tagRomanceChristmas in Cincinnati

Christmas in Cincinnati

byJupiterMars©

There are all kinds of Christmases'. Ones that you will always remember. Ones that are easy to forget. Ones that you wish never happened. For Lisa Woburn and Doug Sellwood, Christmas of 1977, was the one that shaped their lives.

Lisa and Doug had become a couple in February. Lisa was traveling from her home in Connecticut to visit her childhood friend, Donna, in St. Louis. A snowstorm forced Lisa's plane to land in Cincinnati. Not wanting her friend spending the night in an airport, Donna arranged for Lisa to stay with her cousin Doug. He had been living there and was happy to help. This chance meeting became an amazing twenty-four hours. They had been a long distance couple ever since.

It was midafternoon of Friday, December 2nd 1977. Doug was at the top of the stairs of his third-floor apartment building. As he walked down the hall he noticed one of the building owners talking to someone he did not recognize. Ann-Marie was a middle-aged slender Italian woman who owned the building with her husband Wilfredo.

Ann-Marie noticed him and said; "Doug what's wrong, why are you home at this hour?"

Doug replied; "Nothing is wrong. I need to be home for a delivery."

"I see. Oh, where are my manners? Doug, this is Asa?" Ann-Marie said unsure of the pronunciation.

"Asha." said the attractive woman standing with Ann-Marie.

"Ah ok. Asha this is Doug."

"Pleased to meet you." Doug said.

Ann-Marie stated that Asha was from California and was going to be his new neighbor. Asha clarified that she was from Taiwan but grew up in California. Doug pointed out that he grew up in Connecticut and moved to Cincinnati for college. He never left because it was such a great place to live.

Ann-Marie asked; "So what are you having delivered?"

"Oh, a new TV."

"Really, something wrong with your old one?"

"No just upgraded to something bigger."

"Very nice. What are you going to do with your old one?"

"Not sure yet, maybe charity."

Ann-Marie turned to Asha and asked; "Did you bring a TV from California?"

"No." Asha said.

"Ok then here you go. Doug, you found a home for your old TV."

They all laughed at Ann-Marie's pragmatic problem-solving.

"You're going to need the keys. Come downstairs and I will get you all set up." Ann-Marie suggested to Asha.

Asha turned to Doug; "Very nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you as well. Welcome to the building and the city."

Doug walked down the hall and into his apartment. He hung up his jacket and went to the kitchen to grab a beer. The front door opened and a friendly voice asked; "Who was that crazy hot Japanese girl I just passed on the stairs?" Doug shook his head thinking; 'yup that's Kris'.

Kris Kadela was a friend and a co-worker. He was from Michigan and had been a year behind Doug at college. They both had been Industrial Design majors. They had many classes together and became friends. Doug had gotten a job at a toy company as soon as he graduated. Kris finished off his degree then found a job he was not happy with.

Both men had stayed in touch. About six months ago the company Doug worked for had a large expansion. Knowing Kris was unhappy and that he did good work, he put in a word for him and they brought him on. Since that time both men had become good friends.

Doug said; "She is from Taiwan, not Japan. I just found out she is moving into that empty studio next door."

"Lucky guy." Quipped Kris.

"Hey, it could have been yours."

"You know I could not afford it. We pattern shop guys aren't like you, engineers. We don't make enough for our own apartment. We have to slum it with roommates."

Doug just rolled his eyes at him. "You want a beer?"

"Yeah, I sure do."

They cheers each other and sit down in the living room. Kris noticed a framed picture of Doug and his girlfriend Lisa on the TV that was about to be replaced. He commented that it was a good picture. Doug appreciated the compliment and added that she would be staying with him over Christmas.

Kris had always wondered what was up with Lisa's eyes and why she needed such think glasses. Doug explained that they did not fully develop before she was born. She could see just fine with the glasses but without them, everything was a blur.

Kris' next question was even more direct. "Are you really going to do it? Really going to propose?"

"Yeah, I am." Doug replied with a nod of his head.

"You think she knows it is coming?"

"No, I do not think so." Doug replied.

"There you go, buddy, shock her with the surprise. Do you have the ring yet?"

"No, I pick it up Wednesday."

"How much did that set you back?"

