Saturday, December 22, 2012
An Old Fashioned Christmas
Chapter Twenty Seven
An Old Fashioned Christmas
“Sam, I need to tell you something. I don't think you are going to like it so I want you to promise you won't get upset when I tell you.” Peggy said, fearful of what the shock might do to her husband's heart.
“For heaven sake, Peggy, what in the world is wrong? Have you been keeping something from me about your health? Is it Emily? Molly? If you don't spit it out, I swear I will have a heart attack.”
“See what I mean, I haven't even told you and already the pulse is throbbing in your neck, I can see it. Nothing is wrong with any of us. It isn't bad, just surprising after all these years. Please, just sit and stay calm.”
Sam sat on the dining room chair but was not calming down. “I'm calm, now say what you have to say.”
Peggy took a deep breath. “Nick Jordan is in town and he knows about Molly.”
“Nick Jordan has come back to Camden Corners. Why is he here? Does Emily know? Where's Molly? How do you know this?”
“Sam, please. It's not as bad as you think.”
“Not as bad as I think? That lowlife took advantage of our daughter, he got what he wanted and then walked away leaving Emily alone with his baby. I could wring his neck.”
“Sam, he isn't a lowlife. Yes, he left our girl alone to raise his child, but it wasn't his intention to disappear. Sam, really awful things happened to the boy after he left Camden Corners. Thanks to the kindness of Lester Hemingway, he made something of himself. He is here to help Lester with the restaurant. He had no idea Molly existed. He guessed she was the result of his liaison with Emily.”
“Liaison? That's not what I'd call it. He took advantage of Emily. We both know that.”
“Sam, what happened between the two of them was eight years ago. Would you trade Molly for our daughter's lost virtue? I think not. No matter how Molly came into this world, other than Emily, she is the best thing that has ever happened to us and you know it.”
“You are right about that. Does Emily know what his intentions are? I hope the scoundrel doesn't think she is going to marry him after all this time.”
“Sam, I wouldn't make any rash statements like that. I wish you could see the way they looked at each other earlier today. I think they may still be in love.”
“In love? Peggy, don't be ridiculous. They were just kids. Love is not the word for what was going through that boy's mind.”
“Sam, have you forgotten we were fifteen when we fell in love. Was that a lie?”
“Of course not, Peggy.”
“Just give him a chance, Sam. He was barely eighteen when we met him. As I remember, he was a rather shy young boy. I don't think he said two words to us. I remember he couldn't take his eyes off Emily.”
“Yeah, well I can just imagine what he was thinking.”
“Samuel Ryan, are you telling me. when you looked at me with those lovesick eyes years ago, you were thinking impure thoughts?” Peggy laughed at the thought.
“Of course, that's what all red blooded American boys do. Some of us know enough to keep our pants on though.”
“That's enough of that talk. Emily will need our help. Nick will be staying in Camden Corners in the foreseeable future. Emily thinks he will want to be a part of Molly's life. She knows it is best for Molly to be told Nick is her father. She is planning to meet with him in the morning. She thinks it's best if they tell Molly the news together. We do have a very brave daughter, Sam. I'm proud of her.”
Molly was tired out after her shopping spree with her mother and grandmother. She was admiring the pretty pin she picked out for Mrs. Gould, her 2nd grade teacher when her eyes began to close. “Mommy, may I wrap this for Mrs. Gould tonight?”
“I think tomorrow is soon enough sleepy head. Besides, you may want to look at it again. Christmas is still weeks away.”
Molly didn't fight when her mother told her to get ready for bed. She fell asleep as Emily read her a story.
There was a knock on the door. I hope that isn't Daddy coming to rant and rave about Nick. I know Mom was going to tell him he had returned to town, she thought to herself.
She pulled the door open and there stood Nick.
“Do you always open the door when you don't know who is standing on the other side?” he said with a warning look.
“What are you doing here and when and to whom I open my door is not your concern.”
“It's my concern when my daughter is behind that door.”
“It just so happens I thought you were my dad. You are right, if I'd known it was you, I wouldn't have opened it. I repeat, what do you want?”
“I wanted to see you. I don't know why I jumped all over you just now, maybe I was thinking how much I'd like to jump all over you in a different way,” he smiled and Emily's heart skipped a beat.
“Don't start, Nick. I told you I would call you and I fully intended to do that in the morning. Now, if you will excuse me.”
