Christmas morning came and went and no one from the Miles house even stirred. The boys were used to sleeping late but Brett and Stephanie usually woke early, even without an alarm. It was obvious that the last two weeks had caught up with them when Tyler came upstairs at 10:30 and no one was up.
He looked at the couch and saw his Mom and Emmy still snoozing. Down the hall he peeked into his parent’s room and found his Dad asleep in the middle of the bed. Unsure of what to do he went back downstairs and took a shower.
Upstairs something woke Brett suddenly. It took him a moment to remember where he was and that everyone was home and safe. The past two weeks of waking up in odd places had taken its toll on his mind. After a moment he heard the water running downstairs and looked at the clock. Shocked at how late it was he climbed out of bed and walked down to the family room.
Peeking around the corner he smiled as he saw his girls still sleeping. He wanted so badly to go kiss his wife, but he restrained himself and headed back to their room to shower.
By the time he finished both Stephanie and Emmy were awake and she had already started Emmy’s first supplement for the day. “Well look at the sleepy heads.”
“Hey I’d say she deserved a good nights sleep.”
“Emmy, how do you feel? You slept for 16 hours.”
“A little less tired.” She smiled.
“Well, girls Merry Christmas.”
Emmy looked over at the tree and realized what today really was. This was the first time in five years that she’d really gotten to celebrate Christmas.
Stephanie went to go shower while Emmy finished her feeding. Brett handed her the controller and let her find something on TV. “I missed most of the movie. Could I watch that now?”
He smiled no one could resist Home Alone. “Sure. Just hit List on the controller and it will give you a list of the movies that the boys have recorded.” She followed his instructions and found the movie. “Now just push the down arrow until you get to the one you want and press OK there in the middle.” She did it and the movie started again. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
Emmy thought about it and said the part where the pizza guy comes. Brett pulled it right to that moment and played it for her. He began working in the kitchen while keeping an eye on Emmy. She would smile occasionally but never laugh out loud like the boys.
After a while he realized that she was watching the commercials. “Emmy you can skip through the commercials.” She gave him a puzzled look so he came to help. Sitting down beside her. “Have you ever used a DVR?” Embarrassed she shook her head. “No problem. I’ll show you.” He took several minutes to show her how to use the remote control to fast forward through the commercials. “Emmy did you have a TV at home?”
“No. But some of the houses I stayed at did. We just weren’t allowed to use them.” Another one of those moments where the reality of the life Emmy had lived smacked Brett right in the face.
“I’m going to go finish up breakfast. Do you feel like eating anything?”
“I’ll try.” He leaned down and kissed her on the head.
He put the biscuits in the oven and stirred the eggs again as Stephanie came down the hall. She looked better than she had in weeks. Her eyes had lost the dark circles that stress and days of sleeping in a chair at the hospital had put there.
In the hallway Stephanie couldn’t help but smile. She could smell the breakfast cooking and see Brett standing in the kitchen pouring coffee into mugs wearing a little yellow apron. She didn’t use it often but it always hung in the kitchen. Brett had already gotten dressed and didn’t want to splash the grease of the sausage on his shirt.
She came up behind him and put her arms around his shoulders and kissed his neck. “I love you.” He kissed her arm and breathed deeply letting her smell envelope him. “Love you too.”
From the couch Emmy watched the two of them interact with each other. She’d never seen her Mom kiss anyone. Her mom had never even dated that she knew about. Most of the families that she stayed with were so dysfunctional that there wasn’t really any love to see.
Brett turned to face Stephanie and he saw Emmy watching them with a smile on her face. He pulled Stephanie close and then grabbed a dishtowel. Stephanie caught on to what he was doing and grabbed the other side. He began to kiss her and pulled the towel up so shield Emmy. This was the first moment in a long time that they’d had and for a second they got lost in the kiss and each other.
Until Tyler ruined it. “Oh gross you guys get a room.” He laughed and pretended to gag as he came upstairs. Jake was behind him laughing too. They’d seen their parents kiss, a lot, and it didn’t really bother them. They were doing it for Emmy’s benefit.
“Hey we shielded her eyes with the towel.” Brett looked at Emmy who was smiling ear to ear. “You guys ready for some breakfast?”
