The BMW moved slowly along the street lined with middle class homes.
³There it is.² Sam indicated a peach colored, two-story house with white trim.
Tina parked in the driveway. She looked at her passenger, who had been unable to conceal her increasing anxiety as the time had come to visit her mother. ³Are you okay?²
³I Iıve hoped for this for years.² The blonde idly picked at the ribbon tied to the gift on her lap. ³But ² She shrugged. ³I think Iıd better apologize in advance if this should turn into a fiasco²
³Donıt worry. Itıs going to be fine.² Tina said matter-of-factly, even though, if the truth were known, she was feeling as apprehensive as her partner. ³Remember what you told me? We can get through anything together.²
³Youıre right.² The assertive words calmed Samıs nerves a little. ³Plus, I may NEVER find out what that present is if we donıt go in there.²
Thatıs the spirit. The accountant reached into the rear seat for the gift she had gotten Mrs. Whitwell. ³Want to shake it and see if you can guess?²
³Youıll have to catch me first.² Tina bolted out of the car and dashed up the walkway.
Sam quickly followed, catching the runner by the back of her shirt just outside the front door. ³Give me that present!²
³Nope.² The taller woman grinned and held the brightly wrapped package high above her head.
³But I caught you!²
³Indeed you have. And itıs the best thing thatıs ever happened to me.²
³Donıt even TRY to change the subject²
Suddenly, the door was pulled open.
³I thought I heard someone...² Mrs. Whitwell looked at the startled couple. Did I interrupt something? Her eyes traveled up the length of Tinaıs arm to the still-elevated present.
³Umm Hi, Mom, I was about to ring the bell.²
³Really,² Mrs. Whitwell said skeptically, glancing at the neighboring houses to see if anyone was observing them. ³Come on in.² She directed the guests to the living room. ³Would you like a cup of coffee? Or a soft drink?²
The women politely declined and sat down on the couch. Mrs. Whitwell took a seat in the chair across from them.
After a few seconds of tense silence, Sam spoke. ³Thanks for having us over. I know this isnıt easy for you.²
³I canıt say I understand the lifestyle choice youıve made, nor do I approve of it.²
³I wasnıt finished.²
Mrs. Whitwell looked at her youngest child fondly and softened her tone, ³I love you, Samantha. To be honest, I donıt know how successful Iıll be at accepting this whole thing, but Iım willing to try.²
³Would it help if I told you Iım incredibly happy?²
³Yes,² Mrs. Whitwellıs voice was resigned, ³I suppose that helps.²
Sam jumped off the couch to hug her mom. ³I love you!²
Tina felt her stress level subsiding. We might survive this yet.
³I got you something.² The blonde sat on the arm of the chair and handed her mother the gift. ³Merry Christmas.²
Mrs. Whitwell unwrapped the box and removed the top. ³Itıs beautiful, Samantha.² She picked up the luxurious cloth-covered journal. ³Thank you.²
³Thereıs more?² Doing as her daughter asked, the woman saw the inscription:
This is for all the happy memories youıve
given me, and my wish for many more ahead.
Astounded, the parent flipped through page after page of writing. Memories all happy memories. ³This is so thoughtful of you. I like it very much.²
³And here, Mom.² Sam showed her the blank sheets toward the end. ³This is where you can put new entries if you want to.²
³Itıs a unique gift and Iıll cherish it always.²
Smiling, Sam returned to her seat next to her partner. ³Oh Tina got you something, too.² I canıt wait to find out what it is.
³You shouldnıt have²
Tina passed her the present without further ado. ³Merry Christmas.²
Sam watched with interest as her mother tore the wrapping from the package, pushed the tissue paper aside and burst out laughing. Taking the set of crystal drinking glasses from the box, she gave Tina a wry smile. ³They match exactly! Thank you.²
³Well, I felt it was appropriate itıs partly my fault you have an incomplete set.²
It was Tinaıs turn to laugh.
Mrs. Whitwell went over to the Christmas tree in the corner of the room, selected a gift, and brought it to her daughter.
