Tis' the Season

Carey sat in her suite on a cold Christmas Eve night skimming through the program guide on her television set. She was trying to find a show that wasn't about romance or families coming together for the season.

She was having quite a sad holiday of her own, as both her boys were spending Christmas with their father and his new girlfriend snowboarding up in the mountains. Sighing, she finally decided to just turn off the small screen and grab a book from the shelf.

Making sure to keep her Snuggle blanket wrapped tightly around her shoulders, she slipped into her slippers and walked over to the tall piece of furniture against the wall. But she found that nothing interested her as she looked over all the choices on the shelves. It did make her realize she had grown quite a collection since her boys left for Seven Seas High.

Hearing a whistle go off behind her she sighed and walked over toward the kitchen stove to pick up the tea pot from the burner.

Well this is starting out well she thought as she filled a mug with hot water and dropped a tea bag into it.

Her phone rang a minute later and she smiled, hoping that her boys hadn't forgotten about their dear mother sitting alone in her suite.

Checking the caller ID she frowned, it was only the market around the corner calling to verify what time she'd pick up her fully cooked ham dinner tomorrow morning. She answered the question and hung up the phone. Obviously her twins were enjoying themselves too much to remember to call her.

This is ridiculous; I'm just feeling sorry for myself. Carey thought as a hotel pamphlet on the kitchen table with the words 'Christmas Eve Party' caught her attention. Walking over to the small table in the center of the room she picked it up and read through it. She could hear her friend Maddie in her ear saying: Go for it, you have plenty of time to be lonely tomorrow.

Taking her mug and the folded up piece of paper with her into the other room, she began to get ready. An hour later after showering and changing, she had just put the finishing touches of make up on. She walked over to her full length mirror to inspect her reflection.

"Not bad." She stated admiring her mirror image.

She had decided to wear an exact replica of Marilyn Monroe's infamous white dress in The Seven Year Itch only her version was a deep red that, in her opinion, was perfect for the evening. Not to mention that it showed off her long legs rather well.

With her hair up in a French bun and her makeup and jewelry perfectly matched, she took a deep breath, grabbed her purse from on top of her vanity and walked over to her door and out of the suite. Stepping into the elevator she couldn't help but notice the young couple standing in it.

"Scott, stop not here," the young woman told her partner who had his hands all over her.

"Fine." He pouted and Carey had to restrain herself from smiling, even though she felt a bit awkward standing next to them.

"I know you," she smiled. "You're the lady who sings here, am I right?"

"Guilty as charged." Carey smiled shaking the other woman's hand. "I'm Carey Martin."

"I have heard so many good things about you; you're supposed to be an amazing singer." She stated excitedly. "We haven't had a chance to see the show but we're looking forward to it…oh, I'm sorry, where's my brain? My name is Gail McCaffery and this is my husband Scott, we were just married a few days ago, and we're still on our honeymoon." She added rather sheepishly realizing it must be a bit obvious.

"Congratulations." Carey told them. "It's nice to meet a young couple just starting out. Do you have tickets for my show yet?"

"No I'm afraid not, we're on a waiting list." She sadly admitted.

"Oh, that won't do." Carey smiled. "I'll leave word at the front desk to save you a couple of free tickets for tomorrow night that is if you think you'll be able to make it?"

Gail slightly blushed as Scott smiled from behind her. "I think we'll be able to find time." They both laughed as they heard a distinct groan coming from Scott's direction.

Carey smiled as the doors opened to the lobby. "I'm afraid this is my stop, I look forward to seeing the both of you tomorrow night, Merry Christmas." With that, Carey left the couple as the doors once again closed in front of her.

As she stood there for a moment she found herself feeling a bit melancholy and thoughts of spending the season alone filled her mind once more. Taking a deep breath she pushed them aside and walked over to the check in desk, where a polite young man was manning the counter.

"Hello, Mrs. Martin" Josh said as he greeted her with a smile. "Are you enjoying your night off?"

"Yes, quite a bit," Carey lied; there was no point in making everyone else miserable. "In fact I was just about to head into the ballroom for the Christmas Eve party."

"That sounds like fun, I hear it's quite a shindig." The young man stated with a grin.

"Shindig?" Carey smiled. "I haven't heard that word in awhile."

