The BMW moved slowly along the street lined with middle class homes.
There it is. Sam indicated a peach colored, two-story house with white trim.
Tina parked in the driveway. She looked at her passenger, who had been unable to conceal her increasing anxiety as the time had come to visit her mother. Are you okay?
I Ive hoped for this for years. The blonde idly picked at the ribbon tied to the gift on her lap. But She shrugged. I think Id better apologize in advance if this should turn into a fiasco
Dont worry. Its going to be fine. Tina said matter-of-factly, even though, if the truth were known, she was feeling as apprehensive as her partner. Remember what you told me? We can get through anything together.
Youre right. The assertive words calmed Sams nerves a little. Plus, I may NEVER find out what that present is if we dont go in there.
Thats the spirit. The accountant reached into the rear seat for the gift she had gotten Mrs. Whitwell. Want to shake it and see if you can guess?
Youll have to catch me first. Tina bolted out of the car and dashed up the walkway.
Sam quickly followed, catching the runner by the back of her shirt just outside the front door. Give me that present!
Nope. The taller woman grinned and held the brightly wrapped package high above her head.
But I caught you!
Indeed you have. And its the best thing thats ever happened to me.
Dont even TRY to change the subject
Suddenly, the door was pulled open.
I thought I heard someone... Mrs. Whitwell looked at the startled couple. Did I interrupt something? Her eyes traveled up the length of Tinas arm to the still-elevated present.
Umm Hi, Mom, I was about to ring the bell.
Really, Mrs. Whitwell said skeptically, glancing at the neighboring houses to see if anyone was observing them. Come on in. She directed the guests to the living room. Would you like a cup of coffee? Or a soft drink?
The women politely declined and sat down on the couch. Mrs. Whitwell took a seat in the chair across from them.
After a few seconds of tense silence, Sam spoke. Thanks for having us over. I know this isnt easy for you.
I cant say I understand the lifestyle choice youve made, nor do I approve of it.
I wasnt finished.
Mrs. Whitwell looked at her youngest child fondly and softened her tone, I love you, Samantha. To be honest, I dont know how successful Ill be at accepting this whole thing, but Im willing to try.
Would it help if I told you Im incredibly happy?
Yes, Mrs. Whitwells voice was resigned, I suppose that helps.
Sam jumped off the couch to hug her mom. I love you!
Tina felt her stress level subsiding. We might survive this yet.
I got you something. The blonde sat on the arm of the chair and handed her mother the gift. Merry Christmas.
Mrs. Whitwell unwrapped the box and removed the top. Its beautiful, Samantha. She picked up the luxurious cloth-covered journal. Thank you.
Theres more? Doing as her daughter asked, the woman saw the inscription:
This is for all the happy memories youve
given me, and my wish for many more ahead.
Astounded, the parent flipped through page after page of writing. Memories all happy memories. This is so thoughtful of you. I like it very much.
And here, Mom. Sam showed her the blank sheets toward the end. This is where you can put new entries if you want to.
Its a unique gift and Ill cherish it always.
Smiling, Sam returned to her seat next to her partner. Oh Tina got you something, too. I cant wait to find out what it is.
You shouldnt have
Tina passed her the present without further ado. Merry Christmas.
Sam watched with interest as her mother tore the wrapping from the package, pushed the tissue paper aside and burst out laughing. Taking the set of crystal drinking glasses from the box, she gave Tina a wry smile. They match exactly! Thank you.
Well, I felt it was appropriate its partly my fault you have an incomplete set.
It was Tinas turn to laugh.
Mrs. Whitwell went over to the Christmas tree in the corner of the room, selected a gift, and brought it to her daughter.
To Samantha and Tina. Love, Mom. Sam read the tag, carefully peeled it off the paper and gave it to her partner. I want to keep that. Swiftly ripping the decorative wrap, she opened the box and gasped when she saw the silver-bordered photo album inside. The cover had an oval-shaped cutout in the center for a picture and the words Our Life Together in script underneath. Sam had admired the album when her mother purchased it for Lisa and Mike as an engagement present. Mom? How did you
I got an additional one after you told me how much you liked it. Ive been saving it for you, thinking that someday There was a discomforting pause. Anyhow, Lisa explained to me that it would be fitting for your status.
Sam wiped at the tears in her eyes.
Thank you, Tina said sincerely. It means a lot to us.
Now, dont be getting the notion that I approve of this. I just couldnt see any reason to let the thing sit and gather dust any longer than it already has. Might as well get some use out of it.
We understand. Sam lightly ran her fingers over the words on the album before putting the top back on the box. Youve made another happy memory for me today, Mom.
