It is a beautiful sunny Saturday as I sit here in the park under a big willow tree. The book in my lap doesn’t hold my interest, and my eyes wander everywhere but the page I am reading. Many families come to this park, and laughter and shouts can be heard from the children on the playground. There are men playing football about a hundred feet from me.
Their wives/girlfriends are at a nearby picnic table chatting and sometimes laughing. Some families have taken advantage of the on-site grills and the barbecue smell is in the air. From the corner of my eye, I glimpse two children playing not far from their mother’s watchful eye. I’ve seen them here before and they always remain in the same isolated area, never going to the playground or playing with the other children. The little boy has an old soccer ball which he tries to kick but his every attempt goes awry. Having played soccer as a teen, I decide to go over to help him out. When I get close enough to where he is playing, I notice that his facial features are flat and he has a very tiny nose. I can sense something different about him but I’m not sure what it is. I stop close to him and get down on one knee.
“Hi. My name is Beth.”
He looks at me wearily then quickly glances at his mother before returning his attention to me. He doesn’t say anything. The little girl playing with her raggedy doll approaches us.
“I’m Katie. I’m six. He’s Nick. He’s four,” she says.
“Hi Katie. It’s nice to meet you. Do you think Nick would like to play ball with me?”
That gets Nick’s attention.
“You. Want. Play. Me?” Nick asks slowly.
“Yes but only if you want.”
“Yay!” he says smiling.
I spend the next twenty minutes trying to teach him how to kick the ball so that it goes straight ahead. Every time the ball went in the wrong direction he would laugh. After a while I would laugh too and just enjoy the games we invented. It started to get late and his mother interrupted us, saying it was time for them to go. It was the first time I was able to get a good look at her. What struck me were her striking gray, yet tired, eyes. She could not have been much older than my 34 years, yet her eyes were those of someone who’s seen a lot in her life. She is dressed like me in jeans and a sweater since there is a slight chill in the autumn air. Her hair is shoulder length, black and straight, where mine is long, brown and wavy. I wonder what her hair would feel like if I ran my fingers through it. She isn’t wearing any makeup, not that she needs it.
She is beautiful.
She smiles warmly and mouths “Thank you”. Watching her walk towards the parking lot with her kids, my mind keeps going back to her eyes and I wonder what is hidden behind them.
The following Saturday I return to the park, but before I can reach my usual spot, Nick is at my side, grabbing my hand, asking me to play with him. I look in the mother’s direction and she smiles at me letting me know that it is alright. Since I could use the exercise and I did enjoy it last week, I agree. Again we try to play with his ball and no matter what direction the ball goes, Nick doesn’t seem to be phased by it at all. He keeps going after the ball with a smile on his face. He is improving little by little but as long as he is having fun that’s all that really matters. Katie joins in and we invent some new games for the three of us. It’s funny how kids can make up creative rules as they go along. After a while I tell the kids I need a break and they plead for me to stay. I promise to play some more later and that seems to satisfy them. Their mother holds up a bottle of water, inviting me over. I suddenly find myself very nervous at the idea of sitting by her with no one else between us. This is silly. She is just offering water, I shouldn’t be this nervous.
“Hi Beth. You’re really good with kids. Nick was talking about you all week.”
“Actually I’m hardly ever around kids. I guess my inner child just wants to come out and play sometimes,” I say sheepishly.
“Um. I’m sorry but I don’t know your name,” I say slightly embarrassed.
“It’s Vicky,” she says with a disarming smile.
Keeping the kids in sight, we talk while they play. At first we talk about trivial stuff like the weather. I tell her about my job as a biologist and working for a biotech company. She tells me that she is a grade school teacher and talks about how the children she teaches have changed over the years. We exchange our personal experiences of when we were in school and in no time we are laughing at each others antics.
“I had to do this oral presentation in front of a class of 30 students. I wasn’t ready so I pretended to be faint and the teacher sent me to the nurse. I stayed in the nurse’s office until the bell rang,” she said with a devilish grin.
“And the teacher didn’t know you were faking it?”
“Oh, I’m sure she did. She called on me first the next day and for every other presentation we had that semester. Not to mention all the teasing I got from all my friends,” she said laughingly.
