Silver Bells and Tiny White Lights
On Christmas Eve Donald and the children set up the tree in the master bedroom because Emily was afraid to be in the rest of the house. They decorated it with red bows, snowmen, silver bells, tiny white lights, and tinsel. They put the little freight train under the tree. Emily was fascinated as the train went round and round. She clapped her hands when Donald lit the lights.
“So pretty,” she said.
Donald and the children were dressed up. Donald wore his tan slacks, white shirt, navy jacket and a red tie with green wreaths. Annie was stunning in an emerald velvet dress, nylons, and black shoes with small heels. Eddie wore his gray suit, a blue cotton shirt, and red tie. Emily wore a bathrobe, but it was a new bathrobe. It was pink satin and it made her skin Mikimoto pearl.
Eddie smiled. He felt warm inside. It’s so good to have Mom again, he thought.
Annie handed Emily the white angel with blue wings. “You can put the angel on, Mom,” she said. “It goes on the very tip top.”
“I don’t know if I can,” Emily said.
“Sure you can,” Donald said.
They all helped her up and braced her as she reached for the top of the tree. She got the angel in place, and they helped her back to the club chair.
“Did I do okay?” she asked.
“It looks great,” Annie said.
“You did fine,” Donald said.
Annie and Eddie brought in the presents wrapped in poinsettia paper and tied with red
“Oh my,” Emily said. “What’s in them?”
Annie and Eddie each received an Ipod. Annie got a white angora sweater, blue jeans, and Coty’s Muguet toilet water. Eddie got jeans, a Green Bay sweatshirt, and an electronic football game.
“Open yours,” Donald said to Emily.
She opened each gift slowly, folding and saving the red ribbon, folding and saving the wrapping paper. She received L’Air du Temps perfume, a royal blue cashmere sweater, and an envelope filled with papers.
She appeared delighted with everything. “Lovely,” she said. “Pretty!” she said.
“Did you see what the tickets are for?” Donald asked.
“What?” Emily asked.
“Those are airplane tickets,” Eddie said, pointing to the papers in her lap.
“We’re all going to Rio de Janeiro, Mom!” Annie said.
“Rio, babe,” Donald said. For three weeks. All of us. We’re going on a little trip together. It will be okay. You’ll be safe.”
Emily looked at Donald and then at the children. They were all looking at her, waiting for an answer. What do they want? she worried. She swallowed. What do I say? she thought, and then she found a word. “Yes,” she said. And they were very pleased.
Eddie hugged her first, and then Annie joined in. Donald put his arms around all three of them. The little freight train ran round and round. The lights on the Christmas tree blinked brightly.
“Now, you open your presents, Dad,” Annie said.
Later that night when everyone was asleep, Emily got up and tried the royal blue sweater on, over her bathrobe. She walked out of the bedroom for the first time in two years. She looked in on Annie and Eddie. She walked down the stairs and peered into the living room, family room, and kitchen. She walked out onto the back porch and felt the air, cold and fresh. She looked at the white snow scattered on the grass and the stars in the blue-black sky. She felt strange but not scared or apprehensive. She longed for something but didn’t know what.
The night clung to her like a silky black scarf. She hugged herself and her body began to shake. A tormented moan lurched through her legs and body and crashed out of her lungs.
Annie and Eddie woke up but went back to sleep. Donald rolled over and mumbled. Deep in the woods, by the river that rolled through Wisconsin, animals stopped and listened. Deer stopped running. Raccoons paused in their feeding. Rabbits and squirrels didn’t move.