"I live with my grandparents, what can I say, you pick up on quite few things." Josh laughed, making Carey smile.

"I suppose you do." Carey responded with a grin. "Well, Josh I need a favor there's a young couple staying here by the name of McCaffery."

"Oh, yes the honeymoon couple." Josh added.

"Exactly, I promised them two free tickets to tomorrow night's show, do you think you could arrange that." She asked, as the young man nodded.

"I'll make sure to set them aside." He told her, and then as if thinking it over he asked. "Would you like me to have them delivered to their suite?"

Carey smiled. "I think it would be best if they just come down to pick them up. But a reminder call couldn't hurt." She added as he made a note to that effect.

"Merry Christmas Mrs. Martin." The young man said with a smile as another hotel guest walked up to the counter.

"Merry Christmas Josh." Carey replied as she walked away in the direction of the ballroom.

As she entered the two double doors opening into the grand room, one of her favorite carols greeted her. Have yourself a merry little Christmas was being played by the band and she wished she could join them on stage.

Instead she smiled at all the decorations that flanked the walls. Ribbons, bows and garlands adorned the rafters and were placed around the doors and windows. And small table settings with candlelight were placed on each table.

But what caught Carey's attention more than anything was the great big tree that stood in one corner of the room. The floor to ceiling Christmas tree was decorated to the night in golds and silvers and glistened beautifully with the white twinkling lights.

The Christmas tree had always been her favorite part of the season. It brought back so many memories of when she was a child and when her own children were little. How she missed those days, more and more she'd been thinking about the past, and realized that her life would never be the same. Both Zack and Cody would soon be off to college, possibly married and having children before she knew it, and she would have to resign herself to the fact that she would be spending many more holidays alone like this.

"Carey?" Maddie walked over and gave her friend a hug as her mind returned to the present. "That dress looks gorgeous on you."

"Thanks and dark green is always been your color." Carey replied returning the hug. "Where's Jeff?"

"He's getting me some punch, would you like a cup?" she asked as her boyfriend walked over.

"I'd be happy to get you one." Jeff added as he handed Maddie her own cup. "It's no trouble."

"Thank you for offering, but I'm fine." Carey smiled at the tall dark haired young man, who had captured Maddie's heart.

Carey noticed the loving glances they were currently giving to each other and smiled, they suited one another well. Their goal professions said as much, he was studying to become a tree surgeon and she was studying to become an environmental lawyer, so they did in fact make quite a pair.

Maddie escorted her over to their table and they talked a few more minutes before Jeff came by and whisked Maddie onto the dance floor leaving Carey to her own thoughts and a promise to share a dance with him before the night was through.

She looked around at all the happy couples and sighed. What was wrong with her? She was at this wonderful party surrounded by happiness and all she wanted to do was go upstairs and crawl under the covers. In her mind, sleeping through the holiday wasn't such a bad idea; she could always wake up just before her show tomorrow night. 'What am I thinking?'

Getting up off her seat she walked over to the punch bowl and picked up a cup. As she reached for the ladle her hand brushed against a man's and she immediately looked up to apologize.

She'd never seen anyone so handsome in her life. He was slightly taller than her with a light complexion and dark hair, piercing blue eyes and a smile that made butterflies dance within her stomach.

Then she noticed a surprised look on his face, and she instantly turned away embarrassed.

"I am sorry." He stated in a deep baritone, "I didn't mean to stare."

"No I'm sorry I…hi, I'm Carey." She said as she extended a hand not knowing what else to say and do. But to her surprise he smiled and shook it, introducing himself as well.

"Hi I'm Christopher Bourbon," he stated as he offered to fill her cup. "May I?"

After he poured the red liquid substance into her cup they stood next to one another in awkward silence, then Carey noticed Maddie pointing toward her than pointing up. With a cheesy grin plastered across her face as well as Jeff's she took the hint and looked up.

Noticing the Christmas garland and the mistletoe attached to it made her feel a little foolish. He must of noticed it too for he looked around a bit before returning his gaze to her.

"Could I walk you back to your table?" he asked her smiling, ignoring the decorative plant.

"I think that would be fine." She replied as he followed her to her seat a silence overtook them and neither knew what to say, feeling like two school kids at their first dance.

"Well it was nice meeting you." He reluctantly stated as he began to turn away.

"Would you like to join me?" she asked nervously.

