Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Miracle--Part II

Thanks for coming back! The holidays are approaching! And here I am, counting down the moments until I can truly celebrate (a.k.a. stay in bed until everyone forgets what I look like or I have to emerge for chocolate). Anyway, my dears, the story goes on!
Last time we left Lydia Perkins smack in the middle of holiday preparations with the arrival of an unexpected visitor. As Lydia struggles to keep the magic of Christmas alive, she may have a helper during the holidays.
The Christmas Miracle of Lydia Perkins
Part 2

The next day, Lydia found herself elbow-deep in caramel corn. Tommy and Jimmy were happily patting their cooled corn into bulbous mounds, licking their palms periodically to remove excess caramel.  Ick, she thought, glad she only let the boys make their own holiday treats.  Goody plates were meant to spread holiday cheer, not runny noses or whatever boy cooties they were carrying. 
Lydia added the last carefully molded popcorn ball to the tray, automatically smacking a pudgy hand as it reached for one. “You’ve got your own,” she said, unaffected by the wounded look on Jimmy’s face as he rubbed his dimpled paw. “These are for the neighbors.”
She rinsed her hands at the sink before pulling out the colored plastic wrap and ribbon. “Would you like to help me wrap them up, boys?” she asked. They bounced about eagerly, grabbing sticky-fingered for the ribbon. “Hands clean first, please,” she reminded them, deftly scooting the ribbon out of reach just in time. The boys tumbled off the bench, squabbling about who got to wash first. Lydia had just started cutting lengths of ribbon when the doorbell rang.
“Tommy can you get the door?” she called, snipping the last ribbon while the boys raced off.
“Mommy, come quick!” Jimmy hollered excitedly. Lydia carefully set down the scissors and went to investigate.
Jimmy was bouncing up and down, and Tommy was holding the door open proudly, a Christmas tree filling the doorway. “What in the world?” she asked, bewilderedly.
A cheery, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” issued from the tree. The man from the day before peeked around it, greeting Lydia with a wide grin. “I hope it’s not too much,” he said quietly, “but I noticed you didn’t have one yet.”
She floundered for a moment, glancing down at the boys. They peered up at her with wide expectant eyes. How could she refuse?
“Thank you, it’s beautiful,” she said, helping him to ease it through the doorway.  “You really didn’t have to do this, though.”
“I wanted to say thank you for helping me out last night,” he said as he set it up in the spot she indicated. “It’s not Christmas without a real tree.” The boys were still dancing around, sniffing the piney aroma, and whispering to one another excitedly.
“Thank you. We’ve never had a real tree,” Lydia said, brushing the needled branches gently.  “It’s lovely.”
“My pleasure,” he said, his customary smile in place. There was something familiar in that smile, a long lost memory struggled to resurface, but couldn’t.
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” the boys called, dragging her back to reality with their pleading. “Can we decorate it? Please! Please! Please! Please!
“All right, you may bring out the ornaments, but be careful with the boxes.”
The two boys grabbed the man’s hands, yanking him along with them.  “You can help us,” Tommy said. 
“I get to put the star on top!” Jimmy proclaimed as they hurried to the bedroom closet. The man glanced back at Lydia, amusement painting his features. Typically, it might make her nervous to let her children run off with a perfect stranger, but something about him put her at ease.  And really, those two rapscallions were more of danger to him.
“I find it easier not to argue,” she whispered loudly.
A few minutes later they emerged from the bedroom, each carrying a large plastic bin. The boys had theirs open in a moment, oohing and awwwing over the contents. The man came to stand beside her and watch them trim the tree. 
“They really are nice boys,” he said approvingly.
“Yes, they are. They have just enough sweetness to keep me sane and just enough naughtiness to keep life interesting.” She reached to tousled Jimmy’s hair lovingly as she said it.  “Which reminds me, I haven’t even introduced them to you. This is Jimmy,” she patted him on the shoulder, “and that’s Tommy.”
