By: Girl Bard
Disclaimer: Please see part 1. Enjoy!
December 21, 2000
Jadens warm hand tenderly grasps mine. "How are you holding up?" She questions gently.
I sniffle loudly in response and wipe my eyes with my free hand. "Crappy." I respond, sighing.
"I know. But think of how excited everyone back home will be to see you and hear about your new family." Jaden responds. "And Christmas is soon, just right around the corner."
"Yeah." I say, perking up. I take my head off her shoulder and peer out the window into the clouds below. "Where do you think we are now?"
Looking thoughtful for a second, Jaden checks her watch. "Probably over New York. We should be landing soon."
"Good. I cant wait to be on the ground again. And to be home." I add. "I bet the dogs are going to be nuts."
"Probably." Jaden smiles, her love for our two children evident. "You know how Steele loves to baby-sit them."
I giggle, remembering how the tall man eagerly offered to housesit the dogs. Hell be getting one of his own soon, Im sure."
"Maybe." She responds, the corners of her full mouth curling into a grin. "Hey, is Val coming home for Christmas?"
"Yep. Why?" I ask, biting the corner of my cheek so I dont smile. Kim told me how Jaden sought Val out during Thanksgiving to tell her all about Harolds wonderful self.
Jaden shrugs. "No reason, she just seemed really nice." She says, attempting to be nonchalant.
"Nice, huh? Should I be jealous?" I kid her and her face turns red.
"No!" She says forcefully and I finally ease her torment and laugh.
"Relax, Spots. Kim told me about your matchmaking attempt. And she also told me that Val was interested and would call Harold when she arrived in town."
"Good." Jaden responds. "Hes my friend, I just want to see him happy." She says, almost defensively.
I rest my head on her shoulder, secure in her comforting presence.
A few seconds later, Jadens warm breath tickles my ear.
"Its okay to miss them even though you just met. I think thats what happens when you really love someone. I missed you after the first night I met you until I saw you again."
I smile, my eyes closed to prevent my tears from beginning again. Instead of saying anything, I wrap my arms around my beloved, eternally grateful for whatever brought us together.
December 24, 2000
Kim and I stamp the snow off our shoes as we carefully enter the crowded mall. Pushing our way through masses of stressed people we make our way to the food court.
"Lets grab something and discuss our battle plans." She says, the snow on her curly ringlets glistening.
"Sounds good." I respond as I take off my scarf and gloves. We decide on pizza because of the short line and place our orders relatively quickly.
After sitting, we dig into our lunch hungrily. Weve been on a marathon-shopping spree all morning and havent stopped yet.
"I think were pretty much all set, right?" She says, thinking quickly. "I have no idea what to get Stace still, but Im sure we can find something."
Biting my lip, I frown with displeasure. "And I still cant find that perfect gift for Jaden."
Kim pats my hand comfortingly. "I know, but you will. We can help each other!"
Her confidence is contagious and I smile as I bite into my pizza. "So," I ask, between chewing, "What does Stacey want?"
She rolls her eyes. "Nothing." Smiling with affection for her girlfriend she continues. "Thats her standard answer whenever I ask her. You know how she is, all quiet and shy. She says she doesnt need anything because she doesnt want to be a bother. Its so frustrating!" Kim pauses, thinking. "I have some nice things for her already that she needs, a few sweaters and little gifts, but I want something that lets her know how much I care about her."
"Ditto." I say. "I have no idea what Jaden is getting me. Shes already given me so much, I cant think of anything more she could do."
Kims hazel eyes twinkle. "Me either." She says coyly.
My mouth drops open with outrage. "You know!"
She shrugs. "Maybe."
"No way, if you know you better tell me!" I say and she just smiles in return.
"Kim!" I exclaim in frustration when I realize shes not going to give in. I decide to try another tactic.
Tilting my head to the side, I sweeten my tone. "Youre my best friend. I thought best friends were supposed to tell each other everything."
She laughs, her golden curls bouncing. "No way, dont pull that crap out on me. How come Ive never heard any of this best friend business before now?"
"I didnt know how to tell you my feelings." I respond jokingly.
"You only have until tomorrow morning to wait." Kim tells me exasperatedly.
"I know. But I still consider you my best friend." I say.
"Can it, Grace. Its not going to work." She tells me as we stand up to dump our garbage. "Now, lets get this show on the road."
