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The ten-year-old girl in the purple pajamas sat on the couch with her father engrossed in a musical. They were watching “Scrooge”, just as they did every year on Christmas Eve. The popcorn was on the coffee table, as was the eggnog that they were both so fond of.
Her brother was away, and she loved spending time alone with her daddy. Just his and her time. Being the only parent her and Johnny had left, she was as close to her father as she could get. She snuggled up to him, inhaling the Polo he wore, and feeling the warmth of his Red checkered flannel shirt. She had no memories of her mother, for she had died just after she was born, but she was Daddy’s girl all the way and she didn’t care who knew it.
Johnny who was thirteen, didn’t like to spend much time at home, he stayed most of the time with their grandparents on their mothers side. Mostly it was just her and daddy.
She reached over and grabbed the popcorn, and saw that next to her eggnog was a small package wrapped in blue and silver foil. Tilting her head, she picked it up off the glass coffee table. Looking at it wonderingly, she shook it.
She turned her head to look at her father and he smiled knowingly. “Daddy?” She questioned, while feeling the excitement filling her whole body. She wanted to know what was in it, but she knew that Christmas wasn’t until morning.
“Go ahead, Princess.” Jack Tillman said to his daughter. “Open it.” He smiled while watching her eyes gleam with anticipation.
Jack had always felt closer to his daughter then he did his son. After Diane had died, her parents told the courts that Jack couldn’t possibly raise a baby, and they asked for custody of both Johnny and Katherine, but he just couldn’t part with them. Johnny wanted to have things his way, and he got that at his grandparents. That was why he moved in with them when he was ten. Jack was tired of all the fights that they were having, and it wasn’t doing Kathy any good to hear it every day. So Jack just gave up, and let him move to his grandparents. They wanted Kathy, but he couldn’t bare to part with her. Johnny was a prodigy when it came to drawing, and he didn’t want to see him waste that kind of talent.
Watching Kathy with the gift in her hand, he though about how different she was then Johnny. She reminded him so much of their mother, and to give her up would have killed him. Johnny was much more like him, very headstrong. If he saw something he wanted, he would not stop until he got it. He loved Johnny, but he was too much of a handful for him.
Kathy started slowly opening the small treasure she held, and he knew she would be squealing as soon as she saw what was in it. He waited, and wasn’t disappointed as she pulled out the little silver diamond cross necklace, that the box held.
Her eyes widened as she realized what it was she held, and she was almost speechless with joy. “OH, DADDY!” She cried out as she threw her arms around his neck, and hugged him tight.
He laughed as she looked at the small gift again. Her eyes were lit with excitement, and he was pleased. “Do you like it?” He asked playfully.
“LIKE IT?! I LOVE IT!” She cried out. “It’s the best present I have ever gotten!”
She handed him the necklace, and pulled up her hair behind her head. Jack unclasped it and put it around her neck, and clasped it back. Standing up, she let the cross flash with light, and asked. “What do you think?”
“Baby, I think you’re the prettiest little girl in the world.” He said with absolute truthfulness. ‘Your mother would have been so proud of you. You’re so much like her.” He knew that his voice was cracking, but he couldn’t help it. Whenever he thought of his wife, the absence was there. He missed her, and wished he had never let her go out that icy morning.
His eyes filled with tears as he continued. “You have her attitude you know. She always brought out the best in me. You are definitely your mother’s daughter.” He looked away as he said the last. The tears were falling freely now, and he didn’t want his daughter to see them.
“I wish I knew her.” Kathy said sadly.
He turned back around and nodded. “I know sweetheart. But I also know that your mother is watching over all of us. Sometimes I can feel her in this house, and I have more then once thought that I had heard her say my name.”
Kathy gave him a look that said that she didn’t understand. “Do you mean she’s a ghost?”
She didn’t think that he meant that, because ghosts were supposed to be scary, and she thought that her father was trying to relay that he was comforted by the feelings that he got when he felt her around.
“Not a ghost, but an angel! I’m sure your mother is one of the most beautiful angels that is up with God.” He smiled, “She had that disposition. She was the one who named you. Your name means “pure”.”
“Oh daddy, I’m so sorry.” She ran over, and hugged him, again.
He patted her on the back, and replied, “Don’t be honey, it was never your fault. So let’s …” He picked up the glass cup full of eggnog, and raised it, as Kathy did the same. “Toast your mother and Christmas.” He took a drink. “Merry Christmas princess!”
