Christmas Call

Written by Kerry Elizabeth Blickenderfer-Black on 27 December, 2013

Sasha tipped the last of the cabernet into her mouth, swallowed, and closed her eyes.  It warmed her throat, soothing the pervasive lump.  Another holiday, with its family obligations, completed.  Every year, she visited her mother and father for dinner.  Her sister, Talia, and her family were there, as always, with her new baby.  Little Edith, the niece, cried every time that Sasha came near her. 

Sasha rubbed her throbbing temple.  Mom laughed, exclaiming that Sasha must not be cut out for motherhood.  Of course, Sasha laughed along.  At this point in her life, Sasha expected menopause would seize her middle-aged body before a child could be conceived, so it was just as well that motherhood not be a part of her aspirations. 

However, at one point in her life, Sasha did desire a little one to raise.  As it worked out, she was glad that her marriage did not produce such an heir, though.  When her husband, Eric, left her two years ago, the divorce would have been significantly more complicated if a child was involved.  As it was, they signed their marriage-ending paperwork and parted ways without obligations to see one another again.

Based on this “indiscretion,” her devout family looked at Sasha as a failure despite a successful professional career.  Nothing, in their estimation, was a substitute for an intact family.  Sasha sighed and turned out the lights on her only holiday decoration, a table-top Christmas tree.

The water felt warm on her hands as she washed the frosted globe of her wine glass when the telephone’s ring disturbed the quiet of her apartment.  Drying her hands with the rough terry of the kitchen towel, Sasha grabbed the telephone.  The plastic felt cool to the touch. 

She turned the cordless over to read the name registered on the caller identification and jumped, startled.  Eyebrows furrowed, Sasha considered whether to answer.  On the line was her ex-husband, Eric, with whom she had not spoken since the divorce two years ago.  An odd fluttering erupted in her chest.  Perhaps the miraculous season brought a change of heart.  Could she forgive his indiscretions of the past?  Telephone heavy in her left hand, Sasha tapped her lips with a manicured index finger. 

Not accustomed to indecision, Sasha boldly pressed the accept call button.  “Hello?”

“Uh, yeah, hi, Sasha, happy holiday.”  He did not feel that he needed to identify himself.  She should know who it was without caller id, because he was Eric.  He was important.  His indiscretions should be forgiven because he said so.  Just like that, bold as brass, her Grandmother Margot would have said.

“Happy holiday to you as well, Eric.”  Sasha’s manner was clipped and professional.  An awkward silence ensued.  Sasha flipped the switch on the tree, finding its light cheering.  She considered opening another bottle of wine.  “How have you been?” he asked.  She suspected that he did not really care, but she answered that she was doing well any way. 

Curious, Sasha asked, “So, how have you been?”

“Great, great, really great.  I guess that you heard my big news?”  He paused, expectantly.  Sasha hadn’t a clue.  After the divorce, she focused exclusively on furthering her career, setting aside awkward social interactions where one-time mutual friends felt a need to choose a side. 

He cleared his throat before continuing.  “Do you remember Annabeth?”  Annabeth, the woman at his office with whom he enjoyed an extramarital affair while they were married.  Annabeth was the unforgivable reason that their relationship ended.  Sasha looked longingly passed the wine rack to the hard liquor.  She swallowed hard to keep steady her professionalism.  “Yes.”

“Well, I was wondering if I, if we, if well,” Eric stammered.  ‘Spit it out,’ Sasha thought, pouring two fingers worth of amber Gentleman Jack for company.  She offered no comfort, just felt the heat rise in her cheeks as the whisky made its way to down her throat.  The lights on her tiny Christmas tree blurred either from the effect of the alcohol or the tears that welled up in her eyes. 

“Do you remember the little star that we got when we were in Bermuda?”  The star that topped her tree winked merrily.  Handcrafted on that pink-sanded island with real gems, the graceful white-gold star was the only keepsake that Sasha retained from their marriage, a recollection that once they were happy together.  The tears pooled, then made her way over reddened cheeks.  “Well, see, the thing is, Annabeth and I got married the other day.  Yep, we took that big step.” 

Sasha pictured the beautiful bride, cloaked in white fur, poinsettias as a bouquet, looking like a Christmas card.  Eric would fidget in his tuxedo, pulling at his tie.  He always fidgeted when he was nervous. 

“And I, well, we hoped that we could have that star.”

Sasha blinked.  Eric called after two years without contact to ask for a honeymoon keepsake to present to his new bride, the woman with whom he had an affair.  Suddenly, the star did not seem that special, any memories associated with it tarnishing the metals and dulling the gemstones.  She did not want it, but neither did she want Eric to have it.

Sasha tipped her nearly empty cut crystal tumbler in a toast to audacity and the end of fond recollection.  Through the refractions of the whisky glass, the lights danced like a drunken rainbow. 

“Sure, Eric.  I have it listed for sale on ebay.  The current bid is $2000.”