Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bleak Holiday

This was published in December 2008 in Christian Fiction Online Magazine


Strains of “Happy Holidays” drifted through the mall as I walked into Eye Express. Whoever thought of the term “holiday” for such a bleak time of year?

“Excuse me.” I said to the gum-popping teenager behind the counter.

She turned around cradling the phone to her ear and said, “Just a minute.”

I waited, growing impatient. I drummed my fingers on the counter and cleared my throat.
“Excuse me.” I pulled out my glasses and cleared my throat louder this time.

Holding up her index finger, she said, “Just a minute, please.”

She did not just stick her finger up at me!

She hung up the phone then picked up my glasses shaking her head. “Wow, I ain’t never seen glasses that mangled.”

“And I’ve never heard the English language that mangled.” I rolled my eyes.

“Sorry.” Her face flushed.

“Never mind.” I waved off her apology, “Can you fix them?”

“Our technician’ll be here next week.”

“Next week! I need them today.” I scowled.

Teeny Bopper exploded with laughter.

“Young lady, what is so funny?” I could feel my neck and face growing hot with anger.

“Sorry. I thought you were joking. Do I look like I could fix them?” She crinkled her eyebrows at me.

“I need my glasses to read. Why would I joke about it?” My voice rose.

“Lady, it’s Christmas Eve.” She looked at me with wide eyes.

“I don’t care what day it is I need to see!” I emphasized each word.

“I’m the only one here….” She shrugged.

“Why would they leave an incompetent, little twit like you in charge?”
Teeny Bopper looked at me, tears threatening to spill.

“I’m sorry.” I mumbled wishing I could disappear. I didn’t mean to make her cry.
I turned to leave before I said anything else would regret.

“Ma’am?”

“Yes?” I sighed as I turned back.

“Would you go to the evening church service with me?” The girl nibbled her lower lip and fidgeted.

Flabbergasted I asked, “Why would you invite me to church?”

“I wasn’t trying to offend you.” She scuffed her shoe across the floor.

“You didn’t…” Okay maybe you did… “but I don’t know why you would invite me after the ugly things I said.”

Teeny Bopper raised her eyebrows and said, “I dunno, you seem lonely and I’d hate for you to spend Christmas Eve alone.” She grabbed a pen and paper off of the counter. “I’m Jenny. Here’s the church address.”

“Thanks.” My voice squeaked out over the lump in my throat. I stuck the paper in my coat and walked out.

At home I saw Robert’s recliner and fiery tears seared my eyelids. I crawled into his chair, my heart aching for him to hold me.

"Oh Robert! I can’t face Christmas without you!"

Pain washed over me and I let the tears flow. After a few minutes of self pity I dried my eyes and decided to take Jenny up on her offer. Anything would be better than wallowing in pain.

I arrived before 6:00 and stood at the back of the church. This was the first time I had been to church since Robert’s funeral. I can’t do this. I turned to leave when I felt a hand on my arm.

“Ma’am?

I turned back and saw Jenny. “Hi. Please call me Gabby.”

“Yes ma’am.” She took my arm led me toward the front where she introduced me to her parents, Jeff and Helen Cotheran.

“Gabby, please come to dinner tonight.”

“Thank you, Helen. I will.” Tears rimmed my eyes.

After the service Jenny asked, “Gabby, may I ride with you?”

“Sure.” I noticed her beauty for the first time and felt a lump in my throat. Robert and I had always wanted children.

We climbed into my Porsche.

“Wow! What a cool car.” Jenny smiled and her blue eyes danced.

“Thank you.” I swallowed and with a raspy voice replied, “It was an anniversary present from my husband.”'

“You’re married?”

I took a deep breath. “I was.” Now there’s a gaping hole where my heart used to be.

“Divorce must be hard.”

“He…” I blinked back tears. “He died.” I whispered.

“I’m sorry. How?”

“On his way to a meeting a drunk driver hit him.” The newspaper photos of the accident flashed before my eyes.

Jenny sucked in a breath and asked, “When?”

“August.” Tears streamed down my face in full force now.

“I’m sorry.” Jenny pulled a tissue out of her purse and handed it to me.

The Coutheran family spent most of the night laughing and telling jokes on each other.
Being with them comforted me and I found myself thinking how much Robert would have liked them. I felt cheated loosing him at such a young age.

I sat by Helen and watched Jenny play with the younger kids. Her kind heart showed in her face. “Helen, Jenny is special. I wasn’t nice to her but she still reached out to me.”

“Thank you. I think having dyslexia makes her more patient and forgiving.” Helen smiled.

My stomach plummeted. Wrapped up in my own pain, I said mean things to a sweet girl with disabilities.

Jenny walked up, “Gabby, will you come to church again?”

“Yes, thank you. Tonight was the first time I’ve been to church since Robert’s funeral and I realized how much I missed it.”

“Good.” She grinned.

I touched her arm, “Thank you. Robert and I always celebrated Christmas Eve together and I’ve dreaded tonight for weeks but you made it special.”

“You’re welcome.” She beamed.

I took a deep breath, “Also, please forgive me for the awful things I said to you.”

She hugged me, “We all say things we don’t mean when we’re hurting.”

That night, I talked to God for the first time since my husband’s accident and thanked Him for sending Jenny to ease my pain. I never thought I’d enjoy Christmas without Robert but Jenny gave me the gift of hope.

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