³To Samantha and Tina. Love, Mom.² Sam read the tag, carefully peeled it off the paper and gave it to her partner. ³I want to keep that.² Swiftly ripping the decorative wrap, she opened the box and gasped when she saw the silver-bordered photo album inside. The cover had an oval-shaped cutout in the center for a picture and the words Our Life Together in script underneath. Sam had admired the album when her mother purchased it for Lisa and Mike as an engagement present. ³Mom? How did you²
³I got an additional one after you told me how much you liked it. Iıve been saving it for you, thinking that someday² There was a discomforting pause. ³Anyhow, Lisa explained to me that it would be fitting for your status.²
Sam wiped at the tears in her eyes.
³Thank you,² Tina said sincerely. ³It means a lot to us.²
³Now, donıt be getting the notion that I approve of this. I just couldnıt see any reason to let the thing sit and gather dust any longer than it already has. Might as well get some use out of it.²
³We understand.² Sam lightly ran her fingers over the words on the album before putting the top back on the box. ³Youıve made another happy memory for me today, Mom.²
³I wonıt be forgetting it anytime soon, either.² Mrs. Whitwell quipped.
They all laughed at the indisputably true remark.
³We should get going.² Sam looked at her watch. ³Lisa is cooking dinner.²
³And I have baking to do for the brunch tomorrow.² The homeowner walked the guests out.
They traded best wishes for the holiday and Sam gave her mother a heartfelt hug good-bye.
Mrs. Whitwell shut the door and rested against it. That was different. She went to the living room to clean up, but found she was drawn to the journal her daughter had given her. She took the book to the study, sat at her desk and thumbed through it, stopping to read passages here and there. Coming to a blank page, she looked at it contemplatively for a long time.
Then she raised her pen and began to write.
Theyıre here!² Joshua ran into the kitchen. ³Can we eat now?²
Lisa closed her eyes. One two three. The anticipation of Christmas tomorrow and exchanging gifts with Sam and Tina tonight had caused the boys to be hyper all day, testing the limits of the womanıs patience. ³Shouldnıt we at least let them get in the house?²
³Iıll carry the presents!² The child sprinted off.
³Hey there, pretty lady.² Mike came into the room and put his arms around his wife. ³Howıs it going?²
³Do you REALLY want to know?²
Mike chortled, rubbing Lisaıs back soothingly. ³Maybe after the kids go to bed, Iıll pour us some wine and we can sit by the fire²
³We still have to bring the boysı gifts in from the garage and get the basketball hoop assembled²
³Iıll take care of that.²
³I get to drink wine and supervise while you play Santa?²
³Mmm hmm.² Mike kissed Lisaıs neck and whispered in her ear. ³You can even have the cookies this year.²
³Ahem² Sam stood in the doorway with Tina. ³Should we come back later?²
³No!² Joshua struggled past the couple with a large plastic bag full of packages. ³Donıt leave. We have to eat and open the presents!²
³Come in.² Lisa laughed, letting go of Mike. ³Dinner is almost ready.²
³Thatıs my cue,² the man said, getting out the carving knife. ³Time for me to slice the ham.²
³Josh?² Tina grabbed one side of the bag before the child dropped it. ³Letıs put this in the family room, okay?²
Sam smiled, enchanted by the scene of the twosome heading down the hallway with the sack between them.
³Sis?² Lisa was setting bowls of food on the table. ³Howıd it go at Momıs?²
³It went WAY better than I expected! She told me you talked with her. I canıt thank you enough.²
³It was nice to have a rational discussion on the subject. Itıs obviously a foreign concept to her so I tried to emphasize the similarities, not the differences. She didnıt say much, but she seemed to be listening.²
³She was. I can hardly believe it.²
³Iım glad itıs finally working out.² Lisa poured the boysı milk.
³Me, too,² the blonde said happily. ³Want me to round up the troops?²
Sam went to get Tina and her nephews. Shortly thereafter, they all sat down and enjoyed a dinner full of good food and light-hearted conversation.
