Cutting it close on timing tonight! Hope you enjoy this one. Let me know your thoughts!
A Christmas Tradition
Resigned, she looked at the big white flakes obscuring the view out the airport window. It was Christmas-eve and the blizzard had delayed all flights. Indefinitely. It was starting to sound as though Santa might be the only one flying that night. Amanda half listened to the conversations around her. All people excited about reaching their destinations.
Amanda, conversely, couldn't care less where she ended up, she just wanted to get away. It was hard, too hard, to be home at Christmas.
Her parents and siblings tried their best, but their eyes conveyed the worry their forced smiles couldn't hide. And her nieces and nephews picked up on the tension, despite the best efforts of the adults. The eldest child had been only three when Alicia and Jeremy died; none of them remembered their bubbly older cousin or the uncle who always told the best jokes. And Amanda remembered them all too well.
She shook her head, physically drawing herself from the memories of her daughter and husband that even five years later had the power to devastate her. Palm trees and pina coladas. That's where her thoughts should be focused. She envisioned herself lying on the beach, soaking up the sun, and having lascivious thoughts about the cabana boy. It didn't even make her feel guilty, since she would've done the same even were Jeremy with her.
"Hi, I'm Jake," the little boy introduced himself, interrupting her wandering thoughts, "and this is my iPet, Monster," he announced quickly flashing his handheld video game towards Amanda.
"Really?" she asked, "What kind of pet is Monster?"
Jake rolled his eyes dramatically, "he's a t-rex," he informed her with the tone of an exasperated teacher. "He's only the most ferocious dinosaur ever!"
"Ferocious?" Amanda asked, "How old are you?" she questioned the precocious child, no longer having to feign interest.
"I'm five and a half," he announced importantly, "but Grandma says I'm really an adult in a little body. She won't let me go to the store by myself though. If I were really an adult I could." He gave her a look clearly requesting a reasonable explanation to that.
"Yes you're right, but I don't think you get to do adult things until you're an adult in an adult body," she tried to appeal to his logic and was rewarded with a brilliant smile. "So Mr. Adult Jake, why do you have a ferocious pet? Wouldn't you rather have one you can play with? This one could eat you!"
"No he can't, he's just a game." Jake told her, the child's literalness making her smile, "and besides, he has to help me take over the world -- you just can't do that with a chihuahua."
Laughing, Amanda questioned him: "Have you ever met a chihuahua? Little but nasty creatures. Could absolutely take on the world and win," she attempted to defend the breed she felt Darwin should take care of.
"Yes, but Monster can just step on one, and that's it. Not even hard to beat."
"Jake!" An adult voice with mixed tones of anger and fear interrupted, "You were supposed to stay put, what are you doing?" and directed at Amanda, "I'm so sorry, I had to take his sister in the washroom and he ran out while I was with her," he explained with a look at the boy that was supposed to be a glare but had too much love in it to be intimidating. A young girl stood slightly behind him, one hand in his, the other thumb in her mouth.
"It's no problem," Amanda assured him, a little surprised to realize she meant it. "He was just explaining the relative merits of a pet t-rex over a chihuahua."
"Yeah Uncle Matt, she needed to meet Monster. And I didn't go far - I could still see the washroom -- that's close enough. Besides there was nobody for me to talk to in there and girls always take so long," he said making both adults laugh as he stuck out his tongue at his little sister.
"Jake," the boy's uncle started seriously, kneeling down in front of him, "it's very important that you stay with me, even when it's boring. Ok?" Jake nodded. "Promise me?" the little boy rolled his eyes for Amanda's sake, but agreed.
"Now to settle this other issue," he started and Jake looked at him expectantly, "everybody knows a chihuahua will win out over a t-rex any day." This was greeted with instant groans and protestations, while he introduced himself in an aside to Amanda. "Jake you've met, and this is my niece Alexa. Lexi." Lexi took her thumb out of her mouth and shyly offered her hand to Amanda, never letting go of her uncle. Amanda shook it solemnly, introducing herself at the same time. "My sister's kids; I'm taking them to their grandparents for the holiday. She has to work and didn't want them to miss out."
"So where are you off to?" Matt asked conversationally.
"Warmth and pina coladas." Amanda answered with a look that suggested that topic be dropped. He seemed willing to let it go, and she was grateful for it.
Somehow Christmas-eve in the airport was not so hard when spent with the captivating family. The storm became impressive rather than a frustration as Matt kept them entertained with somewhat exaggerated, she hoped!, stories of storms past. As evening rolled into night and the airport patrons resigned themselves to the fact that they'd be spending Christmas Eve in the airport, even the most excited children fell asleep.
They spent the night quietly chatting while the children slept. Somehow Matt got her to speak of Alicia and Jeremy, even though she never told anybody about them. And somehow he directed her to the positive; she found herself telling him stories that made her laugh, and reliving memories that left her feeling truly happy for the first time since the accident.
Christmas day dawned white but clear, and sure enough flights were rescheduled and passengers ushered on as quickly as the airlines could manage. Matt and kids entreated Amanda to join them for Christmas, but still overwhelmed by the night before, Amanda retreated rapidly, claiming a tradition of beach Christmases that could not be broken.
Several hours later, Amanda was lying on the beach, listening to the waves roll up towards her feet, sipping occasionally on her pina colada, and amusing herself with the fanciful idea that Matt was her Santa Clause, giving her the ability to live again. She was even considering that just possibly next year, she'd spend the holiday with her family when she heard the voice.
"I'd really rather not have Christmas dinner alone tonight; would you be willing to join me?" And as Matt settled into the beach chair next to hers, a new Christmas tradition was born.