"Enough." Doug said with a grimace.

"Yeah?"

"Oh Yeah. Between that and this TV, I have spent all of my percentage payout." Added Doug.

"Hey don't sweat it, man. The figures you designed are awesome and are going to sell like nothing before them. You are going to get all that payout and then some."

Doug and Kris worked for the toy manufacturer Bailey Toys. Bailey had the license to make toys based on a series of science fiction novels. The Zencar Chronicles was a sprawling collection of books that had fascinating storylines, thrilling action and lots of rich characters. The toy line was going to start with 24 action figures based on some of the humans, aliens, and robots that were in the books. If the launch line was successful there would additional waves of figures, vehicles, and playsets.

The toy line looked to be the most promising in the history of the company. Pre-orders from retailers were through the roof. Bailey had taken that money and invested most of it in production assets and hiring more people. They had purchased a building and equipment for the assembly of the toys. They purchased an additional building for the warehouse and distribution of them. They also increased the number of employees by twenty percent.

The rest of the money went to what was called percentage payouts. The owner, Herb Gippord, believed in sharing results with his employees. So the key people in design and development would get a percentage of the dollars that came in from the pre-orders. This percentage would be paid at the end of each quarter. Because Doug had designed some of the figures, and those figures had great pre-orders, he was looking at a large check at the end of the year. He had borrowed from the bank to get the television and the engagement ring. He was planning on paying it all back with the payout check.

A knock at the door signaled the new TV had arrived. It was a 21-inch color console unit with a wireless remote. Two men had it in a crate labeled fragile and wheeled it in with a dolly. Kris moved the existing TV out of the way while the men unpacked the new one and put it in its place. Once it was set Doug wished the men a Merry Christmas and tipped them a few bucks.

Kris asked; "What are you going to do with this old one?"

Doug replied; "Go give it to my new neighbor?"

"What?"

"Yeah, she doesn't have a TV, I have an extra, and you want to meet her, go for it. Tell her it is a welcome to the city gift. Her name is Asha"

"Okay if you say so."

Kris carried the old unit down the hall. The door was open a crack. He put the TV down and knocked. A beautiful Asian woman answered. She was 5'6" with straight black hair that went down to her elbows. She had a square face and dark brown eyes. Kris was dumbstruck, just standing there staring at her. Final she said; "Can I help you?"

"Your Asha right?"

"Yes."

"I'm Kris. I'm friends with your new neighbor Doug."

"Chris like Christopher Columbus or Kris like Kris Kringle?"

"Well, that depends."

"Depends on what?"

"Do you want to go exploring or be like the Grinch and steal me?"

This made Asha smile widely and laugh.

"It is Kris like in Christmas. And speaking of Christmas this is for you." He picked up the TV and held it in her direction.

Asha had a puzzled shape to her eyebrows before Kris added; "Doug wanted me to give this to you."

"Oh. Oh no, is he serious? I cannot accept that."

"Sure you can. He said it was a welcome to the city gift. You have to accept those. If you don't they throw you out."

She looked at him funny with a half smirk on her face.

"It's true I have seen them do it. The Cincinnati Welcome Police come, put you in handcuffs, drive you to Kentucky and push you out of the car."

Asha laughed out loud. This guy is funny she thought. "Ok bring it in."

Kris stepped into her apartment. It was a one-room studio with the kitchen, living and sleeping areas were all open. The only separate rooms were a few closets and the bathroom. There were no furnishings to be seen. In the kitchen, there were a few boxes. Then spread out were some duffle bags and a sleeping bag.

Kris says; "Nice place. When is the rest of your stuff coming?"

Asha explained that she did not have anything else coming. She had lived with her parents for the first 22 years of her life. All the furniture she used was theirs. She also would have never been able to put it in her little car. She had moved with her clothes, personal belongings and whatever else would fit. Her plan was to buy what she needed once she was settled in.

"Ok, that makes sense. Where do you want me to put the TV?" Kris asked.

She pointed to a place along the wall and he set it down.

"You are all set, Asha. If you need anything let me know."

"Okay, I will. Thanks again." She said as Kris went back to Doug's place.

