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Authors: Christine Bush

Christmas Daisy (4 page)

BOOK: Christmas Daisy
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Chapter Six

 

 

The news of the Christmas pageant had spread like wildfire through the school. By the time the teenagers had come back to her room, they were already excited about the prospects, and fighting over roles.

“I’m goi
ng to be Joseph,” announced Tyrone with teen aged authority. “He’s important.”


I think I should be one of the three kings,” said Jimmy, puffing out his chest.  “It would be cool to be rich for a change.”

“Well, my name’s Maria, so it only figures that I shoul
d be Mary, don’t you think?” Maria flipped her long hair, and several girls nodded in agreement. “I will make a most awesome baby-mama.”

And so it went.  After letting them chat for a few minutes, Daisy steered their focus toward the afternoon math lesson, and proceeded to have a very normal afternoon.  Except for her thoughts.

Her thoughts raced, bouncing from her early childhood memories and ideas about Christmas to the soul  scorching flashbacks of the night that took both her mother and her father from her world.  Her mouth ran dry. At some moments, her heart rate played tricks on her, but she got through the afternoon.

“You can talk about this tomorrow,” she offered when the topic came up again.  Miss Gracie sent a note came around, announcing the first practice after school, for all students wanting to be involved, and for all staff who cared to help.

Was she willing to help?  It was such a small staff, she knew every pair of hands would be needed.  But still, she had a right to her feelings.  She’d done therapy sessions after the accident, in the horrible six months when she had learned to cope with life again.  She had quietly finished her degree, keeping the focus on her teaching certificate.  But she had slowly withdrawn from life.  And then she had taken the assignment to teach far away, across the ocean, in a different culture, a different environment.

But now?  She was here, and so was Christmas.  She thought of the kids’ enthusiasm, she thought of the stricken look on Ben Wilson’s face when she had rejected the request to be involved in the contest.  Without even trying, she had caused him great pain.  And she felt awful.  She’d have to find a way to be supportive, and still protect the smashed up places in her heart.

After the dismissal chime rang, and the class was excused for the day, she picked up her guitar from the corner. She sat quietly in her empty room, strumming a note here and there.

Daisy’s fingers felt stiff
, she could feel perspiration on her brow, her shoulders tense.  She closed her eyes, fingers running carefully over the strings.

“Silent Night, Holy Night,” her voice came out in a shaky whisper, as pain flowed through
her body, nerves on fire.  She willed herself to go on, to fight through the feelings that ravaged her body.

“Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.”  She was almost breathless as she finished. With shaking hands, she lowered the guitar to the floor, forcing herself to take in a giant gulp of air.

Hyper-focused on her body, the song, the guitar, she hadn’t heard the heavy wooden door of her classroom slowly open.   As she sucked in a second breath of air, she became aware of things around her.  Was it air movement in the room? A soft noise?  Slowly, still in a state of shock, she turned to face the doorway behind her.

Ben Wilson stood there.  His face was open, reflecting a myriad of feelings.
He knew. In a flash, she saw the compassion, the understanding, the empathy, the questions..

Something inside of her broke.  Her grief driven emotions had been pent up for over five years.  She had gone from day to day, lesson to lesson, her teaching being her distraction, keeping those feelings at bay.  Being back in this country, and having to face even the idea of Christmas head on, the solid wall of the dam had been cracked.   

And the moment of reality, hearing of a school Christmas Pageant and the request of her involvement, had been enough to break through that dam.  The result was far from a trickle of emotions.  It was an emotional flood.

Seeing him standing there, his care clearly written on his face, he was like a beacon of safety in the emotional storm.  She felt raw and alone. Though her eyes suddenly filled with tears to make the world she looked out upon blurry, she crossed the twenty five steps from her desk to the doorway, and flung herself into his arms.

No matter what her resolve about relationships, or her determination to stand on her own two feet to embrace the future, at this pivotal moment in time, all she wanted was to have Benjamin Wilson wrap his long strong arms around her.  Which by the feel of his intense hug, he was more than willing to do.  No matter that it would make things complicated, no matter she’d have to deal with the aftermath tomorrow, for this one moment, she let feelings win.

Locked in his embrace, she began to cry.  It wasn’t just a tearful escape.  She let out long giant sobs, so intense that her knees grew weak, her breathing got choppy, her eyes closed , blocking out the light of the day.
  And he held her tight, not letting her fall, not letting her go through it alone.  He didn’t say a word, just softly stroked her hair with one hand, while the other held her close.

She could feel his warm and comforting breath on her neck, the gentle stroking along her backbone.  She had no idea how long the storm lasted, but Daisy knew it had been it had been a long time.
The sky outside the windows had turned from later afternoon sunshine to early evening darkness.  Slowly, her breath slowed, and her pulse returned to normal.  She could no longer feel the pounding in her head.  However, as her own body slowed down, she became aware of the strong male body that held her.  She could hear the gentle pounding of his heart, with her ear nestled against his chest.  She could smell the clean wholesome smell of him, like freshly washed cotton, and a hint of spicy soap.  Her cheek rested on his well worn cotton sweater.  She didn’t want to move. 

But she had to move.

She sighed.  “I’m so sorry. But thank you.”  She still had her face pressed into his shoulder, so the words came out a bit muffled.

“No need for apology.”  His hand left her back and stroked her hair, softly, with a kindness that touched her heart.  And the rest of her.  Her body tingled at his stroke.  “Glad to be here.”

Slowly she lifted her head, as if hypnotized, longing to stare into his eyes.  She felt connected, cherished.  But she also felt very uncomfortable.  She had spent years trying to keep her distance, both physically and emotionally, from everyone on a personal level.  But for some reason she didn’t want that distance. 

She looked into his eyes, stunned at the intimate way he looked back at her.  As the classroom darkened to match the evening outside, she stood, not having any clue as to what to do next.