"I would love too." He answered as he took a seat next to her.

Just then a waiter came by with champagne glasses and offered them a glass. Chris turned toward Carey and waited.

Carey nodded and two glasses were set down before them, thanking the waiter as he left, they once again turned their attention to one another.

"Why do you look so familiar?" Chris asked her. "It seems I've seen you before, but I can't place where?"

"I'm the headlining lounge singer here." Carey offered. "I've been working here for a number of years now; maybe you've seen my picture or have come to one of my shows."

"Actually this is the first time I've been here." He stated. "A couple of friends of mine had an extra ticket and I decided to join them. Unfortunately they couldn't make it at the last minute so I am here alone."

"Me too, it was my night off and with my boys spending Christmas with their father, home seemed a little lonely tonight." She admitted, wondering why she had told him that. What must he be thinking?

"I know what you mean, I have a seven year old little girl who is spending Christmas with her mother and step father." He stated sadly. "So this year isn't exactly fun for me either. How old are your boys?"

"They're both sixteen." Carey smiled.

"Twins," Chris stated. "It must have been fun raising them."

"At times very much so." Carey laughed as she thought of all the mischief her son's had gotten themselves into. "I have some stories that would truly surprise you." She laughed out loud.

"You have a very warm smile and quite a nice laugh; you should show both off more often." Chris said as watched a pretty blush play across her cheeks.

A warmth swept over her as she continued to gaze into his eyes and found herself becoming entranced in those beautiful blue orbs. She felt as if she were being swept away by an ocean wave into their depth, and a small glimmer of hope overcame her.

"Would you care to dance?" He smiled as he extended his hand, and felt her place hers in his.

The exchange was a small one, yet it filled the two people with a promise for something more. As he took her in his arms and guided her around the dance floor she came alive, and the loneliness she felt so strongly just a few minutes before disappeared and was replaced by just a glimmer of possibility.

Carey never thought she would feel such a strong connection with anyone again. After she and Kurt divorced she resigned herself to being a full time mother, and the thought of romance rarely ever crossed her mind.

She had never thought she would have the chance to open her heart again, there was no reason too. Yet, dancing with this man who was a little more than a stranger to her she suddenly felt like she had found a reason to take a leap of faith.

They continued to talk as they glided across the floor and after a few songs returned to their seats, meeting Jeff and Maddie at the table. Carey introduced Chris to her friends and they warmly returned the greeting.

The evening continued in pleasant conversation as the two couples got better acquainted. Carey and Maddie talked about the Tipton and their respective jobs. While Jeff listed his favorite topics of interest, and Chris explained what brought him to Boston from Seattle.

"I moved here about six months ago after I received a job offer from Buckner Middle School to be their new music teacher." Chris told the group after they had inquired as to his line of work.

"That's a great school my boys went there and my son Cody was actually the student body president." Carey beamed while adding that little tidbit. "I even co-directed A Midsummer Night's Dream one year."

"No wonder you look so familiar, I've seen you're picture." Chris smiled. "It hangs in the drama department at the school."

"It does?" Carey asked a bit surprised. "I don't remember taking one by myself."

"Actually you didn't, it was a picture with all the students from that production." He stated. "But, your smile is the one thing I always noted first, that must sound strange to you?"

Carey blushed in spite of herself. "No, not in the least. I find it to be a very nice compliment." She stated.

"Well, to answer your question," He continued to explain. "After my divorce last spring was finalized I needed a change in scenery."

"My daughter lives with me full time, with occasional visits from her mother and new stepfather." He added for Carey's benefit. "Because of the type of job she has, it takes her away from home a lot and she isn't really able to be a full time mom."

"My ex-husband is the same way. He's the leader in a band that travels the country in a tour bus, so he wasn't able to provide stability." Carey stated. "But he's a great father and he loves his boys very much, so he would visit every chance he could."

"It's the same way with Marybeth." He told her, "She's a wonderful mother, just very busy. So I'm glad Natalie was able to spend Christmas with her and Bill this year. But unfortunately that leaves me with no one to celebrate with."

Chris and Carey made eye contact once more, not realizing that Maddie had quietly pulled Jeff back onto the dance floor in order to give her friend some much needed time alone.

