I awoke the next morning, early I felt, to a faint knock on my bedroom door. I think that whoever it was, they had to knock more than once. I said quietly “Who is it?” Maybe I was not very awake yet, I don’t know. Tina quickly opened the door, let herself in, then softly closed it. Then she ran and jumped up on the bed. I slowly sat up. But she was absolutely so excited! She brought in something she called her stocking. Once she was up on the bed, she just dumped everything out of it, onto the bed next to me, and her eyes lit up… Cookies, candy, some small toys, some cute jewelry… And she especially pointed out some stretchy stuff, carefully wound together; it looked like what she made my bracelet from. Even though we were the only ones in that guestroom, Tina said quietly “There is only one reason I would get this in my stocking…” Then Tina looked at me like I was supposed to know exactly why.

I smiled, and said, finally “I’m sorry, I don’t know…”

She bent over and whispered, still very excited “More beads! This means I’m getting more beads for christmas!” Tina smiled broadly. Then she got this worried look on her face. “Don’t tell anyone I told you that. I will still act surprised!” Then she picked up this little thing, well, I don’t know what it looked like. But, I guess it was some sort of tiny game. Tina played that for a while. I was glad, I still was trying to wake up! She heard a faint creaking in the ceiling above us. “Oops, gotta go.” She madly shoved all her stuff back into that stocking. She said quietly “Merry christmas, Maude!” then she jumped off the bed and let herself quietly out of my room, and closed the door slowly behind her.

“Kids sure like christmas” I thought to myself. Well, the problem now was that I didn’t know where I should go, or what I was supposed to do for christmas. I guess I was still very tired, so I laid back down on the pillow, and quickly fell asleep.

I woke up a little later to the same gentle knock. I was positive it was Tina again. She didn’t wait for me to answer, and just came in. I didn’t mind… I had clothes on already anyway. That was how I always slept. Tina walked over to me and said it was breakfast time. I sat up, and worked on waking up a little more. Maybe I wasn’t very good at waking up early, I don’t know. After Tina waited as long as she could, she took my hand and pulled me off the bed. As she led me out the door, she stopped, then she said quietly “Pretend this is the first time you saw me this morning.” Well, I was still trying to even wake up! Still holding my hand, Tina led me into the kitchen. I am not sure I would easily find it otherwise.

Delores asked right away. “Aw, Tina… Did you wake Maude up early this morning?”

Tina looked down, and didn’t answer… “Delores, it was ok. She wanted to show me all the cool stuff she got in her stocking thing.” I said this, at least, then I hugged Tina from behind, since I was behind her. Tina giggled because I accidentally tickled her.

Delores just smiled. “Tina, I don’t think Maude is a morning person.” I smiled back at Delores. I agreed with her.

Breakfast was amazing, more good food to eat. And I still felt stuffed from last night. Rather than try and figure it all out, I watched Delores and tried to take just what she did. It was a bunch of different kinds of fruit, and tasted very good. But there was all kinds of other stuff to eat, too. I tasted what looked like a small cake; well I had a small piece. It was very good. Kacey was careful how much she ate too, but Tina and Victor enjoyed just about everything. And, again, I helped Delores and Kacey do the cleanup after breakfast. Tina was out in the livingroom, sitting in Victor’s lap, talking the whole time. I don’t think Victor minded. I wouldn’t have.

Well, it was time to open presents; Tina said so with a smile. She jumped up, ran and and took my hand, and had me sit on the floor next to her as she opened her presents. “We always do youngest first” Tina pronounced officially. Then she bent over and said quietly “That’s me.” Delores couldn’t suppress her laugh. It was just cute. She called her daughter over for a hug. While I just sat there on the floor and watched, Tina opened present after present. She got a bunch of clothes, which she loved, along with some doll things, I guess she called them, and a few stuffed animals. Well, she liked everything. She was clearly saving one present for last though. When the rest were opened, she picked that box up, then looked at me and winked! I just laughed. I knew what it was too. And Tina kept her word, she did act very surprised. Then she hugged her mom and dad, and her sister too, since Kacey got her some of those presents.

Kacey was sitting on the couch, and motioned for me to come sit next to her as she opened her presents. She got just a few. One was a pink t-shirt that said “I like facebook” on the front. But the two “o” letters in facebook were made to look like very bloodshot, tired eyes. And below that was a big picture of Kacey herself, sitting and staring intently at her little computer thing. How they got her picture on that t-shirt… And she got some clothes too, and her mom got a hug for that. The last present Kacey got was very small. But I think Kacey may have guessed what it was, and was also saving it for last. She unwrapped it carefully, then quickly tore the rest of the wrapping off. Well, it was a new cell phone thing. “Oh, wow, the latest version” she said excitedly. Then she said a bunch of stuff about it, and none of that made any sense to me. Then Kacey said “Oh, mom, you shouldn’t have” and jumped up to hug her.

