered what Julie would think of the space. I don't know why she was on my mind just then. It wasn't like me to daydream about people I had met or worry about their opinions of what I'm doing. Before I had time to really break down what that meant for me, I was logging into my inbox.
I was getting worried that I hadn't heard from the selling company yet, and wondered if they had another bidder on the space. In my inbox was the email I was waiting for. Reading it I felt my heart sink just a little. It wasn't bad news, but it also wasn't the good news I was hoping for. They requested a meeting. I hate that. Now I don't have a clue what was going on. Did that mean the space was mine and they just needed to discuss something with me, or were they going to let me down easy over a nice cup of coffee? Why did people always give bad news over coffee now? Personally I would rather have bad news over a shot of something, but that's just me.
The meeting was set for just after Christmas, so much for being able to tell mom that I was going to stay in town. That worried me. People don't want to give someone bad news just before Christmas, only a scrooge would do that, and he had to deal with those three pesky ghosts. No, this wasn't looking good for me.
On the other hand I could have been analyzing the whole thing too much. I had a tendency to do that. It takes a special talent to make even the most obvious and straightforward situations appear as complicated as Rubik's cube.
With nothing left to do I decided that it was a good time to go shopping for more Christmas presents. I had finished everyone in my family, but with the Beckers coming Christmas Eve, I thought it would be nice to pick them up something. If I was being honest with myself, I would have realized that there was just one Becker that I was interested in getting a gift for.
I grabbed my keys and headed out to the car. With any luck this would be the last time I would have to shop for Christmas. Normally, I would end up having to get something at the last minute. I would have to duel some poor grandmother of 6 to the death for the last stocking stuffer that my mom sent me out to get. This time I was determined to be prepared. I was looking forward to the festivities and at least shopping got my mind off my eagerness.
December 24, 2003
When I was five and my parents would have people over, I was given the job of coat check girl. At the time I was told that it was the most important job there was. However, this time my brother and I were given the job of setting out some of the lights for tonight's celebration. They told me it was the most important job there was. I would have believed that if I was still five, now I know that it's just a ploy to keep me out of the kitchen. I didn't mind my banishment from the kitchen; I don't think she ever really got over the embarrassment of having to call the fire department the last time I was allowed in there. How much trouble could Jason and I really get into while setting up lights?
There's something about being around your sibling that reduces your maturity by half. There couldn't be a better example of this principle than Jason and I. That's the only reason I can explain my willingness to remove the ladder after he reached the roof and then go inside the house for a while. I wasn't going to leave him up there too long, just long enough to get under his skin. I knew he would get me back so what was the point in pretending that I didn't enjoy him shouting threats to me as I left him.
Eventually I went back outside to find Jason trying to shimmy down an orange tree. He wasn't getting very far and it was obvious that when he came up with the idea to try that escape he forgot how old he was. That's what happens when you get to be this age; you have moments where you actually believe that you are young enough to climb from branch to branch only to be faced with the vicious truth that your body will no longer keep up with your mind. He wanted to ask for help as he dangled, but he couldn't bring himself to. Just as I was about to launch into a serious teasing session, that is my job as a sibling after all, my mother came out of the house.
I probably never would have noticed her coming out of the house if it hadn't been for her ear piercing yelling of our full names including the dreaded middle name. It occurred to me that motherhood provides women with a voice that could be heard by everyone within a 3 county radius.
"Jason Peter Foster, what in world are you doing up there?" Her hands were on her hips in the official angry mother pose.
That was my cue to snicker like a 5th grader only to be silenced by my mother's angry glare. Anyone else in the world can glare at me and I'd think nothing of it. When my mother glares at me all I can think about is that I wish I could shrink and hide behind a bush or something.
"Well?" she asked again. It wasn't looking good for him seeing as though her foot had started tapping.
"Umm… Just looking for an orange, oh look here's one?" There's nothing like watching a 30 year-old man scared of his momma.
"Well hurry up and hang those lights," she said just before pinning me again with her gaze. "What are you waiting for? Help that fool out of there. I swear you two are worse now than when you were kids."
She had us there. I wasn't going to argue when I knew she was right. On the other hand I wasn't planning on helping that fool out of the tree either. She left us out there to our own devices as Jason tried to scramble from the tree. I was of no help to him mainly because I was laughing too hard.
Eventually he found his way down and had that look in his eye that warned me that my time would come. After that it really didn't take us that long to finish the lights even if we did take a few breaks just to rib each other.
As a few of the guest started trickling through the door there were a few I had never even met before. That's not surprising seeing as though I'm away so much of the year. At the first chance I got I scooped up Ryan into my waiting arms. Children always made an excellent excuse for being unsocial. If I was seen cooing with the adorable little guy, I knew they wouldn't think I was being rude. Besides I much prefer to hangout with him than making small talk with my parent's friends.
Just as I was sitting on the couch getting into an exciting game of 'watch the tickle finger', I heard the voice I hadn't realized I was waiting to hear. There are times when you know you were waiting for something only after you found them. This was one of those times. There was Julie, walking through the door and saying something that had Jason and Alison laughing. I had to award 2 points for Julie. Any woman that can make members of my family laugh is a special one. Joking around is so much a part of my life that to see her enjoy it made me glad.
