Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Destynee Week 80: Santa Is Coming, I Promise

Destynee Cullen

Picture 1

Picture 2

Destiny Cullen’s Choice: Picture 1

Santa Is Coming, I Promise

“Babe, can I talk to you for a second?” Keith called from the dining room.

“I’m just putting Bea down to sleep, give me a minute.” Natalie picked Bea up and carried her to bed.
Bea yawned as her mother helped her put her pink elephant footy pajamas on. It was 9:30 and past her bedtime, making her more sleepy than usual.

“Three Little Pigs,” she said, rubbing her eyes as Natalie tucked her in.

Natalie smiled and kissed her forehead. “Not tonight. I’ll tell it tomorrow night, okay?”

Bea nodded and closed her eyes as Natalie turned on the nightlight, closing the door.

Natalie went to the dining room where Keith had a bunch of envelopes and papers scattered around him and a calculator. He was running his fingers through his hair, a nervous habit of his.

“What’s up?” Natalie wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

He didn’t even acknowledge her gesture and just sighed, frustrated. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. Look at these. How is our electricity bill so high?”

Natalie took the seat next to him and looked at the number on the calculator. “I don’t know. We have Bea’s nightlight running all night and the light in the bathroom and the kitchen appliances and television; not to mention the heater. I guess that stuff runs up.”

“Does she need that nightlight?” Keith asked curtly.

Natalie looked at him in disbelief. “Honey, she’s four. Of course she needs the nightlight.”

“I don’t remember having a nightlight at that age. I turned out fine.” He pressed, gathering the papers and running the numbers through the calculator again.

Natalie sighed, leaning back. “We’ll figure something out. I’ll take on a job if I have too. I think the shoe store is hiring.”

Keith ignored her, staring at the papers. “We’ll have to take out another loan. God damn it.” He threw the calculator at the wall.

Natalie flinched. “We’ll figure something out, babe. Don’t worry about it. I’ll go look for a job tomorrow.”

“And what about Bea?” He asked angrily. “She can’t stay home by herself! That’s why you quit work in the first place was to take care of our kid.”

“Bea can stay with my sister during the day. Everything will work out, okay? Come on, let’s go to bed.”

Natalie stood up and took his hand, but he pulled away, running his fingers through his hair again.

“I’ll meet you in there later. I’m not tired.”

Natalie stared at him sadly. “We’ll figure it out, Keith. We always do.”

He didn’t hear her, busy with the bills again. She left him in the dining room and went to bed. The room was dark and she didn’t bother turning the light on. She got undressed in the dark and pulled on her nightgown before crawling into the sheets. She fell asleep before Keith came to bed.

The next morning, Natalie woke up with Bea poking her cheek. “Mommy … Mommy … wake up,” she was whispering.

Natalie opened her eyes and smiled, sleepily. “What is it, baby?”

“Is it Christmas yet?” she whispered.

Natalie chuckled, pulling Bea into bed with her. “Not yet, Bea. Do you want to help Mommy decorate today?
We can make the house pretty for when Daddy gets home.”

Bea nodded excitedly. “Yeah and for Santa too.”

Natalia smiled, kissing her cheek and getting up. She stretched and yawned, running her fingers through her hair.

They walked into the kitchen and Natalie lifted Bea into her seat for breakfast. “What shall we have today? Cereal or toast?”

“Toast!” Bea yelled.

“Toast it is.” Natalie put two pieces of bread into the toaster and opened the blinds to let the sun in. Snow was falling outside their window, sticking to the ground below.

While Natalie fixed some jelly toast for Bea, she called her sister. “Good morning, Liz! I’m sorry to call so early. How are you doing?”

“God what time is it?” Her sister yawned. “Jesus, Nat, who gets up at this hour?!”

Natalie smiled. “It’s 9:30, Liz. You should be up by now.”

“9:30 is for losers,” she grumbled.

“Hey I have a huge favor to ask you.” Natalie sighed.

“What’s wrong?”

“It looks like I’m gonna need to find a job soon to pay our bills and I can’t afford to send Bea to daycare and I really only trust her with you …” she faded, hoping Liz would jump up and offer to watch her.

Liz was quiet for the longest time so Natalie finished her sentence.

“I was hoping I could leave her with you during the day while I work.”

