Introduction

August 30, 2010

The mid-morning sun stretches its rays across the little valley below. Lazy cattle smack their tales in gratitude. A patchwork of fields lie still and peaceful, as a lonely tractor shuffles through them. The mossy, meandering river ribbons itself through the picture that takes life outside my passenger window. I turn my attention back indoors.

“She thinks my tractor’s sexy!” Jake, my loving husband and lucky “Ace,” unashamedly belts out the country lyrics along with the car radio.

“da-da-ba-ma-ma!” Our 1yr. Old, Cyrus, accompanies from the back seat, as we make our weekly venture down to church. A smile tugs at the corners of my mouth, as I struggle to stifle my laughter. This song has to be a sin on some level.

We round the last turn coming down off of the hill, and turn onto the single road running through our tiny town. To the left of us, sits our teeny library and post office who co-exist in the old restaurant. Next door, is our one and only little gas station. The right side of the street is a tad-bit more exciting with its hair-salon, take-out deli, volunteer fire-dept. station, and the community center that substitutes as a church every Sunday morning. One had to love it here. Where else would you be considered rude for not waving at every passing vehicle, simply because everybody really does know everybody? Where else could you get picked up an hour late, because your friend got caught up talking at the post office? Where else could someone take a tiny truth, turn it into an elaborate story, and have the entire town believe the lie, simply, to cure boredom? Yes, this was Willowmoss, and this was home.

“… She’s even kind of crazy ‘bout my farmer’s tan. She’s the only one who really understands what gets me!” As we pull into the community center, I join the rest of the Hill family. “She thinks my tractor’s sexy!” Watch out world. Here comes the Hills of Willowmoss.

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ho-ho-ho part 2

August 20, 2010

     

“Was that Desiree Blackwood I saw you talking to at church this morning?” Marie clambers around in my refrigerator trying to find something edible to create a fast and easy lunch. Every other day of the week, I get a great deal of pleasure from cooking, but Sunday is my day of rest. Sunday lunches usually consist of leftovers or some version of microwavable burritos that are quietly warmed, while Cyrus enjoys his after-church nap.

“Hey, grab me a can of diet Mtn. Dew while you’re in there.” Aww… yes. This bubbley substance is my life-water and beloved addiction. “Yep, Desiree. The one and only.’

“What has she been up to?” Marie calls out from the second shelf.

“Oh, just the usual seducing of Father Christmas,” I snort.

“It wouldn’t be hard to do in that microscopic dress,” my Ace strolls up behind me and pecs my head with a kiss.

Marie’s baffled face pops out of the refrigerator causing a tousled mound of red ringlets to dance across her porcelain shoulders. Confusion folds across her brow, and her brilliant, blue eyes blink incessantly. “What, on earth, are you two talking about?!” I motion for her to contain herself and not wake the slumbering one-year-old in the next room.

“Celest didn’t tell you?” Ace looks genuinely happy that he is the first to horrify Marie. Grabbing some leftover pizza, he smiles. “Desiree is about to take on a new life in the North Pole.” Marie looks to me for a more expanatory answer. I grimace as I hold out a copy of the picture I had first seen this morning.

“Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” Marie snatches the picture out of my hand. “That’s not Santa Clause; that’s his grandpa!”

“Be nice,” I don’t know why I feel the need to defend this relationship. “Desiree did seem to be happy, and we’ve never even met… Frederick.”

“It’s an old guy’s name!” Marie declares absolutely aghast.

“I just think we should give him a chance, before we write him off completely.”

” Or we could just write him a list,” Ace retorts with a gleem  in his eyes.

I don’t know. They may be right. Frederick could be yet another Santa-pedifilist, but he and Desiree deserve the chance to succeed. When Jake and I had first announced our engagement, the entire town of Willowmoss had celebrated. We couldn’t go anywhere without congratulatory smiles and greetings being thrown our way. Unfortunately, one night of unrestrained passion five months into the engagement changed all that. Until after the wedding four months later, we decided to keep our pregnancy quiet, except to our parents and pastors. When our “predicament” leaked out into the public’s knowledge, our marriage was condemned to failure. At the time, I hadn’t understood why starting a family early was so dreadful. I still don’t, really. As repentant as we were, though, only time would heal the severed trust between our little family and the townsfolk. While we waited, I purposed in my heart to try not to judge another person in the same way we had been judged. After all, that was God’s job right? Seeing Desiree and Frederick’s portrait lying on my kitchen table, I knew that, as weird as it was, I had to give them a chance.

Ho-Ho-Ho

August 18, 2010

     I glance across the room and spot Marie sitting with her parents in their usual 3rd row from the back. Sitting in front of them is the Canburry’s; all 5 children are dressed in their Sunday best. At least 5 more groups of people mingle toward the front. Today is crowded. As our little family finds a row to claim,a familiar face catches my eye. Desiree Blackwood had not been seen in Willowmoss for over a year, but she hasn’t changed a bit. Her thick, dark hair cascades over her shoulders like a milk chocolate fountain. her form-fitted dress displays a perfectly proportioned figure, and her skin blends in front of me like coffee and cream.                                                                                                     

     How did I ever use to stand next to her?

     Catching my gaze, her doe eyes widen.”Celest!” she squeals.

     Tossing her a smile, I hand Cyrus off to Jake and make my way over to be assaulted by one of her “famous” hugs. After releasing me, she flips up her hand revealing a diamond the size of New Jersey and shoves a picture in my face.

     “I’m getting married!”

     Oh, it’s awkward… soooo awkward.

     The man clinging to her in the picture must be, at least, 20 years her elder. His bald head, snow-white beard, and jolly smile instantly remind me of Santa Clause. Seeing her pictured on his lap, sitting in such a sultry pose, reminds me of a dirty Christmas pic I had accidentally stumbled across on the internet. I force a congratulatory smile.

     “When’s the date?”

     “Next month,” she is practically hopping with giddy delight. “Sept. 1st. You have to come… my special day would be lacking without you there. Oh, and we must do dinner soon, as well. You always have been one of my closest friends!” She flashes me a knowing smile, but for the life of me, I don’t know what she is talking about. Desiree and I had once been friends, but it would be difficult to call it more than that. My mind had always categorized us more as “hangout-buddies.” At youth group or church events, we would sit together simply, because there was no one else to sit by.We were just too different to be close. She was the gorgeous, poodle-loving, giddy, talkative, hug-everyone, rich kind of girl. In highschool, boys would line up outside her window out night just to watch her breath. I, on the other-hand, was a shy, ordinary, no-touching-necessary kind of girl. In highschool, I was every boy’s friend and nobody’s fantasy. I was too below her, for her to reach down and get her hands dirty, and she was too far above me for me to grasp. When she left Willowmoss, I had not tried to stay in contact with her, and she had returned the favor… until now. I guess somewhere in the last year, not only did she decide to marry the jolly St.Nick, but also rename me as a best friend. She must really be desperate.