³Tina?² Joshua swallowed the last bite of his pumpkin pie. ³Did Grandma like her present?²
³Yes, I think she did.²
³What?² Sam glowered at the group. ³EVERYBODY knew about that but me?²
The adults mumbled non-committal responses, hastily scooping forkfuls of dessert into their mouths to thwart the necessity of saying anything more. Josh and Aaron giggled, nodding yes.
³Ohhh² Sam pinned Tina with a look. ³I am SO going to get you for this.²
The dark-haired woman chewed her food with an aura of total innocence that triggered gales of laughter from the rest of the people at the table.
Lisa stood and collected the plates. ³Would anyone like coffee?²
³Mom!² Aaron pleaded. ³Canıt you do that later?²
³You and Josh have to do the dishes²
³Mommmm² The boys groaned.
³The sooner itıs done, the sooner we can open the presents.²
Aaron hurriedly got the step stool and climbed on it to rinse the dishes in the sink. He subsequently handed the items to Joshua, who stacked them in the dishwasher.
³No coffee for me,² Mike said. ³Iıll go get the fire started.²
Lisa served the drinks and the women had a chance to relax and chat while the children did their chores. Sam filled her sister in on the details of the trip to their motherıs. There was agreement that, although progress still needed to be made, it had far exceeded what any of them would have predicted.
When the dishwashing was concluded, they retired to the family room. Mike was in the overstuffed chair near the crackling fire with Beethoven at his feet. The dog trotted toward the newcomers and received plenty of petting before everyone got seated.
Lisa took her place at the piano, tinkling the keys to limber her fingers. They began singing Christmas carols, one after another, with each person suggesting their favorites. Tina didnıt know what to make of it. I thought this kind of thing only occurred in greeting card commercials. She felt Sam pressed tightly against her on the couch. Okay, maybe an alternative greeting card commercial.
³What about you, Tina?² Lisa asked. ³Do you have a request?²
³You MUST have a favorite.² Sam prodded.
³Well I kind of like The Christmas Song.²
Lisa played the introduction and they all sang.
³Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos
Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all a glow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight
They know that Santaıs on his way.
Heıs loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every motherıs child is going to spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly
And so Iım offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although itıs been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you²
Tina pulled Sam into her lap and sang the ending to her.
³And so Iım offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although itıs been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you.²
Caught up in the moment, she followed the last word with a kiss.
³Eww!² Aaron made a face. ³Mushy stuff!²
Mike grasped Lisaıs hand and brought her into an embrace. ³That seems like a FINE idea.² He kissed his wife.
³Eww! MORE mushy stuff!² Joshua covered his eyes.
The couples looked at the boys and laughed.
³Okay,² Lisa announced. ³Time for the presents!²
There was pandemonium as the children searched under the tree for packages bearing their name. Sam went over as they unwrapped the toys she had given them. Squeals of joy confirmed to the aunt that she had chosen well. The boys insisted she open her gift right then and there and she thanked them for the much-needed guitar strings.
Tina took the opportunity to put a large, rectangular gift in Lisaıs hands. ³Merry Christmas.²
Lisa stripped the paper off of a picture frame that displayed a collage of newspaper articles about the track team. In the center was a photo of Tina and Lisa in their uniforms holding trophies. The caption in dark print stated Mellekas and Whitwell to represent Sarasota at State Competition.³Where on earth did you get these?²
³From my scrapbook. I scanned them on my computer²
³You have a scrapbook?² Sam went to investigate what they were looking at. The younger woman had badgered Tina to no avail and remained in the dark as to what gifts her partner had chosen. ³Oh my gosh! Youıre so SKINNY!²
Two pairs of eyes stared at her icily.
