A Note: Hope you guys are enjoying the story still. I probably wont be posting until after the weekend as I have my sister and her brood coming down for Turkey Day and yours truly is cooking. Wish me luck.
"A little to the right. No, left okay perfect." Jump clapped her hands excitedly as the last of the trimming was put on the Christmas tree in the corner of the Snow part of the shop. Jump bounded over to Ryans playpen and picked him, showing the almost two month old the tree. "Look, hes smiling! He likes it!" Laughed Jump as she tilted him up for them to see that he did indeed have a smile.
"He just has gas." Bernadette said around a smile.
Sue and Bernadette had endured about an hour of Jumps direction giving and were elated when the star was placed on the top of the tree and Jump as well as Ryan, were happy with it.
At about the same time, Matt and Tim finished stringing the Christmas lights around the outside of the shop. Upon seeing the soft glow of the multi-colored lights, the women, with Ryan in tow, all ran outside to see.
The shop also had new signage outside, perfectly designed and painted by Bernadette, who was quite an artist in her own right. It sported the new name "Surf and Snow" to include the new ski shop.
"Beautiful job guys!" Announced Sue as she looped an arm around Matts waist. The six of them stood on the sidewalk marveling at the festive look of the shop. "Okay, enough of being outside. It must be like 50 degrees out here!" Sue said with all the cold-bloodedness of a native Californian.
"Well, I do have hot chocolate in the back room. We could make some and really make it feel like winter." Reasoned Jump as she pulled the blanket tighter around Ryan.
"Lets go then. Well have a Winter Wonderland in our minds." Grinned Tim as he put his hand on Jumps shoulder. She smiled back at him as he led her to the door, followed by the rest.
"When does your mom come in, Jump?" Asked Bernadette as she poured hot water over chocolate powder in the line of Styrofoam cups.
Jump was happily surprised when her mom had made plans to come visit her. Since their initial talk about her pregnancy, theyd talked almost weekly.
Jump and her mother hadnt shared a close relationship while Jump was growing up. When Jump had pondered why, her father came up with the reason that perhaps they were too much alike. He saw a lot of his wife in their daughter from an early age. The tendency for Jump to go it alone, figure things out by her self and generally be self sufficient left very little room for the need for guidance. At least that was what Claire, Jumps mom, concluded.
Claire admitted to her husband that she felt she wasnt really needed by her daughter so she kind of kept her distance. It may seem like a strange thing for a mother to do, but Claire, like her daughter, didnt really dwell on things too long. She saw her daughter taking care of her own things, doing well in school so she saw little reason to step in.
For Jump, shed just figured that was how her mother was and left it at that. She knew her mother loved her. It was just that if Jump needed something, shed have to ask for it directly because her mother would never pick up on it. And being a teen, some things were just plain hard to come out and ask for. Fortunately, she got the emotional support she needed from her father who would make it his job to draw Jump out and talk with her when she was having problems with anything.
As Jump became an adult, things became easier for her and her mom. Jump had learned a little more about voicing her thoughts and feelings and that made it easier for her mother to know how exactly to respond to Jump. For Claire, there was no longer this self imposed pressure to give Jump what she already seemed to possess.
When Jump was thinking about starting a business, her mom had been surprised when she asked her opinion. The first couple of times she didnt really offer much, thinking Jump was just being polite in asking her. But there was one particular time when Jump called and asked her mom to really tell her what she should do. She was having trouble with financing and was thinking about not starting a business at all. It was then that her mom had laid out all that she could expect, good and bad. She didnt try to discourage her at all, that wasnt Claire. She mainly gave her the facts and let her decide for herself whether it was worth the risk.
To say that Claire and Jump grew close as a result of that conversation would not be true, however, a seed had been planted. The water needed for it to grow would happen when Jump told her mom about her pregnancy.
When she talked to her mom back in May and told her about the pregnancy, she wasnt sure of the reaction her mother would have. Especially since she wasnt married and didnt plan to be. Her mother surprised her though and talked about her pregnancy with Jump and gave her some anecdotal stories of her own experiences with Jump as an infant. It was the best conversation that Jump had ever remembered having with her mom.
So, when she responded to Bernadettes question, a smile creased her lips.