Kissing the soft downy hair of Ryan I kept my eyes on those of Julie. She was wearing a festive knit sweater that had Rudolf's face on the front and his rear end on the back. That sweater might as well have still had the tag on it because it was clear that it was a gift. Everyone has that aunt that sends out sweaters that you find yourself forced to wear. It's the same aunt that sends you a check for $5 on your birthday.
Suddenly her eyes caught mine. It was at that moment that I realized what I had been avoiding; I liked this girl. She stirred something in me that made me feel. For so long I had been touring and just blindly moving from day to day. Now all of a sudden my emotions had a mind of their own. At first she stirred my frustration, now I realized that was the first time a stranger had forced me to feel anything other than my usual apathy. Now I knew why I cared what she thought of me, and why I shopped for 4 hours looking for something to give her for Christmas.
Just then she smiled at me. I was captivated to the point that I didn't notice that Ryan had taken a firm hold of my silver necklace. I avoided strangling myself but couldn't pry his little fingers off. You would have to be an industrial engineer or perhaps a welder to get Ryan to let go of you once he had you. A warm hand closed over mine and Ryan's. Looking up I saw the same green eyes that I had been admiring from across the room. I would have been happy for just allowing her to hold my hand at that moment, but the insistent pulling on my neck was beginning to be a little much.
Julie gently distracted Ryan with a soft finger down his cheek until he let go of me. I'm not sure how she did it, but I was free and she now had a new admirer. Ryan held out his chubby little arms towards the woman that he couldn't take his big hazel eyes off of. She gently cradled him in her arms while brushing her lips across the same spot mine were moments before. Lucky little fellow.
She glanced up at me with her eyes still dancing from watching the little guy before she said fondly, "Hey Marvin."
I couldn't help but smirk at the imp. "Marvin was a Martian, but at least you got the color right this time."
She chuckled at me and gave the baby a silly face as she spoke to him in a conspiring whisper, "Oh little one you should have see your Auntie, she looked so cute in her pointy hat and bells."
Whoa, hold the phone, stop the presses, and any other euphemisms that mean stop, put your coffee down and pay attention. She said I was cute. I might be wrong, but I think she said it. If you're not sure either, scroll back and check for me. I distinctly heard her say it. If my chest could've puffed out any further in pride I would have looked like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloon.
"Are you making moves on my date there?" I asked her pointing to the cooing baby.
She chuckled as she looked at him. "Can you blame me? Look at that face." She had now, like everyone before her who had held him, started to use baby talk.
I smiled, warmed at the whole scene. Really, Ryan was such a cutie. He had dark hair and soft hazel eyes. He would be every girls dream, and every father's nightmare. A thought occurred to me and I started looking for my special gift for Ryan. Once I found it in my pocket I flashed a huge smile at Julie.
"I can't blame you one bit, but if you want to see something cute look at this," I told her as I places a small Santa hat on his little head.
She smiled at me and positively cooed at him. He was rather cute in his little hat, if I do say so myself. I was surprised to find it when I was out shopping, but then again we do live in a day and age where people dress up their pets on holidays so they can take their picture and send it with their Christmas cards. My family has been known to force the family dog to wear antlers on occasions. I wonder what other animals think of us humans when we dress up one animal like another.
Clearly I had scored some point with Julie. Though, I think his mother liked the hat the best. I got a huge kiss from my sister-in-law as my brother got a slap on his arm for never doing anything quite so sweet. Ha take that.
Christmas carols were playing in the background and could barely be heard over the sound of all of the voices in the room. Most of the gests were wearing something red or green. Everyone was dressed casually as was commonplace in this part of the country. Food and drinks began to circulate with my mother directing the action. At times like this she has always reminded me of some kind of cross between a symphony conductor and a military strategist.
The air conditioning had been turned on so that a roaring fire could provide atmosphere. I still don't know why they build houses here in the desert with fireplaces in them. Isn't that like building an outdoor swimming pool in Alaska?
So there I was, at a party where two weeks ago, I would have thought I'd have been a little uncomfortable with people I didn't know, but I was now sitting next to a nice fire with a beauty. She loved to talk, a trait I found slightly at odds with her occupation as an accountant. She was one of those women that like to touch you when she talks. Normally that would make me a little uncomfortable, but with her it seemed as natural as smiling at her sometimes offbeat sense of humor.
That was when I found out that you can be both hypersensitive and relaxed at the same time. I knew exactly where she touched me, weather it was a caress against my leg to get my attention, or a playful slap to my arm. I could feel her breath against my skin as she leaned in to whisper an observation about the people at the party. I could feel her warmth near me even though she wasn't touching me. You would think that all of this would have made me jumpy or in need of some air. I found, to my amazement, that I was as calm as could be sitting with her.
As we talked I discovered that she likes to people watch almost as much as I did. Natural silences in our conversation weren't as unbearable as they normally feel to me. I tend to get uncomfortable with no one saying anything. With her, I was content to enjoy the night, that in and of itself was a miracle. She amazed me, nothing seemed to faze her. She could be just as engaging with those she didn't know as those she had her whole life. Normally I would have found that a little disconcerting, but being around her confidence made me feel like I could share it with her.
"You don't like crowds much do you?" Her question ended a small lull in conversation. She was looking at me with such an open expression, I didn't worry that she was making fun of me.
"Not really," I answered sheepishly. "I guess I'm just a little self-conscious. I don't normally have to deal with these kinds of things." I gestured around us at all of the laughing people.