³Umm I ²
Tina shook her head. ³It would be wise to quit before you dig yourself any deeper.²
Joshua squeezed in front his mother to see. ³Is that you?²
³Yes, with Tina. We were on the track team together in high school.²
³We can hang that in here.² Mike was peeking over Samıs shoulder. ³Itıll go with our sports theme.²
Lisa propped the picture frame on the piano and smiled at her former teammate. ³Thanks.²
³Youıre welcome.² Tina picked up a present and gave it to Mike. ³I felt like a traitor getting this, but hereıs something for your mantle.²
The man ripped the wrapping off, looked at the collegiate football ensconced in plexiglass, and then at Tina, dumbfounded. ³This is UNBELIEVABLE!² He put the box on the table, grabbed Tina and swung her around. ³Thank you!²
³Why is he so excited about a football?² Aaron asked his mother.
³I donıt know.²
³Itıs personalized!² Mike had everyone view the writing next to the Gator logo on the ball. To Mike, Class of ı77.Underneath, was the coachıs signature. ³You met him in person, Tina?²
³No. My boss has tons of connections. She got it signed for me.²
³Yeah, Vivian is great.² Sam held out an envelope. ³She helped me with my present for you guys, too.²
³Iıll take that,² Lisa did so with a smirk, ³because I donıt think heıs going to let go of that football.² She read the information in the packet and her jaw dropped. ³Are you serious?²
³Yes.² Sam smiled. ³And my babysitting services are included.²
³Babysitting?² Mike inquired. ³Whatıs this about?²
³Itıs a weekend getaway some fancy resort on Siesta Beach.² Lisa hugged her sister. ³What a WONDERFUL present!²
While Sam talked about the vacation with Lisa and Mike, Tina motioned for the boys to come closer. ³Hmm I think I have something here² She produced two packages and tossed them to Aaron and Josh.
The children decimated the wrapping in a flash and yanked the gifts from the boxes.
³Itıs just like yours!² Joshua pulled the Florida State shirt, identical to the one Tina was wearing, over his head.
Aaron examined the silky material of his professional soccer jersey. ³Awesome!²
³Very nice!² Lisa admired the new apparel. ³Boys, did you say thank you?²
³Thanks, Tina!² They chorused.
Mike carefully laid the football on the mantle and got a present from under the tree. ³Sam, Tina, this is for both of you.² He put an arm around his wifeıs waist and grinned. ³From us.²
³You unwrap it, T,² Sam urged. ³I opened the one at Momıs.²
³Okay.² Tina took the gift and, cautiously detaching the wrapping at the edges, extracted the object without causing a single tear to the paper.
Sam had to fight the impulse to seize the thing and open it more speedily.
³What is it?² Joshua was on his tiptoes trying to get a look.
The woman didnıt answer. Her focus was on the pencil sketch matted in dark gray and bordered with a high gloss silver frame. The drawing was of herself and Sam, modeled after the photo Lisa had taken of them.
³So THATıS why you borrowed those negatives!² Sam accused her sister. ³You said you wanted to make copies of the pictures of Josh on his bike!²
³I wanted those, too. But, yes, I had an ulterior motive.²
³Did you draw that, Daddy?² Josh asked.
³Yes, and Mom got it framed.²
³Itıs superbly done,² Tina said quietly. ³Thank you.²
Lisa smiled at the reaction. She loves it!
³JOSHUA!² Aaron tussled with his brother. ³I wanna give it to her!²
³I wanna do it!² Josh wailed. ³Mom? He wonıt let go of Tinaıs present!²
Tina gave the sketch to Sam and rushed to the children before the quarrel escalated further. ³What do you have there?²
³Itıs for you,² Aaron answered, ³but HE wonıt let go of it!²
³For me?² Tina sat in the chair and, smiling, extended her hand.
Neither child wanted to relinquish his grip on the gift, so they cooperatively set it in her palm.
³Thank you.² The dark-haired woman looked at the package, covered with an abundance of tape and an askew bow.
³We wrapped it ourselves.² Josh informed her.
³Really?² Tina explored every angle, looking for a possible point of access. Finding none, she wrestled with it until she could wrench the tape free and open the box. Oh no Lying on cotton bedding was a long silver chain with rubber loops at each end.
Seeing the unreadable look on Tinaıs face, Aaron clarified, ³Itıs for your glasses!²
³Yes I know.²
³Auntie Sam helped us pick it out.² Joshua added.
