“I’ll be home for Christmas Mom.”
“Oh Mark that’s wonderful news. I’m so happy to hear that. It’ll be great to have you around. It’s been way too long. Oh I should start calling people. Everybody will want to see you. Your sister will be home too, did you know that? I bet I can get your Aunt Kay and Uncle Roger to have dinner too. Maybe we could go to church that following Sunday? What do you think? Who else can we get together with?”
“Mom slow down. I just want to see a few friends and spend some time with you. Nothing big, do you hear me? Don’t make any large plans. I really just want to go surfing with Josh and eat lots of carne asada burritos. I don’t want this to be a big deal. Can you just keep it low key.”
“But honey, surfing in December.”
“Mom, it’s southern California. It’s always surfing weather.”
“Okay but we still have a ton of people who will want to see you.”
“Mom, please! I just want a quiet vacation for once. Please, do you promise?”
“Alright fine, you can plan on me keeping it quiet.”
“Thank you mom.”
Mark stood on his balcony and looked at the Eiffel Tower. He smoked a cigarette and stared back inside at his girlfriend, Krystal. She was tall, almost as tall as him. He wasn’t intimidated by the height, but when she wore heels she always hovered just a touch above him. She never hesitated to point that out. She didn’t like it when he smoked, he always promised to quit tomorrow. He was trying to figure out how to break it to her that he wanted to be someplace warm this holiday. She wanted to go skiing, he wanted to go surfing. He put out his cigarette and went back inside.
Krystal put her arms around him. She knew what he wanted to discuss, the balcony was not soundproof and she overheard the conversation with his mom. She thought this would be a good time to mess with him. In truth she didn’t really care where they spent Christmas, as long as they were together. But if she had to admit a preference she wanted a slope to ski down.
After giving him a deep and passionate kiss she whispered. “When are we going to book the ski lodge for Christmas?”
Mark sighed. “I don’t know, do we have to go skiing this year. Couldn’t we…”
She cut him off. “Can we please have snow and mistletoe? It would be ever so delightful. We could sip Irish coffee and if it’s just too cold for skiing we could stay by the fireplace and keep each other warm.” She said with a wink.
“Krystal, the thing is…”
She cut him off again with a cheery chant. “There would be lots of fun stuff to do, not just skiing. The lodge has a casino. There is always a big feast for all the guests. For a small fee they can put champagne in your room and presents on the tree for you to share with your loved ones. Please can we do it.”
“Krystal, I’m trying to tell you something important!” Mark’s voice became impatient.
“Relax you silly boy. I overheard the entire conversation with your mom. Glass isn’t soundproof you know. I was just messing with you. If you really want to go home for the holidays I will be happy to join you. I promise you, wherever you are, Christmas Eve will find me where the lovelight gleams, right by your side.
Mark smiled, he was slightly annoyed, but he loved her and he was happy that they would finally be spending a holiday together. He had met her parents over the summer and it was about time that she met his. They were going to be married someday, after all. He hadn’t asked her to marry him yet, but somehow he knew they were meant for each other. Maybe he could plan something around Valentine’s day. First things first though. He needed to get a hold of Josh.
Josh and Mark had been best friends since they were old enough to speak. Both of their families moved next door to each other just after they were born. Mark moved around the city quite a bit during their childhood, but they always kept in touch. When they got old enough, even though they were no longer in the same district, their parents made sure they went to the same schools. They felt it was important that they always had someone they knew.
Eventually Mark went away for school and traveled abroad, while Josh stayed behind to run his father’s business. It was an independent pharmacy. Josh could always get his hands on the good drugs when they wanted to party. Mark remembered those days fondly. But overtime their lives kept them apart. Mark was taking a year off in France to do research for his PhD. Josh was busy running the pharmacy and getting his MBA in addition to finalizing his pharmacist licensing requirements. In all it had been over two years since Mark had been back home. Even longer since him and Josh had partied all weekend on the beach. It was about damn time.
“Mark, how the heck are you? Hold on while I get our new employee to cover the front of the store.”
Mark hears some low murmuring and then Josh comes back on. “So what’s going on buddy.”
“I’ll be home for Christmas.”
“Sweet! We are going to get rowdy. We have to hit the beach.”
“That’s just what I was thinking.”
“A little bit of sand and surf will do you some good. Do you even get any of that in France?”
“If only in my dreams. No unfortunately I don’t get that at all. Besides, I’m too busy gathering data for my thesis. If things go well I might defend it this spring.”
“I just don’t get why you couldn’t get the same data here.”
“Because it’s France, and how many chances does a man get to live overseas via university stipend?”
“Good point. Well I’ll be glad to have you back, even if it is just for a week or two.”
“I should be there through New Years, we can watch the ball drop.”
“Or we could go to The Spot and get drunk off our asses while pretending we can dance.”
“I think Krystal would like that. Did I mention she was coming?”
“No, but as long as she’s down for whatever then it’s cool. I’ll be happy to meet her finally. Have you proposed yet? You’re such a softie for her.”
