Alicia left the library with Chelsea and CJ around 6:30 that evening. The snow had begun to fall again and she knew they had little time to make it to their hotel before they would be snowed in.
“Mom, I’m hungry,” Chelsea said, leaning her head against the passenger window.
“Me, too,” CJ yawned.
“Okay, we’ll have to get something to eat close to the hotel. It won’t be too long before these streets will be covered in snow. What do you guys want to eat?”
“I want some pizza,” CJ shouted from the back, suddenly wide awake.
“I don’t care,” Chelsea retorted.
“Okay. Pizza it is,” Alicia announced. She cranked up the heat and the radio. Christmas songs were playing and she sang along with the melodies. They may not be having much of a Christmas this year, but at least they were still together and she was determined to make the most out of it.
They made it to the little residential hotel after stopping for pizza at a local pizzeria on the way in. It seemed as if the skies opened up the moment she put the car in park. Snow fell down in large drifts, blanketing the lawn, trees, and the buildings around them.
Inserting the key into the door, she opened it up for the kids to go through first. Chelsea walked over to the dining table and sat the pizza down.
“Mom, can we go downstairs to the game room?” CJ asked.
“Maybe tomorrow, sweetie. Right now I want us to eat some dinner, take baths, and get ready for bed. It’s getting late.”
“It’s not that late Mommy. Besides we don’t have school tomorrow and nothing to do,” he whined.
“Yeah mom. It’s not like Santa’s coming to visit us, or something,” Chelsea declared in sarcasm.
“What!” CJ shouted in astonishment. “He’s not mommy?”
“Chelsea Monique Fairfield! I’m sorry you’re in a bad mood, but that’s no reason to be mean to your brother,” Alicia admonished. She was tired and wanted a bath and bed, but she knew she had to deal with this mess on her hands.
“But mooom—” Chelsea whined.
“But mom nothing. Go to the bedroom, right now. I’ll be in there to talk to you later.” She turned to look at her son. He wore a hurt expression on his face, his eyebrows furrowed and mouth turned down. She walked to him and unfolded his arms from across his chest. Pulling him towards the sofa with her, she sat down, and pulled him onto her lap.
“Look honey, I’m sorry your sister said what she said. She’s been a little grump lately and—” it was Alicia’s turn to get cut off.
“But is he coming mom? Didn’t he know we was moving?” CJ asked, his eyes watering.
It was all that Alicia could do to hold back her own tears. She and Charles had always explained to them the true meaning of Christmas. Maybe we didn’t do a good job, she thought.
Alicia pulled her son close in her arms and held him tight. She rocked back and forth before trying to explain. “Baby, yes he knows that we moved. But he might have some difficulty getting to us in the hotel. He hasn’t forgotten about you. I think he’ll just be visiting us at some later time that’s all.”
“But what about Christmas?” CJ asked, wiping tears away with the back of his hand.
“Well I’ve always told you Christmas was so much more than toys; Christmas is in your heart. It’s Jesus’ birthday and that’s who we celebrate. I mean we should be focusing on Him that day, giving our praise and worship to God, not mankind. Think about it like this…what if Chelsea were to receive gifts from me and dad on your birthday, how would that make you feel?”
“Huh? Why would you do that? Those should be my gifts!” CJ exclaimed. He looked at his mother with a confused look on his face.
“Well isn’t that what we do when we receive gifts on Jesus’ birthday?” Alicia asked.
Tears all dried up, the little boy wore a solemn look on his face and shook his head. He had some thinking to do. He looked up at his mother again, still slightly confused and kissed her on the cheek.
“Mama, I’m hungry.”
“Okay baby, go wash your hands in the bathroom and come and fix you a few slices of pizza. I’m going to talk to your sister.”
Alicia felt horrible about laying that guilt trip on her son. It wasn’t his fault his parents couldn’t provide him and his sister with gifts this year. It would be nice if Charles were around to help deal with this mess right now. Where is he? She thought.
