“Well that woman is going to demand that you take the whole day with her.” See here, she is talking about Hymnal. Here, Rose is making the first of her attacks on Bekah’s mother. Let’s get back to it, it gets really good. “She is a Lynch, so she gets everything she wants.” Rose stabbed a finger at me. “And don’t think she is not going to run your life when you marry into that family. People with money are used to telling people like us what to do.”
“She is not telling me what to do,” Mumble mumbled.
“Have you met her yet, mother?” I said. Bekah was back at my apartment. She was about to come and get me and I wanted to beat her to the door, so she didn’t have to walk into this. “Hymnal is not your enemy.”
“She might not be mine, Jesse,” She stabbed at her chest. She turned her finger toward me and thrust out with it like it was a blade. “But in the end, she will be yours. You need to teach this woman how to deal with you. You need to stand up for yourself now or she will—”
There was a knock on the door and Rose damn near snorted. She scowled and crossed the room, swung the door open and smiled. “Hi, Bekah, so great to see you. Come in.”
“Hi, Rose,” Bekah said.
“No Rose stuff for you, you call me Mom.” Rose had her arm draped over Bekah’s shoulder and she was leading her into the room. “I was just telling your fiancé here that Thanksgiving is all yours.”
“What?” Bekah said.
“What?” I said.
“What?” Mumble mumbled.
“Sure, it is no big deal. We are going to have to start sharing each other if we are going to make this work, aren’t we?” Rose said.
“Yeah, I guess,” Bekah said.
“Then Thanksgiving will be yours this year and ours next year,” Rose said.
Bekah smiled bright and happy and took my hand. She squeezed it and kissed me.
“Mom, we can do some Thanksgiving with our family,” I said.
Rose shook her finger. “Absolutely not. You go have Thanksgiving next weekend with them. You will have a great time. You get to choose a dish, though. They have to give you at least one thing you are used to.” She turned her finger at Bekah. “Promise me. If he asks for one thing, anything, then you guys have to make it for him.”
“Anything he wants,” Bekah said. “I’ll make it myself if I have to.”
Rose patted her head. “That is very good, Bekah. Very good.”
“Now, Christmas,” Rose said.
“We were thinking since our family likes to do evening service on Christmas,” I said, “and then we do our gifts, that we could be with you on Christmas Eve. We meet here before Church. We all go to Harmony, enjoy the service, and then come back here, have our Christmas on Christmas Eve.”
Rose stared at me for a long time. She looked at Bekah, then back to me. “Will she come to our church?”
“I’ll be there,” Bekah said. “I’ll come and hear the service. It’s no problem.”
“Well, a Mormon in Harmony. That will be something to see,” Rose said.
“Ah, we’re not Mormon,” Bekah said.
“Of course not, dear,” Rose said. “Now, go talk to your mother and see if she will give me my son on Christmas Eve, or if I have to fight her for him.”
“No, that will be great. I’m sure it will be fine,” Bekah said. “We usually do our Christmas in the morning. This is going to work out so well.”
She hugged Rose again then I hugged my mother. She whispered, “Now you watch, it won’t be good enough for her mother.”
The next week was Thanksgiving. I want to talk about that day for sure, but not here. Let’s stay in the season for a few more minutes. We will talk about the disaster that was Thanksgiving soon, but now is all ho, ho, ho, and mistletoe and presents for pretty girls.
“She said that? She said that I have to make you one dish of whatever you want?” Hymnal turned to Vigil and back to Bekah. “So that woman gets to tell me what to make for Thanksgiving now?”
“Mom, it’s no problem. He will be away from his family for the first time on Thanksgiving. I want to make something for him, to make him feel like it’s his holiday, too.”
“And what does he want?” Bliss said. She looked up at me like I was challenging some sort of tradition they had of not cooking for strangers. Bliss had changed since the wedding planning began. She became distant, often openly hostile. She seemed to feel as though I was not good enough, or that no guy was good enough for her sister. We had been friends for over a year by now, but I was beginning to lose my shine in the light of her sister’s future.
“Corn?” Hymnal said.
“You can have more than corn, honey,” Bekah said.
