A Dropped Stitches Christmas (12 page)

BOOK: A Dropped Stitches Christmas
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“You?” I ask Randy as I point at the tomatoes.

Randy nods. “I did it for Mary.”

I can’t help but think that that’s just the kind of thing Joseph would do. I hope so. I’ve never heard much said about romance in the nativity story, but I hope that Mary looked at Joseph and felt her heart pound a little faster.

I doubt he was handsome, of course. There’s no indication of that. I glance up at Randy. I think he’s the kind of guy that starts out looking real handsome, but as you get to know him better and better you don’t think of him as being handsome so much because there are so many other things that crowd into your mind when you think about him.

Randy is a good man.

I think about that as I’m lying in my bed later that night and it’s not a dreamy sort of thing. I care about Randy. I want him to have everything in life he’s ever wanted. The problem is that I think what he might want is a San Marino kind of a girlfriend.

I could be that. I have been that. All I need to do is to stop any changing I’m inclined to do. The thought of it doesn’t make me happy. I lie there for a while and then I finally go to sleep.

Chapter Thirteen

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

—William Shakespeare

L
izabett wrote this quote out on index cards for each of us one evening. She wanted us to tack it to our bulletin boards. This was when her hair was beginning to grow back and she was blossoming. Her mind was filled with possibilities. We were not as positive as she was about the future, but we were all happy that she was flitting around us like she was. It was good to see her happy.

 

I wake up and feel excited. Even before I open my eyes I know this is going to be a special day. This is the day of the opening performance of the play and then the party afterward. The play will go on smoothly without me, but I have a feeling I’m going to be needed for the party. Who else is going to finish stuffing the mushrooms? Or make sure that we find those fancy cocktail napkins and the toothpicks with the silver ribbons on the end? And the music? I wonder if anyone has thought of background music; I’ll need to check.

I put that old flannel robe on and go sit for a few minutes on the balcony with a cup of coffee in my hands. It’s extra cold this morning. I can’t see the sun rise from this side of the house, but I watch the leaves in the trees start to take shape as the sun gradually rises on the other side. The morning always smells damp and earthy because of all of the plants and shrubs around my uncle’s house. I never appreciate the leaves as much as I do just before Christmas; I know most places only have barren trees at that time of year, but here we have a bountiful mix of leaves and bare branches. It’s beautiful.

I sip some of my coffee and search the sky as it lightens. This looking at the sky thing has become a habit when I sit on the balcony these days. Not that I expect to see a sign from God written across the heavens exactly. I just wonder if He’s looking at me.

There were many times in my life when I would have hid if I thought God was looking my way, but I don’t feel that way anymore. I drink the rest of my coffee slowly. I feel almost companionable sitting here letting God look at me if He wants. Learning about Mary has done this for me.

I see a light go on in the hallway so I know my mother is up. I go back inside. Today’s a big day. I better get started. I’ll take the bus to The Pews and get to work.

I put the Sisterhood journal in my bag and kiss my mom goodbye. I wonder if I should be carrying the journal around so much. Maybe if I left it at The Pews, Becca would sneak in when no one’s there and write a note or something. At least then we’d know she was still a part of us. I’ve begun to wonder if the others blame me for making Becca mad.

There are more customers than usual at The Pews. It’s because it’s so close to Christmas. Everybody wants to go out and have a good time. And, of course, they think of The Pews first when they want to do that because it’s the best place to meet friends.

I put my jacket and my bag in the Sisterhood room. I carefully take the journal out of my bag and set it on the shelf by the table so everyone can see it. Then I go to the kitchen.

There is a lot to do. Randy gives me a thumbs-up signal when I walk through the door. He’s flipping pancakes on the grill for the breakfast crowd. He hasn’t even had a chance to start on the stuff for the party. It’s easy to see the small tomatoes need to be washed and cored so I get to it.

After an hour or so, Lizabett comes in to help as well. She’s wearing a jacket. “Have you been outside lately? It’s cold out there.”

“Well, it’s hot in here with all the cooking.”

“Don’t forget you have the dress rehearsal this afternoon,” Randy says to us. “Leave extra time in case it rains and the freeways are backed up.”

Lizabett had already offered to drive me to the dress rehearsal and we plan to leave after lunch.

“I don’t know.” I look up from the radishes I’m cutting into the shape of roses. “Maybe I should call in. There’s so much to do to get ready for tonight. And I’m not really needed at the dress rehearsal.”

