Beatrice hands were too full with packages to fish her house keys out of the bottom of her purse. She breathed a sigh of relief when her longtime housekeeper, Anna opened the door.
“Thank you so much, Anna,” she said handing the packages to the woman. “Take this up to the first guestroom.” Grinning, she added, “There’s more in the car.”
Anna shook her head, a smile curving her lips. Her boss had come a long way since she mended fences with her son and his family. And hallelujah for Mr. Charles! That man sure did keep Ms. Beatrice happy. There was a time Anna dreaded coming to work; especially when she was in one of her witchy moods. An excellent salary, a generous bonus at Christmas, and three children to raise is what kept her hanging around.
Entering the guestroom, she shook her head again. “Ms. Ava is going to have a fit.” The room nearly overflowed with expensive clothing, toys, and electronics for Zoe, Beatrice’s granddaughter. She had begun neatly arranging the packages along with the others when Beatrice entered the room with more shopping bags from high-end department stores.
“Ms. Beatrice, does Mr. Charles know you’re buying more stuff for Zoe?” She’d overheard him telling his wife she was getting out of hand with the gift buying.
There was a time when she would have told the woman to mind her damn business and stay in her place if she wanted to keep her job. Instead, she shrugged an elegant shoulder. “What can I say? I love my precious baby. Besides, those things are for Aiden and Lois’s grandbabies.”
Beatrice honestly tried to control her spending, but just couldn’t help herself. It wasn’t that she was trying to buy her granddaughter’s love. She didn’t have to. The little girl was crazy about her mom-mom. She spoiled her because that’s what a mom-mom was supposed to do. A smile curved her lips. And now she had Aiden to spoil rotten, too.
The ringing doorbell pulled her out of her reverie.
“I’ll go get the door,” Anna said.
“No, I’ll get it.” She started for the door and then stopped. Going over to the pile of bags, she reached down and grabbed three large bags. Handing them to Anna, she winked. “Picked up a little something for your granddaughters.”
She didn’t stay to see the stunned expression on the woman’s face as she floated down the stairs to the front door.
The smile on her face would’ve warmed even the Grinch’s heart as she opened the door greeting her daughter-in-law and infant grandson.
She took the sleeping babe from his mother’s arm. “I was waiting for you two all afternoon,” she said hugging the tiny bundle to her bosom as she took a seat on the plush sofa.
Ava rolled her eyes. “Don’t even try it, Ms. Lady. I saw you running in here with all those bags as I was pulling up.”
The only thing that kept her from busting her mother-in-law was her cell phone ringing as she was about to exit the car. She took the call since it was her mother. Besides, it wouldn’t do any good fussing with the overindulgent woman. Ava always let her have her way until she got fed up and demanded she return whatever ridiculously expensive gift Beatrice swore Zoe must have. So far, she’s respected Ava and Langston when they’ve said enough is enough.
Laying Aiden on the sofa she began taking off his outerwear. Keeping her eyes trained on her grandson she nonchalantly murmured, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Ava laughed. “What am I going to do with you?”
Gingerly picking up the baby, she tenderly kissed his forehead causing him to squirm. Her heart melted every time she held him in her arms. He looked so much like his father. It was as if she was transported back in time.
Shifting her gaze to the young woman she’d come to love as her daughter, she smiled. “That’s for you to decide. Are you hungry?”
She playfully rolled her eyes at the older woman’s sassy response. “Are you kidding me? Nursing that boy has me starving all of the time.”
She stood tenderly cradling Aiden, which prompted Ava to stand. “Good. I had Anna fix us a little something before she left early to finish up her Christmas shopping.”
The women were sitting at the kitchen table deep in conversation, which was halted at the sound of footsteps, charging in their direction.
“Zoe, slow down and stop running in the house.” Ava chided before taking a receiving blanket and shielding herself as she breastfed the baby.
The child’s fast moving feet came to an abrupt stop. She wrinkled up her nose. “Aiden, is always eating. I’ll kiss him later.”
The women laughed.
“Hi, Mom-Mom!” Going over to her grandmother she gave her a big hug and kiss.” Me, Daddy and Pop-Pop Charles picked out a big”, she opened her arms as wide as they could go, “Christmas tree!”
“Where is your pop-pop and father?” Beatrice asked excitedly. This would be the first Christmas she would decorate a tree with her family. She had wanted Lois and her family to join them, but they were on a family cruise for the holidays. Coming to her feet, she took Zoe’s hand. “Come, show me this big tree.”
Entering the room, Langston and Charles were balancing the eight foot, humongous tree. Zoe hadn’t exaggerated.
She gently squeezed Zoe’s hand. “It’s a beautiful tree.”
The child smiled up at her. “I told you Mom-Mom. Daddy and Pop-Pop Charles let me pick it out.”
“Is that so?”
Zoe’s head bobbed up and down.
With the tree firmly in place, the two men stood to their full height. The sight of them filled Beatrice’s heart with warmth and pride.
Zoe covered her eyes, peeking through her fingers when she spied her pop-pop sauntering over to them. Yup, just as she thought, he kissed Mom-Mom on the mouth. Yuck! Her mommy and daddy did the same thing all the time, too.
Langston chuckled at his daughter’s antics. Going over to his mother, he kissed her soft cheek. “Hey, Mom.”
She smiled gazing into his dark eyes. “Hi, baby.”
Charles stooped down to Zoe’s level. Tugging on her pigtail he teased, “What are you covering your eyes for?”
Instead of answering she giggled. She giggled even louder when he made a loud smacking noise as he kissed her on the forehead and then tweaked her nose.
Beatrice took a seat on the sofa and Charles joined her, leaving a giggling Zoe at her father’s side.
Ava came into the room with the baby snuggled, resting against her chest. At three months old, he was alert. His eyes searched the room until they landed on his giggling sister.
