Authors: Angel's Touch
An Angel’s Touch
IFTH AVENUE WAS THRONGED.
Not just ordinary-Fifth-Avenue-thronged, but Christmas-Eve-Fifth-Avenue-thronged. Every few steps, a Salvation Army Santa waved a silver bell; New Yorkers moved at speeded-up paces, even for New Yorkers. They moved in the hundreds, the thousands; throughout the city, they moved in the millions. As Don Angel drove down the street at a snail’s pace, looking for his wife, he was convinced that most of Manhattan’s population was now on the very street where he searched for Cathy. He squinted against the multitude of bright red and green lights, lights reflecting on the tinsel that decorated store windows, on holly and mistletoe, on Christmas trees, Nativity scenes, garish decorations, frost sprayed on windows, cartoon creatures in Santa hats.
Horns beeped and blared. No true Christmas spirit on the streets of New York! he thought. A taxi screeched in front of him, trying to fit into the foot of space between his car and the old yellow Jaguar ahead of him. A pedestrian, a man exiting the taxi, slammed his fist against the hood of Don’s modest gray Beamer.
“Hey!” Don yelled out indignantly. The pedestrian was already on his way, swearing as he dropped a handful of coins into a red Salvation Army pot as he reached the sidewalk.
Christmas. Don shook his head. It was supposed to be a time of good cheer. Good will toward all. Families were supposed to get together. You were just supposed to plain feel good, warm, close to those you loved—happy as all hell. Instead it seemed these days that it all turned into a mania, a shopping frenzy, a fest of greed, hurry—and raging traffic.
He hated Christmas, he decided.
And he could just kill Cathy, he thought, aggravated at being stuck in traffic while wondering if he was going to be able to find her before being forced by the flow into the Christmas-Eve torture of circling the block again. They could have been out of the city by noon; actually, they’d both been at their jobs so long they could easily have taken the day off. Avoided all this rush. But Cathy—Madame Noel—hadn’t gotten just the right gift for their niece, little three-year-old Tatiana—Tatiana, a hell of a name for a three-year-old, but then, as Cathy had said, how do you get to be a grown-up Tatiana if you weren’t a Tatiana-baby? Cathy had wanted to spend this last afternoon shopping in the city just in case she had forgotten to get a present for anyone else. So, now this.
Not that his day had gone well to begin with. He’d have been better off if he’d stayed home. Actually, he’d have been better off if he’d gone back to grad school and chosen something other than law for his life’s work, he thought. He’d graduated damned near the top of his class and taken a job with MacMillan, MacDougal, and MacDouglas, one of the most prestigious firms in what he had considered one of the most important cities on the earth—New York. It was also one of the largest. It seemed to Don that even now, ten years since he had joined the firm—and loyally stayed with them through thick and thin—their promising young attorneys—all right, he was
at this point—were as plentiful to the powers that be as sheets of toilet paper. And as disposable. He’d half-killed himself over the prep work for the Gerring case, working a good sixty-something-hour week just before the holidays only to have old-Scrooge-bucket MacMillan decide—at the last minute—this morning that he’d take it over himself.
Bah, humbug. In the nth degree. If he’d just been out of the city, at least he wouldn’t have known that MacMillan had decided to take the case himself. And maybe it wouldn’t have happened. Don was thirty-six, not at all green. But MacMillan was nearly seventy, spry as a nasty warthog, and anyone under fifty was nothing but a pup to him. In truth, Don was certain that MacMillan had taken a good look at him just that morning and determined he was too young to take on such a case. Don shook his head with disgust, thinking of the cases F. Lee Bailey had taken on as a very young man.
Cathy! There she was! Between the girl in the reindeer tights and the old fat lady in the mink coat. Whoa, the fat lady was making mean time, elbowing those in her way out of it almost as if the pedestrians around her were bowling pins. Yep, she shoved Cathy right out of the way.
And Cathy reacted in typical Cathy fashion.
Even as he sighed in frustration, watching her, he felt a twinge of both love and pain stir within him. His wife was a beautiful woman. She’d been blessed with nearly perfect skin, ivory in tone and soft as silk. Her hair was as dark as human hair could be, very sleek; and she wore it in soft waves that just curled around her shoulders. Her eyes were a dark blue, her facial structure was delicate and very classical—she could probably be substituted for a dozen Greek sculptures at the Met. It was her coloring, however, that was so striking, though perhaps even that was enhanced by what was
Cathy. He didn’t think he’d ever known someone so alive, so vibrant—and so goddamned Mary Poppinsish. Cathy saw no evil. She never lost patience.
And as the heavyset snowplow of a woman nearly knocked her over, Cathy merely looked surprised, regained her balance, laughed with another woman at her side being jostled leaving the Warner Brothers store, and—he was certain—called out “Merry Christmas” to everyone around her.
She looked up then and saw him trying to ease the Beamer closer to the sidewalk. She waved, that beautiful, eternally cheerful smile curved into her lips, and started hurrying toward the car.
Just as he had nearly achieved the curb to scoop up his wife, one of New York’s finest, a mounted policeman he hadn’t noticed, rode his horse up to the passenger window.
“No stopping here!” the cop yelled out.
“I’m just—” Don began.