“You don’t know that,” Lizabett says. “Maybe Mary will break her leg or something.”

Lizabett sounds a little too cheerful at the thought of someone’s broken bones.

“She’ll be there no matter what,” I tell Lizabett. “She’s not going to miss her chance to impress the producer for that reality show. Believe me. She’d do the play if the church was on fire.”

“Still, we should be there just in case. You can’t lose hope. People have panic attacks or fall into comas all the time.”

“Comas! I wouldn’t want that to happen.”

Lizabett just grins up at me. “I’ll be back.”

 

Hi, this is Lizabett writing in the journal. I saw it on the shelf and I thought I should record this momentous event. I just know something’s going to happen so Carly gets on that stage. We’ve come too far to stop short now. Of course, I hope no one dies or anything. And a coma? Well, maybe not. But a little nudge couldn’t hurt. Maybe some temporary amnesia or a pressing need to see a psychiatrist.

I don’t want to freak Carly out by telling her my thoughts, but I figure it’s okay to write them down here. I’ve prayed she’ll get onstage and I think it’s going to happen.

I also saw what Carly wrote about Becca and I want to say that I don’t blame anyone for Becca being mad. We all know Becca well enough to know that she has her own opinions. No one makes her feel any way she doesn’t want to feel. I’ve been thinking about it, though, and I have to wonder why Becca is so upset. I don’t think she would be that upset with me if I was hiding the fact that I’m really some kind of big-time heiress with a trust fund waiting for me. Which I’m not, of course. But if I was, Becca would be able to adapt.

I think Becca just always envied Carly a little bit and that’s why she’s so angry. I used to watch Becca when we were talking sometimes and I noticed she always looked to Carly to see what she thought first. Maybe if she had not cared so much to begin with it wouldn’t hurt so much now.

Well, I’ve gotta go. Carly has her hands full helping with the food for this party tonight. I know we’re all helping, but Carly is doing the work of ten people. She deserves that part in the play.

Bye from Lizabett.

 

“There’s no need to thank me,” Lizabett announces when she comes back into the kitchen. “I did it for you.”

“What?”

“Started the record of your big day in the Sisterhood journal. Somebody needs to write it down.”

I wince. “I hope you didn’t pray for some catastrophe to stop the actress from playing Mary.”

Lizabett stood still. “I prayed, but I didn’t say there needed to be a catastrophe.”

“Good.” I wrap the last chestnut in bacon and set it on the cookie sheet with the others, ready to go into the oven at the last minute. I’d already frosted the grapes with a sugared meringue and stuck them on toothpicks to put them in the freezer. I’m going to use them to decorate the platters. We’re going with an icy winter look.

Lizabett makes encouraging remarks all during the time that she’s driving me to the church where the play will be performed.

I am glad we made the trip when I see Joseph’s understudy huddled in his usual place in the second row. He looks like a refugee who was turned back at the border for being too pathetic to let in. He could use some comfort and cheer and he’s the closest thing to a partner I have in this business. We understudy people need to stick together. Acting can be a cruel business.

“Maybe there’ll be another role next time,” I say softly to him as Lizabett and I slip into our usual seats behind him.

I hear a rumble of some sort from the understudy.

Lizabett leans forward and puts her hand on his shoulder. “Don’t feel bad.”

He turns around and glares at us. He opens his mouth like he’s going to say something and nothing comes out but a croak. He swallows and tries again. “Can’t talk.”

His voice sounds like it’s coming from a distant cavern. His eyes look like he has a fever and his nose is red.

“He’s got laryngitis,” Lizabett says as she looks at me. “He should be home in bed.”

The understudy shakes his head.

“Big day,” he manages to say.

“But it’s not like they need us here,” I say. “Surely, no one would mind if you were home taking care of yourself. They could call you if they needed you to come down here.”

“I want the reality show,” the understudy croaks before his voice gives out completely and he turns around to face the stage. His shoulders hunch up like he’s getting ready to cough.

“Maybe we should move a little,” Lizabett whispers. We move down a few feet. It’s not like he and I are that close as partners.

“That reality show has everyone acting strange,” I complain. “I bet the producers just start these rumors and then never even show up. They’re just hoping that, if they torment enough people, someone will watch their show if only out of spite.”

I still don’t think it’s right for all of the attention to be on this mysterious reality show instead of the astonishing real story our play is trying to tell people. If God wanted to, He could show these people a reality show or two.

