The children were out of school for the long awaited Christmas break, but in the Brooks home, it was not a welcome alternative to school. In fact the children in the Brooks home would have rather been in school all the way through Christmas.
“Why,” do you ask? Mr. and Mrs. Brooks are at wits end and are about to become Mr. and Miss.
Kevin the oldest would rather have a chemistry test than be at home. Kayla their youngest would leave early in the morning to spend the long days with her girlfriends.
Jeff Brooks is a bit of a business man who does not get as much business as his wife Sandra would like. Sandra is a reporter and an aspiring writer. She has written several books but published none of them. Her free lance work she does for the local paper barely pays the mortgage.
The Brooks home looks normal from the outside, on the inside things are clean and well kept, yet the air is cluttered with accusations, excuses, and mordant words of blame.
One night Jeff got on his side of his bed and was just drifting off to sleep as Sandra came into the room. She bustled about the room getting ready for bed, asking questions like, “How are we going to pay for the kid’s Christmas?” and, “What family activities do you plan on doing this Christmas since we don’t have any money.”
Jeff sat with his back to Sandra his eyes open looking at the wall. He did not say anything to Sandra, because he just felt the questions were only attacks, instead of actual legitimate questions.
Sandra got in the bed, making sure she stayed on her side. She said “You know what? You just go and do whatever you want this Christmas, I just don’t want you here messing it up for the kids and me.
The lights went out, but Jeff sat looking into the darkness. He needed refuge, he felt so mad at Sandra but he was done telling her. He had never before in his life ever considered anything extreme. It was only weeks before Christmas and the love was all gone, and his life was spinning out of control.
Jeff got up early. He called one of his contacts he had met weeks before. She had given him her number, and Jeff was out of options. “Yes,” said Jeff talking on the phone, “I will meet you at the park.”
Jeff grabbed a breakfast donut and some papers off the printer. He tucked them along with a few other things into a duffle bag and walked out the door. As he was walking down the road Jeff had too many emotions to sort out, so he let them consume him. He was scared, angry, jealous, and a bit hopeful. A bit hopeful that he would find the refuge he was looking for, even if it was in the wrong place.
At the park Jeff saw Erin’s car. Jeff met Erin a few weeks earlier, she was attractive, about ten years younger than Jeff, and she was an ambitious business woman. Jeff would have never thought he would do anything like this, even when Erin had given him her number.
Jeff got in Erin’s car and she smiled at him and said, “So, did you get out of your house Ok? Did your wife see you at all?” Jeff’s hands were trembling when he said “She does not suspect a thing, let’s go.”
That night Jeff sat at the dinner table quiet as usual, so nobody noticed anything out of the ordinary. Kevin and Kayla waded though the atmosphere to finish their dinner. Sandra sat and looked at Jeff. He felt in a way he had betrayed her, but what else did he have left? What he was doing was risky, but he felt Sandra left him no choice.
That Friday came and Jeff got up early in the morning like he always did. He was expecting a phone call. He sat and ate some breakfast as his children and wife slept. The phone rang and Jeff answered, “Hello,” Jeff said. “Jeff, this is Erin. Everything is good, so what does your day look like?” “I am free today.” Jeff replied. “Great,” Said Erin, “Meet me in ten minutes.” “I’ll be right there.” Jeff said. He hung up the phone. Up in his bedroom Sandra put the receiver back to where she had carefully picked it up from, she never guessed that Jeff had it in him.
That night rolled around and Jeff came home kind of late. He use to be afraid of Sandra whenever he came home late, but now he knew there was nothing she could say that could hurt him. He had taken risks in life but nothing this big and in a way it made him feel sort of invincible. Sandra could say anything.
“So Jeff, who is Erin?” Sandra asked as Jeff walked through the door. Well anything but that. “How do you know Erin?” Jeff asked. “That does not matter how I know.” said Sandra. “She is an associate I met on my trip to Denver last month.” Jeff said. Sandra removed herself and shut herself in her study. She knew where Jeff was going with the conversation, if she were to accuse him of anything she would have to get proof.
One morning Jeff called Erin back up and said, “What are you doing today?” Erin told him, “This all was so exciting.” “When can I meet with you next?” Jeff said, “how about in one hour only this time, at your office.” I will be there Erin said.
Jeff grabbed his coat and walked toward the door. Sandra came out of the hall way and said, “Who was that, and where are you going?” Jeff told her “I thought you told me you didn’t care what I did as long as I was gone, so here I am leaving.” Jeff walked out of the house and left Sandra fuming. She knew that is what she said, but that is not what she meant. What she was hoping to accomplish by using the hurtful words, was to be a catalyst of change for Jeff, but instead he was shutting her out.
Christmas morning came Sandra’s and Jeff’s bedroom was as cold as the December frost. Sandra and Jeff made their way downstairs. Jeff looked at Sandra and his children and then he felt ill. He wished he could have been a better husband, and a more loyal father. There were gifts under the tree which all belonged to the bank. And Sandra felt a little bit of guilt. Had she not been so hard on Jeff maybe he would have had more success as a business man.
Jeff felt culpable as well, and though it was Christmas morning there was a small piece of him hanging on for a Christmas miracle. Not because of him, but in spite of him. In his quest for peace he still felt he might have ruined anything he had left with Sandra.
After all the gifts were opened Kevin and Kayla left the room to go their separate ways with their new toys.
“You know,” said Sandra, “They were so much cheaper to shop for when they were younger.” “Amen to that,” Jeff said. Jeff sat in the Chair in the living room wanting to come clean with Sandra. He knew it was about time, and it was now or never.
“Sandra,” Jeff said. “There is something I need to tell you, I am not sure how you will react. I wanted the Children to be out of the room so I could tell you.” Sandra stood in the messy living room and braced herself emotionally, and Jeff pulled a brown package out from under the chair he was sitting on, and he handed it to Sandra.
“What is it?” Sandra asked. “It is a year’s worth of unpaid parking tickets.” Jeff said. “Just open it.” Sandra tore the paper and it fell to the floor. Shock came across Sandra’s face. The novel that came out of the package was, “The Gauntlet Request” The cover looked clean and new. It had the author’s name written in bold letters across the top, “SANDRA BROOKS.” What is this? Sandra said in shock.
Jeff said “I will let Erin explain it to you.” Jeff stood up as he dialed a number and handed Sandra the phone and Sandra said, “hello?” “Is this Sandra Brooks?” Erin asked. Sandra was still confused looking at Jeff she said “Ya..yes,” “It is so good to meet you. What you have in your hand is a rough unedited copy of the next best seller. Your husband really believes in you and said I had to look at your book. I am glad I did. This is going to be the best thriller since; well, ever.
Sandra stayed on the phone with Erin for a few more minutes, while Jeff stood next to her trying to listen to the conversation. Sandra then hung up and looked at Jeff speechless. “So are you mad?” Jeff asked. Sandra looked at her husband and she for a moment saw a little boy, vulnerable and thoughtful. “Jeff I am not mad, you gave me a Christmas present that nobody else could have given me. Something I have been searching for, for years; confidence.
“You had no idea how I would react, yet you…” Sandra stopped, tears filled her eyes. Jeff was crying too, Sandra hugged him. “We can love again,” Sandra said. “I would not want another woman in my life,” Jeff said. The two best friends, lovers, and confidants stood in the living room knee deep in wrapping paper hugging. “Merry Christmas my love,” Jeff said. The road ahead was not easy but it was bright, and a place where love could grow.