Chapter Four: A Gift

The next day Jennifer was lying in bed sipping a hot chocolate and reading the newspaper when she heard a knock at the door. She set down her mug and newspaper and tied her silk robe at the waist. She walked over to the door, wondering who could be on the other side when it was only 7AM in the morning.

She opened the door. "Mother," she said, frowning when she saw the familiar dark-haired woman standing on the other side of the threshold.

"Can I come in?" asked Barbara. She didn't wait for an answer and pushed her way past Jennifer. Jennifer sighed and closed the door.

Barbara grabbed her by the shoulders and stared at her. "My god, Jennifer, you are simply stunning. Paris has agreed with you."

"Um, thanks." Jennifer twisted out of her reach. "How did you find out I was in town?"

"Oakdale's a small town. You don't think an international supermodel can hide out forever, do you?" Barbara asked. "Besides, didn't you want to see me?"

Stifling a "no", Jennifer didn't answer. Barbara had wreaked havoc in her life and the lives of her brothers and she didn't want to deal with her mother now – or ever.

"Well never mind, I'm here now and I am going to take such good care of you."

"That's not necessary."

"I want you to move into my house as soon as possible."

Jennifer sighed. There was her mother - trying to controlling her life as usual. Well, Jennifer wouldn't let her!

"Mom, I am perfectly fine here."

"Darling, you're pregnant. You need someone to look after you."

Jennifer made a face. "How did you find out?"

"I have my sources," Barbara replied, purposely being as vague as possible.

Jennifer went over and sat on the sofa. "Well, did you sources tell you that I want to raise this baby on my own without help from you or anybody else?"

Barbara walked over and put her hand on Jennifer's shoulder. "That's insane. It takes a village to raise a child, you know. A child deserves to know where he or she comes from."

"He or she will know, definitely. She will know her uncles, and my dad – and her grandmother if her grandmother behaves."

"I promise I'll be on my best behavior, Jennifer."

"I hope you will," Jennifer said.

The holidays arrived quickly and soon it was Christmas Eve. Paul and Rosanna invited Jennifer to their home for dinner. Jennifer felt sad as she drove to Fairwinds. Her heart ached. This was the first Christmas since she had met Jordan that she wouldn't be spending with him. She felt her eyes film with tears but fought the urge to cry.

It was snowing heavily and her windshield wipers were going a hundred miles per hour to keep the falling snow from blocking her vision. The thought of having an accident on Christmas Eve when she was with child was more than she could take.

She pulled into the circular driveway of Fairwinds. She turned off the ignition and climbed out of the car. Even though she was wearing a thick sweater, slacks and a jacket, she still felt so cold. She hurried around the car to the trunk. She pulled out the bags of presents and closed the hatch. When she did she felt herself slipping on the ice and she screamed.

Fortunately, a strong hand reached out and steadied her. "Thank you, thanks," she said, shaken.

"Are you okay?" asked the man. She looked up into the concerned brown eyes of Mike Kasnoff.

"I'm fine, thanks to you," she replied.

"Do you want me to carry those for you?" Mike asked, gesturing to the bags she had dropped on the ground.

"If you wouldn't mind," Jennifer said.

"I wouldn't mind."

Mike picked up the bags of goodies with one hand and held her arm while they went up the steps. Jennifer was so grateful for this man who had possibly saved the life of her unborn child. She hated to think of what could have happened if he hadn't caught her.

Jennifer rang the doorbell. The door was promptly opened by the maid and they were ushered inside. "Oh it's so warm in here," Jennifer said.

Mike set the bags on the floor. "Can I help you with your coat?"

"Yes, thanks."

Jennifer held back her arms while he slid the coat off her shoulders. He handed the coat to the maid. She hung it on the coat rack.

"Mr. and Mrs. Ryan are in the dining room."

"I'm going to put the presents under the tree and then I'll go in there," Jennifer said.

"Speaking of presents, I should go get the ones I brought out of my car," Mike said. He pulled up the collar of his trench coat and hurried outside.

Jennifer went into the living room. There was a tree prominently displayed in the corner. It was so tall it nearly touched the ceiling and it was decorated with matching bows, beads, ornaments and garland. Jennifer stood there admiring it. The way the room was decorated – with a fire blazing in the hearth, pine-scented candles emanating a luscious familiar holiday smell, and stockings hung from the "chimney with care", stuffed full of treats and candy - reminded Jennifer of her childhood Christmases before her mother went crazy and her parents divorced.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" said Mike, walking into the room.

"Yes, it's gorgeous," Jennifer replied.

Mike set his presents under the tree and helped her put out the ones she had brought. Then they walked into the dining room was as extravagantly decorated as the living room.

"It smells great in here," Mike said.

"You're here!" cried Rosanna, rushing over and putting her arms around Mike and Jennifer, pulling them close together. Mike's hand brushed Jennifer's and she felt a warm tingle travel up her arm.

