CHRISTMAS BIRTHDAY PARTY
The days flew by like a paper in the wind and suddenly it was the last month of the year and Nathalie’s first birthday. The winter has covered the colorful autumn carpet of fallen leaves with its white blanket and the frost has decorated the windowpanes with breathtaking imagery of ice flowers. When the Winter Festival arrived in town, the Snowflake day was only a week away.
“I know we didn’t plan on inviting any guests this year, but I was thinking… what if we invited Malika’s parents to Nathalie’s birthday party?” Kate asked David and Benjamin at breakfast.
“I think that’s not a bad idea. They’re family now and isn’t that what this holiday is all about anyway? What do you think, David?”
“That’s right, Ben. I think we should invite them,” said David and bit into his biscuit.
After the breakfast, Kate assigned everybody with something to do. David’s task was to dress the Christmas tree and wrap the presents, while Benjamin had to help Kate in the kitchen and make sure everything was in place for the little girl’s big party. To nobody’s surprise, Finn and Malika were shopping for the last moment Christmas presents in town, but as soon as they came home Kate told them to help David. Malika enjoyed dressing the Christmas tree a lot, but Finn didn’t look too enthusiastic about wrapping the presents. When everything was ready, Benjamin went upstairs to dress his older daughter into a new Christmas themed dress, but Chloe insisted on putting on her bunny costume…
Exactly at 5 PM, the doorbell announced the arrival of Marley and Aimee. Malika welcomed her parents inside.
“Thank you for inviting us,” Marley smiled at Kate. “In the past years it’s been just me and my wife. It’s so nice to get together, especially at this time of year.”
“You don’t have to thank me, Marley. We’re happy to have you here with us today. Would you like a cup of hot tea?” Kate asked the Williamses.
“That would be nice,” said Marley and went to sit on the sofa.
“It was very nice of you to invite my parents, Kate. Thank you,” Malika smiled at Kate.
“You don’t have to thank me. We are family now, Mal. I think it should be this way. Plus it really warms my heart seeing every one of you around.”
“You’re such a great mother-in-law, Kate! I couldn’t have wished for a better one!”
“If you really say so,” laughed Kate.
“Come here, boy. Up, Up!” Marley called at Snowball and encouraged him to sit on his lap. Snow really enjoyed being the center of attention and when someone offered their scratching and rubbing services to him, the dog was at his happiest.
“Mal! Mal! Hold me!” Chloe called at Malika from the floor. The girls have become very good friends over the past months.
“I really cannot believe Nathalie is celebrating her first birthday today The time flies so fast!”
“Incredibly fast,” Kate agreed with Malika and looked at Marley playing with Snowball. “I wish Elisabeth could be here with us today to see her girl blow out her first candle,” Kate said sadly. Malika was searching for the right words to say when suddenly Aimee interrupted them.
“It looks like we both have the same stylist,” Aimee couldn’t hold her laughter when she saw Kate’s outfit.
“Yeah, but luckily she was creative enough to choose different colors for us,” smiled Kate.
“This color looks really good on you, Kate,” Aimee flattered her.
“Thank you, Aimee.”
“Stop tickling me, Mal! I’ll pee myself,” Chloe giggled.
“Don’t you even think about that, you little bunny!”
“I’m not a bunny! I’m a bear!” Chloe protested, still giggling.
“Since when do bears have tails like bunnies?”
“Hmm…,” Chloe stopped giggling for a moment to think about Malika’s question.
“I’m a bunny bear!” she called out and her eyes sparkled with excitement.
“Okay, bunny bear, don’t you pee yourself, because I’m not stopping!”
“Daaad! Mal is making me pee myself!” Chloe called at Benjamin.
“What’s going on in here?” Benjamin asked the girls, smiling.
“Save me, daddy! Malika is torturing me!” Chloe called for help. “Too… late… daddy… you cannot save me,” she whispered while releasing herself from Malika’s embrace and lied on the floor feigning death. Benjamin just shook his head.
“I have no idea what I’m gonna do with this girl when she grows up. Just look at her,” he said to Malika and they both looked down at Chloe lying on the floor.
“She could become an actress one day,” Malika smiled at Benjamin. “She’s only four and she’s already mastered faking her own death. That’s pretty amazing, don’t you think, Ben?”
Benjamin had no answer to that.
“Come on, everybody! Gather around the cake! Let’s help our youngest blow out her first candle!” Kate called enthusiastically and took Nathalie in her arms.
“It’s unbelievable how time flies, don’t you think? It seems to me as if…,” continued Kate and then suddenly stopped. She realized that every time when Nathalie blew out the candles on her birthday cake, she would be reminded of yet another year without Elisabeth. Kate wiped the tear from her eye and tried to put on her best smile.