Kathy felt something was wrong and wanted to warn her father. “NO DADDY NO!!” She screamed.
Jack’s eyes grew wide, as he couldn’t breathe. He started coughing and still no wind was coming into his lungs. He fell to the floor, and his eyes glassed over.
“NO DADDY, NO!” The little girl screamed, as she watched her father die.
“No daddy, please don’t die.” Kathy murmured in her sleep, as tears were flowing down onto her pillow. “Daddy don’t you understand, I need you.”
Her eyes snapped open, and she realized where she was. She was no longer that little girl who needed her father for the comfort he gave. Looking around she noticed that she had left the television on, and channel 13 was playing “Scrooge”. She got up, and snapped the TV off.
“HUMBUG!” She said to it. “I’ll be so glad when this is over!”
Looking at the alarm clock, she saw that she had overslept. “Oh, just great Katherine! Late again. Keep this up and you’ll be busted down to a waitress!”
She drew a breath, and let it out. “I hate Christmastime.” She sighed, while rolling her eyes, and picking out an outfit for work. “Why do I always have to be bombarded with this?”
She walked into the bathroom, and turned on the shower. Taking her nightclothes off, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. “Daddy,” She said aloud. “If mom looked like this, I really feel sorry for her!” The bags under her eyes were unbecoming for a woman of twenty-three, and she had already found a grey hair in the mop she had on her head.
When she wasn’t like this she was very attractive, at five foot six, a hundred and twelve pounds, her blonde hair and blue eyes sparkled. She had had dates, but none that was going to go anywhere. Men looked at her serious nature, and they usually turned tail.
She thought about her schedule for the day while she let the warmth of the water hit her, and wondered how she was going to do everything she needed to do. She had to work until 4:00 and then she had to pick up Johnny, and that bothered her. He had nowhere else to go, and knew that he was going to have to stay here until he found a job. She didn’t think two years in jail was going to make him a different person, but he was her brother, and she would try to help him if she could.
She knew the first thing he would say when he walked through the door. “What Sis, no tree?” Even though he knew how she felt about Christmas. After their father died that night, she never enjoyed Christmas again. The magic was gone. Yes, she had her brother, and her grandparents, but they had never been able to take the place of her father.
She thought about the diamond cross that was her fathers last present to her, and her heart skipped. She had lost that just after she had moved in with her grandparents. She had cried for days, but it had never turned up. She was sure that her grandmother hid it somewhere, but she knew there was no chance of finding it now. Her grandparents both had died when she was eighteen, and the house was sold with everything in it.
They were not the greatest grandparents, but they weren’t the worst either. They just didn’t like her father, and that was enough to turn her away from them. She would do what was expected from her, but she was very quiet around them. They exclaimed on that about how she was an introvert, but there was really nothing that they could do. Her grades at school were the highest in her class, and she had always shown a thirst for knowledge.
At Christmas while she was growing up in her grandmother’s house, she had shown no excitement or anything else for the coming holidays. Her brother and cousins would be all-happy, and enjoy the festivities, but she could not bring herself to participate. Her insides died the night that her father did.
She existed and that was it.
She grabbed her coat and started out the door, when the phone rang. She walked over to it and saw it said on the caller ID that it was a blocked call. “Great!” She spoke aloud in exasperation. “I wonder who this could be!”
Picking up the handset, she was expecting to hear Johnny’s voice.
Instead, the haunting words of her father came out, “Merry Christmas, Princess.”
Her breath hitched, as she screamed into phone. “Who is this?”
There was no answer, just the hum of the dial tone, as she stared at it.
‘It couldn’t be!’ She thought to herself, as she backed away. She knew he was dead, she had been there. They told her he died that night.
She wanted to scream, but she took a deep breath and told herself to forget it, and walked out the door. She knew that there were no ghosts, and someone was pulling a prank on her. That was the only explanation she could think of. It was probably Johnny up to some prank, with one of the other inmates.
Johnny could be so irresponsible at times.
“At times? Girl, you might as well admit it, he has always been irresponsible!” She shook her head, got in her 08 Ford Focus, and left.
It had snowed the night before, and she took her time going through the streets. There were already people out this morning, and she didn’t want to be in an accident. The square had a festive glow around it, and carolers sang on the steps of the courthouse, while others watched. To Kathy it looked something right out of Dickens.