Their conversation continued, and they hadn't realized that the night was drawing to a close as party goers began to gather there things to leave. Soon the ball room was practically empty as he noticed the time on his wristwatch.

"Where has the time gone to? It's already one thirty in the morning." He stated as he looked around. "No wonder we're one of the last couples left."

"My goodness even Jeff and Maddie have gone." Carey said a little surprised that she hadn't noticed the time slipping by. "I guess that's my cue."

Misjudging the space in between their seats, they stood up at the same time and collided with one another. They apologized as the top of her head bumped his chin.

The close proximity ignited the air around them and sparks began to fly, and she thought he might kiss her. She waited in anticipation. But to her dismay he simply moved his chair to give them more breathing room.

Carey's immediate thought was that his hesitation had something to do with the fact that he wasn't quite over the heartbreak of his divorce. But she wasn't completely sure; she knew he wanted to kiss her, it had been apparent in his features, but she wasn't about to ask him for an explanation.

Still deep in thought she didn't hear him at first. "Carey, could I call you sometime?" She smiled as she gave him her cell phone number.

"This has been a wonderful evening." He stated as they finished exchanging their corresponding digits.

"Yes it has," Carey admitted, "In fact I'd say pretty magical."

"I would have to agree." He replied as he leaned down and tenderly kissed her cheek. "I know tomorrow is Christmas and you probably have plans, but is it alright if I call you?"

"The only plans I have, is too pick up a ham dinner at the grocery store around the corner and sit and watch my favorite Christmas movies until I have to go to work, how about you?"

"Pretty much the same, only with a slight variation…sports channel." He replied smiling.

"Would you like to come over and spend Christmas with me tomorrow?" Carey asked, surprised at herself for being so forward.

This was crazy, what did she really know about this man? But in the next moment she found herself returning his smile, as he accepted the invitation.

"I live on the 23rd floor, suite 2330, how about you come by around 1 o'clock? Would that be alright?" She asked him.

"I think that would be perfect." He answered as they watched the doors to the elevator open.

He took her hand in his and placed a gentle kiss on it as she entered the small shaft smiling as the doors slowly closed.

When Carey entered her suite her smile lit up the room, she felt like she did when she was seventeen and in love for the first time. As if a fairytale had come to life and she was the princess.

The night had been so enchanting that she felt like Cinderella at the ball. She twirled around the room like she did when she was a young girl and began to hum her favorite Christmas carols.

Pausing for a moment she grinned as a thought came to her. Kicking off her high heels and slipping on her slippers she walked over to the closet and pulled out a great big music CD case filled with holiday tunes. She already had a list of songs she wanted to perform that night. But she had to add just one more, a song she hadn't sung in years.

"This will be perfect?" Carey said aloud to herself. "I can sing it right before What are you doing New Year's Eve?"

An hour later when Carey laid her head down on her pillow, more than just sugarplums danced in her head. Love was in the air and Carey fell asleep to its lullaby, wrapping herself within its soft magical glow.

The next morning Carey awoke, and for the first time in a long time looked forward to the day ahead. There was a spring in her step and a smile on her face, the world was filled with possibilities again, and she met them head on.

After showering and dressing, she grabbed a cup of coffee and an English muffin and headed out the door. Outside there was a light snowfall and a cold wind that threatened to put a damper on her good mood, but it didn't matter because today nothing could ruin her mindset.

As she stepped into the Paul Revere Mini Mart she waved a hello to Wayne and continued on her way to the deli where she was due to pick up her dinner. Thankfully the sleazy manager was busy ringing up sales and wasn't interested in hitting on her as he usually did.

"Carey?" Mrs. Snider smiled as her friend walked up to her deli counter. "I've got your dinner ready." She told her as she handed her a box filled with all the necessary dishes for her holiday feast. "I even through in a second pumpkin pie, because I know how much your boys love it. Just don't tell Wayne or I'll never hear the end of it." The woman added.

Carey was about to mention that her boys weren't home for the holiday but changed her mind when she saw the warm twinkle in the other woman's eyes.

"I promise." Carey whispered as she paid for the meal and quickly made her exit not wanting to run into him. "Many thanks."

After running a few more errands she returned to her suite just as her phone began to ring. Putting the box down along with the poinsettias she had purchased she pulled the object from her purse. But before she could answer the line went dead and after a couple of hellos she flipped it shut.

