Chris nodded. “To be honest, I am afraid if I question too much, I may wake up back in my apartment, Lilly still gone, and me with no way of ever finding her as you all vanish.”
“I won’t desert you,” Mary said abruptly, and Chris took and held her hand beneath the table, which made her smile, the tears long forgotten.
“You say it is 1965. That makes no sense whatsoever, but okay. Where do we go from here? I hope we don’t have to go all the way back to a manger in Bethlehem, because that might take longer than a week.”
“No,” Plum said between scoops of pudding. “Not nearly that far.”
Roy nudged Plum, but Plum took a moment to lick his pudding bowl before he moved. “We need to find which route they have taken,” Roy said.
“That’s right,” Plum agreed. “We will cover the bill, so no worries on that score. Your money wouldn’t work here, anyway, unless you have some really old bills. We will catch you up in the morning. I recommend some good sleep. We may have a long day of travel tomorrow.”
As they headed off, Mary fidgeted in her seat, like one looking for a comfortable spot on the booth bench. Chris pushed in so their sides touched and he pushed Mary right up to the window. She could not escape. She looked at him, and the anxiety returned to her face. This time, she did not look surprised by what he asked.
“Are they human?” Chris had begun to let his imagination run wild. He thought maybe Lily got abducted by time traveling aliens, and he…and Mary…got lucky to find a couple of aliens that did not approve of kidnaping.
Mary sat silently staring up at Chris for what seemed like an eternity. Chris stared back and revised things in his mind. He decided she might be as old as twenty-three, and not the eighteen he first thought. Twenty-three would be a reasonable age for someone who was twenty-eight. He shouldn’t feel like he was robbing the cradle.
Finally, Mary shook her head, but said nothing. She turned her eyes to her coffee and worried her cup.
“So, they are aliens?” Chris said, with a straight face.
Mary let out a laugh, and a touch of spit which she just caught with her finger, and then her napkin. “No,” she said, and once again turned her smiling face to look at him. He looked curious. She told him. “They are elves. They are Christmas elves, which is why I believe they can take us to Lilly, if anyone can.” Mary watched Chris’ curious eyebrows go up. “And clearly, they are morons, too,” she added.
“No,” Chris countered. “Roy seems to have a brain.”
“Yes,” Mary said. “But he mostly doesn’t use it. He just goes along with whatever Plum says, and Plum says too much.”
“He does like to talk,” Chris said.
Mary laughed and nodded. Chris decided he was not ready to ask Mary how she knew Plum and Roy were Christmas elves. He did not want to consider asking about herself for fear of the answers, so instead, he took her hand and pulled her from the booth.
“We need to rest, as Plum said.” He took her outside, and she did not resist him. They got to the sidewalk, Mary holding tight to his hand. Chris did not want to let go of her hand. He distracted himself as an elderly black woman walked by on the sidewalk. She looked about fifty, in a thin winter coat and wearing a plain hat, and she carried several Christmas presents in her hands as she headed toward the parking lot. He said, “Merry Christmas.”
The woman looked startled, but only for a moment. She turned her head, and the serious and sad look left her face and got replaced by a smile. “Merry Christmas,” she returned, and kept walking.
Mary tugged on Chris’ sleeve to regain his attention. “You have questions?” Her voice sounded flat, like she knew he had questions, and she was prepared to answer whatever he asked.
Chris looked at her and nodded. “How old are you?”
For the third time, Mary did not expect that question. “How old do you want me to be?” she answered, and grinned on the inside. The grin nearly burst out of her, but they got interrupted. The old woman got stopped at the edge of the parking lot by bikers. Two blocked her way and the gothic looking girl behind them laughed to watch. When one of the bikers knocked the Christmas packages out of the old woman’s hand, Chris ran to them. Mary followed.
“Hey,” Chris yelled to get their attention. “Come on, guys. It’s Christmas,” he said. He bent down to pick up one of the packages, so Mary helped. ‘Give it a break for one day a year at least. Okay?” Chris looked over the lot and saw a policeman by his car, just three cars in. The policeman watched, but did not appear inclined to do anything, so Chris shouted to him, “It’s Christmas.”
“Who the hell are you?” one of the bikers asked.
“She’s a negro,” the other said, as if that justified anything, and the gothic girl, who looked remarkably like a gothic version of Courtney, looked angry.
“She is a human being,” Chris responded. “She is a good Christian woman who deserves better than hassles on Christmas Eve.”
One of the bikers looked ready to raise a fist, but the policeman decided to come over. “Okay boys,” the policeman said. “Move along. You need to take your fun somewhere else.”
The biker fist unclenched, and they did not argue. They got on their bikes. The gothic Courtney still looked angry as she sat behind the big one, and they roared off. Mary handed the last package to the woman.
“Thank you,” the woman said, and smiled. “Merry Christmas,” she said again, before she glanced at the policeman and hurried to her car.
“Merry Christmas,” Mary responded.
“And a very merry Christmas to you, too, officer,” Chris said, as he caught Mary’s hand and walked her toward the motel.
The policeman’s annoyed face softened, and he responded with the same before returning to his patrol car.
Mary got serious when they came to the motel doors. They had rooms beside each other, but despite the long day, Mary did not appear ready to go to bed. “You have questions?” She tried again.
Chris hesitated, but only for a moment as he put his hands to Mary’s shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Nothing that can’t wait” he said, leaned down, and kissed her. He went in his room right away, and left her outside her own door, in the cold, where she looked up at the stars with those big eyes and gently touched her own lips.
A Holiday Journey: 1965, and the journey has just begun.
Until next time, I hope you get in some Happy Reading