"Her plane is coming in around 6pm on the 21st." Jump answered as she came in behind Bernadette with the little wooden stir sticks.
Jump giggled as the pair wordlessly organized the napkins, one with each cup of hot chocolate.
"What?" Bernadette asked curiously.
"We make quite a team, you know that?" Jump said as she began to take a sip of her chocolate while simultaneously handing one to Bernadette, which she took with a smile.
"Oh yeah?" Bernadette asked in a way that begged Jump to elaborate.
"Yeah." Said Jump, confidence in her statement growing as she thought. "Theres the building of the addition. Of course lots of people worked on it, but it seemed we read each others mind at times, ya know? Youd know exactly what color I wanted this or that or that I wanted this thing here or there when I wasnt here to tell you. And the whole, having the baby here, now event." She laughed at it all, but her laugh held a hint of wonder.
"I really think I was destined to meet you, Bernadette." Jump concluded with a smile so sweet it made Bernadettes pulse race.
Before Bernadette could respond, Jump was out of the storeroom with her extra cup of hot chocolate and a little bit more of Bernadettes heart.
"Mom!" exclaimed Jump as she ran up to meet her as she exited the airports exterior doors. Bernadette had offered to drive so Jump wouldnt have to worry about navigating the airport and caring for Ryan in the backseat. As Jump brought her mom over to the car, Bernadette slipped out of the drivers seat to meet her.
"Mom, this is Bernadette, my friend." Jump said around a radiant smile. "Bernadette, this is my mom, Claire." Jump beamed as the two politely shook hands and smiled at one another. Bernadette noted that Claire was a few inches taller than Jump, with lighter hair and sharper features. Her eyes were also a bit grayer than Jumps greenish-hazel ones. You could definitely tell they were related though. It was interesting meeting both her mother and father for now she saw how Jump was almost literally a hybrid of both.
As Bernadette picked up her luggage, Claire seemed to suddenly realize one of the major reasons she came for a visit. It was almost comical to hear her politely thank Bernadette for putting her bags away and then in the same breath, shout joyfully, "Wheres my new grandson!?"
She then dashed to the window of the back seat, peered in, yelped, and opened the door all within a few seconds. That made Bernadette giggle. She had the baby out of his car seat and into her arms in an instant.
As Bernadette rounded the car to get into the drivers seat, a burly, dim-looking man came by in an airport security uniform, too tight for him about 25 lbs. ago. "Youll have to move your car, you cant park here."
Bernadette, rolled her eyes and remembered Jumps mom was here. She restrained herself and smiled sweetly. "We are buckling an infant in his seat, can you give us a second? Well be gone in a few."
The security officer grunted his answer and kept walking and looking back every two steps as if Bernadette was lying to him. "Please, do we look like a national security threat?" Bernadette mumbled to herself.
After everyone had piled into the car, they headed back to Jumps apartment. On the drive, Jump filled in her mom about how Bernadette was Marks sister. Because they, or rather Jump, had decided not to be linked romantically to Ryans father, it was a bit awkward bringing him into the conversation in relation to Bernadette. After all, It was Bernadette, not Mark, who was the one to drive Jump to the airport and the first one to meet Claire.
Claire immediately sensed the closeness the women shared too. Their easy manner and humor with each other spoke of a very strong, supportive friendship. Claire was happy to see that her daughter had seemed to find a friend that she could count on. Especially after hearing the story of Ryan being born. She would make sure and thank Bernadette in private for being there for her daughter during that ordeal.
"Oh, he is just beautiful, Jess. He has your nose, definitely!" Cooed the proud grandmother.
Bernadette was momentarily confused at the name Claire said. Shed actually forgotten Jumps real first name was Jessica. She looked over to Jump in the passenger seat and gave her a teasing wink.
"Oh, shut up, Bernsy!" Jump said with mock anger.
Claire picked up on the exchange and said, "She calls you Jump too?"
It sounded more like disappointment than curiosity to Bernadette and she looked at Jump with questioning eyes. "My mom hates that nickname, or more precise, how I got it." Jump explained.
"Well it isnt something you go around telling people at the bridge club." Claire stated matter-of-factly. Then in a mock conversational tone she continued. "Hey, Marge, let me tell you about my lovely daughter who got drunk one night and tried bunny hopping from one truck bed to another, breaking her left arm in the process!"
