December 16, 2008
By Katie Miller, OV ERLAND PARK, KS

Two’s company. Three’s a crowd.
As she walked briskly down the street with her arms folded across her chest, Elaine thought about the Hell waiting for her at home. She just thinks about her perfect husband and children and grows resent and is reluctant to go home. She hates the Cleaver-esque image she created.
A gust of wind picks up an old newspaper infront of her and flings cold wet sleet onto her ungloved fingers. Beads of salt scratch her fingers when she wipes it onto her coat. Her nose, dyed red from the frosted air, looked like it was pinched repeatedly. Locks of brown hair flapped briskly against her vulnerable face, each slap stinging at first hit.
Taxis moved forward and people walked past like a whirlwind. Everything in ecstasy, quickly rushing from here-to-there; the city was on speed and deep in w inter’s holiday bliss. She bit her lower lip and looks behind at the glass-covered side-walk. Simultaneously, her blue eyes are bitten by the wind.
Footsteps trailed across each street and disappeared into the perpetual darkness of alleys and stairwells.
Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing, a ring, I don't mean on the phone, Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight...
Marilyn Monroe plays and Elaine fumbles around looking for her iPhone. She finally reaches it and sees the caller; David, again. She lets it go to voicemail and plans to call him back after Christmas.
A few=2 0minutes later, she is unlocking her apartment door. Her kids sprint as soon as they hear the metal of the key tickling the lock. Once in, she routinely flips the lock from the inside.
The oldest, her nine year old son, stands behind and she looks at him and smiles. She worries about him anymore. His face is glum often and he doesn’t express much emotion or act excitedly like he used to. Her seven year old twins are hugging her and suddenly they both take a step back and cringe.
“Eeeeyeeeewwww. You smell like cigarette smoke!!” Bella exclaimed.
Elaine looked down. She had forgotten how David smoked a couple earlier. Quickly she thought,
“Oh don’t worry about it. One of my clients today smoked as we walked out of my office.” She thought to herself, Marlboro Reds to be20exact.
She exited the doorway and flopped her winter coat and scarf on the couch. Her hat was missing. “S***,” she mumbled breathlessly, “must’ve left it at David’s.” First, she kicked off her left boot and struggled to kick off her right boot, until she finally reached down and pulled it off.
Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing, a ring, I don’t mean on the phone- Elaine quickly flicked the ringer to silent on her iPhone. David was calling her again. Her other daughter asked who would be “ringin’” her on Christmas Eve. Elaine told her it was one of her patients and she said, “I should really call, uh, her back because it might be something urgent.”
The kids just went back to playing with legos.
Elaine reached for her phone and started dialing David once she shut the door and started walking towards the stairway. By the third floor David answered.
“Hey, did you call?” Elaine asked, she knew why he was calling anyways.
“Yeah. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this. I just don’t see why I can’t spend Christmas with you and your mom. Don’t you want me to meet her? And isn’t it a little lonely with just the two of you on Christmas?” Shocked, she heard him- he sounded greatly hurt vocally which he never did.
“I’m sorry but my mom is uh really picky and, um I just want to make sure-” She was fumbling with her words and she felt bad lying to him, “that, uh, it’s like the right time and all. You know, she’s, just, uh really really sick right now.” She ignored the last question.
“I can bring something. What’s her favorite type of soup? I’ll swing by the grocery store before they close.” He was anxious to be with her.
“Uh. Not a good time, but I gotta go, she’s hollering for me. Bye David, I’ll call ya when I get a chance.” She hoped no one heard her conversation and trudged back up the flights of stairs.
Her body was shaking after walking outside without her coat. This time when she entered the apartment, her family didn’t acknowledge her. She peeked around the corner of the kitchen and saw her husband cooking their Christmas feast. She wondered if she should take a shower before helping him. Elaine sighed and went to him anyways.
He was seasoning the turkey and making small slits underneath the skin where he would add some extra lemon or whatever he chose to do this year. Once he set the knife down, she decided to go up behind and hug him. She reached around his big belly and squeezed him tight. He spun around and breathed in,
“Whew. You do smell like smoke. Who were you helping again? It was one of those last minute in-dire-need-of-my-psychologist calls, so-- I’m guessing Carol.”
She was glad he answered his own question, “Yeah. That’s right.”
He went back to tending the turkey for tomorrow. She was cold and thought now was the right time to hop in the shower. Dinner would be done once she got out, so she would just clean up quickly.
She rolled her fingers against her wall, searching for the light switch. A few seconds later she found it and flicked it on. She glanced at the unkept bed and dismissed it and the dirty clothes on the floor. Normally, she would have tidied and straightened things around the room.
Elaine walked into her bathroom and closed the door, naturally flipping the lock behind her. She removed her clothes and got into the shower. The warm beads of water falling on her felt refreshing. She reached up and ran her fingers through her hair, basking in the heat of the water. She reached for her shampoo and massaged it into her scalp. Finally, she was relaxing on her short winter vacation. She conditioned her long hair and after what seemed much shorter than it actually was, forty minutes had passed.
She shut off the shower and stood still for a few more minutes. With her eyes closed she reached for her towel. It was so fluffy and made of the best cotton. Her husband had given it to her for their fifteenth anniversary. She cocooned herself in the pillowy towel.
She stepped out of the bathroom and got dressed. Her stomach was growling now and she realized she hadn’t eaten anything since eight o’clock in the morning. She picked up yesterday’s blouse and jeans and threw them on. She considered changing into something cleaner, but she didn’t care. All who was seeing her was her family anyways, so she stayed dressed in yesterday’s attire.
She looked around the room and went back to her bathroom where she set her watch down. She slipped her diamond ring on and She reached for her watch and put it on. Her fingers were still moist from the shower, making it unusually difficult to clasp.
Finally she got it and looked down to see it was already six-thirty. Wow. She spent an hour getting ready.
She threw on some socks abruptly and felt bad because her family was waiting on her. Elaine thought about how their stomachs must be growling like a lion’s roar.
As she opened the door and walked into the living room she saw only two bowls on the table. Her husband must have already fed the kids. Elaine walked over to sit down when she realized the house was silent.
“Hm. I wonder where the kids are...” She muttered to herself and looked out the window. All of their coats and shoes were still in the entry way. When she went back to the table she looked at the bowl in front of her. It was chicken noodle soup. She sniffled in and smelled Marlboro reds but figured it was still in her coat.
“I didn’t even see that on the stove earlier.” As soon as she sat down she heard footsteps. She brought the soup to meet her lips and choked.
An aroma of strong cigarette smoke filled the room.
David was standing in front of her.
“I thought I would bring by some soup for your mom. You didn’t tell me you were married or even that you had children. Or, that you don’t live with your mom.” The twentieth century Madame DeFarge was holding the knife her husband had used to prepare the turkey.
“David.” Her voice grew worried and her heart stopped, “Where is my family?”
“What family? I’ve done you a favor. It was just going to be you and someone else on Christmas anyways.”

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