Chapter 39: Trenton, North Carolina - December 7, 2017
Sarah and I spent the rest of the morning hauling the Christmas decorations down from the attic where Cory and I had stored them when we cleaned them out of the back house. Together, we hung up enough garland, tinsel and Christmas lights on the outside of the house to light up a small third world country. Daddy helped us by climbing up the ladder and attaching the lights along the porch while we wrapped them on each pillar and the railings. The white lights twinkled when we turned them on, popping against the green and red garland that hung around it. Inside, we matched with the colors, outlining each doorway, window and railing with the same color garland. I pushed aside the recliner and the couch, putting the Christmas tree in the same spot it has sat since the beginning of my life time. It was a fake tree that was pre-lit with white lights but it was almost eight foot tall and was very full. It took me an hour to rake out the branches, giving it a bushy feel as I stepped back to look at it. All the lights still worked and it would flash with a pattern every couple of minutes.
“Looks great!” Sarah said, carrying the box of ornaments over from our pile of stuff in the corner of the dining room. She set it on the couch and opened it. “Wow! Are these all homemade?”
“Yup. Momma had a tradition that every year, we would make a Christmas ornament on the night of our Christmas party. Then, we’d hang them on the tree. When she died, Daddy and I kept up the tradition for ourselves. Even after I moved to New York, I made my own ornaments. Of course, they weren’t as pretty as Momma’s, but I tried my best.” I replied. Reaching into the box, I pulled out a silver bulb that had a hand painted picture of a little girl reading in front of a fireplace. It was one of the last ones my mother ever made.
“They are beautiful. We should do it again! I can pick up the stuff and we can make them tonight. It’ll be fun.”
“Sounds like a plan.” I gave her a small smile, putting the ornament down to grab the garland.
“Hey. Are you okay?” Sarah asked, looking over at me.
“You’ve just seemed a little down. Did something happen between you and Cory or something?” I shook my head.
“No. Everything is great between us. Everything is fine. Really.”
“Then, what’s this?” Reaching behind her, she pulled a piece of paper out of her back pocket. Unfolding it, she held up the letter I had begun to write for Penguin Publishing. I gave her a small glare before shrugging.
“I decided to pass.” I said coolly.
“You decided to pass? Abby, this is the one thing you’ve wanted since you were a little girl! How could you just pass on it?”
“Because they wanted me to move to New York for a year. I can’t just up and leave again. My whole life is finally picking up and this is where I need to be. There will be other chances.”
“What did Cory say when you told him?” I stopped, biting my lip. “You didn’t tell him?”
“No. I knew if I did, he would want me to go. I’m just going to turn down the offer and look for another publisher. That’s all.”
“Don’t you think he should have some sort of say in the matter? I mean, you are passing on a once in a lifetime opportunity to be with him.”
“Sarah, it’s not a big deal. If I don’t get published, I don’t get published. I still have the firm with you and plenty of other things I can work on.”
“None of those are your dreams though.”
“Being with Cory has been my biggest dream since I was ten years old. I’m not giving up on that because of something so silly.”
“It’s not silly. Cory won’t think it is either.”
“I’m not telling him and that’s final. I mean it. And you can’t tell anyone about this. You understand?”
“But, Abby-.” She started but I held up my hand.
“No, Sarah. I mean it. You can’t tell anyone.” Sighing, she nodded.
“Fine. I won’t. But promise me you will at least think about reconsidering. I get that you think you owe it to Cory but what about owing yourself?”
“Going back to New York for a year means leaving Cory here. I can’t expect him to just up and leave with me. I can’t put him through watching me leave again.” I sighed, picking up my new engagement ring from my necklace. “He asked me to marry him and I said yes.” She let out a small gasp, grabbing the ring.
“Abby, that’s great! I’m so happy for you. Don’t you see why you need to discuss this with him now? You two are going to build a life together. You can’t start the foundation of that with a lie.”
“It’s not a lie. I’m just going to tell him they didn’t have what I wanted in their contract. It’s the truth.”
“No, it’s not. It’s like the truth’s third cousin, twice removed.” She smiled at me, trying her best to lighten the mood. “Listen, I may not agree with it but I’ll support you. Just be careful, okay? I’d hate to see this all blow up on you.”
“Thanks, Sarah. I’d hate to see that too.”
We finished up the house and Sarah went to pick up Marie and Meadow. They were going to come back for dinner and to make the ornaments. I took the opportunity to hop in the shower and squeeze in a small nap. It felt nice to stretch out in the king size bed in the loft. It made me sad to think that someone else would be living here in a couple of weeks. Dad hadn’t even told me he had put an ad in the paper. This meant that I would have to drag all of my stuff back inside again and rent another storage locker. Maybe I should talk to Cory about finding a place of our own. His place was two small for the both of us and Nala. I made a mental note to talk to him about this after the holidays were over.
Sarah, Marie and Cory showed up about the same time. Cory was carrying a large cardboard box of Chinese food while Mare and Sarah both had shopping bags. Several bottles of wine were tucked into both of their arms and everything filled the counters of the kitchen in the back house. Cory and I unpacked the food while Sarah and Marie set up a small work space with some paint, glitter and bulbs. I shoved the wine in the fridge, grabbing two chilled bottles to replace them. Everyone grabbed some food, sitting in the living room to eat and chat. Meadow was with Pat and his mother for the night, giving Marie some much needed adult time. Sarah was going to spend the night with her at her place, shooting me a wink when no one else was looking.
After eating, we got to work making Christmas bulbs for everyone. We painted names on each one and Marie made some beautiful scenes on the other side, every bulb having a different picture. It was amazing to watch her work, little strokes of paint making up peoples and winter views. Wine was poured and laughing filled in with the conversations. Soon, Cory and I found ourselves curled up on the couch while Sarah and Marie sprayed each ornament with sealant to make sure the paint wouldn’t rub off or chip. Carefully, they packed them up into the packaging the bulbs came in and set them in the corner of the room to be put on the tree at the Christmas party.
“Tomorrow, we need to go shopping for the food for the party.” I said as Sarah sat on the couch by my feet. She nodded, draining the rest of her wine from her glass. Marie walked over, sitting on the arm next to Sarah.
“Yes! I found a new vegetarian dish I want to try.” We all groaned together, causing her to make a face. “Well, excuse me for wanting to save an animal.”
“But animals are tasty.” Cory said, rubbing my arms with his hands.
“He does have a point.” Marie said, putting her hand on Sarah’s shoulder. “Sorry, dear.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just wait until a cow takes a bite out of you.” Sarah mumbled, standing up. “What time does the party start tomorrow?”
“About six. That’s when Dad told everyone to show up.”
“Okay. I’ll be over about ten tomorrow morning then, so we can get to the store.” Yawning, she stretched her arms above her head. “You ready?” She asked, looking at Marie. She nodded, standing too.
“Yeah. I’ll see you guys tomorrow! I’m making gingerbread men for the kids to decorate for tomorrow.”
“That will be fun. See you tomorrow.” I waved as they pulled their coats on. A little blast of December air blew into the door as they left. Cory kissed the top of my head, shifting so he could stand up.
“You tired?” He asked. Shrugging, I felt a yawn tug at the corner of my lips before escaping. He snorted, shaking his head. “C’mon. Let’s go to bed.” He took my hand and pulled me to my feet. Shutting of the lights as we went, I followed him up the stairs to the loft.