The Holiday Shopping Interlude
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“‘Bye, Hon.” Robert said as he kissed her on the lips. “Have a great day and remember that we’re having dinner out tonight-just the two of us. Love you.” Cathy, his wife, had impressed upon him years before that they needed to make time alone as a couple a regular part of their life. Thus, ‘dinner out’ had become a weekly date that they both considered of utmost importance.
Robert, once an associate lawyer for a very large Seattle firm, was now the head of Millstone Ministries, a non profit, non-denominational organization helping the disadvantaged with free or low cost legal services and in three more months he would be celebrating his ninth anniversary as CEO. During the stressful period following his resignation from the large law firm nine years prior, he had slowly come to the realization that his home life needed to be the most important part of his life.
“Mom, Dad said I can take the old car to school today since both Kyle and I have practice this afternoon. Okay?”
“Sure, Kelly. Just be real careful. I mean it! It might be slippery out. It was in the mid thirties when I got up.” She blew a kiss at her seventeen year old, marveling at how handsome he and his twin brother were. Life was such a precious and beautiful thing, she thought as the flickering light from the fire danced on the soft folds of her bathrobe.
As the snow gently drifted down outside the window, she gazed out into the creeping light of the dawn. Cathy smiled as the wintry sight stirred powerful memories of a past time. Tucking her feet more tightly under her thighs in the comforting bulk of the large wing back chair, she glanced down at the book in her hand. Her diary, that constant friend for more than twenty years, lay open to that December day exactly ten years ago. Returning her eyes to the page before her, Cathy continued to read the words she had entered so many years ago while she had been still glowing with the excitement that had begun on that distant evening.
The day had started out as most of hers did in those days. As the trim, blond 32 year old mother of seven year old twins and stay-at-home wife of an ambitious attorney, her normal day consisted of getting their two rambunctious boys up, dressed, fed, into the car and off to St Mary Magdalen elementary school. This was a task that was easily described but not so easily accomplished. Since her husband, Robert, was usually out the door at 6:10 am sharp to catch the bus to the ferry, this normal morning ritual was hers alone. But, this particular day, the knowledge that, by 8:20 AM, she would be alone with her thoughts and her projects was an eagerly anticipated promise. Little did she imagine that after nine years of marriage the 13th day of December, 1997 was the day she would be offered an opportunity to change her tidy, ordered life with an experience unlike anything she could imagine.
1997 had not been a particularly promising year for Cathy. Robert had been passed over for partnership in his firm early in the year and had gradually become more and more argumentative and cynical. He became more and more withdrawn and Cathy could see that he was feeling the desperation that comes when one realizes that life isn’t going to play by one’s own rulebook. Cathy couldn’t really blame him. The mechanical rabbit of corporate success had been placed on the rail, the bets had been laid and the veiled promise of success had been offered. The only problem was that Robert hadn’t bet on the right dog. He had believed that character and honor was the winning combination only to find out that the final payout was dependent more on cunning than craft. His disenchantment with law, as practiced by his firm, had become an increasingly painful element of his life and, therefore, their lives. Cathy commiserated with him and recognized his deep disappointment as valid but living with him had become a daily bath of anger, depression and loneliness. She attempted to cheer him. She tried to persuade him to consider other avenues. She cajoled and, yes, she even tried using her feminine “wiles’. Nothing succeeded in bringing Robert into a more pleasant frame of mind.
But, despite any dissatisfaction she may have been having with their relationship Cathy not once had entertained any thought of leaving Robert. Her wedding vows to him had been made as a one-time deal and there was no thought of changing midstream.
It was true that between the demands of caring for two lively children and dealing with Robert’s career doubts, their sex life had taken a back seat. Oh, they still made time every two or three weeks to “get together” in a rather perfunctory way but the days of daydreaming about an exciting night to come had come and gone. But, Cathy reasoned, every marriage moves into a state of dulled sensations just by virtue of the familiarity that two people develop over a period of years. Knowing this, when her attempt at “wile-ry” fell flat, she consoled herself that this was the natural course of events. That is, that was the natural course of events until the great snowfall of ’97.
