A Christmas DreambyMagicaPractica©
I'd like to dedicate this story to all of the military spouses who keep the home fires burning during the holiday season, and throughout the year. Please feel free to share your thoughts, comments, wishes and reminiscences at the end of the story. Happy Holidays!
Naomi dashed a tear swiftly away before one of her daughters could see. I'll be Home for Christmas was just finishing on the radio.
if only in my dreams...
if only in my dreams."
Her husband, Ben, was supposed to have come home from Iraq a few weeks ago but his leave had been put off indefinitely.
It was Christmas Eve and Naomi was trying to make things special for her daughters. Beth was eight and Meg was only six. They deserved as happy a Christmas as she could make it. Still, she couldn't help thinking how very far away Ben was, somewhere in the desert. God and the military only knew where! It was Christmas no matter where he was but it would be nothing like their snowy New England Christmas together. Her heart ached as she thought about how hard it must be for him. Every day that he was away fear gnawed at her. The question of whether he would ever come home, echoed in her mind.
"Mommy, is it ready?"
Naomi started and quickly put a smile on her face as she looked down at Beth. She was such a trooper. Only eight years old but she knew how to keep a brave face on. Naomi looked back down at the dough she had been mixing for the girls to make cookies. "Yes, honey, I think it is. Are your hands washed?"
"Yep." Beth held up her hands.
"Make sure your sister washes her hands too." Naomi got out cookie sheets and sprayed them then gave the girls each a spoon to dip dough out of the bowl and roll into Russian Teacakes.
When they'd finished shaping the cookies, Naomi put them in to bake. She ran upstairs, pulled the Christmas decorations out of the closet and brought them down. Carefully unwrapping items, she put up the fragile ones and handed the plastic ones to the girls as they ran around choosing "the perfect spot" to place them. Many people decorated far earlier and she'd considered it, but it had always been a tradition in her family that Christmas decorating was done on Christmas Eve. She felt the need to hold on to traditions now more than ever.
Naomi hefted the box of Christmas ornaments and carried it into the living room where the tree was set up. She had already put the lights and star on. As she popped the A Charlie Brown Christmas into the DVD player, she called the girls in. "Let's get this tree decorated!"
The girls flew in with a giggling rush and dug into the box of ornaments that were virtually unbreakable while Naomi took out the more delicate ones. She pulled out ornament after ornament. Vivid colors and glitter soon decorated the tree.
Naomi dipped into the box again. Here was the tuna fish can ornament she'd made in third grade. The art teacher had taken the top and bottom out then flattened one side. They'd been given red felt strips to glue around it then golden rickrack. Sitting inside, on the flattened side, was some cotton spread out and a little fake bird's nest with a little yellow bird in it. She'd always loved this ornament for some reason. She'd been very proud to bring something so beautiful home to her parents.
The next ornament she pulled out was one Ben had bought for her on their first Christmas together. It was a spun glass angel from a local glass artist. As she considered it lovingly, the TV caught her attention. Linus was reciting from the gospels. "...and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid and the angel said unto them, be not afraid..."
Easier said than done, Linus. Fear for Ben and their life together often threatened to overwhelm her. She had no choice though but to keep going. She looked down at her own two little angels as they spread silvery tinsel on the tree, tossing it upwards to make it catch and giggling. They needed her to be strong for them.
"Okay, you two, time to get ready to go over to Grandma's house for dinner. All your aunts and uncles and cousins will be there. Go wash your hands, comb your hair and get dressed." It was already seven-thirty but they were having a later supper since people would be going to midnight mass. It was another family tradition.
The girls rushed off in a flurry to get into the dresses that were laid out on their beds. Naomi did the same then went to check on them. She found them sitting on Meg's bed. Their dark brown heads, so like Ben's, bent together over a book. Beth read, "not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."
Tears threatened to fill Naomi's eyes again and she blinked them away. Their father had read that story to Beth every year until he was sent to Iraq just before Thanksgiving the previous year. Now Beth was reading it to Meg.
Naomi waited until the story was finished. "Okay, you two, let's get going." She fixed the bow in Meg's hair so that it was straight and helped them put their coats on. She handed the girls each a plate of cookies to carry as they headed out the door.
At her mother's, the three walked into a house crowded with light, warmth, noise and people. There were raucous voices calling out, laughter, and pots and spoons clanged. Kisses and hugs were exchanged with the plethora of aunts, uncles and cousins. Beth and Meg ran off to play with their cousins while Naomi accepted a glass of mulled cider and sat down with the family.
"So, how's it really going dear?" Naomi's Aunt Dolores asked. Naomi saw her cousin Jen roll her eyes at the drama in the Aunt's voice. She tried to smile brightly. She didn't need anyone's pity.