Bernadette grimaced as Jumps mom retold the tale with painful accuracy. She looked over at Jump who had slumped over, propped her elbow on the arm of the door and held her forehead. She slowly shook her head as she remembered the night kind of.
"Well, I did almost make it. And at least the trucks werent moving." Jump offered as some sort of it could have been worse scenario that might make her mom happy.
"Oh, honey, I know the days of impressing your little surf friends at the shop are over, as are your drinking days right?" Claire said.
Jump turned around as if to hurl some invective, but it died on her lips when she saw the wicked smile on her mothers face. "You are evil " Jump murmured. Claire just laughed and turned her attention to her new grandson.
They didnt know it, but both mother and daughter were silently marveling at how far theyd come in their relationship in the last year. Teasing like this would have been just out of their reach in relating to each other, but with the pregnancy, both women were looking at things a bit differently. And it was a good different.
Once they got back to Jumps apartment, Bernadette stuck around long enough to unload Claires bags and ask if there was anything else they needed. When Jump hugged her friend and told her shed done more than enough already, they said their goodbyes and Bernadette was off to go shopping for Christmas Eve dinner.
While driving, Bernadette thought about the last couple of hours and decided she really liked Jumps mom. She knew a bit of the history between them and knew they werent close when Jump was young, but you wouldnt be able to tell by the way she was with Jump and Ryan today. It warmed Bernadettes heart to see Jump so happy and to see her mom share in the joy of her baby.
Her thoughts then turned to Mark. Hed kept a real low profile after Jump had told him she didnt think theyd be together as a couple again. He visited Ryan often, but he did little else with family or friends. Bernadette knew he was hurting and had tried to talk to him, but hed just shut down. He wouldnt even talk to Matt.
When she first heard about what had happened between Mark and Jump, a month or so ago, she was a bit angry. Here, Mark offered up his heart once more and it was thrown back into his face. But as she thought about it, she realized perhaps Mark wasnt the only victim here. Theyd called it quits before he left for Japan, but the pregnancy changed everything for them. Perhaps Jump realized she couldnt be what Mark wanted the first time, but felt obligated to try again because she was carrying his child.
It was funny to Bernadette, all of this analyzing and conjecture shed felt compelled to take on in a relationship she had nothing to do with. Shed come to the realization though, that her growing feelings for Jump had not permitted her to think of Jump as anyone but a good and decent person. Bernadette knew in her heart that Jump made the right decision concerning her brother. She knew it was right because she had confidence that Jump knew what was right for her and Ryan.
How would Bernadette have handled growing up if she knew her parents were merely together for the kids? If she didnt witness the utter love and devotion they had for each other? Not experiencing the former, fortunately, she had nothing to go by. But she did know this, her parents love for each other spilled out into their offspring. None were afraid to show their feelings for each other and for those they felt close to. They also knew the power and resiliency of love because of what they went through with their mother and what their father went through with his beloved wife. Bernadette knew that whatever the Rands would encounter, good or bad, they would be okay.
"Well, except for Mark right now " Bernadette mumbled to herself. But she knew hed be okay with time. That was how they were raised.
Christmas Eve arrived quickly and Bernadette was in the throes of cooking for more people than she ever had before. Last Thanksgiving Carrie had done most of it, with Bernadette helping out. She was not sure she was going to survive this day. Her brothers were no help, her dad had a golf date, Carrie was busy with Blake, her 7 month old, who had a cold and Sue and Jump couldnt possibly miss the Christmas Eve Day sales going on. This is what Bernadette figured when she insisted on cooking the meal all by her self. Theyd offered their help, but Bernadette refused, saying she welcomed the challenge. I must have been on crack, thought Bernadette quite honestly.
The sound of the doorbell ringing brought instant panic. "Three oclock already!" she cried as she pulled off her apron to answer the door. She was shocked speechless by the sight of Claire with a smile on her face and an industrial mixer in her hands.
"Jess figured youd need help." Claire said by way of explanation as to why she was here. Bernadette took a second to squint at her kitchen clock but couldnt see it from that distance. "Its noon dear." Claire smirked as she stepped inside the door and headed to the kitchen, all business. Bernadette obediently followed her with a twinge of nervousness that was quickly overshadowed by utter relief. Thanks, Jump!