“As long as there is corn on the table, it will be Thanksgiving for me.”
“Well, we have more than corn on our table on Thanksgiving, Jesse. We make turkey, and stuffing and green bean casserole and pies and all sorts of things. Thanksgiving with us is no small matter.” She put her arm around me, hugged me and walked me into the other room. “Your mother is just giving you away for Thanksgiving?” she said. “Really?”
“She wants me to be happy and she holds no ill will toward you and your family.” I could not have been lying more, but I desperately wanted it to be so. “She said there will be a lot of these, and she will have us next year.”
Hymnal looked at me. “Well, we will see. We might have to have Thanksgiving at both places next year, but she can have Thursday, and we will work something out.”
Okay, that was the last of the Thanksgiving stuff. I want to be away from that holiday now. I just wanted to show you guys that little snippet. See, there was a war being fought between these two women. They both loved their children, they both wanted things to go their way, and they had a religious war brewing between them. Happy Holidays.
When we went to Christmas Eve service, the preacher was a guest from somewhere else. The blowout with Brother Haste had rocked the building and he was not coming back, but his family was there. All of them. And after the service had been given, Bekah and I made for the door only to be caught by Destiny.
“Hello, Jesse,” Destiny said. She wore a red shawl and her hair was down. She had let it grow long. She was done up perfect and she looked great. But she was beginning to show. She was a few months pregnant and her hands reflexively covered her belly as if trying to hide it.
“Hello, Destiny,” I said. I hugged her and I heard her smell me. “You look great. How do you feel?”
“I’m fine,” she snapped. She did not want to talk about the baby. It was a sore subject, not a thing she wanted to dwell on. Instead, she turned her eye on Bekah and stared.
“You have a new girl,” Destiny said. “A Lynch Girl.”
“Do you know Bekah?”
Bekah smiled and leaned in for a hug. Destiny gave her one and I saw her roll her eyes as she did.
“I heard you two were getting married,” Destiny said.
“When you know, you know,” Bekah said.
“And I suppose you are certain?” Destiny said looking at me.
Bekah wrapped her arm around mine in that way that made me feel powerful and I said, “Without a doubt.”
Destiny sighed. “Well, I am happy for you.” She turned her eye away from Bekah and back to me. “I hear you are moving.”
“College, I’ll be in Springfield until I graduate. Then, we don’t know where.”
“Yes, great. Well, I have to go so you have to excuse me.” She turned abruptly and stomped away.
I watched her leave with no regrets at all.
I can’t remember Christmas with my parents. I know we stopped at my grandmother’s house. My uncles were there, and they got inappropriate. They said a few crass things that Bekah let slide off her like water off a duck’s back. My grandmother gave Bekah a hand mixer for Christmas. It was a not so subtle way of telling Bekah exactly where she belonged.
When the mention of me going to college came up, my grandmother snapped as she left the room. “I guess it’s just fine for some people to rise out of their station these days. No one asks me.” Bekah stared after her, but the rest of the room went on as if nothing happened.
We opened presents at my mother’s house. I can’t remember what I got. I know that Servant went crazy. It was exactly what he wanted. Or at least, he let everyone think it was. Bekah received a present. The only thing I can remember about it is that Rose handed it to her and said, “It’s not as lavish a gift as what you are used to getting, but we all can’t be rich.”
Bekah thanked her. She assured my mother that her parents were not rich, and she opened the gift. She loved what she got. Neither of us can remember what it was.
That night we left Rose’s house and went to my apartment. Bekah got my present out of the car and when she walked into my place she stared.
“Who all did you buy for this year?” she said. “That is a serious pile of presents.”
“They are all yours. Every one of them.”
She spun to look at me and her face dropped open. She shook her head. “Not all of them. You didn’t get all of these for me.”
I grabbed her face. “Every single one.”
She squealed but I didn’t feel good about it. Rose had soured me to the Christmas I got for my fiancée. Let’s take a moment to go see that, then come back here. Some really good things are happening in this room that I don’t want you to miss. First, the poison.
