Afterward, she went by Larry Max's cafe; she just couldn't wait any longer to see it. The food was down home and delicious as she knew it would be. He was quite busy, but he stopped long enough to have a few words with her. She was amazed to hear of his recent move to a new house and realized with a start that he was ripe to enjoy attention from some woman or another, after all these years.
Of course, I'm happy for him, she thought, it's just that I guess I never really thought about him with another woman. I wonder if he has his eye on anyone in particular...
The week before Christmas Jenny and Lonnie and the girls attended the school Christmas pageant, where the girls sang carols with their class, and a holiday party over at the Cooke's house across the street. So they actually enjoyed the fact that it was just them; Lonnie, Jenny, Loni Faye and Liara, on Christmas Eve. However; this was not unusual for them. They had cultivated few friends since they married. Jenny had already known Bobbi Jo Cooke from back when she was still married to Larry Max and she'd remained a loyal friend. Lonnie was casual friends with a good many of his customers (and his all-female staff, which irritated Jenny) and he still saw Nicky Ferguson from time to time, but their life was still insular. Of course, Loni Faye and Liara needed their parents attention anyway, but the truth was that both of their reputations had been somewhat unsavory, especially Jenny's. Many of her one-time neighbors had been avoiding her since before her divorce. Mostly these consisted of wives who, naturally enough, took a dim view of someone who treated their marriage vows as cavalierly as Jenny had. Lonnie didn't fare quite so badly due to a combination of the fact that one; he had been single when he wandered from woman to woman and, two, there was definitely a double standard alive and well in Pleasantview.
But on this evening they were unconcerned about their popularity or lack thereof; they were happy to be celebrating the holiday with their precious daughters. When Santa Claus made his appearance, Jenny and Lonnie were still up; but the girls were fast asleep. Or so their parents thought. In reality, Loni Faye had been so revved up that she couldn't sleep; Santa was coming at any moment! So she went into Liara's bedroom and woke her drowsy sister up to wait with her for the sound of sleigh bells. Soon she had Liara wide awake and practically dancing with excitement as well.
When they heard someone chuckling in a deep voice, they scampered downstairs. Once Loni Faye saw Santa in the flesh she began hopping up and down and laughing.
Impulsively, she ran over to him crying out,
“Merry Christmas, Santa!”
Throwing her arms around him as though he was family, she even cajoled him into playing “Red Hands” with her.
Bashful Liara ducked her head and quietly started playing with the new toys.
After admonishing Loni Faye and Liara to be good girls so he could bring them lots of nice things next Christmas, too, Santa was on his way. The girls had fun with their new teddies and toys while their parents cuddle on the sofa.
After the girls were safely ensconced in their beds Jenny couldn't help but think of her other children. She did every year at this time especially. They would all be celebrating together at the Big House tomorrow. Even thought Larry Max had moved out, their youngest son, Andy, lived there with his wife Holly and they would be throwing a big-old-fashioned get-together. She knew because Larry Max had told her. She also knew that her youngest son Andy had three babies now, the twins who were two, Arliss and Alexa, and a new baby boy, Bradley. Andy had not called to tell her, but his wife had sent an announcement with a photo of the newborn and a wallet-sized professional photo of the twins. She didn't remember Holly among Andy's high school friends back in the day--they didn't date until college--but she appreciated her thoughtfulness. Their children were the first grandchildren Jenny had. She was not particularly happy to be old enough for grandchildren. Lonnie was 15 years younger than her and she was very conscious of the fact. However; she wanted very much to see them. As for Chelsea and her husband, Jenny hardly remembered Trey. He'd dated Chelsea during her last two years of high school, but Jenny was gone from the house by that time. Mike's wife, Lucy, she'd never met at all because they didn't get together until college. She knew they were all thinking that this was what she deserved and she guessed they were right. But her heart still ached to see and talk to her four oldest children and their families. Only Corky kept in touch at all and that was by phone two or three times a year. She didn't know his wife, Elle, either, but they always sent a Christmas card.
"Maybe this next year will be the one where your sons and daughter will want to see you again," Lonnie said hopefully and Jenny realized he knew where her thoughts were. She only nodded; she didn't trust herself to speak without tears and she would not ruin their Christmas. She had given up everything to have Lonnie and their daughters, and never regretted it, but in the last few years she was more and more torn. They were her very life and she would die for them. But at the time she turned her back on her former life she had realized all that she was losing or how impossible it would be to ever get any piece of it back. For years now she had still hoped to have her cake and eat it, too. Now she acknowledged at last that she had made choices and they had consequences attached to them.
The snow was once more falling softly outside as Jenny tried to sleep, Lonnie's arms tight around her. There had to be some way to unite her youngest daughters with Chelsea and the rest of the family. Now she not only wanted it for Chelsea and herself, but for Loni Faye and Liara, tool. Maybe Lonnie was right; maybe this year would be the one where she could make a miracle happen.