“One year ago today, we lost Elisabeth. However, I believe that a part of our daughter lives within her daughter. Nathalie brought back the sunshine into our lives. She’s our little sun. And today she celebrates her first birthday! So let’s make it a good one!” Kate cheered and helped her granddaughter blow out the candle.
“Nathalie is one year old now. That means… that means that I am three years older then her!” Chloe did her math while everybody else clapped their hands and sang the birthday song.
Finn and Ben even found some old birthday trumpets.
And then like magic….
… Nathalie turned into a toddler!
“She looks so much like Elisabeth,” said David when he finally got the chance to hold his granddaughter.
“Yes, she does,” agreed Kate. “She looks just like her.”
“Don’t you worry, Mr. Teddy. You don’t have to be afraid of her. She’s just a bigger baby now. She won’t hurt you. I promise,” Chloe whispered to her teddy-bear.
Later on in the evening, everybody gathered around the Christmas tree to exchange the presents.
“Looks like this one is for you, bunny bear!” Finn called at Chloe when he opened a present with yellow PJ’s.
“What is it, Finn? What is it?” Chloe asked him with excitement.
“New pajamas!” Finn smiled at her, but everybody could tell from Chloe’s face expression that she wasn’t really amazed by this gift.
“And this one is for you, wifey,” Finn impishly smiled at Malika.
“Is it safe to open it here, in front of everybody?” Malika asked him, whispering.
“Hmm, now that you make me think about it…,” said Finn and stroke his chin. “… you might want to wait and open this gift in private,” he added and winked at Malika.
“Sexy lingerie?” Malika said seductively.
“How did you know?” Finn looked at her with unexpected surprise in his eyes.
“Female instinct,” Malika winked at her husband. “Anyway, this one is for you,” she said and gave a Christmas present with a big blue ribbon to Finn.
“Wow! You sure know how to use this instinct of yours! Thanks so much, Mal!” Finn exclaimed in joy when he opened the gift. It was a brand new toolkit. Seriously, what is it about men and tools? Malika thought to herself as she observed Finn’s happy reaction.
David got a rare collection of piano compositions he talked about for months,
while Kate found a set of gardening tools inside one of her presents. Something she expected the least. Who ever said that gardening was for grandmas?
Finn and Malika gifted a fashionable sweater and a smart watch to Marley and a new pair of shoes and a last gen cellphone to Aimee.
They also got a new macro lens to Benjamin. He didn’t expect to find such an expensive gift under the Christmas tree, but there was no doubt he was very pleased.
Except of her Christmas presents, Nathalie also received birthday gifts. However, no matter how big or expensive the presents were, Ginger the teddy-bear won the ‘Best Toy of the Day Award’. Nathalie played with him all the evening.
Only after grandpa David introduced her to the xylophone, Nathalie has finally put Ginger aside to play with her other toys. However, her approach to this musical instrument was a bit different than what David hoped for. To this toddler, the mallet was way more interesting than the tunes themselves.
After nearly all the Christmas presents were opened and the last piece of the birthday cake eaten, it was time for music.
“It’s no Christmas without Christmas songs. Why don’t you play us something, David?”
David just smiled at Marley and went to sit at the piano. As soon as his skilled fingers touched the smooth ivory keys the familiar tunes of Christmas songs filled the entire living room.
All the family gathered around the piano and hummed the well-known melody. There was no better place to be. With the smell of the pine branches decorating the window panes, the cracking of the fire and the piano music playing, the Christmas spirit was all around.
When suddenly, the peaceful moment was interrupted by a loud beep and Finn’s follow-up whoop of joy. “It’s a message from Zac! I cannot believe it! Zac and Amanda… They’re in Bridgeport!”
Nathalie used the moment of distraction and made her way towards Mr. Teddy.
She grabbed the teddy-bear, pulled him towards herself and wrapped her tiny body around him.
It took a whole minute before Chloe noticed her little sister chewing on Mr. Teddy’s ear. As soon as she saw that horrible scene her body froze in place and her eyes widened with panic.
“No!” she called at Nathalie and rushed to save her teddy-bear.
Unfortunately, it was too late for Mr. Teddy. His ear has already been slimed on by the big baby.
“Stop! NOW!” Chloe hissed at Nathalie. “Mr. Teddy is mine! Don’t touch him!”
Nathalie didn’t understand what was going on. She looked at Chloe and when she saw her angry face looking down at her she gently caressed the teddy-bear and pushed him aside.
“Good. Never touch him again,” Chloe warned her baby sister and picked up Mr. Teddy.