When I shopped for Bekah, I was with Bell and Bliss. I knew some of what I wanted to get her, but I also knew that I had a certain budget. I was willing to go over budget. Not under. I started to fill the cart and Bell laughed. At first, he did. Bliss even chuckled. But as the cart began to fill their eyes got big. They got quiet, and I just kept going.
There were so many things I bought her. Everything I saw reminded me of her. Everything I saw, I could afford. I worked sixty hours a week. I had a two hundred and fifty dollar a month apartment that included utilities. I ate most of my meals at Pizza Hut. Most of my money I blew on Bekah’s weekend trips. But this, I had been setting back. I had a budget and I was unwilling to go under it.
I bought everything I could think of until Bell put his hand on the cart.
“That’s fine. You’re done.” He smiled at me. “She is going to go nuts. You already have. Listen to your Droog and let’s get out of here. There is only so much room in my Festiva anyway.”
I was furious when I went under budget.
I went to my mother’s house after and carried all of it into the dining room. I set it all out and turned to my mother. “You have to help me wrap this. I don’t have a good place to wrap at my house.”
“I’m sure her parents have a big enough dining room table for all these presents.”
“Mom, stop it. Just help. I got a lot of work ahead of me.” I was taking off tags and scratching off prices when Rose stopped me.
“Come here and just look at this real quick.” She took my hand, pulled me back and motioned to the table. “Look at all of that. What do you see?”
“A good Christmas for my soon-to-be wife.”
“This is not a good Christmas. This is a desperate Christmas.” She turned my head and looked into my eyes. “You don’t even know this girl.” She swept her arm out over the table. “It is obvious you don’t know her. You bought her a table full of junk. There is not one personalized present in this entire mess. Not one thing that says I know you so well, I knew you would want this one thing. Instead, you wasted your money on a pile of trash for your girlfriend. She deserves better than this, but you can’t give it to her because you don’t know her. And soon you will be married to this person.”
Servant walked away. Guardian pulled back. Shadow looked Rose in the eye and smiled. “We need tape.”
She sighed and walked off.
So, when Bekah opened her presents and she went crazy, when she opened her Cat in the Hat slippers and jerked them on her feet and wiggled them at me, I laughed. When she started eating the chocolates I bought her and she thanked me around a stuffed mouth, I giggled. When she opened the Beauty and the Beast mug I bought for her and cried a little, I hugged her. But inside I was thinking about what Rose had said.
Did I know this person? Did she know me? Was this all a mistake? Was this all just a fever dream? Was I still not over Destiny and was this only a phase? I did not know. I had no idea. I watched her opening her presents and I felt a sinking in my chest. Were we two strangers fighting to be more?
Then, she handed me my present and I opened it. She bought me a sword. She had bought me a sword. I’ll say it again for the cheap seats. The girl I had been dating for five months, who had agreed to marry me, bought me a sword.
Hymnal freaked out, saying it was a mistake. “You don’t buy a sword for a hippie. What are you thinking? He is going to hate that.”
“Hippie?” Bekah said. She laughed and shook her head. “Don’t let the long hair fool you, Mom. Jesse is no hippie. Jesse is a warrior. This is exactly what he wants. He is going to flip out over this.”
And I did. I did flip out because it was proof that she knew me. She had been studying the man she was going to marry. She knew him very well.
And that mug was from her favorite movie. She still has it twenty-two years later. It is a testament that Rose was wrong. I did know her. I knew her well. No one had ever bought her that many presents before. Not her boyfriends, her sisters, her grandparents or her parents. No one had ever splurged on her the way I had.
When our Christmas was over, we made love. Then, we drove to her parents’ house. We crashed on the pull-out couch, even though she had a bed upstairs. They would not have been comfortable with me sleeping in it and she didn’t want to sleep without me.
That morning was great. Her family was amazing. One thing they bought me that I remember was a box filled with coffee. Well, I didn’t drink coffee at the time, but it came with a mug and that mug was my favorite until it broke. They started this tradition after Plan went to college. Every year, after Christmas was done, each of the girls would choose an ornament off the tree to keep for their house and their Christmases.
We got this little carton of chocolate milk with a straw in it and mice crawling all over it. We put it up every year. To me that ornament is Christmas.
It is our Christmas. They all are now.