***

The mall outside of New Haven Connecticut was crowded. It was December 3rd the first big Christmas shopping Saturday of the season. There was a large tree in the center of the mall. At the base of the tree was a Santa sitting on a throne-like chair. There were over fifty children in line to see him. Every store had full shelves, full staff and Christmas music blaring.

Lisa Woburn and her lifelong friend Donna Dewberry were in the men's section of Fishers department store. It was Donna's last day of her Thanksgiving vacation. She and Lisa were Christmas shopping for Doug, Lisa's boyfriend, and Donna's cousin.

Donna held up a maroon, big-collared, zip-up cardigan and said in a goofing way; "How about a Chill Chaser? It is a sweater, it's a jacket, it's the top Top".

Lisa replied "No, what it is, is awful. It is almost as bad as those nipple bras."

"Ha you are right, but how about a decent sweater."

"No, we are adults not high schoolers. A sweater seems like something you would get your high school boyfriend."

Donna then pranced over to a rack of jackets. "How about something leather" holding up a brown suede piece.

"I would love to get that for him but there is no way I can afford it. That is what is stressing me out about this whole thing. I want to get him something nice but I do not have the money for nice."

"Lisa don't get so hung up on that. My cousin is not materialistic like that. You are also so thoughtful. Anything you pick he will love because it came from you."

Lisa then said. "Well, I had thought about getting him some carving tools for his work. But that seems boring."

"Not and all. Come on there is a specialty hardware store in the other wing."

As luck would have it the store had exactly what Lisa was thinking. It was a set of micro craving tools made of stainless steel. She then found a mahogany cigar box that the tools could go in. The top of the box had a small silver plate where she had his initials engraved. It was perfect, in her price range and made her smile when it was done. Donna was right there to say; "See silly nothing to stress about. Now let's go get some lunch."

The two women went to an English pub that shared a parking lot with the mall. They were in the spirit with red napkins, green tablecloths and garland strung about. The two women grabbed and table and ordered.

Donna tilted her head and asked; "Now that's done, what do you think Doug is getting you?"

Lisa responded; "I do not know? But I hope it is not much."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Well, I told him he did not have to. He paid for my plane ticket and will probably pay for everything on the trip."

"So!" Donna said as a half question, half statement.

"So I am not comfortable with that."

"Why?" Donna asked.

"Because I'm trying to be independent. I want to know that I can take care of myself. My parents have helped me all my life and I love them for that, but my childhood is over. I want to be a self-sufficient adult. I want to stand up on my own. How could I respect myself if I let him pay for everything?"

Donna nodded her head up and down in agreement but added; "I get it and that's great but Doug doesn't mind helping out. I don't think he sees it that way."

Lisa's heart dropped and tears welled up in her eyes; "I know that and that makes it so much worse. He has no problem with paying for everything, but I do. Doesn't he see that? If he does, why does he keep doing it? It doesn't bother him, but it does me. Maybe we are not as compatible as I thought. Maybe this isn't going to work. I really want it too, but maybe it's just a big waste of time."

Donna could tell Lisa had gotten herself all wrapped up with this. She was letting worry push logic out and her big beautiful heart was hurting for no reason. She knew she needed to redirect her friend. Get her thinking about something else and quickly. She reached out, took her hand, and said; "Oh Lisa it's going to be ok. Please don't get upset about something that has not happened yet. Common let's order a drink."

***

Doug was finishing washing some dishes when he heard a knock on his door. He wrinkled his brow in puzzlement, he was not expecting anyone. He opened the door to find his new neighbor Asha standing there. She was wearing light blue bell bottom pants and a white turtleneck. She is holding a six pack of Hudepohl beer.

Asha said; "Hi."

"Hey, how are you?"

"I am good thanks. I got this for you." She hands him the beer. "I wanted to thank you for the TV. That was very nice of you. You did not have to do that."

Doug was caught off guard by the situation replied; "Oh don't worry about it. Come on in, do you want one of these?"

Asha stepped into his apartment and agreed to have one. She sat down on his couch while he opened two of the beers and put the rest in the refrigerator. He came back and handed one to her.

She said; "Nice TV. I can see why you got rid of the old one."

Doug snickered and said thanks.

Asha noticed a copy of the Zencar Chronicles on the coffee table. She said; "Hey I love these books. The Echo character is awesome. Are you a fan too?"