She has a wonderful laugh and I feel more at ease with her with every passing moment. I shy away from her questions about marriage and family, simply stating that I’ve never been married and that my family and I aren’t close. I don’t want to tell her that my family disowned me when they found out I was gay. I don’t know how she would react to my being gay. I want to get off the subject of my family and so I ask about hers instead. She gets a faraway look and starts to tell me about Nick.
Nick has Down Syndrome. It was discovered in a test before Nick was even born. Upon hearing the news, her husband, Steve, didn’t want a defective baby, as he called it, and he wanted Vicky to get an abortion. They fought a lot about it but in the end Vicky decided she couldn’t do that. When Nick was born, Steve wouldn’t go near him and wouldn’t even look at him. Their marriage was under an enormous amount of strain and one day, upon returning from running errands, Vicky found Steve in their bedroom packing his things. He said that the situation was unbearable, that she made the choice for them not considering how he felt about it. He filed for divorce and stayed away from them, never visiting the kids, but paying child support every month. A year later, while driving drunk, Steve wrapped his car around a telephone pole and died several hours later. Steve had not stayed up to date on his life insurance premiums and coupled with the absence of child support left Vicky and the kids with very little money. She had to sell the house and they moved into an apartment complex on the east side of town, not in the safest of neighborhoods. Most of the money from the house went to Nick’s medical bills. Even though Nick was fortunate enough not to be born with a heart defect, he still needed physical therapy to strengthen his muscles for basic skills like walking and talking. The amount of physical therapy decreased over the years but he still goes several times a month to get help. The rest of the money went towards rent, utilities, food and daycare. Vicky went back work as a teacher during the day. With no close living relatives, Vicky had no choice but to put the kids in daycare while she worked. As it was, she was barely making enough money to get by and the only luxury she provided her kids was Saturdays at this park here on the west side of town where they could play in a relatively safe environment.
Listening to her tell her story, I was in awe. Here is this woman telling me about her struggles, without complaints, like what she has been through is normal. I can’t imagine what she goes through every day, but I can hear it in her voice, the prejudice she encounters. Leaving the park I think how my life is very different than Vicky’s. I went to school on scholarships, received my degree, have had several well paying jobs, and recently bought a small bungalow in a nice neighborhood. Everything that I have ever complained about seems trivial now and pales in comparison. I feel compelled to help her in some way but I know she would never accept a handout.
A week goes by and I decided that playing in the park is not a good enough luxury for the kids. Now I just need to convince Vicky of that. I get to the park early that morning and wait for Vicky and the kids to arrive. When Vicky’s beat up little Civic pulls into the parking lot, I walk up to the driver’s side window. Vicky rolls down the window and I lean in closer.
“What’s going on?” Vicky asks looking around.
“Nothing. I was wondering if you and the kids wanted to go to the zoo today?” I ask in a low voice so that the kids don’t hear, just in case Vicky says no. I could see the conflicting emotions on her face while she figures out an answer. I am still a stranger to her and there is no reason for her to trust me but I hope she is willing to take a chance.
“It will be my treat. Please?” I say wondering if her pride will allow her to accept my offer.
I give her a pleading look. Vicky stares at me for a moment, and I can see that she wants to give in so I press my case.
“I really like the zoo but I feel stupid going there by myself. You’ll be doing me a favor. You wouldn’t want me to wander around a big zoo all by myself, would you?” I ask pouting. This isn’t a far stretch of the truth. I do like the zoo and have wanted to go but visiting the zoo on my own just seems pathetic. It’s hard to make friends when you spend most of your time working in a male dominated environment and I haven’t had a girlfriend in almost two years.
Vicky tries to suppress her smile but I can see it. I smile and she shakes her head, turning in her seat to talk to the kids.
“Do you want to go to the zoo? It has animals like elephants, lions and monkeys there.”
They are surprised by the question and don’t say anything.
“Yes,” they say excitedly in unison.
Vicky turns back to me.
I have a grin on my face all the way to the zoo. Vicky notices and snickers but doesn’t say anything. When we get to the zoo, I go to the ticket window and buy a family season pass. Vicky notices that I’ve come back with only a card in my hand and she grabs the pass and reads it.