“No stopping! It’s guys like you cause this crush—we’re going to have gridlock in a minute. Move it!”
“My wife is right—”
“Two seconds and I write you up as a moving violation,” the cop said. He slammed a hand down on the top of the Beamer. The mounted cop’s horse suddenly snorted all over the Beamer’s front passenger window.
Cathy was almost there. Anxiously looking into his eyes. No choice. He hit the gas pedal irritably and jerked forward, forced to turn the corner. She tried to keep up with him, running.
Naturally, the stalled traffic suddenly moved. He started around the block, indicating that he’d get her the next time around. He gritted his teeth hard. At worst, two times around ought to do it. He glanced at his watch. At this rate, they’d make her folks’ home in Connecticut just in time to go to sleep before the kids woke them at five-thirty
He groaned, and drove on.
Cathy Angel bit lightly into her lower lip. She’d seen Don’s expression as he had moved on into the traffic, and it hadn’t been encouraging. She’d pushed it, she decided. He didn’t look good at all. In fact, he’d looked like Donald Duck as Mr. Scrooge in a Disney variation of the Dickens classic. Poor Don! He’d been working too hard lately. And she supposed she was making things pretty darn hard on him now. He always had a few different ideas about how a relatively young and childless couple should be spending the holidays.
And he always gave in to her.
Maybe not after this year. Not after the way he had looked at her.
Still, she had gotten everything she wanted. Christmas was the most special time of the year. Churches were so beautiful with their Nativity scenes, and the Christmas carols made her feel warm. Christmas Day … waking up to the children’s excitement, sipping hot cocoa while the little urchins were allowed to open a few gifts before church. Neighbors greeting neighbors. For once in this hectic world, people stopping to talk to one another, to say “Happy Holidays.”
Don would be happy, too, she assured herself. Once they reached her folks’ home in Connecticut, he’d relax. He’d forget the pressures of work. He liked to pretend that he couldn’t take too much of the kids, but he laughed as hard as she did over their antics and spoiled her nieces and nephews every bit as much as she did. He pretended he didn’t enjoy the kids, but she knew no matter what he said, that was because it seemed she couldn’t have children. They’d tried some of the high-tech fertility techniques, so far with no luck. He’d flat-out refused to have anything to do with having a child with a surrogate mother. Though they’d been willing to try adoption, they’d tried all legal and legitimate channels, and they’d been assured that adopting an infant—even a young child—might take years.
Cathy would happily adopt an older child—any child, but she hadn’t quite gotten Don to that point. Yet.
She smiled suddenly, even knowing what his mood was going to be. It might take a little time, but she’d get him around to her way of thinking. Eventually.
She didn’t want him to have to go through any more traffic snarls so she hurried along Fifth Avenue carefully. She saw a Santa waving his bell over his donation pot, and though she’d already given to several that day, she dropped in a few dollars for this Santa—she thought they might have Santa-donation contests or the like and wanted to give all the Santas she passed an even chance. Just ahead, Don had managed to pull the car over. Taxis and cars were honking as if they had lives and wills and voices of their own. She ran, determined she wasn’t going to cause him any more problems. Poor Don! He looked like such a thundercloud, and on Christmas Eve.
He opened the door as she neared the car. The ground was slick with rain over snow that the subway system exhaust hadn’t quite managed to melt. Cathy slid the remaining few feet to the car, caught herself at the door, and threw her packages into the back seat. She dived into the front seat, ready to give Don a quick kiss on the cheek.
He turned his head toward the traffic, swearing as a taxi sped by. She arched a brow and decided against the kiss. “We should already be there by now,” he said, “instead of fighting our way through this zoo. Look up there—the idiot must think he’s a kamikaze pilot.”
“I’m sorry. But really, tomorrow morning, being a little late tonight will be well worth it.”
“A little late?” he inquired.
“I’m still glad we decided to work this morning. I finished the sketches for the Herrington house, and Herrington himself happened to walk in because he wanted to bring the studio employees chocolates for Christmas. He was absolutely thrilled with my designs for his Westchester house, and Frederick was so thrilled that he’s given me a bonus two weeks off this year. I’ll have five weeks vacation time. Isn’t that wonderful?”
“Absolutely. I just may be off all year.”
“What?” Cathy gasped. Startled, she stared at Don. He kept his eyes upon the road. He looked haggard, she realized unhappily. He was such a handsome man. She’d always thought so. She’d seen him for the first time during her freshman year at Holy Cross. Wavy auburn hair, steady hazel eyes, one of those rugged, craggy profiles that made men look so sexy and appealing. She’d been halfway in love with him before she’d even met him. Their first date had been a football game. She’d discovered they were almost complete opposites—she was art, he was business, she was outgoing, he was quiet. The strong, silent type, she had determined. She was cheerful, he was grave. It hadn’t mattered, or perhaps it had. Maybe they had fulfilled each other right from the start, providing what was lacking in the other. He still tended to the serious side, all these years later, and he was quick to tell her that she was terminally cheerful.
None of that mattered. She loved him now more than ever. He’d stood by her through so many things. She knew he never quite realized how wonderful she thought he was for the way he had stood by her in their efforts to have children, how grateful she was for the uncomfortable tests and efforts he had been willing to make.