Delores said calmly “You are right Kace (a nickname I think), I shouldn’t have…” Then she laughed as they hugged.

By decree of the age rule I was next, even though I had no clue how old I really was. But I stayed next to Kacey, and Tina jumped up on the couch next to me.

I got a blue t-shirt that actually had “the Diner” text on the pocket in clear, white letters. Not only that, but it had a small sailboat, I think, also in white, just above the letters. All my t-shirts had just remnants of this. I could figure the letters out, but that blob… It really was a sailboat! The t-shirt that Delores gave me, was how they were supposed to look. I did cry as I jumped up and hugged Delores. After I sat back down, she explained that, when Edna first opened the Diner, she had those t-shirts made. Edna got a bunch of extras too, and gave one to all her friends. Delores said that Edna wanted to “spread the word” about the Diner. Well, this was the one Edna gave to Delores, and she didn’t wear it much at first because they weren’t her colors, she said. After she started going to the Diner quite a bit, Delores didn’t wear it at all because people kept asking her… But THIS is what all the rest of my t-shirts were supposed to look like. It was hard to not keep crying. Delores also got me such a pretty plain pink t-shirt… She cautioned that I should just wear it around the house. Well, she got me some nice white slacks too. I don’t think I wanted any salesmorons to see me in them. I also got a small gift. It was a necklace. A tiny chain went around my neck, and it had just my name, “Maude”, in white letters, but with gold trim and the back was gold too. It was very beautiful.

Tina put it on for me, and Kacey said “Tina, you are right, those are her colors!” I asked quietly how she knew. Her answer made little sense to me. “It is more of an aesthetic thing, different colors work better with some girls than with others. White and gold just look amazing on you, I don’t know.”

Tina listened to this, then added “Yup.” At least they both agreed on something. I didn’t say anything, but I smiled.

Delores bought herself some clothes. She said she did that for Victor because he was on the road so much. But I guess, Victor also bought Delores some of her favorite tea. She said excitedly that you could only buy it in a place called boston, and that Victor had bought it, then brought it back on his truck. I guess there was a lot of tea in that box! Delores got up and hugged Victor for that. I think it really meant a lot to her.

And Victor got a manly blue t-shirt from Tina and Kacey. Both looked on excitedly as he opened it. It said on the front “Just two daughters and loving it!” His girls jumped up excitedly and hugged him. I think that meant a lot, too. And Delores brought out another box afterwards. She gave it to her husband, and he opened it excitedly. It was a gun thing, and Victor was very surprised, and evidently very pleased. He right away rattled off exactly what kind of gun it was, what it had, and none of it made sense to me. Delores said right away “Girls, what is the first rule about daddy’s guns?”

Tina and Kasey said together, and still smiling “Do not touch!” That sounded like a good idea to me.

Opening presents was done, but I think Delores wanted to remind the girls again. It sounded like this wasn’t the first time Delores had said this. “Girls, we all know your daddy works hard and drives long hours, and spends a lot of time on the road. But that is why we can get you nice presents, live in a nice, warm home, and have good food to eat, and everything else. I think it is important that we try to remember that.” Of course, both girls jumped up and took turns hugging Victor again. I think they understood.

For the next hour or so, we all just relaxed in the livingroom. Victor had his gun out, and was looking at every single nut and bolt I think. I don’t know guns! Delores looked through this big box of tea, picked one, then went into the kitchen to put some hot water on, so she could try it out, she said. Kacey did the same as Victor, but with her new cell phone thing. And Kacey spent some time looking through this little book that came with it. “Kacey, we will need to get the service switched soon when we get some time” Delores volunteered.

Kasey looked at her mom, kind of turned her head a little sideways, sighed, then said “Very soon maybe?” Delores just smiled.

Tina was quickly buried in beads. She started right away on her next project. The string part was pretty long, so she asked me to come sit next to her and help. I just held one end, as Tina threaded bead after bead on the string I was holding. At one point, Tina accidtnely dropped her end, and a bunch of beads fell off, and went everywhere. Tina just calmly found all the beads, put them back on the string, and kept going. “Happens all the time” she said quietly as she worked. I just laughed, well quietly.

It looked to me like Tina was about to run out of enough string for her project. She just grabbed my end, tied a good knot in the string, then straightened all the beads. I guess Victor’s colors were blue and red. Well, those were the colors of his rig, his truck, I think Tina meant. But Tina walked over and gently placed that necklace down over Victors head, as he was looking at his gun. Delores said “Awww… Tina…” right away.

The necklace read “Best DAD ever!” Tina hugged her dad again.  Well, I guess, christmas is about giving. That is what it seemed like from that morning.