Noticing it was a restricted line, she didn't give it much thought. If it had been her boys or Chris their names would have popped up on her caller ID.

A couple of hours went by and it was fast approaching one o'clock. Setting out some snacks and flipping on the television she found that a repeat of The Bishops Wife was on. Sitting down on the couch and getting comfortable she turned up the volume as Carey Grant and David Niven argued about his angelic obligations and what they did and did not entail.

As the movie continued to play Carey found herself peeking at the time on her cell phone. The screen read one fifteen but she tried not to think on it too much since he was only a few minutes late.

But when the movie ended forty five minutes later, she began to wonder. So she picked up her cell and dialed his number. Her call went straight to his voice mail, after hesitating a moment she left her name and asked him to call her back.

Soon the next movie had begun and she turned up the volume as the opening credits rolled on Meet Me in St. Louis. Carey kept glancing at her phone as Judy Garland began to sing about her crush on the boy next door.

Trying her best not to let her disappointment get the better of her, she decided to sing along with some of the songs she knew. But just as Esther and Rose were about to Skip to My Lou there was a knock at her door.

Carey calmly walked over to answer it hoping it was Chris. Unfortunately again she was disillusioned when she opened the door to The McCaffery's.

"Hi, Mrs. Martin we're sorry to disturb you, but we just wanted to thank you again for the tickets to tonight's show." Gail smiled. "We just picked them up; it was very kind of you to do this for us."

"It's no trouble, I am glad I was able too." Carey told them stepping aside. "Would you care to come in for a minute?"

"We would love too, but unfortunately we've made plans." Gail told her.

"I completely understand." Carey stated. "Well then I guess I'll see you both tonight."

"Definitely, thanks again." Scott and Gail waved and walked away as Carey closed her door.

Another couple of hours went by and still there was no phone call, and she reconciled herself to the reality that it was all too good to be true. Instead of waiting for someone who apparently wasn't going to show, she removed the items from the box put them away and opened up a can of soup.

Carey looked out into the audience hoping to see a familiar face, making note of a few she smiled. But the one she really wanted to see wasn't in attendance. "Oh well, it was nice while it lasted," she shrugged.

"Don't worry I'm sure he'll show," Maddie smiled walking up to the older woman.

"Who?" Carey asked knowing exactly who "he" was.

She just rolled her eyes and gave Carey a knowing grin. "I'm sure there's a very good explanation for why he stood you up." The thin blond girl exclaimed.

"I think he changed his mind about spending the day with me," She stated sadly. "He probably thought it would be easier to let me down this way."

"You don't know that for sure." Maddie told her. "Any number of things may have happened. I think he really likes you."

"Really?" Carey questioned her friend.

"The way he was looking at you last night, I'd bet money on it." She said making Carey laugh.

"I wish I was as sure as you are." She quietly stated as Maddie sat down beside her. "What is wrong with me, I'm an adult for goodness sake, but I get one whiff of a possible romance and I turn into a love struck kid again."

"You're a romantic at heart, there's no shame in that." She said trying to lift her spirits. "Don't worry so much, fate has a sense of humor even if it takes us sometime to realize that."

"When did you get to be so smart?" She asked the smiling girl.

"Girl, I was born smart." Maddie and Carey both laughed at the slight comment.

"Yes you were," Carey told her standing up and smoothing her outfit. "But on that note I have a show to do and you have a finance waiting at one of the tables."

"Alright, I'll meet you back at the suite after you're finished for a piece of that pumpkin pie you promised." Maddie exclaimed as she walked away waving and smiling to her friend.

Her first two sets were combined with a mixture of fun holiday songs to traditional and contemporary. Each set was thirty minutes long; so by the time she got to her final few numbers she was ready for a break.

But when she finished the final few lines of What are you doing New Years Eve? She knew she just had to add one more song, the song she searched for the night before.

"Thank you all so much for sharing this evening with me and I hope you enjoyed listening as much as I enjoyed singing for you." Carey paused for a minute while she waited for the applause to die down. "Originally that last song was supposed to be my final number for the show, but I've decided to sing one more song that has become near and dear to my heart and I hope you like it. It was originally sung by Lee Ann Womack and I hope I can do it just as much justice as she has. So if you could be patient with me for just a little bit longer I'll begin."

