All I Want for Christmas Is You (Short Story)

BOOK: All I Want for Christmas Is You (Short Story)
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All I Want for Christmas Is You
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Loveswept eBook Edition

All I Want for Christmas Is You
copyright © 2012 by Molly Fader

Excerpt from
Crazy Thing Called Love
by Molly O’Keefe copyright © 2012 by Molly Fader

All Rights Reserved.

Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

LOVESWEPT is a registered trademark and the LOVESWEPT colophon is a trademark of Random House LLC.

eBook ISBN: 978-0-345-54244-1

www.ReadLoveSwept.com

Cover design: Susan Schultz

Cover phohtograph: © Famke Backx/Getty Images

v3.1

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Christmas Eve, 1996

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Excerpt from
Crazy Thing Called

About the Author

Christmas Eve, 1996

Madelyn Baumgarten was freaking out. If she had any fingernails left, she’d chew them down to the quick all over again. Walking through the snow toward Billy’s house, she was blind to the lights, the mechanical reindeer on the Simmons family’s front lawn.

Tonight was Christmas Eve, and all the Christmas spirit in the world was not going to make her forget that her eighteenth birthday was in two days.

And so was her wedding day.

Just thinking it, it sounded ridiculous.
Wedding day.
Her parents were going to go apeshit.

Stop
, she told herself, stepping through the snow onto Billy’s shoveled front walk. She had to be the cool one—the one who could explain to her parents all of the logical reasons for her to marry Billy Wilkins.

Because Billy was never the cool one. Ever.

One quick breath, which fogged in the cold winter air, and Maddy knocked on the front door of 12 Spruce and then, without waiting for anyone to answer, just walked into the cigarette and sadness-scented interior.

“Make yourself at home, huh?” Janice yelled over the back of the sagging yellow couch, where she sat wrapped in blankets.
Jeopardy
played on the TV on the far side of the room. Despite the fact that tomorrow was Christmas Day, there were no decorations. No lights. No tree.

Christmas didn’t come to this house, and hadn’t for a long time.

“When have you ever answered the door?” Maddy’s breath was visible inside the house. Either their heat had been turned off again, or Janice was being careful with the thermometer. There was a new space heater glowing in the corner, beating back the
chill. Maddy unzipped her her tall high-heeled boots, ridiculous in this snow, but Billy loved when she wore them. She placed them neatly by the front door. The cold seeped through her thin socks. She should have worn tights, but they didn’t work with the dress. And tonight … tonight she just wanted everything to work.

Janice had been awful for months now—ever since Billy had made the NHL draft—and Maddy was torn between ignoring Billy’s older sister or picking a fight with her just to take the edge off. “Well, don’t think you own the place just because you’re marrying him.”

“Right.” Maddy laughed as she tugged off her gloves and unzipped her thick coat. “Because this is a place I want to own.”

That broke Janice’s connection to the television and she turned to stare at Maddy over the edge of the couch. She looked a decade older than her twenty-two years. Chain-smoking and letting guys like Aaron Schultz walk all over you would do that to a woman. Maddy used to feel bad for Janice, for the way the world seemed to throw all its shit on her. But now she sort of saw the way Janice asked for it. How she seemed to thrive on being everyone’s victim. It was her job. Filled up the hours between
Jeopardy
reruns.

“Look at you.” Janice came up on her knees to lean over the back of the couch; her eyes crawled all over the new purple dress Maddy had bought for the occasion. “All dressed up.”

“It’s Christmas Eve. Most of the world cares.”

“We’re Jewish.”

Maddy laughed; “A joke?” Sometimes Janice had the power to surprise her. They weren’t Jewish, they weren’t anything religious.

“Keeping it festive,” Janice said. She flicked her hand at the hanger of clothes Maddy was carrying. “You gonna try to put a shine on Billy?”

“It’s just a new shirt,” Maddy said, suddenly embarrassed, because that had been her intention. Civilize him a little, just enough. “A tie.”

“You think that will make your parents love him?”

“They already love him.”
Well, Mom did, thought Maddy. Dad, perhaps not so much.

“Right.” Janice smirked, and placed another cigarette in the corner of her mouth. She lit it, dragging the smoke in deep before blowing it out her nose. Gross. Honestly.

Enough. The stress relief of fighting with Janice wasn’t worth watching the woman smoke. Maddy walked up the bottom three steps to the landing.

“It’s not going to work, you know,” Janice said. Maddy paused, her hand on the banister, her foot on the step. Her heart lodged somewhere between her heart and her throat. “The shirt, the tie, some fancy dinner at your parents’ place. You’re not going to change him.”

“I don’t want to change him,” she said. And she didn’t. She loved Billy just the way he was.

“Really?” Janice laughed until she coughed. “The guy is barely housebroken.”

Maddy stomped toward the coach. Janice pushed up onto her fists, and Maddy remembered the last fight she’d gotten into with Billy’s sister. Janice had torn out a chunk of Maddy’s hair before Billy had finally pulled them apart.