The lights in the church are dimmed and it’s time for the dress rehearsal to begin.

A man at the side of the stage plays a little jazz music on a saxophone and before long the curtain will slowly open. A soft spotlight is supposed to focus on Mary. She will be wearing a mud-colored dress and her hair will be bound up in some khaki scarf that’s made of stiff cotton. I guess there wasn’t any fabric softener back then, either. Anyway, she will be looking at the scorched ground of a wheat field. The stage set will show a run-down farmhouse in the distance with a forlorn gray sheet on the clothesline.

I know what will be there because I’ve seen the pieces of this play being put together. I look at my watch. The director is running late. He should have already raised the curtain.

By now there should be a flash of lightening and the angel should have appeared.

Instead, I see two arms part the curtains and the director comes out in front. He shields his eyes from the spotlight.

“Understudies!” he calls out. “Where are the understudies?”

Lizabett squeals and grabs my arm. “Here! She’s here!”

The director looks down at the rows close to the stage and searches the faces as though he’s trying to decide which ones belong to his understudies. I raise my hand. Joseph’s understudy gives a wracking cough.

“Get up here,” the director says.

“Yes!” Lizabett screams again.

I walk right up onstage and Joseph’s understudy comes along with me. The guy doing the spotlight shines it on us and the other light is dimmed.

The Joseph understudy coughs as we stand on the stage in front of the curtain.

“What’s wrong with you?” the director says to him.

“No voice,” the understudy croaks out so weakly I can barely hear him.

“You can’t talk?” the director says as he runs his hand over his hair and starts to pace in front of us. “What next? First the real actors get snowed in up at Big Bear and then the one producer calls and cancels for some half-brained reason which I don’t even understand. Just because his kid had to go to the hospital. Can’t his wife handle that? He probably had a bigger play to go see.”

I wish the director would back up. “The other Mary got snowed in?”

“I—” the understudy starts to say something, but his voice dies altogether and only air comes out.

The director turns to me. “You’ll have to feed him his lines.”

“But—”

“Yeah, it could work. You say your lines and then you step to the side and say Joseph’s lines as well.”

The man on the saxophone hits a deep, melancholy note on his instrument as he shakes his head.

The director turns to the saxophone man. “I suppose you have a better idea?”

“I need to go home,” the understudy manages to say. His dedication to the play obviously ended when he heard the producer dropped out.

The director looks around blankly. “Well, we have to at least have a body walking around. People could deal with an invisible angel, but we can’t have an imaginary Joseph. A silent Joseph is better than that.”

The understudy backs away.

The director watches the understudy walk off the stage. “Coward. Just because the play is going to bomb, that’s no excuse for abandoning it no matter how sick you are.”

“It’s not going to bomb,” I say. This is Mary’s story. It’s the greatest story ever told. “I know someone who can play Joseph. He knows all the lines.”

The director looks at me like I’ve just announced the Messiah is going to be born on his stage, after all. Which I guess, in a way, is what I have announced.

“Really?” the director asks. “We’ve got three hundred tickets sold for tonight.”

“I’ll ask this guy if he’ll do it.”

“No, you’ll
beg
him to do it. What am I saying? I’ll beg him to do it. What’s his number?”

The director whips out his cell phone and has Randy called before the rest of us can take a deep breath.

“Yes!” the director shouts as he snaps his cell phone shut. “We’ve got a show to put on!”

The cell phone rings just as he puts it back in his pocket and he answers it.

“For you?” he says as he hands the phone to me.

I think it’s going to be Randy, but it’s not. It’s the butterfly woman who was supposed to play Mary.

“Is it true?” she asks me. “That the producer cancelled and isn’t coming to the opening?”

“That’s what I heard.”

“Then I’m not going to bother trying to get a ride down the mountain. He’s probably going to come to the second showing then.”

“Probably,” I agree.

There’s a moment’s silence. “I hope you didn’t think you were going to be able to perform in all of the productions.”

“I’m happy just to do the opening.”

And I am.

I must admit there is something electrifying about getting ready for the opening. Everyone is scurrying around getting more costumes since the other Mary wore a different size than I do. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of mud-colored dresses that look like tents.

“But your hair,” the costume designer frets. “Mary can’t be a blonde. We’ll need to dig out a wig for you. The hair has to be brown. Black might be okay, but not blond.”

BOOK: A Dropped Stitches Christmas
6.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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