OCTOBER: EXCERPT OF THE MONTH (adults only)
ONE NAUGHTY WINTER NIGHT
by Ruth D. Kerce
Kayla rushed around like one of Santa’s less-spirited elves on a sugarplum high, trying to get everything just so. “Hell’s bells.” Christmas was so not her favorite holiday. Only a major case of the holiday guilts had pushed her into a decorating frenzy.
She wrapped garland around the porch railing and set out artificial holly in a pot beside the door. The outdoor lights she briefly thought about hanging over the garage didn’t work. She threw the string out, along with a bag of old candy canes that had melted together sometime during the summer.
“Lucked out. Praise the inadequacies of crappy light assemblers.” She breathed a huge sigh of relief. The thought of tacking anything up so high gave her the heebie-jeebies. And candy canes were not her favorite decoration. Their little necks always broke when she handled them. Talk about depressing!
Anyhow, for someone who put off decorating until the last minute, she hadn’t done half bad. “Looks festive. Well, pretty much.”
Now she was tackling the front door.
For the umpteenth time, she checked her watch. “Darn it.” Kayla Robard -- running late as usual. They’d chisel that on her tombstone, for certain. Mentally chastising herself, she made her first resolution for the New Year. “I will manage my time better from now on.”
Holding a nail against the wood, she hammered at lightning speed. She didn’t have much time left to get everything together before her best friend Kyle Winter was due to arrive.
The hammer glanced off the nail and banged her thumb. “Ow!” Pain exploded up her hand, and before she could stop it, a very unholiday-like word escaped her lips. “Oops, sorry,” she said to no one in particular. She didn’t suppose any holiday nasties were waiting to whisk her down to the dungeons of hell just because her language might be a bit off-color. Still, it didn’t hurt to make certain and issue a quick apology. Served her right anyway. She should have had her mind on what she was doing and not on Kyle. She raised her hand to her mouth and sucked at the wound.
Self-consciously, she glanced over her shoulder, expecting to see nosey old Mrs. Crumbly standing on the porch across the street, shaking her head in disapproval. Thankfully, the stoop remained empty. In fact, the entire neighborhood looked uncharacteristically void of activity, except for two small children trying in vain to form snowballs out of icy slush at the end of the block.
A wire pricked Kayla’s skin, and she glanced with disdain at the circle of fir hanging from her arm. She’d never understood the purpose of putting a wreath on the door. However, she’d conform to the tradition. But she did so only because the traditions of the season meant so much to Kyle. And Kyle meant so much to her.
She hung the decoration, trying and failing to get it straight. Something round shouldn’t have a top and a bottom. She stood back, trying to gauge which way it would hang best. If whoever designed the wreath hadn’t loaded it down with poofy ribbons, she could stick it up any which way. “I should have picked a plainer design. I’m not the poofy type.”
As she eyed her handiwork, the cold seeped into her bones. She pulled down the sleeves of her thin sweater, but it didn’t stop the shivers. At least the really ferocious winter storms hadn’t moved in yet. After another unsuccessful wreath adjustment, she gave up. So it hung a little lopsided.
“Good enough.” Her thumb still throbbing, she cursed the evils of hammers and holiday decorations and dropped the tool into the box at her feet.
Yes, she knew she needed a major attitude adjustment. But after her parents had died, her enthusiasm for the holidays had pretty much died too. She would try to make her home feel festive, though. Maybe, eventually, the spirit of Christmas would return to her soul.
A cold breeze hurried her actions, and she rushed inside to get warm. “Brr.” She shut the front door and entered the utility room. Pushing aside a pile of junk in the packed closet, she located the stepladder and carried it into the entry. “One more chore.” After positioning the ladder carefully below the wooden archway leading into the living room, she slowly climbed the three steps, muttering repeatedly, “It’s not that high. It’s not that high.” If she kept saying the words, maybe she’d convince herself of their truth.
She hated heights -- ever since she was seven and that little dweeb Lindsay Taylor pushed her off a slide. Teetering dangerously on the top step, visions of broken limbs assailed her. She breathed deeply to calm her nerves, reached up and secured a stiff, artificial sprig of mistletoe to the beam.
