FIUR and VLAMME
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The vein on her forehead started to throb, a sure sign indicating that Catherine Parker was very angry. “Jonathan! Jonathan! Are you even listening to me?”
For hours she had been going on and on about the upcoming Christmas celebration.
Nerve-wrecked, he rolled his eyes behind the cover of a newspaper, making sure that she wouldn’t see it. “I heard every word you said. I just don’t understand why you are making such a fuss.”
“Fuss? I’m making a fuss? I want our Christmas to be perfect, but you are not doing anything for it. You just sit there, staring at that damn paper!”
He folded the newspaper and put it aside. “My God, Catherine. Don’t get so upset. It’s still a whole week until Christmas.”
“Exactly. It’s ONLY one more week. Do you know how much there is still to do? Do you even have the slightest idea about that?” she asked, his apparent indifference making her angrier with each passing second.
“Well, you just told me in great detail.”
Her light blue eyes flashed at him dangerously. If looks could kill, he would have dropped dead to the ground. “Don’t even start with your damn sarcasm!”
“Alright. I just think you are making too much of a big deal. Only our family will be there,” Jonathan pointed out.
“Just in case you have forgotten. Our future son-in-law will be present and I’m sure that Elizabeth would like to come too.”
He was just about to say something as she rudely cut him off with another dark glare. “Like I said, there is still a lot to do. Do you think you might be able to get the Christmas tree tomorrow?”
He knew he shouldn’t do it, because it would fed her fury even more, but he couldn’t resist. So he answered dramatically, “Your wish is my command, oh Queen.”
Catherine’s face turned bright red with anger, and she exploded. “You are driving me completely crazy with your stupid sarcastic remarks! It makes me wonder how Kayla could have put up with it?!”
Jonathan left the room. He couldn’t contain the huge grin once he had reached the safety of his study. “Kayla loved it because she loved me. But you of course will never be able to understand that.”
The whole Stuart family sat in front of the TV, watching intently as Taylor presented her ‘Documentary Of Beijing’. “Okay, the Shakira concert was the last disc. I don’t have anymore,” the girl said, smiling.
“I think it’s more than enough, sweetie,” Liz answered, stroking her sister’s head once. “Our eyes are square-shaped now from watching all that. It’s great that you captured so much for us to let us get a nice impression of where you have been. Also, now I finally know who Sara is. I’m really looking forward to meet her when she comes back to Los Angeles.”
Karen stretched and yawned. Then she had a look at her watch and her eyes widened. “Boy, time goes by fast when one is having fun. I think it’s time for me to go home.”
Liz reached for her arm and held her back. “Wait a second. Let’s draw the little paper pieces with the names for the special Christmas present.”
Christopher pricked up his ears. “Does that mean Karen will come with us to the cabin?” he inquired, hopefully.
“That’s exactly what it means, brother dear,” Elizabeth responded and patted him on the cheek.
He beamed in visible happiness.
“I think we can turn off the light,” Taylor chimed in smartly. “We have a sun in our living room.”
Chris blushed. “You are quite impudent, little sis.”
Taylor shrugged her shoulders. “So what? You are red in the face.” She grinned cheekily.
Before Christopher could reply, Liz returned with a small glass bowl. Inside where 5 little paper pieces. The one that bore Samantha’s name had a bent corner so that Liz would recognize it. She didn’t want to only pull it due to coincidence. So she had helped fate along. “Okay, I will start,” she announced and made a big show of rummaging in the bowl.
“Do you think you might be able to take your pick anytime today?” Chris asked sarcastically.
“Don’t be so impatient,” Liz chastised him. She pulled out the one with the bent corner and then gave the bowl to Sam, who took her pick.
The bowl went in a circle until it was empty and everybody had drawn a name.
Taylor, who unfortunately had pulled her own name, looked at the others. “Does anybody want to switch?”
Immediately, Karen answered, “Yes!” Her piece of paper said ‘Christopher’.
Sam grinned. She was very happy that she had pulled Liz. “I already know what my present is going to be.”
“Me too,” Christopher declared, beaming happily, because he would surprise the woman that held his heart.
Taylor scratched her chin. “Well, I don’t. I’m sure I will come up with something though.”
Karen reached for her jacket. “I know it also. I had a great time but I really have to go now.” She exchanged hugs with everybody but Chris and left the house. “Bye. Have fun.”
“Oh yeah, that we will do,” Taylor called after her. “Come on, Sammy. Let’s check out this Playstation game that Jack gave me. There are tons of Disney characters in there.”
“Well, there is a picture of him on the case so I guess he’ll be there too.”
“Cool,” Sam said, grinning.
Liz shook her head, but smiled. “You two with your Playstation and cartoon characters.”
