Chasing Contentment

Friday, December 9

A friend asked me yesterday when I was going to post another installment of my Christmas story... silly girl, she's already read it & knows how it ends... but for anyone else reading, here's part four.

The Christmas Card by Chel... Part Four

"Hi, stranger," Mac said as he opened his front door to welcome Ellie into his home. He gave her a big hug and directed her toward the guest bedroom to change from her funeral clothes.

Closing the door behind her with a soft click, Ellie sat her red leather bag onto the bed. Parker had bought her the bag, dubbing it the 'red bag of courage.' She liked carrying it with her now. The memories of Parker had turned from sad to happy many months ago, and she was pleased to think that she was ready for something new. Her Gram would have liked that.

Ellie changed out of the black skirt and blouse and put on a casual pair of slouchy pants and a long-sleeved tee shirt that skimmed her figure. Her Gram was always calling Ellie to tell her that it was time to put the sadness behind her and that she should move back home to do it. It seemed odd that Gram's wishes might be coming true now that she was gone.


"I'll carry your bag out to the car," Mac said. "We're going to eat out on the back deck. Go on out and get yourself a drink. Did you park in the driveway?"

"Yeah. My driveway," Ellie said, knowing that Mac had seen her driving by Gram's house the last couple of days.

Ellie had first met Mac and Percy when they were all children. Her Gram lived next door to their family, and when her parents died when she was seven, she moved in with her Gram. Mac and Percy's family was as big and boisterous as hers was small and quiet, and she always loved the noise of their home. Aunts and uncles, cousins and friends were always in and out of their home.

Mac and Percy's parents had moved to a smaller place several years ago, and Mac bought the family home and was making it his own. Ellie thought that if she moved back here, it would be nice to still have neighbors who felt like family.

As she made her way onto the deck, she noticed Percy standing at the edge. He turned toward her as she made her way through the doors and into his waiting arms. Her tears fell on his chest, and he held her tight until she gently pulled away.

"Thank you for not speaking to me at the funeral. I knew that if you did, I wouldn't be able to keep my composure any longer."

"I know. I was a little worried, though, that you would think I was..."

"No. I know, Percy, I know."

They both turned as Mac brought a tray of appetizers onto the deck and offered Ellie a drink. "I'm grilling steaks, and Shelby is on her way with dessert."

"Thank you for having me over tonight," Ellie began. "It's been this odd whirlwind of activity since I got the call about Gram, and I feel like I've just been numb. I appreciate being here with ya'll where I feel safe so that when the numbness wears off, it'll be okay. Everyone has been kind, but it's nice to feel this physical presence of family and love."

"You're welcome here always, you know," Mac said as he threw the steaks onto the fire. "You're family to us."

Shelby arrived soon after, and the four of them ate at the table on the deck, with Mac, Percy, and Ellie sharing stories about her Gram. Tears mingled with laughter, and Ellie felt herself relaxing as she hadn't done in ages ... probably longer than she'd like to admit.

When darkness fell, Mac lit the outdoor fireplace, and the four piled into the armchair-like chairs around it. Percy quietly slipped a blanket over Ellie's legs as he went for the hot chocolate and dessert.

"It's different with Gram than with Parker," Ellie said. "Well, obviously, I guess. But Gram wasn't a youngster any more, though she'd be angry with me for saying that. I mean, we all knew that at some point, this would happen. I didn't expect it so suddenly, but dying in her sleep was exactly what she wanted."

"And so I have this peace that I didn't have with Parker's death. There's a sadness, sure. But a peace, too."

"A little fear, too?" Mac asked. "You were Gram's only descendant. You know that house is yours now, but you haven't gone in it yet."

"More like a little terror, I suppose," Ellie replied, sipping on her hot chocolate. "I bounced around after Parker's death, much to Gram's displeasure. And I honestly have no idea what I'm supposed to do with my life now."

"I have no job, no real home, no... " She let the sentence hang, wondering to herself what she would do.

"What would you like to do?" Shelby asked.

"I'm not at all sure," Ellie said honestly. "I say this in no way to be bragg-y, but I have the means to do whatever I please for a time, thanks to Parker's good planning, so I suppose I just need to figure out what it is I want in this life. Easier said than done, though."

"You'll get it. You've always had a knack for knowing exactly what was right for you at each moment in your life," Percy said.

"I hope you're right," Ellie said. "But for now, I think it's time for me to face the house. Do you mind, Mac, if I take the long way home?"

Mac laughed. When they were all children, Mac and Percy's father and uncles had built a giant tree house for the kids on the edge of their property in the strong branches of two trees. One tree was in their yard and the other was in Gram's. The youngsters would tease about taking the long way from one yard to the other, climbing up one tree, through the tree house and down the other tree.

"I'll get you a flashlight. You're too old to be climbing these trees in the dark." Shelby went in with Mac, leaving Percy and Ellie alone again. Percy moved to sit on the table in front of Ellie. He took her hands in his, and they sat for a moment together.

"Let me go with you tonight, El. You don't want to be alone tonight in that house."

Ellie took a deep breath before she spoke.

"You're right. I don't want to be alone, and I do want you to go with me. Which is why you shouldn't." He looked at her quizzically but didn't interrupt. "I love you, Percy. I have always loved you. I don't say that to demean the love I felt for Parker but simply to state a fact. I'm afraid that if you go with me, I'll try to convince you to do something we shouldn't do just so I can feel a little bit of something other than numbness or sadness just for a little while. So, thank you, but no."

The silence that followed seemed as if it actually hurt, Ellie thought as she avoided looking in Percy's eyes. Lots of loss seems to take away my inhibitions and self-respect, too, she thought.

Finally, Percy spoke. Ellie looked up, startled, when she realized his voice was trembling.

"I love you, El. I have always loved you, too. I was just too arrogant and insensitive to tell you."

Ellie smiled. "I think I knew that."

"I love you," he said again. "I am hoping that you decide to keep Gram's house and move here to stay, so that I can repent of all the ways I sinned against your heart and so that I can court you, convince you to fall in love with the me you don't know along with the me you've known forever."

"But that's my hope for tomorrow. For tonight, I want to help you through this first night in your old home. I want to help you say goodbye to Gram and be able to wake up tomorrow morning to something new. I love you, and I won't allow anything to happen between us that would haunt either of us in the morning."

"Can you trust me to do that?"

"Yes," Ellie whispered, tears glistening on her cheeks in the moonlight. "Thank you."

"Stay here and I'll get the flashlight."


Mac and Shelby watched through the window as Percy followed Ellie up the tree ladder into their old tree house. "Quite a speech he gave, huh?" Mac asked. "It's about time he got it all together."

--- (continued later...)

[  posted by Chel on Friday, December 09, 2005  ]


Post a Comment