“What’s going on in here?” Benjamin intervened. When he noticed Nathalie’s confused expression and Chloe’s angry face he understood right away. His eyes slid down at the plush toy that Chloe was now convulsively clutching in her hand. “I know that Mr. Teddy is your toy, Chloe, but if your sister would like to play with him you should let her.”
“She slimes on him,” Chloe said from behind her teeth.
“You used to do that too,” told her Benjamin and observed her eyes. There was nothing but anger. “Come on, sweetheart. Mr. Teddy can be washed,” Benjamin tried to explain that nothing would happen to her toy if she let Nathalie play with it. Chloe narrowed her eyes and threw the teddy-bear at Nathalie who started crying.
“That’s enough, Chloe!” Benjamin raised his voice and picked Nathalie in his arms. “Shh, shh. Daddy’s here,” he whispered to Nathalie, trying to calm her down.
“After I put Nathalie to sleep, I’m coming for you,” Benjamin looked down at Chloe. “You have crossed the line tonight. There will be a punishment.”
As soon as Benjamin walked away, Chloe sat down on the floor and hugged her teddy-bear. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Teddy. I promise it will never ever happen again. Do you trust me?”
Benjamin overheard the words his daughter just said and became seriously preoccupied. Chloe loved more her plush toy than she did her little sister. He was determined to change that. “Come Nathalie, let’s read you to sleep,” he whispered and kissed his daughter on her tiny head.
After Nathalie fell asleep, Benjamin returned downstairs and shared his worries with Finn over a glass of soda. Finn wasn’t exactly the best person to ask for a parenting advice, though.
“They’re kids, Ben. Nathalie’s gonna be just fine. Kids are always fine…,” Finn said and sipped from his glass.
“I don’t know, Finn. I don’t recall my siblings throwing toys at me…”
“Every kid is different, you know. Maybe she turned out this way, because she misses her real mom?”
“What? No. No, I mean, Chloe doesn’t remember Bailey… and I want it to stay that way. For now. At least.”
“Oh, sure. No problem. I’m definitely not gonna run to her and tell her.”
“Oh and Ben?”
“I don’t want to teach you how to care for a child – you’re the father here – but shouldn’t be Chloe going to sleep? I mean, it’s nearly midnight,” Finn said to Benjamin and raised from the chair. “As for me, I’m gonna join Mal in bed. Which reminds me – I think it’s time you started looking around yourself. Life is too short and you’re not getting any younger, pal. Get yourself a woman,” Finn added with a sneer and left.
For the second time this evening, Benjamin was left speechless.
“Thanks for the help, Kate, but I want to put her to bed tonight,” Benjamin said to Kate when he noticed she was quicker than him and decided it was time for Chloe to go to sleep.
“Are you sure, Ben? I wanted to read her to sleep…”
“No. No bedtime story tonight,” Benjamin said decisively and took Chloe from Kate.
“Oh, okay,” Kate was surprised by Benjamin’s reaction, but didn’t ask. With puzzled expression still on her face, she sat down on the sofa next to David who was completely immersed into the study of one of his new compositions.
It didn’t take too long and Benjamin was back in the living room again. “I believe Santa left one more, um, actually two more Christmas presents in your bedroom. Would you like to give a look?”
“When… how…,” Kate wanted to ask a question that made a bit of sense, but didn’t manage to put it together. She was overwhelmed by the photos hanging on the wall in her bedroom.
“I took these one year ago. After the funeral…,” said Benjamin. There was a long silence.
“Well, the photos are very good-” David began, but Kate interrupted him.
“The boys look so sad,” she said.
“I believe they had a reason. I’m sorry if you don’t like the pictures.”
“No, no, on the contrary. I like them, they are very good actually… it’s just that… you took them the day of Elisabeth’s funeral and… and…,” Kate didn’t have the strength to finish the sentence and had to leave the room. David excused himself and followed Kate outside.
“I don’t think I’m strong enough for this, David.”
“What do you mean, darling?”
“Everything reminds me of her… I… I cannot cope with that.”
“Come here, Katie,” told her David and embraced his wife in a warm hug. “You just need more time. Only time can heal a wound so profound.”
“If only I could have justice, David! I know what they told us isn’t the complete truth…”
“Hush now, my love. Let’s not talk about what makes us both unhappy. Look. Santa has left one more gift for you,” David whispered in her ear. When Kate turned around she couldn’t hold her tears any longer. All the emotions finally broke free and Kate cried like a little child.
“Don’t cry, my darling. Don’t you like wine anymore?”
“Oh, David. Of course, I do!” Kate said, half smiling.
“Did I just see a hint of a happy smile?” he asked which made Kate smile a little more. “Yeah, that’s my girl,” David caressed Kate’s left cheek and hugged her.
“Thank you so much for everything, David.”
“Thanks to you, Kate, for being who you are.”