Read A Wish for Christmas Online

Authors: Thomas Kinkade

A Wish for Christmas (6 page)

BOOK: A Wish for Christmas
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Emily laughed, too. She couldn’t help it. Despite the fact that her heart was breaking in two.
They finally had the basket covered. Sara was about to carry it out when Lillian walked in.
“I thought you’d at least say good-bye to me, Sara.”
“Of course she’s going to say good-bye,” Emily said quickly. “She’s carrying something out to the car. She’ll be right back.”
“And how would I know that? Nobody’s spoken a word to me all morning. I have no idea of their plans.”
Emily sincerely doubted that was true. It was probably more that Lillian had given Sara and Luke the cold shoulder for the last few days, and they were afraid to talk to her.
Luke walked in from the side door. “I think that’s it. We can always come back if we forgot anything, right Lillian?”
“I suppose. Though I will change the locks. I don’t want my front door keys floating all over Boston.”
Before Emily could point out that this precaution was totally preposterous, Sara stepped forward. “Of course not, Grandma. Good idea.”
“You can’t be too careful,
living alone at my age
,” Lillian replied quickly.
Emily and Jessica exchanged a look. It had already started, and Sara and Luke weren’t even out the door.
“Well, time to go.” Luke stepped toward Lillian, looking a little awkward.
Emily could tell he wasn’t sure what to do next. Offering Lillian his hand seemed too formal. But Lillian stood stiffly, daring him to make any gesture even slightly more affectionate.
Finally, Luke leaned his body toward hers and gently patted her bony shoulder. “Good-bye now, Lillian. Take care. We’ll come back and see you soon,” he promised.
“No need to speak to me as if I were a child. I’ll be fine,” Lillian replied sharply. “You need to concentrate on finding a job, young man. Don’t leave it all to my granddaughter.”
Someone else might have taken offense at this. Fortunately, Luke was used to Lillian and just laughed.
Emily was not sure if Lillian would ever think the ex-cop turned-youth-counselor would ever be good enough for Sara. But no one could ever doubt how much he loved Sara and how hard he tried to make her happy.
Case in point, he’d agreed to live in Lillian’s house for the past three years because Sara was so worried about her grandmother’s well-being. If that wasn’t an act of sheer devotion, Emily did not know what was.
When the
offered Sara a job, Luke had no hesitation about moving, although it meant leaving his job as director of New Horizons, the retreat and school that helped kids in trouble, a center that he had founded in Cape Light years ago.
Luckily, Luke had just heard that the New Horizons Foundation might have an opening for him in their Boston office. He was interviewing next week for a position that would involve starting up centers around the country.
“Don’t worry, Lillian. I won’t turn into a deadbeat,” he promised. “Though Sara is getting such a big bump up in her salary now, I’m tempted.”
Lillian frowned at him. “You jest, but I would not be surprised.”
“Grandma, please. Can’t we leave on a good note?” Sara stepped forward and gave Lillian a hug. The old woman resisted at first, then Emily saw her mother close her eyes briefly and pat Sara’s long, dark hair.
When they broke apart, Lillian lifted her chin, her pale blue eyes glassy. “I know you’re an eager beaver on the totem pole and all that,” she said sharply, “but you mustn’t work too hard and wear yourself down. Save your powder. And when you get home, let him do the housework,” she added, pointing at Luke with her cane.
Her mother, mixing metaphors? Emily felt a little jolt. Her mother really
“Yes, Grandma, I’ll remember,” Sara promised. She was still holding Lillian’s hand. She patted it once and then let go.
“Well, I guess we’re off.” Sara looked around, forcing a smile.
Luke put his hand on her shoulder but didn’t say anything.
“So long, Sara. Call me once you get settled in.” Jessica gave Sara and Luke each a quick hug. “Why don’t you walk them out, Emily? I’ll stay here with Mother.”
Emily nodded but didn’t speak. She felt a lump in her throat the size of a softball and didn’t want to burst into tears. Not before they had at least turned the corner.
