A Dropped Stitches Christmas (8 page)

BOOK: A Dropped Stitches Christmas
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“Well, I don’t think it’s fair,” Lizabett says. “You might be the understudy, but you’re every bit as good of an actress as the one who’s going to play the part.”

I smile at Lizabett’s fierce loyalty. “I met the woman who’s playing Mary today. She’s got this butterfly tattoo on the back of her hand.”

“I bet she was nervous that you’ll take over,” Lizabett says.

“Only because she heard that the director wants to have an opening night party at my uncle’s house in San Marino.”

“What?” Marilee says.

“Your uncle’s house?” Lizabett echoes.

“Is that okay?” Marilee asks.

I shrug. “The director said he’d already called and left a message, so it’s too late to do anything about it now. Besides, once I realized my aunt would get the message instead of my uncle, I figured it was already a done deal. If I know my aunt, she’s already called the director back and agreed to it. She’ll brag for weeks if she can have a few Hollywood producers in her living room. She likes any kind of celebrities.”

Actually, my uncle has three living rooms, but who’s counting? The house has a formal living room, a semiformal living room and then a not-quite-casual living room. They all connect together with huge sliding doors that can be opened to make a party area for a couple of hundred guests. With all of the Christmas decorations that are up, it would be a great place for an opening-night party.

“But what about your uncle?” Marilee asks. “Your aunt’s got to tell him. Is this good or bad for all of you and him?”

“I don’t know. I just hope he doesn’t do it because he feels trapped. He wouldn’t want to look like an uncaring uncle in front of any Hollywood people.”

“If there’s anything we can do, let us know,” Lizabett says.

“Yeah, we can pass crackers or cut up fruit or anything like that,” Marilee adds.

“It won’t be anything that simple if my aunt and important people are involved,” I say. Just thinking about it all makes my bones ache even more. “But I’ll be grateful for your help.”

Usually, when my aunt has a party, my parents and I stay up in our rooms. Since I’m part of the play, however, my aunt will probably think we need to be there passing around appetizers or something.

“It won’t be anything the Sisterhood can’t handle,” Marilee says, and then stops. “Oh.”

I nod. “We could use Becca’s help. I hope she’s talking to me by then.”

“Oh, she will be,” Lizabett says.

I go home that night and soak in the tub. I don’t knock on the main door to talk to my aunt or uncle. I decide that the morning is soon enough for that.

I drift off to sleep reminding myself that I was the one who wanted to stop being treated like a princess. A few sores from honest work are a good step in that direction. I am getting paid for my understudy role, I remind myself. It’ll be almost five hundred dollars total and I’m going to start my move-out fund with it. I already have a thousand or so in my savings account. My dad will be home before I know it and then it will be time for me to get a place of my own.

I’m a little scared, but also excited about the future. The Mary of the Bible could do the things that lie ahead of me and so can I. That reminds me, I meant to ask Marilee if the church where she is going has any books about Mary. Even if it’s only for my practice sessions in The Pews, I want to get the role of Mary absolutely right.

Chapter Eight

“A diamond with a flaw is worth more than a pebble without imperfections.”

—Chinese proverb

B
ecca brought this quote to the Sisterhood one year in the month of June. We were all watching a few of our classmates get engaged and diamonds were the big thing. We tried not to be envious, but we weren’t too successful at it. None of us were even dating. Getting through our chemo was all we could do; we had no energy for going out on dates. We even had to decline half of the wedding invitations we received because of our health. I remember thinking at the time that Becca took it the hardest. She wanted to keep pounding ahead with her life and her body was betraying her with its weakness. She truly believed that if she didn’t give in, she could do anything.

 

I miss Becca. This is Carly, and it’s already Thursday morning. We have our Sisterhood meeting tonight and I’m worried Becca won’t even come. We’ve all missed Sisterhood meetings here and there, but I don’t think anyone has ever deliberately stayed away because she was upset with someone else.

Of course, that’s probably because Becca wouldn’t let any of the rest of us stay away. She would insist the angry person talk to everyone until the feelings were handled and everyone was happy again. The problem is that Becca is the one who is gone. Who’s going to go and talk to her?

 

I’ve been spending a lot of time at The Pews and, when Lizabett can’t help me, Randy has been helping me learn the role of Mary. He reads me the words of Joseph so I can practice Mary’s responses.

We’re doing that now.

“I love only you,” I say as I lean into Randy. Well, I try to lean into him. That’s what the script tells me to do, but the pillow I have tucked into my jacket makes me want to tip off the table rather than lean into Randy.

We are sitting on an edge of the table in our room at The Pews. I figure if I’m going to practice, I should practice as the pregnant woman I’d be if I ever had a chance to do the role in the play.

“I trust you,” Randy says as he takes hold of my arm to steady me. He’s reading from the same script that I am. “We won’t be long now.”

Randy bends down and gives me a kiss on the forehead. That’s in the script, by the way.

We let a minute pass. I’m wondering if Mary was content with that forehead kiss. I’m thinking a real one would be nicer. Like the one Randy gave me the night he drove me home.

