Well, it’s almost that time of year again. It’s the one time of year when it’s okay to both stuff a turkey and be stuffed by one too.
This is a festive time of year and it holds a special meaning for almost everyone in one way or another. For me, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has always been strange in a wonderful kind of way. I either have pumpkin pie or German chocolate cake for my birthday. It doesn’t matter. See, my birthday is at the end of November, and once in a while, it falls on Thanksgiving.
When I was young, my mom used to try to conserve…. well, I’m at a loss, what the heck was she trying to conserve? LOL. I try not to remember those times when she completely forgot about my birthday, while preparing for the enormous Thanksgiving Day meals. We’d start with breakfast and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and continue until close to midnight when my dad would finish off the evening with Bailey’s Irish Cream for him and my uncle. Christmas shopping would begin the day after, and when you have seven children, you have to shop the best sales.
Actually, it was kind of fun. Some years, I’d get to have a party when my birthday was the week after Thanksgiving, if the holiday was early that year, and I’d get presents wrapped in Christmas paper. By that time of year, birthday paper was hard to find. It was like having two Christmases! I know my brother would be irritated. His birthday is in February — it sucked for him to have his birthday just a month after Christmas when everyone was still recovering from the expense of Christmas shopping. But he didn’t earn too much of my sympathy — he was the only boy and didn’t have to share anything with anyone, not his room, nothing. This is also probably why I’d sneak in his room and steal his shirts. I wasn’t just being evil, LOL, not really. I have five sisters, sometimes it was easier to wear his work shirts than to peel my own from one my sisters’ bodies! I should say that not only do I have a huge family, but it grows even larger with our extended family and family friends who wander in and out of our lives during the holiday season.
But when I had my birthday on Thanksgiving, it meant seeing all my relatives from near and far — Colorado, Texas, California — and we all gathered at my parents’ home. And even if I had to have pumpkin pie and birthday candles, that was a blast! (And never mind the twenties they’d slip me under the Thanksgiving table.)
Oh, and I love the movies, and not only the Christmasy ones. The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, and The Sound of Music are a few of favorites that we watched during the holiday season.
This will always be a special time of year for me, whether it means sharing the holiday and my birthday with relatives who now gathered at my sister’s home, or the memories of the loved ones taken away by time, but who will live on our memories and in our hearts.
Sometimes I kind of wish I was a bit more like my character, Chelsea Karmikel in Life After Death, able to visit with those no longer here. Chelsea sees ghosts, and they always have a mystery for her solve, sort of like a cross between the Ghost Whisperer and Sandra Bullock’s character, Gracie Hart, in Miss Congeniality. She’s a bit of a klutz, but she has a good heart, and wants to help where and when she can. Thankfully, the sexy and somewhat dangerous Brad Rearden steps into her life, bringing his real life detective ability with him to help her solve the mysteries the ghosts leave behind. When Chelsea and Brad come together, that’s when the real sparks fly.
Here’s an excerpt from my book, Life After Death.
(By the way, it would make an excellent Christmas present!)
Chelsea unlocked the door and stepped inside the white two-story house. A picket fence guarded the front yard and maroon shutters stood like sentries at the windows — she’d always been safe here. “Grendel? Here kitty, kitty…” she called softly. “Grendel?” The small yellow cat tumbled down the stairs to happily twine around her legs. She scooped the small cat up and buried her face in her purring neck. “Hi, baby.” Grendel responded by mewling loudly and pushing out of Chelsea’s grasp.
Her lips curved into a smile. “Are you hungry?” Grendel blinked her strange cat eyes before scurrying to her bowl. Chelsea coaxed her feet to move a few steps, but the buzzing worsened and the whisperings came to her ears, the same as in the hospital. She cleared her throat, and shook her head. “Don’t be a baby, Chelsea Karmikel,” she chided herself. “Grow up! You’ll be fine, you heard what the doctor said.” She determinedly continued toward the kitchen. She jerked open the pantry and grabbed a can of tuna. The buzzing increased in volume, more piercing, as the can opener churned. She covered her ears. “I wish this noise would stop!”
Grendel hissed, pulled back her ears, and the fur on her spine spiked in a curved arch. Puzzled, Chelsea reached for her two-year-old tabby. “What’s wrong with you?” She stepped towards the cat, but it was too late—Grendel skittered off, sliding across the hardwood floor to land under the couch where she lay growling.
Chelsea sat the tuna on the floor. “Well, when you get over whatever set you off, your tuna’s ready… silly cat.” She headed for her bedroom and the disastrous shower. “Damn,” she said, as she entered her bedroom. “I forgot to stop and pick up a new blow dryer.” Hers had burned out when it hit the water. She peeled off her jeans and blouse, wincing as she brushed the tender places, leaving on her bra and panties as she turned back down the hallway to the spare room. There was an ancient dryer somewhere.
