Falling Home Ch. 05byMaryJane26©
The next morning I again woke to a knocking on the door. I heard mom's chipper voice through the wood. She opened it, "I just wanted to see if you were awake yet."
"I am now," I answered, grumpily.
"Hey now, fuss-budget, you need to get up. Your sister will be here in less than two hours!"
"Joy." I pulled the covered back over my head.
"Great! So get up and come help me make cookies before they get here."
I made a noncommittal noise and waited until she closed the door. It was seven A.M. Mrs. Way-too-happy-in-the-mornings and I would have to have a pow-wow about this waking me up. But I was awake now. I noticed the computer beside me and rolled my finger across the touch pad.
It hummed to life and the email was still on the screen. I tried again.
Matter of fact, it IS nice and warm here. Maybe I could have left the jacket with you. I haven't needed it, and that would guarantee that you would see me when I come back to London. Yeah, we do have another big family thing. Today my sister and her family are coming to town and we have to do the annual "sister shopping trip". Things are crazy here! I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have Kim to keep me sane. What do you have planned for Christmas? Anything exciting? We're just doing the family thing. Church, lunch, board games, dinner and lots of hot apple cider. I gotta run, I'm supposed to be making cookies, but I couldn't leave you hanging. I hope your day is filled with warmth and sun...literally.
P.S. I'll have to think about the color scheme a little more. Where does black fit in? Darkness?
I dressed to go running and headed to the kitchen. Mom quickly put down the phone and whirled around towards me. "I thought you were going to make cookies for me?" she asked.
"I am, but if you want me to eat them, I'm going to need to work them off too."
"I don't see why."
"Cause you want your daughter to be marketable marriage material, don't you?"
"You take all the running time you need dear," mom giggled.
"Thanks," I replied flatly and headed out the door.
A good run always clears my head. And, God knows my head was filled with all sorts of things. I ran for forty-five minutes and then walked the rest of the loop back to the house. I could smell the chocolate chip cookies from the road.
Inside, I grabbed a cookie off dad's plate and hugged him over his shoulders. "Hey pumpkin. You smell ripe."
"I know," I smiled, mom wrinkled her nose but didn't say anything, she would put up with anything as long as it would make me dateable. "I'm gonna hop in the shower. I'll be out to help you in a few."
Back downstairs and I grabbed a coffee cup out of the cabinet. I poured a cup and leaned against the counter. Dad had gone to open the shop a few hours earlier than his holiday hours stated he would. He always did things like that around Christmas. That was dad, always going the extra mile.
"What needs to be made?" I asked.
"I still need to have several batches of oatmeal raisin cookies and a several different types of pies. Just make an extra one; I've got to go out later and drop one at the nursing home."
"Which kind do you want?"
"The last time you told her that, I recall a big serving of real mud in the Mississippi mud pie." Coming through the door was Abigail, my big sister.
"And it was dang tasty too!" I contended.
"OOOH," mom squealed and rushed to hug my nephew, James, who was five and living out the fantasy of being a Samurai. He stopped her with a sword, but she brushed it aside and swept him into a hug.
Behind Abigail was her husband Tim, carrying their baby Ashlee, who was only six months old and sound asleep. I sat my cup down and walked over to Abigail. "So you're telling me that you don't think I can be trusted to cook?" I put my hands on my hips and tried to look stern.
"That's right, you need to be out of the kitchen and helping me shop." She smiled. I smiled too and opened my arms. We hugged for a while. I hadn't seen Abigail since Easter of last year and I had missed her more than I thought.
I had never met little Ashlee, so I leaned over and rubbed her little fingers with mine.
"Don't you want one?" Abigail asked.
"Not so much."
"Of Course you do. Children complete you. Besides, I need lots of grandchildren to spoil," mom said.
"You've got two right here," I told her. "How about that cooking. Want me to knock out the cookies now and I'll do the pies later?"
"Sure," mom said, not so secretly pleased to have both daughters in the kitchen with her. "Tim, you know where Abigail's room is. And those presents can go under the tree in the living room."
Mom followed Tim and James out of the kitchen. Abigail looked at me and said, "Some things never change, do they?"
"Nope," I agreed and rolled up my sleeves.
Elbow deep in cookie dough, Abigail looked at me, "What's different with you?"