“Do cows eat grass?” Brett took that and the fact that they both scrambled to the table, despite their injuries. Taylor had emerged from the basement without the crutches. He’d hopped all the way up the steps and now hopped to the table.
Stephanie headed into the family room to help Emmy. She checked the pump and then unhooked the tubing. Standing up she gave Emmy a hand, which she took without hesitation. Stephanie helped her up and then let Emmy head to the kitchen on her own.
At the table the boys were waiting patiently for everyone to sit down. “Emmy would you like something to drink?”
“Just water, Thanks” She wanted orange juice so badly, but the sores in her mouth were much better but still there.
Brett brought her a glass of water and sat Steph’s coffee in front of her. He went back to the counter for his mug. Sitting down they ate and talked about Christmas. Each one of them watching as Emmy took a few bites of eggs and then a few bites of biscuit.
They talked about how they usually headed off to Kentucky after breakfast and would visit with Brett’s entire family. Stephanie talked about the year when her family had been invited to eat Christmas dinner with the Dean of the college in the big mansion on campus.
The boys talked about favorite memories of Christmas mornings. Through it all Emmy was quiet. Brett and Stephanie worried about asking her questions. There weren’t really sure they wanted to know how she’d spent her Christmas’ in the past. They were afraid it might make them cry. The boys sensed it too, but wanted Emmy to be a part of the conversation too. Tyler finally asked. “Emmy do you have any Christmas stories?” Brett and Stephanie smiled that was a good way to ask.
She laid down the biscuit she was nibbling on. “Well I remember one year it snowed and Mom didn’t have to work so we went sledding at this big hill in the park. We got so cold and when we got home we took all the blankets off the beds and wrapped up on the couch and drank warm milk.”
No one asked because they all knew why she didn’t have hot chocolate. It wasn’t that anyone was allergic or didn’t like it. Chocolate was a luxury that her mother simply couldn’t afford.
Jake loved sledding more than anything in the winter. “What kind of sled did you have?”
Emmy looked back down at the biscuit. “We didn’t have one so we used a garbage can lid.” She was embarrassed, but he had the perfect answer.
“Was it a metal one? Those work the best. We tried a square plastic one and it just wasn’t the same.” Emmy smiled, maybe using a garbage lid wasn’t so unusual.
Brett was so completely in love with his family. “Well you know when I was young, we used a cardboard box.”
“Really?” Emmy was intrigued. That day at the park she’d been embarrassed by the lid when all the other kids had shiny new sleds that they’d gotten for Christmas.
They all finished eating and put their dishes in the sink. Emmy even helped clear the table. It had been a while since she’d actually sat at the table with them and eaten. For the last several months she had been just drinking those protein shakes and avoiding the kitchen altogether. Many times just the smell of food made her nauseous.
“Well I think its time to open some presents.” The boys looked at each other and smiled. They had some gifts that they’d been waiting to open, but mostly they couldn’t wait to see Emmy open her’s.
They passed out all the gifts. Emmy was amazed as she sat on the couch with five packages sitting around her. “This is too much. You all have given me enough already.” Emmy swallowed hard to fight back the emotions.
“You are part of this family now and this is how we do it.” Brett smiled and didn’t give her any more time to object. “You’re the youngest so you open one first. Just save the little one until last.” Emmy smiled and opened the box closest to her. Inside was a really nice black winter coat. She smiled and immediately tried it on. Sliding her left arm in Stephanie helped her pull the coat over her right shoulder. The restraint didn’t allow her to put her right one in.
“Fits great.” Brett smiled. He had Stephanie had gone back and forth on the size. They wanted it to fit her now, but knew that she really needed to put on about thirty pounds for all that she’d lost. The coat looked like it would handle that.
She sat back down still wearing the coat. Tyler went next. He got a new pair of jeans and a dress shirt. Jake a new pair of shoes. Brett and Stephanie both got some clothes too in their first box.
They continued opening like this and Emmy got a lot more clothes a pair of fuzzy boots and a scrapbook. Stephanie had gotten it for her to put all the newspaper clippings and keepsakes from basketball in. They had gotten the boys one several years ago and they loved looking back at them. When Emmy opened it she was surprised to see a team picture as well as one of her individual one from this year. “I didn’t order any. How’d you get one?”
