FINDING LOVE IN SANTA'S WORKSHOP
The dining room table was decked out in a festive Christmas cloth. Will’s dad, Sandy, held a sharp knife and faced the succulent baked ham. The aroma of the ham, candied yams and faint scent of a cake baked earlier in the day made Giselle’s stomach rumble. Don’t make a pig out of yourself.
“Everything looks delicious, Muriel,” Giselle sat down.
Bobby grabbed the seat on her right while Will sat across from her. His gray eyes were wary and hooded, she couldn’t read him. Food was passed then tasted amid grunts of satisfaction. Sandy was the first to stop eating long enough to speak.“Giselle, I see you setting at that computer working night and day. Whatcha doin’?”
“I’m writing a new business plan.”
Will raised his eyebrows. “Oh? Not going back to the old job?”
“My boss assigned me this new business plan over vacation so I could see if I wanted to run it.”
“Another jet-setting position?” Will cocked an eyebrow.
“This is a work-at-home assignment.”
Will dropped his fork. “Work at home?”“He gave me a choice to sign another five year contract or take on this, instead.”
“How come?” Will continued questioning her while Muriel and Sanders looked on silently.
Giselle felt heat rise to her cheeks. She took a bite of ham to avoid answering.
“Come on, girl. You’re keepin’ me in suspense here,” Mal chimed in.
“He said maybe I’d want to stay home…have a family or something…” Her blush deepened. You can fry an egg on my face.
“A family?” Will put down his fork. “I didn’t think you wanted a family. What did you tell him?”
Mustering all her nerve, she raised her gaze to meet his. “I told him my plans for a family had…” her voice shook for a moment,
“changed…and I’d be signing another five year contract.”Silence filled the room.
Will’s face froze, his eyes watered slightly. “Where did he get the idea you wanted a family?” He choked out.
“I said so back then…said the contract could be only for five years because I’d hoped…” she lowered her gaze to her hands, her voice sunk to a whisper, “I’d hoped to be engaged or married by then.”
“And?” Will continued.
A sting behind her eyes warned her tears were close. “Since I no longer have that…prospect... I might as well take the five year contract. It pays better and will keep me away from Pine Grove.”
Pleading exhaustion, Giselle begged to be taken home soon after the meal was finished. She and Will had exchanged polite chit chat but nothing meaningful. He drove her home and parked in her driveway. As she turned to open the car door, he placed his hand on her forearm.
“Wait, can we talk?”
She closed the door and turned to face him. He looked down at his hands then up at her.
“I didn’t know you wanted to get married – have kids. I know I’ve been pretty rotten to you since you’ve been back. Do I still stand a chance with you?”
A half-smile captured her lips. “A month ago, I would’ve loved to hear those words.”
“Now? The Will I once loved is gone. I’ve looked into your eyes and all I see is anger and hatred. The Will I loved never could have treated me like you have. Not in a million years. There wasn’t a mean bone in his body.” She stopped and took a shuddering breath, glancing out the window. “He was the sweetest, nicest most generous, caring man on Earth.” She turned to face him.
“But he doesn’t exist anymore. He’s gone probably never to return. I don’t like the man who’s replaced him. Still stand a chance? You never stood a chance to begin with.”
“I’m still me.”
She shook her head. “You’re someone else. Someone I don’t like. I’m going to get out of your way…leave you alone. You’re a stranger to me. He hung his head.
She opened the car door and got out, picking her way across the icy walk. After shutting the front door, she slid down against the inside of the door to the floor, dissolved in tears.