I tensed; then forced myself to relax, hoping she didn't notice. Mom was out of the kitchen and Abigail and I were rolling and baking cookies. "Nothing's different. Why?"
"You just seem tense. Have you lost weight?"
"Probably, I haven't seen you in almost a year. Things change in a year." I looked at her. She had flour spread across her cheek and up into her hair.
"Yeah, they do." She was quiet for a few minutes as we finished another pan and popped it in the oven. "So who is he?"
"He?" I laughed. "No one. Really."
"You can't tell me there's not some lucky guy that's changing you. I'm your big sister; I know all." She looked at me.
"Then you should know that you have flour all over your face and hair."
Abigail looked at herself in the reflection on the microwave door and brushed at the flour. "I do not." She was trying to sound authoritative. I flicked my fingers at her and dusted her face with flour.
"You do now."
"You little..." At that moment mom walked through the door.
"How's it going girls? It's so nice to have the family back here cooking like old times."
"You mean us slaving away while you play with your grandkids?" I asked.
"Yes." Mom answered and hummed as she got a pack of old fashioned bon-bons out of the fridge.
"Mom, those will spoil his lunch."
Mom ignored Abigail and said, "Abigail, you got a lil' something on your face. You might want to brush that off before you two go shopping." With that, mom was gone again.
Abigail wiped her face on a towel as I put the last pan of cookies in the oven. We had made four dozen and were ready for a break. "You about ready to go?" I asked.
"Yeah, as soon as I wash my face and do a quick change of clothes."
Twenty minutes later we were in my car, heading toward Main Street. Mom wanted us to stop by dad's shop and let him see Abigail. Since she had moved to Tennessee, they don't see her but a few times a year.
I parked in front of the shop and before I shut the car off Abigail was running through the door. I shook my head and followed Abigail inside.
By the time dad and Abigail caught up on the important events, like James' new obsession with the Far East after watching Mulan, my stomach was rumbling. The shop was eerily quiet and Danny, dad's employee since I had gone off to school, was eager to run the shop on his own.
Abigail and I insisted that dad go to lunch with us. He agreed, but only if we went to Mrs. Winter's Diner that was only a block away. As we strolled to the diner dad said, "You know, I provide all the meat for this diner."
"We know dad. They gave you your first break as a butcher."
"Yes, but did you know that I still sneak down here a couple of days a week?" Abigail and I looked at him.
"You know mom doesn't like you eating all that greasy spoon stuff."
"Yeah, what would she say?" I asked.
"She wouldn't say a thing, because she doesn't know," Dad assured us. "And let's keep it that way. Speaking of, have you spoken to her today? I tried to call her at home but Tim answered said that he didn't know where she was."
"She's probably out taking James around to show off to the neighbors," Abigail chimed in.
Mrs. Winter herself greeted us at the door with hugs and grandmotherly admonitions of our loss of, or gaining of, in Abigail's case, weight. She led us to a large booth in the corner and sat down with us, waving over her help to take her orders. "Get them a pitcher of sweet tea and some biscuits, will you Flora."
Flora scurried off and was busy filling glasses. I caught her eye and mouthed "Coffee." A few minutes later we had caught up on all the latest Church-yard gossip and were ready to order.
I ate while Abigail and dad talked about the past few months. Mrs. Winter wouldn't hear of us paying so Abigail and I left her the extra package of fresh cookies that we had snuck out of the house, 'In case we got hungry while shopping.'
We walked dad back to work and gave him the cookies we brought. He hugged us both and we got in my car, heading towards Atlanta.
We shopped, dear Lord did we shop. For endless hours I tried on clothes and held bags containing gifts for everyone I could think of. Twice we made a trip back to the car to put the bags in the trunk. We stopped mid-afternoon for a coffee to restore our energy and were finally able to call it a day a bit after 5pm.
We were a few minutes from home when Abigail pulled down the vanity mirror and looked at herself. "Good God, I look rough. Why didn't you tell me? I must have scared everyone we met!"
I smirked but didn't reply. Out of her massive purse she pulled a brush that she ran through her hair. Then she grabbed her lipstick and began to apply it. I turned left into the neighborhood and she dropped the top of her lipstick. She reached under the seat and pulled out the book Kim had bought me in the Feminist bookstore.
I didn't notice.