A pounding on her front door pulled her up short. Chelsea snatched her great- grandmother’s faded afghan and wrapped it around her body. She tiptoed down the stairs, cracked open the door, and peeked through the chain lock. Ozone still filled the air from the chilly morning rain.
“Can I help you?” She lifted her eyebrows at the young uniformed officer. She looked around— the birds had vanished, leaving behind only silence. Where had they gone? She shrugged her shoulders. Strange.
“I hope so, ma’am.” The man removed his cap. “I need you to do something for me.”
“Umm… I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” It was an odd request, but then again this was a week of oddities. Still, she didn’t open her door to just anybody. “Do you mind letting me see your identification?”
“Oh, sure.” He fumbled and flashed her a badge. “Sorry, I haven’t had to do that in a while.”
Reassured, she laughed, embarrassed. “No problem, can’t be too careful these days. As far as I know, there haven’t been any problems around here. So unless your car’s broken down or your radio is out, I don’t see how I can help you, officer.” She smiled. He was kind of cute.
“No, no, it’s nothing like that.” He smiled back. “I need you to get a message to my wife, Nicole.”
“Oh.” All the cute ones were taken. “I’m sorry, but you seem to have mistaken me for someone else. I don’t know Nicole, Officer…”
“Sorry, I thought you’d know me. I’m Officer Davies, Brenden Davies.”
“It still doesn’t ring a bell.” His uniform didn’t look familiar—she didn’t think he looked like anyone local. In fact, now that she looked, he didn’t have a radio. Instead, an old-fashioned walkie- talkie was clipped to his belt. Did they still use those?
“Let me bring you my phone,” she offered. “Just one moment—”
“No, I need you to do this for me. Here’s her phone number.” The young officer rattled off a number. “Please, just call her for me—now if you can. I’m afraid she’s worried.” He looked so lost, Chelsea’s heart went out to him.
She slid the chain free and opened her door wider. “Alright,” hesitation in her voice, “if you can give me a minute? Why don’t you come in?” There was no need to give the old farmers fodder for gossip. She’d seen Officer Davies’s ID, he was probably safe.
“Thanks,” he said, twisting his cap around in his hands. Chelsea could read the signs—he was nervous or scared, maybe both. Again, odd.
“I’ll be right back.”
“Sure.” But he didn’t relax. If anything, his face grew tenser.
She hurried up the steps as fast as her tender feet allowed, and came back moments later in a pair of boy’s grey sweatpants and a pink Dylan tee. Her feet she left bare. “Okay.” She opened her cell phone. “Nicole, right?”
“Right.” He smiled, relief apparent on his face. “Thanks for doing this, you don’t know how much you’ve helped. If you can just tell her I’m fine, and I’ll see her soon.”
“Wouldn’t you like to tell her yourself?” She held out the phone.
“Oh no, I can’t image how, you know, and besides, I don’t want to scare her.”
“Okay… but if it was me, I think I’d rather hear it from you. Did something happen this morning?”
“No, I just want to let her know I miss her.”
“Sure…” She smiled in confusion, but she dialed the number and relaxed when it was picked up on the fourth ring.
“Hello?” An elderly voice came over the phone.
“Hi, my name is Chelsea Karmikel, would Nicole be available?” She looked at the young officer, and he nodded with a smile, and she smiled back at him.
“Speaking,” the voice returned.
“Nicole Davies?” She looked at the young officer, and doubt filled her voice.
“No, not anymore. Nicole Radley.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Relief flowed through her body. “I meant to ask for Officer Brenden Davies’s wife, Nicole.”
“This is Nicole Davies. Nicole Davies Radley.” The voice became adamant.
Embarrassment colored Chelsea’s voice. “Oh, sorry. I guess I misunderstood.” She laughed. “Officer Davies is here at my home, and he wanted me to call his wife, Nicole, to let her know he was fine and he’d see her soon.” Chelsea glanced over at the officer, and he winked at her. She walked in a small circle, her own nerves showing. She began to shiver; it felt like the temperature had dropped twenty degrees. It was probably just the electricity, though, some kind of residual side effect.
“I’m sorry, I… I… I don’t understand. My Bren died in ’62, in a pile-up out on Highway 29. Who is this? You say there’s someone in your house?”
Chelsea swung around to face the young officer, but he was gone. The front door stood open, only his wet footprints remained, and they were rapidly evaporating.
“I… I’m sorry. I must have gotten it wrong. Please forgive me.” She ended the call, and looked down as the cell phone slipped from her fingers. The buzzing had finally stopped.