“Are you nuts?”
“Maybe a little but that has nothing to do with this. If we come back only twice more it would cost the same as general admission.” I give her my best smile but she arches her eyebrow at me.
“Aw, come on. It’s the zoo. Look at all the animals. And all the different buildings. There is so much to see,” I say with my arms stretched out. I know I sound like a kid but I don’t care. Her laugh makes me feel good.
The zoo is bigger than I realized. There is an aquarium, a desert dome, and a rain forest. Not to mention all the different animal pavilions. It was the kids first time to the zoo and their giddy mood was contagious, even Vicky relaxed and enjoyed herself. I was impressed by how much she knew about the animals and how easily she answered Nick and Katie’s questions. “What’s the snake’s tongue doing?” asked one. “Smelling the air, looking for food,” she answered. “Who’s bigger, a tiger or a lion?” “Tigers are bigger, sweetie.” “Where do elephants come from?” “These are from Asia. You can tell by the little ears.” “What are those hyenas doing?” “I’ll explain in a few years, Katie.” Whenever there was a lull I would throw out a question just to hear her voice. We had a wonderful time and I don’t think anyone wanted the day to end.
The kids were asleep in the back seat by the time we returned to the park so that I could collect my car.
“How about you give me your address and phone number and next week I’ll pick you guys up on the way to the zoo?” I ask her.
“It’s out of your way. Hey! Wait a minute! What do you mean on the way to the zoo?”
“Well we do have a season pass,” I say innocently.
“And the zoo is halfway between us and not much out of the way,” I say matter of fact.
I knew by taking my car she would be able to save on gas money since gas prices were quite high these days.
I cut her off.
“Please don’t argue with me about this. I enjoyed today a lot and I want to do it again. You can’t tell me you didn’t have fun too. Please?” I beg.
“You really like the zoo, huh?” Vicky asks as she writes her information down. Taking the piece of paper, I don’t respond but my smile says it all.
After that day, we would spend Saturdays at the zoo followed by pizza and movies at their place. Vicky did bring up money in the beginning but I told her that it was my Saturday night ritual and that I would be doing the same thing with or without them.
Spending Saturday evenings with her was much more appealing to me than the club scene. We also got into the habit of calling each other during the week just to talk about what was going on in our daily lives. She was quickly becoming my best friend, and I could talk to her about almost anything. We never talked about sex and I didn’t want to bring it up because I didn’t know how she would react to my liking women. After the way my family reacted and the things they said, I didn’t ever want to be hurt like that again. I also didn’t want to do anything that could jeopardize the first close friendship I’d had in years. I also wasn’t sure I could discuss it without revealing how I was beginning to feel about her. If I had some clue as to how she would’ve reacted, things would have been different but I have trouble reading people. I’ve caught her looking at me several times but what she was thinking remains a mystery to me.
It’s Sunday and with Halloween being tomorrow, we visit the zoo since they have new attractions for the holiday. We attended the afternoon shows and decided to walk around for a bit. The kids are watching the elephants spraying water from their trunks while Vicky and I sit, on a bench, chatting about how it will be too cold for our zoo excursions soon. I notice that there are a couple of women with their kids looking at Nick and saying things but I can’t hear them. It wouldn’t be hard to guess what they are talking about considering the look on their faces. I quickly get up and go to Nick. I pick him up, all the while staring at the women, daring them to make a comment.
“How about we go see the rhinos,” I tell the kids never taking my eyes off the women. Vicky reaches my side and we walk towards the rhino’s area. I put Nick down and he and Katie go take a closer look.
“What did they say? Did they use the ‘R’ word?” Vicky asks gritting her teeth. The ‘R’ word is ‘retarded’ and it seems to push her buttons faster than anything else. She can’t stand it when anyone refers to Nick like that.
“I didn’t hear what they said.”
“I hate the ‘R’ word. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.”
I take her hand and face her.
“It’s okay. It’s over. Let’s just enjoy the rest of the day,” I say trying to calm her down. She sighs and starts to relax. When I loosen my grip on her hand, she holds on tighter instead of letting go. It feels so good and comfortable to walk hand in hand with her.