She shook her head before a quizzical look fast over her face. "How can you do stand-up if you don't like being the center of attention?" The only thing behind her question seemed to be her curiosity.
"That's easy, it's not me. It's a part of me I guess, but here, where everyone knows me, I can't exactly follow a planed set now can I?" I didn't really want to meet her eyes, but when I did the only thing there was understanding.
She smiled and put her hand on my forearm. "I guess not." It's not often you meet someone that doesn't question everything about you and just accepts you. I was grateful that she didn't push it beyond that and just acknowledged it.
"What about you? Are you having a good time?" I was genuinely curious about what she thought. Secretly I was hoping she would drop a hint about what she thought about me or my family.
Glancing at me she paused before answering, "Yeah, I am having a good time. Everyone here is wonderful, though I wish my mom would stay away from the eggnog. God only knows what she'll do with a few more glasses of that stuff." I could tell from the humor in her voice that she was indeed having a good time. So was her mother, Marcy by the looks of it.
We fell silent as we watched Marcy over by my parents break out into her own rendition of the '12 Days of Christmas', only her version was nothing like I 'd ever heard. Watching her I knew that it wasn't the eggnog that was bringing out this side of her. Everyone else acted like it was expected behavior. Julie plopped her head on my shoulder and groaned comically. I could hear her laugh when other people who worked with Marcy, including my own mother, joined in. Maybe I should have checked to see what exactly was in the eggnog.
Dinner was just as fascinating. You never realize that your parents have a life outside of you until it smacks you in the face. Over dinner I was smacked by my parents and Marcy talking about things that were hitting a little too close to making me have to visit a shrink for the next 10 or so years. Thank god they are just talking about dating mishaps they had before meeting each other. Any more than that and my ears would probably implode. I know that makes me a little immature, but I don't care. I'm still convinced that my parents never had sex and I was some kind of test tube baby.
After dinner my desire to hear anymore about my parents, other than them talking proudly of their two children, had evaporated. I decided to get some air. This was one of those times my antisocial side comes out. We all have one of those sides, mine was just more pronounced, seeing as though I had spent so much time by myself these last few years.
The night air in the desert is a strange thing. It was winter, yet there was no breeze, just a faint chill. My parents were fortunate in that they had a home in the foothills that surround the city. From they patio you can see all the lights lit below. Even though it looked like that every night you couldn't help but think it was fitting for the season to be surrounded by twinkling lights.
I cold barely see my breath mingling with the air as I glanced up at the stars. I love the silence that a desert night brings. There is just something different about being in a place that you often could hear a coyote call that made you feel at peace. I could hear the patio sliding glass door open and close, yet I chose not to acknowledge it.
A feeling of warmth stepped up to my right, and I knew instantly who had joined me. "I thought I would find you out here Oscar."
I had to chuckle at her imagination. Never in my life had I known someone that could name so many green creatures. "Hello."
She let the silence linger for a moment. I can only assume that she wanted to enjoy the night air with me, or maybe she was looking to escape the game of charades that I was sure had already started inside. I felt comfortable there outside with a woman that I hardly knew.
When she caught my eye for the first time she made a show of looking around the patio, "Well you don't appear to be a smoker. So, if you don't mind me asking, brought you out here?"
I had to smile at her. She was always full of such energy and life. "I just needed a break I guess." I hope that didn't make me sound as depressing as I thought it did.
For her part, she just smiled in understanding. "I hear ya. I think my mother is in there right now trying to get people to 'name that show tune'." She ended with an almost comical look of excitement on her face that just screamed sarcasm.
Now I outright laughed, I could feel her pain in the family department. After all, we all love our families but sometimes you just want to run and hide from them. I smiled and joined in her teasing. "Is my mother still trying to get everyone to try her latest culinary experiment? I swear that woman may think she is a world class chef, but some of the things she makes could strip paint."
She smile and laughed. She had unknowingly tried my mother's borsht the other night. Jason and I would've stopped her but we were afraid that would draw the attention to us as we dumped ours in the plants surrounding the table.
"You could have warned me about that last time you know." Her mock indignant expression had me laughing again.
"There are some things that you have to learn for yourself if you are to understand the horror of them," I answered her. "Besides, you were a sacrifice for the greater good. That way my brother and I could avoid it."
"Oh aren't you the picture of chivalry. Why thank you." She had crossed her arms and was attempting to look stern.
"Anytime!" Now we were both laughing. There has always been something that I loved about making people laugh, but making her laugh was another thing all together. I just couldn't have expected it to make me feel that good.
"You know," her voice had turned a little more serious but her smile remained, "Our mothers are taking bets as to when we will get together. I think it might be my mom's Christmas wish."
I grunted a small laugh. "That would require my mom to admit that being gay was no longer some phase that I was going through."
Julie looked at me for a moment as if she was making some kind of decision. She took a step closer to me. If I wanted to, she was within reach. So close yet so far. I watched frozen to my spot as her hand reached towards my cheek. At the last moment it made a detour and traced lightly where my shirt met the skin of my neck. Usually I'm not one to just stand there like a bump in the road, but I felt powerless. This woman was captivating.
Julie's hand stopped it's exploration on my shoulder. Her eyes were looking right into me, through me. I knew that all the remnants of our prior joking were gone. If she hadn't stepped even closer I would have probably missed her whispered words.