I wont be forgetting it anytime soon, either. Mrs. Whitwell quipped.
They all laughed at the indisputably true remark.
We should get going. Sam looked at her watch. Lisa is cooking dinner.
And I have baking to do for the brunch tomorrow. The homeowner walked the guests out.
They traded best wishes for the holiday and Sam gave her mother a heartfelt hug good-bye.
Mrs. Whitwell shut the door and rested against it. That was different. She went to the living room to clean up, but found she was drawn to the journal her daughter had given her. She took the book to the study, sat at her desk and thumbed through it, stopping to read passages here and there. Coming to a blank page, she looked at it contemplatively for a long time.
Then she raised her pen and began to write.
Theyre here! Joshua ran into the kitchen. Can we eat now?
Lisa closed her eyes. One two three. The anticipation of Christmas tomorrow and exchanging gifts with Sam and Tina tonight had caused the boys to be hyper all day, testing the limits of the womans patience. Shouldnt we at least let them get in the house?
Ill carry the presents! The child sprinted off.
Hey there, pretty lady. Mike came into the room and put his arms around his wife. Hows it going?
Do you REALLY want to know?
Mike chortled, rubbing Lisas back soothingly. Maybe after the kids go to bed, Ill pour us some wine and we can sit by the fire
We still have to bring the boys gifts in from the garage and get the basketball hoop assembled
Ill take care of that.
I get to drink wine and supervise while you play Santa?
Mmm hmm. Mike kissed Lisas neck and whispered in her ear. You can even have the cookies this year.
Ahem Sam stood in the doorway with Tina. Should we come back later?
No! Joshua struggled past the couple with a large plastic bag full of packages. Dont leave. We have to eat and open the presents!
Come in. Lisa laughed, letting go of Mike. Dinner is almost ready.
Thats my cue, the man said, getting out the carving knife. Time for me to slice the ham.
Josh? Tina grabbed one side of the bag before the child dropped it. Lets put this in the family room, okay?
Sam smiled, enchanted by the scene of the twosome heading down the hallway with the sack between them.
Sis? Lisa was setting bowls of food on the table. Howd it go at Moms?
It went WAY better than I expected! She told me you talked with her. I cant thank you enough.
It was nice to have a rational discussion on the subject. Its obviously a foreign concept to her so I tried to emphasize the similarities, not the differences. She didnt say much, but she seemed to be listening.
She was. I can hardly believe it.
Im glad its finally working out. Lisa poured the boys milk.
Me, too, the blonde said happily. Want me to round up the troops?
Sam went to get Tina and her nephews. Shortly thereafter, they all sat down and enjoyed a dinner full of good food and light-hearted conversation.
Tina? Joshua swallowed the last bite of his pumpkin pie. Did Grandma like her present?
Yes, I think she did.
What? Sam glowered at the group. EVERYBODY knew about that but me?
The adults mumbled non-committal responses, hastily scooping forkfuls of dessert into their mouths to thwart the necessity of saying anything more. Josh and Aaron giggled, nodding yes.
Ohhh Sam pinned Tina with a look. I am SO going to get you for this.
The dark-haired woman chewed her food with an aura of total innocence that triggered gales of laughter from the rest of the people at the table.
Lisa stood and collected the plates. Would anyone like coffee?
Mom! Aaron pleaded. Cant you do that later?
You and Josh have to do the dishes
Mommmm The boys groaned.
The sooner its done, the sooner we can open the presents.
Aaron hurriedly got the step stool and climbed on it to rinse the dishes in the sink. He subsequently handed the items to Joshua, who stacked them in the dishwasher.
No coffee for me, Mike said. Ill go get the fire started.
Lisa served the drinks and the women had a chance to relax and chat while the children did their chores. Sam filled her sister in on the details of the trip to their mothers. There was agreement that, although progress still needed to be made, it had far exceeded what any of them would have predicted.
When the dishwashing was concluded, they retired to the family room. Mike was in the overstuffed chair near the crackling fire with Beethoven at his feet. The dog trotted toward the newcomers and received plenty of petting before everyone got seated.
Lisa took her place at the piano, tinkling the keys to limber her fingers. They began singing Christmas carols, one after another, with each person suggesting their favorites. Tina didnt know what to make of it. I thought this kind of thing only occurred in greeting card commercials. She felt Sam pressed tightly against her on the couch. Okay, maybe an alternative greeting card commercial.
What about you, Tina? Lisa asked. Do you have a request?
You MUST have a favorite. Sam prodded.
Well I kind of like The Christmas Song.
Lisa played the introduction and they all sang.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos
Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all a glow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight
They know that Santas on his way.