They sat beside each other on the desk, with no words at first.  The darkness settled around them.

“I’m sorry for springing the Christmas idea on you so suddenly. I had no idea what it would mean to you.” He said.

“Oh, how could you have known. I have a long story you know.”

He nodded in the dark, reaching down and taking her hand.  “I heard part of it, Daisy,” he said with honesty.  “I happened to get a phone call from Hugh Highfield today, and he mentioned Christmas might be a burden. And why.”

She felt her face redden, felt a rush of heat In her cheeks, even in the dark.  “How embarrassing. So he knows about my  meltdown? That was so unprofessional. Again, I’m sorry.”

Ben chuckled. “No , I didn’t tell him that.  I just let him tell me why Christmas might be a problem.  He seems very concerned about you.”

“He’s a nice man,” she agreed. “Quite a businessman, and has turned into quite a supporter of non profit organizations. But also,” she sighed, “He helped me with a lot of the legal and financial decisions after my parents died.  I couldn’t deal. I just left to teach in Africa, as soon as the opportunity arose.”

“It must have been awful, losing you
r parents like that.” His voice was low, and sitting in the dark, he stroked her hand.

“It was.”   Little shards of memories flitted throu
gh her mind. They stung, but not with the intensity of an hour ago.  She didn’t push them away.

He was silent.

“I’m going to do this, Ben. I’m going to help with the concert the best I can.  Christmas is a reality. I have to learn to deal with it, even if I never embrace it again.”

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.
I mean it. Though if you do, your help will be appreciated.  The kids are excited.  In the past, did you celebrate Christmas?”

She opened
her mind, and let the memories flow .  The familiar but long neglected Christmas carols swirled in her brain, pictures of family trees, piles of packages, the smell of Christmas cookies.  Yes, she had embraced Christmas.  It had been an integral part of her life, her family.  Her father had been a minister, and they had been immersed in Christmas.

And then there had been the mind boggling accident, the end of everything she had known and loved.  And the end of Christmas for her.  It had simply been too painful.  But that
had been then, and this was now.  It was time for her to face these feelings and move on. She rubbed her hands against her denim covered thighs, feeling determination.

“I’ll help you.  I can’t say I’ll be the greatest help.  But I’ll be as professional as I can. I promise.”

“That’s more than enough.” He stood up then, turning himself so he looked right into her eyes.  She felt a giant flash of connection.  What was it about this man? “There’s costumes, and scenery, programs and posters. Lots to do. And help with the kids, of course. We want to have everybody in the pageant.”

She nodded, feeling even a little excitement, along with her rumbling apprehension. The students would get a lot out of this experience.  She would focus on that.  And she would get by.

Time had passed, and it was well into the evening by the time they left the school, locking the doors behind them. 

“Let me give you a ride home,”
Ben offered, and despite her discomfort at the thought, she climbed into his aged Jeep and appreciated the convenience.  It was nice not to have to bear with the bus trip for once.  All her emotions had left her tired, drained.

She had faced a lot, but wasn’t ready yet to face the multitude of feelings she had felt when he had wrapped his arms around her.  Gratefully, he didn’t press her to figure o
ut what, if anything, the time in his embrace had meant.  She just wasn’t ready to think about it, at least not today.

She looked back at him as she climbed the five ste
ps leading up to the front porch of her apartment building.  He was watching her, and gave a little wave as she opened the door. Then the Jeep pulled away from the curb, and he was gone.

Daisy stepped inside, and climbed the wide wooden stairway to her second floor apartment. She curled up on the end of the sofa, feet tucked underneath, hugging an end pillow.  So many feelings.  The swirl of Christmas memories made her feel sadness, loss, but then the little joyful memories broke through, too.  She remembered her mother’s bright smile as she decorated the Christmas tree, her father’s booming (and slightly off key) voice as he belted out “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” at the start of so many church Christmas pageants.  She remembered the darkness of those first days after learning they were gone.  And then feeling… nothing.

As the feelings broke loose,  it all began to make a kind of sense.  Her mind, her heart, had shut down in a way, not able to process or accept the loss and the tragedy.  The feelings had been too intense to bear, so she had handled it the best she could at the time. She had pushed the feelings down, and had run away at the first chance she could.  Daisy had enveloped a whole new life in that little African village.  She had found a mission in her teaching, a way to be involved in the world, without being truly “involved in the world”.  She had kept on going, by keeping herself apart.

But there had been a big price to that.  In shutting down those tragic and painful feelings, she had also shut down the good ones.  She hadn’t found love.  She hadn’t  connected to people.

Until tonight.  More feelings hit her like a tsunami.  Amidst all the fierce pain she had felt,  she had felt comfort, and connection, caring, and appreciation.  She had felt all these things while nestled safely and unexpectedly in Ben Wilson’s arms.   How had this happened?

Ben was a kind man, attractive, and dedicated to his profession.  She had seen these things since the start. But with her inability to bond to anyone, (with the exception of the children she taught), she had refused to think about him any further, or in any different way.  Consciously, that is.

Because in her distress and loneliness tonight as she had attempted to face her Christmas ghosts and sing the familiar hymns, the one person she had longed for had been Ben.  What was that all about? And when she had turned around and found him standing in front of her, something major had cracked in her defensive shield.  She couldn’t believe how she had collapsed into his arms.

And to her absolute amazement, she had found comfort there.  She hadn’t wanted the feeling to end.  What did that mean?  She had spilled out her feelings, her memories, her pain to this man.  Sitting alone on her sofa, she wrapped her arms tightly around herself, as if to ward off a chill.  It had helped, all that comfort and listening.  But what did it mean?  And how was she ever going to face him tomorrow?

BOOK: Christmas Daisy
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