"What would you like me to do now?" Asked Bernadette. She sounded like an overeager elementary school girl, but she didnt care. This woman was a whirlwind in the kitchen and theyd be done about half an hour before everyone arrives. Shed also saved a large part of Bernadettes sanity, not to mention her fingers. Her fingers would have never gotten through the entire vegetable cutting in one piece. Wielding a hammer was way different than wielding a knife, as Bernadette had experienced many times before.
By 2:45, the table was set, the food was in the oven to keep warm and Claire was busy choosing some old Christmas favorites from Bernadettes impressive CD collection. After shed chosen a compilation of classics, she wondered over to the picture window and looked out into the winter cold, gray-green ocean. The clouds overhead were dense and dark, promising rain before the night was through. She imagined it was probably snowing in Vermont.
The sound of the front door being opened pulled her out of her reverie and she smiled widely as Ryan was placed into the entryway, car seat and all, followed by her daughter, Sue and Matt. Bernadette was still in her bedroom dressing so she took everyones coats and led them into the living room.
"Smells great." Said Matt as he walked into the kitchen. "No grazing!" yelled back Claire in a friendly manner as she went to deposit the coats into the extra room. They all chuckled, as they knew that was Matts exact intention.
Jump kneeled down to unbuckle Ryan and take him out of the car seat. Sue went about setting up his little bouncy seat so he could be part of all the action and watch the people come in. As Jump lifted him out, she caught sight of a freshly showered Bernadette in worn jeans and gray turtleneck. Jumps face broke into a smile unbidden and she gave up her little boy to the outstretched arms of his aunt.
"Hey, big guy!" She cooed as she held him in her long arms. He smiled for her, as he always did, and she beamed. She looked at Jump who was looking on at them and said in a near whisper. "By the way, thanks for sending your mom over. She was awesome. I wouldnt have finished without her."
"You bet. I knew youd be in over your head." Jump teased as she stepped a bit closer and stood opposite Bernadette who still had Ryan. She looked up into Bernadettes eyes. "But thanks for making the effort. It was sweet of you to offer your home once again. And thanks for including us."
Bernadette looked at Jump surprisingly. "Why wouldnt I?"
"I know Marks not having an easy time and I know it is because of me." At this, Jump looked down at her feet. It was the first time shed acknowledged the discord between herself and Mark to Bernadette so directly. Jump began to get a little teary and Bernadette had the sense that Jump wanted to continue talking, so Bernadette gestured toward her room and Jump wordlessly followed.
"Were gonna change him." Bernadette said in way of explanation to everyone. When they stepped into the room, Jump sat heavily on the bed as Bernadette stayed standing and unconsciously bobbed up and down to soothe the baby.
"I just feel so guilty. I cant be what he needs Bernadette. I like him a lot, but that isnt enough to get married on. It isnt fair to him or Ryan. I know we share a child and that wont ever change, nor do I want it too. I I " Jump broke off with a deep sigh.
Bernadette listened and absorbed what Jump was telling her. Bernadette had been right about Jumps motives for breaking it off with her brother.
Bernadette felt bad for both of them. She was thankful not to have been in their situation also. She tried to think of something to say that might assuage Jumps guilt a bit. It was the same thing shed said to Mark recently when shed had about enough of his moping around.
"Look, if it was meant to be, both of you would have felt it by now. There is someone waiting just for Mark. Im sure of it. Its like my dad used to say, "we find people that fit us." Mark will find that someone who feels for him what he feels for you. And it will happen for you too, Jump."
Jump seemed to take this in, and with a nod, she set her jaw. "I hope some day I can believe that Bernadette. I really do. On both counts." Jump rose from the bed and placed her arm around Bernadettes waist. "You can probably stop bouncing. Hes been asleep for a while now." Jump said as she looked at his bright cherubic face. Both women chuckled softly and made their way back to the living room.
"There you are. I just got off the phone with Carrie. Blakes fever is gone, so they are going to come on over." Said Matt as he flipped the channels looking for the 24-hour "Christmas Story" Marathon.
A few minutes later, the door creaked open and in came Frank and Mark. "Its a little wet out there." Said Mark as he shook out his jacket outside the door. The two men continued in, leaving their jackets on the bench next to the covered front entry.