“Are you sure that’s smart?” Liz finally said.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I don’t know…I’m not exactly mature and responsible. I can’t cook and I sure as hell can’t clean or keep a child. What does Keith think about it? I know he doesn’t like me watching her.”

“We’re in a tight spot right now, Liz. We don’t have a choice. It’s either get a job or get another loan.”

“Wow I didn’t realize it was that bad, babe. Do you need to borrow some money? I can give you a coup—“

“No, I’m not asking you for money. I’d never do that. I just need someone to watch Bea until we get out of this small money problem.” Natalie sighed, handing Bea her toast and walking into the other room. “I don’t know what we’re going to do about Bea’s Christmas presents … Santa is broke this year. It’s going to break her heart.”

Liz was quiet. “Yeah Nat, I’ll watch her. It’s the least I can do.”

“Thank you so much, Lizzy. I owe you so much.” Natalie expressed gratitude.

They hung up and Natalie ate her own toast, watching Bea silently.

That night, Keith came home, stomping his boots and shrugging off his coat. “Natalie?” he called through the dark house.

He flicked the lights on and gasped.

“Surprise!” Bea yelled with Natalie. They had decorated the house for Christmas. Lights and tinsel were hung everywhere, the stockings by the fireplace and the mistletoe hung above the door.

Natalie walked over to him and kissed him softly. “Surprise, sweetie.”

“Who did all this?” He asked, picking Bea up and tickling her. “Was it you?”

She squealed with delight, kicking her legs out. “We wanted to surprise you!”

“Well I’m surprised alright!” He laughed, setting her down. “Go get ready for bed and I’ll read you a bedtime story, okay?”

She ran off to her bedroom and he looked at Natalie with a frown. “Why did you hang up all this shit?”

Natalie looked confused. “It’s not shit, Keith. It’s decorations for Christmas. Bea wanted to surprise you and Santa with all the decorations. We also made cookies.”

Keith walked over to the wall socket and unplugged the Christmas lights, forcefully. “Did you not see how much we’re paying for electricity? These aren’t helping! And we can’t afford to make cookies. Were you even thinking at all, Natalie?”

Natalie crossed her arms. “You don’t have to be an asshole about it. It’s the holidays. We’re supposed to be happy.”

“I’m not happy! This face is not happy. I don’t think you realize the severity of this situation. Did you even go looking for a job?” He raised his voice.

“Yeah, Keith. I did. I called a friend of mine at the bank. I got a job. It’s a good paying job too. I was going to tell you, but you’re kinda being a jerk right now.”

“I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, Natalie, you know that! Don’t turn this on me making me sound like the bad guy.”

“It’s almost Christmas! What are we going to do about Bea’s presents? Do you want to tell her Santa isn’t coming this year? I’m trying to make the house happy. Sure, we’re in a shitty rut right now, but I’m making the best of it for Bea! You could do the same, you know!”

They heard a sniffle from the hallway. “Bea?” Keith called, walking over to find her sitting on the floor.
Her lip was pushed out and she looked like she was about to cry.

“Santa isn’t coming?”

Keith picked her up and laid her head against his chest. “No sweetie, Mommy and I are just talking. Of course Santa is coming. Go back to bed, Bea. I’ll be in there in a little bit to tuck you in.”

“Why are you and Mommy fighting?” she whimpered.

Natalie walked over to her and kissed her, wrapping her arm around Keith. “We’re okay, baby. We’re just having a grown up conversation right now. Everything is fine. Go back to your room.”

Keith kissed her again and set her down, watching her walk sadly back to her room. When her door shut, he sighed turning around to face Natalie.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have taken my anger out on you.” He hugged her.

She wrapped her arms around his stomach and buried her face in his shoulder. “I’m sorry too. I just want things to be happy. We don’t need Bea to know about our problems. She’s only four and excited for Christmas to come. We just need to work it out for her. I got the job and Liz promised to take care of Bea for us. Everything will work out fine, I promise.”

He kissed the top of her head. “I love you, Natalie.”

She pulled away and kissed his lips. “The cookies are still warm and gooey from the oven if you want one.”

He sighed, looking longingly at the kitchen. “I better go read that story to Bea before she falls asleep.”

“Let her know everything is fine.” Natalie smiled. “Let her know Santa will be coming this year.”