Chapter Five“You are the most dangerous woman I’ve ever met!” Andrew yelled and threw his cards on the table. “I’ve never been beaten in poker, and then you come along and beat all of us!”
We were all sitting at the dining room table playing poker and I had won three times in a row. We paid for stacks of poker chips with colorful mini marshmallows.
“One more time?” I asked.
Dennis gave me an exasperated look. “Please don’t torture us any longer!”
I laughed and stole a glance at Annie. She was drinking her club soda with a sour look on her face. I had a feeling she didn’t like losing. “Okay, okay. I want to step out and get some fresh air anyway. That should give someone else a chance to win.” I said, winking at Andrew.
Luke stood up. “I’ll go with you.”
“You don’t have to.” I said as I limped to the door. But I knew he would anyway.
I was right. Luke came up behind me and grabbed Marge’s winter coat. “It’s cold.” He explained. “Mom won’t mind.” I slipped the coat on gently, trying not to jostle the rib.
He opened the door for me and I took a deep breath. “It’s so beautiful out here.”
He nodded. “Are you content?”
I closed my eyes and smiled. “Yes.”
His voice sounded strained. “That’s good.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked, turning to look at him.
He shrugged and refused to look at me. “Nothing really. My mom talked to me at lunch today. She said she’s worried that I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life. I think she’s kind of disappointed that I haven’t given her grandchildren yet.”
I decided lightness was the best approach. “Well she should know that’s physically impossible for a male.”
He smiled, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. His cheeks turned red and he finally looked at me. “She wants us to become an item. She got so upset that she practically had a heart attack right in front of me. She didn’t, of course, but I was really worried about her.”
My eyes widened. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m not sure yet. I’m hoping she just gets over it, but knowing Margaret Marcello that’s not going to happen.” He sighed. “I’m so worried.”
I squeezed his hand. “I’m sorry, Luke.”
He shrugged. “Are you ready to go inside?”
I nodded. “But let’s not subject your poor family to my amazing poker skills again.”
He laughed and the sound was light and normal.
When we came back, Marge was in the kitchen getting a bag of pretzels. When she saw us walk in she gave us a hopeful look, but then disappointment colored her eyes when she noticed we weren’t being romantic. I turned to him in the shadows “Please forgive me.” I whispered so only he could hear.
“For what?” he asked.
“For kissing you.” I stood on my tip-toes and pressed my mouth to his and then quickly pulled away.
He stared at me in shock, and then understanding entered his face. He smiled. Marge clapped. “I knew it!”
I looked at her as if surprised that she had caught us. “Oh, I’m sorry.”
Luke sat us down and looked at his mom. “Now don’t get any ideas, missy.” He said, pointing a finger at his mother.
She looked happy as a clam and pretended to zip her lips shut and throw away the key. “I’m not going to say anything.”
This was going to be an interesting night.
We finished Christmas Eve dinner and then grouped in the living room. Luke sat next to me and put his arm around me.
Andrew lifted the family Bible out of a bookshelf and sat next to his wife. “I’m going to read the Christmas story.” He looked at me. “It’s a family tradition.” He explained.
Dennis quickly rose to his feet. “Annie and I are going to watch a movie downstairs.” The couple rushed out of the room and Marge sighed. “I was hoping he’d stick around this year.”
“Why don’t you start dad?” Luke said.
Andrew nodded and read the Nativity story out loud. I scooted a little closer to Luke and leaned against him as I listened to the story of how my Lord was born. It was almost magical.
When Andrew was finished he shut the book and sighed. “I never get tired of that story.” We all nodded in agreement.
“My grandpa used to read that story to us, I think.” I said, trying to remember more about those times, but all I had was a vague fact.
“Do you see his face?” Luke asked.
I shook my head. “It’s like always. I know it happened, but I can’t picture it.”
He squeezed my shoulder. “Don’t worry, you will.”
“Now, I’m not a brain surgeon or anything, but from my experience in the field of medicine, I’ve seen plenty of cases just like yours.” Andrew said. “Temporary amnesia is much more common than permanent.”
“Thanks for trying to cheer me up, Andrew.” I said with a genuine smile. “And I think you’re right; I’m starting to remember random little things every day.” I sighed. “I just hope my family finds me soon. I have a feeling we didn’t part on good terms.”
“Really?” Luke asked. “You didn’t tell me that.”
“It’s just a feeling. Obviously I don’t know for sure, but just this once I hope my memory is failing me and I made that part up.” I frowned, imagining what could have happened that would have caused me to be driving so late at night by myself.
Luke squeezed my shoulder. “Me too.” He took a deep breath. “Well, you know what they say, Santa won’t come until all the good little boys and girls are asleep snugly in their beds.”
“Don’t forget the visions of sugar plums.” I jousted.
“Touché.” Luke smiled. He stood and helped me carefully to my feet. I said goodnight to Luke’s parents and we walked slowly to my room. Luke unmade my bed and smiled. “I’ll see you in the morning.” He kissed my cheek. “And thanks for giving my mom a good Christmas present.” He said with a wink.
I cleared my throat and tried to steady my heart. His nearness made me feel dizzy. Suddenly the look in his eyes changed. All humor was gone and was replaced with a look I didn’t recognize until he slowly leaned towards me.
His lips touched mine and warning sirens flashed through my head, but I ignored them as I touched his face with my one free hand. He touched my waist softly and kissed me again.
Finally, I pulled away and stared into his eyes. His were clouded with confusion and that same strange look I couldn’t name.
Suddenly he cleared his throat and backed up. “Um… sorry about that.” He frowned and turned away. “Goodnight, Grace.” He said, without looking at me and softly shut the door.
I sighed in frustration. What had I gotten myself into?