After CJ came back out to get his pizza slices she went into the bedroom and sat on the bed her daughter occupied. Rubbing her gently on the back, she waited until Chelsea turned over to face her. “Sweetheart, I know this is hard on you. It’s been tough on all of us, but I need you to try with anything in you to work with me. Your brother has had the most positive attitude throughout this ordeal, and I really don’t want to kill his spirits.”
“But mom there’s no such thing as Sant—”
“Shh, don’t you say that! Honey if you believe in your heart, your wildest dreams will come true. You’ve lost the magic somewhere along the way and I don’t know how,” Alicia looked down at her eldest, who sighed and shook her head, as if her mother was losing her mind.
Alicia continued on, “I know things are a bit crazy right now, but trust me they will turn around.”
“Mom you keep saying that, but I don’t see how,” Chelsea countered.
“Baby, you have to have faith in God. When we go through things, He’s always right by our side helping us to make it through. There’s no way we could do it on our own. Right now I want you to get up, wash your face and hands and go get something to eat before it gets cold, okay?”
Chelsea shook her head and did as her mother told her to. Alicia went into the bathroom to escape the children for a while and pray. Where is Charles? She wondered again.
Alicia woke to her shoulder being shaken. She had fallen asleep on the couch in the living area, waiting to hear something from her husband. Rubbing her eyes, she sat up on the couch and looked into Charles’ eyes. He bent over to kiss her.
“Hey baby,” he greeted, with a tired smile on his face.
“Where’ve you been? What time is it?” she asked.
“It’s a little after 2:30. We got snowed in at Eli’s house and I ended up walking here.”
“But Charles that’s about half an hour’s walk! Why didn’t you call me or just stay there?”
“Baby its Christmas. I wouldn’t miss being with y’all for nothing in the world. Besides I had nothing to do but think anyway. So why not do it and get some exercise in too?”
“Look at you, you’re wet and cold. Come on and get out those clothes, you’re gonna catch a cold.”
“Nah don’t worry about me. I’ll be just fine. I want you to lay down and get some rest now. I’m going to take a bath. Oh by the way, we didn’t make it to the storage shed either. The truck is sitting with all the rest of our stuff in it at Eli’s house.”
“Oh no Charles. What else can go wrong?” Alicia asked.
“Baby, just go in the room and get some rest. It’s Christmas, we will be thankful we’re together and we’re warm.” He kissed her on the lips, and swatted her behind as she made her way to the
Alicia was cleaning up after breakfast in the little kitchen that Christmas morning when someone knocked on the door.
“I’ve got it hon,” Charles called out from the living room.
“It’s a policeman at the door, Mommy,” CJ ran into the kitchenette to share.
“What does the police want, Mom?” Chelsea asked, her eyes widening.
Alicia’s stomach was tightening in knots. She couldn’t know what a policeman would want with them, especially on Christmas day.
In answer to Chelsea’s question, Charles stepped back inside the door closing it behind him. “Hey y’all, everybody get dressed, we’re leaving,” he announced.
“With the policeman?” Why?” “Where are we going?” all of their questions came tumbling out at once.
“Alright, everyone calm down, I’ll answer your questions one at a time. Yes, we’re leaving with the policeman; because he asked us to; and we’re going to a brunch, your boss, Amber, invited us to.”
“But we ate already dad,” Chelsea replied.
“Well I’ll eat your part if you don’t want it,” CJ cracked.
“Honey, I’m sorry. I told her that we would be fine. I don’t know why she’s insisting. Look, I can call her up and—”
“Nope. We’ll be fine, we’re gonna go and have a good time. Besides that police officer out there,” Charles said, pointing over his shoulder towards the door, “he won’t take no for an answer. He’s Amber’s husband, Ed. He says he’s not leaving until he sees us pulling out the lot, and he’s gonna escort us and make sure we arrive.” Charles chuckled.
Twenty minutes later they were wiping their boots off on the welcome mat on the porch, and ringing the doorbell.
Ed stepped onto the wraparound porch of the brick home, and squeezed between them all and opened the door.