“Don't send me away. I promise not to say stupid things or get after you about opening your door. I want to find out more about you and more about our daughter. She looks like my mother, you know. Not the tired, sad looking woman she was when she died. I remember her when I was just about Molly's age. She laughed easily, she sang songs to me and told me stories. I never knew what went wrong in her life. My dad was no good and left years before. It wasn't until I was around ten years old that she began crying herself to sleep at night. Her friend from the pub told me Mom always fell for the wrong guys even before the one who ended up killing her. All through the years I have imagined my mother to be the laughing, singing pretty woman she used to be.
“I'm sorry, Emily, I didn't mean to give you a sob story.”
Emily wiped a tear from her eye. “I'm sorry you had to see your mother die, Nick. It must have been so difficult for you. I hope you will always keep the vision of the happy young mother in your mind. If it hadn't been for my parents, I could have very easily become like your mother. It sounds as though she didn't have anyone she could turn to.”
“I don't believe she did. I never had any grandparents or aunts or uncles. I think Mom and I were all alone in the world. I'm glad your parents were there for you, I only wish I had been too.”
“What's done is done. I'm fine and Molly is well adjusted. I do want you to be involved in her life but I'm afraid when the restaurant is doing well, you will leave and go back to your exciting life in New York. I couldn't bear that for her, Nick. I need reassurance that you won't disappear out of her life if I agree to let you come into it.”
“I just got off the phone with a real estate friend. I told him to sell the apartment. Believe me, if I was thinking of moving back, I would never sell the place. It's too difficult to find another apartment in the city. I'll be staying at The Merryweather, but I plan to buy a home for Molly and me if necessary. I was hoping maybe we could all live together one day.”
“Nick, it's too soon to even talk about that.”
“At least you didn't say no,” he was happy to point out.
“Would you like a cup of coffee or tea?” she asked thinking how good a glass of wine would taste right now but she didn't know what kind of effect wine would have on her with Nick so close.
“Coffee would be nice, thanks, I'll help you.” He got up and walked with her into the kitchen. “I like how you fixed up this place. You seem to have an eye for what goes together. Did you take a decorating class or does it just come naturally to you?”
“Nick, you are too kind. If you knew how many of these things came from yard sales and flea markets, you wouldn't mention interior decorating in the same breath. I buy what I like and then worry about where it will fit in later.”
“Has it been that difficult for you financially?” he said feeling guilty about not contributing toward Molly's care.
“Not really, I just like yard sales and flea markets. Molly likes them too. We go shopping every Saturday during the summer months. Last summer she found a porcelain baby doll, she paid her whole day's allotment of one dollar for it. The girls in the antique store on Main saw it and offered her $400 for it. I think they ended up selling it to a collector for twice that amount. You would be proud of your daughter, she insisted we go back to the house where she bought the doll and gave the people half the money she had gotten for it.”
“She must take after you,” said Nick. “I would have kept the money for myself.”
“I don't think so, the people lived in an old trailer on the outskirts of town. I think you may have given the whole $400 to them.”
He took a sip of his coffee, he didn't want Emily to see the anguish in his face as he thought of his mother.
They talked until well after midnight. “I'd better go, you need to get up early tomorrow. Emily, I have enjoyed this evening. I hope you will believe me when I tell you I have every intention of staying here in town. It isn't something I just thought about today. One reason I decided to help Lester out is that I have been thinking of settling down in a town like Camden Corners for awhile now. There is something about this town that grows on you.”
He wanted to kiss her goodnight but thought he'd better not push his luck. They said goodnight. Emily closed the door behind him. He could have, at least tried kissing me, Emily thought. I may have even kissed him back. It's a good thing I didn't pour that wine. He wouldn't have gotten out of here at all tonight.
Emily thought it would be best if Nick and Molly got to know each other before they told her he was her father. Nick agreed to go along with her decision. Nick was busy at the restaurant and Emily was busy at The Merryweather with Christmas parties night after night. Nick spent time whenever possible with both Emily and Molly.
Sam Ryan softened toward Nick. He could see how much he cared for his daughter and granddaughter. Sam suggested Nick ride along with the family when it was time to select the Christmas trees for each Ryan household. Sam hitched a trailer to the back of his van and off they went into the forest to find two perfect trees.
