Violet had just finished tying a decorative bow around the last gift she needed to wrap when she heard a car door slam just outside her window.
“Goodness, that can't be Sophie back so soon,” she muttered as she placed the small package under the Christmas tree with all the others and went to see whose footfalls she heard crunching up the gravel path. Before she reached the front door, it flung open.
“Merry Christmas, Mom!”
“Kenny!” she gasped.
“That's me!” he said, closing the door on the frigid blast behind him. “Your long lost baby boy is finally home. Still love me?”
She laughed and rushed to him. “What do you think, you silly boy?” she said. “I've missed you so much, Kenny.”
He scooped her up in a bone crushing embrace. “I've missed you, too, Mom,” he said. “Mom, are you getting smaller or am I getting bigger?”
She laughed and kissed him. “Probably both. Oh, Kenny, it's so good to see you.”
“Good to be back home.”
“Let me look at you,” she said, stepping back slightly. “Still thin as a rail, and what is it about beards all of a sudden? Must everyone look like Grizzly Adams now?”
“Who?” he said, shrugging out of his coat.
“Some wild man from even before my time... a TV show my father watched back in the day, but anyway... I don't suppose you'd ever understand it. Ought to have said ZZ-Top I guess.”
“Oy...um...Duck Dynasty, then?” she said.
“Oh, them I know! But my beard is neat and trim, Mom. You can't complain,” he said while passing a hand over his whiskered chin.
“Actually, come to think of it...you look more like Kris Kringle...before he became Santa Claus I mean,” she said with an impish grin.
He made a weird face. “Yikes,” he muttered, removing his hat and scarf, revealing his thick, copper colored hair.
“Anyway, I didn't know you were coming so soon,” Violet said. “I was expecting you on Christmas Eve.”
“I finished the last order and we high-tailed it outta there before anybody else could bother us,” he replied.
“Where's Janice?” Violet said, only now recalling her daughter-in-law. “You didn't leave her home, did you?”
“She's at her mother's...of course,” he said with obvious disdain. “Donna has a hissy fit any time Janice comes here to see you first, but I wasn't about to give her the satisfaction of going in to see her first, so I dropped Janice off and came here to see my own mom.”
“Oh, Kenny, it's not a competition. You don't have to be that way on my account,” Violet said,trying for a disapproving look on her face, but loving him all the more for his undying loyalty. “That behavior toward her family will only cause problems between you and Janice and I don't want that to happen.”
“Nah, we're solid and I'm okay with the rest of her family,” Kenny said. “It's just her mom that's a pain in my ass. I know nothing will make that blasted woman like me, so what's the use in trying? I ruined her daughter's life, you know.”
“Oh, stop exaggerating!” Violet said. “Donna would never think that.”
“Uh, think it? She has said it many times right to my face.. and more reason for it now,” he muttered as he stuffed the coat into the hall closet. “So, got anything for your hungry baby boy?”
“Oh! Of course,” she said turning toward the kitchen. “I think Sophie might have left a bit of stew.”
“I don't remember her ever leaving any food before,” he said.
Violet giggled. “Well, knowing that, I made an extra big pot, because I can never tell when someone might pop in...invariably with a rumbly tumbly.”
“Oh... uh...you know...Sophie brings home the occasional stray,” she replied evasively.
“I'm assuming you mean the two-legged variety. She was never one to like animals too much.”
“I do not feed beef stew to stray animals, as you well know,” she sharply said as she went to the stove with a large bowl and scooped out a hefty serving.
At that moment, Calendula chose to walk in, her fluffy tail up in the air. She glared at Kenny for a brief moment then sat next to the side door lazily blinking up at Violet. “Meew,” she said.
“And speak of the devil,” Kenny said, sitting down at the table.
“Don't call her that! She's my best buddy...most of the time,” Violet said. “What is it now, Calendula? You know you can't go out in all this snow and cold. You'll become a kitty-cycle in ten minutes. Besides, all the moles have gone into hiding for the winter ...likely into the garage and garden shed.”