They stepped inside the lobby and the children gazed at the beautiful wooden floors. To the right there was a mahogany stairwell with beautiful hand carved handrails. To the left was a living room with a Christmas tree standing about 8 feet tall. Decorated with big blown glass ornaments, glistening bows, and an African American angel on top, smiling down on all who stood in her presence, the tree dominated the room.
Presents large and small poured out from underneath the tree. The mantle over the fireplace held another handmade wreath, and plenty of other decorations.
“Ahhh…you’ve got to kiss her, because you’re standing underneath the mistletoe.” Amber came wagging her finger back and forth. She had silently appeared from somewhere in the back of the house greeting them in a singsong voice. Alicia guessed it must have been the kitchen.
“Hi! Merry Christmas,” Alicia greeted her boss.
“Merry Christmas to you, too. Now turn around and kiss that fine hunk of man of yours.”
Ed laughed in the background. “If you know like I know, you’d better listen to her.”
“Yes, you better listen to her,” Charles teased, getting in the Christmas spirit himself.
Alicia smiled at her husband as he bent his 6’3 frame down to her 5’5 height and planted a kiss on her lips. Wrapping his arm around her waist he pulled her in closer, and whispered “Merry Christmas” against her lips.
“Eewww…that’s gross,” came CJ’s reply.
“Grow up, that’s what grown-ups do, little boy,” Chelsea remarked, lightly shoving her brother on the arm.
The adults around her laughed and suddenly “Merry Christmas” rang out all around them. Alicia pulled back in embarrassment from her husband, and Charles looked up at the crowd around them.
“Merry Christmas Alicia, Charles, Chelsea, and CJ,” she stated handing a set of keys to Alicia. Susan grabbed Alicia in a quick hug, released her, and then turned to Charles and shook his hand.
“Those are the keys to your new home,” Mayor Perkins spoke up.
“But…but…but I don’t understand. What new home?” Alicia questioned.
“Honey, this is your home. It belongs to you, Charles, and the kids. It is mortgage free and it’s all yours and just needs your loving care if you’re willing to give it,” Amber explained.
“But how? When? I don’t get it,” Charles was also speechless.
“Every year in the town of Pristine, we choose a family to bless. So this year, we’ve seen your struggles, how you’ve tried to hide it, and how you’ve kept rising. But no matter how hard you tried you’ve been knocked back down again and again. We knew you were renting and your landlord has wanted to give up his properties since moving out west. So, we got a local construction company to donate time, materials, and labor towards the building of your new home earlier this year. Many of the town’s wealthier citizens pitched in to cover other costs and here you are,” Susan exclaimed, clapping her hands together.
“We’ll have your things moved in by this afternoon,” came Eli’s voice from the hallway.
Charles’ mouth dropped open when he spotted his brother. “You were in on it too?”
“Yeah man. And it was hard keeping things from you.”
Alicia stood with her hand over her mouth and couldn’t hold on any longer. The tears came flowing down her face like a river. Charles pulled his wife close in his arms and then pulled his son and daughter in tight together, basking in the warmth of Christmas love.
After giving them several moments Ed could take it no longer. “Son,” he said, to CJ.
“Yes sir?” the little boy looked up in awe at the police officer.
“Christmas just wouldn’t be the same if you and your sister didn’t open your gifts under that tree there,” he said in his deep Southern drawl and beamed a warm smile on the boy.
“Alright!” he shouted.
“OMG! You’re kidding right?” Chelsea let out the first signs of glee since moving to Pristine.
“No little miss. Those belong to you and your brother.” Ed shared.
“Well CJ, I guess there is a Santa Claus after all,” Chelsea remarked.
“Nope…Jesus Christ was kind enough to share His gifts with us today.” CJ replied.
“You’re right. Santa gets all the credit. And it’s because of God’s grace we’re here today.”
All the adults laughed and a few Amens and Hallelujahs rang around the room. Alicia tugged on her husband’s arm. They were standing underneath the mistletoe once again. “Merry Christmas Charles.”
“Merry Christmas, Alicia,” Charles replied and kissed his wife.
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