When the group broke for refreshments, and the members began to mingle and peruse the book selections, Margo gave over the reins of the shop to her assistant Darcy, and went back to her office to do some paperwork. Her cell phone blinked that she had a message, and checking the missed calls realized it was her friend Nikki. She pushed the necessary buttons to retrieve the sure to be informative voice mail only to hear her friend of twenty some years say, “Call me, I’ve got a surprise” in a rather excited voice. Of course, Nikki was always excited about something, but since Margo never took an actual lunch hour, she figured a phone call would be just the break she needed before delving into the mountain of invoices from booksellers and agents.
“Nikki Evans Public Relations, Nikki speaking” was the cheery voice on the other end of the phone a few minutes later.
“You rang darling?”
“You actually rang back! On the same day, have you missed me?”
“Oh, you know I have, now what’s up? I have 15 minutes devoted to you and your latest adventure.”
“Oh really, and you are at this moment at your shop, is that right…the shop you OWN and therefore should answer to no one?”
“Let’s not get snippy; you know I care a lot about my rapport with my employees. Now taking a lunch break when I could actually be working is just something I do not do, so let it go.”
“Not even for your best friend, who drove all this way?”
The voice on the phone suddenly echoed and Margo looked up and saw her old friend standing in the doorway of her office, cell phone held open in her manicured hand, a sly winking smile on her face.
“What are you doing here?” she exclaimed, jumping up to hug her friend.
“I’ve come to take my over-worked best friend to lunch, and beg a couch to sleep on for the night as there isn’t a decent place to stay in this horrible little place.”
That was not true at best, but everyone knew that when any of the Evans’ clan was in the general vicinity of South Carolina they stayed at the family house in Abbeville with massive rooms and old country charm. Margo said as much laughing at the thought of her mid thirty-something friend avoiding the home life for a day or two.
“Of course you can stay at my place; I’d love to have you. Lunch? Hmm,” she thought for a moment and remembered a nice little place just north of the square. “Let’s go to Red Wings, they have great food and it won’t be busy during the day.”
“Well come on then, I drove straight down from the Charlotte Airport and I’m starved.”
Fifteen minutes later, they were sitting in a quiet section of a small bar on the outskirts of the square. The neon beer signs illuminated a side of the room where they sat, and the waiter came quickly to get their drink orders.
“I’ll have a Chardonnay,” Nikki said smiling at the young man, “and my friend here will have coffee, as she never drinks anything else.”
Margo looked over the menu and pretended to be interested, her mind going in several different directions. When the waiter left to get their drinks, Nikki reached across the table and tapped on the menu to get her friend’s attention. “You can’t fool me, you know. You are thinking what would bring me to this little slice of small town life when my life is otherwise full of exotic destinations and happenings. Am I right?”
Nikki leaned back in her seat, studying her longtime friend. “I have decided to come into town, for one reason, and one reason only...and that’s to talk some sense into you!”
Margo leveled a glance at her friend, raising an eyebrow. “Go on,” she said, warily, but be careful.”
Nikki continued as though she didn’t understand the veiled threat. “As you know, Lexie’s birthday is next week. Moreover, you know as well as I do that it is a big one. Sweet 16. Don’t you think it’s time you introduced yourself to your nearly grown daughter, the one you haven’t stopped thinking about since the day she was born?”
“Try about six months before that, when we found out she was a she,” Margo murmured.
“So not the point.” Nikki continued, “More to the point is my poor, sad brother, who also has not spent a day without thinking about you and your crazy family. You could just call Lars-”
“No!” Margo exclaimed, “I could never call him. What would I even say after all this time?”
Nikki looked toward the ceiling of the restaurant, thinking for a moment, then she clicked her fingers in a snap and sat forward.
“How about something like, ’Hey handsome, remember me? I didn’t really disappear off the face of the earth like you thought, and I’ve left that crazy demented family that held me in line and under their thumbs all my young life. I love you with all my heart, so, if you don’t mind, how ’bout we get together and see if the sheets still sizzle between us?”
Margo started choking, tears streaming down her face, the waiter arrived with water and their drinks and looked at them expectantly.