"You sell your mother short." What I couldn't figure out was why we were still talking about our families. Unless I had read this entire situation wrong, now was not the time to be talking about my mother.
Those were the last thoughts I had before I felt her other hand move to caress my cheek. She was looking at me like she was trying to discover life's mysteries in every plane of my face. I lowered my head to bring us closer still. We both paused, as if by mutual agreement. For the first time I saw the desire in her green depths.
At last it was Julie that moved, her breath caressing my face. What chill was in the air vanished at the warmth that surrounded her. I didn't even notice at the time that my hands had found her hips, or that they were pulling her impossibly closer. The first touch of her lips was like a soft whisper. The second was bolder, yet just left me wanting more of her soft warmth.
She didn't even try to posses me or let her passion take control. It was the most erotic moment of my life when her tongue touched my lips. Like her hand before, it began its own explorations. This time though, she was tracing the shape of my lips as they opened in response. I had never been kissed like this before, and for a moment I thought my heart would split open. When her hands sank into my hair her lips met mine, this time her tongue continued her painstakingly slow exploration in my mouth.
She ignited a slow burning passion that I had never known myself capable of. She wasn't conquering me, but cherishing me. I couldn't bring her close enough to my body. It was like making love with just one kiss. The sound of her soft moan could have been my undoing if we weren't on my parent's patio. We both knew that this couldn't go as far as we may have wanted it to.
Slowly she began to lower her level of passion and pulled back so she was looking at me. I'm sure the look of desire in her eyes was reflected in mine. There, in that moment, she was everything. I pulled her into a hug as we desperately hung on to each other like long lost friends. Suddenly the spell was broken by a loud slap and a few cries of delight.
We didn't let go of each other, but we did turn our heads to see what the commotion was. There standing a few feet from the patio was both of our mothers. Marcy even had the nerve to give us a thumbs up. I just pulled her closer, not having the inclination to be upset when I was feeling so alive. Julie hid her face in my neck and groaned before chuckling.
I knew that later I would have to think about my mother's look of joy. That was so unexpected that I didn't even attempt to think about it. All I wanted was to find out what this kiss had meant to the woman in my arms. Did this mean she wanted to see me in the future or was this a one time thing for her?
Resting my cheek on top of her soft hair before whispering, "I see your mom got her Christmas wish."
She pulled back and for a moment I was worried that she would leave or that she would be upset at my words. She looked at me, and again her green eyes seemed to look through me as I watched some internal debate. Finally, a small smile graced her lips as she responded in her own whisper, "No, I got mine."
I couldn't hold back the delight that her words brought me as I brought her lips once again to mine. After our interruption, our fiery passion had dimmed to a smolder, but this kiss still had the same feeling behind it. It became the pattern for the rest of the night. There was not a single sprig of mistletoe that went unvisited, or a word she spoke that I wasn't hanging on.
For me the night ended much too soon. In the hustle and bustle of guests leaving, we missed having a private goodbye, but we did manage to exchange phone numbers and promises to call tomorrow to wish each other a Merry Christmas. I even got a promise from her to meet for a date. Yes, that's right. She agreed to go on a date with me. We would iron out the when and where when I talked to her. I wanted to make sure that no mater what; I would have several reasons to call her.
I watched as her taillights faded into the darkness and I couldn't help but feel the excitement of Christmas. This time it wasn't the presents that had my attention but a spunky little blonde. I missed her warmth, but all it would take would be a thought of her and it returned. I knew that the little glass figure of Mrs. Claus that I'd slipped into her things would have a good home. Without even knowing it, my Christmas wish was granted that night. At the time I didn't even know that I had asked one.
December 25, 2003
When I was younger Christmas morning used to be pandemonium. As an adult it's become rather subdued. After the Christmas Eve festivities, we need some recovery time. I'm sure when Ryan gets a little older that may change, but for the moment, these days it's a holiday for a little relaxation.
I'm sure all of the adults were more impressed with the presents for Ryan than he was. He was just thrilled to be the center of attention. As I had suspected, out of all the toys I got him, he was most impressed with the bow and wrapping paper. As long as he is happy, who was I to complain?
Jason threatened to have me drawn and quartered for the little gift that Santa brought Ryan. At first he was thrilled to see the little black nose of a lab peaking out of a box under my arm. Everyone thought he was the cutest thing in the world, until accident number one. Then all of a sudden all eyes and fingers were pointing to me. So my little man had his very first Christmas with his own best friend. Life couldn't get better than that.
Everyone else seemed to enjoy the day just as much. Presents were exchanged between the adults at a leisurely rate. My mother is one of those women that insist on saving the wrapping paper. She acts as if the paper is made of pressed gold. I have never seen her actually use the paper a second time, so it's a wonder what she does with it. I'm sure one day I'll open a closet door and find myself buried in stacks of the stuff. I personally am I ripper. What fun is it to gently take the tape off when I can tare into it like a wild animal?
Everyone seemed to enjoy their gifts and we all were enjoying a bit of time away now that the major stress of the holidays was over. We sat around and did what everyone does on holidays, we ate. Eating during the holidays should be considered an Olympic event. If you aren't going for seconds, you're doing something wrong.
