We all have favorites. Whether it’s recipes, movies, books, music, restaurants or sports teams, based on our experiences and interactions, we pick ones that are enjoyable. Maybe they trigger memories of a previous visit.
Of course, favorites can change with the seasons. This time of year my darling wife dusts off the cookbooks and proceeds to turn the kitchen into something resembling the Keebler elves factory, where a variety of cookies are created. The challenge for me is to stay out of the way and await the occasional duds. Then when everything is said and done, I get to enjoy these treats.
The holiday season is crammed with specials and movies. While we’ll probably watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, I opt for those with more humor. Tim Allen’s ‘Santa Clause’, Bill Murray’s ‘Scrooged’ and the ultimate guy’s holiday movie ‘Die Hard’. Hey, it takes place on Christmas Eve. Deal with it.
So with that in mind, here’s an excerpt from “Devious” that takes place on Christmas morning.
It was late morning when I woke up. The fire was still burning brightly, jolly yellow flames jumping across the wood. Malone must have rebuilt it when he got up. The stack of birch logs in the brass stand I'd bought last week was down by half. I found my robe and padded into the kitchen, expecting him there. The place was empty. Coffee had been brewed and there was a dirty skillet in the sink. I found a plate in the fridge with my half of breakfast. Malone was gone.
"You did it again, Jamie. You drove another good man away faster than the Black Plague. Maybe you could set a world record for the most disastrous romances." I was so stunned I didn’t realize I’d spoken the words out loud.
His presents were unopened beneath the tree. His clothes from last night were gone. I went into the shower as the tears began to fall. If they mixed with the spray, I could always claim I hadn't really cried. The house must have been too much for him. Words like freedom and independence and space flickered through my mind. At least he could have said good-bye. If nothing else, I deserved a good-bye.
I didn't get out until the water ran cold and my skin was beginning to wrinkle. All my plans for the day had revolved around Malone. I'd been hoping he would cook dinner. Cornish hens were in the fridge, along with the fixings for salads and dessert. I was going to try my luck at baking an apple pie. I dried off and went into the suite. Most of my clothes were hanging in the closet. Nothing appealed to me. I found the baggiest jeans I own, remnants from a time I was fifteen pounds heavier. A worn Miami Dolphins jersey topped it off. I didn't even bother drying my hair. I felt like screaming. So I did.
"Damn you, Malone! Why the hell couldn't you have stayed the night?"
"I had to take care of something."
I jumped when I heard his voice and ran down the hall to the living room. He was sitting with his back against the wall, watching the fire. Only now did I realize there was music on the stereo. I recognized the strains of “All I Want for Christmas is you.” How appropriate.
"Malone." I threw myself on top of him and kissed his mouth, his cheeks, his eyes, and his nose.
"Hey, Jay," he said softly.
I drew back and raked my wet hair out of my face. Then I hit him, as hard as I could, with a fist on the chest. "You son of a bitch. Don't you ever leave like that again! How could you..."
"Whoa. Take it easy." His arms squeezed me tightly against his chest, forcing away my anger. "Didn't you read my note?"
"That note." He jerked a thumb at the tree. Hanging from a string of lights was a square piece of paper. I pulled away from him and crawled over to it.
‘Back soon have to help Santa with his delivery.’
"Oh shit." I felt like an idiot. The base of the tree was now filled with brightly wrapped packages I hadn't put there.
"I had all your presents in the back of the Jeep. You were still sleeping, so I took your car back to the apartment to pick them up." Malone stroked my hair behind my ears. Will my emotions ever stop being on a roller coaster?
Looking out my window, it’s snowing steadily. So here’s a picture of a possible Jamie enjoying the snow.
Since it’s mentioned in the excerpt, here’s a version of that perfect holiday song from Mariah Carey. May you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, making new memories, filled with laughter and love.