"Lead the way." I command her and she strides purposely out of the food court.
"Lets try the leather store." Kim decides. "Stace always complains about not having a good school bag. Maybe they will have a really nice leather one. I think shed like that."
"Good idea." I agree as the potent smell of the store fills my senses. It reminds me of a tack room, I muse with melancholy. I really miss my horse, Christmas time more than anything. It was just before New Years that Debbie had her taken away and I never saw her again.
"Grace?" Kim questions, holding up a beautiful brown bag. "You like?"
"Wow, its great." I tell her, snapping out of my depressing thoughts. I touch the soft leather, admiring the intricate tooling along the strap. "You should get this." I tell her.
"Yeah?" She asks doubtfully.
"Yes." I tell her. Kim smiles a relieved smile and heads up to the counter to pay. I mill around the store, impressed with the high quality of its goods. I wonder if Jaden would like something from here. I bet she would look really sexy in a pair of tight leather pants.
I search through the racks and find a black pair in her size. I hold them up, trying to envision her in them.
"God yes, get them." Kims voice orders.
"Really? Arent they too short?" I question, indicating the length. "Shes got pretty long legs."
"I know, and even if she wears them as capris shell look sexy. Seriously, get them."
Looking over the pants one more time, I decide Kim is right. I quickly pay for them and we leave the store.
"That was productive." Kim says, clinging onto her bag happily. "Where should we go next?"
"I dont know." I tell her honestly, my mind trying to decide what I should get Jaden.
"How about the bookstore? There are a few books Stacey wants that I can pick up." Kim suggests and I nod.
As we pass by the brightly lit stores something silver catches my eyes. "Hey, wait." I tell Kim, tugging on her shirtsleeve as I turn around and head back to the store. Peering through the window I see a beautiful camera outfit, complete with tripod and case. "Its perfect." I breathe through the window.
"A camera?" Kim asks skeptically. "Jaden doesnt seem the picture type."
"I know, but she is." I tell Kim. "When I was still in Ohio, Jaden sent me some of the most beautiful pictures Id ever seen. I found out she took them with a simple automatic disposal camera. If shes that good of a photographer on her own, with no lessons and a piece of crap camera imagine what she can do with a really good camera!" I tell her excitedly, getting more and more into this idea.
"Lets go take a look." Kim says as she pulls me into the store. "Do you have any idea what youre looking for?"
"No." I admit. "I have no idea what kind to get."
Kim pulls out her cell phone. "Let me call Stace, she has lots of photography experience."
"Good idea." I agree as Kim dials. Stacey is a graphic design major who has spent numerous hours in the darkroom for her photography class. I check out the different cameras in the store until Kim hangs up the phone.
"No wonder I love her." She gushes and I smile fondly at her. "Anyway, she thinks its a great idea and suggests a manual camera. She said a Pentax K1000 because its good quality and user-friendly. She also had the great idea to get it with all the bells and whistles, zoom, flash, tripod, and the like."
"Okay." I say, my eyes lighting up with excitement. "Lets find one." Kim and I easily find the camera and its priced lower than I expected. "This is great." I tell her as I get all the accessories.
"Crap, can you afford this?" Kim asks, totaling up all the items in her head. "Its going to be about $500.00." She adds.
"I know. Shes worth it, besides, I think shell be really surprised." I tell her as we make our way to the counter.
"Oh, Stace also said it would be a good idea to maybe enroll her in a class or something, you know, to teach her how to use it." Kim says, smirking.
I look at her warily, trying to imagine Jaden sitting through a photography class. "Do you really think that would happen?"
"No." Kim replies honestly. "Thats why Stace offered to teach her how. She used the very same camera for her thesis project last year. She did an incredible job."
"Wow." I state, impressed by Staceys generosity. "Thats really thoughtful of her." I tell Kim genuinely.
"Yeah, shes great." Kim says as the clerk begins to ring my purchases up. "Now that were done here, lets go home. I have the sudden urge to hug her."
"Me too." I tell Kim smiling.
When I arrive home I find a note from Jaden stating she went over to Diana & Joes to keep him company while Di and Kasey are gone. Poor guy, hes managing better than expected with his broken legs, but it must really be awful to be so injured for the holidays.
