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Authors: Thomas Kinkade

A Wish for Christmas (3 page)

BOOK: A Wish for Christmas
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IN ORDER TO MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE THAT THEIR DINNER WOULD NOT be interrupted, Jack Sawyer had nailed a sign to the fence of the Christmas tree farm:
Then, for good measure, he removed the clapper from the brass bell that customers used to call him from his house and carried it inside like a prize.
David had never seen his father do that, not in all the years he had grown up here. But things were different now that his father had married Julie. Everything was different.
“There.” Jack dropped the brass bell piece on the kitchen table. “Just in case some crazies decide they have to pick out their Christmas tree today.”
Julie stood at the stove cooking, where she had been stationed since the morning. She glanced at him over her shoulder and laughed. “Good move, Jack. That will do it.”
“Thank you, dear. I thought so.”
Julie and Jack had been married about eight months, but they seemed so in tune with each other, David thought it could have been years.
“I hope you can put that bell back together,” she added. “We’re going to need it.”
“Don’t worry. I can fix it.” Jacked walked up behind her and brushed her cheek with a quick kiss.
David sat in the living room reading the paper but could see and hear them clearly. When his father glanced his way, suddenly aware that someone else was there, David stared intently at the sports section.
“Hey, Dave. Doing okay?” David looked up from the paper and nodded. “Need anything?”
“I’m fine.” They both knew it was better for David to get up on his own if he needed something. But ever since he had come home, his father was ever watchful, ready to bring him a cold drink, a cup of hot tea, a beer, the newspaper, the TV remote. Anything to spare David an extra step, an extra moment of pain.
Maybe at one point in his life David would have enjoyed, even encouraged, that kind of attention. But the army had effectively weeded out such lazy, immature tendencies. David knew his father meant well, but sometimes it was hard to fend him off politely.
“Julie says dinner is going to be a while longer. I think there’s a game on, college ball. Should I try to find it?” His father picked up the remote and aimed it at the TV.
“I don’t care. You can watch if you want.”
“It’s okay. I’d rather watch the pros.” His father clicked off the TV set again and sat down next to David on the couch. “Feel like a game of chess . . . or some cards?”
David considered the offer. His head was pounding and his hip ached. He wasn’t sure what was worse—taking the pain medication and feeling foggy and out of touch, or enduring the pain and being out of sorts and unable to focus.
“Maybe later. I think I might lie down awhile. I didn’t sleep much last night.”
His father knew all about that. The night before, David had woken up screaming from one of his nightmares, and Jack had run down to help him before he could stumble out of bed and injure himself.
“Oh . . . sure. Good idea.” Jack jumped up and grabbed David’s walker and then brought it around to the side of the couch so David could pull himself up.
David focused on balancing himself and shifting his weight, good side to bad, the foot that had feeling to the one that had gone numb. Step-by-step, he managed to make it out of the room and into the kitchen.
Behind him, he could hear his father let out a long sigh. David could almost feel Jack itching to help him but holding himself back. Which made David feel even more frustrated.
David knew his father felt bad for him, watching him on the walker. David felt worse. He hated having to drag himself around on the metal support like a decrepit old person. But that’s where he was right now. He only hoped he would get rid of it someday.
When that day came, he was going to put this darn hunk of metal in the middle of a road somewhere and run it over. Then turn the vehicle around and do it again.
As he passed the doorway to the kitchen he saw Julie and her daughter, Kate, setting the kitchen table for dinner. The house didn’t have a dining room so all their meals, holidays or not, were eaten in the kitchen. That was the way it had been all through David’s childhood, and it was good to see that tradition hadn’t changed.
“Hey, David. We’re making everyone a surprise,” Kate called out. “I’m making one for you, and Mommy is making one for Jack.”
David couldn’t help smiling at his stepsister. She was like a walking, talking flower, he thought. She had stolen his heart the first minute they met. The feeling seemed mutual, too. Kate followed him around like a puppy. He hardly ever minded. He had time on his hands and plenty extra to give her attention.
