Caroline felt someone shove her. She almost dropped her precariously balanced Christmas packages. She glared. The pushy shopper dashed forward, various bags swinging from her arms.
Caroline knew she needed to sit down. Her boots pinched her toes, and her heavy winter coat was making her sweat under the shop lights. The obnoxious Christmas music also made her head pound.
She found a vacant bench and plopped down while the rest of the mall swirled around her. It was finally a moment to breathe. Caroline watched the hordes of people pouring in and out of the stores. Hurrying. Scurrying. Worrying. The manic look on their faces only heightened the tension.
The packages at her feet rested innocently. They had drained her bank account and her sanity trying to find them. She hated Christmas shopping. The aching knot at the back of her skull told her that. She cupped the back of her neck and winced.
What is the point of all this?
* * *
She finally made it home after avoiding slushy ice puddles. Hanging the keys on a hook, Caroline noticed her kids were gathered around the TV. A Christmas claymation about Santa Claus was playing. She removed her coat and recalled when she was younger and watched the same program. Her heart sank slightly. Those days seemed simpler. The days when Santa and magic were real.
Sitting on the nearby couch, one of her kids, David, looked up with wonder. His crooked front teeth always made an adorable smile. “Mom? Does Santa always see us?”
The question caught Caroline off guard. But she didn’t want to spoil his excitement She gently swept his blond hair out of his bright eyes. “Sure does, sweetie. That means you need to be good to get presents.”
David swiveled his body back to the TV. His little sister, Samantha, leaned over. “Told you,” she whispered. They continued watching, but Caroline’s heart grew heavier as she watched them. She felt silly lying to her son. She remembered her mom telling her the same fib. She also recalled the shock when she was twelve and discovered the truth about Santa Claus.
From then on, Caroline doubted everything her mom said. The Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, none of them were real. Her mom also told her about God. But she had grown up from that, too.
* * *
Later that night, the kids were tucked in bed, and Caroline turned in, too. But she just stared at the ceiling. Christmas was only a few days away, and she was worrying over the meals she would make for Christmas dinner. Her husband, Clark, slept soundly.
She had found him slouched over, his book draped across his chest like a small tent. Clark often fell asleep reading and she gently lifted the book from his chest that slowly rose and fell. Which book you reading this time? She glanced at the cover as she set it onto the nightstand. The Bible. Big surprise there.
About a year ago, Clark had “found religion,” as Caroline called it. She had already found religion and it hadn’t done her any good. She waited for the day Clark would wake up and realize that God, Jesus, and church were just nonsense.
But now she stared into that blank, cold ceiling, wondering where sleep was. She clicked her light on and sat up. The Bible still rested on her nightstand. With a slight scowl she picked it up. If reading puts you to sleep, maybe it will work for me.
She flipped through the wafer-thin pages and found the section Clark had been reading. She began at the large number two. The page talked about an engaged couple who were on a journey and the girl was going to have a kid. When they reached their destination, the mom put their baby in a feedbox. I still think that’s gross.
But she had more trouble with the second part. The story said there were shepherds in a field and angels appeared to them. But she did a double take when she read the last verses. “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.'”
She had never caught the chapter’s wording before. The Bible tumbled out of her hands onto the floor and the back of her neck grew hot. “Peace on earth?” She growled, “When has there ever been peace?” Clark had awoken and rose to an elbow, sleep filling his eyes. “Car? What’s wrong?”
She rose. “Nothing. I can’t sleep.” She grabbed her robe with a swipe. “I’ll be downstairs. Need to be alone.”
To be continued….
Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.