12 Days of Christmas: Second December by Jamie Adams

Posted by on Dec 20, 2013 in 12 Days of Christmas, Writing | 0 comments

12 Days of Christmas: Second December by Jamie Adams

Second December

By Jamie Adams

A flutter of kicks in her belly woke Cary just in time to notice the smoke billowing into the living room from the kitchen.

Cursing, she ran into the kitchen and flung open the windows, batting a towel frantically in front of the shrieking smoke alarm. When she opened the oven door, more smoke-filled the room.

“So much for the sugar cookies,” she said, pressing a hand on her protruding stomach. “That’s okay. I probably shouldn’t have even been entertaining the idea of feeding any to Isaiah anyways, not until he’s older. Not that I wouldn’t have eaten them, too.”

There was still too much smoke to try and retrieve the pan of charred remains from the oven, so Cary left the windows open and went back to the living room, finishing stringing the lights she’d been working on before the urge for an impromptu nap hit. Isaiah would be home in an hour, and she wanted all the decorating to be done before he got back. He’d never know the difference, really, but the colored lights twinkling above his head would catch his attention and hold him captive for a time.

She was just finishing cleaning up the culinary disaster when the front door opened.

“Cary? We’re back! You should see this little guy’s cheeks, it’s got to be about ten degrees out.”

Cary stretched out her arms as she hurried into the room. Amanda passed the baby to her, tucking his stroller in the front closet.

“Thanks for coming today. I just couldn’t have gotten this stuff done with this little man tucked in one arm the whole time.”

Amanda smiled, braces glinting. “You’re welcome. I need the money for Christmas presents anyways.”

Cary handed her the check and a couple of peppermint chocolates .

“How’s Matt? Have you heard anything from him lately?”

“He called last week, but the connection cut out after just a couple of minutes. Isaiah got to hear him, though, so that was good.”

“When does he come home?” Amanda asked, sinking into the couch and fidgeting with one of the baby’s brightly colored toys.

“In May. We’re pretty sure, anyways.”

Just in time for their anniversary.

First September

Cary and Matt had dated through all of junior year, but over the summer they’d had a series of arguments and seen little of each other.  At the first football game of the year, they made up in the bed of Matt’s pickup truck. That was the first time Matt mentioned marriage.

First October

Making up with each other resulted in a number of positives – including on a pregnancy test. The timing was inconvenient but not impossible, Cary could finish school before the baby would be born and they’d always planned, without saying as much, on having kids early on. That was the second time Matt mentioned marriage, and this time the plans solidified.

First November

They took engagement photos in the woods, where the flaring red and orange formed canopies overhead. Their parents were supportive but not enthused. Matt’s insisted that he figure out immediately what it was he was going to do to support a wife and child immediately upon graduation. That was the first time he mentioned the army.

First December

Matt turned eighteen. He and Cary and the baby in her belly had their own quiet little celebration at the corner table of the only Italian restaurant for forty miles. Later Matt went out with some of his friends and picked up a ticket for disturbing the peace. The next day was the second time he mentioned the army, and two days later the papers were signed.

January

Cary started working at the newspaper in town. It started off as a temporary position while the Opinion editor was in Maui for his son’s wedding, but by the time Mr. Lever got back from Hawaii he’d decided it was time to retire and the school let Cary work there for English credits. Matt spent most weekends drilling with his new unit. On Sundays, instead of sleeping in and watching movies, they worked on budgets and wedding invitations.

February

They had a family meeting with both sets of parents. Cary’s parents agreed to cosign on a mortgage and provide some mismatched furniture if Matt’s parents helped with the downpayment. Cary wrote a senior thesis about the role of journalism in the world of modern technology and won an award from the state.

March

Matt and Cary bought a house. It was a little Cape Cod style with darling windows and a swing on the porch. It had been in foreclosure, and while they signed the papers, Cary tried to fight the thought that such a thing could happen to them.  Now, around the school work and the sports and the drilling and the writing, they spent their time painting and arranging furniture.

April

Cary turned eighteen. The baby in her belly turned seven months old. Matt placed second in the science fair and went to state. He was the only one that didn’t spend the night in the city sneaking into bars and getting lost in questionable neighborhoods while the chaperone slept soundly.

May

They graduated high school. Instead of an open house, they had bachelor and bachelorette parties. One week after they walked across the stage in cap and gown, Cary walked down the aisle and they slipped plain gold bands on each other’s fingers.

June

At 11:11 PM on June 3rd, Isaiah James blinked sleepy brown eyes and let out a wail that deafened the team who’d helped him come into the world. Cary, exhausted, mumbled to Matt that it was a good sign; their kid wasn’t going to let anyone tell him what to do. Matt wondered uneasily if that included his parents.

July

Cary could edit from home, so she continued to work for the newspaper. Matt did construction work wherever he could squeeze it in, and they slowly started building up a nest egg. Neither of them slept much that month. Isaiah continued to assert himself as lord of their tiny household, and both sets of grandparents refused, kindly but with an iron will, to take the baby overnight. At this point, Cary and Matt would have to sink or swim on their own.

August

Two months after the birth of their first child, Matt got his orders. He would be shipping out the first week in September and could expect to be gone nine months. He started working as many twelve and fourteen hour days as possible, taking on more and more work until the only time Cary saw him was when they shared the bed at night, taking advantage of their closeness and intimacy for the last few weeks they could.

Second September

Matt shipped out in a gray dawn while his baby, secured in a sling, gurgled exuberantly. Cary was sick that morning, amazed at the sheer force with which life could descend on someone. She was sick all that week and the next, and this time it turned out life was descending in an entirely new way.  She sent Matt an email with a photo attachment – of a white stick with a tiny pink plus on it.

