Chapter 11: Christmas Gifts

 

“Maggie, I need another thinking thing.”

Maggie looked up from her latest letter. “About what?”

“Christmas.” We’d skipped Christmas last year- no one had even brought it up. This year, I wanted to do something. Maybe not something large, but something.

She looked a little distressed- I hadn’t meant to upset her. “I know Christmas is a time for families but I thought we could celebrate as a family- since none of us can go home for Christmas.”

“I suppose it would be better than nothing at all. So what did you need help with?” she said.

“Rose. I want to get her something but I don’t know what she would like.” I already knew what I wanted to do for Maggie. A gift to put under the tree was just a something- my real gift to her was to write her family and tell them how much she missed them. It might not convince them to come to her… or even to respond… so I didn’t mention it.

“She will like it when you are being kind.”

“Yeah, I suck at that,” I snorted.

“If you say so. Just be yourself and think what she would like.”

This wasn’t remotely helpful. “Which self? The asshole I was before or the monster I am now?”

She threw me a piercing look. “The man I know you to be.”

That rocked me back a bit. Not the man I could be but the one I already was.

 

So I thought about it. Money was not an object but I knew Rose by now and she wasn’t the type to be bought. Expensive perfume was out, she preferred roses and I’d been giving her roses daily for over a year. Books were almost as frequent… but what about a special book?

I researched her favorite author and discovered that, early in his career, he’d had a small book published before he became well known. It hadn’t sold well and had never been reprinted. If Rose know about it, she had never mentioned it.

Finding a copy was hard, the book was old and obscure. Finding one in good shape was harder… but I managed at last. I couldn’t wait to see her face when she unwrapped it. I didn’t want to write in it so I put a note in- ‘To Rose, Merry Christmas with love, your Thorne.’

For Will, I had a laptop set up with Windows-Eyes Pro which looked like it would do everything short of making coffee and make it possible for him to use the internet as fully as anyone else.

On Christmas morning, I snuck in and left packages at everyone’s places at breakfast.

Maggie was delighted with her gift- a fancy chess set- she didn’t know it wasn’t the gift I wanted to give her and Will was surprised as well. I don’t know if he knew that kind of thing existed or if he had just never used it but he spent most of the day playing with it to discover just how much it could do.

Rose’s surprise was everything I had wanted. When she unwrapped the paper, her mouth dropped open.

“Oh Thorne! I heard of this book… but I never thought I’d have a chance to see it! What did you do, rob a library?”

I snorted. “Hardly that. Borders was all out of them but I did manage to find it.”

She smiled. “Well, I love it- nothing could be more perfect.”

After breakfast, Rose excused herself- I thought to go read her book. Since Will was head and shoulders deep in the wonders of the internet he’d never been able to use before, I played a game of chess with Maggie. She trounced me, of course, but I didn’t make it too easy for her. I was getting a little better.

Rose looked around the corner. She’d done something pretty with her hair- put it part way up or something.

“Hey,” I said, smiling. “Come on in.”

She came into the room… and she was wearing an old fashioned dress, long and fancy. “I found this in the attic- is it ok for me to wear?”

“I- uh, sure. You look great! But why?”

“Well, if we’re having Christmas, I thought I should try to dress up, maybe.” She twirled around, the skirt billowed out and I had a moment of pure inspiration.

“Do you like to dance?” I asked.

“Yes. I mean, I guess so. I never danced really- just around the room at home.” She blushed, confessing this.

I grinned. “Let’s go downstairs. You know that room I work out in?” I didn’t know if she’d ever even been in there.

“Sort of- I mean, I know where it is.”

“It’s supposed to be a ball room. Let’s go down and dance.” I bowed. “If I may have this dance, milady?”

She laughed. “Of course”

I gave her my arm and we went down to the punitive ballroom. Since there were only the two of us, I didn’t think the exercise equipment on one end of the room would be too much in the way.

“I don’t know much about this kind of dancing…” she said.

“It’s okay, I do.” I’d been taking lessons so I could surprise Laurel with a real dance at our wedding. I wasn’t a master but I’d learned a couple of simple ballroom dances and simple was the way to go here. “Put your hand on my shoulder, here… now take my hand, like this.” I repositioned her hand in mine. “Now I put my hand on your back here. “

I taught her the simple box step and we practiced until it was easy for her… then I taught her the waltz turn.

“Think you’re ready?” I asked.

“I think so.”

I went and put on a CD. “Okay, remember, just follow my lead… and have fun.” I waited until she felt like she was ready and started a waltz. The great thing about waltzing is it’s the simplest dance in the world but when you think about ballroom dancing and spinning around the room, it’s always the waltz you’re picturing.

We stopped when Rose ran out of breath. “Oh that was so much fun! It feels almost like flying!” She was laughing and hadn’t let go of me. “Can we do it again?”

Oh, here, let me think. Holding on to a beautiful girl that I thought I was falling in love with and spinning around an empty room like a madman with a grin on my face that I couldn’t help… “Sure. As soon as you like.”

“Okay, give me a minute.”

Then her phone rang.

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