The canlı bahis şirketleri morning of December 13, 1997 began with the normal rituals in place. Robert had climbed out of bed and trudged into the shower while Cathy got up from bed and threw on her robe and stepped into her fuzzy pink rabbit slippers with the curled over ears. Still wiping the sleep from her eyes she went to the kitchen and filled the coffee maker with water, separating the filters that insisted on sticking together, and measured out the coffee. She heard the television go on in the bedroom as Robert began his daily toilette. There was something grating in the harsh sound of the television. She shut the door between the kitchen and the family room to keep this intrusion at a minimum. She knew she would have to rouse Kyle and Kerry in twenty minutes so she poured herself a cup from the still brewing coffee maker and sat on the kitchen stool.
Opening the door from the family room, Robert walked into the kitchen. Freshly showered and shaved and clad in a dark blue suit, Cathy could see why he had so caught her eye twelve years earlier. “Why did you have the door shut?” Robert asked in a not entirely pleasant tone.
“I just wanted to enjoy some quiet time with my coffee”, Cathy replied. Robert grunted and poured himself a cup from the carafe.
“Are you eating on the ferry?” Cathy asked absent mindedly.
“Well, let’s see… I’ve eaten breakfast on the ferry for what, six years now? I would imagine that I will eat breakfast on the ferry today also.”
Cathy didn’t even want to respond even though she was stung by such a curt reply. She took another sip of coffee in response.
“The weatherman on the news said that it may snow today. Did you get the snow tires on the Mercedes as you said you would?” Robert asked.
“I’ll do it today. You know that it never snows around here. If they say six inches that means we may get a dusting. An inch or two means that it will rain.” Cathy replied.
She got up to go wake the kids and as she opened the door to their bedroom she heard Robert close the back door. She paused, thinking how ten years earlier Robert wouldn’t have dreamed of leaving in the morning without giving her a passionate kiss-at the least. More often than not, along with the kiss would come a cupping of her breasts under her robe and lovely sliding fingers over her nipples, down between her legs and then, with a tantalizing slowness, up and over the warmth under her panties. She gave a slight shudder at the memory. She always looked forward to that little bit of playfulness in the morning. But this morning had been like so many mornings the last couple of years and not only was there no kiss or touch but no goodbye.
Walking into Kyle and Kerry’s room, she turned on the light. “Time to get up, troopers!” Four sleepy eyes slowly opened as their curled up bodies realized that another day was at hand. And then four sleepy eyes returned to their main task of the minute-being closed. “C’mon, Kyle. Kerry, get your feet on the floor.”
Kyle crawled out of bed and then took his pillow and made a wide arc with it, striking Kerry in the face. Kerry cried out “Mommmm! Make Kyle stop.”
“Kyle, stop it. Now, you two get up and get dressed. I’m making French toast this morning and if you don’t hurry I’m going to eat all of it myself.”
“Mom, you wouldn’t eat it all yourself.” Kerry said with a slight laugh. “You can eat Kyle’s”. And with this Kyle stuck out his tongue at Kerry. Cathy walked out of their room towards the kitchen.
“Oooh great, it’s starting already.” she said to herself with a slight smile. The two boys were, indeed, a handful at times but sometimes she marveled at the beauty of these two imperfectly perfect kids.
“Now, remember, you kids will be taking the bus to Aunt Jeanne’s this afternoon because I have some shopping to do and will be gone until late. So, what will you be doing this afternoon?” she asked, seeking verification that they had indeed listened to her instructions.
“Taking the bus to Aunt Jeanne’s.” replied Kyle.
“Kerry?” Kerry made a face at his mom.
“I heard you, mom.” he said with that touch of impatience that only a seven year old can have with a parent.
The ride to school was quiet, the silence being broken only when Kyle asked if Cathy had made his favorite sandwich of honey and peanut butter. Assured that his sandwich was made as requested the two boys jumped out of the car as they arrived at school. Closing the car door they walked off to St Mary Magdalen’s front entrance, their back packs dwarfing the seven year old bearers.