³Did she? Iıll have to thank her personally later.²
Mike and Lisa laughed, but Sam sensed a hint of hurt in her partnerıs retort. Somethingıs wrong.
³The best part is,² Tina closed the box, ³Iıll think of you boys every time I wear it.² When I turn 60.
³Joshua? Aaron?² Lisa held a large garbage bag. ³Itıs getting late. Letıs throw the trash away.²
The children tidied the room, put cookies and milk on the table for Santa, and hugged everyone good night.
³Youıre gonna tuck me in, arenıt you?² Josh asked Tina.
³Cool!² The boy stampeded up the steps behind his brother.
Tinaıs long arms enveloped Sam. She kissed the top of the blondeıs head and said softly, ³Would you like to come hear the story?²
³Cımon.² Tina clasped the younger womanıs hand and they ascended the stairs.
When they got to Joshıs room, Sam stood against the wall near the door, not wanting to interfere with the ritual that had been established. She watched as the woman pulled the covers neatly over the boy and sat on the side of the bed.
There were some preliminary questions about hand washing and teeth brushing before Tina seemed satisfied that the child was ready for the story. Acutely aware of her partnerıs presence in the room, she cleared her throat and began.
³Once upon a time, there was a very special little girl.
She had hair the color of sunshine and eyes as green as the grass after a spring rain. She was a happy child, who was kind and gentle and good.
She had an older sister and they squabbled, as children sometimes do, but eventually they turned out to be the best of friends.
The little girl had hopes and dreams, like everybody does, and she often thought about what her life would be like when she grew up. Mostly, she dreamed of love. Not just any love, mind you. I mean the kind one hears about in fairy tales where two people meet and find that theyıre destined to be together forever.
Well, time passedand the girl became a beautiful woman.
She was still as kind and gentle and good as sheıd been as a child. She was full of life, with a sparkle in her eyes and a smile that shone so brightly it could light up a room.
Or the darkest of hearts.
She had friends and family who loved her and she loved them in return. So, all in all, things were going pretty well. But deep down inside, she felt as if something was missing. And as the years continued to go by, she wondered if sheıd ever discover what it was.
Now around this same time,
There was a dark-haired woman who was moody and sad. Sheıd suffered a great loss and was having trouble finding her way in the world.
She was lonely.
As fate would have it, one night, the two women met. And when they looked into each otherıs eyes they both felt something it was almost magical.
Immediately, the blonde woman knew the other one needed her. How she knew it Iım not sure. But she was right.
The dark-haired one well she wasnıt sure WHAT she felt except whatever it was it scared her a lot. So, she pretended like she didnıt feel anything.
She was very good at that.
However the blonde was not the type to give up easily. She worked hard to make friends demonstrating by example how it was okay to be happy to have someone to confide in and to trust.
Now, donıt be thinking that this all went smoothly, because there were bumps in the road and mistakes were made. But the fair-haired woman never wavered from her belief that they were meant to be together.
Sheıd had to believe it for the two of them for a long time but not anymore.
Because they BOTH believe it now.
So, you see, the hero saved the day. And she didnıt need guns or any kind of violence to do it. She used the most powerful force in the universe as her weapon.
She saved the day with love.²
Tina hesitated, as she usually did at this juncture, knowing that Joshua would remind her there was more.
The boy smiled. ³Donıt forget the end, Tina! Tell what happened to them after that!²
³Oh umm they lived happily ever after.²
The storyteller ruffled the childıs hair, kissed him on the forehead, and turned off the bedside lamp. ³Sweet dreams, Josh.²
³You, too, Tina.²
Sam stepped out into the hallway, wiping her eyes with her shirtsleeve. She flung her arms around her partner the instant she appeared. ³I love you.²
Tina responded with a prolonged kiss. ³Is it time to go to my place?²
³Yeah.² With a lusty look, Sam clutched the waistband of Tinaıs jeans and pulled her toward the stairs. ³Letıs go.²
The tall woman raised an eyebrow and grinned. This is going to be good.