“Want to see your surprise?” Kate asked him eagerly.
David could already tell from the cutout shapes of colored paper that his surprise was going to be something in the turkey family. But he didn’t want to ruin it for her.
“Sure I want to see it. But then it won’t be a surprise, silly.”
She leaned back in her seat. “Oh . . . right. I forgot.”
“David will see it later, honey, when we have dinner. I think he wants to go into his room now, for a rest.” Julie looked up and smiled at him. “Dinner will be ready in about half an hour. I shouldn’t have bought such a big turkey. It’s taking forever. Do you need anything?”
“I’m okay.” David forced a smile then turned away. He gritted his teeth and pushed on with the walker. His hip was hurting something awful, and he hoped lying flat would ease the pain.
When he got into his room, he swung the door shut, ambled to his bed, and dropped down. Then he stretched out and let out a long breath, waiting for a wave of pain to pass. His father and Julie meant well. They were only trying to help. He knew that. But it was hard. He felt as if they were watching him every minute. As if he were a creature, the kind he used to collect out in the woods and keep captive in a glass tank in his room.
Julie was all right. It would have been even harder being here alone with his father, that was for sure. Something about Julie’s even temperament balanced out the house and made everyone calmer.
From the minute that he met Julie, almost a year ago, David could tell she was perfect for Jack. Just as calm and patient as his mother, Claire, had been. Just as sweet and kind. Just what Jack needed. His father nearly let Julie slip away, but David had told him to take a chance and chase after her. It was the only advice he had ever given Jack, and it changed his father’s entire life.
After David’s mother died when he was eighteen and David left Cape Light, his father had been lost, buried alive in his grief, but Julie and her daughter, Kate, had brought Jack back to life again. His father’s nursery and landscaping business was booming now, and the Christmas tree farm had never looked better. David could see that Julie helped Jack a lot with the business, even though she had taken a job as an art teacher at a school in town. David was truly happy for his father, happy for them both.
Still, it was hard to come back to the place he had always known as home; it felt so different now. Not just because of Julie and Kate. Because of what he had been through, what he had seen. Because he had been living on an army base in the middle of the desert, feeling he had been dropped on another planet. And now that distant place seemed like reality and here at home, in the place that should be familiar, he felt like a stranger in a strange land.
Sometimes David thought that spending most of the first two months after his tour in the hospital had been a good thing. The hospital wards had been a spare, controlled environment where he didn’t have to deal directly with the shock of leaving army life and the jolt of returning to the States.
Those weeks were a blur, the operations and days on pain medication melting one into the next. He could barely remember any of it now, though at times the pain in his bad leg was still fearsome, almost enough to make him cry.
He was not fully recovered, physically or emotionally. But he was home, back in a world that was at once so familiar and so foreign.
He had been home four weeks and he still wasn’t used to it. At times he felt worse instead of better. Though he hated to let on to his father or Julie when he was having a rough time, he was sure they could tell. He wasn’t exactly Mr. Easy to Be Around. But they had a lot of patience, too much maybe. They had both been making such a fuss over him. Especially his dad.
When Jack came to see him at the hospital in Germany, where David had been transported from Iraq for surgery, Jack could not stop crying. Tears ran down his father’s face; he didn’t even try to hide them or hold them in. David had never seen his father like that, not even at his mother’s funeral.
“Thank God you’re alive.” David remembered how Jack choked out the words through his tears. “You’ll get through this, son. Whatever it takes, you’ll get through it. You’re alive, that’s all that matters. You’re a lucky one, David. An angel was watching over you.”
At the time, David felt the same. Why had he been chosen to survive the attack when the soldier sitting right next to him had not? He had seen guys get hurt over there plenty of times. Lots of them left in much worse shape. At least he had come out of it with both arms and legs. He hadn’t been burned or crushed by the exploding metal. He hadn’t bled to death in the wreckage.