Jennifer pulled away first and Rosanna gestured for her to sit in one of the high-backed chairs. There were place-cards and Mike's name was scrawled on the card in front of the seat beside her.

Paul walked into the room carrying a turkey on a huge silver platter. "Dinner's ready," he announced. Will followed him into the room. "Will!" Jennifer cried, starting to stand. "I had no idea you were home."

"Don't get up," Will said, coming over to her. He leaned over and kissed her cheek and they shared a hug. "It's good to see you, Jenn."

"I feel the same way. It's been too long. Will you sit beside me?" Jennifer asked.

"I can't. I'm sitting across the table according to my card and I wouldn't want to upset the apple cart known as Rosanna."

"I heard that," Rosanna said, smiling.

Jennifer glanced at the place-card in front of the chair next to her. "Emily Munson," she read. "Are my dad and Emily coming?" She asked to no body in particular.

"Yes, and they are bringing Daniel," replied Paul.

"Oh wow, he must be at least six by now," Jennifer said.

"You're close. He's six and a quarter," Paul joked.

"Very funny."

Jennifer watched the door, eagerly awaiting her father's arrival. When she saw Emily coming in she got to her feet and hurried over. "Emily!" She exclaimed.

"Jennifer, how nice to see you," Emily said. They hugged.

"Where's dad?" Jennifer asked.

"He's helping Daniel put the presents under the tree," Emily replied. "Where should I sit?" She asked.

"Right next to me."

"Great."

Jennifer and Emily walked over to the table. Mike graciously pulled out their chairs for them. "Thank you," they said in unison.

Jennifer heard laughter behind her and saw Hal and Daniel coming in the room. "Dad!" She cried.

"Jennifer!" He exclaimed, coming over and embracing her warmly. Jennifer kissed him on the cheek. "How are you, sweetheart?" He asked.

Paul interrupted before she could answer. "Everyone sit down and let's get our feedbags on." Everyone laughed. Paul carved up the turkey and everybody was served.

There was animated conversation throughout the meal and then they all went into the living room to open presents. Paul handed them out to everyone. Hal sat down beside Jennifer on the loveseat and whispered to her. "So how are you really doing?"

"I'm … okay," Jennifer replied. "I am making it through. This baby has given me a reason to get up everyday."

"That's good. How far along are you?"

"3 months."

"So seven months to go – or is it six?"

"Six."

"And the doctor says everything is fine?"

"Yes."

"Jennifer," called Paul. "Here's one for you! It's from Rosanna and me."

Paul handed the present to Will and Will handed it to Rosanna and Rosanna passed it to Mike. It traveled around the room until it reached Jennifer.

"Ooh, I wonder what it is?" Jennifer asked, shaking it.

"No shaking," Will said.

"Okay, okay," Jennifer said. She unwrapped the gift.

"It's a … white box," Hal said.

"Open it," Rosanna said.

Jennifer opened the box and reached inside. She pulled out a glass globe that had a mini carousel inside. When you tipped it down it rained down silver sparkles. "Oh this is great," Jennifer said.

"It for the baby's room," Rosanna said. "Its plays 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star'."

Jennifer pushed a button and the music to the song began playing. "It's beautiful," Jennifer said. "Thank you, Paul. Thank you, Rosanna."

"You're welcome."

More presents were distributed and Jennifer's pile of gifts began growing in size. There were baby booties, diapers, bottles, baby clothes (all yellow) and bibs. "Ohmigod, this is too much," she said. "Thank you to everyone."

"Wait there's one more gift," Paul said. He reached around behind the tree. "It's heavy." Paul read the tag. "To Jennifer. From Mike."

Jennifer stared at Mike. "You didn't have to do this," she said as Paul brought the gift over and set it in front of her.

"I wanted to. Every baby needs one."

Jennifer tore off the paper and opened the box. She looked inside. "Oh my …" She said.

"What is it?" Will asked.

"It's a baby cradle," Jennifer replied.

Hal helped her pull it out of the box and everybody oohed and awed. "Did you make that yourself, Mike?" asked Emily.

Mike nodded.

Jennifer ran her hand over the smooth wood and looked at Mike. "I can't accept this; this is too much!"

"I want you to have it," Mike said.

"Can I pay you?" Jennifer asked.

"No, it's a gift."

"But it must have taken you hours to build."

"It was no trouble, really."

Jennifer was extremely touched. Her eyes filled with tears. She stood and went over to Mike. She hugged him. "Thank you so much. You saved my life and now this … How can I ever repay you?"

"By just enjoying it," Mike said. Jennifer nodded and thanked him again.

Later, everyone helped Jennifer load her presents into the car. Paul promised he would come over with the cradle the next day so she wouldn't have to carry it herself. Jennifer got in the car and waved good bye to everyone. She drove home with tears in her eyes. The baby cradle was the most beautiful gift she had ever received.