I was all alone this Christmas Eve night. Jack's Bistro would be open until midnight and Terri picked up the overnight double shift. I guess I should be upset by this, but really I'm content to have this alone time. The apartment is so quiet that I can just have a cup of coffee, stare at the Christmas tree, and think.
Once the coffee was brewed, the lights were plugged in, and I found a comfortable spot in front of the tree, I let my mind wander. I wandered back to my childhood in Indiana. I remembered the snow falling outside and how it made everything just seem that much more magical. I miss it only at Christmas. The thought of the restaurant being open at midnight reminded me of Midnight mass. My father, a staunch Roman Catholic, would cook a small dinner at six, send us to bed at seven, and then wake us up at eleven to get ready for the service. We met our grandparents at the church and we would say our prayers and sing our hymns still half asleep. Afterwards, we would have a feast at one in the morning at my grandparent's and come home to go to bed at three in the morning and were warned not to get out of bed until nine.
Those memories make me think about my future and the children that I haven't born yet. What kind of Christmas would I provide for them? Would I move back to Indiana so they can have snow and tradition? Would I stay in California where we could still go to the beach and live by our own rules? Would I do whatever my husband decided was best? Could I do for my children with no husband at all? The last thought made me frown. I'm a strong woman, but that seems too much to bear.
I saw a taxi pull up in the parking lot and gasped when I saw Jack get out. I turned to read the clock on the wall and realized it was a quarter after one. My Lord, where had the night gone? Before I knew it Jack was swinging the door open.
"Hey," he said as he shut the door behind him.
"Hey," I said as I watched his gaze. I could tell he was up to something.
"You sure do look pretty in front of those tree lights."
"Well, thanks," I giggled.
"Come sit down with me," he motioned over to the couch. "I've got a present for you."
"Oh," I said, noting that there wasn't a bag or a box from what I could see. I sat down and silently wondered what his gift was or where it was.
"Are you happy, Janet?"
"Well, yes. Why?"
"Remember the Christmas after Chrissy moved out and Cindy moved in?"
"Yeah," I breathed. "I try not to, though. That was a very hard time for me."
"I know," he said, his breathing beginning to labour as well. "I remember you crying at night."
"Yeah. I didn't know how to comfort you, but I was in my room, crying with you."
I had to gulp down a cry. That night and those times where I prayed Jack never knew how I cried. He instinctively knew.
"Honey, don't be."
"My present," I said, anything to get off this uncomfortable subject.
"You ready for it?"
He pulled a tiny box out of his coat pocket. He handed it to me and I gasped. My gaze kept going from his face to the jewelry box that revealed a sapphire ring.
"Well, thank you, honey," I said as I put the ring on. "It's not my birthstone, but I love it and I'll keep it."
"That's not why I bought it."
"Jack, are you proposing?"
God, I'm not ready for this. I lied.
"Don't be mad, but no."
"I'm not mad," I said, meaning it as I let out a huge exhale.
"It's meant to be a promise ring."
"A promise ring?"
"Promise me that you'll always be happy, always be strong, and always be kind. Always remember Janet Wood."
"You never gave up on me. I gave you a million reasons to and you never did. You're a saint."
"Which leads me to another thing."
"Promise me you'll save your love for someone who deserves it."
"You deserve it, Jack."
"I want it."
"You more than proved it."
"I love you, Janet."
"I love you, too, Jack."
As we kissed each other and held each other in our arms, I couldn't believe how ridiculous Jack was. He knew how to comfort me.