Using the free time, I wrap Jadens presents and place them under our tree. Its pretty full and I cant wait to open presents tomorrow. I think shes going to be thrilled with what I got her.
After I finish, I put on Christmas music and sit in front of the fireplace with a mug of steaming cocoa. Its so peaceful this afternoon, the sun has just gone down and the bright snow on the ground gleams through the inky darkness.
I light a few candles and dim the lights, sitting back down on the floor with my back against the couch. Bella and Bean curl next to me and I idly alternate pats from Bellas soft fur to the coarse hair on Beans small body.
Christmas Eve. I cant believe how time has passed; sometimes it feels as if I just moved here yesterday.
I smile as I play with Bellas floppy ears. I know Jaden will be home soon, but right now I miss her terribly.
Im excited by the thought of spending Christmas Eve with my true love. Even though Im not particularly religious, theres always something magical about this night. Usually, we gather at my mothers family for dinner and then my grandmother and I attend midnight services at her church. Its a candlelight service and the choir sings carols. Its so beautiful, and it feels strange not to be there with everyone.
I wonder if Ill ever be welcome there again, especially since Im not even related to them anymore.
My jaw clenches as waves of sadness roll through me. So much has happened and regardless of how much therapy I commit myself to, it still seems like too much.
Footsteps in the hall alert both dogs to go eagerly scampering to the door. Jadens home. I close my eyes briefly; relieved to have her here and I hear her open the door and talk happily to the dogs. She loves them as much as they love her.
"Hey." I greet her softly, not moving from my place on the floor.
"Hi." She answers as she comes to sit next to me, her arm automatically going around my shoulders. She smells like cinnamon and I lay my head on her shoulder, sighing with pleasure.
Kissing the top of my head, her long hair brushes my face. "How are you?"
"Better." I answer, wanting to curl up inside her and never leave.
"Me too." She responds gently. We sit in comfortable silence, the flickering light of the candles making shadows dance over her skin.
"Hows Joe?" I question and I feel Jaden smile.
"Driving everyone nuts. Hes so fidgety, and its killing him to sit still. But he feels okay." Jaden comments. "Kasey wont leave his side. She just worships him. Di went for her check-up yesterday and found out the baby is healthy and doing fine."
"Yay." I answer. "I cant wait until she starts showing and the baby starts to move around. Shes going to be even more gorgeous pregnant."
"She was with Kasey. You should have seen her, boy did she glow." Jaden responds softly. "It was the most incredible thing Ive ever seen."
I smile, picturing Kasey as a tiny baby. Im sure her little sibling will be equally wonderful and I look foreword to meeting him or her.
"Do they want to find out if its a boy or girl?" I ask and Jaden shakes her head.
"No. They didnt with Kasey, either. They said they wanted it to be a surprise."
"I couldnt do that, Im way too impatient." I tell her. "I couldnt stand not knowing."
"Really?" Jaden questions. "I thought you would want to keep it a surprise."
"Oh, I would." I respond, smiling. "But I know myself, and I would be dying to know."
"Me too." Jaden admits. I look up into her grinning face and gently pull her head down to meet mine.
I softly kiss her lips. "I love you so much." I whisper, looking into her luminous eyes. "Thank you for everything you have done."
She smiles and strokes my face with her thumb. "I love you more everyday. This is our first Christmas in a line of many." She responds softly. Her lips are soft and sweet on mine.
We shift, so she is lying on the floor and I am cradled on top of her. I rest my head on her chest, reveling in the sound of her beating heart. Its this that is my lifeline, her touch, her essence, everything that she is. Its as if her heart beats for the both of us.
"Do you want children?" She questions, surprising me.
"Very much." I answer honestly. "I never thought I did until I met you. Now the very thought of raising a child with you makes me happy."
"Id probably be a lousy parent." She says softly. I lift my head from her chest and look into her eyes. They are sad and filled with unspoken anguish.
"No you wouldnt." I tell her fiercely. "Ive seen you with Kasey and you are wonderful. How can you say that?" I question her gently.
"I havent had very good examples, I guess. My grandparents were wonderful, but my parents both split. Im afraid I would do the same thing because its all that I know of parenting." Jaden responds solemnly.
"Think of what I know of parenting." I tell her wryly. "Listen,
Spots, we both have shitty examples of what parents are supposed to be like.
