Part 7/7: White Christmas….
About: Walkers, Wandells, McCallisters, Harpers, Whedons, Holdens, the whole shebeng
Disclaimer: B&S doesn’t belong to me. Written with love, not for money.
Summary: Christmas at last.…
For one moment everyone is silent, then there is talking and the kids calling.
“Quiet!!!” roars Saul’s voice. And everyone falls silent again. “Don’t panic. Probably, we just blew a fuse. It will be alright. Stay calm.. Tommy?”
“Here, uncle Saul.”
“Come with me. The rest of you, stay where you are.” Tommy and Saul leave the room. In the darkness Scotty takes a deep breath. Kevin is in his arms, so, to him, the biggest reason to worry is stricken off the list and now he doesn’t worry too much. He kisses Kevin’s hair and Kevin in return squeezes his arm softly.
The door to the living-room opens again and Saul comes back.
“We have good news and bad news. The good news is: there is nothing wrong with the fuses, the bad news is: We don’t know what does cause the power loss. We have just no electricity anywhere.”
“I’ve seen candles, there are flashlights, it’s not like we will be completely in the dark.” Nora says cheerful. “So first we eat something and then we will look what we can do.” Scotty goes to help her in the kitchen, where they find more candles and candle holders. As Nora lights one candle after the other, Scotty and Justin bring in the food, their path lit by Kevin and Jason.
Meanwhile Robert, Saul and Tommy have another look at the fuse-box and the girls set the table. With the light of the fire, the candle-light and the occasional flashlights it actually looks romantic and warm and once everybody is back at the dinner-table there is a real Christmas-feeling.
Scotty and Nora get praised for their wonderful cooking and Tommy for the great wine. Jason has the prayer before dinner and during the dinner he tells the story of the birth of Jesus. The children are appropriately quiet and Scotty has to admit that Jason has a pleasant voice to listen to. The faint light creates a feeling of togetherness and Scotty cannot remember ever having had a warmer, more comfortable Christmas-Eve.
During the dinner, Kevin has moved his chair a little closer to Scotty and in the soft darkness his hand disappears under the table and places it on Scotty’s leg. Scotty covers Kevin’s hand with his own and squeezes gently. He cannot wait to be alone with Kevin, so they can sleep together again in the sleeping-bag and…. A thought hits him.
“Tommy, if we have no electricity… do we still have the central heating system working?”
Tommy looks up in surprise. He hadn’t thought of that.
“Probably not. It’s going to be very cold upstairs.” This bit of news has the effect of a bomb dropping.
“That is what I just thought. The snowing has gotten worse and the temperature has dropped even further.” Scotty states.
“What do we do?” Kitty asks. She not in panic, but the idea of freezing cold rooms doesn’t please her either. There is not an immediate answer, but then Justin carefully says.
“The easiest room to heat is this one. The fire place is big enough to warm up the entire room.”
“That means we should sleep downstairs.” Scotty follows Justin’s thoughts. “If we move the table a bit more to the wall. The couch over there and those chairs also against the wall. If we get all that out of the way we create enough space for everyone to sleep.”
“On the floor?” Kitty squeaks, thinking about her bad back. Scotty shakes his head.
“No, the beds upstairs have one thick mattress and a thin one. We take the thin ones. They are comfortable enough to sleep on, for one night. They are not that heavy, we can easily carry them downstairs. And back up, tomorrow, if necessary.”
Robert nods in agreement. As do Justin and Tommy. Scotty looks around.
“Sarah, Gabe, Paige and Cooper can sleep over there in that corner. Three mattresses would suffice.” Sarah nods. “Would three also be enough for you, Kitty and the kids?” Robert agrees. “Kevin and I will sleep over there. Tommy, can you and Julia take Lizzie between you? It will give her some extra heat as well.”
“Of course, no problem.” Comes Julia’s reaction, before Tommy can respond.
“That makes 10.” Scotty counts. “Justin and Rebecca. Twelve. Saul, Nora, Jason. That makes 15 mattresses.”
“I’ll sleep on the couch. It’s comfortable enough.” Jason says.
“Those two large chairs are reclining chairs with adjustable feet. We can turn those into beds, where Saul and I can sleep.” Nora says. “Those chairs take up space, might as well use them.”
“Alright, 12 mattresses.” Scotty counts. He moves towards the stairs, when Robert stops him.
