Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Home for Christmas (11/20/08)
TITLE: No Place Like Home
By Catrina Bradley
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I shot him a look that could melt diamonds and put my nose back into Grisham’s “Skipping Christmas.” Boy could I relate to Mr. Krank; I was ready to skip the rest of December and move straight into January.
Irving was acting like it was my fault I had to work on Christmas this year. Maybe I could tell the patients they’d need to care for themselves tomorrow because the nurses had to go home to mommy. Wait, I’ve got it – we could just shut down the hospital tomorrow. I should ask Irving if he’d call the director and suggest it.
I gave up reading and closed my book none too quietly. “Let’s go. You’re taking me shopping. Bring the credit cards.”
Macy’s jewelry counter sparkled like Christmas morning. Rubies, emeralds, and diamonds reflected fluorescent light into shopper’s eyes, luring them like sheep to slaughter, blinding them to exorbitant price tags. I marched straight to the display where I had eyeballed a tennis bracelet last week.
The sales clerk wore so much mascara I wondered how she was able to lift her eyelids. “Happy holidays,” she crooned. “Is there something I can show you?” I wasn’t fooled by her faux festivity. Under all that mascara, her eyes brimmed with boredom.
“Merry CHRISTMAS.” I raised my nose a bit higher. “This bracelet, please …if it’s not too much trouble.” I tapped a red fingernail on the glass over my greed’s desire. Irving shuffled closer, and I glowered at him from the corner of narrowed eyes. He was squinting; I knew he was trying to peek at the tiny price tag dangling from the clasp.
“An exquisite choice. Perfect for your dainty wrist.” Luckily the clerk missed my unchecked eye-roll as she unlocked the glass case. With exaggerated flourish, she presented the glittering band of diamonds.
I stuck out my hand, and she fastened the bracelet around my wrist. “Stunning! And a perfect fit. You could take this home with you today. Shall I wrap it for you?”
“No, thank you. I shall wear it.” I left Irving to finalize the purchase while I had a look at a sale in the shoe department.
The dazzling sunrise Christmas morning heralded promises of a splendid day. I emerged from the bedroom bathed and refreshed – body and soul. I had prayed away the hateful spite from the days before and pledged to make peace with Irving before I started my shift.
Wrapped in my trusty old bathrobe, I headed off to start coffee. The worn and frayed robe hugged me like an old friend. If we’d “gone home” for Christmas instead of staying home, I’d have worn the homely robe his Aunt Betty gave me last year, still stiff and scratchy from unuse.
Rounding the corner into the den, I got a surprise: my beloved Irving met me with a kiss and a steaming cup. The Christmas tree lights flashed and a fire crackled in the hearth. Irving had taken advantage of the homefield, too, and had donned his favorite faded sweatshirt and flannel pajama pants. We looked each other up and down and shared a laugh.
“Merry Christmas, Irving. I’m sorry for being a bit… grumpy lately.”
“No, I’m sorry. I made too much of going home for Christmas, when this IS my home. Right now, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be. Got time to open a present before you get ready for work?”
“Are you kidding? At least one!” I reached for the biggest box under the tree, but Irving caught my arm. He pulled a long, blue velvet box from his pocket.
My trembling hands threatened to drop the box as I fumbled the lid open. I gasped at the diamond necklace glittering in the satin lining. It was perfect match to my new bracelet. The tears on my cheeks told Irving of my joy; I was speechless.
“The clerk with all the eye makeup said you’d like it.”
“Um…I’ll be late this afternoon. I need to stop at the grocers,” I stammered.
“But we got everything for Christmas dinner yesterday. What else…”
“Sweet potatoes,” I blurted. “Sweet potatoes and marshmallows.”
And I didn’t even want to gag.
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