Holidays were always the hardest. Memories flooded her mind as she walked through the stores: how he would stop and play each musical ornament and toy. The excitement in his voice as he exclaimed how, this year, their outdoor light display would put the neighbors to shame. How he exercised his right to brag when the neighborhood committee agreed and gave him the holiday decorating award. Yeah, holidays were tough.
Holly hadn’t talked to Jim’s parents very much over the last year. She just couldn’t deal with seeing them last Thanksgiving or Christmas. The messages they left on her answering machine and cell phone dwindled and eventually stopped. The last message from them was on Valentine's Day.
She had made it through Thanksgiving week, hardly even wondering which teams had played on Thursday. Football used to be her favorite sport but now it only reminded her of Jim and the endless weekends of lovingly arguing over their favorite, opposing teams. A few years they had splurged and bought tickets for when his team played hers and had fun they cheering for opposite teams in the stadium.
She’d met Jim at a football game. Her dad had bought her tickets for her birthday and their seats just happened to be next to Jim’s and his dad’s. She’d spent the game flirting with him as they cheered on their respective teams. Their first date was a result of betting on the game – the loser paid for the date. A smile crossed her lips as she remembered Jim whispering that he was never so glad that his team lost.
Her parents both died in an accident after only one Christmas with Jim in her life. He had helped her through the grief. Now there was no one to help her through the grief of losing Jim. Sure, his parents and others had tried, but Holly had shut them out. She couldn’t afford to let anyone get that close to her again. They would only die and leave her to deal with losing them also.
Holly reviewed her game plan, laid out in front of her as if an ordinary to-do list. She would check her mail one last time, pay any bills, drop them in the slot at the Post Office, and eat at her favorite Chinese restaurant. When she returned home, she would shut the garage door without turning off her car and take a long nap into eternity.
A few hours later, as Holly sat in her warm car waiting for sleep to overcome her, she decided to open the rest of the mail. One letter in particular caught her attention. It looked like an ordinary size 10 envelope, but her name was handwritten on the front in a familiar handwriting that she could not place. It didn’t really matter who the letter was from. She was only reading it to pass the time of her leaving this dreary world behind.
As she opened the envelope, tears filled her eyes as she saw a Christmas card with a photo of her standing next to Jim’s parents. Reading the traditional Christmas letter, she was touched by the words stating that the card was, “the most recent family photo we have.” A handwritten note on the bottom stated that they still loved her and considered her their daughter; that they were there when she was ready to talk, or just to cry.
Opening the garage door, Holly pulled out her cell phone and pressed the speed-dial the number still programmed on her phone. A blast of cold air rushed into the car as she rolled down the window and backed down the driveway. They were taking forever to answer. Perhaps it was too late after all.
“Hello, Bell residence.” The familiar voice, so full of life and love, was a bittersweet sound to Holly’s ears. “Hello?”
“Hel…. I ….Thi…”
“Holly? Oh, Holly. It is so good to hear your voice. Are you okay? Do you need to come over? Or for us to come there?” Faye’s voice spoke of relief. Or was it gratitude? Holly couldn’t really tell. She herself felt both.
“I’m on my way there. Am I still welcome?”
“Of course you are, Daughter. I was just making your favorite Christmas cookies. You can enjoy some while we talk, or cry or whatever you need.”
“I’ll be there in a few minutes, then. And Faye? Thanks. More than you know, thanks.”
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