Stephanie stopped her “I called the photographer to see if he still had the ones he’d taken. He did, so we ordered some.”
Emmy was amazed. “Look how different I look?”
The photo had been taken back in October the week of their first game. Emmy looked tan and healthy. She also had those thirty pounds back. Looking at her now her cheekbones were too pronounced and the dark circles under her eyes were still there.
“Just think what you’ll look like when the season starts next year.”
Emmy had never had a picture of herself before and she couldn’t stop looking at it. Everyone else opened another round of gifts and Emmy just looked at the picture. “Emmy are you OK?” Stephanie had been watching her.
“Emmy what is it?”
She didn’t want to say anything. Christmas was going so good and everyone was so happy. “Nothing, just thinking that’s all.” They didn’t push even though they both knew that whatever she was thinking about had made her emotional.
For the last round of gifts they went the opposite way. Brett was oldest so he went first. He opened his package and there was a new watch. It was one that he’d seen last summer when they were on vacation in Florida. Stephanie had slipped back to the store on one of her runs and bought it for him.
The final present for Stephanie was one that Brett had bought her and was a total surprise, like his watch. She opened the small box and inside was a little burlap bag. She pulled apart the opening and pulled out a thin silver chain. On the chain were three little shapes. Tears quickly filled her eyes. “Brett this is absolutely perfect.” The boys leaned close to look. The shapes had each of the kids’ names, Jake, Tyler and Emmy. Stephanie leaned and showed Emmy who also had tears in her eyes. “Now I can have you guys with me wherever I go. Brett was sitting in the recliner and Stephanie walked over and sat in his lap. She pressed her lips to his. With her forehead against his she whispered, “Thank you so much. Its perfect.”
The boys both got new iPhones. Brett and Stephanie had tricked them by wrapping them in different, much larger boxes.
Then it was Emmy’s turn. Her box was much smaller than the ones they had opened. She began unwrapping it and stopped. Looking up at Brett, “Sir, I can’t accept this. Its way too expensive.” She had only revealed the corner of the box but immediately knew that it was a phone as well.
“Emmy, listen its time you had one. We knew that you would say that so we didn’t get the newest one. Its the same version that Stephanie and I have.”
“Sir. It’s still too much. I’m just a foster kid and someone will take it.” Emmy was visibly upset and Brett quickly knelt in front of her.
Placing his hands on her cheeks, something he did with the boys when he wanted their undivided attention. “Emmy Taylor. You are no longer just a foster kid. You are my, you are our daughter, and their sister. Never again will you live in a foster home. Emmy if you’ll allow us we want to make it official and adopt you. Regardless of what Nancy’s brother finds, no matter how long it takes, will you let us start the process?” By this point Emmy’s eyes were brimming with tears. She was unable to speak but nodded, with his hands still on her cheeks. “Yes. That was a yes. Steph that was a yes.” Stephanie was already on her knees right beside Brett. Both of them gently grabbed Emmy and held her tight. She let go and the tears flowed freely. Brett and Stephanie joined her in tears of joy. Seeing them even the boys found themselves wiping away a tear.
Once the emotion had taken everything Emmy had they felt her sigh. Brett and Stephanie took a seat on the couch right beside Emmy. She cradled the new phone in her lap. “Thank you so much for everything.”
“Thank you for saying yes.” She could only shake her head knowing it wasn’t enough to make up for what they’d given her.
“So what do you say we get it set up?”
“Absolutely. I already charged it.” Brett was a techie and he’d been dying to show Emmy everything that the phone would do.
He worked with Emmy, the boys headed downstairs to try out the new video games they’d gotten and Stephanie went into the kitchen to clean up a little.
She washed up all the breakfast dishes and looked back into the family room. Brett was still working on the phone, but Emmy’s head was on his shoulder and her eyes were closed. Stephanie came in and sat beside him. He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her to him, kissing her on the top of the head as she laid it on his shoulder. “She had a real Christmas.”
“She sure did. The first of many.”