Once they were outside, their parting went very quickly. Emily hugged Luke and Sara in turn, bid them a safe trip, and then watched as they climbed inside their SUV. She stood on the lawn with her nephews as Sam drove off and then Luke followed. Sara waved from the window, and Emily and the boys waved back.
The boys quickly returned to their game of passing a football and tackling each other. Emily remained on the lawn, watching Luke’s vehicle disappear from view. It was chilly and damp outside. She hadn’t noticed that before. She was wearing just a heavy sweater and jeans and suddenly felt very cold. She took a few deep breaths, then turned to go inside.
She found her sister and mother still in the kitchen. Jessica stood by the stove, pouring hot water into a teapot.
“Don’t make it too strong, Jessica. If I want to drink mud, I’ll take coffee.”
“Don’t worry, Mother. I’ll make it just the way you like.” Jessica looked up as Emily walked in. “Want a cup of tea, Em?”
“Yes, please.” Emily sat at the table across from her mother. “Well, they’re gone.”
“So I’ve heard. I hate long good-byes,” Lillian said. “They’re so tiresome.”
Emily wasn’t surprised by this. Her mother had never been one for emotional displays.
Jessica set down a cup of tea in front of Lillian and another in front of Emily. Then she sat down at the head of the table with her own cup.
“How are you feeling, Jess?” Emily asked her.
“I’m okay. But I’m getting bigger every day.”
Lillian rolled her eyes. “I think that doctor has miscalculated. I think that baby is coming sooner than he says. Just don’t go into labor in the middle of my kitchen, if you please. I don’t need the excitement.”
“I’ll make a note of that, Mother,” Jessica said, biting back a smile.
The baby was coming soon, early or not, Emily thought. Jessica would have her hands full with an infant and her two boys to look after. She wouldn’t have much time to run over here, to take care of Lillian. They’d both had it so easy with Sara living here. They had been spoiled, and now it was time to deal with some realities, some harsh realities.
“Mother, now that Sara and Luke are gone, we really need to talk about how you’re going to manage in this house,” Emily began.
“Manage? How do you think I’ll manage? The same way I’ve been doing it since your father died, I expect.”
“Not quite the same, Mother,” Jessica said. “That was nearly thirty years ago.”
“Just about. I was only forty-nine, a very young widow. You girls forget. You’ve always thought of me as an old woman, but I was quite young to be left alone. I just felt old,” she admitted. “I’ve made it this far on my own. I fail to see the problem.”
“The problem,” Emily said, “is that for the past three years, you’ve had live-in help here, Mother. Whether you want to admit it or not, Sara and Luke looked after you. After that fall on the attic stairs, you couldn’t have remained here without them.”
Lillian sat back and waved her hand airily. “Rubbish. Of course I could have. I was perfectly able, once my bones mended and I got out of that wheelchair. They didn’t have to stay. They wanted to.”
The back door burst open and for a moment, Emily thought it was Sara and Luke, returning because they had forgotten something. Or they’d had a sudden, astounding change of heart and couldn’t stand the idea of leaving, after all.
Wishful thinking, she quickly realized and smiled to herself as her nephews clomped into the room in their big sneakers and baggy jackets that flapped open.
“Hey, Mom. We’re hungry. Can we have some lunch?”
Darrell walked up to Jess and put his arm on her shoulder. He was fifteen and getting so tall; his face and voice were changing, too. He was a big help to Jessica now, watching his younger brother and helping in the house. Tyler was only five but pretty independent for his age. Emily wondered how he would react once the baby came.
“Lunch, right.” Jessica nodded. Emily could tell what she was thinking. It would be hard if not impossible to feed the kids here. She doubted her mother had anything suitable in the house, the cabinets full of potato soup, Saltine crackers, and tuna fish in water, which Lillian ate with a squirt of lemon.
Never mind the fuss Lillian would make over the mess—or the imagined mess.
Jessica rose slowly and picked up her jacket. “Well, in that case, I guess we’d better go. We’ll pick up something on the way home, Darrell. Some pizza or burgers.”
“Sweet.” Darrell was pleased by that announcement.