"What's this?" She asked.
I glanced over and felt myself turn red. Shit.
"It's a book." I answered, trying my best to sound happy and joking.
"What are you doing with a lesbian book, Adi? Oh no," she didn't wait for me to say anything; she turned toward me in the seat and said. "Do mom and dad know?"
"Know what?" I asked. I was being indigent. I pulled the car into the drive and shoved it park.
"Know that you're...that way?"
"What way is that Abigail?" I was already exasperated and I hadn't even begun to defend myself.
"No, I really don't. Do you mean a person who likes to read?"
"I mean a fag." She looked around and whispered the last word like it was illegal.
I grabbed the book from her and shoved it under my seat. "There is nothing wrong with being gay or lesbian. I have several gay friends." Abigail started to protest, I stopped her, "But, I'll have you know that Kim bought that yesterday and left it in my car when I dropped her off. I shoved it under the seat so that I wouldn't have to deal with all the ridiculous prejudice that just seeing it would cause. Damn!" I took a deep breath.
"Sorry, I just though that...You know."
"That I was gay?"
"Yeah," she said softly.
"Would it matter if I were?"
"Not to me. I love you Adi. You're my sister," she said, a little too quickly.
"Thanks." I muttered and grabbed her hands. "Let's keep book this to ourselves. No need in becoming the latest gossip for Mrs. Winter."
"Okay, but only if you carry in all the bags." She grinned and, not waiting for a reply, got out of the car and strode inside, leaving me with all the baggage we'd accumulated.
I didn't get a chance to check my email until late that night. On her way back in from town, Mom had invited my grandparents over and they stayed late catching up with Abigail and the kids. It was well past midnight when I finally booted up my laptop and checked my email. I couldn't help but smile when I saw that Natalie had written.
Sounds like you're having a blast back home. I certainly could have used your jacket these past few days. That way I could MAKE you come back to my place to pick it up. I hope your sister and her family made it okay. Your friend sounds like fun. You should bring her to London sometime. Home made apple cider! The closest I get to that is sticking a glass of Strongbow in the microwave. I can't even imagine having such a big family surrounding me all the time. When do you get time to yourself? I don't really do anything for Christmas. I get a lot of work done and then go out on the town for New Years. Although this year I can think of one person I would like to stand under the mistletoe with...
P.S. Black is never darkness. It's actually a shadow, but for me it's something even better. I'll give you a hint, it will be in the very center of both the white and the red bands.
I smiled and hit reply.
Who might you want to stand under the mistletoe with? Hmmm? You're right, things here get a bit hectic around this time of year. I love my family, but in a few more days I'm going to be going crazy for a bit of alone time. I get tired of telling the same story of my time in England over and over again. Luckily, I get to sneak off after lunch on Christmas, before the board games start. I have a place in the park that I go every year and just sit and watch the day pass by. You should get to have fun for Christmas too! Try not to work on the day; you should visit family or friends or at least treat yourself to a nice dinner. Don't worry; we'll work on your lack of holiday spirit when I get back. We can even replay Christmas and do it right.
Strongbow, warm? Ew.
I look forward to seeing you again. And maybe I can talk Kim into coming back with me. The other day she took me into a bookstore and bought me a lesbian book, and my sister found it in my car. It was so awkward! My face was red for an hour! It's getting late here, and tomorrow the family time starts in earnest so I need all the sleep I can get. I hope you have a fantastic day and know I will be thinking about you.
P.S. Black, red and white? Sounds like a chapter from the New Testament, but that could just be cause I'm in "God's country" here. Whatever the hell that means.
Suddenly it was Christmas Eve. For the first time since I came home I woke up before mom came knocking on my door. I thanked God for that; jumped in the shower and was down stairs with a cup of coffee, flipping through the paper by 8am. All was quiet in the house.
Then, James came running through the kitchen like a bat out of hell. Abigail was right on his heels and behind her was mom, decked out in a hideous, red Christmas sweater with bells on it.
I shook my head. It was going to be a long day.
Turns out, the day flew by. I was busy wrapping packages and making pies for the big Christmas dinner. Before I knew it, it was mid afternoon and I went up stairs to get away from the crying kids and heat of the kitchen.
My cell phone beeped at me. Kim sent me a text. It said, "Hey girl. I need to get away, afternoon coffee?"