“Wow! That is a huge tree!”
“Told you.” Zoe beamed going over to her mom. Standing on her tippy toes, she kissed her brother’s tiny fist. “Mommy, can I hold him?”
Zoe’s parents smiled at each other over their children’s head. She adored her baby brother, and enjoyed being a big sister. “After you go wash your dirty little hands.”
She held her hands up in front of her face inspecting them. She twisted her mouth to the side. “I don’t see any dirt.”
Ava didn’t have to say a word. She lifted an arched brow at her child. “Okay, I’m going.”
Langston chuckled, giving his wife and son a quick kiss on the forehead. “Come on love bug. I have to wash my hands, too.” And off they went to clean up.
“What time are we going to start decorating the tree?” Ava asked around a yawn. Although Aiden wasn’t a crier, he definitely was a night owl. She was lucky if she got a good solid five hours of sleep before it was time to get up and get breakfast started and Zoe off to school.
“Not for at least another four hours. Beatrice answered while taking Aiden from her arms. “Why don’t you go upstairs and take a nap. I’ll keep an eye on the baby.”
Ava kissed her mother’s-in-law a kiss cheek. “Thank you so much. If he gets hungry, I pumped a couple of bottles. They’re in the fridge.”
Climbing the stairs, Ava was grateful for the mother-daughter relationship she and Beatrice took the time to nurture. With her mother two states away, it was a blessing having Beatrice close by. Not only did she enjoy lunch dates, shopping sprees, and the time spent with the children; Ava appreciated the older woman grooming her on the ins and outs of high society, which women’s auxiliary committees to be on, and charities to support. The wife of a high powered attorney, whose legacy went as far back as post-antebellum, she never wanted to be an embarrassment to him. His position in the community made it necessary for her to be visible.
With a drowsy smile on her face, she opened the first guestroom door. The smile evaporated and her lips pressed into a thin line before she shrieked, “Ms. Laaaady!”
Charles burst out laughing, and Langston came running in the room with Zoe close behind on his heels.
“What’s going on?” He asked heading for the stairs to see what was up with his wife.
When Zoe tried to follow, Pop-Pop Charles motioned for her to come sit next to him.
Gently rocking the baby, Beatrice feigned ignorance. “I have no idea why she’s yelling.” Out of the five guest bedrooms, she had to go in that one!
“Queen Bea, do I have to lock you up in our bedroom until Christmas morning?” Charles murmured a smirk twitching his lips.
Beatrice blushed. She knew what that smirk was all about. “But that’s two days from now…” Locked in a room for the next two days and nights would be the perfect, naughty gift from Saint Nick.
Frowning, Zoe interjected, “Pop-Pop Charles, that wouldn’t be nice.”
Later that night Beatrice and Charles sat on the floor near the fireplace admiring the eight-foot tree decorated in silver and white. She smiled, remembering how everyone laughed and sung Christmas carols as they hung the shiny ornaments. The most precious moment of the evening was Zoe standing on her father’s broad shoulders placing the crystal star on top of the tree.
After the tree was decorated, the family sat down to a simple dinner of baked chicken, string beans and mashed potatoes Beatrice prepared with minimal help from Charles. She was still learning her way around the kitchen.
Sitting around the table, they laughed some more and talked about everything and nothing as they ate the meal.
Bored with grownup conversation, Zoe asked to be excused to go to her playroom-bedroom. Once the child was out of sight, Ava threatened to burn every last one of Beatrice’s credit cards. Of course, Mom-Mom promised to scale back. Everyone laughed when she sucked her teeth and called Beatrice out. “Now, Ms. Lady, you need to stop telling boldfaced lies,” she lifted a brow, “especially at Christmastime.”
All Beatrice could do was hang her head in mocked contrition, hiding her smirk. She couldn’t wait to see the expression on Ms. Ava’s face when she unwrapped her gift. The younger woman, although salivating over the black leather riding boots at the Chanel boutique in New York, balked at the price tag. When she offered to buy them for her, Ava had outright refused her. Yes, she couldn’t wait to see her face on Christmas morning.
By the time Ava and Langston were ready to head home, Zoe had climbed into bed and was sound asleep. At Charles’s suggestion, they agreed to stay the night.
Having them all under the same roof was the best early Christmas present Beatrice could ask for.
Yes, my love.”
“We made some wonderful memories tonight.”
She was always happy when her family was around. But there was something extra special about tonight. Christmastime had never before held so much joy for her. In the past she didn’t or couldn’t see the beauty of family and what it meant during the holidays. While being so wrapped up in her misery, she never provided her son with precious childhood memories. Thanks be to God; she was given a second chance with her grandchildren.
He squeezed her and kissed her forehead. “Yes, we did.”
Charles’s gratitude ran just as deep. Finding true love and having a family to cherish later in life was a gift he would never take for granted. Earlier with Zoe nestled at his side and Aiden snuggled in the crook of his arm as he read The Night Before Christmas, he prayed the scene would play over and over for years to come.
Beatrice looked over her shoulder at her husband. “Do you think the children will object to us making this a tradition for the grandbabies?”
The couple didn’t hear the two sets of footsteps entering the room. Ava carried a tray with three glasses of spiked eggnog. For herself she had a mug of hot chocolate.
“Mom, we would like that a lot.”
Beatrice smiled up at her son as he passed a glass to her and then Charles. She and Charles said, “Thank you,” in unison. Too overcome with emotions, she squeezed her mate’s hand. He returned the squeeze before tenderly kissing her temple.
The younger couple settled down to enjoy the crackling fire. Ava grinned at her mother-in-law and playfully nudged her with her shoulder. “Do we get to spend the night?”
Tears in her eyes, she whispered, “Charles and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Yes, this was the best Christmas ever.