Taylor looked at her, frowning, “Was that an offense?”
Chuckling, Liz replied, “Go and play, sweetie. I was just stating a fact.”
“If you say so.”
Wrapped up in each other’s arms, Jack and Victoria were sitting on the couch.
“Say, Jack, “ Victoria began, matter-of-factly. “Do you already have plans for Christmas?”
He looked out of the window, his thoughts going off to a fantasy world where he would spend Christmas with Sara.
“Jack? Hey baby, come back to me.” She gently cupped his cheek.
He jerked. “What? Did you say something?”
“Where are you with your thoughts, love?”
“Oh, nothing important,” he said, clearing his throat.
She didn’t believe him. “Is that so. Well, for ‘nothing important’ it sure takes up a lot of your attention. I wanted to know about your plans for Christmas.”
“Until now, I don’t have any plans.”
Vicky smiled and stroked his chin. “Would you like to spend it with me and my family?”
“Anything you want, princess,” he answered, returning her smile with a charming one of his own.
She was very pleased. “Oh, you are so wonderful,” she gushed. “I love you so much! I can’t wait for the day we are going to tell Mommy and Daddy that we are going to get married.”
He nodded. “We will tell them together. That’s going to be a nice Christmas present for them.”
“Yes!” Vicky exclaimed with barely restrained excitement. “Especially for me it’s a nice gift!”
“I’m happy when I can make you happy,” Jack told her.
“You do that with each and every second that you are with me,” she admitted, staring deeply into his blue eyes.
“It’s late, we should go to sleep.”
Vicky used her index finger to trace the outline of his lips. “I am not tired at all,” she whispered.
“Would you like for me to sing you a lullaby?” Jack asked, grinning broadly.
“You would do that? Maybe I don’t want to sleep just yet...”
“Then tell me what you want, princess.”
Her brown eyes were still fixed on his and her face came closer. “You. I just want you.”
“I am yours,” Jack breathed.
Vicky sealed their lips with a passionate kiss.
‘Goodbye Sara,’ Jack thought. ‘I set you free and will forget about you before it’s tearing up my heart.’
Their lips parted and Vicky whispered, “Carry me to bed, baby.”
Sighing in her sleep, Samantha turned over on her other side and sank deeper into her dream.
The sun was about to go down and covered the jungle in beautiful red light.
Liz was sitting under a tree, watching the sundown.
Slowly, Sam walked over to her and sat down behind her in the grass, with her back against the tree trunk.
The blonde leaned back, took Sam’s arms and wrapped them around her waist. “I have never seen anything so beautiful,” she said in awe, meaning the play of colors from the sundown.
“Me neither,” the brunette breathed. But her sparkling blue eyes were not fixed on the phenomenon of nature.
Now, Liz turned around to face the other woman.
Breathlessly, they gazed at each other until Samantha thought she would lose herself in the bright emerald eyes before her. “There is something that I have to tell you,” she confessed.
Silence fell as Sam’s hands reached forward, her fingertips gently tracing the contours of Liz’ face. Their lips came closer to each other until they were only a mere inch apart.
Liz’ hands buried themselves in the long dark hair of the other woman. “Sam?”
Samantha’s hands cupped her cheeks and she bridged the last bit of distance and their lips found each other in the most tender of embraces.
Slowly, Liz leaned back, sinking into the soft grass. Holding on to Sam, she pulled her jungle princess with her.
Suddenly, Sam’s eyes flew open and she woke up. Her breathing was fast, her heart beat wildly, her throat and mouth were very dry. Still she thought that she could feel Liz’ tender touch on her skin. In fact, she could.
During the night, the blonde’s hand had wandered under her T-shirt and was now resting on Sam’s abdomen.
Looking at her longingly, Samantha whispered, “Why are you waking such feelings in me?”
Carefully, she lifted the small hand off her belly and got out of bed. “I definitely need something to drink.” Silently, she crept out of the room and made her way downstairs to the kitchen.
She opened the refrigerator, poured herself a glass of orange juice and tossed it down quickly to soothe her parched throat. As she was about to go back to bed, she heard quiet whimpering from the living room. Not hesitating, she went to the room.
Taylor was there, sitting on the couch with her legs pulled to her chest and her face buried at her knees, crying.
“Taylor? What’s wrong?” Sam asked concerned.
Harsh sobs shook the girl’s frame and she couldn’t answer.
Samantha sat down next to her on the couch and pulled her into her arms. “Shhh, little one. Everything is going to be alright.” She began to rock her, stroking her head and back.
It took a while until Taylor got her composure back.
“How can I help you?” Sam wanted to know. “What made you so sad?”