“You’re taking charge…” he says and Scotty is about to apologize for being so forward. when Robert says: “Well done!”
“What?... How? …..” Holly stammers, looking at William with shock in her eyes.
“Did you really believe that I would just let his happen? I see what you’re doing to Ojai. MY company and no matter how hard you try, it will never be yours.”
“But…. I only want what is best for this company.” Holly stammers.
“This company is about family. MY family.”
“Am I not a part of your life as well?” Holly dares to raise the question.
“Yes, but you are, were, ... not a part of my family. You don’t belong in this company.”
“This is a dream. I’m going to close my eyes and when I open them up, it will be gone.” Holly says quietly to herself. She closes her eyes tightly, but when she opens them again, William is still there. Still angry at her. Still haunting her.
These last two weeks the dreams of being chased down corridors.... She had not known who it was that run after her, wanted to hurt her and now she does. It was William.
“Yes. It was me.” William says, as if he can read her mind. “You have made a mess of everything and now you’re acting as if you own this place.”
“I do.” Holly replies.
“Yes, you cheated your way into this. Told Tommy that you wouldn’t micro-manage Ojai, that would be his part….. and then you chased away Sarah and Saul...”
“You did everything you could to make their lives miserable. And you fired Kevin, although you knew how important it was to me that he worked at Ojai.” William now says, infuriated.
“Tommy fired him…” Holly tries faintly.
“Tommy?! And who talked him into it? YOU!! But then, you were always a good liar. No wonder no one wants to be with you, not even your own daughter.”
“I never lied to you….”
“Oh, you didn’t…? How about that story that Rebecca might be mine?”
“I never…. I said she COULD be….”
“No. you said there was a little chance that she was someone else’s, but more likely she was mine… Do you remember this?” The room seems to dissolve around her …
….and suddenly she’s at the hospital several years ago. It was nearly Christmas and she remembers why she was here. Rebecca had her tonsils removed. And she was feeling very bad. The Christmas-cheer is nowhere to be found. William had been angry with her for calling him, unable to understand that she needed him.
Rebecca looks so small in that big bed and Holly remembers how scared she was. And she was alone, and she didn’t know what to do with herself. She had often cursed the day she found that she was pregnant, she had considered abortion, but couldn’t do it. And then she had her baby and she had held her little girl and her feelings had changed.
She wanted to be a mother to this pretty little girl lying in her arms. And now, that little child was in this big bed and Holly felt helpless. Fearing she would somehow be ‘punished’ for her earlier rejection of Rebecca. She needed William and William had not been happy about ‘summoned’ away a few days before Christmas.
Holly and William had talked and he had comforted her, be it not whole-heartedly. And there on the bed is Rebecca, holding the bear, she just received from this nice man called Bill. Holly is next to her. William walks away with one of the nurses, who just took some blood and left Rebecca crying with the pain.
“Don’t worry, Mr Walker, we will be able to tell you, if this child is yours or not.” William nods.
“You do understand why I don’t want her mother to know? I don’t want her to think that I mistrust her,…. But there’s something bugging me about all this….” The nurse nods in understanding, it’s not the first time she heard this.
“In a week you will have your answer.” She says.
“You had Rebecca tested?” Holly is shocked. “You knew?”
“Yes, I’ve known for many years.”
“Why did you never tell me?”
“Because it was more fun to watch you lie to me. But at least I knew what I was dealing with. I never lied to myself about you.
I came ‘this’ close to telling Nora the truth about you, because I felt guilty about Rebecca… The results hurt me deeply, because I knew now that you really had cheated on me, something I wasn’t willing to accept until that point. I thought you were just bluffing.” For a moment William is sad, but that moment passes quickly…
It is a lot of hard work, but eventually the 12 mattresses are downstairs. Kitty, Nora and Julia make up the beds so that everyone can sleep. All the sleeping-bags come rolling down the stairs, followed by pillows and they all get assigned back to their owners and places.
It is while straightening out Cooper’s sleeping bag that Sarah realizes that she doesn’t see Gabe anywhere.
Now what? She goes up the stairs to the rooms they had. Already the chill is setting in. She know that all the doors will be closed to create some form of extra isolation against the cold and it makes sense to her. She’s about to enter Gabe’s room when she realizes he’s not alone. She hears Paige’s soft voice.
