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She only had one wish for the holidays. Each time someone asked her what she wanted, she felt foolish. It was something small but she missed it so much it put a damper on her holiday spirit every December 25th. That was only a few days away and she didn’t know if she should tell Lou or be resigned to another disappointing Christmas morning.
At the age of twenty-four she thought she should be over childish things. Besides, there were more important things to worry about. Lou had recently been acting strange. He was preoccupied, even secretive, but not in a holiday surprise kind of way. He was hiding something, she was sure.
Fine. She accepted that he was developing other interests. She knew she was kidding herself about their relationship, especially after the things he’d been doing. When she arrived home early from work, she heard him talking on his cell.
“You know how important it is that she not find out about this,” he’d been saying. “It’ll ruin everything if she did, Kel.”
Jayme stopped in the entry, unsure what she should do. Why was he talking to Kelsey? He didn’t even like her, or so he’d said.
Lou had made negative comments about Kelsey while driving home after attending Thanksgiving at her spacious, and completely white, condo. She had white carpet, white walls, white draperies with white sheers, a white grand piano in the living room furnished with white sofas and wing-backed chairs beside the white brick fireplace. The only obvious color beside Kelsey’s creamy chocolate complexion was the aurora borealis crystal chandelier which hung in the dining room, a priceless bauble acquired from husband number three.
Lou smirked on the drive home that night. “I thought I was in a blizzard. Her place is harsh on the eyes.” He shook his head. “She’s a man-user. She’s wealthy but only because of several divorce settlements that worked in her favor. She’s a gold digger, and marriage is only a career move in her book. No commitment, only a business transaction.”
“I thought she was a friend of yours,” Jayme commented as she stroked her hand over his where it rested on the gear shift.
“We had some business some months ago. She had me do an appraisal on the properties husband number four or five, I don’t remember which, owned. She was working up to a divorce and wanted to know what her fair share should be.” His dark eyes cut to Jayme. “That’s how I know what kind of woman she is. I guess I did her a favor with the assessment. That’s why she invited us tonight.”
“I don’t think she liked me.”
Lou smiled and raised her hand to his lips to place a light kiss on her knuckles. “I like you and that’s all that matters.”
Jamie smiled. “I’m wondering what she’s doing with a grand piano. Does she know how to play it?”
“I think it’s for show. More than likely, she got it from one of her ‘business transactions’. Who knows?”
“She seems to be all show. I don’t understand people who have things that they can’t use just to look good.”
“Maybe you two can get to be best friends and she’ll have you over to give her lessons. Just don’t let her give you lessons on how to handle men.”
Jayme laughed. “I don’t think so. We don’t move in the same circles. I don’t think she’d care to learn, in any case.”
He pulled the car into the driveway, and pressed the garage door opener. He pulled in and cut the motor as the door closed behind them. “I wonder if her bedroom looks as virginal as rest of the place?” Jayme had chosen to ignore the comment but planned to do her best to make sure he forgot all about Kelsey and her ‘virginal’ condo. He turned to her and pulled her toward him, his eyes communicating what was to come. “It’s her loss. All I care about is you.”
The kiss was long, deep, and raised her core temperature to near boiling in anticipation of what the night would bring. He caressed her cheek, and looked into her eyes. “It’s early. Let’s get in the hot tub and see what trouble we can get into.”
* * * *
Jayme thought back to that conversation. With a sinking feeling in her middle, she now wondered if Lou planned to find out the answer to his question, or perhaps he already had.
Jayme pushed the thought from her mind. She didn’t want to jump to any conclusions or suspicions that were unfounded. She had to deal with her own insecurity and low self-esteem issues without damaging her relationship with the man she loved, the man that she hoped truly loved her.
It’s not that he didn’t show his affection. He actually showed it more than she was sure was genuine. Sometimes he was over the top with the things he did for her. She’d dated men like that before, who went out of their way to pampered her only to keep her from knowing they were stepping out behind her back. She tried to leave the old baggage behind but sometimes it crept into her thoughts. She had to stop comparing Lou with those who’d hurt her before.