In front of her apartment complex, she invites me in which isn’t unusual but the look in her eyes is something I have never seen. I help her put the kids to bed and I read them a story. I can feel her watching me but when I look up she has already left the room. They fall asleep before the story is even done so I tuck them in and search for their mother. There is a dim light and soft music coming from the living room. My eyes try to adjust and I notice a small AM/FM radio on the coffee table. I suddenly feel Vicky behind me just as her arms circle my waist.
“Vicky?” I ask. “What’s-” My question is interrupted by her nuzzling against my back.
“I didn’t think- you-, ” I stammer trying to figure out what I want to say.
“Shh,” Vicky whispers, her warm breath on my ear.
“I have been waiting for you to talk to me, really talk to me, and when you held my hand today I thought you would. I thought I was the one with the trust issues,” she says softly.
“I do trust you. I was just afraid,” I say trying to turn around to face her but she holds me in place.
“Are you afraid now?”
“Will you stay with me tonight?”
“Yes,” I say trembling a little.
The last sixteen years of being a lesbian seem to have vanished, and I feel like it’s my first time all over again. And here is this woman, who has been through so much, confident and reassuring me.
I put my arms on top of hers and lean back into her. We stay like that swaying to the soft music. I have never danced like this before and I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it feels to have her body pressed up against me. At the end of the song, her arms never letting me go, she loosens her grip and comes around so that she is now facing me. The next song begins and I put my arms around her neck and let her lead me in this sensual dance. She is a couple of inches taller than me so I tilt my head up a little to look into her eyes. I am lost in her eyes and when her soft lips touch mine, my knees get weak and I hold on to her tighter. It is such a gentle exploratory kiss. She nibbles my lower lip and then licks the upper one. My mouth opens slightly and her tongue slips in wreaking havoc with my senses. Our tongues begin a dance of their own and I would gladly stay like this forever. Lost in our embrace we dance like this until the radio announcer comes on to give the nightly news. She pulls away a little and I whimper at the loss.
“It’s time for bed,” she says, her eyes filled with desire. She takes my hand and leads me to the small twin bed she has for herself. The room is almost bare with nothing that you can live without. It is the smallest of the rooms and could feel claustrophobic if I were not with her.
“I know it’s not much,” she starts but I silence her with a kiss.
“You’re here. Nothing else matters.”
I must have said the right thing because she crushes me to her and kisses me with such passion that it takes my breath away. She slowly releases me and as I try to catch my breath she pulls my blouse over my head. She takes a second to admire my black lacy bra but her hands are already undoing the clasp. She removes my bra and instead of going for my pants she places her hands gently on my face. She moves them slowly down my neck barely touching my skin. Her caresses leave a trail of goosebumps. She touches my shoulders and runs her hands down my arms and then back up. She grazes the sides of my breasts that have slightly succumbed to gravity, but avoids touching my nipples which are hard as pebbles. She takes her time undoing my pants and pulls them down and off my legs one at a time. My socks quickly follow. Her hands run up the side of my legs until they reach the hem of my lacy black panties. She traces the outline of my panties and I want to rip them off me at this point. The panties begin their downward descent and there is no mistaking the musky aroma in the air. She takes her time learning my body. Her touches as exploratory as they are sensual. I am not as athletic as I used to be although my legs still have strong calves from running a couple of times a week.
She takes a step back and starts removing her clothes, never taking her eyes off of me. Her hands trace the same path I just experienced but this time on her body. I have this overwhelming desire to go to her and help her out of her clothes but her eyes tell me to stay where I am. I see a hint of nervousness in her eyes and realize that she needs to do this herself. I know this is her first time since Steve, so I stand there smiling reassuringly and watch this sensual striptease unfold before me. Once done, she turns down the covers on the bed giving me a wonderful view of her behind and I admire every inch of her. Her skin is dark with no discernible tan lines. She has beautiful legs that lead up to her curvaceous hips. She turns around and directs me onto the bed. I slide beneath the cool sheet and watch her follow me. I yearn to pull her to me but I let her dictate the pace. She lies on her side facing me and puts her hand on my stomach gently stroking it while she leans in and kisses me. I kiss her back trying to convey my desire for her. She leaves my mouth and trails soft kisses down my neck. Her mouth reaches the valley between my breasts and I try to twist my body to get her mouth where I want it. She chuckles and continues her explorations.
“Please,” I beg.
She takes pity on me and her mouth hovers over my left nipple. As her mouth descends to engulf my nipple, her hand leaves my stomach and pinches my right nipple. My back arches and I let out a long moan. She licks and sucks the nipple before moving to the one on the right while her soft hand continues to play with my left. For the first time in my life I experience a small orgasm just from having all this attention given to my breasts. For someone who hasn’t done this before, she knows what she is doing.
I don’t have much time to think about this or anything else for that matter, her tongue is trailing a path to my navel and has all my attention. She pauses to play with my navel and all I want to do is to hurry her on her way. My whimpers must have let her know how I was feeling because her tongue resumes its southbound journey traveling above the small curve of my stomach. By the time I feel her breath on my pussy, I feel like I’m going to explode from my need, but she is in no hurry. Instead she kisses one thigh and then travels to the other without touching my clit. Her tongue finally slides between my lips making its journey inside my body. At that moment my body comes off the bed and the pressure of her nose on my clit sends me into an all consuming orgasm. Her tongue doesn’t stop until a second orgasm rocks my body. I don’t make it back to earth before her mouth wraps around my clit and she sucks it hard. The third orgasm is so strong that I keep my eyes tightly shut, lost in the sensations for several minutes. When I open my eyes, she is lying next to me, holding me tight. I want to love her the same way but my body refuses to cooperate. She senses my struggle.
“There will be plenty of other times, Love. Go to sleep.” I feel my body succumbing slowly, as she hugs me, kissing me softly. I hear one last thing on the way to sleep.
“You’re mine now.”
The next morning, I wake up a little disoriented until my senses kick in and I feel Vicky’s warm breath on my neck and her arm draped over my body. I smile remembering last night. As I feel her perfect body against mine, my smile grows into a grin because it’s my turn now. I gently roll her onto her back, not wanting to wake her just yet. I study her face committing to memory her long black eyelashes, her high cheekbones, the slight upturn of her nose, and her lips a little apart. I lean over her and place a single feather kiss on her lips. She mumbles something that I can’t make out. I kiss her once more on her lips just as softly before moving to her cheek and nibbling down her neck. I spend some time alternating between nibbling and kissing her smooth shoulder closest to me. I listen to her faint murmurs while I slowly pull the covers off of us. Her full breasts are the first to be exposed and her nipples harden instantly . I see her eyes fluttering open as I tenderly stroke her breast and kiss my way over to her other nipple. I wait for her eyes to focus on me before tugging her left nipple with my mouth. I hear her intake of breath and then a low moan as I gently suck her nipple.
“Watch me,” I say switching to her right breast.
While worshiping her breasts, she begins panting and undulating her hips. Her hand tries to sneak its way down to her pussy, I grab it and move it aside.
“Not yet, Love.”
“Please,” she moans.
I move my hand to her pussy, gently stroke her black curls and lightly graze her protruding clit. Her back arches off the bed, her body frozen in air with only the back of her head and legs touching the bed. She was closer than I knew. Her body flops back down and I kiss her tenderly while my hand resumes caressing her pussy. When she calms, I return to adoring her breasts waiting for the beautiful chorus of moans to begin. I could suckle her like this forever but her natural fragrance further down, beckons me. I kiss my way down the curve of her stomach, lightly tracing her pale stretch marks with my tongue until I reach the top of her mound. I inhale the sweet musky aroma that is her and wait. She looks to see what is happening and, at that moment, I take my first taste of her looking into her eyes. She tastes as sweet as she smells and I can’t get enough. I lick at her lips pulling each one in my mouth and slide two fingers inside her. Her gasps, pants and moans are music to my ears and heighten my own excitement. My fingers move at a steady pace while I continue to suck and nibble her lips. As she nears her climax, I push my fingers in as deep as I can and curl them toward her sensitive spot that takes her over the edge once more.
Once she calms down a little, I resume the movement of my fingers and give her clit the attention it craves. I alternate between sucking and licking it and before long a third orgasm overtakes her. She is covered in sweat and exhausted but she looks thoroughly loved. I crawl back up to her, wrap my arms around her and nibble on her neck.
“I never knew it could be like that,” she says wonderingly.
“Hmm. So you wouldn’t mind doing it again?” I ask still nibbing her neck.
She grabs my head and answers with an all consuming kiss.
Sitting in her living room, Vicky obviously has something on her mind. I look at her questioningly.
“Beth, why don’t we ever go to your home?”
“I thought the children would prefer to be in their familiar surroundings, not a stranger’s house. Besides it’s not a home, it’s just a house. It’s half empty. Not even fully furnished.”
“Beth, you are not a stranger. I can’t believe you just said that. Don’t ever say that again. I mean it,” she says sternly.
“You know what I mean. The kids have their room, books and toys. And they know where everything is,” I explain.
“It won’t take long for the kids to find their way around the house. We can bring their books and toys. You are a part of our lives. We want to be part of your life too. Won’t you let us?”
I had never realized what I was doing, and I felt ashamed that she thought I didn’t want them in my world.
“You are a part of my life,” I exclaim trying to fix this. “A big part, I swear. Next weekend, okay? We’ll spend next weekend at my house.”
She nods her head and we go on to talk about other things, but my mind keeps coming back to this conversation as I suspect hers does too.
“Let’s go now,” I say.
“To my place. We’ll stop at the grocery store on the way and pick up what we need for dinner.”
It didn’t take us long to round the kids up, as they were excited about seeing where I lived. At the grocery store, we pick up ingredients for burgers and hot dogs which we barbecue on the grill in the backyard. The kids love to play in the yard and watch cartoons on the television. They have no problem adjusting to the new environment. In fact, they are reluctant to leave and I feel the same. The house seems empty and I catch myself wandering around the house thinking what it would be like if they were always here. I stop at the entrances of the two unfurnished bedrooms and wonder what they would look like if I decorated them for Nick and Katie.
We visit the zoo one more time before winter sets in. The penguins are always the kids’ favorite to see and we spend a lot of time in that area of the aquarium. We mostly get a view of the penguins’ backs because their eyes are sensitive to camera flashes and turn away from the viewing window. Undoubtedly there is always someone trying to take pictures.
“You are very quiet today. What are you thinking?” Vicky asks.
“The chances of you agreeing to something,” I say without even looking at her. She puts her hand on my cheek and turns my face toward her so that she can look into my eyes.
“Agreeing to what?”
“You and the kids moving in with me,” I say with my eyes averted. Her hand drops from my face.
I look her in the eyes with longing in mine.
“More than I’ve ever been my whole life.”
She catches me off guard. I expected to have to convince her and I had all my arguments ready.
“Whenever you want,” I quickly say hoping that I would not have to wait long. At that moment the kids join us and Vicky tells them about moving in with me. I am still stunned that it happened so easily and I just stand there. Katie and Nick don’t respond to their mother. They just turn to me and hug me and soon after Vicky joins in and I hug them back. I laugh and cry on Vicky’s shoulder. Vicky just holds me tighter.
The move was three weeks before Christmas and I wanted to make sure that the kids would like it here. They were each going to have their own room, something they haven’t had before. I painted Nick’s room blue and bought him a bed in the shape of a car. I painted Katie’s room purple, her favorite color, and bought her what the store clerk called a “princess” bed. I also got small white desks, white bookshelves with some children’s books, and small chests for their clothes. I turned a corner of each room into a little play area. Nick’s play area had containers filled with different styles of Lego blocks and Katie’s had a fairly large doll house with all its accessories. I completed the rooms just in time for the move.
Unpacking the truck of their belongings, I tell the kids to take their things to their rooms. I am anxious about their reactions but I try not to show it and I let them go ahead without me. While Vicky and I carry boxes to the garage, Katie runs out saying that Nick is crying in his room. My heart stops and I race into the house. I reach Nick’s room and he is standing in the middle, tears running down his face. I go to him and get down on my knees in front of him.
“Nick, sweetheart, if you don’t like the room, it’s okay. We can change it. We can do whatever you want. Nick?” I am desperate to make this better but I don’t know how and I sense my tears trying to escape.