“No not yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long now. I do love her.”
“Of course you do. I’ve seen her pictures, I know how hot she is, you lucky bastard.”
“Whatever dude, I gotta go, but I’ll see you soon.”
Mark spent the next few weeks getting everything in order. He would need to stop by the University and spend some time discussing his thesis with his advisor. For all the money they spent on him living in France they would want an update. He called his advisor early one morning to set up the meeting.
“Hey, it’s Mark Woden.”
“Mr. Woden, it’s great to hear from you.”
“Do you have a second sir?”
“Of course, anything for my star student. How is the research going?”
“It’s going great, I think I can defend this spring?”
“Good, I’m glad to hear that. Perhaps you could email me some of the more recent data.”
“I’ll do that. I don’t want to take up too much of your time sir but I wanted to let you know that I’ll be home for Christmas.”
“That’s great; we’ll have to get together. I suspect some of the other professors will want to know your progress, the Dean too.”
“You can plan on me sir. I don’t have much scheduled so just let me know what works best for your calendar.”
“I will do that. Take care, we’ll talk soon.”
Mark hung up the phone and flipped on the radio. His French was still a bit spotty and he liked using the radio as a way to work on his translation skills. Every now and then he would hear an English song on the radio. Such was the case today. He smiled for a minute as he recognized the song that was playing.
“Please have snow and mistletoe, and presents on the tree…”
He flipped off the radio, normally he would just listen through the song and try translating it into French instead of the other way around, but he was tired and had a lot to do. The phone was ringing again.
“Hi honey it’s your mom. How are you doing?”
“I’m good mom, what’s up?”
“I’m just calling to see how everything is going for Christmas. Do you need any help from me?”
“No mom. I’m an adult. I can handle plane reservations.”
“Oh I know that. But I’m still your mother, let me dote on you.”
“Did I mention Krystal is coming?”
“Ohhhhh, it sounds like things are getting serious…”
“Okay, okay, I’ll stop. I just wanted to make sure everything was set for the holidays.”
“I promise mom, Christmas Eve will find me where the lovelight gleams.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means I’ll be home for Christmas, mom, no matter what.”
“Okay, I’ll stop bothering you then. I’ll talk to you later.”
Mark hung up and got back to packing. Krystal would be home soon and they would be leaving shortly after. The reservations were all set. They managed to grab the first class upgrade, so the flight wouldn’t be completely miserable. The hotel they were staying at would be right on the beach, which really made Krystal go googly eyed with romantic thoughts. Mark could only think about seeing Josh, in his own selfish way. He always thought they would end up living next door to each other someday, just like when they were kids.
“Mark I’m home.”
“Oh good you can help me finish packing.”
“Do I have to do everything for you?” She said sarcastically.
Mark smiled as he caught her eyes and knew she was joking.
“Is all your stuff ready?”
“Of course it is. You know how I like to be prepared.”
“I do at that.”
“Do you think your mom will like me?”
“If only in my dreams, my mother doesn’t like anybody I bring home?” Mark returned the sarcasm as dryly as possible.
Krystal caught on though. “I’m serious. I’m nervous about meeting her.”
“You’ll be fine. My mother will love you. Look there is the car. Let’s get going.”
This limo arrived to take them to the airport. Mark kept his phone off because he had everything confirmed the night before and didn’t want any other distractions before the trip began. Krystal was tied to his hip and he was planning on this being a completely wonderful Christmas. There was nothing that could spoil it. The driver loaded the luggage and they put up the partition in the back to have a little fun on the way.
Security at the airport was relaxed and they were early to their gate. For whatever reason there was Christmas music in English playing at their gate. Mark was curious. The gate attendant said it was because their flight was headed for the States the airline thought it would be appropriate. Mark shook his head and just laughed a little bit. I guess it is appropriate he thought to himself. It was getting close to boarding time and suddenly Krystal had to use the women’s room.
“Now? I think they are going to be boarding soon.”
“It’ll be fine; I won’t be but a moment. Just turn on your phone in case we get separated and I have to meet you on the plane.” She walked briskly away to the washroom.
Mark shrugged and turned on his phone. 4 MISSED CALLS AND 3 MESSAGES. It was his mom. He didn’t understand the messages but they sounded frantic. He called her.
“What is it mom, what’s going on?”
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry. It’s…it’s…”
“Out with it Mom!”
“It’s Josh; he died in a car crash an hour ago…”
Mark dropped to his knees. He fell to the ground and curled into a ball. The phone fell out of his hands. Just as Bing Crosby’s classic holiday song came over the sound system he put his head into his hands and he cried.
About the Author Martin Conterez
Martin is a budding writer who is just now coming to terms with the joys that come with such endeavors. Martin has spent most of his life being a math geek and general pop culture nerd. His days are spent chasing a successful career within the U.S. Government. The rest of his time is spent enjoying his two pawns (yes that’s a chess reference to his children). What little time he has left after that he likes to fill with running and gambling, and of course writing.
You can read more of his work at http://themathmaster.wordpress.com/