Kenny laughed. “Then let her into the garage so she can do some good,” he said, just as Violet brought him a steaming bowl of savory beef stew. “Mom, that smells so good!”
“Tastes even better, if I do say so myself,” she replied, getting the cutting board which held half a loaf of homemade bread, a tub of whipped butter and a long, serrated knife. “That might be a good idea. I would love it if she caught that mouse that I saw the other day peeking out at me from behind the tub where I store my summer bulbs. I swear if he gets in there and eats my cannas, gladiolus and dahlias I'll...I'll...”
“Fire Ginger and get a new cat?” Kenny suggested between mouthfuls.
“Hmm... can't do that...come on, Calendula, let's see if you can earn your keep for a change,” Violet said, opening the door to the garage and quick as lightning, the cat lept through the door. “Should I leave the light on for her, do you think?”
“No, the lights on will make the mouse hide out. This way he thinks the coast is clear and with a little time and patience, Kitty will get her mouse.”
“Sounds good. So, um, if Janice's mother is all bent out of shape about you spending any time with me...will you two be staying with them?” Violet asked, sitting down across from him.
“Oh, hell no! I'm not staying there! I just finished telling you the woman hates me. Not about to endure any of her snide remarks when we're supposed to be all merry Christmas and good will towards man,” he said. "I assume you have some room for us?"
"Of course! Your room is still....kinda empty."
He grinned. "Kinda?"
"Well it's now my craft room so...it's a bit messy right now, but I'm done with wrapping presents and all that so, I'll fix it up in a flash for you and Janice." she said watching him spreading a copious amount of butter onto the bread.
“I've missed your homemade bread, Mom.”
“I'm surprise you can taste it under all that butter!” she said, although she laughed. “You're eating like a starved orphan. Doesn't Janice cook?”
“She's been too busy with school and studying. That's how she managed to graduate early...she doubled up on everything,” he said, slowing his eating somewhat. “I've been doing the cooking...if you can call cooking opening up a can of this and a box of that and tossing them together and sticking it all into the microwave and hoping what comes out is something almost edible.”
Violet laughed. “I think you can...gotta do what you gotta do. At least you aren't dead,” she said.
“Nope, we're both still kicking.”
“Extremely! Business has really taken off,” he said. “Which reminds me...I got your present out in the truck.”
Violet smiled and briefly wondered what it could be...likely some elegant furniture which will look too precious to use.“That can wait,” she said. “Want some more stew or are you thinking a bit of dessert?”
His face lit up like a beacon. “Whatcha got?”
“Both apple and pumpkin pie, loads of cookies, although those are for the party and I have some chocolate cake,” she said, getting up from the table, going to the counter to retrieve a dessert plate. “So, which one?”
“Does it have to be just one?” he asked sadly.
She laughed. “You're as bad as Vic...uh... as Sophie,” she muttered, turning her reddening face away from him.
He waited for his mother's return to the table, his hands tented in front of him, his chin resting on them. She brought him a little slice of each pie and the rest of the cake. “Thanks, Mom,” he said, but he did not start eating. Instead he stared at her as she fussed around the kitchen. “Mom?”
“Would you like some coffee or I could make you some hot cocoa?” she said.
“Whatever is easier,” he said, and again he waited, but she continued fussing needlessly. “Mom?”
“Yes?” she said, placing a cup of coffee in front of him. She was just about to whisk away again but he grabbed her hand. “Don't you want some milk?”
He shook his head. “Mom, are we never going to talk about it?” he said, tugging on her hand, forcing her to sit beside him.
“About what?” she said, getting nervous now.
He stared at her.
He sighed and instead of answering her he picked up the fork and broke off a piece of apple pie. “Tastes good, just like I remember.”
“Thank you,” she said, relaxing slightly, stirring honey into her tea, then lifting it to her lips. “I stick to a recipe when I find one that works.”
“So...are we invited to the wedding or not?” he said.
Violet choked on her tea.
©2016 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved