A horn blared obnoxiously and was answered by echoes on down the freeway. Inside the car smelled of exhaust as Greg’s fingers gouged ever deeper into the steering wheel. I should have left the office 20 minutes earlier, shouldn’t have answered that phone. Now he’ll be late for the dinner meeting, which means he’ll be late getting home again. Heather won’t like that, he grimaced, it’s the third time this week.
He muttered through the hundredth rehearsal of his sales pitch, scowling out the windshield. Why won’t those cars just move? He looked for an opening somewhere, anywhere. I cannot be late. Promotions, a pay raise and that corner office all waited for him on the other side of this deal. Maybe a European vacation next summer would smooth things over at home. If only he could land it, if only he could get through this traffic.
The dog barked incessantly and scratched at the back door. Inside the kitchen smelled of burnt toast and microwave popcorn as Heather swept the army of crumbs from the counter. I should have picked up more dog food this afternoon. Now she’ll have to drag the kids out to Wal-Mart tonight. They’ll just love that, she grimaced, running errands with mom again.
She unloaded the dishwasher robotically and reviewed plans for the night. The girls were going to swimming lessons and her son needed some serious mommy-motivation for that science project. He cannot be late turning that in. She stopped to rub her temples, attempting to fight off the pressure headache. If only their dad would make it home before bed tonight. If only he would get a chance to catch up with the kids.
Quiet enveloped her as she sank like an anchor into the armchair. Greg had called to say goodnight to the kids and with another apology asked her not to wait up. Her silence shouted disappointment. How long could he keep it up? The kids were living these last few months without their dad and they all ached missing his rich laugh and booming voice. I need him here, she sighed and thumbed through a stack of mail.
Her eyes fell on a red envelope that smelled slightly of cinnamon, addressed in calligraphy with a golden foil seal attached. Great Aunt Agatha had remembered them again. She hadn’t seen the old girl since her wedding, but the Christmas cards came every year without fail, stuffed with a five dollar bill for each member of their family. Most times Heather spent her bill on a specialty coffee at the mall, all the while thinking of Agatha and feeling pretty special herself. It was a small thing, but the whole family enjoyed the gesture.
Thinking of Greg now, an idea wafted into her thoughts with the scent of cinnamon.
He was parked in his office a few days later, a sizable pile of mail sitting beside his laptop. With the slightest brush the stack teetered, slid and fell. On the floor a bright red envelope caught his distracted eye. The calligraphy on the front was a bit sloppy and the gold seal was more like yellow highlighter on a white label, but as he opened it and saw the five dollar bill, his breath stopped.
Merry Christmas Sweetie. Sorry about the counterfeit card, but you know Aunt Agatha would approve.
I wanted to say that I love you. Maybe you know that already, but just in case the memory fades during those long sales meetings, there it is. I love you, whether you make the deal or not.
I’m here at home holding down the fort with the kids (as long as that doesn’t include feeding the dog every day). We all miss you, and really, really look forward to Christmas time. Will it be better by then? Will you make it home for turkey dinner? We all hope so.
Spend the money in here as you want. Sometimes a double expresso can help you make it through the long day. Come home soon.
Always Your Loving Wife,
The phone rang and he squeezed his eyes shut. Thanks Aunt Agatha. It was a small thing, but he would go straight home tonight.
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