She blew out a breath, and looked a bit disgusted. “When will people learn that Christmas was made for weak minded fools, so that they don’t see what is going on around them!”
She turned on the radio hoping for some good country music to settle her nerves down, when through the speakers she heard, “Kathy!”
This time there was no doubt about it in her mind. She heard her father’s voice. “Daddy?” She looked down at the radio.
She looked up and screeched on her brakes. A little girl of about ten came darting past her. The little girl looked very familiar to her, but she couldn’t bring herself to say so. She knew the snowsuit that she was wearing, and the sweet angelic face that the girl had, was hers thirteen years before.
Kathy took a deep breath, and said. “Kathy, old girl, you’re going nuts. It’s just not possible what you’re seeing or hearing.”
Pulling into a parking spot, she decided that she need the fresh air and walked the rest of the way to her job as manager of Lawson’s, a chain of locally owned restaurants.
Walking in she saw the cheerful twinkle lights of the Christmas tree, in the lobby, and felt her depression grow. The soft music coming from the overhead speakers played Christmas music, while chatter was heard all around. People were in the spirit, and her heart was breaking.
Kathy wanted nothing more to feel like these other people, to sit and enjoy the camaraderie around her, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Instead, she found the hostess, and told her, “I have a real bad headache. Brenda, I’m going to my office, don’t bother me unless it’s something really important!”
Kathy turned on her heels and walked away, not waiting for a response, and shutting the door behind her. With the door closed, she leaned up against it and closed her eyes. Her head was pounding as she staggered to her desk and sat down.
The phone rang, and she reached for it to sop the awful noise, and then stopped herself. ‘What if it was another delusion?’ She asked herself, as it continued to ring. ‘I think if I hear that again I will truly go insane.’
She finally decided that enough was enough and picked up the receiver. “Lawson’s! This is Kathy, How can I help you?” She said it a little too sharply, but didn’t care.
“Sis?” Johnny’s voice came from the other end.
“Johnny?” She asked. “Where are you?”
“They let me out a little early, so I hopped a bus, and I’m at the square. I thought well if you didn’t care, ummmm, we could have lunch together.” He said hesitantly. “I really need to talk to you.”
Kathy thought for a moment, and then said, “That’s fine, come on down, and I’ll have Brenda set up the back room so we won’t be disturbed.”
“Thanks Sis.” He sighed, and started to hang up, when Kathy found herself adding,
“Welcome home, big brother.” Then the phone was dead.
When Johnny got there they walked to the back room where a table was set up, and there was no decorations of any kind. Even the Christmas music that was piped in to the main dining area was silenced in the room. They sat down, and Johnny smiled.
“How are you doing, Sis?” He asked, looking at a menu.
Kathy just sat there and a small chuckle came out of her mouth, “I’ve been better.”
“What’s up?” The six foot man asked, without looking at her.
“Johnny, do you believe that the past can reach into the present?” She thoughtfully asked. “Do you think that maybe, the past can materialize itself in some form, in the present time?”
Johnny looked at her with curiosity. “Like how?”
Kathy laughed, and said “I don’t know. Never mind. Let’s talk about your plans.”
“I’m turning over a new leaf, to coin a cliché. No more weed, no more drugs, I’m going at things straight from now on. Dad was right I was a screw up, but not anymore.” He said seriously.
“Dad never thought you were a screw up Johnny.” Kathy countered. “He always said that you were just like him!”
“Yeah, that’s why he couldn’t wait to turn me over to the grandparents!” He snorted. “Dad thought I was a waste of skin.”
Kathy couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Johnny, you were the one that wanted to go live with them. Daddy wanted you home with us. Daddy let you go there because he was tired of fighting with you. But he never thought you were a screw up!”
“That’s not what grandma and grandpa told me!” He returned. “They said that he wanted me out of his house, and that I’d never amount to anything!”
“They hated Daddy. You know that as well as I do. They always thought he was beneath them, and I hated them for that. What better way to hurt daddy then to turn his son away from him?” Kathy snarled. “You’re my big brother, and I love you, but I will not sit here and let them tear my father down, or you!”