Instead, Mary has words to say. “Do you think there’ll be work where we’re going?”

“God will provide,” Randy says as he puts his arm around me.

I have a denim jacket on so I’m a little warm when Randy puts his arm around me.

“I hope they have tomatoes there,” I read from the script. “There’s always work when there’s tomatoes.”

I look away from the script and up at Randy. “I hope no one thinks Mary is going to go picking tomatoes. I don’t care what year this play is supposed to take place in.”

The play has prompted me to do a lot of thinking about Mary, but it is, I think, an unusual kind of thinking.

“I guess that’s creative license for you,” Randy says. “I can’t imagine Joseph would let Mary do something like that, though. A man should take care of his wife. If he has one, that is.”

Randy clears his throat.

“Most women do some kind of work these days,” I say as I look up into his eyes. Definitely slate-blue cool, but I keep going. “Maybe not picking tomatoes, but something.”

Please have the right answer,
I think.

Randy is looking back at me. “I know. That’s the way it is.” His voice gets a little funny and he smiles. “But my wife wouldn’t need to work. I’ll even have a maid to take care of the house. My wife will have time for whatever she wants to do.”

“Like going to the spa and shopping,” I say, looking back down at the script.

“Yeah, things like that,” Randy says. “Fun stuff.”

I notice he keeps his arm around me.

We keep going on with the script, but my mind stays back there with those tomatoes. It’s not that I want to work like a farmworker every day of my life. But I do want to be able to take care of myself if I need to do so. Some women might want to make a career out of leisure, but I’m not one of them.

Besides, in my observation, a man whose wife does nothing productive expects her to impress people for him. Maybe that’s her job: she’s supposed to look like she’s so rich she never needs to lift a finger and he’s so rich he can afford to support her in that style.

I’m not interested in being a princess all of my life. My mother has cured me of that, if nothing else.

I can’t help but wonder if Joseph treated Mary like a princess, though. He knew she was special, and not just special to him but to the whole world. If anyone deserved to be treated that way, it was Mary. From all I can tell, though, she lived her life rather humbly. She didn’t get one of those big blue stork signs to put on her lawn and announce to everyone that she’d given birth to the Messiah. She wasn’t calling up the
National Enquirer.
She seemed to just let things flow along. If people came to see the baby, she welcomed them. But she didn’t go passing Jesus around to strangers hoping to impress someone enough to get her on television or something.

I remember that the actress who is playing Mary just wants to get ahead and I think she’s got the wrong idea. The role of Mary should be acted for the sheer honor of doing it, quietly and humbly and with no expectation of fame or fortune.

We finish going through the script when Marilee comes to the door.

“Guess what?” Marilee says as she comes into the room with a nod for Randy and me. “I just got an e-mail from Becca.”

“Oh?” I say just like my heart isn’t starting to pound. “Is she coming tonight?”

“She said she has to do something for Joy and that it is really important or she would be here.”

“Oh.” My heart isn’t pounding so much anymore. “I see.”

Randy puts his arm back around my shoulders and gives me a little squeeze.

“I’m sure she wants to be here,” Marilee adds.

“Do you really think so?” I say as I look up at Marilee. I figure if I’m going to be more honest with the Sisterhood, it should operate both ways.

“I hope so,” Marilee says softly.

I nod. “So do I.”

“At least Rose will be here tonight,” Marilee says.

Rose has been with us through thick and thin. She was our rock in the days when we were in treatment. She’s out helping other teenagers now, so she doesn’t get to our group as often as she did in the beginning, but she makes it about once a month. I’m glad she’ll be here tonight.

Marilee goes back to her office and Randy goes to the kitchen to get ready for the dinner crowd. I sit in our room and work on my Mary list. At first, I thought I’d write out a description of Mary, but I never got organized enough to do that so I settled for making a list of observations I have made about her life after reading the books I’ve read.

My first observation is that Mary knew longing. Actually that is something I gathered from the part of the New Testament that I have read. There is an awful lot about longing in that book. Well, it’s more a longing and completion cycle. There are the thirsty ones who get water and the hungry ones who get bread and the lonely ones who get visited. Everybody needs something they don’t already have. Because of all that, I believe Mary was a girl who had dreams. She might even have had a longing for a husband and a son.

Knowing that Mary probably had those kinds of feelings makes her more real to me. Sometimes, when I read about Mary, I picture her as a teenager like I was, attending San Marino High School. She would be the shy one in the corner; the one who wanted to date the basketball star but who didn’t have the courage to even say hello to him.

I hope Joseph was Mary’s basketball star. That she found in him all she hoped for in a husband.

With all of my reading in the New Testament, I’m becoming more curious about churches. I’m debating about asking Marilee if I can go to church with her and Quinn this Sunday. Marilee talks about that place enough that she shouldn’t be surprised that I’d like to go with her.

