For Beth, For Christmas
Beth rushed to the front window when she heard a car outside. Snow fell in a hazy white mist from the gray sky. She pushed the blue and white curtain aside with her small, pale hand. Her green eyes searched the view of the window. There is was, a silver Chrysler came to a stop in front of her house.
“Mommy, Daddy’s here!” Beth cried excitedly.
Her mother came in from the kitchen and took her daughter’s many colored coat from its place on the wall. Beth’s mother helped her put her coat on and hurriedly Beth grabbed her overnight bag from the hall table. Her mother gave her a quick kiss as she headed out the door. “Bye, I love you!” her mother called after her.
“Love you too Mom,” Beth said opening the door. A horn honked as another car sped by, ignoring the slippery roads. Its tires spit snow onto the sides of the road, where the snow plows had pushed it.
“Have a great time,” her mother called as she pushed open the screen door.
“I will,” Beth called back. The door slammed shut. Snow frosted Beth’s hair when she descended the stairs of the porch and down the walk. The silver door opened and Beth slid into the passenger seat.
In the driver’s seat sat a reasonably handsome thirty-something year old man. He had a brown beard and mustache. His eyes were the same rich brown in color. “Hello, Beth,” he said in his deep voice.
“Hi, Daddy!” she said excitedly. She leaned over and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
“You ready?” her father asked her.
“Yep,” she said with her bag sitting on her lap.
As they drove away, her father glanced at her and asked, “Did Marci, I mean your mother, say what time to have you back?”
“By eight for Christmas Eve at Grandma’s,” Beth answered tossing her shoulder length permed hair over her shoulder.
“Great,’ he replied softly. “I guess Santa will have to come a little early this year.”
“Do you think he really will?”
“For you? He’d do anything!”
“Do you mind if we stop at the store before we head home?”
“Only if there is a Snickers in the deal somewhere.”
“Oh, I think that can be arranged,” he said turning a corner and pulled into a parking lot. The lights above the parking lot flickered on in the dim light of twilight.
Later that night Beth sat on the living room floor with her father and his new girlfriend. The live Christmas Tree sat in the corner by the window, which was lit with white lights. The lights twinkled and reflected off the shiny wrapping paper of the presents.
“Go ahead,” Kim told Beth.
With a gleam in her eyes, Beth ripped open the package. Kim and Beth’s father watched happily, but not without some frustration and stress. There was never enough time together. There was always a schedule to follow and too many things to do in the limited time they shared. When the paper was off the package, Beth’s expression changed. Her father noticed her seeming disappointment and asked, “What is it pumpkin?”
“Mom already got me this game,” she replied.
“And she already gave it to you?” he asked, disappointed and curious.
Beth nodded, “She took me shopping last week and let me pick it out.”
“I guess Santa made a mistake,” Kim said, raising an eyebrow.
“There is no Santa Klaus. Dad made the mistake,” Beth retorted.
“Don’t you believe in Santa?” Kim asked.
“It just a fun lie for kids,” Beth shrugged.
“Well, I believed in Santa Klaus until I was in sixth grade,” her father said.
“And I’m in fifth. Times change,” Beth reminded him.
“Do you want me to take it back?” her father replied.
“No,” Beth sighed as the phone rang.
“Who the hell could that be?” her said as he stood up. He stretched his stiff legs and then moved over from the floor to the recliner and picked up the phone on the table beside the chair.
“Go ahead and open mine,” Kim said handing Beth a present.
Beth took the present and slowly began to open it as she listened to her father’s conversation.
“Marci, you told Beth eight o’clock!” he cried madly.
“I never get to….”
“I understand, but….”
Another long pause.
“It’s Christmas for Chrissake!”
Very short pause.
“Damn you! You want to ruin everything for me. You said eight and eight it will be. Not a minute before. And if you keep this up, it will be after.”
“Marci, be reasonable!’
He obviously cut her off a few seconds into her speech. “Marci, I have nothing more to say to you.” He slammed the phone down.
Beth looked up at her father and bit her lip.
“Now, where were we?” he asked trying to pretend nothing had happened.
Beth sat motionless and speechless.
Kim touched her father’s arm lightly and said, “It will be alright Tom.”
“She is always trying to out-do me,” he replied bitterly.
Beth suddenly jumped up and cried, “You can’t even stop fighting after the divorce! You can’t even get along on Christmas or for me.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “I can’t stand it!” Beth ran out of the room and into her bedroom—well, the bedroom she slept in every other weekend.
Tom stood up and started after her. Kim stopped him by saying, “She needs time to be alone.”
“I want her to know that I’m sorry and how much I love her.”
“Sometimes I don’t she does.”
“She’s just frustrated and upset about how things are—as anyone would be.”
“I wish I could make things better, but what can I do? I can’t magically make things different. I can’t put Marci and I back together with no problems. Staying together would have been worse. I know that.”
“Just try to get along with Marci for now.”
“How can I? She won’t let me,” he cried, his eyes full of pain.
Kim shook her head and put her arm around him. She didn’t know what to say or what she could say.
Beth, meanwhile, threw herself on the bed and cried. Her eyes were red and her nose was running as she lay there silent in her darkened room. She knew she had to do or say something to make things right.