Second October

In order to keep focused on editing the columns, Cary hired Amanda, a fourteen year old home-schooled girl who lived three doors down. Amanda started coming over three or four afternoons per week , sometimes taking Isaiah out so Cary could work at home and sometimes staying home so Cary could go to the office. Still, there were plenty of times when Cary should have been working that she rested her hands on the slight roundedness of her stomach and reassured her baby that Daddy would be home soon, that eight months wasn’t so very long after all and oh so very soon Daddy would be home. A new guy started at the newspaper, writing their most popular opinion column, and Cary worked extensively with him to get used to the politics of their small town paper.

Second November

Matt’s base changed from a desert region to a more established area. He got access to the internet, and started calling home via video every week or so. Sometimes, in between, he could call by phone. He would wave to Isaiah, read him shiny picture books, and sing him songs in hushed tones so the other men didn’t hear. Cary would catch him up on all the town gossip, and then he would whisper to the baby inside her, about all the things they would do together once he made it home. A couple nights a week, Amanda could stay late and Cary started going out with her coworkers. It was good for her to get out now and then, and the new guy on staff was full of stories about the year he spent reporting in New York.

Second December

“Well, hopefully your call tonight will be nice and long. We’re not supposed to get any snow tonight so at least on our end the connection should be fine.” Amanda pushed herself off the couch and pulled on her coat. “I have to get home, I have rehearsal for the Christmas play at church tonight.”

“We’ll see. Sometimes Matt just can’t get the air time for the call. But Isaiah sure likes to hear his voice.”

Cary started a pot of noodles to boil for herself and heated water to warm Isaiah’s bottle. She laid him in his bassinet in the bedroom and stepped into the closet. On the left were three pants suits, appropriate for meetings at the newspaper. Next to them hung her two pairs of jeans, neither of which had fit since high school. Since before babies. She was wearing her one sweatshirt, bought back in the days when college was a thought, and the only sweatpants stretchy enough to accommodate both her and baby.

But that wouldn’t do for tonight.

Her coworkers were going to the comedy club that was trying to make a go of it on the corner of Vine and North.  It was for comedy, but still a classy place, with high tables, glossy floors, and a dress code.

Cary tugged a dress from the rack. It was a deep shade of maroon, with a diamond on the left side holding a gather in that accommodated her belly. The parts of her that were still narrow – her shoulders and her calves – were shown off well, and it was thick enough material to stay warm despite the weather.

Once she was dressed, Cary went back to the kitchen and ate her noodles with butter and parmesan cheese while waiting for Isaiah’s bottle to cool again. She sat in the wingbacked chair to feed him, watching the sun go down and enjoying the glimmer of the colorful lights encircling the room. Isaiah’s eyes fluttered as he watched the lights come on and off, until they drooped and then closed completely.

Cary laid him down for a few minutes while she flipped the switch to light up the tree and made cocoa on the stove top. She set the manger scene up on the table beside the armchair. Then she went into her bedroom and got Isaiah again.

The chimes on her computer went off. Cary hurried back into the living room and arranged herself in the chair, tucking Isaiah into her side and spreading the skirt of her dress out so the lights on the tree brought out the shine in the material. Using her screen as a mirror, she brushed her hair back and crossed her legs so they would show in the camera. Then she pressed the button.

“Hey, baby,” she said.

“Hi, Cary.” Matt’s face bloomed into a wide smile. He’d gotten much thinner since his departure, and the hollows of his cheeks were visible. His cheekbones seemed to jut out, their sharpness exacerbated by how short his hair was, and there were dark circles under his eyes. “You can’t even imagine how happy I am to see you. And the kids.”

Cary bent back a little so her stomach stuck out still farther. “Baby is so happy to see you. She’s beating me up with happiness.”

“And Isaiah’s so happy he’s going to sleep through the whole thing. Are you wearing him out with all your Christmas cheer?”

Unexpected tears sprang into her eyes. “I’m a little low on it this year. But I’m trying. Even if he won’t remember it, I want Isaiah’s first Christmas to be a special one even without you.”

Matt’s computer jostled for a moment, and the screen went dark and then showed his face again. There were tears in his eyes too. “It’s not a real special Christmas here either. But it’s supposed to be about giving and not getting, and I guess we’re both doing that. In our own ways.”

“I think I’m almost out of things to give. I miss you.”

“Miss you too. But it won’t be too much longer. Five months isn’t as long as it could be. You’ll be okay.”

“I know.” Cary shook her head a little, trying to toss out her sadness. “I’m going to need that long to figure out how to make cookies. It didn’t go too well today.”

“That’s too bad,” Matt said. Whistling came over the line, and his picture pixellated for a moment.

Cary stared at her frozen screen , bouncing Isaiah gently. She closed her eyes for a moment.

“Hey, don’t you go falling asleep on me,” Matt teased, his video coming to life again.

Cary leaned in closer to the screen. “I was just wishing for you. Partly wishing and partly imagining you were here.”

“Christmas wishes come true sometimes, you know.”

She knew then. Her chest swelled, her voice was shaky when she spoke. “They do?”

Two tears ran down Matt’s left cheek. “Look outside.”

He was there, on the end of the driveway, illuminated by the yellow glow of the streetlights and haloed by the falling snow.

“How long?” she whispered to him on the screen.

“Three days. “ He paused for a moment. “And it’s really cold, so any time you’re ready…”

Cary set the computer down, cuddled Isaiah close to her chest over the mound of her belly, and opened the front door.

 

Jamie Adams

Jamie is an MG and YA writer, among other things. She has a minor shoe addiction, major coffee addiction, and the ability to read multiple books in a single day if left uninterrupted. Christmas is her favorite holiday: colorful lights, peppermint candy, and sweet, sappy stories included.

She can be found at jamieadamswriting.wordpress.com or on Twitter at @jamie_adams22.

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