It’s not that she wasn’t scared of Janice—she was, the girl was vicious—but someone had to stand up for Billy.

“I’ve known Billy most of my life,” she said, getting so close to Janice that she could see each individual pore on her nose. “I love him. Him. The way he is. And what
would be awesome, Janice, is if you, his sister, would shut up and support him. For once.”

Janice blinked, her faded green eyes the color of resignation. Of hope turning to despair. For just a moment, they revealed the truth—her complicated heart, and the bitterness that covered a whole lot of sadness. But then those eyes narrowed and Janice went right back on the attack. “Who do you think will be there for him when this marriage of yours falls apart?” she asked. “When you realize it’s fun to fuck a guy like Billy, but not so nice being married to him.”

“Don’t wait, Janice,” she said. “Don’t hold your breath waiting for your cash cow to come back and save you from this place.”

“Cash cow, listen to you. Just because he got drafted doesn’t mean he’s going to the NHL. It’s been, what, six months and he’s still playing in the minors. You guys are going to be living in a shitty apartment in Rochester. Probably for the rest of your life.”

Man. Once again, Maddy was reminded of how brave Billy was to dream, to hope in this house, where every single person, where the walls themselves seemed dead set on crushing anything that even resembled happiness. At the end of June, Billy had been a second-round draft pick for the NHL, second-freaking-round, and Janice was still finding a way to make it sound like a failure. Janice, who spent her days on that couch with Alex Trebek and her nights under Aaron Schultz.

Billy had been planted in some seriously poisonous soil, but he’d managed to bloom, anyway. And things were only going to get better for him. Once she got him out of this house. Once they made their own family, then he’d see what it was like to be there for someone and have someone be there for him.

Because his sisters sure as hell never had.

Maddy turned away, aware, as she always had been but always seemed to forget, that getting into it with Janice was never worth it. Like eating Pringles.

Satisfying for the moment, disappointing in the long run.

She took the stairs two by two and got to the second floor just as the shower was turned off in the bathroom. The pipes thunked behind the faded flower-print wallpaper. God, it was cold in the hallway.

“Billy?”

“Hey, babe,” he yelled back, from behind the bathroom door. “Out in a second.”

She checked her watch and bit back a comment about being late already. Billy was still playing in the Junior A’s up in Rochester, and he’d driven into Pittsburgh earlier that day after a late practice. She knew how stressed out he must be, and she didn’t want to make it worse.

Billy’s room was opposite the bathroom and she pushed open the door, greeted by a nice wave of heat thanks to the space heater in the corner. She quickly shut the door so it didn’t escape.

The room was a time capsule. Nearly untouched in all the years she’d known him, from when he was fifteen, until now, at age twenty. It was a shrine to hockey.

And to her.

He still had the same single bed, the old wooden bed frame with the faded and torn No Fear stickers, from a brief and ill-fated skateboarding phase. The
Star Wars
sheets were gone. The poster of Bobby Clarke had been replaced by Mario Lemieux. Gretzky was still next to his desk, but Eric Lindros hung on the wall beside the door. The Junior National teams he’d been a part of were immortalized in photos over his dresser.

But on the rest of the walls, it was her. Or them. Pictures from high-school formals. Snapshots from summers at the lake. Awards nights and medal ceremonies, when she’d been so proud of him, she was red-faced with it in all the photos.

Standing in this room was like standing inside Billy’s brain. His heart.

Billy wasn’t stupid; anyone who thought that didn’t know the mistake they were making. But he was simple in a way most people could never be. In a way the rest of the world wished it could be.

Billy was hockey. And her.

Before she even realized it she had her thumbnail in her mouth, worrying the little bit that was left near the cuticle. Her stomach cramped. That had been getting worse all day, the stomach stuff.

“Hey,” a soft slurred voice said from behind her.

Maddy waited a second, pulling the ends and edges of herself together. Knitting and tying and scrambling to hide those parts of her that were weak in the face of Denise, Billy’s younger sister, her best friend from grade school. She’d spent the last few years boarding up every entrance; every window or secret opening that Denise could find her way through. Because the truth about Denise’s friendship these days was that she would bleed you dry and not even care. Not if there was a drink, or a hit, in it for her.

And Denise didn’t want help.

Trying to help Denise was as useless as fighting Janice.

“Hey, Denise.” Keeping her smile friendly, but not too friendly, she turned.

High, maybe. Definitely drunk. Her old friend leaned against the doorframe as if it were the only thing keeping her standing in a world gone sideways. She wore her winter coat and a scarf around her neck. Maddy was glad that at least she seemed warm enough.

Denise smiled, unfocused and dazed but still pretty in that way she’d always been. Petite and fragile, a little girl lost in a scary world. Every time Maddy looked at Denise, she looked for the girl she remembered, the girl from the sleepovers and the second-grade spelling bee and the summers down by the lake. But that girl was getting harder and harder to find behind the glassy eyes and bad decisions.

Denise
, she thought,
where have you gone?

BOOK: All I Want for Christmas Is You (Short Story)
13.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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