Taylor wiped her eyes with her palms and admitted, “I had such a great birthday and then I had to think of my Mom and that she can’t be with us.”
“Why? Why did she have to die?”
“Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to that question,” Sam responded, sympathetic. “Let me tell you something though. Your Mom will live forever in your heart and in your thoughts. I want to show you something.” She took her drawing pad off the table and showed Taylor a picture that she had drawn. There was the whole Stuart family with Colin and Mary-Ann in the background as angels, who were smiling at their children.
“That’s very beautiful, Sammy.”
“I would like to paint it as a big portrait and give it to your sister for Christmas. What do you think of that?”
Taylor wiped the last traces of her bitter tears away and smiled. “That is a great idea.” She looked at the picture once more and discovered that even Tasilo and Jemima were on it. Then she frowned and said, “Something is not right. There is something missing.”
Samantha took the pad and scrutinized her own work intently. “You think there is something missing?”
Taylor nodded. “Yes.”
“Mhh... Colin, Mary-Ann, William, Chris, Liz, you, Tasilo, Jemima... mhh. I honestly don’t know who is missing.”
“Have a real good look,” Taylor replied. “There is a very important part of the family missing!”
Sam looked at the picture and then at Taylor. “I really don’t know what you mean.”
“You Sammy! You have to be on the picture too. After all, you belong to our family as well.”
She was very touched by the girl’s words. “You really think so?” she asked softly.
“Well, I am not alone with that thought. Ask anybody here and they will tell you just the same.”
Grinning, Sam brushed her index finger over Taylor’s nose tip. “You are incredible sweet, do you know that?”
The teenager blushed a bit. “Nonsense. I just love you, that’s all.”
Sam hugged her again. “I love you too, little one.” A tiny tear of happiness slid out of a blue eye and traveled down a smooth cheek.‘You were right, Emily,’ Sam thought. ‘You said that one day I would find people that would accept me like I am. Now look, finally I do have a family.’
Sara and Matthew were sitting together in the living room.
“You are really sure that you want to go to therapy?” he inquired once more.
“Yes Dad,” came the immediate reply. “I want these damn nightmares to stop. I want to sleep peacefully at night without any fear. I thought I could get through it by myself but I can’t.”
“I found a psychologist for you,” Matthew responded. “If you really want it, you can already start with it after the holidays.”
Sara nodded. “That’s good. I want my normal life back as soon as possible.”
Matthew pulled his daughter into his arms. “My poor precious darling. I’m so sorry for what you had to go through all alone.” Another thought rose and he confessed, “I am also sorry that I was so nasty to Richard. You and him got along so well and now he is gone because of me.”
Sara looked at him. She would have never expected that her Dad would apologize for that. “Why don’t you call him, Daddy?” she asked.
“I don’t know where he is,” he sighed.
“Is he also not talking with Rose?”
Matthew shook his head.
“You must have hurt his feelings very bad.”
He rubbed his face tiredly. “I know. I am really very sorry that I jumped to conclusions and that my temper showed like that.”
“Maybe he will call us at Christmas,” Sara said, hopefully. “The poor guy doesn’t have anybody else. I think it would be very cruel, having to spend Christmas all alone.”
Matthew nodded sadly. “Yes, that’s true.” Then he changed the subject. “Talking about Christmas... Does my precious daughter have a special wish?”
“No more nightmares,” she replied seriously.
“I meant besides that.”
Sara thought about Paris and the wonderful days full of love and happiness that she spent with Jack. A wave of melancholy rushed through her and grabbed her soul. “No Daddy. I had everything I always wanted but I let it slip through my fingers.”
“What are you talking about?” Matthew asked, wrinkling his forehead.
“It’s not important anymore, Dad.” She rose from the couch, picked up Tugger and pecked her father on the cheek. “I’m tired, I’ll go to bed. Good night, Daddy.”
Matthew watched her leave. “My little angel, I really think this therapy is necessary,” he mumbled to himself. “I wish I could help you. Hopefully, Dr. Lunaris will be able to do that.”
***** ONE WEEK LATER – 23rd OF DECEMBER *****
At a steady pace, the jeep moved through the snow to the cabin of the Stuart family. Christopher sat behind the steering wheel and Karen on the passenger seat, even though she wasn’t too happy about having to sit next to the man, who broke her heart twice.
Tasilo had curled up in the space where Karen rested her feet and was slumbering peacefully.
Jemima lay stretched out on top of the backseat and was looking at the snow-covered forests and mountains.
Liz read a book and Sam slept, leaning against her shoulder, because the whole night before she had been awake to watch her precious Angel sleep.
Soft love songs were coming out of the car’s CD player for 2 hours now and finally Taylor had enough.