Cathy eased the 420 SEL out into traffic, waving to fellow parents on the same mission. A light blue Subaru Outback started to pull out in front of her but quickly came to a stop as the driver saw Cathy moving towards him. Cathy waved as she recognized the driver. It was Dennis, the father of one of the twins’ best friends, Chloe. She had worked with Dennis on the Art Fare at school the year before when their children were canlı kaçak iddaa in the first grade. She had caught him looking at her numerous times as they worked together and she was secretly flattered at his surreptitious attention. He was a building contractor and owning his own business allowed him the freedom to be more active than some fathers in his young daughter’s school life. She found something very attractive about this parental involvement. To see this strong, rugged man bending down, with no sense of embarrassment, to help his small child with an art project touched her in both an emotional and sexual way. She remembered wondering what he might look like under his dark green flannel shirt. But then, the Art Fare ended and they both went back to their lives, running into one another only occasionally at school functions.
Clearing the stoplight, Cathy headed toward the shopping mall. She decided to go to the more upscale mall about fifty miles away rather than the closer but less attractive shopping area near her home. She had the day to herself! She didn’t have to rush home. Jeanne would be taking care of the kids and Robert would probably work late as usual. “I’ll take care of the snow tires after I shop.”, she thought to herself. She glanced at the outside temperature gauge on her dash-37 degrees. “Well, I won’t have to worry about snow, at least.” she reasoned.
With no kids and no pressing obligations, the drive to the mall was pleasant. She turned up the radio. Nat King Cole was singing one of his beautiful Christmas carols. This particular song reminded her of how, as a child, she would kneel on a stool in the kitchen and help her mother mix up cookies. While she and her mother mixed and baked and decorated they talked. Christmas carols would be playing on the stereo. “Gee, I loved that” she said to herself. As she drove, she could almost smell the cookies baking and wiped a slight tear that had formed at the corner of her eye.
Searching for a parking space in the huge lot was going to be an exercise in patience, she thought. But, luck was with her and she actually found one almost opposite the entrance to Nordstrom.
Entering the mall’s flagship store, she was immediately taken aback by all the wonderful smells, beautiful decorations and holiday music. Immersing herself in the Christmas spirit, she spent the next three hours slowly inspecting all the possible Christmas presents throughout the store. Kyle and Kerry were fairly easy to buy for because their wish list contained mainly video games and toys. Those they would receive but they also would get the obligatory “from Mom and Dad” clothing. They weren’t at the age yet where they had to have only certain “with it” brands. Thank God! They were too rough on clothing to spend a fortune on expensive brands.
As the cashier rang up the leather jacket Cathy got for Robert, she overheard a fellow shopper mention to her friend how deep it was getting. She thought that an odd remark. How deep was what? Shrugging off the comment as none of her business she continued down the mall to the video gaming store to search for the kids’ much desired games. And, then, it was on to Macy’s for Mom and Dad’s blanket throw, to the electronics store for her brother’s laptop computer and then on to the cheese specialty shop for the annual “mall offering” of sausages and cheeses for holiday snacking.
It was at the jewelry store where she was picking out a watch for Robert that she again heard the words “getting deep” from the girl who was helping her. “I’m sorry. What were you saying?”
“The snow. I was saying that I guess it’s really getting deep. My husband just called and he said that cars are barely moving on the freeway.” the girl replied.
“Are you serious?! I didn’t even know it was snowing! I have been in the mall since about ten this morning and it was dry when I got here. Maybe I should consider cutting my shopping short and heading home.”
“I hate to say it but if what people are saying is true then maybe it would be a good idea to do that. Do you live close by?” she asked.
Cathy groaned. “Not really. I live on the island.”
“No, Bainbridge.” Cathy replied.
The girl looked concerned. “Ohhh. You might consider getting a hotel room. If the roads are as bad as my husband says then you are going to have a loooong ride home in this weather!”
Cathy left the store and headed straight toward the mall exit. As she neared the doors she could see the snow blowing and swirling in the parking lot lights. “It’s really coming down.” she muttered to herself as she stepped out into the blowing snow and stumbled through the whiteness toward her car. She found it almost next to impossible to distinguish her car from the others in the lot. All had at least six inches on snow on them. The wind had whipped the snow into drifts around the wheels of the cars and the light standards.
She finally located her car by repeatedly locking and unlocking her car with the remote and looking for the flashing lights. When she canlı kaçak bahis was able to make out a slight, flashing red glow through the snow she went to her car and brushed the snow from the driver’s door. As she climbed in the car, the loose snow tumbled in onto her lap and floor. Starting the car she put it in gear and gingerly stepped on the accelerator. Nothing. For all the commotion that she could hear she might as well have been in an igloo as far as going anywhere. Rear wheels spinning, the car would not budge. “A lot of good this so-called traction control does.” she thought. Just then there was a rap on her window. Quickly locking her doors, she rolled her window down a couple of inches to see who was there.