His left leg was healing pretty well. It had been badly fractured and had pins and a metal piece holding it together now. But his right hip and leg were so screwed up, he might not walk again without a walker. But he had to be grateful, didn’t he? That’s what everyone told him. He was lucky, very lucky.
He had to be thankful, David reminded himself. Today, of all days, he couldn’t let himself sink into a swamp of the blues and bitter self-pity. He couldn’t focus on what he had lost, the pain that was almost continuous, the broken places that would never heal. Picking over the plans and hopes that had been taken from him. Or the fear of what would be.
What if he never walked normally again? He wasn’t even twenty-three years old. How could he live like this? What kind of work would he find? What kind of woman would want to be with him?
Not Christine. She was engaged. It was no use even thinking about her. It had helped while he was in Iraq to think of her, to imagine he would come back and persuade her to be with him again. That was just a soothing daydream to help him get through the worst of it. He could see that now.
She had called the house a few times since his return, but he didn’t want to see her. He kept telling his father to make excuses. Pretty soon she would get the hint and give up. Maybe she had given up already. They went back a long way, and she just felt sorry for him; he knew that.
Thinking about Christine was just another kind of pain. David had learned the full A-to-Z list this past year. If they gave out college degrees for such matters, he would be a PhD by now.
DAVID WASN’T SURE HOW LONG HE HAD BEEN ASLEEP. THE ROOM WAS dark when he opened his eyes, and his father was standing in the doorway, calling to him. “David? Can you get up? Time for Thanksgiving dinner.”
David shook his head. “I’ll be there in a minute,” he promised, though he knew it would take much longer to maneuver himself out of bed and make the short trip from his room into the kitchen.
He lay in bed, wondering if he could somehow avoid joining the family. He could say he had too much pain to get out of bed, or he felt too tired. It suddenly felt as if he were facing some sort of ordeal, just going out there and having to make small talk with all of them.
But a few moments later, he gathered his energy and pushed himself up and off the bed. He had to at least try. Julie had been cooking all day, and his father had been making such a big deal of this holiday. If it felt like too much, he could always excuse himself.
When he finally arrived in the kitchen, the family was already seated around the table, waiting for him. He awkwardly shifted from the walker into a chair. His father made a quick move to help him, but David stopped him. “I’m all right, Dad.”
His father nodded and sat back down again. David noticed Julie glance across the table and meet Jack’s gaze, but she didn’t say anything.
“So, do you like your surprise?” Kate asked him, breaking the tense silence.
David felt as if someone had shaken him awake from a dream. He stared around and finally realized what his little stepsister was talking about. A colorful object, made from construction paper, sat on top of his dinner plate. He guessed it was a turkey, though it was unlike any bird he had ever seen. He picked it up and looked it over with interest, noticing his name spelled out on the tail, one letter on each feather.
“Wow, look at that. My own personal turkey! Did you make this for me?”
Kate nodded quickly, obviously pleased by his reaction. “I did.”
“That is something else. Thanks, Kate. I love it.”
Julie smiled at him. He saw Jack trying to hide a grin, too.
“Nice touch.” Jack held up his own construction-paper turkey then put it aside. “Thank you, ladies. But I’m starved and ready to pounce on the real one. What do you say, everybody?”
“I say, how about a little blessing over the meal before we begin?” Julie reminded him.
“Oh . . . right. How could I forget, on Thanksgiving no less? When we have so much to be thankful for this year,” Jack added, looking over at David.
David didn’t know what to say. His father was thankful enough for his return for both of them. For all of them.
Jack bowed his head. “Dear Father above, we humbly thank You today for the many blessings You’ve given our family. For our good health and well-being. For the bounty of food on this table. For all that You provide in our lives, every day of the year. We are most thankful for the well-being of our family and for the safe return of our beloved David. Help us to remember the important things in life and to cherish those near and dear.”
BOOK: A Wish for Christmas
6.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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