“Chris! Pull over and stop the car!”
“Why?” her brother inquired.
“Because I need to get my MP3 player from the trunk. This cheesy lovey-dovey crap is getting on my nerves!” she complained. “Every song is the same. I love you... you love me... let’s make a happy family... it’s driving me crazy!”
Karen couldn’t suppress a grin as Chris just put in another CD and Meatloaf purred through the speaker, “I would do anything for love...”
“This is torture,” Taylor groaned into her pillow.
“You will survive,” Liz responded. “We will be there in about an hour.”
Taylor looked at her sister, her eyes wide with shock. “Another hour?! Help! Somebody please shoot me!”
Liz just grinned and then changed the subject. “Has any of you been thinking about the room sharing?”
“I don’t care,” Taylor said. “I’ll take the couch in the living room since I’m the one who stays awake the longest anyway.”
“Okay,” Liz replied. “Sam and I take one room so that leaves the other room for Chris and Karen.”
Karen turned around and glared at her. “No way! Do what you want but I am not going to sleep in one room with Christopher! I can sleep on the couch and Chris can share the room with Taylor.”
“No, we can’t let our guest sleep on the couch,” Christopher chimed in now. “Karen and Taylor can share the other room and I will sleep on the couch.”
“Whatever. It’s fine with me,” Taylor replied.
Karen nodded. “Okay.”
“It’s nice that we found an agreement,” Elizabeth said, smiled and turned back to her book.
In her sleep, Sam snuggled her face even more into Liz’ throat and sighed contently.
Pleasant shivers raced along the blonde’s back when she felt the warm breath on her skin and she closed her eyes for a moment. ‘Oh God, Sam. Why are you waking such feelings inside me?’
The jeep rolled on towards the cabin, while Taylor threatened to throttle her brother if he would not change the music anytime soon.
It had been a long time since all members of the Parker family had dinner together, so today was special in that matter.
Especially Victoria was in a very good mood. “Ohhh, I really can’t wait till it’s finally Christmas time,” she gushed in excitement. Turning to her parents, she said, “I want to thank you once more that you also invited Jack to our celebration.”
Catherine smiled at her. “You are very welcome, sweetheart. And he really doesn’t have any other plans? What about his family?”
“I have no idea,” Vicky replied, shrugging her bony shoulders. “He doesn’t want to talk about it.”
“Well, then we will just accept this wonderful man into our family,” Catherine declared.
Vicky’s smile was brighter than anything in the room and for the first time Jonathan noticed something as he watched his daughter. ‘This is not just a silly crush. She truly is in love with Jack Carpenter.’
Catherine turned to Alexander, who was playing with his food, shoving it from one corner to the other and disgruntled piercing the peas with his fork. “What’s wrong with you, my son?”
“Nothing,” he snapped grumpily. “Everything is fine.”
“Then why are you making a face as if something is wrong?”
“I am fine, mother!” he insisted strongly, wishing she would leave him alone.
“Are you still in pain from the wound on your face?”
Danielle’s pump had left a visible mark but Alex had not told anyone how he got it. “No.”
“What is wrong then?”
Victoria couldn’t contain the next remark that slid easily off her tongue. “His ego is probably hurting.”
Alexander scowled fiercely at his sister. “Why can’t you just shut your stupid trap?!”
“You are just mad because the Stuarts drove to their log cabin for the holidays and Liz didn’t invite you to come along,” Vicky stated, smirking.
“What is it to you?” he retorted. “Mind your own business! Everything is just alright in your happy dream-world!” Greatly angered, he rose and stomped from the dining room.
Catherine sighed and shook her head. “Was that necessary, Vicky?”
“Is it my fault that he is so negative?”
“Did you have to rub salt into the wound?”
Vicky pouted. “Usually he isn’t so damn sensitive. But, you know what? I don’t want him to mess up my wonderful happy mood.”
Tasilo and Jemima were trying to discover each and every angle of the cabin. The others were busy to get everything prepared for the upcoming Christmas celebration.
Taylor hooked up the Playstation to the TV in the living room while Chris was sweating, making great efforts to turn the Christmas tree exactly the way Liz wanted it.
“A little bit more to the left and then it’s perfect,” she said. “Just a little... no, not so much. I said a little.”
“Owww, damn it,” Christopher cursed and put a finger into his mouth, sucking on it. “It stung me again!”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and told him, “Stop your whining. I told you to put on gloves before we started but you didn’t want to.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered. “Can I leave it now like this?”
“Yes since I don’t want you to bleed to death,” she remarked, a bit aggravated.
“Okay. I’ll be outside, hacking some wood for the fireplace,” Chris announced, put on his boots and thick jacket and went outside.
Samantha came downstairs, carrying boxes that held all the Christmas decorations they would need.
Karen put a CD with Christmas songs into the stereo. “Everything goes easier with music,” she grinned and Mariah Carey started to sing, “All I want for Christmas is yoooouuuuuu...”.
“Alright. Let’s start decorating then.” Liz rubbed her hands, ready to get to it.
While Sam put the lights on the Christmas tree, Karen hung the big red socks with embroidered names on the fireplace.
All throughout the house they placed green fir twigs, red and white candles, green and red bows and candy canes.
Carefully, Liz decorated the tree with colorful balls, ornaments and little bells, while Karen was chasing after Tasilo and Jemima, who had stolen the tinsel.
After about 2 hours the whole house was decorated in Christmas style.
Critically, Liz scrutinized everything. Then she grinned broadly, obviously satisfied with what she saw. “Absolutely perfect!” she exclaimed. “Now there is only one thing missing.” She bent down and pulled the brightly polished, golden star from one of the boxes. “This has to be put on the top of the Christmas tree.” Her searching eyes glanced around. “Oh, I guess I need a chair to reach up there.”
Samantha stepped behind her. “Don’t worry. I will help you.”
Liz felt a tingling sensation rushing through her body as Sam placed her hands on her hips and lifted her up. Now she could reach the top of the tree just fine and she set up the star.
Sam put her back down on the floor and happily hugged her from behind. “The tree looks very beautiful.”
Thousands of butterflies were whirling in Liz’ belly due to the other woman’s presence. ‘God, I could stand here like this forever, just being held by her and feeling her warmth.’
Their tender moment was interrupted when Karen and Taylor came storming into the room.
Quickly, Liz freed herself from Sam’s arms.
“Hey. Did you have a look out of the window?” Karen asked. “It started to snow again.”
Chris returned from splitting wood and looked at what the women had done. “Wow! Girls, you really outdid yourselves. It looks absolutely fantastic. There is just one tiny little thing missing.” He brought out a mistletoe and placed it at a strategic place in the house. “Okay, now it’s really perfect. Who is up for some sledding?”
“Why don’t you all go ahead,” Liz said. “I have to put on something warmer.”
Chris, Karen and Taylor left the cabin.
“What’s that for?” Samantha asked and pointed at the mistletoe.
“Oh that... uh... yah well... uh... it is an old custom,” the blonde stuttered in explanation, battling herself to keep from blushing.
“But what is it for?”
Liz felt her cheeks and the tips of her ears heat. “Uh... well... if two people stand below it they have to kiss.”
Sam raised her eyebrows in astonishment.
“Let me quick change into some warmer clothes and then we can go sledding,” Liz said and hurried upstairs.
The brunette stood there and stared at the mistletoe. Her mind began to work feverishly.
Jonathan put on his coat.
“It is quite late,” Catherine remarked as she came out of the living room and saw what he was doing. “Where are you going?”
“I have something to do.”
She crossed her arms, looking at him challengingly. “May I ask what? Another business dinner or do you have a new woman on the side that you are secretly meeting?”
“What do you want?” he asked, closing the buttons on his coat and putting on a hat. “If you want to have a fight then I have to tell you that I am not in the mood. I have to go to the cemetery before they close the gate.” With that he just left her standing there.
“Yes, Kayla,” she grumbled darkly. “Again and again it’s about that damn Kayla! She ruined my marriage and even after her death the bitch is still standing between us!” Furious, she retreated to her study.
Unnoticed, Alexander, who had heard everything, crept back to his room. He took out the medallion from a drawer of his desk. “So, that’s what it is. Dad has something to do with this mysterious Kayla too. But where is the connection between mother, Kayla and Norman Kent? And what legacy was Norman talking about before he died? Did Dad have an affair with Kayla?” He sat down on his bed, brooding and then a memory rose from 30 years ago...
The 5 year old Alexander held on fiercely to the leg of his father, crying. “Daddy please! Don’t go away! I don’t want you to go away!”
Jonathan picked him up and held him in his arms. “You have to be brave now, Alexander. In two weeks we will see each other again, I promise.”
“I love you, Daddy! Can you not stay?” the boy sobbed, looking at him with big brown eyes.
“No, I can’t.”
Alex grew hysterical and cried even harder, harsh sobs shaking his small body while he held on tighter to his father. “Why don’t you love us anymore?!”
His yelling made Catherine come out of the house. “Look what you did, Jonathan! Your son is completely despairing! Go finally!” she demanded, taking Alex from his arms.
The boy buried his face at the throat of his mother, sobbing heartbroken.
“Alex...” Jonathan reached for him again but Catherine turned him away. “I told you to go!” she shouted, angrily.
“As you wish. Kayla and I will come in two weeks to get Alexander for the weekend.” Jonathan turned around and left.
Catherine’s hateful eyes followed him as he climbed into the car and then she fixed them on the beautiful brunette woman that sat beside him in the car. “Kayla,” she growled. “I hate you. I hate you deadly! You are going to regret that you stole my husband and destroyed my life!”
“Now I remember,” Alex said to himself. “Dad once left us for that woman! I have to get more information about the matter. I will talk with Mom. What happened to Kayla? And most of all, why did Dad come back to us?”
***** ONE DAY LATER – CHRISTMAS EVE – 24th OF DECEMBER *****
Liz, Karen and Jemima were in the kitchen, while Chris, Sam and Taylor were outside, having a fierce snowball fight. Tasilo jumped around in between them, barking happily and trying to catch the ice cold missiles that whirred through the air.
“Alright,” Liz announced. “Let’s see how the new cookie recipe worked.” She put on some gloves and pulled the gold brown, wonderful smelling cookies from the oven.
“Oh yeah. They look nice,” Karen replied. “Do you want me to take a taste?”
Liz grinned. “Yes. You can be my guinea pig for that experiment.”
“It will be my pleasure.” Karen took one and had a bite, her eyes widening. “Mhhh! They are delicious!” she declared.
“Good, then we can decorate them with chocolate and other stuff.”
Karen looked out of the window and chuckled.
Taylor was covered in snow and Samantha also had the distinct look of a snowman. But the broad grin on every face showed that they were having a great time and lots of fun. “Look at them. ‘The 3 Crazies’ is what we should name them,” Karen laughed.
Liz joined her and gazed outside to. “It looks as if Chris is winning. Sam and Taylor should come up with something to trick him.”
“I guess they do. Now they are whispering,” Karen responded, pointing at Samantha and the teenager.
Christopher shot the next ball that hit Taylor right on the head.
She staggered for a moment and then fell down into the snow. Concerned, Sam bent down and patted her cheek but she didn’t get any reaction.
“What did he do? Put a stone in the ball? I’ll go and see what’s wrong,” Karen said and was about to hurry from the cabin.
Liz held her back. She knew her sister better than anybody. “No wait. Look what’s going to happen.”
“Your little sister is lying there, unconscious!”
“Wait and see,” Liz said, grinning widely.
Christopher came out of his hideout. The grin had disappeared from his face. Instead it was a mask of great worry. He knelt down next to his sister and bent over her.
In the next instant, Taylor came back to life.
Chris was so surprised by the sudden move that he couldn’t defend himself as Taylor jumped him and shoved him into the snow.
Samantha used the moment to rub two big hands full of snow right into the artists face. The girls were roaring with laughter as Chris squealed like a frightened diva from the cold.
Liz chuckled too. “See Karen? They got him good.”
Still laughing, Samantha and Taylor came running into the cabin, Chris hot on their heels. “That was such a dirty trick! You two just wait! Once I get my hands on you, you will be toast!”
Billy and Michiru were sitting on the couch in Michiru’s loft, watching ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’.
“I love this movie,” Billy said, smiling. “The songs are so cool and...” He stopped as his eyes fell on the woman beside him, who was staring off into space, looking rather sad. “Michiru? What’s wrong with you?”
She sighed. “I don’t know. One moment I could laugh and in the next I feel like crying.”
“Your hormones are probably the cause of that. It’s going to be okay, you’ll see.”
“If only it would be that easy,” she muttered, unhappy. “Look at us. We are sitting here watching animated movies. What will be next? Frosty the Snowman? Or the Grinch?”
“I can switch channels if you want to,” Billy offered.
Michiru ran a hand through her long dark hair and sighed again. “That’s not it. What I mean is, we shouldn’t be alone this time of the year. You should be with Juan and I should be with the father of my unborn child but that is impossible because the fine mister is a complete asshole.”
Billy looked at her and then said, “I have a confession to make.”
“There is nothing between me and Juan,” he admitted dejectedly. “I was just lying to myself. The truth is that I have not seen him or heard from him since that kiss at the bar.”
She took his hand. “Oh Billy, I’m so sorry.”
“You don’t have to be. It’s okay. I’m over it and my heart is open for others who would like to conquer it.”
“That’s the right attitude,” Michiru replied, smiling. “I doubt that this Latin macho would have known how to appreciate you anyway.”
The doorbell rang.
Michiru frowned. “Huh? Who could that be?”
“Don’t know. You stay here and I’ll go and see.” He opened the door and a postman gave him a letter.
“It’s for you Michiru. A registered letter from Australia.”