"Yes, but they are also part of my job."

"Oh yeah are you in the book business?"

"No, I'm a toy maker. The company I work for has the contract to make toys based on these books. I am one of the designers. Actually, I designed an action figure of the Echo character."

"No way, that's super fun."

"Thanks. How about you, what do you do?"

"I am an airport marshaller. You know the people on the runway the direct the planes around. I am one of those."

"Wow, ok well that trumps toy maker. That's super cool. How long have you been doing that?"

Asha explained that she had been doing it in California for a few years. The airline she worked for had an opening here in Cincinnati. They offered her the job and a raise. She said it was exciting but a little scary at the same time. She had no family in the area and she did not know anyone.

Doug said: "Well maybe I can help with that. I am having a party tomorrow afternoon. A bunch of us are going to watch the football game and hang out. I figured I bought the big TV might as well share it. How about you come by"

"Sure that would be great."

"Ok, see you then."

***

It was just about 2 pm on Sunday, December 4th and Doug's apartment was filling up. There was a special National Football League game about to be played. The NFL's 5000 game was between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs. The game was in Kansas City, so local fans were crowding around TVs all over the city. Doug had been working on being more social and outgoing. He thought having people over to watch on his new TV was the perfect way to do that.

Many of the people were friends from work. One of these was Connie, who brought her husband. Connie was a fellow designer, they both had worked on the action figure line. Their workspaces were right next to each other and they had gotten to know each other pretty well.

Connie was one of the first people to arrive. Her husband was a huge Bengals fan. He had been very excited about this game. To be able to watch it on a larger TV made him more excited. He had insisted on getting there early to stake out a good seat on the couch.

Doug was surprised at how Connie looked. He had always seen her in work attire. Today she wore a pair of blue jeans and a red sweater with a white Christmas pattern on it. She looked really good. Her clothes were a nice accent to her full head of brown hair and green eyes. The outfit also showed off how curvy she was. Doug had always suspected she had big breasts and her sweater proved that point and then some.

Kris arrived soon after Connie. He brought a case of beer. He put it in a cooler that was in the kitchen then sat next to Connie's husband on the couch. After that more friends from work and some from Doug's college days arrived. By the time the game started, there were about 20 people at Doug's place.

Connie and Doug were not as into football and had started a conversation just off of the living room. Connie asked; "So when is Lisa coming out next?"

Connie met Lisa the day their relationship began. Before that, Doug saw Connie as a gossip. As they got to know each other, he realized that she was really just curious. She would ask a lot of personal questions but never repeated the personal stuff to other people. Once he had made this connection he found it easier to open up to her and they developed an "older sister / younger brother" type of relationship. "She'll be out the week of Christmas."

"Oh good. You're bringing her to the Christmas party right."

"Yes of course."

"Good. It will be great to see her. What is the future for you two? When are you going to make an honest woman out of her?"

Doug grinned and snickered at her question. He shook his head.

"Oh come on. You have to know that is what she wants. You two are terrific together." At that point, Connie noticed a shift in Doug's expression. He had gone from embarrassed to nervous. "What, are you scared to do it?"

"No, no I am not scared of asking the question."

Connie knew exactly what he meant. "You're scared of her answer. Silly man what are you scared of?"

"Well, a couple of things."

"Like what?"

"Like I am asking a lot of her. Her family, her friends, and job are all in Connecticut. Moving here she will lose all of that. I like it here and if she asked me to move back there, I do not know if I could. It feels wrong asking her to do something I might not be willing to do myself."

Connie really felt for Doug. His stress was genuine. He cared deeply for Lisa and he wanted them to be together. He had thought through every scenario. The problem with this was he found scenarios that did not end well. These scenarios were making so much noise in his head, he could not hear his heart. Connie nodded in understanding. She reached out and held his forearm. "That's very sweet that you think that way." She was just about to calm his angst when the doorbell rang.

Wilfredo was at the door with a stack of pizzas. He was a big man with dark, thick, curly hair and a handlebar mustache. He owned the building with his wife Ann-Marie. He also owned a pizza shop on the first floor. Doug had arranged with him to cater the party. They exchanged hellos and Doug helped Wilfredo bring the pizzas inside.

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