“I want pizza,” Tyler said, tugging on Jess’s jacket.
Lillian made a snorting sound. “Junk food. You need to give these children nutritious meals, Jessica. With fruit and vegetables.”
Not that she stocked any in the house for their visits, mind you, Emily wanted to point out.
“I usually do, Mother. But I’m too tired right now to go food shopping, and they’re too hungry to wait.”
Emily nodded and touched her arm. “You get going. I’ll just stay a minute and finish my tea.”
Lillian pursed her lips and stared hard at her older daughter. “You’d better be moving along, too, Emily. I’m going out.”
Emily was instantly suspicious that this was just a trick to get rid of her. Lillian, feeling cornered, was trying to cleverly wriggle out of her grasp and escape a discussion of the unthinkable—hiring help to come into this house.
“Where are you going, Mother? You never leave the house on Saturdays.”
Unless one of us takes you out on errands,
she added silently.
“Not that you would know it, but perhaps I have a social life beyond the rounds of doctor visits and supermarkets, where you and sister escort me.”
Not much beyond that, Emily wanted to correct her. The tactic was clear. Her mother was suddenly trying to portray the image of an active, independent person. Which they all knew was not the reality.
Lillian rose and carried her teacup to the sink, which wasn’t easy, walking with a cane. “Ezra’s bridge club is short a hand, and he invited me to join them. They meet in a very nice club room at some senior living community . . . Happy Valley or some such? All those senior villages sound the same to me.”
Happy Valley? Emily nearly laughed out loud. That said it all, though she doubted it was really the name of the place. “Sounds very nice,” Jessica said, helping Tyler with the zipper on his jacket.
“They serve a decent buffet,” Lillian noted. “I’m just going as a favor to Ezra. There are some wretched card players in that bunch. I hope we don’t get a bad table.”
Well, at least she would be with Ezra today. That was a comfort.
“I’m sure Ezra appreciates your help,” Emily said. She picked up her purse and kissed her mother’s cheek. “Call me when you get back, okay?”
“Do I have a curfew? Have I suddenly regressed to my teenage years?”
“Mother, we just want to know that you got in okay,” Jessica explained. “Humor us, please?”
“Yes, humor us,” Emily echoed, but in a much firmer tone.
Lillian sighed. “I will call. And I’ll speak to a machine, I expect, since neither of you ever deigns to pick up the phone.”
“Good-bye, Mother,” Emily said, heading for the door. “I’ll pick you up for church tomorrow at the usual time.”
“Of course. Whenever that turns out to be,” Lillian grumbled.
“Yes, see you tomorrow, Mother.” Jessica kissed her mother and gave her boys a look. Getting the hint, they politely said good-bye to Lillian. They were more than a little afraid of their grandmother. Lillian liked it that way, considering their apprehension a form of respect.
Once they were outside, Emily stood at Jessica’s car for a few private words. “Well, what do you think? We didn’t get very far.”
Jessica leaned into the backseat to make sure Tyler’s seat belt was secure. “I didn’t think we would, not on the first try.”
“I know, but now that they’re really gone, it’s suddenly hitting me. She’s all alone in there. It’s just not safe, Jess. How can she argue with us about it?”
“I’m worried, too. We definitely have to do something. But it will be easier for us, and for her, if we can get her to agree to some plan. Otherwise—”
“Yes, I know. No point without her signing on.”
Emily looked up to see her mother watching from the front parlor window. She waved, and the curtain quickly snapped back. Emily laughed. “We’re being spied on.”
“She’s suiting up for a royal battle, that’s for sure.” Jessica slipped into the driver’s seat and shut the door. “You’ve had a hard day, Em. Don’t worry about any of this right now. We can’t solve it in one conversation with her. It will all work out—one way or the other. Let me know when Mother calls you later, okay?”
“Yes, I will,” Emily promised, stepping back from the car.
Jessica drove off and Emily headed for her Jeep. She and her sister were already working hard to manage their mother, and it had barely been an hour since Sara and Luke had left town.
That was not a good sign. Not at all.
BOOK: A Wish for Christmas
2.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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