Second Chances – Part III
Maryanne sighed. She liked that big tree too, but it must be nine or ten feet tall, and their house had eight foot ceilings.
“I don’t think that one will fit, Amber. What do you think of the one beside it?”
“I like it, punkin’,” Luke encouraged.
“Okay, Dad. If you like it that’s the one I want too.”
Luke and Mike cut the tree down and tied it to the top of their Explorer, and then they took the tree home to decorate.
The tree thrilled Amber. “Oh, it’s so pretty!” she exclaimed. “I love the way it smells.”
“I do too,” Luke agreed. He gave Amber a quick hug. “Don’t you think it would be nice if your mother would fix us some hot chocolate to reward us for all our hard work?”
“Count me in,” Mike yelled from the kitchen where he was feeding the puppy.
Maryanne prepared the hot chocolate and wished she liked the tree as much as everyone else. All of their ornaments looked old and shabby, and she’d give anything to put up a theme tree as Kelly intended to do. Kelly had decided on a western theme, but she’d do angels. Huh! Why had she wasted her time thinking about it? They didn’t have the money to buy all new decorations.
She decided that after the kids went to bed she’d try to move the ornaments around so that the prettiest ones were on the front of the tree. Why not? They’d never notice.
The afternoon passed, and they arrived at the municipal skating party just as darkness fell. “We’ll probably have to walk a mile,” Luke muttered, but he was wrong. They found a parking place almost immediately. The kids hurried toward the pond, but Luke hung back and put his arm around Maryanne.
“Look at it, honey. It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.”
Maryanne agreed. Colored lights twinkled in all of the nearby trees while the stars shone so brightly that it seemed as if you could reach heavenward and pluck them if you wished.
A bonfire roared on the far bank where a group of people dressed in colorful, winter clothing warmed themselves. The scent of wood smoke and coffee filled the air, and they heard children shouting and laughing as they skated on the frozen pond.
Maryanne drew a deep breath as the smell of hot coffee wafted to her nose. “Smell that coffee, Luke.”
“Let’s go get some.”
Luke turned around. “What is it, punkin’?”
“I can’t get my skates on.”
“I’ll get the coffee while you help her,” Maryanne said.
“I’ll wait for you here.”
He dug in his pocket and withdrew ten dollars which he passed to her, and Maryanne went to find that coffee. As she had anticipated that delicious aroma had drawn a large crowd, and she had to wait. She shivered as she pulled her hood over her head and stuck her hands into her pockets. The temperature had dropped a good bit after night fell.
She finally got her coffee and paid for it. She tried to hurry because Luke would wonder what had happened to her, but the lid popped off one of the cups and fell to the ground. Great. She’d have to recap it or she’d spill the coffee.
When she bent over to get the lid she noticed the couple who sat on a bench with their back to her. She recognized Kelly and got ready to call a cheerful hello, but the words died in her throat when she heard Kelly say, “Chip, I wish you had asked me before you hired Luke Tinsley to do the decorations.”
“Why? I thought you and his wife were friends.”
“We have been, but to tell you the truth I don’t want to see her anymore.”
“Oh? What did she do?”
Kelly brushed her nicely tinted hair from her eyes. “It isn’t anything she did, Chip. I don’t want to see her because I’m not good for her.”
“I don’t follow.”
“I make her discontent with her life. She doesn’t live in a showplace, and I doubt that her husband earns even half of what you do. She can’t afford designer clothes and expensive vacations, and she’s so envious that I don’t think it’s doing her family any good.”
Chip put his arm around her and gave her a little squeeze. “I can tell Luke I don’t need him if you like.”
“No, they probably need the money at Christmas time. Just don’t use him again.” She drew a deep, shuddering breath that Maryanne clearly heard. “Maryanne doesn’t know how lucky she is. I’d be happy to for us to live in a shack if”¦”
“If we could have Ethan back. I know, baby.”
As Maryanne watched a tear ran down Kelly’s face. “I try not to think about him, Chip, but at Christmas I can’t help it.” She laid her head on her husband’s shoulder. “How can a mother forget her son? I miss him as much today as I did the day he died.”
“I know. So do I.”
For a moment neither of them spoke.
“Let’s go home, Chip.”
Chip shook his head. “It isn’t fair to Lisa, baby. We still have one child, and we can’t sacrifice her happiness because we miss Ethan.”
Maryanne automatically replaced the lid on the coffee cup. Seeing herself as Kelly did had ripped the scales from her eyes, and unhappily she didn’t like the woman she had become. She had truly acted like a fool. She had let jealousy make her resent her own husband who worked like a slave for them all. She had worried so much about inconsequential foolishness that she had forgotten the really important things in life. And oh, poor Kelly! How could any mother live with the knowledge that her child lay cold and still under the earth?
She didn’t know if she could mend fences with Kelly or not, but in future anyone who wanted to be her friend would just have to take her as they found her. Impulsively she approached the bench as if she had just seen them.
“Oh, hello, Maryanne.”
“This must be Chip.”
“Yes. Chip this is Maryanne Tinsley.”
Maryanne shook hands with Chip. “I’m glad to meet you, Chip. When you get back from New York I hope you, Kelly, and Lisa can come over to our house for dinner. Lisa and Amber have a good time together, and maybe the adults can play some cards. Luke and I love Phase Ten.”
“We’ll call you,” Kelly promised.
Maybe she would. Maryanne hoped so.
She found Luke where she had left him. “What took you so long?” he crossly demanded.
“Oh, hush and drink your coffee before it gets cold.” She passed him his coffee and slipped her arms around him. “I love you, Luke, and I thank God for you and the kids.”
Luke looked pleased as well he might. As Maryanne knew she hadn’t been too pleasant lately.
“Hey, you wanna go skating, Mrs. Tinsley?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
They exchanged a brief kiss, and as they took to the ice, Maryanne thanked God for second chances.
Copyright Elaine Cantrell