But what could she do?
Beth had begun to drift off to sleep when the door cracked open and the light shone onto her. It seemed strangely alien in the sad room. Beth stirred and sat up as Kim crept into the room and sat on her bed, Beth rubbed her tired eyes.
“You all right?” Kim asked.
“Its seven thirty,” Kim said softly, “Do you want to spend time with your Dad before you have to go home?”
“I suppose,” she said.
“He’s really sorry about things.”
“I know. I guess I just wish I could do something.”
“So does he honey, so does he.”
Beth was silent. Suddenly her eyes lit up. She had an idea. “Can I call Mom?”
“I don’t see why not, but remember that you and your Dad have very little time together. He loves you very much and cherishes every moment he has with you.”
“I know. I just want to tell Mom I am going to be a little late.”
“Go ahead,” Kim smiled. “And remember to put on a large smile for your Dad when you come out. He hates to see you so sad.”
Beth nodded and slid off the bed. She walked into the kitchen and grabbed the phone from its place on the wall. She dialed her number and waited as it rang several times.
“Hello,” Marci answered flatly.
“Mommy,’ Beth said.
“Hi honey, what’s up?”
“Listen, Daddy said he needed you to pick me up.”
“Why didn’t he call me himself?”
“He was afraid you’d get mad and hang up on him.”
“Oh. So why does he need me to pick you up? I mean has his own car and he just picked you up a few hours ago. What’s changed since then? Is he just trying to make more running for me or what?”
“He just said he refused to take me home because of your stubbornness.”
“That bastard,” Marci muttered under her breath.
“So are you picking me up or what?”
“Sure, I will be right over.”
Beth smiled, but tried to hide her enthusiasm. “Thank you Mom.”
Feeling much better, Beth went into the living room where Tom and sat on the living room floor talking to Kim.
“Pumpkin!” Tom’s eyes lit up when he saw his daughter enter the room smiling.
“Hi Daddy,” she said.
“Come here and give your Dad a hug,” he said.
“I am sorry for getting so upset,” she said strolling over to him and giving him a hug.
“That’s all right,” he said squeezing her gently. He paused for a beat before letting go and saying, “Why don’t you finish opening the rest of your presents before it is too late.”
“I’d like that,” she said sitting down beside the tree. Kim handed her a package and Beth began to open it. Things seemed back to the way they were before Marci had called earlier. No more tension. Beth opened a few more presents before there came a knock at the door.
“I wonder who that could be?” Tom wondered out loud as he stood up.
Kim shrugged. “Maybe its Santa.”
Tom opened the door. There, with snow in her hair and on her coat, stood Marci. “What the hell are you doing here?” Tom greeted rather angrily.
Puzzled, Marci replied, “You told me to pick Beth up.”
“I did?” he asked. “When?”
“Now you are denying it? I can’t believe the nerve of you. It’s just like you to play these mind games!”
“Stop it! STOP IT!” Beth yelled. “JUST STOP IT FOR ONCE!”
“Fine. Just forget it. You ready Beth?” Marci asked.
“No,” Beth snapped.
“What?” Marci cried, her jaw dropping in shock.
“I am not leaving until you two stop fighting,” Beth declared.
“Oh, Beth,” Tom sighed. “That’s why your Mom and I divorced. We disagreed way too much. I don’t suppose it really changed things those, because we are still not able to get along. It is just the way things are.”
“Then I want to spend Christmas alone!” Beth said.
“You don’t mean that!” Marci cried.
“Yes, I do.”
“Do I have to stand out here in the cold all day then?” Marci asked.
“Come in,” Tom replied shortly.
Marci stepped in and shut the door. “Come on Beth, its been a long day.”
“No,’ Beth said defiantly as tears streamed down her cheeks. “Its Christmas for Chrissake! It is the time for family to spend time together. It is supposed to be the season of peace, love and giving. People are supposed to put aside their differences for Christmas and stop fighting. Just for one day at least. Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so. Even if you are divorced—please try for me. All I want is a fight-free Christmas for once.”
No one said a word.
“Mommy, why don’t you stay here for just a little while,” Beth said, finally breaking the silence.
“Honey, I don’t think Tom and Kim want me here,” Marci said sadly.
“Its okay with me,” Kim said.
“If you want,” Tom said a bit uncomfortably.
“I suppose, but….Oh, never mind,” Marci sighed ask she walked further into the living room and sat down.
“Thank you!” Beth said rushing over to her mother and throwing her arms around her. She kissed her mother on the cheek and then hugged her tightly once again. “You too Daddy!” she said as she pulled away at last. She ran to her father and threw her arms around him as well.
Tom stood motionless for a moment and then he hugged her back. “I love you,” he said.
“I love all you!” Beth said standing in the middle of the room looking at everyone.
“We love you too,” Marci said.
“And do you love each other?” Beth asked.
“We did…once,” Marci said.
“But….” Tom trailed off.
“But…” Marci echoed.
That is when Tom suddenly went over to his ex-wife and gave her hug. “For Beth,” he said as he gently embraced her.
“For Christmas,” Marci said hugging him back.