“Any luck?” Paige asks.
“No. Dad doesn’t answer the phone.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“I honestly don’t know, Paige. I don’t know what to think or what to do..”
Sarah sees the silhouettes of the two children. Paige sitting down behind Gabe, hugs him. His hand grabs her hand as it slides over his stomach.
“It will alright, sis. Now just go downstairs. I don’t want you to get sick.” He kisses her hand and then, turning to her, her forehead.
“I just hope everything will be okay with dad.”
“Yes me too, but don’t worry, you’ll always have Sarah to fall back on.”
“You don’t.” Paige says smartly and Gabe can’t help but smile.
“I’ll be fine.” He says. “Now go downstairs and keep Cooper out of trouble. I’m not sure that being friends with Jack is a good friendship.”
Sarah steps into the darkness and Paige passes her without really noticing her. Sarah goes into Gabe’s room.
“Hi, Sarah, I’m coming.” Gabe says, but Sarah closes the door behind her.
“Alright, Gabe, what is going on? I’ve never seen you so close to Paige or Cooper, you’ve changed so much, it’s scary and why is Paige worried? I won’t say a word to Paige, but I need to know.”
Gabe sighs. They sit beside each other in the dark. He remains quiet for a while and just when Sarah thinks he won’t say anything, she hears his voice.
“Sarah? Do you remember that you once told me something about if you would look back on your life , you would like to say that you raised three great kids,… including me?... Did you mean that?”
“’Course I did, Gabe.”
Again the silence hangs between them, Gabe doesn’t seem to know what he wants, but then:
“Mom and dad fight a lot. Usually when Coop and Paige are not around. There have been so many changes, since dad moved in us. I thought it would be great to have dad back with mom, but it’s not good. Mom works a lot and easily irritated. She’s very strict and that clashes with dad’s more casual way of looking at things.
He doesn’t mind if we don’t immediately clear away things, if we’re done, mom creates a fuss over every coloring book that is not in place. She easily gets angry at Cooper and Paige, but never says anything to them, instead she’s arguing with dad….. I don’t think Cooper really gets what is going on, but Paige…. Paige and I spend a lot of time together, when Coop is asleep, because we’re both feeling uncomfortable and unwanted.
Dad is really trying, but I think he’s had enough and wants to leave… but he can’t go anywhere, he doesn’t earn enough for a good place of his own… unless he leaves Coop and Paige with you and me with mom and split all of us up again… Mom will hate him if he does that, and that will make it harder for me to see him…. if things go wrong.
I’ve grown used to taking care of Coop and being with Paige. I miss them when they’re not at the house and I’m glad when they are, because I’m not so alone anymore… I’m so tired of being shoved in all directions….” Sarah’s heart breaks as she listens to his lonely voice in the dark. This boy is taking on way too much responsibilities, but she recognizes his concerns. How many times had she not been the one who covered and took care of Kitty, Tommy, Kevin or Justin?
She puts her arm around his shoulder and pulls him a tight embrace. He hugs her back, holding on to her. And she caresses his hair and back.
“Honey, I don’t have answers for you. Joe hasn’t mentioned troubles between him and Paula to me, he hasn’t hinted that maybe I would, temporarily, get the children full time or that he’s looking for another place to stay.
And maybe some time alone with your mother, so that they can talk and argue, is just what they need. Time.” Gabe nods against her chest, that he understands. “In the meantime, if you need someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry one or just someone who’ll listen to your latest joke, I’m just a phone-call away. You’re always welcome at my place. You’re room is still there. And I still love you and still consider you one of my children…. Alright?”
She can feel Gabe nod again. And for a few moments they stay together quietly, just holding each other. Then she brushes away his hair with her fingers and says more cheerful.
“How about we go downstairs, before they send out anyone to go look for us?”
“Yes, wouldn’t want anyone to get lost in the dark. Always happens in horror stories too.” Gabe laughs. “And this place sure is scary in the dark.”
Holly still hasn’t recovered from the shock. William knew. William knew all along. He lied to her. She wanted to believe Rebecca was his, but never she said she was, but he knew… He knew. Like a broken record it keep spinning in her mind.
“Are you shocked?” William asks, almost amused. “I loved keeping secrets.”
“Yes we noticed.” Holly replies with a sour smile.