“We need another minute or two doll, come back in five won’t you?” Nikki smiled her devastating smile at the young man who blushed and backtracked away from them.
Nikki studied her friend closely from her perch across the table, and shook her head slowly. “You do still have it bad for him don’t ya?”
“He is my other half. The reason I breathe every day. But he’s on his own, and doing just fine without me, so why would I want to make waves now?”
“Speed boats make waves sweetie,” Nikki said, raising her menu up again. “Love is.”
Margo followed suit, pretending to study the offerings, when in reality her thoughts were in turmoil over her husband, who brought forth a question that bore answering, so Margo put the menu down again, and looked her friend squarely in the eyes. “Just what do you think my appearing after 16 years would accomplish?”
“Happiness? Fulfillment? You tell me, because I know you’ve thought about it.”
“Of course I’ve thought about it, but that doesn’t mean it should happen. People think about all kinds of things, living in a mansion, winning the lottery, the end to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. That doesn’t mean it will happen, or even has a chance to happen, Nikki. I think I should just stay right here in the present and leave the past to the historians.”
“Cop out,” Nikki murmured under her breath, but turned her attention to the waiter who had appeared as if on cue. Nikki nodded to Margo who chose a Caesar salad with marinated chicken and Nikki opted for a bowl of french onion soup and the mandarin chicken club.
After he left them, Margo took a sip of her coffee and sighed. She stared out at the view offered by their seat next to the window, noting the happy people strolling and milling about the area, a far-away look in her eyes as she spoke.
“You know very well I think about it all the time. However, I know it is not for the best. Not right now. I will eventually contact them, but I cannot do that while she is in such a perplexing time of her life. Now, let’s table this discussion for now, and you tell me some of the antics you have been doing. I’ve said all I’m going to about Lexie and Larson.”
Nikki knew when to push, but she also knew when not to, so she bit the inside of her lip for a moment, nodded and then took a long sip of wine, changing gears as she swallowed
“Alrighty then, let me tell you about the new band I found.”
Judge Malloy glared at the assistant DA when she stood for a third time to object. He knocked his gavel solidly against the rest saying, “Over-ruled, Ms Chandler. The defense certainly has the right to suggest that this evidence you obtained illegally is inadmissible. Your whole case is based on circumstantial evidence in fact. So, without further ado I declare this hearing over. Defense’s motion to dismiss without prejudice is hereby granted! The defendant is free to go.”
Larson smiled. One task accomplished. He shook hands with his client who hugged him in return. The young man’s father clapped him on the shoulder in thanks as well. They exited the courtroom happy that the whole ordeal was over.
The DA’s assistant was nonplussed. She stood to the side of the prosecution table and waited while the courtroom cleared.
She stepped across the aisle and extended her hand to Larson, “I guess you win this one, Evans, I told Mel we didn’t have enough.”
Larson smiled again, distantly. “Ms Chandler, you might want to suggest that the DA not pin his entire prosecution on the evidence obtained by a rookie cop with a score to settle. It didn’t take me very long to discover the scuffles that he and my client got into in prep school in Andover. Officer Jenkins should have known better. Bullies never win.”
The ADA smiled in return. “Score one for the good guys.” she paused, putting her hand on his arm. “Larson, would you like to have lunch? My afternoon obviously just became clear.”
Larson looked at the girl in front of him puzzled for a moment. Was she actually flirting with him? He shook his head to decline.
“Sorry, but I have an afternoon of backlog to check into, and at least two depositions to conduct. Another time, perhaps.”
She nodded, looking down, showing her disappointment. “Another time, then.”
After a quick trip to the jail to question another witness in yet another case, he took the time to read a few pages of a brief set on his desk that morning. He was, however distracted by the woman’s earlier interest.
Elizabeth Chandler was beautiful, sure, but her forward advances had been more than a little perplexing to him. He should be intrigued by the possibility, her thought to himself, but rather he found the whole exchange rather annoying.
Beauty or not, the thought of another woman was not something he could even consider, so he was always surprised when someone pushed. After sixteen years his interest in the opposite sex did not even seem to register against the yearning he felt with the simple conjuring of a memory.