As the day began to fade away into the evening, you can guess what I was doing. I was eating. Traditional food for the holidays in the South West is tamales. Thank god my mother learned to buy a ton of the things. We had tried to make them one year, but after that disaster and cleaning the kitchen for 5 hours, we knew that it would be best to buy them. Everywhere you look they were being sold, so it just made sense to have something edible for a change.
So while Jason and I were eating, my mind began to wander, much as it had been this whole day. I couldn't help but think about dancing green eyes and the little woman that I shared a kiss with the night before. I was just waiting for it to be late enough that I could call her without interrupting her family's festivities. That and I really didn't want to look over anxious.
Frankly I still couldn't believe that my mother had seen the whole thing. Well, I could believe that, but not the fact that she didn't spontaneously combust afterwards. She almost looked happy about it. I had no idea what to make of that and I wasn't sure now would be the time to broach the subject. She hadn't said a word to me about it, no one had. So far we were having a holiday without anyone screaming and yelling, I wasn't about to ruin that. I couldn't count the number of times that I had ruined a special day with one or both of my parents disagreeing with my choices. If they wanted to pretend everything was normal, who was I to stop them? I felt too good after being that close to Julie to have the desire to argue with anyone.
I spent most of the day either looking at the phone and thinking about calling Julie, or pretending I wasn't looking at the phone. You know you've got a problem when you're even lying to yourself. It was about that time when everyone peeled off to do their own thing. It's the lulls in activity during the holidays that give you a chance to take stock. For me it was my chance to make a phone call.
I felt like I was in high school trying to call up the head cheer leader. At this point I found myself almost wishing that I had written down something clever to say. It's sad that there are moments in your life where you feel so woefully inadequate that you need a script.
I still could hang up. Though in this age of caller ID and *69, that could prove to be more embarrassing than anything I could do.
"Hello?" The voice was decidedly male. I could pretend to be a telemarketer and still turn back. I couldn't help but think about that. When he repeated his greeting he pulled me from my mental wandering. I knew I was being ridicules and that I would be kicking myself for being so pathetic and cliché. The decision was made as I found myself asking to speak with Julie. That wasn't so hard was it?
"Hello?" She sounded happy, and that in turn brought a smile to my face. I was already feeling a little less nervous.
"Hey, it's Kay." See, I was already off to a good start. I know it's hard to embarrass yourself with just the greeting, but I've done it before.
"Oh hey, if it isn't my little helper, I was just thinking about you…" She let her voice trail off and I was left to wonder what exactly she was thinking. No matter what, I was convinced that it was a good thing that she was thinking about me at all. 2 points for me.
That was how the conversation went that Christmas evening. I was a nervous wreck and she seemed to calm me with her easy nature. I can't say that I remember that much from the conversation. Holding your breath repeatedly and depriving oxygen to your brain tends to do that kind of thing. I do know that I made her laugh and it wasn't at my expense. At least I don't think it was.
The conversation was spent relating tales about what was going on that day. It was all safe ground that I was quite comfortable with. Sometimes it's easier to just talk to someone over the phone so that I don't have to look at them. Or more importantly, so they can't look at me. I'm sure I was quite a sight with my white knuckle grip on the phone and a face as red as Santa's suit.
"So do you think you'd want to get together sometime?" Can you believe that question came out of my mouth? I'm still stunned. After I said it my eyes went wide, and again I was holding my breath. At this rate I'd be lucky to live till New Years.
She didn't miss a beat with her answer, "Sure, when?"
Was I the only one feeling the least bit of stress here? Her nonchalance was on the one hand quite unnerving, and on the other quiet comforting. Like her, it was an interesting paradox.
"Well, I have a meeting tomorrow… how about Saturday?" Okay, here is where I start counting to keep calm. One. Where is a paper bag when you need one?
"Let me check my book, hold on a sec." Two. That couldn't be good. I've used the whole 'looking at my book' thing many times to get out of a date.
"Sure." Three. I started to pace.
"Okay I'm back. Sorry about that." I could here pages turning. Four. I wondered what the symptoms were for a heart attack. Shouldn't I be looking for some aspirin to chew?
Five. I was starting to question my sanity. I asked her out for crying out loud, I wasn't defusing a bomb.
"Saturday looks good. What about lunch?" She asked me with a hopeful voice. That was where I was supposed to answer her in a cool calm and collected way so she didn't think I was as insane as I felt.
"Sure, yeah wonderful. Saturday would be just fine no problem." So much for cool calm and collected. That was more like desperate, distressed, and distracted.
That was it. We exchanged the when and where and then said our goodbyes. Just like that I had a date. I wasn't even going to think about what I was going to wear. There's no sense in having two heart attacks in the same day. Suddenly, with the phone call over I allowed myself to feel the rush. There is nothing in the world like a beautiful woman giving you a moment of her attention. I'm sure if I was even somewhat coordinated, I would have been dancing.
That night as I lay my head down on the scratchy hotel pillow, my last thoughts were not of the meeting tomorrow that could change my life and let my dreams come true. No, my last thoughts were of the small blonde woman with the musical laugh. That would explain the smile that graced my lips.
December 26, 2003
I was dressed in my power suit. In other words, I looked like an adult. I was so used to jeans and t-shirts my body had forgotten why I hated heals. You know you're going to have problems when your shoes are hurting your feel before you even leave the hotel room. Does that stop women, no. Instead we hobble around town with a grimace. I'm not sure who thought it was a good idea to make people balance themselves on two toothpicks, but whoever it is should be taken out back and shot.