“Australia? I don’t know anybody in Australia,” she said, puzzled.
Billy gave her the letter.
Michiru opened it and began to read. “Hello, Ms. Kasawaki. I’m sure you are very surprised to get a letter from me. But, I really wanted to thank you once more for helping me so much in Beijing. I know from Taylor that you are a big fan of Vanessa Mae and so I thought I would give you two tickets for her next concert. I hope you will have fun there and I also wish you a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year. Sara Jones. P.S. I’m sure that Taylor wouldn’t mind playing babysitter on the day of the concert.”
The letter and the gift really touched the Asian woman’s heart.
“So? What is it about?” Billy asked with barely restrained curiosity.
Michiru hugged him, her eyes glistening from unshed tears. “You and I will go to a concert of Vanessa Mae this coming summer.”
The stylist was rendered speechless in surprise.
***** THE NEXT DAY – CHRISTMAS DAY – 25th OF DECEMBER *****
Liz walked down the stairs, abruptly stopping on the last step.
Sam was there, standing in the door that led to the living room. She stood directly under the mistletoe that Christopher had placed there. Crooking her finger, the brunette motioned for her to come closer. “Come to me,” she said softly.
Liz couldn’t do anything else but to follow that softly spoken order. Now they were standing right in front of each other.
“Sam? What is it?”
Instead of an answer, Sam’s hands wandered to Liz’ hip and pulled the blonde tightly against her. “Now we both are standing under the mistletoe,” she pointed out gently. “You know what that means, don’t you?”
“Yes...” she breathed.
Tenderly, Sam rubbed her nose against Liz’. “And? Do you want to?”
“Oh yes... Sam, do it... please... kiss me...”
Sam’s hands traveled from her hips over her back, along the side of her neck until they gently cupped her face and their lips embraced in the most gentle of caresses. After a while they parted to inhale.
Liz’s eyes were still closed. “Oh Sam...” she sighed. “If only you knew how much I desire you.”
Wordlessly, Samantha picked her up and carried her over to the sheep fur in front of the blazing fireplace. There she sat down and pulled Liz on her lap. Slowly, she unbuttoned her own blouse and took one of the blonde’s hands. She tenderly kissed along the delicate knuckles. Then she guided the hand to her chest, where she placed it over her heart. Bending forward she whispered into Liz’ ear, “What are you feeling?”
“Your heart,” she answered. “I can feel it pounding against my palm. It’s beating so fast.”
“Only for you, my Angel. It’s beating only for you,” Sam confessed.
By now, the fire of passion had fully awakened in the blonde. Her hands buried themselves in the long dark hair of the other woman and pulled her into a kiss that robbed them of their senses. She lowered herself back to the soft fur beneath her and Sam sank with her until she came to rest on top of her.
Tender kisses covered her throat and one of Sam’s strong hands opened the shirt she wore, button for button.
“Oh... Sam... “ she sighed in pleasure, helping her to get rid of blouse and bra. Adoringly, she stared at the well formed upper body that was revealed and she couldn’t control her hands anymore. They had a will of their own and flew up to discover the beautiful tanned skin.
Sam moaned against Liz’ throat as she felt the blonde’s tender caresses on her breasts. “Liz... oh my Angel... you have to wake up...”
Liz stopped what she was doing and frowned. “What?”
“Liz! Wake up!” Sam’s voice suddenly was very urgent and her body somehow became translucent and started to fade. “Wake up... wake up... wake up...”
“NO!” She wrapped her arms and legs tightly around the brunette, pleading, “No, don’t go! Stay with me, please!”
“Wake up, Liz!”
Then her whole world started to quake.
Elizabeth opened her eyes and found Taylor, who was sitting on her tummy and had her hands on her shoulders. A bit confused, she looked around and found Sam sitting next to her on the bed, grinning broadly. “Uh...what’s up?” she asked, blinking.
“Gee. Now that took a long time,” Taylor responded. “I think I’ve been shaking you for half an hour, trying to get you to wake up.”
Liz lifted her hips to push off her sister. “Man, I thought we had an earthquake. How late is it anyway? Why are you already awake, Taylor?”
The teenager looked at her watch with the Chinese dragon that Michiru had given her as birthday present. “For your information, dear sister. It’s nearly 9:00 and it’s Christmas! Chris and Karen have been awake for a while too. Everybody is just waiting for you so that we can start opening the gifts.”
Liz wiped her face and tried to rub the last bit of sleep from her eyes. “Alright. Why don’t you go with Sam to the others? I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”
Once she was alone, Liz buried her face into her pillow and groaned. “God, these dreams are driving me crazy!”