Margo was the woman of his dreams, the interloper of his thoughts at waking moments, and no woman since had come even close to temper those flames.
His mind wandered back to the gifts again, and he remembered the year when they first began to arrive. A sad smile came to his face at the memories as they played before him.
Larson sat at his desk in his office, absently studying the calendar in front of him. Mrs Harkins was leaving at the end of the week, and he had already hired someone to help Nigel take care of after school activities, supplementing that time between school and the end of the work day, which was never routine for a high powered attorney on the fast track to junior partner. A soft knock on his door got his attention, and Larson looked up to see Mrs Harkins standing in the doorway, hovering hesitantly.
“May I come in, Sir?”
A warmhearted smile touched his mouth, and he rose and walked to the door, his hand outstretched.
“Of course,” he said kindly, “and I’ve told you hundreds of times not to call me ‘Sir’. I always look behind me looking for my father or my boss when I hear it. Call me Larson, you’re practically part of the family for heavens sake.”
Fay Harkins pulled a tissue out of her pocket. “Thank you S—Larson,” she dabbed her eyes a bit, then continued. “I wanted to talk to you about something the little miss said today.”
“Come, sit down,” he told her, leading her to the black sofa next to the wall in front of the small fireplace. “Now, tell me what has bothered you so.”
Fay looked in his eyes, knowing what she was about to reveal would most likely make him sad. She took a deep breath and began.
“Well, we were making cookies this afternoon, for Christmas, and I asked Lexie if she had written her letter to Santa yet. She told me she wanted to ask for something special this year, but wasn’t sure she should. She’s such an unspoiled child, I thought nothing of it, and assured her that Christmas was the time for wishes, so she should ask for whatever she wanted.”
She produced a small piece of paper from her pocket, tears forming in her eyes again. “I thought you should see what she wrote,” she handed over the paper, and waited while she watched him read the small childlike script.
Dear Santa Claus,
I am Lexie. My full name is Alexis Evelyn Evans,
and I live in Boston with my daddy. Maybe you
remember him? Anyway, Mrs Harkins said I should
write to tell you my Christmas wish.
This year more than anything, I want my mommy
back. She went away and made my daddy sad,
but he loves her and I want to know her too.
Could you please find her and send her back to
me somehow? Not just for me, but to make my
daddy smile again? I don’t need another thing.
Thank you Santa.
All My Love,
Emotion clogged his throat when he read his daughter’s unselfish Christmas wish. How on earth could he disappoint her, but then again, how could he fulfill this wish? Hadn’t he looked for his wife several times himself over the years? Hadn’t he spent hours on the phone, looking for a trace of her?
“I’m so sorry, Larson. I don’t know where she got this idea,” Fay twisted the used tissue in her hands, fretful to put a damper on the holiday.
“No, you were right to tell her what you did. Christmas is a time for wishes. I’ll do what I can for her. Don’t worry. Christmas will be just as special as always. I’ll see if I can get my sister to come up for the holiday. That may take her mind off of it. Nikki is always good for a distraction.”
Mrs Harkins rose to walk out of his office, and smiled at his plans. She turned to nod her agreement.
“That’s true. If you need me to postpone my leaving I would be glad to do that.”
“No, no I won’t hear of it. You should go to your daughter’s. Get settled in. We’ll be just fine.”
He smiled bringing his mind back to the present. It hadn’t been long after he had talked to Nikki that she agreed and came up to visit. Lexie never mentioned her wish to him, but mysteriously a package had arrived that Christmas, anonymously. At first he thought his sister had something to do with it, but she had been with them in Boston, and the package had been sent from Savannah. Even though he had sent someone to search for Margo there and had come up with another dead end and no answers, he couldn’t help but be thankful for that first sign. From then on, every year a present for her birthday, and something for Christmas, arrived at their house. Well, he assumed they were still coming. Lexie stopped sharing them with him when she was about twelve. He guessed his frantic heart was better for it. Looking at the clock he saw he was going to be late for a deposition downtown, and silently swore his absent-mindedness.
He would save his heartfelt memories for another time, he thought, leaving his office in a rush.