The poor branch was nearly leafless from old age and as hard as a head full of hair spray. All of the little white berries had long since fallen off, leaving the mistletoe naked and not very Christmas-looking. The mistletoe’s sad state made her wonder why she risked life, limb and good sense to hang it. She shrugged. “Oh well.” Anyone with an ounce of holiday spirit would recognize what it was.
She carefully stepped down the ladder, her legs shaking like a pair of rubbery noodles. “Done.” Relieved to be on steady ground again, she looked up and studied the sprig. She’d never even received any Christmas kisses under the thing. “Too bad.” Her relationships usually didn’t span the holidays. Strange, now that she thought about it.
She probably should have thrown the mistletoe out long ago with the other Christmas decorations she’d tossed. But mistletoe was another traditional holiday decoration Kyle insisted she have.
If not for him, she would have gotten rid of every last bit of her holiday items by now. Christmas was his favorite time of year, and she hated to see the disappointment on his face whenever he stopped by and her house looked barren of holiday cheer. For his benefit, she did what she could to make it seem like she enjoyed the season as much as he did.
With another glance at the mistletoe, Kayla did acknowledge that somewhere deep down she hoped one day to have “that special someone” to try it out on.
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-- October Direct Answers
from Wayne and Tamara
Direct Answers appears in newspapers on six continents.
-- Direct Answers by Wayne and Tamara
"Eight years ago I met someone in high school who would turn out to be my best friend. Seth and I are so much alike we literally feel what the other is thinking. We finish each other’s sentences. Even with all this, we are different in many ways.
I began dating Seth’s best friend a few months after I met Seth and eventually we were engaged to be married. As well as I claim to know him, I never knew Seth was secretly in love with me. The engagement crashed and burned, but it didn’t affect my relationship with Seth other than to bring us closer.
Years passed and we grew up.
At one point I became heavily involved in unhealthy things. After months of trying to get through to me, Seth said he could no longer watch me self-destruct. He walked away. That was the worst pain I ever felt in my life.
Eventually I straightened out, married and moved away. I found Seth by accident surfing the internet one night, and I emailed him. I discovered he was still in college and had a baby. We started emailing every day, trying to “rediscover” each other.
I am married to a wonderful man, and I am recklessly in love with him. Seth respects that and is happy for me.
The problem? Recently Seth emailed me about all his relationship problems. He compares every woman he meets to me, and he claims they do not measure up.
I told him he is being unfair to himself and to these women. What he and I share can never be duplicated, but that doesn’t mean he cannot love another person. Love comes in many forms. You never love anyone the same way you loved someone else.
Seth walked away from me once because he couldn’t stand to see the way I was living. Is it my time to walk away? I cannot bear the thought I am the cause for all his failed relationships."
Wayne & Tamara's Answer:
"Laurel, the writer Anthony Everitt gives an interesting account of the last days of Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor. When Augustus was well into his 70s and in failing health, he was worried about who should succeed him.
There were two likely candidates. One was Tiberius, a middle-aged man. The other was Augustus' grandson Agrippa, still in his 20s. Augustus had a soft spot in his heart for Agrippa, but he also knew Agrippa was an angry young man incapable of leading Rome. In fact, Augustus had even exiled Agrippa to the small island of Pianosa.
A few months before his death, Augustus secretly went to Pianosa to visit Agrippa. Grandfather and grandson had a joyous reunion. Augustus assured Agrippa of his love and told Agrippa that he would soon call him back to Rome. Augustus then returned to his ship, but not before arranging for the young man to be executed.
You never looked at Seth as he looked at you. You saw him almost asexually, even as he made you his Helen of Troy, his Marilyn Monroe, his Charlize Theron. The relationship got stuck there.
Helping Seth maintain his fixation isn’t good for you, your husband or your marriage. It isn’t good for Seth. Let him know that the thing which would make you lovers is absent for you. Then break off all contact.
Like Augustus, you are faced with a painful decision. Augustus made his decision to avoid a bloody war of succession. You must make yours for the same reason Seth once walked away from you."
Authors and columnists Wayne and Tamara Mitchell can be reached
Send letters to: Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield, MO 65801
or email: DirectAnswers@WayneAndTamara.com
Read an interview with Wayne and Tamara at: http://datingthread.com/wayne-and-tamara