Checking myself in the mirror one last time I was satisfied with what I saw. There were one or two wrinkles on the charcoal grey suit, but what should I expect when I live out of a suit case. I'm sure my mother would die right on the spot if she saw it. A wrinkle to her is akin to a mortal sin. Have I mentioned that I think I was switched at birth? For me the effort involved in looking perfect only to fall short was not worth it.
I grabbed my portfolio off the bedside table and checked to make sure I had everything I needed. I really didn't need most of it, but I felt like it would at least make me feel more prepared. Clipping my cell phone to my waist was the final touch. I was ready. I was ready to start on my dream of a real life. I was confident in what I was doing; after all it was the only thing in my life recently that'd been the least bit consistent. It was simply all I knew.
The building I was meeting the seller at was no different from any other office building in Arizona. I'm sure there is a catalog out there somewhere that you can just order a building complete with all the fake southwestern memorabilia. The waiting room I was stuck in had a nice selection of backdated People and Highlights magazines. All of it went unnoticed as my nerves began to take hold. Why couldn't they just tell me that my bid was accepted? I had already paid them a deposit to hold the property so they couldn't accept any other offers. At this point I could only wonder what was going on.
Eventually I was motioned into a small conference room. It was made clear right then that I was not on my home turf. They had all the control over this situation which is something that I was not comfortable with. At times, control is all you have.
An older man walked into the room and took a seat. He didn't even bother to look at me or even acknowledge that I was in the same room. Sometimes I wonder what goes through people's heads. He had on a typical suit with a tie that his wife obviously picked out. While watching him two other men walked in the room. The only one I noticed was the only one under the age of fifty. He was the realtor that I had been dealing with. The other two screamed lawyer.
With the three men seated on one side of the table and no one on my side I realized my error in not bringing any representation. I didn't think that I could get anyone to come on the day after Christmas and so I was planning to take any offers to my attorney when his office opened on Monday. They made it sound in the email like this was going to be a casual affair. That was my first mistake.
"I see you're here Ms. Foster," stated the realtor. Why do people insist on stating the obvious? I had to fight not to roll my eyes or make a smart assed comment.
"Mr. Grant." I said by way of greeting. I had no idea what else to say, it certainly wasn't a pleasure seeing him or anything.
He gave me what in his world would pass as a smile and introduced me two the two men next to him. Lawyer # 1 still wasn't capable of giving me eye contact let alone a greeting. Lawyer #2 just looked like he would rather be anywhere than dealing with something that was so beneath him. If it were possible for time to drag on by slower than molasses in the artic, it was happening then. Why couldn't that happen when something good was going on, like a standing ovation?
It became clear we were waiting for someone else. I didn't know that because someone had the common courtesy to let me know, rather I could see them all peeking at the door. Great, I get to spend more quality time with the three uptight stooges.
Eventually I had enough waiting. I can be a patient woman at times, but that was ridiculous. I was done beating around the bush. Loosing my patience I addressed Mr. Grant, "Can you tell me why you called this meeting? Was my bid accepted?"
He shifted in his chair before he answered. "Well that is what we asked you here to talk about."
I was beginning to think that this man couldn't say anything unless it was completely obvious. A toddler could tell he was stalling me, and I could feel a ball of lead settle in my stomach. This wouldn't be good news.
"Can we get started then…?" I looked at them expectantly hoping that the challenge in my voice would get one of them to put their cards on the table.
After he looked around and realized that I wasn't going to sit all day he addressed me. "Ms. Foster, I'm sure you know what a valuable property the one your interested is?"
"Yeah…" Did he think I was out looking to spend my life's saving on a dump?
"There have been a few other parties interested. We know that with your deposit that you have the first purchase option but we are going to have to change the asking price to meet the demands of the seller."
I know that was realtor talk for "here's the shaft, and we're giving it to you". Was this even legal? Thoughts were flying through my head and none of them were good. Most were images of me flying over this table and choking the living daylights out of the three of them.
"What do you mean? I put a deposit down with the understanding that the agreed upon price wasn't going to go up?" This whole thing stunk. I was kicking myself for not having my own lawyer there.
"We never did firmly agree on a price and the seller's accountant just couldn't make those kinds of numbers work. Now we would love to sell you this property for an additional $20,000."
"What? What do you mean "firmly"? This is ridiculous!" I was so frustrated and angry that I just wanted to lie down and cry or climb a bell tower with a rifle.
Just as I was about to launch into another verbal assault the door opened allowing the last member of this little party to enter.
"Ah here's the accountant now," said Ron Grant as he stood motioning towards an empty chain on his side of the table.
When I looked at the late arrival my heart stopped. There in a crisp burgundy tailored suit was Julie Becker. Her eyes met mine and widened with what I can only guess was shock. She couldn't seem to come up with anything to say and neither could I. I must have done something terrible in my life that would cause karma to come back and kick me in the ass.
I knew I should say something, I just couldn't. This was the last thing I was expecting. She sat down and couldn't look me in the eye. The energy that I would have normally associated with her was gone, and I knew right then that my dreams of owning the club were gone with it.
That was about all I could take. I didn't need to hear what she had to say. Coming up with any extra money was beyond me. I just stood and slowly gathered my things. The goal was to get out of there without crying and making this day any worse. As I walked to the door I could see the three men with smug smiles on their faces. I didn't dare glance at Julie. That was too much to ask.
