Not the Same


She stares at the tree and thinks “tinsel is supposed to shine. I think I bought defective tinsel.” The tree seems to be asking why she wasn’t covering it with the stuff. Her hand drops to her side, the silver threads spilling through numbed fingers. Looking down at the mess, she sees the ornament box in front of her and, with a muted shout, kicks it, then whirls, turning her back on the holiday disarray. Her shoulders are shaking with repressed tears.

“This wasn’t the way this year was supposed to go,” she whispers. “You were supposed to be here, with me, not in that damn country. Not for that damn war.” The radio plays Deck the Halls in the background, as if chastising her for not doing so. “I don’t want to do this by myself.” Her hand rests lightly on her rounded belly, “hell, I can’t even climb up the step stool to top the tree. You were supposed to do that.” Her voice breaks as she asks, “why couldn’t you have done that?” She walks away from the tree, defiantly leaving the mess, as if doing so would summon someone to clean it in apology.

Going to the window, she stares out, watching as fat flakes quietly drift from the dark sky. She wonders why she never before noticed how grimy snow was. It was as if a particularly dirty faerie was decorating the city, tonight. She startles as bells from the neighborhood church starts ringing, and catches herself counting. Sharply shaking her head, she turns from the window, and gazes around, eyes falling on the empty fireplace. “Maybe start there,” she murmurs and drifts over to the stockings.

Picking up a camouflaged mouse, a tear makes its way down her cheek. She squeezes the mouse, as anger surges in her again, and she briefly thinks about smashing it. The phone rings, as she raises her fist to do so. Her eyes snap to the black box, as she recognizes the tone. She hesitates, then makes a mad dash, praying that she’ll make it before the song is over. “Jayne?”

“Mags, it’s me. Gotta be brief, babe, there’s a line of guys wanting to use the phone. Brass changed their minds. Again. Looks like I can catch a flight at midnight, and be there by Tuesday. I know it’s not the same thing, but how about Christmas on the 26th?”

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