“You see, people who have secrets usually have something you can hold over them.”
“Yes and they hurt when they are discovered. Like you hurt Nora…”
William’s smile disappears.
“Don’t presume to understand what I felt for Nora.”
“Nora was your safe place, easy little house-wife.. Happy being a mother…. And Grandmother.”
“You couldn’t be more wrong… Nora was the only one who could have destroyed me.”
“What?!” comes Holly’s sharp question.
“I loved her. Pure and simple. To lose her, would be to lose the most important person in my life. See, that is why I never wanted to tell her about you and me. She would throw me out. There’s nothing more ruthless, then an angry Nora. She’d be unstoppable… It was far easier to occasionally with you then forever without her. I got a little taste of that, when she found out about us the first time, and I knew, never again.”
Holly swallows down the taste of bile that comes to her mouth.
“Then… why did you continue to see me?”
“Because I could, … because you made it easy and … possible.”
“So, what do I get now. Ghost of Christmas Present?” Holly’s voice is sarcastic and William smiles with benevolence. He snaps his fingers.
It’s cold, very cold, and she sees Rebecca this afternoon. She in the snow, playing with Elizabeth, she gives the girl a bit of snow and Elizabeth watches it crumble and melt between her gloved fingers. It fascinates her.
“She is so fantastic.” Rebecca sighs.
“She is.” Julia agrees.
“How is she coping?”
“She’s doing so much better now, then before. I actually feel more sorry for Kevin, then for her, children heal quicker and her new liver is doing miracles for her.”
William looks at his grand-daughter with pride in his eyes.
“Marvelous girl.” He says. “All three of them are, actually. Christmas present? For you? Cold and alone. The only person in your life you haven’t alienated is Rebecca, but one can’t say you didn’t try.” His voice is sarcastic and Holly feels tears sting as she watches Rebecca.
“You’re such a good mother, Julia.” Rebecca gushes.
“I’m not sure. But I had a great example in my own mother…. And in Nora.”
“Yes. Nora is great. A real good example of how a mother should be….. Nothing like mine.”
“Holly is trying.” Julia says gently. But Rebecca shakes her head.
“Maybe, but Nora is just the better mother…..”
Holly clenches her first…
“Jealous, dear?” William’s voice teases her.
“Seems I can never beat Nora.”
“No, you can’t….. Maybe we should get out of here..” And he snaps his fingers again.
Robert can’t help but be amused and amazed by this family. There’s no electricity. A snow-storm is raging outside. Temperature is dropping in almost the entire house. And the Walkers? They gather their things and they camp in the living room. It is simply fascinating. He watches how Jason invents some bed-time story for Jack, Sophia, Cooper and Paige as there is not enough light to really read by. Even Elizabeth listens quietly.
But Jason’s warm voice captures the attention of the others as well and they start to listen too. And Robert chokes up when he hears the story their mother told him so many times. He loved the story of the scary pirate Trebor and how he discovered the meaning of Christmas. And in earlier version that was only Trebor, later he had a friend, Jay.
It wasn’t until Sophie was born, that he had asked his mom who wrote the story, so he could buy the book, and she had laughed. She had made it up herself. Had he never realized that Trebor, was his name spelled backward and Jay was of course Jason’s initial? His mother had then written down the whole story as she had made it up. And although the typed up version was with Courtney, the hand-written one was still safely in his desk.
Once the story is finished the children go to their beds without much trouble. The others talk some more. And huddled together, more stories from their youths are being told, they drink their wine and lemonade (for Kevin and Justin). But they all grow tired. It’s been a long day. The mountain-air, the excitements of the day and the copious meal are starting to have their impact and Saul suggests they all get some sleep.
Tomorrow they can check what the problem with the electricity is and what to do about it. The suggestion doesn’t seem to meet with problems and soon enough everyone is dressed for the night. Tommy throws some extra wood on the fire. In her corner of the room Sarah wraps an arm around Paige and she sees how Gabe pulls up Cooper’s sleeping bag to make sure his brother doesn’t get cold.
Kevin snuggles up to Scotty and Nora and Saul try to find a good position to sleep in, in their chairs. Jason discovers the couch is more comfortable than expected. Justin and Rebecca are all giggles in their little corner and eventually Tommy slips close to Elizabeth, an arm around Julia who sleeps on her daughter’s other side.
