It was eleven-fifty-five and still no word of the children had come. Grace hung by the phone, Nick sat at a table smoking his pipe and Joy paced the floor and worried about Tina and Daniel’s safety. For the fifteenth time that night Joy said, “Do you think we should call the police Nick?”
Smiling up at her Nick said, “No Joy, the kids are safe. I happen to know that Robert Windermere is a good man. He will bring them back the moment he finds them in his car, assuming of course, that they did get in his car. You know Joy those children may have decided to not take a chance on you and…” Seeing the surprised look on Joys face, Nick stopped what he was going to say in mid sentence.
“What is it Joy, did I say something wrong?”
“Robert Windermere? Of the Windermere’s who just laid one-third of everyone in Fort Worth Texas off from work, including my father, those Windermere’s, “She asked incredulously.
“Why, er… yes I do believe he is of that branch of the family. Why, is that going to be a problem?”
Stamping down on her initial anger, Joy berated herself for her one moment of anger. Shame on me for thinking bad thoughts, I was taught better than that. Mama would be so ashamed if she knew that I was acting that way.
“No Nick, it is not a problem. My father was laid off work, but I know the Windermere’s must have had their reasons.”
Before she could say anything else, Nick said, “Well I do believe there is someone pulling into the parking lot.”
As Nick walked to the door to unlock it, Joy and Grace ran to the window to look out. It was Robert all right and he was carrying Tina in his arms, her little head on his shoulder. Daniel was walking beside him, but was rubbing his eyes.
“Poor little darlings are so tired,” Joy said as Nick opened the door.
“Sorry it took us so long to get back, but I was on the other side of town when I finally realized, that I had company. Daniel and Tina explained about the red car mix up and everything else. I am sorry, but I did not remember to pick up my phone, when I left work, or I would have called.”
Smiling sheepishly, he continued talking as he gave Tina to Joy, “After hearing their story, I decided to stop at Wal-Mart and buy them a few things they will need. It is not much, but it will get them through the night and tomorrow. They needed pajamas, clothes, socks, shoes, coats and…”
“Enough. You do not have to keep on explaining to me. I am not going to bite your head off you know,” Joy said laughing. “I know it was not your fault. How much do I owe you for all the things you bought them tonight?”
“Owe me, why on earth would you owe me anything,” Robert said. “I took them shopping and bought what I thought they needed for a couple of days. Let’s Just say that I finally know the true spirit of Christmas, I just got a late start on shopping.”
Before she could say anything, Tina said, “I am glad you didn’t bite his head off Joy, cause Ashley bit it off enough tonight.”
“Well, I guess that Mr. Windermere will have a lot of explaining to do tomorrow, and we must apologize to him for any inconvenience we may have caused him,”
“Oh we did, Joy, but he said we were not any trouble that he had not enjoyed. Robert even said we had helped him,” Daniel told her.
Looking at everyone’s tired faces, she thanked Robert again; turning to Nick and Grace, Joy told them how much she appreciated their staying with her. As she grabbed her purse and started to the door, Robert took Tina out of her arms and walked to her car with her.
He asked her to wait while he went to his car to get the clothes he had bought for the children. Returning with the clothing, Robert asked her if he could follow her home and help get the children ready for bed. Joy agreed if for no other reason than that she had only spent a few minutes with them, Robert had spent a couple of hours with them.
They pulled out of the parking lot, Robert following Joy and the children. No one noticed the four faces watching them leave, from inside the dinner.
After they arrived at Joy’s home, she told everyone to try to be quiet, that she lived with her parents and that they would probably be asleep. Joy unlocked and led everyone into to the old antebellum style home. She told of how one of her ancestors built her home back in eighteen-hundred and fifty-three, and that her family had lived in it ever since.
Daniel looked up at Joy and said, “Wow, I guess Santa knows where you live. I wonder if he will know Tina and I will be here. Santa has not been able to find us since Daddy and Mama went to Heaven, because we had to move so many times. Do you think he will know where we are, this time?”
Before Joy could answer him, Tina said, “I think Nick is really Santa Claus, because he looks like Santa. And, when I looked at him, he put his finger to his lips and winked at me…uh oh… I think Santa will be mad at me now, because I was not supposed to tell anyone.”
With that remark, both Robert and Joy laughed, and Joy told her that Nick would not be angry with her, “Tina, Nick is not Santa, even if he has a white beard and he is jolly.”
Seeing the sad looks on Tina and Daniel’s faces, Joy realized what her words had taken from the children.”
However, everyone knows that adults cannot see all the magical things children see. Therefore, I guess it could be that Tina is right and that I am wrong, after all it is Christmastime again and anything is possible.”
Watching their eyes and seeing them sparkle with happiness, once again, Joy resolved herself to ask Nick not to tell the children, that he was indeed not Santa. Joy wanted to give a wonderful Christmas, to these babies this year and if possible, all the years to come.
The lights in the front room came on, momentarily blinding them. “See there, David Jenkins, I told you it was not Christmas mice that I heard,” Beverly Jenkins said to her husband.
She was standing in the doorway under the mistletoe, wearing her soft red robe. On her head was a Christmas cap with the white ball on the tip hanging down over one ear and with a smile on her face. In her hands, she had two Santa cups two-thirds full of hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows floating on top.