"Just fine, Aunt Dolores. The kids are so excited for Santa to come tonight."
"Okay, all hands on deck to bring the food to the buffet table!" Naomi heard her mother's voice through the crowd though she couldn't see the petite woman. A brigade line quickly formed and the food was moved from the kitchen to the table for the buffet. There were simply way too many people for a sit down dinner.
Naomi made sure Beth and Meg were settled with food then got her own. There were the traditional seven fish dishes laid out on the table, as well as assorted side dishes and condiments. Naomi got her food and ended up seated next to her Uncle Fred.
"How's my Naomi?" he asked cheerfully.
"Fine, Uncle Fred."
"Won't be long before Ben is home I heard?"
"Actually, his leave got delayed indefinitely. I don't know when we'll be seeing him."
Uncle Fred frowned. "I know that isn't easy honey. Just remember you've got all of us too. That's a lot of people behind you."
Naomi smiled. "I know Uncle Fred and I'm grateful. There are a lot of military wives who aren't so close to home and don't have the kind of support I do."
Naomi tried to enjoy the wonderful food her mother and others had prepared but she didn't have much of an appetite. She sat and listened to the stories of Christmas past, relayed by the older relatives, trying to forget her worries for a little while.
After dinner, Naomi's Mom sat down at the old upright piano and started playing. It wasn't long before the windows were rattling with the sound of the whole clan singing Christmas carols. Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! segued into Sleigh Ride and then The Christmas Song.
Naomi looked around her at the faces of her family, shining in the lights. She loved them all but somehow she felt so far away from them. Part of her heart was with Ben, wherever he was.
When the singing wound down, Naomi snuck out to the car with presents for Meg and Beth from her parents. She stowed them in the trunk then went to find the girls. They needed to get going if they were going to get seats for the midnight mass.
Naomi found the girls with their cousins and, amid protests, got the girls into their coats and bundled up. Naomi kissed and hugged family good-bye as they made their way out through the crowd. She would see many of them at mass. Some would be serving during the service and many would be in the pews.
At the church, mass started with one of her favorite Christmas hymns, God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman. The sermon was one of peace and harmony in a world of unrest. Would the lion ever truly be able to lay down with the lamb? The time came for petitions and Naomi saw her Uncle Fred look at her as he offered them.
"For the safety and well-being of all those servicemen who cannot be home with their family during this holiday season..."
"Lord, hear our prayer," Naomi whispered. She bowed her head to hide the tears again. She was usually stronger than this. The Christmas season was getting to her.
Naomi's friend Sheila got up to sing during communion. They shared a smile as Sheila stood behind the microphone. Her voice always transported Naomi, so husky and peaceful then it would soar through the church in a way that carried you with it.
After mass, Naomi carried Meg as Beth followed sleepily behind. Naomi exchanged greetings and well wishes with family, friends and members of the congregation as they passed.
As she drove home, Naomi noted the twinkling Christmas lights reflected in the snow. She yawned sleepily and switched on the radio to the country station, to help wake her up. Dolly Parton's Hard Rock Candy Christmas was playing.
Dolly was right. Naomi couldn't let sorrow bring her down, not with two girls to care for. She inhaled deeply. The situation was what it was. Then she exhaled slowly, letting it out... letting it go. She would have to bend, or she would surely break.
At home, Naomi managed to get the two girls out of their dresses into their nighties and tucked into bed. They were practically asleep on their feet already. They'd be up and raring to go before dawn, but Naomi still had quite a bit to do before she could rest.
She got the presents out of the car trunk and put them under the tree then dug in the back of the closet for the fake hoof prints Ben had made years before. She got her hand around them and yanked them out. There were two pair but she would only need one so she put one back. On the back porch, her breath puffed out in the cold air as she strapped the hoof cutouts to her feet and walked out into the yard. This wouldn't fool the girls for much longer so she might as well make the most of it. She lifted her feet high as she tracked all over the yard in the lamplight.
Back inside, Naomi threw another log on the fire and got to work putting together the girls stockings. There was an orange and an apple each to fill the toe and foot of the stocking then a mixture of little candies and nuts still in their shell for the rest of the stocking. She tucked a little bottle of perfume in for each Beth and Meg, a light floral scent, and some flavored lip balm along with a pretty little necklace. There was a snowman for Beth and a reindeer for Meg. They were growing up, but there wouldn't be any real make-up for some time to come, not if Naomi had anything to say about it!