Facing the door now I asked over my shoulder with a defeated voice, "When can I get the deposit back?"
Mr. Grant chimed in explaining that I could get it back minus fees in a few weeks. I was too upset to even deal with the whole idea of fees. That was merely the icing on my bitter cake. The door closed behind me with a thud taking with it the new life I was hoping for.
As I made my way to the car, the tears finally came. I vaguely remember hearing my name being called by that soft voice I had spoken with the night before. I didn't stop. What would be the point now?
December 27, 2003
The time for my lunch date had come and gone. I admit I stood her up. It was the first time in history that I was the one to do the standing up. If I didn't feel so betrayed, I might be able to drum up some empathy. You'll never find anyone who's as good at running from something that might be painful as I am. It's a well cultivated talent.
My plan for the day was to sit there and feel sorry for myself. I know that's not very constructive, but I never did say I was perfect. Not only did I loose the property that would have been perfect, but the deposit wouldn't be refunded in time for me to bid on the lesser ones I had been looking at. In other words, I was going to be spending another year of my life on the road. God, just the thought of that made me ill.
My cynical side couldn't help but wonder if Julie knew it was going to be me there. I really don't think that was the case. One the one hand she had no idea I was in the market for a club space. On the other, she looked like she'd seen a ghost when she walked in that room. Great that was just what I needed to feel, guilt. Maybe I should have called her. But, it's not like my phone was ringing either.
I gave up. Pouting was getting me no where. It was time to take out the big guns. A gallon of ice cream wasn't going to make me feel better. No, I needed something a little stronger. God bless mini bars.
December 31, 2003
New Years Eve, it's considered one of the most romantic nights of the year. It was no wonder I was on my third glass of champagne. Anyone who has ever not had a date to a New Years Eve party knows exactly where I'm coming from. You can't decide if you're happy for all of your friends who are coupled off like animals on the Ark, or jealous enough to want them all dead. After this third glass I'm sure I'll be leaning towards the latter. For those of us single, this holiday seems even more contrived. I just knew that most of the people there weren't having as much fun as they thought they should be having. That's some kind of cosmic rule; we all think we should have the time of our lives but the reality is never that simple or easy.
If my single hood wasn't bad enough, I was wearing heals again. Twice in less than a week has got to be some kind of record for me. My feet will be irritated with me for weeks after this. It took me all of 4 minutes to decide to wear my black strapless dress. After all it was all I really had access to. Not like it really mattered, I wasn't here to impress anyone. It was this thought that made me realize that I was really hoping Julie would have been on my arm.
I should probably explain that this was an annual party held at one of the resorts not far from my parent's home. Most of the people that were over for Christmas Eve were there as well. The rest of the party goers I'd never met before. At the rate I'm going now, I probably won't be meeting any of them tonight. I was just not up for small talk or asking people about their resolutions.
I guess that explains why I was being unsocial by lurking around outside. The air was cool and felt great after being in an overstuffed room. I saw Brandon and Marcy Becker talking with my parents just before I came outside. Probably yet another reason I was out there wishing that I hadn't given up smoking.
It's always a strange feeling when you can hear the sounds of a party inside while you are outside. I found it ironic that the whole night seemed a mirror image of my life. Just when I was on the cusp of finding a way in, a way back to the real world and out of my wandering, I was shut out. Okay, so maybe I was being melodramatic. But, aren't we all entitled to feel that way from time to time?
I was glad I didn't have to go back in. I'd thought ahead and snagged a bottle from a passing waiter. I poured myself glass number four after pulling my leather trench coat tighter around my body. This was my time to reflect over the past year and make plans for the year ahead. I was going to have to call my agent and get him to get me some club dates as soon as possible. Luckily the man looked and acted like a bulldog. He'd have no problem finding me places to appear.
I could hear the door slide open behind me. If the person thought I was going to share some of that bottle with them they were sadly mistaken. Most likely it was either someone wallowing like me, or a smoker looking for a fix. Either way I was entirely uninterested.
As you're reading this you could probably figure out who it was. But, I'm sure you have been in a situation where you were struck dumb solely by your own self pity. Looking back on it, I realize that I didn't care who it was as long as they weren't going to try to pull me into the festivities.
"I'm beginning to think you're a creature of habit Kermit." The voice that addressed me was the same soft one that I had remembered. This time I could detect a hint of indecision.
I turned slowly not sure if my mind and the champagne had been playing a cruel joke on me. It's the strangest sensation to be standing facing one of the sources of your depression and those feelings seem to melt away. What was it about that girl that made me forget what the realities were? It's not like there was a future there despite the past few days. You can't have a relationship with an answering machine and unfortunately that's who I was going to have to be again.
"Julie, I didn't think you'd come." I looked at her, through her. Why did she come I wonder?
She sighed and looked down before her quiet words reached my ears, "I wasn't sure I should. I just couldn't not."
"Well I'm glad you did." I think I was as surprised with that as she was. I was glad. When I think back on it I realize that what upset me the most that New Years Eve was how alone I felt.
"Really?" Her eyes shot to mine, the questions flicking across her face.
For the first time that night I smiled because I wanted to, not because it was appropriate or someone had handed me another glass. "Yes really. I'm sorry for not being there Saturday."