“Hey Cathy! Fancy meeting you here.”
Through the blowing snow it was hard for her to clearly see who was speaking. “Yes?” she said hesitantly.
“As I was going to my car I noticed you coming out of the mall. I don’t think you are going to be going anywhere very quickly.” the voice said. As the snow ebbed for a moment Cathy saw that it was Dennis.
“Dennis! What in the world are you doing here?” she asked incredulously.
“I might ask you the same, O Shopping Princess” Dennis replied jokingly. “Are you going to make me stand out here in the snow or do I get an invite into your less than moveable car.”
Cathy laughed. “Oh God, I’m sorry, Dennis! Quick. Get in before you freeze.”
Cathy unlocked the doors and Dennis gingerly walked around the front of the car and opened the passenger door. “So, what are you doing down here?” Cathy asked as he climbed in.
“Well, I had a meeting in Tacoma with a client and his architect about a house that we’ll be starting on soon. You know, that lot that has been cleared on the water near the mouth of the bay? If I had known that the weather was going to be like this I would have told them to forget it. Anyway, I figured that on the way back home I would stop and pick up a couple of Christmas gifts for Amy. I didn’t realize that it was going to snow like this.”
“How is Amy? The last time I saw her was the day before Thanksgiving and she was rushing around the grocery store like a woman possessed.”
Dennis laughed. “Yeah, her parents were coming over for Thanksgiving and I think she was a little uptight with all the preparations. I wasn’t able to help much because I was totally tied up with the initial negotiations on this project.”
The smooth engine of the Mercedes idled quietly as the heater poured out welcome streams of warm air. There was a momentary silence in the car as they both sat there. “I heard on the news just before I saw you that there was a semi truck accident on the Narrows that did some damage to the bridge. DOT officials figure that they won’t have temporary repairs on the bridge done before tomorrow noon.” Dennis said.
Cathy groaned. “How are we supposed to get home?! We surely can’t drive all the way to Seattle for the ferry in this weather. We’d never get there!”
“I think that the point is-we’re not going home tonight. There is no way that we’ll be able to get to Seattle for the ferry in this total gridlock. I already called Amy and told her that I was going to look for a room down here and wait out the night to see what it’s like in the morning.” Dennis replied.
“Were you able to get a room?”
“I haven’t looked yet but I thought I would check the Marriot on the other side of the boulevard. I can walk there from here so I can leave the car and not worry about driving anywhere.”
“Well, I better do the same because, without any snow tires and with the bridge out of commission for the evening, I’m pretty much stuck here also.” Cathy lamented.
“If you want to brave the weather, come with me and we’ll struggle over there and see what’s available.” Dennis said.
“Let me just call Robert and Jeanne and tell them what is happening so that no one worries.” Cathy dug in her purse for her cell phone and dialed Robert’s number.
Dennis could hear only one side of the conversation but it sounded like Robert wasn’t real happy about the situation but was doing the same in Bellevue because roads were almost totally impassable there. “Jeanne has the kids and I’m sure she won’t have a problem keeping them for the night.” He heard her say.
As she hung up from Robert she turned to Dennis and said that she wanted to call Jeanne quick. Dialing again, Dennis heard her tell her sister that she wouldn’t be home and then a heartfelt “Thanks, Jeanne. I’m glad that school got out early.”
“Sounds as if that problem is taken care of also.” Dennis said.
“Thank God.” replied Cathy. “Well, are you game to go?” she asked.
“Let’s go!” replied Dennis as he opened the car door. The snow swirled around them as they stumbled off through the drifting snow. Dennis held out his hand for Cathy and she took it as her feet sunk into the snow.
The hotel was only about a quarter of a mile away and yet it seemed like a lifetime as they both trudged through the storm. Cathy felt a strange comfort in holding Dennis’ hand that went beyond safety. There was a strength there and yet a gentleness that she sensed. With snow blowing in their faces, she grasped his hand tighter as they weaved their way across the boulevard of idling but unmoving cars.
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