Finally, finished with her last minute wrapping and arranging, Naomi poured herself a glass of eggnog and added a little brandy to it. She stood next to the woodstove, soaking in the warmth and looking out the line of windows. Snowflakes, sparkling like glitter, floated through a pool of light under the street lamp. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas played softly on the radio from the kitchen.
Naomi hoped that was true.
A tinkling noise came from the living room. "Is that cat in the tree? I thought she stopped that a couple years ago," Naomi muttered as she walked into the living room.
In the soft multi colored glow of the tree lights stood a little old man in a red suit with a white beard. He turned to Naomi and she stared with her mouth agape. "Am I drunk? What?"
A twinkle seemed to gleam in the old man's eye. "Have faith, Naomi." That was all he said before he laid a finger on his nose and disappeared.
Naomi looked at the cup in her hand. "What just happened?" she wondered aloud. Was she hallucinating because of the stress of the season and the late hour? Had she drunk far more brandy than she thought?
Naomi walked over to the presents under the tree and looked through them. There were a few that said "From Santa," but she assumed they came from her parents. Naomi shook her head. There was no one there, it couldn't have happened. Just go to bed.
She walked into the kitchen, rinsed out her glass then turned out the lights and went to bed. Naomi slipped out of her clothes and under the covers and was asleep almost before her head hit the pillow.
Naomi woke slowly to the feel of lips caressing hers and hands moving over her body. Ben. Only he touched her like that. He felt so solid and real, smelled real, only inches away. Her eyes opened but she could barely see him in the dark. She inhaled and slid her hands up the cool skin of his chest and around his neck.
It felt so perfect, so right, just lying there with him. He reached up to cradle her face in his right hand as his left arm slipped around her waist, drawing her closer. She leaned in, turned a little and pressed her body to his. Naomi closed her eyes and just held on, kissing him slowly. She wanted to see him but she was afraid. Scared that if she turned the light on he'd evaporate. She didn't want to wake up and find this was a dream. She pressed her body closer to his.
His hands held her tenderly but securely as he turned on his back and pulled her over on top of him. Lying across his chest, Naomi continued exploring his mouth with her own, changing angles and pressure, sliding her tongue in and over his smooth teeth, re-learning the familiar mouth, the taste of him. She brought her fingers up to see his face through touch. The stubble of his jaw was so achingly familiar.
She realized he was naked underneath her and pushed down at her own panties, eager to have nothing between them. He helped her and soon she straddled him, naked. She reached down to feel the evidence of his arousal, desperate to have him inside her again. She positioned herself and eased down on him then held still for a minute, just feeling the sensation of fullness. It had been so very long.
Naomi bit her lip as tears slid silently down her face. His gentle hands reached up and drew her down on top of him again and just held her close, as close as they could get. His lips kissed the tears from her face though he couldn't possibly see them.
His fingertips slid over her body, caressing and exploring, burning a trail she could still feel long after they had left the spot. She had never known another man who could touch her so perfectly. It was a synergy.
"My Amazon," she heard him whisper.
Her body ached to be one with him. She couldn't get close enough. If only she could touch his soul somehow. She rolled her hips and felt him shudder. Sliding her hands down the front of his now warm chest, she lightly drew her fingers over his chest hair, tickling him.
He held her as he rolled her over under him. His muscular weight on top of her was so perfect, she could hardly breathe even though he was holding himself over her on his arms. She pulled at him, wanting to feel him blanketing her. He complied for a moment, kissing her until they both couldn't breathe.
He began to move in her again, stroking her from the inside out, his hands caressing her body as they slid together. She felt as though they must be generating a light of their own.
"Ben..." she moaned. The world seemed to tilt... then she was lost and found in the same moment.
Naomi woke in the morning with light streaming in the window. She turned and found the bed next to her empty. What a lovely dream. That must have been what Santa Claus was the night before too. She had already been asleep, of course. She sighed. She even thought she could smell Ben's scent a little. Better get up. It was amazing the kids hadn't roused her already.
She got up and pulled on her robe, ran a brush through her hair and headed down to the kitchen to put the coffee on. Funny, she thought she could smell it already. As she neared the kitchen, Naomi heard giggling. What were those monkeys up to? She opened the door and stopped short. He was there.
Beth and Meg were sitting on Ben's knees as he turned to smile at her over Beth's tousled head. "Good morning, sleepyhead. Thought you might need some rest. I already made coffee."
Naomi leaned against the doorjamb for support. "I thought you were a dream."
Ben let the kids down and walked over to slide his arms around her. He grinned down at her as he wiped the tears from beneath her eyes. "I told you I'd be home for Christmas. The papers came through and I jumped on the transport going out. By the time I could contact you, I was halfway here so I decided to wait and surprise you. You just need to have a little faith, darlin."