One corner of her mouth quirked and I could see her usual spark return. "I waited for you, even though I didn't think I'd see you. I don't blame ya after what happened."
When I didn't immediately answer she began to ramble as if begging for some understanding. "You have to believe that I didn't know you'd be there. I could never… would never have agreed to show up if that were the case."
I took pity on her, after all this wasn't her doing. "I know you were just doing your job, I understand believe me."
"Not anymore," she said being deliberately vague.
I took her bait, wondering what she meant. "Huh?" I asked in my 'oh so educated' way.
"I don't work there anymore. I hated the way they do business and I quit after you left," she answered me as if she was simply discussing the weather not some life changing event.
I was shocked to say the least and I asked her in disbelief, "You didn't do that because of me did you?"
With a shrug she turned her gaze to the city lights below us. "Not for you, no. I did it because of me, for me. I wasn't happy there, I'm not sure I ever was. It was just a job you know?"
"Yeah," I breathed out knowing I didn't know exactly where she was coming from. I may be unhappy with the travel of my job, but when it comes right down to it, I love the actual job itself.
We both fell silent knowing that we were both a little lost and for once I wasn't alone in my wonderings. Suddenly the feelings of loneliness that had been plaguing me seemed to recede into the background. I could feel her move closer, standing next to my side. The cool night air was being dulled by her warmth. I sat the glass down knowing that I wouldn't need it again that night.
"I… um … well I wanted to bring you something," she stammered. I look down at her as I turned to face her. She was sifting through her purse until her hand came out holding a single white sheet of paper. When she handed me the paper with no explanation she met my eyes. I could see that she was nervous, but excited.
"What is it?" I asked her even though I could easily look for myself. Sometimes when you are with a beautiful woman your IQ just seems to take a nose dive.
"Well take a look..." Her voice was part challenge and part enthusiasm.
I would've never been prepared for what I was holding. My confusion must have been obvious as I was looking at it because I could hear her low chuckle before she glanced away towards the city lights.
"A real-estate listing?" I asked. Don't you just hate it when you are confused and can't think of anything intelligent to say? I had seen this listing before. Where the property I was turned away from was perfect, this one I was looking at was a dream. This would have been the location I would have chosen if I had suddenly won the lottery.
"I thought it would suit you and your new club?" Her voice held a question in it.
"Well yeah, but there's no way I could afford this myself. I mean I was barely able to manage the other one, this one is not even in the same ball park." I couldn't help but look at the picture of the building as I let a little dream of owning it filter through my mind. It never hurts to fantasize.
"What if you had help?"
"Help?" I couldn't believe what I was guessing her suggestion meant.
"I was thinking that we could be partners?" She asked as she watched her healed foot scuff along the brick patio.
I knew I was supposed to say something. Anything. Yet I stood there like I was struck dumb at the idea. A part of me wanted to jump up and down. The rational part of me wondered one question, why. So, that is exactly what I did.
"Why? I hope this isn't because of what happened in that meeting? I mean you don't have to… I mean… Oh I don't know what I mean." My frustration was showing along with my amazement over her idea.
"It does have to do with the meeting…"
Just as I began to interrupt her she held up her hand to stop me before continuing, "That meeting was typical for them… for me really. I'm tired, tired of being the one across the table standing in the way of someone and their dreams."
Her gaze captured mine as she continued, "My dream is to be my own boss, to not have to be the scapegoat for people like Grant. There's no reason that our dreams have to be mutually exclusive."
"But I can't let you do this for me. I want a relationship with you but I don't want you to feel as though you have to make a life change for me…" Sometimes you find that even if you don't want to, you have to make the morally correct argument. I could see working with her, it was clear she was an excellent accountant. But more importantly I wanted her to be with me outside of business.
I could see her smile as she shook her head. "Don't you see? I would want this despite my feelings for you, but I need this because of them."
I moved closer to her as her body melted into mine. Leaning down I whispered into her ear, "You realize that someday you might live to regret this."
She moved her hand up to my cheek as she answered in the same soft tone, "Yes, but you forget that I saw your business's plan. You have a good idea that I would like to be apart of. Not to mention the fact that my mother seems to think that you walk on water by all the bragging I hear. I've never known her to be wrong about anyone." She looked at me for a moment before finishing, "I would regret not trying more."
She grazed my lips with hers just before her whispered question, "Partners?"
I answered her with a gentle kiss that left me wanting more yet feeling completely fulfilled. I looked into the trusting eyes now cloudy and half closed. I thought of all the things my mother had told me about her and her family, and I knew the answer. It was the only answer that I could live with.
We came together once again. This time the kiss was more demanding. All of the feelings that I had been feeling the past few days were brushed aside as if they were a distant memory. The only thing on my mind was the fact that the silk shirt she was wearing felt great as my hands traveled up her sides. She pulled me impossibly closer as her hands suck into my hair.
If I were able to think clearly or had been more aware; I would have heard a countdown beginning in the background. I would have felt the anticipation of an entire roomful of people as they waited for another year to pass us by. Instead, for me time had simply stopped. The countdown may have continued, but for me it would all be one moment. One perfect moment.
It was as if we were agreeing on something even more important than the beginnings of a business partnership, though neither of us dared to put a voice to those thoughts. It was too early for such talk. But it was a wonderful beginning.
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