And, unfortunately, what seems to happen in our society is some people who have
bad parents end up being the same way with their own kids, you know?"
Jaden nods, but I can tell she has no idea what Im trying to say.
"What Im trying to say is that I honestly believe that the majority of people push away painful aspects of their childhood instead of facing it and dealing with it. Then, when it is time for them to raise their own children, they end up repeating the patterns of their parents because they dont know any other way. I dont think there are any bad children, but that bad parenting breeds bad children." I pause briefly. "Does that make sense?"
I can almost see the wheels turning in her head. "I guess so." She answers finally.
"I cant really seem to explain what I mean. But my point is, you and I are not like that; weve done too much work on ourselves to use our same patterns with our children. I know we will love and nurture our children."
"Okay." She tells me, looking unconvinced.
"I promise you." I assure her once more and she smiles.
"You will be a wonderful mother." Jaden tells me as I lay my head back down over her heart.
"So will you." I quietly respond.
December 25, 2000
I return from taking the dogs outside and dust the snow off my boots and coat. Its a perfect Christmas morning, the snow just started falling after I awoke and it is so picturesque.
Grace isnt up yet; I can hear her gentle snores from the bedroom. She actually had the nerve to tell me the other day that she doesnt snore. I just laughed. Someday Ill get a tape recorder and prove it to her.
Our tree looks beautiful with presents stacked neatly below. I cant wait to open them; this is the first Christmas since Ive been a child where Im actually not going to ignore the day.
Last year I pined here alone. My life was so empty back then.
Smiling, I look at the clock. Its only 6am, and if I woke Grace up now I think shed kill me. But I cant help it, Im too excited. I have to get her up. Besides, her big presents will be here in a few hours.
I bound into the bedroom, the dogs scampering with excitement at my feet. Catapulting on to the bed I bounce eagerly up and down.
"What the hell?" Graces groggy voice questions as her sleepy eyes slightly open.
"Its Christmas!" I tell her excitedly.
She tries to roll her eyes as she sighs loudly. "Do I want to know what time it is?"
"Nope." I answer. "Come on! Santa came!" I continue to bounce.
"Okay, okay." She tells me, her tone bordering on irritation. I grin and get off the bed. She manages to sit upright, pulling her tank top down and into place. "Give me a sec to wake up." Gracie mumbles as she stands and stretches. She puts my old robe on over her pajama pants and makes her way out into the living room.
I hand her a glass of eggnog as she sits down. "Merry Christmas." I tell her, kissing the top of her head.
"Merry Christmas." She responds, smiling at me for the first time since awakening. "Sorry I was a grinch."
"Its okay, I know you hate to get up early." I tell her as I look anxiously at the presents. "Ill put them in two piles!"
Grace just grins at me as I separate the presents.
"Hold still." I order her and she complies, rolling her blue-green eyes.
"Jaden, this is silly, I must look awful."
"Shh. Youre gorgeous. Now hold still." I command as I snap the picture. Ive been playing with my new camera all morning and I know it must be getting on Graces nerves because shes the object of my attention.
I cant help that the camera loves her. Or that I love her more. Besides, Im bored at photographing the dogs and need a more rewarding subject.
"Im warning you, Spots, you get one more picture and thats it." Grace says, smiling all the while.
"Okay, okay." I mutter as I take the final picture. She is standing next to the window, the light of morning washing over her sweet face. She is radiant.
A knock on the door startles us and I look at the clock smiling. Right on time.
Grace furrows her brow. "Who could that be, on Christmas morning?"
I shrug innocently. "I dont know."
She goes to open the door as I prime my camera to catch her expression.
"OH MY GOD!" She shrieks as she whips open the door to reveal Rick and Lydia. I take pictures quickly, hoping they are in focus, as the trio happily greet each other.
"Jaden, get over here!" Grace demands and I greet our two guests. Gracie and Lydia are crying, happily reunited after months of separation.
I put an arm around Gracies shoulder and kiss her head lightly as Rick and Lydia remove their heavy winter jackets. "You did this, didnt you?" She asks, already knowing the answer.
"Merry Christmas." I tell her, smiling down at her flushed face.
"Thank you." She responds, cupping my cheek in her palm. She kisses me reverently. "Thank you for everything."
Part 12 is the final part of the story! I will post it asap!
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