I do some homework while I wait for the Sisterhood meeting to begin. I watch the dinner crowd come into The Pews. I’ve grown to love looking through the glass panes in these French doors. I try to imagine what the story is with different people who are on the other side having dinner. Sometimes you will see two friends laughing about something, but you can also see couples who are obviously arguing. It’s hard to guess who’s happier, though. Maybe the laughter hides tears and the anger will soon be turned to joy.

I guess in life a person just never knows. If you had asked me a month ago what my life would be now, I never would have guessed I would have developed a fondness for the Mary of the Bible and that I would have angered Becca so that she’s not talking to me.

I get the room ready for the Sisterhood meeting after I eat a sandwich out front. I don’t usually spend the whole afternoon here, but I am avoiding my aunt and uncle. I decided I would leave them a note before I left this morning telling them that the director of the play had told me that he was asking them to host a cast party for the play I was in, but that they should feel under no obligation to do so. I assured them that I didn’t expect anything like that and that the director could find another place for the party.

Communicating through notes is not unusual with me and my aunt and uncle. My aunt has a heavy silver tray that she leaves on a table just inside the front door for mail and notes like that. The housekeeper will take the tray and deliver whatever is on it to my aunt. I think my aunt likes to be served with that silver tray. It must make her feel like the queen of something.

Anyway, when I get home after the Sisterhood meeting, there will probably be an envelope in the old mailbox on the side of the house by the entrance my parents and I use. My aunt is always good about responding to notes.

I arrange the table and chairs the way we usually have them for the Sisterhood meetings. Randy and I had moved some things around earlier to make our stage, so I am careful to have everything in its proper place.

I brought the red silk yarn with me so I can begin making a scarf with it. I already have most of my Christmas presents purchased, so I don’t know who I am making the scarf for. I guess I’ll knit it and see who comes to mind.

Lizabett is the first one to get here for the Sisterhood. Her hair is wet when she comes in and she shakes herself.

“Rain,” she says. “And I didn’t have an umbrella with me.”

“Let me go get some paper towels for you.”

I go to the kitchen and get a roll of paper towels. If Lizabett is wet, the others might be, too. I can hear the sound of the rain on the roof when I am in the kitchen of The Pews.

“Don’t let me forget to give all of you your tea,” Randy calls over to me from the grill. “Uncle Lou gave me strict instructions on that before he left. I don’t think he would have gone to Italy if he thought I was forgetting your tea, especially when it’s raining outside like this.”

“Uncle Lou swears his tea is what got us through our treatments,” I say. “And maybe he’s right.”

Not that I think the tea made such a difference, but having Uncle Lou faithfully bring it to us did make us feel better. I wonder as I go back to the room why I liked Uncle Lou’s tea so much and didn’t like the imported fruit Randy had brought in earlier. Is it just because the one is more common? When I get back to the room, Rose and Marilee are also there.

Rose is the only one who brings an umbrella with her tonight. She comes into the room with her hair dry and her umbrella dripping. I wish you could see Rose. She is a medium height and a medium build. You wouldn’t pick her out in a crowd unless you looked at her closely. But she has the kindest face of anyone I know. I can never decide if that’s because her blue eyes are so expressive or because her smile is so genuine. Rose can laugh and cry with abandon. She’s about fifty and she wears her dark hair in short curls around her head. She’s not married and she never tells us if she goes on any dates.

“Sorry I’m late,” Rose says as she sets her umbrella in a corner. “I got caught in traffic.”

Because Rose continues to work as a counselor with teenagers who have cancer, many of her evenings are taken up with family therapy sessions. Rose pulls some yarn and knitting needles out of her big purse. “I’ve looked forward to this all day.”

Rose is making an afghan for a cousin in North Dakota. She has relatives all over the Midwest and she’s been knitting afghans for many of them. The afghan she’s working on now is from a forest-green yarn.

We have a routine in our Sisterhood meetings. We knit in silence for the first half an hour and then we begin to talk. Usually, I find the first half hour very soothing, but not tonight. I keep looking up at the grandfather clock we have in the corner of the room. I can’t quite wait for the full half hour to be up.

“Becca’s mad at me,” I finally say to Rose.

“Oh?” Rose says at the same time as Lizabett and Marilee protest that it’s not so.

“I told her that my parents and I live with my uncle and that we have no money,” I say. “Not that Becca cares about the money. She’s mad because I let everyone believe something about me that isn’t true.”

I’m expecting Rose to be surprised.

“I was wondering when you were going to feel comfortable enough to tell everyone,” Rose says calmly.

“You knew?”

Rose nods. “I had to have a meeting with your parents when you first started treatment. Your mother told me your financial situation.”

“I never knew my parents met with you.”

“All of the parents meet with me, at least initially. The hospital requires it.”

I don’t know if I am more surprised that my parents met with Rose without telling me or that they told her our family secrets when they did see her. All through school, my parents had avoided any parent-teacher conferences. I never thought they met with anyone about me.

I look around and Marilee and Lizabett are absorbing this news as well. I guess we were so totally focused on ourselves when we first started meeting with Rose that we never gave much thought to what she did in the official part of her job.

BOOK: A Dropped Stitches Christmas
9.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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