“My. Room?” Nick asks looking at me.
“Yes it’s your room,” I reply.
He puts his arms around my neck and whispers “Thank you” and then cries in earnest. I hold him and I realize that these are good tears not bad. I look up in relief to see Vicky standing at the door with tears streaming down her face and she smiles at me reassuringly. Katie’s reaction was less emotional but it did take a long time to convince her to leave her room and that it would still be there when she returned.
A week after the move, we finally get around to putting up the Christmas tree and decorations. The kids are on the floor by the tree mesmerized by the colorful blinking lights. A nice fire is roaring in the fireplace where four stockings are hung. Vicky and I drink our coffee admiring the transformation the living room has undergone.
“Don’t you think we went a little overboard?” Vicky asks with an indulgent smile.
I look around the room. In a corner is an eight foot tree with many lights and ornaments. The kids decorated the bottom half of the tree which ended up with a lot more tinsel than the top. Underneath the tree is a full nativity set made of wood. The window has lights on its borders, is covered in artificial spray snow and has a picture of a snowman. Gold and red garlands decorate the top of the door and widow frames and also the fireplace mantle where the red stockings hang. Bells and mistletoe hang right above the door. Pictures of Santa, reindeer and snowflakes are on every wall. Christmas scented candles are on the end tables which have bathed the room in a cinnamon smell. Christmas figurines of snowmen, angels, Santa, reindeer, Christmas trees, children playing, and even penguins in Santa suits, can be found on all the tables and the fireplace mantle. I turn back to Vicky.
She giggles at me.
“This is our first Christmas together,” I continued, “I want it to be special. I want you and the kids to be happy here.”
“Oh Beth,” she says putting her cup on the coffee table.
“We are happy here. Not because of what you buy. Because of you and the things you do. The way you treat the kids. The way you listen to them as if what they are saying is the most important thing in the world. The way you read to them every night no matter how tired you are. I love you Beth. I have ever since that first day in the park when you spent so much time teaching Nick how to play ball. I knew then that I wanted you in our lives. And now that we have you, we are not letting you go.”
“I love you.”
Katie and Nick wake us up on Christmas morning saying that Santa has been in the house. Vicky and I exchange knowing glances after having spent the previous night getting the presents under the tree and finishing the milk and cookies left by the fireplace. We made sure to stuff all the stockings too. We go into the living room in our pajamas and I get a fire going in the fireplace. There is a winter chill and even though we did not get much snow, there is just enough to make this a white Christmas. Vicky hands a present to each of the kids. They seem timid while opening their gifts, trying had not to rip the shinny Christmas paper. Vicky notices, hands me a present and winks.
“Why don’t you show them how it’s done?”
I grin at her and go crazy.
The kids stare in astonishment as I rip everything off in a frenzy, paper, bows and ribbons flying everywhere. They laugh at the spectacle and copy my actions. Soon the floor is littered with paper from the gifts that took us hours to wrap, yet minutes to unwrap . Vicky agreed to get the kids one toy each but she insisted that we buy them clothes. To my surprise, the kids were just as thrilled with their new clothes as they were their toys. In fact they quickly removed their pajamas, Nick with a little help, and donned their new clothes. Vicky and I both received similar sweaters from the kids and we both chuckled when we saw them. I gave Vicky a cell phone while she got me a day planner, items we both needed. We show our gifts to the kids and Vicky winks at me knowing that tonight we’ll exchange the gifts that aren’t appropriate for under the tree. I reach over and kiss her quickly while the kids are busy. Nick and Katie approach me holding a large gift that was behind the tree that I had not seen. I look at Vicky questioningly and she just nods her head. I look at the card and it says “From your family, Katie, Nick and Vicky.” Family. Yes that’s what they are. I open the gift slowly to find a picture frame containing a picture of the four of us taken at the zoo.
“Put it on the wall,” says Katie pointing to a nail.
I stand and walk to the wall where I hang the frame. It’s the first picture I’ve hung in this house. I trail my fingers around the edges lost in thought. My family. Vicky puts her arms around me and with conviction says, “Now it’s a home.”