Julie’s hand trembled as she gripped the brass knocker on the burgundy door. It wasn’t December’s wind-chill that made her shutter. Taking a deep breath, she inhaled the pine scent of the live garland gracing the doorframe. Her eyes reflected the glowing Christmas lights draped on bushes and trees. Making a fist, Julie pounded on the door. The only sound she heard came from a car crunching along the snow-covered street.
She slumped onto the brick steps. Gazing at the welcome mat, warm tears began flowing down her cold cheeks. Julie wrapped her arms around herself. Her nose dripped, but she didn’t care. “Was this a mistake?” she whispered.
During her freshman year in college, Julie’s parents filed for divorce. After hearing the news, she refused to go home for Christmas break. She could have spent the twenty-one days with her roommate’s family at their winter cabin. She declined, unwilling to witness a loving family while mourning the loss of her own. She volunteered to work on campus, watched old movies every night, and ordered pizza for Christmas dinner.
To avoid staying with either parent during summer break, Julie enrolled in summer classes.
For Julie’s sophomore Christmas break, she could have spent the twenty-one days with her father and his new wife in the Caribbean. She declined, unwilling to watch her father swoon over a woman who wasn’t her mother. She decided to visit her grandmother instead. When she arrived at the nursing home, her grandmother didn’t recognize her. Julie slept on a cot next to her grandmother. She volunteered around the facility, watched old movies every night, and ordered pizza for Christmas dinner. Grammie ate through a feeding tube.
Again, Julie enrolled in summer classes. She briefly saw her father at Grammie’s funeral.
By Julie’s junior year, she was homesick. She wanted to see her family for Christmas. Julie’s mother sent plane tickets. She would spend the twenty-one days with mother and her new husband. The first night, Julie caught her stepfather staring at her breasts. When she glared at him, he slowly licked his bottom lip. The next day, he tried brushing up against her in the hallway. She packed, called a cab, and checked into a motel without saying goodbye. Julie told her story to the motel manager, who hired her to clean rooms. Julie worked all day, watched old movies every night, and ordered pizza for Christmas dinner.
As Julie began her senior year, she met a handsome thirty-one year old man in the campus library. Thomas took evening graduate courses. He lived twenty-five miles away. Because he worked days and weekends, she only saw him on campus three nights a week. Their chemistry was instant, the romance remarkable, the passion intoxicating. For the first time since her parents’ divorce, she was happy. She finally felt special. She belonged to someone. She started to trust again, believe in love, marriage, a family of her own, and happily ever after.
She suggested they spend Thanksgiving together. “Sorry Julie, but I always go skiing with my buddies during Thanksgiving week. I promise we’ll spend Christmas together.”
Julie never heard from Thomas after Thanksgiving. No text messages, emails, phone calls, nothing. He dropped his classes. Panic-stricken, she tried tracking him down. Her research led her to the burgundy door, with the painted welcome mat reading, “The Thomas Hendersons.”
“He’s right; his parents are loaded—guess he’s a junior?”
Julie stood up, lightheaded, nauseated. She broke an icicle from the roof’s gutter and sucked the frozen water. Trudging through snow, she headed toward the bus stop. On her way, she noticed the little neighborhood church was open. She hadn’t attended church in years, but needed shelter.
Inside, the aroma of fresh baked cookies increased Julie’s hunger pangs. Following the sound of laughter, she discovered women filling food baskets.
“Can I help you?”
Julie didn’t know how to answer, but her broken heart did. For hours, she shared with the pastor’s wife. She also learned the house with the burgundy door belonged to Thomas and his wife.
Touching her stomach, she sobbed. “Now what?”
“Julie, once there was another pregnant woman who needed a room on Christmas Eve. God provided for her and her child. He’ll do the same for you, if you’ll let Him. There’s a room, and a home, for you and your baby in our house—and not just for Christmas.”
Julie accepted both invitations—still watched old movies, but never ordered pizza for Christmas dinner again.
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