About 5 minutes later she walked into the living room where the others were waiting. She was the only one still in her pajamas but she didn’t care. “Before we start unwrapping the gifts let’s think of the ones that cannot be with us today to celebrate, because fate ripped them from our lives.” Liz placed a chandelier on the table that bore 3 white candles. Lightening the first one, she said, “For Colin Stuart.” She lit the next. “For Mary-Ann Stuart.” Then she looked at Sam and gave her the lighter.
The brunette lit the third candle and said with tears in her eyes, “For Emily Wilson.”
For a minute they all stood around the table, in complete silence and thought of their loved ones that they had lost, but who would continue living in their hearts forever.
“Now for the personal present. Taylor, you can start.”
The girl exhaled sharply. “Why does it always have to be me?” she complained.
“Because you are the youngest and the most impatient member of our family.”
Taylor pouted but relented. She pulled out a package from under the Christmas tree and gave it to her brother. “Merry Christmas, Chris.”
He opened the brightly colored paper and found a keychain with a picture of a cute dog and a brush.
“In the Chinese zodiac you are a dog,” Taylor explained, “and for your collection ‘Brushes from all over the world’ you now have an original one from China.”
Christopher hugged his little sister and placed a kiss on her forehead. “Thanks, little one.”
“May I be next, please?” Sam asked hopefully.
Liz smiled, “If you want to.”
Samantha adjusted the easel that was next to the Christmas tree and pulled off the white sheet, which until now had been hiding her masterpiece from curious glances. “Merry Christmas, Liz.”
Tears welled up in emerald eyes as the blonde saw what Sam had done. “Oh my God, Sam... that is... that is absolutely beautiful... our whole family... Mom and Dad as angels...” Her throat closed up and she couldn’t say anymore. Hugging Samantha, she held her tightly. After she had found her voice again, she whispered, “That is the most beautiful gift I ever got.” She kissed her on the cheek, making Sam blush a bit.
Taylor looked at the painting and grinned satisfied. Sam had painted herself on there too.
“And here is my gift to you, Sam,” Elizabeth announced, giving the brunette a little jewelry box.
Samantha opened it and found a medallion in it. An angel had been engraved in the pendant. Sam pressed the tiny button on top of the rim. As the lid opened, a little melody sounded. On one side was an inscription that said, “For a true Angel on earth – Liz”
Overwhelmed and greatly touched by this gift, tears appeared in Sam’s eyes and she pulled Liz in a hug. “Thank you. I will always wear it close to my heart.”
“On the other side, next to the inscription, you can add a picture of a person that you love very much and so you can have them close to your heart always too,” Liz explained, rubbing the brunette’s back.
‘I already know whose picture it’s going to be,’ Samantha thought to herself.
Karen brought out her package from under the tree. “Merry Christmas, Taylor,” she said, grinning widely.
The girl ripped it open. “Oh wow! A sweater. Did you make that yourself?”
Karen nodded. “Yes. I thought I would try my hand at knitting. Let’s see how it fits.”
Quickly, Taylor slipped inside. The right sleeve was far too long, collar and waistband were crooked and slanting and a lot of holes due to wrong stitches disturbed it’s appearance greatly.
Karen scrutinized her work. “Oh dear. I think I have to practice some more.”
“Nah,” Taylor replied. “I like it. It’s a nice green color. The French would say it’s ‘trés chic’.”
“There is something else in the package,” Karen pointed out.
Taylor pulled out the CD. “Mhh... ‘Ace of Base’... ‘Remember the words’...”
“It’s for when you are feeling sad or lonely,” Karen explained. “Just listen to the song and pay attention to the lyrics. I think it might help you in those times.”
“Okay. Thank you, Karen,” the girl responded and pulled her into a hug.
Now it was Christopher’s turn to deliver his personal gift and he was very nervous. He pulled out a small, velvet-covered box and turned to Karen. “I only have one wish this Christmas and that is to make you happy, Karen.”
She grew pale as she saw the box because it could only mean one thing. “No. Christopher, please don’t do that,” she begged.
But, he wasn’t about to be disconcerted. He fell down on one knee in front of her, opened the box and presented it to her. “Please Karen, give us another chance. I promise you this time it’s going to be forever and I won’t allow anybody to come between us.”
Karen panicked and felt as if the walls were closing in on her.
“Will you become my wife?”
She looked at the sparkling diamond ring and the feeling of anxiety became unbearable. “I’ve got to get out of here...”
“Why Chris?” she sobbed. “Why?”
“I love you,” he said and wanted to reach for her.
“NO!” She shoved him aside and stumbled out of the living room. After she had put on her boots and a jacket, she fled from the cabin.
Chris stormed to the door, yelling, “KAAAAAAAAAAAAAREN!”
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EPISODE...
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