Hes loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mothers child is going to spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly
And so Im offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although its been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you
Tina pulled Sam into her lap and sang the ending to her.
And so Im offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although its been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you.
Caught up in the moment, she followed the last word with a kiss.
Eww! Aaron made a face. Mushy stuff!
Mike grasped Lisas hand and brought her into an embrace. That seems like a FINE idea. He kissed his wife.
Eww! MORE mushy stuff! Joshua covered his eyes.
The couples looked at the boys and laughed.
Okay, Lisa announced. Time for the presents!
There was pandemonium as the children searched under the tree for packages bearing their name. Sam went over as they unwrapped the toys she had given them. Squeals of joy confirmed to the aunt that she had chosen well. The boys insisted she open her gift right then and there and she thanked them for the much-needed guitar strings.
Tina took the opportunity to put a large, rectangular gift in Lisas hands. Merry Christmas.
Lisa stripped the paper off of a picture frame that displayed a collage of newspaper articles about the track team. In the center was a photo of Tina and Lisa in their uniforms holding trophies. The caption in dark print stated Mellekas and Whitwell to represent Sarasota at State Competition. Where on earth did you get these?
From my scrapbook. I scanned them on my computer
You have a scrapbook? Sam went to investigate what they were looking at. The younger woman had badgered Tina to no avail and remained in the dark as to what gifts her partner had chosen. Oh my gosh! Youre so SKINNY!
Two pairs of eyes stared at her icily.
Tina shook her head. It would be wise to quit before you dig yourself any deeper.
Joshua squeezed in front his mother to see. Is that you?
Yes, with Tina. We were on the track team together in high school.
We can hang that in here. Mike was peeking over Sams shoulder. Itll go with our sports theme.
Lisa propped the picture frame on the piano and smiled at her former teammate. Thanks.
Youre welcome. Tina picked up a present and gave it to Mike. I felt like a traitor getting this, but heres something for your mantle.
The man ripped the wrapping off, looked at the collegiate football ensconced in plexiglass, and then at Tina, dumbfounded. This is UNBELIEVABLE! He put the box on the table, grabbed Tina and swung her around. Thank you!
Why is he so excited about a football? Aaron asked his mother.
I dont know.
Its personalized! Mike had everyone view the writing next to the Gator logo on the ball. To Mike, Class of 77. Underneath, was the coachs signature. You met him in person, Tina?
No. My boss has tons of connections. She got it signed for me.
Yeah, Vivian is great. Sam held out an envelope. She helped me with my present for you guys, too.
Ill take that, Lisa did so with a smirk, because I dont think hes going to let go of that football. She read the information in the packet and her jaw dropped. Are you serious?
Yes. Sam smiled. And my babysitting services are included.
Babysitting? Mike inquired. Whats this about?
Its a weekend getaway some fancy resort on Siesta Beach. Lisa hugged her sister. What a WONDERFUL present!
While Sam talked about the vacation with Lisa and Mike, Tina motioned for the boys to come closer. Hmm I think I have something here She produced two packages and tossed them to Aaron and Josh.
The children decimated the wrapping in a flash and yanked the gifts from the boxes.
Its just like yours! Joshua pulled the Florida State shirt, identical to the one Tina was wearing, over his head.
Aaron examined the silky material of his professional soccer jersey. Awesome!
Very nice! Lisa admired the new apparel. Boys, did you say thank you?
Thanks, Tina! They chorused.
Mike carefully laid the football on the mantle and got a present from under the tree. Sam, Tina, this is for both of you. He put an arm around his wifes waist and grinned. From us.
You unwrap it, T, Sam urged. I opened the one at Moms.
Okay. Tina took the gift and, cautiously detaching the wrapping at the edges, extracted the object without causing a single tear to the paper.
Sam had to fight the impulse to seize the thing and open it more speedily.
What is it? Joshua was on his tiptoes trying to get a look.
The woman didnt answer. Her focus was on the pencil sketch matted in dark gray and bordered with a high gloss silver frame. The drawing was of herself and Sam, modeled after the photo Lisa had taken of them.
So THATS why you borrowed those negatives! Sam accused her sister. You said you wanted to make copies of the pictures of Josh on his bike!
I wanted those, too. But, yes, I had an ulterior motive.
Did you draw that, Daddy? Josh asked.
Yes, and Mom got it framed.
Its superbly done, Tina said quietly. Thank you.
Lisa smiled at the reaction. She loves it!
JOSHUA! Aaron tussled with his brother. I wanna give it to her!
I wanna do it! Josh wailed. Mom? He wont let go of Tinas present!