Lou was different, she was sure. He committed to live with her, moved them into a beautiful ranch-style home complete with pool, spa, walk-in closets, and a housekeeper during the week. He paid for it all, too, which was far different from the men she’d known in the past. Since she owned a successful graphic design business, she seemed to attract men who planned to reap the benefits from her hard work. Lou refused her offer to pay half from the beginning. They dated for just over a year before he offered to buy them a home to share.
“It’s not that I don’t want to marry you, Jayme,” he’d explained as they walked through the house with the realtor. “I just want you to be sure I’m what you want before you need to make that decision. You won’t truly know me until you live in the same house with me.”
“If you want me to sleep with you, Lou, wouldn’t it be cheaper to rent a hotel room?” She made the joke, surprised at his comment concerning marriage. The subject had never come up before and hadn’t since.
“You can have your own room. I don’t mind and I don’t want you to do anything you’re uncomfortable doing.” He shared a bright smile, perfect teeth made whiter by the rich tan of his complexion.
“What happened to your wall unit?” Jayme was shocked when she walked in from work earlier that evening. What had he done with his most prized possession, his entertainment center? The large empty area was far from unnoticeable when she came into the living room. It appeared that half of the furniture was gone.
Lou shrugged as he lounged on the sofa, a drink in his hand. “It was taking up too much room. I thought you’d be happy to see it gone.” He frowned.
“Well”, she hesitated. “What did you do with it? All of your music? The big screen? How will you watch your games?” She eyed the glass in his hand and wondered why he was drinking so early in the day.
He shrugged. “I’ll watch at a friend’s house. No problem.”
Something had to be wrong. He lived for sports. Now only a lone sofa and a sparkling tree decorated the large living room. It looked bare and sounded hollow when she crossed the room, her heels clicking on the hard wood surface.
“Lou, are you moving out one item at a time?” Jayme hugged herself as she stood with her back to him. She braced herself for what she was sure was to come.
The long silence ended when his arms wrapped securely around her. His lips lightly brushed her ear. “I’m not moving out. Why would you think that?” He kissed her neck.
“Your closet suddenly seems to have more room, for one thing.” Jayme had noticed this morning and wondered what was going on. “And why else would your entertainment system be gone?”
He held her. “I had Elise take out the older clothes and donate them. Besides, don’t you think it looks cleaner in my closet and in here now?”
“I’m not keeping the house uncluttered enough?” Jayme wrapped her arms over his to keep him close against her back. She blinked away the tears that threatened to fall.
“You keep things perfect, Babe. No worries.” He turned her to look at him. “Why are you so worried about us? Did I do something wrong?” He brushed a tear from her cheek.
The memory was driving her crazy and she had to ask. “Why were you talking to Kelsey? What should I not find out about?”
Lou froze for a moment, a long moment, too long of a moment. “I… I didn’t want you to find out she called. I know you don’t like her and I didn’t want you to worry about me talking to her.”
“What were you talking about? Why did she call? She doesn’t have another husband yet. What did she need to talk to you about?” Jayme waited, searching his face as he obviously worked to formulate an answer. Before he could answer, she pulled from his grasp. “Unless she’s expecting you to be number six or what ever number she’s on.”
Lou laughed. “Are you kidding?” He laughed again. “Like that would ever happen. I don’t make enough money for Kelsey to be remotely interested in me.”
That didn’t make her feel any better and the laughter made Jayme’s tension rise. Was she reading things into the situation that weren’t there? “I don’t know what to think. You’re talking to the Black Widow. You hang up the phone when I come in. Now you move your things out. Do you see what I’m seeing, Lou?”
He dropped his hands to his sides and frowned. “No, I don’t.” He turned and left the room. Jayme watched him go, not knowing what to say. Had she just caused the damage she thought was already done?
“Lou?” She hurried to follow him to the room they’d shared for months. He pulled his shirt off and tossed it in the hamper. He kicked off his shoes, and sat on the foot of the bed before he looked up to where she stood in the bedroom door.
“I’m getting a shower and forgetting about this conversation. It’s Christmas Eve and we have a party to go to. I won’t let this kind of foolishness ruin our evening. There’s nothing going on, Jayme. I love you and I’d hoped that by now you’d know it. Just let it go, okay?”