She was so awake. ‘Twas the day before Christmas and she had a thousand things to do. Why had she left everything to the last minute? Every Christmas it was the same.
Carol Cage worked long hours, right up to Christmas Eve and then finally had to rush around to get everything done.
She got out of bed and went to her en suite bathroom. She changed her mind and went to her bedroom door and opened it. She had made a habit of closing it to avoid overhearing her son and his friend in bed again.
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She had heard them that first night some three months ago, when they came home late from the movies.
Her son, her illegitimate son, was in a relationship with another boy.
She told herself it didn’t matter. She was almost not surprised. After all she had been through, what else could go wrong for her?
It was eighteen years ago that her boyfriend had gotten her pregnant and then left her; left her alone to fend for herself. She never heard from him again, leaving her holding a baby boy that she never wanted. Despite that, she had worked hard and succeeded in building up a business that provided a nice income for her and ‘the kid’, as she thought of him.
Of course she never wasted money on him, only buying the essentials he needed for school. She was hardly the best mother in the world, but she fed and clothed him, giving him everything except the one thing he needed.
“Robert!” she yelled, from her now open bedroom door. She never acknowledged her son’s friend. It was like he wasn’t there. “Robert it’s time to get up.”
Robert and his friend, Jim, were jarred awake.
“Does she have to yell like that? What time is it Bobby?” Robert insisted on being called Bobby. He hated being called Robert, but he couldn’t stop his mother from using the name she had assigned to him.
“It’s seven a.m., I have to get up. Sorry Jim, but you know I have to do whatever she wants. It’s the only way I can get to go to college.” He leaned over his boyfriend and kissed him on the lips, and he asked him, “What are you doing today?”
“Waiting for her to finish with you, of course. Have you spoken to her about tomorrow yet?”
“No, not yet.” Bobby looked guilty as he made his confession. Jim wanted him to spend Christmas day with him. He had his own apartment a few streets away and longed to spend an entire day with Bobby. The two boys had never been able to manage an entire day alone. Bobby’s Mother had always seen to that, even though she never said anything to him.
“Robert!” yelled his mother, yet again.
“Robert,” mimicked Jim, “Mother calls. Why does she call you Robert? Everyone calls you Bobby.”
“That’s why; she knows I prefer Bobby, so she calls me Robert. Now, let’s get out of bed before she starts pounding on the damned door.”
The boys quickly showered together and dressed. Jim left forlornly, knowing he wouldn’t be fed, and Bobby went into the kitchen. His breakfast was waiting for him on the bar where they had all their meals. His mother’s perfectly good dining room was never used.
“Hurry up and eat Robert, I need to be out of here in ten minutes,” she said.
“Yes, Carol,” he said. He was not being disrespectful calling his mother by her first name. She insisted on it. She did not want to think of herself as a mother, at all.
Fifteen minutes later they were at her shop. Carol’s Flower Shoppe.
“Now Robert, I want you to sweep the floor again, and then tidy the store room. You know I must be able to see the stock. After that you will need to enter the deliveries into the computer. They should arrive by eleven.”
They worked hard all day serving many last minute customers and often Bobby had to make deliveries.
‘Twas the end of the day before he grasped his courage, “Carol?”
‘What?” She snapped at him.
“I was wondering, if I, err…”
“What is it? We don’t have all day. I have to get home to do the accounts.”
“Well, tomorrow is Christmas, and I wondering if I could, I could…”
“Spend it with ‘what’s his name’, I suppose. Is that what you’re trying to ask?”
“Please. It’s only one day,” he said.
“And what about the shop? Who’s going to take care of the plants?”
“Please, Mom, it’s Christmas.”
“Don’t call me that.”
She looked at him and for a moment felt a twinge of motherhood rearing its ugly head and for some unknown reason she relented as she looked into his eyes. “Oh all right, I’ll see to them, but be sure to mop the work room before you leave tonight, do you hear me?”
“Yes, I will.”
“All right, then you can go,” she said, with a slight hesitation that did not go unnoticed by Bobby.
“But will you be okay?” he asked his mother suddenly feeling some concern at the thought of her being alone on Christmas Day.
“Don’t worry about me. It is just another day as far as I am concerned except for fewer customers. But you have a good day with your friend, and mind you’re early the day after.”
“I will, and Carol?” He paused until she turned and looked at him…
“Merry Christmas, Mom. Ho, Ho, Ho!”
Bobby quickly turned and ran into the work room. His mother grimaced and sighed as she left the shop, muttering to herself, “Merry Christmas, stuff and nonsense…Ho, Ho, Hokum.”
Carol’s grimace changed into what might pass as a smile in a different time, as she walked home. She could have asked Bobby to drive her, but she didn’t want to waste the extra fuel.
As she walked along the street she noticed a kitten in a window of a pet shop she had not seen before. She stopped to look at the playful kitten, wondering what its fate would be when it was no longer cute. She looked up the sign over the door, “Shoppe of Christmas Pets.” “How peculiar,” she thought, “that anyone would open a pet shop just for Christmas Eve.”
Unexpectedly, a man carrying a thin grey complexion appeared at the door. Carol felt his presence and turned her head to gaze upon him. She thought he seemed familiar, and it made her vaguely uncomfortable, but she dismissed it, until he spoke.
“Hello Carol,” he said.