In the dark little Jack crawls closer to his dad as Kitty wraps an arm around Sophie. She feels Robert’s hand covering hers and smiles.
For a moment there is peaceful silence, suddenly broken by a loud fart. Everybody giggles.
“It’s always the same with you guys.” Nora claims, but she can hardly hold her laughter.
“Yes, always the same who has the stink up the entire tent!” Tommy jokes.
“It wasn’t ME this time.” Justin defends himself.
“So it was YOU all the other times?” Kevin quickly deducts,
“You’re all so gross!” Kitty shakes her head.
“Boys!” comes Sarah’s reaction…. But after that the silence really kicks in and quickly after that they are all asleep.
“So, do you wish to see the future?” William asks relentless. Holly shakes her head. No, she doesn’t. But everything turns grey around her and through the mist she notices she’s at a cemetery. She sees a woman, with her back to her. Blond hair brushed back. Rebecca no doubt.
“A little less than 5 years. It’s October.” William says coldly.
“I have 5 years….” She whispers and she moves closer. The woman is alone next the grave. The coffin sinks in the ground.
“Where are the Walkers?” She asks.
“Why should they be here?”
“To support Rebecca.” Holly answers, pointing at the woman standing by the grave.
William gives her a sad smile.
“Something happened and Rebecca chose your side… It ruined her relationship with Justin… They broke up…. She was devastated… Left for New York… to find David…. She found him… and his friends… And although he was clean, his friends weren’t… Rebecca started to try drugs… she did them before…. Thought she could stop if she wanted to… like she did then.
But she never stopped…. Ended up using cocaine….” William’s dark, somber voice sends chills down Holly’s back. “The Walkers didn’t know where she was and how much trouble she was in. Not that it would have mattered, she didn’t want to be saved. There was nothing they could have done,…. Or you.”
Holly is now close enough. She wants to reach out to Rebecca, touch her arm, let her know she’s there, but then the woman looks up and Holly, bewildered, stares at her own face. Older, more lines, devastated, blue eyes empty. Holly brings her hand to her mouth, as if that will prevent her from screaming and she turns to the coffin sinking into the ground.
There, dressed in a simple black dress, against a white silk background lies Rebecca. Holding a single white rose in her white hands. The rose her mother put there.
“Overdose.” William says with a sad voice, but when Holly looks at him, he’s almost indifferent. She opens her mouth to speak, to scream, to protest, but there’s no other sound other than the lid of coffin closing with a thud and Holly passes out, never happier to sink away in darkness.
Scotty is the first to wake up. For some reason he’s suddenly wide awake. He checks Kevin’s watch. It’s almost eight o’clock. Everyone is still asleep, tucked away in their sleeping-bags. Scotty whispers something in Kevin’s ear and Kevin opens his eyes and smiles. There’s nothing he’d rather see early in the morning than his husband’s beautiful blue eyes.
They slip out of their sleeping-bag and quickly get dressed. Only then does Kevin notice two pairs of eyes looking at them. Of course Cooper and Jack would wake up earlier than the others. He puts his finger against his lips to let them know that they have to be quiet, signals them to take their clothes and get dressed. They quickly disappear to the kitchen, where Scotty has gone to and Kevin quietly stirs the fire, before joining his husband.
It takes a while to get breakfast ready. Making coffee and tea the old-fashioned way by boiling water is time consuming. The boys make themselves useful by putting bread in baskets, sandwich fillings on plates and by sneaking in and out the dining-room and quietly putting everything on the table under the watchful eye of an equally quiet Scotty.
Last of all are the cups, plates and glasses and cutlery. With joy Kevin watches from the doorway how Scotty gives both boys a high-five, before they escape back to the kitchen.
“Everything is done, all we have to do is wake them up.” Scotty says and Kevin nods, walks to the door, but then he stops, with a look of mischief in his eyes.
Robert and Sarah are the first ones to get one. The soft, but ice-cold snowballs that splatter in their faces wakes them up with a jolt. Robert’s “What the hell?” wakes Kitty. Tommy and Julia are awoken by Sarah’s scream and not much sooner are snowballs headed in their direction as well.
Justin tries to duck, but the ball hits him in the back of the head and the ice-cold results trickle down his back. Not even Saul and Nora are spared from Cooper’s and Jack’s throws.