She smiles at him, he says, "Hello" they stand beneath the mistletoe embarrassed by the awkward circumstance, he asks her if she'd like a drink she says, "I better not I think oh, what the heck, maybe just one glass"

They talk about, oh, this and that he says, "I like the way you laugh and I'm so really glad you're here"

Then suddenly it's much too warm she feels his hand against her arm. The season loves the reason for romance It'll get you if you give it half a chance

The night goes on, the music plays a moonlight Christmas serenade a lovers' song that's meant for only two

And they don't even know it yet but this is one they'll not forget the holiday where all their dreams came true

Across the floor he spins her 'round oh, could it be they've finally found a love worth waiting for

Then in the tender yuletide bliss they share an unexpected kiss the season loves the reason for romance It'll get you if you give it half a chance

Then suddenly the night is gone it's late into an early morn the season loves the reason for romance

It'll get you if you give it half a chance

Carey finished and the room exploded into loud applause, with even a few shouts of an encore being added into the mix. This went on for a few more minutes until she finally bid everyone goodnight and the assembly began to take their leave.

Just as she was about to turn away the lights came on and she was able to make out the figures a little better. Her breath hitched in her throat and her hand flew to her heart as she looked toward the two shapes standing near the door.

Chris's blue eyes sparkled with appreciation as he gazed up at Carey. Her heart pounded as he walked over, along with a little girl with two pigtails. Her eyes matched her father's as she stood waiting to be introduced.

Natalie looked from one to the other expectedly, but when no one said anything; she stepped in between them and tugged on the ladies dress.

Carey looked down at the precious child and smiled, taking a seat on the stage so that she was somewhat eye level with the little girl she said hello.

"My name is Natalie," the child began, "I'm seven and this is my daddy can you sing jingle bells I really like jingle bells daddy says you live here do you live here I've never been in a hotel before…"

Carey had to keep herself from laughing as the child rambled on with no end in sight so Chris gently put his hand over his daughter's mouth to stop her.

"Sorry, she tends to be a chatter box when she meets someone for the first time." He told her with a smile. "I really want to apologize for today. Marybeth had a last minute business trip she couldn't get out of and I had to drive to Logan to pick her up. I confused the times and gate numbers so I spent most of the day panicking in a mad rush to find her. I hope you understand I tried to call but my phone went dead."

"You don't need to explain, I understand." Carey grinned returning her attention to the child, reminded of when Zack used to ramble on like that.

"Daddy I'm hungry," Natalie complained. "When are we going to eat?"

"Sweetheart, I think…" Chris began.

"You know I just happen to have a fully cooked ham upstairs, all we have to do is heat it up." Carey told the young girl. "Not only that but we have all the trimmings, like mashed potatoes, yams with brown sugar, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie."

The child's eyes were wide as saucers, "Daddy can we?" Natalie extended her bottom lip and looked up at her father with puppy dog eyes begging him to say yes.

"It just so happens, I'm pretty hungry too." He told them and as if collaborating his statement, his stomach began to growl in anticipation of the feast too come.

Carey and Natalie both laughed out loud more so at Chris's red face than the roar that just left his stomach. As he extended his hand she took it and the three walked out of the ballroom and into the elevator together.

Forty five minutes later as Natalie sat watching Frosty the SnowmanandChris was helping Carey in the kitchen, the doorbell rang.

"That must be Jeff and Maddie." Carey stated as she wiped her hands on a towel and walked over to the door.

In the next moment she startled everyone when she jumped up in delight and wrapped both Zack and Cody in a big bear hug. Suffocating them in her arms she almost forgot about her two guests.

"Mom…can't breathe!" Zack whimpered as Carey loosened her grip on them, "Hi" they said in unison as they noticed the two guests when they were able to fully walk into the room.

"Wow you have the same face!" the little girl said in wonderment as she looked from one to the other.

The boys just chuckled and the night continued on as Maddie and Jeff finally arrived and dinner could be eaten. Carey looked around at all the faces in front of her and smiled to herself, this was defiantly a Christmas she would never forget.

Gone was the sadness, and the heartbreak. Looking over at Chris she smiled and thanked heaven for blessing her with such a gift. As she watched everyone exchange conversation and laughter she knew that no matter what the years will bring if she had her friends and family by her side they would be filled with warmth.

The End