I called Kim; she picked up on the third ring and we made plans to meet at The Play Write Café. I grabbed a bag and shoved in some cookies and yelled to whoever could hear me that I was going for coffee and would be back in time for dinner.
A few minutes later I pulled up to the coffee shop and went inside. Kim wasn't there. I ordered a hot chocolate to go and walked it down to dad's shop along with the cookies I'd snagged from the house.
The shop was buzzing with activity as everyone in town got their last minute roasts and turkeys for the big day. I dropped the drink and goodies in dad's back office and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
Danny mumbled a brief, "Hello," before his face turned red. I made him nervous. It was almost sweet.
I went back to the café; finally Kim was walking to the door. "Bout time you got here." I admonished.
She hugged me, "Why? You getting' antsy waiting for me?" She wiggled her eyebrows.
"Shut up. Whatcha want to drink?"
"Mocha, extra sweet stuff." Kim poked me in the ribs and I jumped. My face burned and I growled at her, "Go sit down."
She giggled at me and pranced off to a corner booth by the front window. I paid for our drinks and sat down across from her. "How's your day been?" I asked.
"Not too bad," She sipped the mocha and the whip cream stuck to her nose. "I've just been trying to do last minute stuff; you know how it is, and I needed to get my Adi fix."
The whip cream on her nose was distracting me. I couldn't concentrate on what she was saying. I reached up and wiped it off and licked my finger before I thought about what I was doing.
Kim stopped talking and stared at me. Shit. I realized what it must have looked like. I looked down, my ears and cheeks burned.
"That was way hot," Kim said. She still hadn't moved.
"Sorry, I didn't think; I just did it."
"No. I know. I'm just saying," Kim sat back, completely in control of the conversation.
"Can we just forget about it?"
"Only if you promise me one thing."
I groaned. God only knows what Kim had up her sleeve. "Promise me that you'll do that little move with Natalie when you go back to London."
"Hey," Kim put up her hands, "I'm just telling you that it was sexy, and if I weren't already happily involved with Brett, I'd be all over that. Jesus, can you blush any more?"
"I doubt it. My face is on fire. Can we talk about something else?"
Mercifully, Kim changed subjects and we chatted about our new year's plans and what we had bought for our families for Christmas. I looked at my watch; two hours had passed.
"I better get going."
"Yeah," Kim agreed, "I need to get to your dad's before he closes shop."
"What'd you need from my dad?"
"Oh, you know."
"Don't be dirty."
"I'm not; I just need some of his meat."
"You're incorrigible." We walked down the block to dad's shop. The bell rang gently when we went in. Danny came in from the back with a cookie in his hand. He smiled at us. "You make the best cookies I've ever tasted, Adrianne. I can't believe Mr. Strum let me have any." He looked at me and then looked away.
"Call me Adi."
"Anyway, I'll let your dad know you're here." He smiled again and walked to the back.
"Someone's got a crush," Kim sang.
"Just what I need."
"Hey there Adi, Kim," Dad said as he came out of the cold room pulling big insulated gloves off his hands.
"Hey dad; Kim here needs some stuff."
"What can I do for you Kimberly?"
"I need two fillets, cut thick."
"Coming right up. I've got the best beef I've seen in a long time. Got something special planned?"
"Just dinner for me and Brett. Nothing too fancy, just a new Christmas Eve tradition I'm trying to start."
"And why didn't I hear about this earlier?" I asked, acting hurt.
"Because we were talking about other things. And besides, my personal life is none of your business."
"Sure it is. That's what I'm here for," I assured her. Kim rolled her eyes and turned to Danny, who was clearing out the register.
"So Danny, what do you have going on for Christmas Eve? Got a girlfriend you need to rush off to?"
"Not this year." Danny barely looked up. "I'm just going to my parent's house to have a quite night with them."
"That's exciting enough," dad chimed in; he handed Kim the carefully wrapped fillets and began to wipe down the counter. "Your folks are fine people. We should get all get together for a barbecue after the holiday hubbub dies down and before Adi heads back to England."
"Sure Mr. Strum; that sounds real nice." Danny smiled at me again. God help me, I didn't need an admirer right now, especially not one that my parents approved of.
"Well, we're off." I pushed Kim toward the door.