Tina gave the sketch to Sam and rushed to the children before the quarrel escalated further. What do you have there?
Its for you, Aaron answered, but HE wont let go of it!
For me? Tina sat in the chair and, smiling, extended her hand.
Neither child wanted to relinquish his grip on the gift, so they cooperatively set it in her palm.
Thank you. The dark-haired woman looked at the package, covered with an abundance of tape and an askew bow.
We wrapped it ourselves. Josh informed her.
Really? Tina explored every angle, looking for a possible point of access. Finding none, she wrestled with it until she could wrench the tape free and open the box. Oh no Lying on cotton bedding was a long silver chain with rubber loops at each end.
Seeing the unreadable look on Tinas face, Aaron clarified, Its for your glasses!
Yes I know.
Auntie Sam helped us pick it out. Joshua added.
Did she? Ill have to thank her personally later.
Mike and Lisa laughed, but Sam sensed a hint of hurt in her partners retort. Somethings wrong.
The best part is, Tina closed the box, Ill think of you boys every time I wear it. When I turn 60.
Joshua? Aaron? Lisa held a large garbage bag. Its getting late. Lets throw the trash away.
The children tidied the room, put cookies and milk on the table for Santa, and hugged everyone good night.
Youre gonna tuck me in, arent you? Josh asked Tina.
Cool! The boy stampeded up the steps behind his brother.
Tinas long arms enveloped Sam. She kissed the top of the blondes head and said softly, Would you like to come hear the story?
Cmon. Tina clasped the younger womans hand and they ascended the stairs.
When they got to Joshs room, Sam stood against the wall near the door, not wanting to interfere with the ritual that had been established. She watched as the woman pulled the covers neatly over the boy and sat on the side of the bed.
There were some preliminary questions about hand washing and teeth brushing before Tina seemed satisfied that the child was ready for the story. Acutely aware of her partners presence in the room, she cleared her throat and began.
Once upon a time, there was a very special little girl.
She had hair the color of sunshine and eyes as green as the grass after a spring rain. She was a happy child, who was kind and gentle and good.
She had an older sister and they squabbled, as children sometimes do, but eventually they turned out to be the best of friends.
The little girl had hopes and dreams, like everybody does, and she often thought about what her life would be like when she grew up. Mostly, she dreamed of love. Not just any love, mind you. I mean the kind one hears about in fairy tales where two people meet and find that theyre destined to be together forever.
Well, time passed and the girl became a beautiful woman.
She was still as kind and gentle and good as shed been as a child. She was full of life, with a sparkle in her eyes and a smile that shone so brightly it could light up a room.
Or the darkest of hearts.
She had friends and family who loved her and she loved them in return. So, all in all, things were going pretty well. But deep down inside, she felt as if something was missing. And as the years continued to go by, she wondered if shed ever discover what it was.
Now around this same time,
There was a dark-haired woman who was moody and sad. Shed suffered a great loss and was having trouble finding her way in the world.
She was lonely.
As fate would have it, one night, the two women met. And when they looked into each others eyes they both felt something it was almost magical.
Immediately, the blonde woman knew the other one needed her. How she knew it Im not sure. But she was right.
The dark-haired one well she wasnt sure WHAT she felt except whatever it was it scared her a lot. So, she pretended like she didnt feel anything.
She was very good at that.
However the blonde was not the type to give up easily. She worked hard to make friends demonstrating by example how it was okay to be happy to have someone to confide in and to trust.
Now, dont be thinking that this all went smoothly, because there were bumps in the road and mistakes were made. But the fair-haired woman never wavered from her belief that they were meant to be together.
Shed had to believe it for the two of them for a long time but not anymore.
Because they BOTH believe it now.
So, you see, the hero saved the day. And she didnt need guns or any kind of violence to do it. She used the most powerful force in the universe as her weapon.
She saved the day with love.
Tina hesitated, as she usually did at this juncture, knowing that Joshua would remind her there was more.
The boy smiled. Dont forget the end, Tina! Tell what happened to them after that!
Oh umm they lived happily ever after.
The storyteller ruffled the childs hair, kissed him on the forehead, and turned off the bedside lamp. Sweet dreams, Josh.
You, too, Tina.
Sam stepped out into the hallway, wiping her eyes with her shirtsleeve. She flung her arms around her partner the instant she appeared. I love you.
Tina responded with a prolonged kiss. Is it time to go to my place?
Yeah. With a lusty look, Sam clutched the waistband of Tinas jeans and pulled her toward the stairs. Lets go.
The tall woman raised an eyebrow and grinned. This is going to be good.
To be continued