We did eat again. Delores said this was her favorite part of thanksgiving and christmas — leftovers. She asked Victor what he wanted, then heated up a huge plate full of food. Tina wanted something similar, so Delores made Tina’s plate next. It was so simple to do. All Delores had to do was open a plastic thingie, spoon some food out, then warm everthing up in the microwave. Delores asked me, and I said some little pieces of turkey, some gravy, some mash potatoes and corn, all mixed together. Kacey said right away “That sounds yummy, me too please!” Delores had the same thing. We each had one small bowl of dinner from last night. Well, that was plenty for me!  It still tasted very good.

After lunch, Delores smiled, and said Victor was probably in the basement fooling with his gun collection. And we had all watched Tina round up all her stuff, and take it to her room. I helped Delores again with cleanup, then I just sat at the table. Kacey was on her computer again, maybe her journal, I wasn’t sure. And I don’t know if Kacey was talking specifically to me, but she said contentedly “over 200 likes since I added Maude’s picture!” It was quiet, but Kacey was clearly thinking. Then she asked “Maude, mom says you don’t remember how old you are?” Well, I think that was a question.

“Well, I can’t seem to remember anything before last summer. I have no clue why though.” I said this slowly and quietly, almost apologetically.

Kacey smiled. “For the record, I would guess you are 25, maybe between 25 and 28. I know you are older than me though.” Kacey stopped there, looked at me, then said softly “Still, Maude, you are just beautiful, I really mean that.” Kacey was in thought a minute. “And if there is ever a way I can help you, don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Thank you, Kacey. I am hoping that some day I will be able to remember. Until then, I just think I need help.” I said this quietly. I was just being honest. Kacey smiled back. Then she got back to work on her computer. Staring intently at her computer screen, she looked just like the picture on her new shirt; she had already put it on…

Delores sighed, then asked me to follow her down into the basement, to what she called Victor’s domain. He really did have a lot of guns. I guess he collects them, I don’t know. But I guess I didn’t really need much prompting. “Victor thank you for sharing your home with me for christmas.”

He said quietly “Aww, it was fine. I think the girls like you!” I didn’t really know, so I just hugged him briefly. He blushed, of course.

Delores smiled then said “Honey, I’m going to take Maude home, then be back.” They kissed, then Victor was back to his guns, and we headed upstairs. Both Tina and Kacey wanted to tag along, Kacey said. The drive didn’t take long. Tina and Kacey insisted I sit in the middle as we drove though. “Thank you girls for showing me all about christmas” I said quietly.

Tina answered right away “I like you, Maude!”

Kacey waited for her turn and said “Maude, it was really fun to get to know you better. I think we should have you over more often, well when school is out” then Kacey frowned. “It is a two hour drive away…” Kacey didn’t seem real pleased about that.

The girls helped me out of my belt, well Tina popped it quickly away. I let us all inside my house. Delores was right, it was a lot warmer inside. Still, compared to Delores’ house, this one room where I lived, where I slept… It looked so plain. Well, I was home now. This was Ed and Edna’s home, then Edna’s home… It was my home now.

Maybe Delores read my mind. “Maude, we can work on this, maybe fix it up a little, at some point, maybe after it warms up again.” Delores was clearly in thought, then she added “I’ll drop by to see how you are doing in a few days, if I can.”

We all walked back outside. I came out last, and was sure to close the door. It was cold outside, but not windy. I watched Delores, Kacey and Tina climb back into the car. They waved as they drove off. With my nice Edna coat on, and light from the sun, it was barely tolerable, so I sat down on the top step of my porch.

For a while, I just thought. Delores’ house really was so different from mine. A lot of it was the people around Delores; her family. It felt like I had a family, briefly, with Edna. Edna was gone now. Still, I really enjoyed that break, those two days at Delores’ house, celebrating christmas with she and her family. Well, that was done, and I was home. Maybe some day… I thought briefly about getting my new clothes on, but… I just couldn’t… I just sighed. “Work clothes are my clothes” I said to myself… Maybe some day I could wear something fancy… and have a family, well a husband that wasn’t a salesmoron… Then I laughed, a very cynical laugh (which hurt) “…and maybe a pretty pony, too…” I added, trying not to cry. As I recall, that phrase gets tacked on when the rest of the things discussed were a very remote possibility… Well, that was… it all sounded too good to be true for me right now… or ever, it seemed… I did end up weeping softly.

A little while later, the wind picked up, the sun headed for the horizon, and I was very cold, even in …my nice coat. I got up and let myself quickly inside, to avoid losing any of the nice heat that my master of fire was making for my livingroom. I looked around this small room… “…Fix it up a little…” I said quietly. Delores meant well, but what was really needed…

It was already dark, and I hadn’t turned any lights on yet. I sat down on my couch, my bed… Maybe Tina did wake me up really early, I was very tired. I think I quickly laid down and fell asleep. I didn’t even remember to take my coat off…

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1. Maude: Beginnings is copyright 2017 by Shysage.

 

 

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