Nick felt like the kid he had never been. They sang Christmas carols on the way, Peggy poured hot chocolate from a thermos she filled just before they left the house. Molly handed Nick an iced sugar cookie with his name on it. “I decorated it just for you, Daddy.”
Sam almost drove the van off the road, Peggy gasped, Nick was speechless and Emily's voice was shaking when she said, “Why did you call Nick daddy?”
“Cindy Lu Hennessy said Nick is my daddy. Mommy, you told me my daddy went away before I was born, I knew he would come back someday and he did.”
Nick had a lump in his throat and could barely get the words out, “Is that alright with you, Molly? Is it okay if I'm your daddy?”
“Of course, silly. I made you a special cookie, didn't I?”
“This is the prettiest Christmas tree we have ever had,” said Emily when they set the tree in the stand.
Nick and Sam strung the lights. Nick helped hang the ornaments. He realized he had never decorated a Christmas tree before and was determined to continue that tradition and every other tradition that families carry out all through the year.
The Hemingway was an instant success thanks, in part, to its reputation for excellent food and service. The remodeled house also piqued the interest of residents and visitors alike. Keeping with tradition, Lester was at the door greeting everyone as they arrived. Lily stood right by his side. Nick was able to hire an assistant who would eventually take over as manager. Nick had no intention of leaving Camden Corners, but wanted to free some time for himself and his family. Emily agreed to attend the annual Merryweather New Year's gala with him. He was looking forward to an excuse to finally kiss her as the clock struck midnight.
Emily wore a new gown she had purchased the previous week in a little shop in Greensboro. “You look beautiful, Mommy. I wish I could go to the party with you and Daddy.”
“I don't think you would have too much fun with all those old people in their funny hats.”
The doorbell rang. Molly ran to the door and, as instructed by her mother, asked. “Who's there, Daddy?” She could hear him chuckling as he told her it was Mr. Nicolas Jordan calling for Ms. Emily Ryan.
“You're silly, Daddy,” Molly giggled as she opened the door.
Nick was wearing a funny hat and was blowing on a paper horn. He had a bottle of champagne under one arm and a bottle of sparkling grape juice under the other. He had hats for Molly and Emily and a bag of noisemakers to choose from. He looked up and saw Emily come out of the bedroom. He had seen his share of beautiful women in his lifetime, but never one so lovely as Emily.
“You look fabulous!”
“Thanks, you look ridiculous with that hat on but I love it,” she laughed. “Looks like you brought your own party with you.”
“I thought we could have a celebration with Molly before we leave. Isn't it the new year in New Zealand, or someplace, by now?”
“Something like that. Let me call Mom and tell her we will be late. Molly is staying there tonight.”
“Don't get any ideas Nick. My parents can barely stay awake to watch the 11:00 news. It works out better for them if Dad doesn't have to drive home when he's half asleep.”
They were having so much fun with their hats and noisemakers, drinking bubbly and munching on snacks Nick brought from the restaurant that they didn't realize how late it was getting.
“Emily, would you be disappointed if we didn't go to the party? I'm rather enjoying this evening with my two girls.”
“I wouldn't mind in the least. Let me change into something less glamorous. I'll call Mom and tell her to let Dad go to bed. Molly, why don't you put your pajamas on and we will watch the ball drop on TV? Nick, at least take your jacket off and loosen the tie.”
Emily came back out in a pair of yellow sweats. Nick thought she looked wonderful. Molly came bouncing out of her bedroom in the flannel pajamas she had gotten for Christmas. She settled down on the couch between Emily and Nick and fought to keep her eyes open. Nick carried her into her bed as he and Emily tucked their daughter in together for the first time.
As they walked back to the living room, the ball dropped welcoming the new year and they fell into each other's arms.
They were married on Valentine's Day with Molly as their flower girl. Nick moved into Emily's house.
“Nick, you know I love this little house but you are used to much larger and fancier places. I really don't mind if you want to find something else for us.”
“Emily, I went from a beat up old trailer to a Park Avenue apartment. I have finally found happiness in a charming bungalow in a quaint little town. If it's all the same to you, I'd like to stay right here. Besides, in another couple of months the lilacs will be in full bloom.”
Spring and summer came and went. It was three days before Thanksgiving. Nick held Emily's hand as their son came into the world. Ryan Nicholas Jordan would be joining the family for the first of many old fashioned Christmases.