Kathy, I’m not saying anything against him. Believe it or not, after he died I missed him also. You were always daddy’s little girl, but I was the prodigal son. I used to think dad would be there when we needed him no matter how old we were, and when he died, I was as devastated as you were.” He spoke softly, as if he didn’t want anyone to hear this confession. “After he died, I blamed him for all my mistakes, for all my failures. I watched you make success after success after success. I was jealous. My thoughts were that if dad had loved me a little more, things would have been different.”
A knock came at the door to the small dining room, and Brenda walked in, “Ms. Tillman. There’s a messenger outside waiting he says he has a message for you and your brother.”
“Do me a favor Brenda, take it for us ok?” Kathy requested.
“I would but he said his instructions were to give it to you himself.” She apologized.
Kathy sighed again, and exclaimed. “Ok, send him in and get him out of here!”
After she walked out, she noticed the puzzled look on Johnny’s face. “What?” She asked.
Johnny asked sheepishly, “Who the hell knows I’m here?”
It dawned on Kathy that it was happening again, and this time her brother was involved. “No, it can’t be.” She shook her head. “I’ll not believe it!”
Johnny stared at her and asked, “Ok what’s going on?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you Johnny. I’ve been getting messages from beyond the grave all day.”
“What?” Johnny gave a small chuckle.
“Daddy called me on the phone this morning and I heard him on the radio on the way to work, oh and I also seen me when I was ten! How’s that for going crazy?” She quickly replied. “It’s been a strange day.”
“And you must be Jonathon.” Laying the other gift in front of him.
The door opened, and a short stout man came thru. He had two gifts in his hands, and Kathy knew them at once. One was a small package, wrapped with blue and silver foil. The other was a present that had been under the tree, waiting for Johnny the night that their dad had died. It was wrapped in Santa Claus paper, with him riding in his sleigh with his reindeer.
“Sorry to bother you, but this was sitting at the door this morning with instructions to be delivered here.” He waddled his way towards the table they were at, and handed the small package to Kathy. “You must be Katherine,” He said laying the gift in front of her.
Brother and sister looked at each other, and they slowly opened the boxes. Johnny’s gift was an artist’s bag with assorted drawing pencils. Kathy held her breath as she opened her box. It was the necklace that her dad had given her that night.
The tears in her eyes stung for a minute, as the man said, “There was no real message just instructions of where to take these things.”
“Thank you.” Kathy barely choked out. She gave the man a Twenty dollar bill, and he left.
Johnny sat there in shock. “Sis. Did you do this?”
Kathy just shook her head.
A faint yet familiar scent hit Kathy’s nose. “Johnny? Do you smell that?”
“Yeah.” He said, getting frightened. “What is it?”
The scent got stronger as Kathy said, “Polo. Daddy used to wear it all the time.”
Johnny shook his head in disbelief. “No, uh huh. Sis he’s dead. He died thirteen years ago!”
“I know Johnny! I was there remember!” She sputtered.
There was smoke coming from the table next to them, and light busted out of it. Standing next to their table was their father, and a woman so beautiful that Kathy knew it was their mother.
“No, this can’t be real!” Kathy defied. “You’re both dead. I seen you die daddy.”
“Kathy, I’m as real as you are.” Her father said, matter-of-factly. “Yes we are dead. But once in a while when we are needed, we’re aloud to come and make an appearance to a loved one, who is in direness. Both of you needed us right now, and as I promised before, we would always be there for you.”
“Why haven’t we seen you before now?” Johnny shook. There was no anger in him, he was frightened.
“You have never looked!” Diane smiled, “We have been watching over both of you for a long time. You needed us, and we have come.”
“I’m sorry that I disappointed you.” Johnny cried out. The tears were streaming down his face as was Kathy’s. They both hadn’t realized how much they had missed their parents, now they knew, and their hearts were breaking.
“You haven’t disappointed us, son. Everyone has some obstacles that they must face. You have faced yours, and now it is time to move on.” Jack said. “The problem was that none of us ever had the chance to say good bye to each other. Now is that time.”
“Kathy, Darling! Just because something’s you perceive as bad happens, don’t feel as though it is the day that is to blame. Rejoice in the fact that your father and I am in a better place, and that someday we’ll all be together again.” Diane smiled. “We are so proud of you both! And we love you, will always love you.”
They started fading out, and Kathy cried out, “Mama, Daddy.” They were gone.
Johnny and Kathy sat there in stunned silence, as they knew the rest of their lives would be changed, and that Christmas once again for them would have a meaning of joyfulness, as they remembered their parents.