“And that’s Mommy,” Jimmy chimed in, flashing his gap-toothed smile.
“Lydia, actually,” she amended, “Lydia Perkins.”
“Pleased to meet you,” he said, shaking her hand.  “I’m Mason Peters.”
“You gonna help?” Jimmy interrupted, yanking on Mason’s jacket.
“Sure, what do you want me to do?” he said, crouching down to talk to the boys.
Jimmy thrust a misshapen reindeer into his hands. “Put this on, I made it in preschool.”
Lydia chuckled quietly as Mason helped the boys. “I’m going to make some hot chocolate while you boys work on the tree.”
“Need any help?” Mason inquired politely.
“What you’re doing is more than enough,” she replied. 
As she turned to leave, Tommy handed Mason a packet of lights. “You can do the lights. Daddies are supposed to do the lights.”
Lydia froze in her tracks when she heard Mason reply, “Then won’t your daddy want to do them?”
Her stomach twisted with apprehension and she glanced over her shoulder. Tommy just shrugged and said matter-of-factly, “We don’t have a daddy.”
Mason met her gaze, a mixture of pity and understanding in his eyes as he said, “Then I’d be glad to do the lights.” 
Quickly, she turned away and hurried off to the kitchen to hide her flushed cheeks.
What will he think? She busied herself with assembling a tray of treats and gourmet hot chocolate so she wouldn’t have to think about it too much and hoped her flaming cheeks would return to normal by the time she finished. She was just grating chocolate over the frothy cream-topped mugs when Mason stepped into the kitchen.
“Anything I can do?”
“I’m just finishing up,” she replied, throwing the used utensils in the sink and stowing away the ingredients.
“So…” he said, leaning against the counter as she cleaned up. “There’s no Mr. Perkins?”
Lydia placed the milk in the fridge before responding simply, “Nope. It’s just us.”
“I don’t mean to pry,” he said, handing her the hot chocolate mix to put away, “But what happened? You seem like such a close family.”
Here it comes, Lydia thought warily, the what’s-wrong-with-you interrogation. Everyone wanted to know what she’d done to deserve this, raising two boys with no husband in sight. Directness was the only way to head off a full inquiry. “He just left. Tommy was two and I was pregnant with Jimmy. He never came back.”
“That must have been hard,” he said, his tone sympathetic.
“We manage,” she said. “Like any other family we have our good days and our bad days.”
“You’re obviously doing something right,” he said, glancing toward the living room. “Those are two great boys out there.”
“Ooh!” Lydia said, remembering the hot chocolate, “and they’re probably waiting for their treats!”  She handed Mason two mugs and carried the remaining two and the tray of treats out to the boys.
“Anybody for hot chocolate?” she asked, infusing her voice with as much cheer as she could. A chorus of “Me! Me! Me!” rang back to her. After settling the boys on the floor, she handed them each a mug and a cookie.
They were all munching away happily, admiring the newly decorated tree and sipping their cocoa, when Tommy asked, “Mommy, when are we taking the treats to the neighbors?”
“Tomorrow night, honey,” she replied.
Jimmy, snuggling up to Mason said, “We get to sing! Jingle Bells! Jingle Bells! Jingle all the way!”  He wiggled about as he sang, nearly splashing hot chocolate all over Mason’s slacks.  A quelling look from Lydia calmed him, but didn’t stop him from asking Mason, “You wanna come?”
“It’s Christmas Eve, sweety, I’m sure he’s got other plans,” Lydia said.
“Actually, I’m free,” Mason said, “But I don’t want to intrude on your family tradition.” 
“You’re welcome to come if you’d like,” Lydia assured him, secretly pleased with the idea.  “I’ll warn you that it’ll be chilly and the boys only know Jingle Bells and the first part of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  This immediately sent the boys into an off-key rendition of Rudolph.
Mason chuckled, “Sounds great.”
* * *
As always, thanks for dropping in! And here's Part 1, where Lydia and Mason meet for the first time. Relive the magic! Happy holidays, my dears! Here's the conclusion! Part 3

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