This story runs parallel with my other ongoing fic, The Pillar of Salt, which is The Price of Salt written from Carol's POV. This one will be shorter however, since Abby's scenes are fewer in the book. Also, WHY doesn't Abby have her own character tag here?!
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house
The air was filled with laughter, cheer, and carouse
The bottles of wine were downed straight with no care
To have a good time was why people were there
While Carol had an angel and her Christmas card
This follows the story of Abby Gerhard
"It's about time, Gerhard!" Someone called out as she exited her open topped car. "Took your time picking bugs before you left?"
"Shut up, Steve!" Abby hollered back without hostility as she approached the entrance. "I do more than just pick bugs for your information."
The man laughed as he opened the door to let her in. The uproar of chatter and wafting scent of alcohol immediately flooded her senses. Abby shed her coat and pulled her long black hair out of her purple knitted suit. It's party time.
She made a beeline to the refreshments table. Driving in winter in the open can dry one's throat. Though alcohol pretty much did the same, she reached for the punch bowl anyway, knowing how the host liked to spike it.
"Glad you could make it, Abby." She turned to see Tessie Rowan walking towards her. "Is Carol coming?"
"Nah, she's spending Christmas with her daughter." Abby replied with a shrug and took out a stick of Craven A's. "Got a lighter, Tessie?"
"To be tied down by a man and bear his children. I don't think I can do it." Tessie grimaced as she lit Abby's cigarette.
"You and me both." Abby said and rolled her eyes.
"I mean, why stop at one when there's plenty of me to go around?" Tessie laughed.
"You maverick." Abby laughed with her.
"It takes one to know one, dear." The other grinned. "Though we seem to be completely opposite. When was the last time you went out with a man, Abby?"
"When was the last time you did?" Abby said, deflecting the topic altogether.
"He's on his way here tonight as a matter of fact."
"And how long will this one last?"
Abby felt bad for the poor sod who had the misfortune of being attracted to Tessie. Not because she was ugly, far from it. Red wavy hair, a nice ample bosom, Abby thought her a knock-out. But her wishy-washy nature has led several heartbroken men in her wake. Abby would have been like them as well, even worse because she was a woman, if only it wasn't for…
"Ah, there he is!" Tessie said and waved eagerly at a man wearing a top hat. "Abby, this is Bob Haversham. Bob, this is Abby Gerhard."
Abby stared at the man for a moment. "Hey, I know you! Weren't you that man who needed a dog walker for a few weeks in October?"
"Oh, right, I remember you. You were the woman who brought home the wrong dog after a day…"
"I got him back anyway, didn't I?" Abby shrugged. "How is old Maggie anyway?"
"Majesty is doing fine. His new dog walker comes by every weekday."
"Ah, well, if you ever need a backup. Just say the word."
Tessie was giggling the whole time. "Well, at least you two know each other then. Bob needs someone to walk his dog because of his day job at the government office."
"I said I worked at the bank." Bob corrected her. "And I quit that job already. I'm going to be working for a real estate company next."
"Oh right, the government worker was the other man I dated…"
Bob and Abby just looked at each other. "So, real estate, huh? Which company?"
"Rattner and Aird. I'll be part of their brokerage department starting January."
"I see…" Harge's company… Tessie winked at her, knowing who owned it as well. Abby just nodded discreetly.
"And if I may ask, what about you? What does your husband do?" He asked.
Abby felt insulted, but before she could open her mouth, Tessie answered for her. "Abby's single. She works as a 'reserve entomologist'" Tessie giggled. Abby rolled her eyes.
"What does that even mean?" Bob asked.
"Let's just say I do a couple of jobs to make ends meet, and my largest client is an ecology lab who often asks me to pick out bugs out of god knows what."
"Charming, isn't she?" Tessie laughed.
"As you, Tessie." Abby threw back.
After Tessie and Bob left, Abby took a seat by the window. All around were couples dancing to Jazz hits on the phonograph, including the two earlier. A self-depreciating smile formed on her lips. How would it feel to dance with another woman? With that other woman? She'll probably never find out. A deep sigh escaped her as she looked up at the winter skies. Look at me, wasting my life at another party while you spend Christmas with your most precious daughter.
A slight pang still lingered in her chest after all these months but she knew it had to be that way. All her life, Abby had loved Carol. When they were children, Abby felt compelled to protect the younger girl, pretending to be the unwomanly knight for the delicate princess. When they were teenagers, she began openly accepting the fact that her heart belonged to another girl, sending her clumsy letters even when they couldn't see each other. Even after going to Europe with her family, she kept on pining for her, until the day they met again after so many years.
She took a sip of her drink. Harge… Abby felt devastated when she found out that Carol was getting married to him. It felt like a slap of reality to her. The world viewed her kind as an abomination. Carol would never reciprocate her feelings. Or so she had thought, because even after several years, even after Rindy came about, Abby just couldn't move on. Riding horses with Carol, playing tennis with Carol, just about anything with Carol would be enough each time.
Then that day came. "I love you, mom." Abby jokingly murmured. Her mother had insisted that the two would spend the night at Abby's room when the roads were snowed in because the room Carol would often stay in was unmade at the time.
Another sad smile surfaced as Abby reminisced the feeling of Carol's perfectly smooth skin, the sound of her voice when she finally admitted to Abby that she did feel something towards her… And the feeling of melancholy after Carol said that they had to stop. All those years of longing, leading up to only two meagre months of happiness…
At least you'll be happy now… Abby thought and downed the rest of her drink. Knowing that Carol would be happy that night with her daughter was enough for her that Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas, Carol…
"Merry Christmas!" The party goers shouted in unison, raising their drinks in the air. The wall clock had finally struck midnight.
Abby tossed the disposable cup, picked up a can of beer and stood up. "Merry Christmas!"