Sophie and Paige are the quickest to react by jumping out of their sleeping-bags and, swearing broken bones and big troubles, launch in pursuit of their respective brothers. The only one laughing is little Elizabeth. The boys spare her, but the cold mist of water that come from the snowballs that hit her mom and dad fell on her and she loves it.
Enjoying themselves to the max are Scotty and Kevin, who are well out of firing-range. They watch as eventually Gabe catches Cooper and Jason gets a good hold on Jack, the boys getting tickled merciless.
“You!! … are in so much trouble, young man!” Sarah warns her son, but her eyes are laughing and she has problems to keep her voice menacing.
“It was all uncle Kevin’s idea!” Cooper yells in self-defense.
“Yeah! It was uncle Kevin.” Jack echoes.
“I’m innocent!” Kevin calls out in shock.
“Yeah right!” Rebecca says, not impressed with Kevin’s words as she beats the remaining snow out of her hair and off her t-shirt.
She wakes up, all muscles stiff from sleeping in the wrong position. She’s behind her desk. A strong beam of sunshine lights up her office. She’s alone. Everyone is gone. It’s awfully quite.
Of course, it’s Christmas morning. She slowly gets up to get some coffee. And things fall into place. Her terrible head-ache yesterday. She took two pain-killers. And after the last one had said goodbye, she had locked off the office and enjoyed the silence.
She had put her head on her arm and closed her eyes. Just for a few seconds. Just because it felt good to close her eyes and be a bit relieved of the headache…. She had fallen asleep, that was it. And she had dreamt about William, like he had haunted her the nights before, but this time, due to the painkillers she hadn’t woken up. She had just gone on dreaming….
She lets out a sigh of relief and grabs her handbag, she wants to go home, shower and enjoy her day off. She quickly leaves her office, crosses the parking-lot, gets in her car and in no time she’s on her way home. The sun is shining. The air is cold and refreshing. Her headache is gone. It was a dream. Just a dream.
And by Monday when she gets to her office, the cleaners will have cleaned her office, including the dried up coffee-stain on the floor and the soil from the cemetery that had stuck to her high heels.
“Now, that everybody is awake… Breakfast is ready.” Scotty announces. They all quickly gather around the table, but it doesn’t take long before the children get restless, wanting to unwrap their gifts. Nora has to admit there are a lot of big presents under the tree and the children are allowed to pick some gifts. Excited the kids start to unpack.
A video-game for both Jack and Cooper, a very delicate make-up kit filled with make-up for Sophie and for Paige a set of high-quality crayons and a sketch-book, because she loves to draw. And Elizabeth falls in love instantly with the rag-doll she gets, which she calls. Now it’s time for the ‘grown-ups’ to unpack and they move nearer to the tree with their coffee and tea and whatever else they’re drinking or still eating...
There is a nervous excitement amongst the family and Nora wonders why. She is a bit surprised by the gifts that everyone get. She asks herself why Gabe gets a toaster, but maybe he loves toast and the one at home is broken or something. And what is Kitty supposed to do with 6 new pans, when she already has a fully equipped kitchen she never uses?
Julia seems very happy with a huge bag filled with games and toys. And Justin is over the moon with a … vacuum-cleaner? Eventually all the gifts have disappeared and she still hasn’t had a gift. And it gets quiet around the table. Everyone is looking at each other and then Kitty says:
“Kevin…? This is all your fault after all.”
“Me…? Oh… alright?”
He gets up, coughs a bit, obviously nervous with the attention.
“A few days ago.. when we found out about this…. Scotty and I were buying some gifts for friends of ours and Scotty complained how often we spend money buying gifts for people, things they don’t really need…. And that gave me an idea and I … I started calling around and the others agreed with me… that this year we would give each other things that WE may not need, but YOU do …
Every single gift you see here, except those of the children, is for you… to put in the house you’re setting up for people with sick children. … Because we all want to show our support for you and we believe you’re doing an incredible job.” Nora looks at her children, their spouses and her step-grandson.
“All these…?” she repeats, only a little whisper. Kevin nods. She gets up and hugs him first and then the others. She has tears in her eyes and she is so grateful for all the gifts. It takes her a while to hug and kiss everyone, but then she says.
“Thank you all for being here. It means so much to me. And all those gifts….” She raises her cup of coffee: “Merry Christmas everyone.”