Even though Jump had seen him when he came to visit Ryan, she was a little apprehensive about seeing him tonight with so many of his family here. They hadnt really spoken except to talk about Ryan. She hung back a bit as Mark made his way around the room greeting everyone. She was glad hed already met her mom. It wasnt as awkward as shed anticipated fortunately. Mark was a bit quiet, but they seemed to get on, especially when they talked of the baby. They greeted each other now with polite smiles and Mark made a cute joke about how he would have loved to help with the cooking but probably would have burned the house down.
When he finally got to Jump, he smiled warmly and gave her a hug. This surprised her somewhat and she was caught speechless. "Can I talk to you outside for a moment?" He asked. She nodded and motioned to her mom to watch over Ryan.
Once outside, he leaned against the deck railing and looked out at the dark ocean. He was silent for so long, Jump was unsure he was even going to speak. Just as she was about to begin apologizing for what shed put him through, he turned around and looked at her intently.
"Jump, I love you. That wont change."
She began to interrupt him, but he held up his hand for her to hear him out.
"I also realize that it isnt there for you. Whether it wouldve been next year or 5 years from now, we would eventually be in this very same situation. I blamed you for a while; Im ashamed to admit that. But you know what? My parents loved each other so deeply you couldnt help but notice. If I cant make you that happy; if we cant make each other that happy, it would be unfair to all of us."
Jump was speechless. This is all that she felt. And Mark understood. As he talked, she searched his face for any signs of untruth or disbelief. He was speaking from his heart. She felt the weight of the world slide off of her shoulders. He had freed her from her prison of guilt.
"Mark. I dont know really what to say except thank you. If I could change this, you know I would. But you deserve someone who is in love with you and will love you with all their heart. Believe me when I say, I wish it was me." Jump said through a steady stream of tears coming from the corners of her eyes.
He nodded, showing he understood and gave her a sad but peaceful smile. He pulled her into a huge hug and they stayed that way for a few minutes. "Im sorry to spring this on you tonight, but Im being transferred to Pensacola. I leave right after the new year."
"So soon?" Jump asked. He nodded sadly.
"Id like to spend as much time as I can with Ryan "
"Of course, of course. Listen, if you want to take him overnight, or spend a few days I have a full house with mom, but you can stay." Jump stumbled out.
"No, Ill just come over, perhaps bring him to Bernadettes for a few hours if that is okay." He smiled.
Her answer was a bright smile and a nod. They wordlessly headed back into the house, feeling a lot better than they had in a long time.
The rest of then night was filled with eating, playful arguing, story telling and most of all happiness. Mark and Jump spent time with Ryan and even took to teasing each other. Jump felt good to be at that stage with Mark. She wasnt sure it would ever happen. It seemed that during the course of the evening they had both figured out how to fit into each others lives and hearts.
Claire had everyone in stitches telling stories of Jumps antics while growing up. Seems the tables were turned and the Rand family enjoyed hearing about Jumps batched gerbil breeding services when she was 11 and the scrapes shed get into with her brother. Jump was sure shed never been more embarrassed in her life.
The holiday week passed quickly and soon it was time for Claire to return to Vermont. It was very hard on Jump to see her mom go. It seemed theyd made up a lifetime of mother/daughter closeness and Jump didnt want it to end. Theyd promised each other more frequent visits and made plans for Jump to come out when the baby was older.
Soon after, Mark left for Pensacola. This time, Jump was the one to drive him to the airport and when they said their goodbyes, there was a sense of peace between them. Mark said hed come visit as often as theyd allow and Jump told him hed better.
Around the end of January, the construction company Bernadette was working for had secured a bid for building a private school. The project kept her extremely busy and she felt the subtle shift in her mood when she couldnt visit with Jump and Ryan as often as shed liked.
For Jump, shed decided to go back part-time to get a little time out of the house. Shed bundle up little Ryan and theyd head over to the shop. Shed usually just do the behind the scenes things like ordering or following up on vendor questions and left the sales to Sue and their new hire Casey, an undergrad student at the local university who had mornings free.
The days turned into weeks and all had fallen into the post-holiday work rhythm. On opposite sides of the sleepy beach city though, were two women who longed for the days that they spent in each others company.
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