FREEBIE FRIDAY EXCERPT!
Today's excerpt is from Santa Bebe by Lily Carlyle. This short story was part of the Winter's Sweet Kiss Anthology.
We hope you enjoy today's tease!
My car tires kicked up small pebbles as I drove up the gravel driveway to the trailer. I turned off the car and took a deep breath, steeling myself for the visit. Reminding myself to be patient and understanding, I slung my purse over my shoulder and walked along the rutted driveway to the front door.
The annuals that had beautified the dreary residence over the summer were now just frost-killed black stalks sticking out of the frozen ground. A battered wreath I remembered buying at Walmart when I was in elementary school was the only indication of the upcoming holiday.
My brief knock was only a courtesy, and I called out as I opened the door. “Mom? It’s Bebe.”
A cloud of cigarette smoke preceded my mother into the hallway. Without thinking, I waved my hand in front of my face, a standard activity when in my mom’s presence. I suppressed a cough. “Mom, I thought you quit?”
“Oh, sweetie, you know I’ve tried and tried. I can’t stick with it. Come into the kitchen. I just made a fresh pot of coffee.”
I followed her through the tiny living room, dominated by a huge television. I noticed she looked scrawnier than she had at Thanksgiving last month, her hair more brittle and blonde than ever. My hand rose to my own blonde tresses, and I wondered if maybe James was right. Perhaps it was time to rediscover my own natural color.
I sat down in the vinyl-covered, patterned dinette chair, putting my purse on the floor next to me. Mom’s kitchen was the same as always—a time warp back to the 70s, dismal and dated, but spotless.
Mom poured me a cup of coffee and moved a store-bought coffee cake from the orange Formica counter to the center of the table. She pushed the cup and a plate in front of me.
The cellophane crackled as I opened the box to cut a piece. “Aren’t you going to have any?” I thought of her skinny butt, but Mom placed a hand on her stomach.
“I can’t. I’m trying to lose weight.”
“You’re too skinny as it is.”
She patted her abdomen again. “I’m trying to get rid of this belly.”
I bit my tongue, avoiding the urge to point out cutting back on her drinking, not her eating, would be the best, and most healthy way to lose weight. Grabbing an ashtray off the counter, Mom finally settled opposite me with her cup of coffee.
I took a deep breath. “So, I’ve been thinking about Christmas. I have to work on Christmas Eve and early on the twenty-sixth for the after holiday sales, so I thought maybe you could come to my apartment for Christmas? There’s so much more to do in the city. We could go to Christmas Eve services, maybe drive around and look at the lights—”
“I’m not going to be able to spend Christmas with you this year.”
I drew back, shocked by her announcement.
“What? Is something wrong? Oh my goodness, are you sick?” Mom’s skinniness and the dark circles under her eyes seemed ominous. What if she were really ill?
“No, sweetie, everything’s great. I’m seeing someone new and he wants to take me on a cruise over the holidays.”
The air left my lungs in a whoosh as I felt sudden tears well in my eyes.
There went my dreams for a storybook Christmas in the city in my apartment with decorations worthy of a magazine spread. I’d imagined me and Mom managing to get along this year with no weird boyfriend of hers introducing added tension to our already fraught holiday. But, it seemed Mom had chosen to take me out of the picture rather than her boyfriend. How could she do that to me? All my life, I’d tried to cobble together festive holidays with my limited resources—my thoughts went to the cheap Walmart wreath I’d saved up for in grade school—but something always went wrong. For a while, I said nothing, knowing I couldn’t voice my thoughts, or Mom and I would have a huge fight.