“Well, since we do not have any Christmas mice to give this hot chocolate to, I wonder if there are any children who want it instead,” David Jenkins said in reply to his wife’s statement. He too was dressed in his red Christmas robe and hat, except that his hat looked in danger of falling off of his head.
Daniel and Tina both giggled and said they would drink the chocolate. Then Tina said, “I’m sorry if we woke you up. Joy said we were to be real quiet and we tried to be quiet, honest.”
“Then I suppose I will have to tell you the truth. Mrs. Jenkins and I were in the kitchen baking cookies for the Christmas mice and for Santa, when he comes tomorrow night. Now if we hurry, we may get back to the kitchen before those mice eat all the cookies.”
With that, everyone started talking and headed for the cozy warmth of the small table in the kitchen. Once they were at the table, Joy introduced Robert to her parents.
Robert was readying himself for the tongue-lashing he knew was to come, and was surprised when Joy’s parents never stopped smiling and talking and acting as though they were all family.
Joy started helping her mother with cleaning the kitchen when Beverly whispered to her, “He seems to be a fine young man, and he truly seems fond of the children.”
Glancing over her shoulder and seeing Tina wiping some icing off Robert’s cheek, Joy answered, “Yes he does and they seem to like him also. Mom, I am going to see if I can adopt Daniel and Tina. I cannot stand the thought of having to send them back to a place where someone will mistreat them, or having to move from one house to another, all the time. I believe we have enough love to share with them. What do you think?”
“Sweetheart, I think that your father and I would love to have these sweet little darlings for our Grandchildren. We have all the love in the world to give these babies, and however many more grandchildren you wish to give us. If you need our help to get them, we will do all we can.”
Reaching over and giving her mother a hug, Joy thanked her. Joy then told everyone it was time to get Daniel and Tina ready for bed. First, they needed to take their baths.
Joy showed Daniel to the guest bathroom and Robert stayed outside the door getting pajamas, underwear and toothbrushes out for of the bags for the children.
Joy then took Tina into her own bathroom for her bath. As Joy bathed Tina and washed her hair, she started singing softly, never even noticing that she was singing. After she dried Tina off, and Tina had brushed her teeth, Joy took her back into the guest bedroom for bed.
When they entered into the room, Robert was just tucking the covers around Daniel. Daniel yawned then smiling up at Joy he said, “Robert said he would tell us about “Twas the Night before Christmas,” when Tina was through with her bath. Will you stay and listen with us?”
“Yes Daniel, I would love to hear that poem, after all it is one o’clock in the morning and you know what that means don’t you?”
Tucking Tina into bed, Joy smiled at the cute little kitty cat pajamas with matching house shoes. Tina said, “I know what it means Joy, it means we should be asleep, right?”
“Yes, I suppose it would mean that, but what I was going to say was, it is Christmastime again, because today is Christmas Eve. And we celebrate the birth of Jesus on this day each year.”
“We use to, when Mama and Daddy were alive,” Daniel whispered.
Clearing his throat, Robert said, “Then I think we need to turn on the night-light and get this bright spotlight out of our eyes, because it is story time.
Joy went to the dresser and turned the small carousel on. When Robert turned the overhead lights off, a soft pink light reflecting the turning carousel cast the room into a magical glow.
Robert began the poem in his soft baritone voice, with the gentle lullaby sounds in the background, and his reciting the poem, the magic of Christmas soon filled the room.
“This Christmas poem was written By: Clement Clarke Moore, one-hundred and eighty-eight years ago, for children just like you…”
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there…
Beverly smiled up at David, they were standing outside the guest bedroom door listening.
David bent down and kissed his wife, and then they quietly walked down the stairs heading towards their bedroom.
“I think everything is going to work out for the best, now. Joy made the right decision bringing those poor little darlings home tonight. They need a home where they are loved and well cared for,” David quietly said.
Our sweet Joy has enough love for a hundred children. Although, I would not know where we would put them if she were to want that many,” Beverly said, with a laugh, as they walked into their room and shut the door.
The two children were asleep long before the last words of the poem were spoken, but Robert could not or would not; he was not sure which, stop reciting the poem until it ended.
When he said the last words of the poem, Robert and Joy quietly left the room. As they walked down the hall Robert said, “I have enjoyed this evening more, than I can ever remember having enjoyed an evening.
Tonight, felt magical somehow, strange as it may seem for me to say that. It felt as if for once I was not in control, but that unseen forces were in charge of everything that happened the moment I walked into the diner and saw you. Am I making any sense here?”
“Yes Robert I understand, you are only saying what I felt myself. Perhaps it was unseen forces; Lord knows those two babies needed help. I only hope I can convince the courts to let me have them. I saw bruises on Tina that the last family left and I will fight with all I have to make sure that never happens again.”
Stopping at the front door, Robert looked up and saw that Joy was standing under the mistletoe. Smiling, he pointed up and when Joy looked up to see what he was pointing to, he asked her if it was all right to kiss her.
“Yes Robert, It is all right for you to kiss me, under the mistletoe of course.”
Laughing at the grin on joy’s face, Robert took her in his arms and gently kissed her. Saying good night, he left her standing there, waving to him until he pulled out of the driveway.
To be continued…