Glad so many of you liked the invisible fort scene. That actually happened many, many Christmases ago between me and my nephew when I gave him a set of Fisher Price true to life sounds power tools. I put on a toy tool belt, toy goggles and a toy hard hat and he and I used his brand new tools to build a fort. My brother videotaped me crawling around on the floor building the fort with my nephew. So Laura got to be me for a little while! LOL! :p
Thanks so much for ALL your wonderful comments on this story! :-) Here you go – the conclusion. Hope you enjoy it!
And I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa or a joyous whatever holiday you celebrate! And if all else fails – HAVE A NICE DAY!! :D
Frank's eyes popped open at exactly six-thirty despite it being Christmas Eve. Having grown accustomed to getting up every day for his classes, Frank found he awoke at the same time even on his days 'off'. Normally, he simply rolled over and went back to sleep but he knew that would be impossible this morning, as it had been for the past several days.
Staring at the ceiling, Frank exhaled loudly. Three days. It had been three days – three very long days – since Laura's biopsy and they hadn't heard a word. Despite the doctor's promise to try to get the test results back as soon as possible, Frank feared his family would be celebrating Christmas with the unknown hanging over their heads. It had been hard pretending everything was normal, but Frank forced the smiles knowing it was important to his mother for him and Joe to have a happy holiday.
Putting his hands behind his head, Frank smiled, remembering so many past Christmases that Laura had made special for him and Joe. He couldn't remember a year when he didn't get just about everything he'd wanted; and a few times when he got things he wanted but had never asked for, feeling they were too expensive or extravagant. But there was always one thing that Laura Hardy made sure her sons had in abundance at Christmas and every other day of the year – love.
Frank lay in bed reminiscing for almost an hour, sometimes chuckling softly to himself and sometimes laughing out loud, before deciding he'd better get himself – and Joe – up and out the door. They had a very special mission to accomplish today; the same mission they had every Christmas Eve – buy a gift for their mother.
It had started accidentally several years earlier, when Joe had procrastinated so long in looking for a gift that the boys found themselves still in need of a present for their mother on Christmas Eve. Frank had dreaded the thought of going to the mall on Christmas Eve, yet despite the frenetic crowds that met them on the final shopping day before Christmas, Frank found he'd enjoyed it immensely as he and Joe went from store to store in search of the perfect gift for Laura. From then on it became the boys' own quirky tradition to wait until Christmas Eve to shop for their mother's present. Frank frowned, a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach. Would it be a tradition that they continued for many years into the future or would it soon no longer be necessary?
Sitting up, Frank pushed back the covers and got out of bed, padding to the bathroom. Walking through it and out the connecting door on the other side, he emerged into Joe's room. He smiled and shook his head, surveying the lump completely buried under the down comforter. If not for the small tuft of blonde hair poking out from under one end of the comforter, Frank wouldn't know for sure which end of the lump was Joe's head and which was his feet.
Frank reached out and pressed up and down on the bed a few times so it bounced slightly. "Hey, Sleeping Beauty, time to start waking up."
A low growl erupted from somewhere under the comforter.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he responded. "Tell it to someone who cares." Frank started to turn away and then stopped, regarding the lump on the bed with an evil grin. "I'm going to jump in the shower," he said taking a step towards the bed, receiving a grunt in response. "I'll be ready to go in half an hour or so." Reaching down, he fingered the corner of the comforter. "So don't roll over and go back to sleep." With a self-satisfied chuckle, Frank took hold of the thick, warm covering and yanked with all his might.
"HEY!" Joe shot up in bed, wild-eyed and futilely grabbing at the comforter as Frank dropped it on the floor, just out of his brother's reach.
"Good," Frank smirked, walking into the bathroom. "At least I know you're awake." As he shut the door, his laughter echoed through the room.
Frank stood at the bottom of the stairs tapping his foot impatiently. Sighing, he checked his watch and rolled his eyes.
"Come on, Joe!" he yelled up the stairs. "I don't want to spend all day at the mall!"
A muffled, unintelligible reply came from somewhere on the second floor. "I'm gonna go warm up the car," Frank called out. "And I'm leaving in five minutes – with or without you!" Shaking his head and wondering why he still let Joe get to him, Frank turned and headed for the door. Glancing into the family room as he passed, the Christmas tree – and specifically the angel on top – caught his eye. Frank stopped and hesitated, looking around almost nervously. Swallowing hard, he stepped into the room and stared up at the angel.
He'd never believed his Aunt Gertrude's stories about the angel and the magical way it granted wishes. She had come up with that story the year Joe overheard Frank and Tony discussing the fact that there was no Santa Claus. Frank always thought she made it up on the spot to placate a devastated Joe who was torn between still believing in Santa Claus yet believing just as firmly that his older brother was infallible. Frank smiled, remembering how grateful he'd been for Gertrude's quick thinking, not wanting Joe to stop believing just because he had. But had it just been quick thinking on her part? Or did she really believe in that miracle angel, too?
'Can't hurt…' Frank thought, taking another step closer to the tree. Looking up at the beautiful ornament gracing the top of the tree, he wished, hoped… he prayed… With a final glance at the angel, Frank put on his gloves and left the house.
A few moments later, Joe bounded down the stairs screeching to a stop at the bottom. Entering the family room, he stared up at the angel, mesmerized. How many wishes had the angel granted for him? The most recent of which had brought him Vanessa; that wasn't just a coincidence – Joe was sure of it.
'I believe in you, even if no one else does. And there's only one thing I want for Christmas this year… to know my mother will be around for a long, long time. Please, let us get those test results today and let them show she does not have cancer.'
As Joe started to turn away, he saw a split second flash of light. He stopped in his tracks and stared at the angel. It had blinked on for barely a second… hadn't it? Joe gazed at the angel for another moment. If it was a short in the wiring it would happen again. When the light beneath the angel remained dark, Joe rubbed his eyes; he must've imagined it. Hearing a car horn honk, Joe zipped up his jacket and raced out the front door.
Joe wandered around the jewelry store, his eyes scanning the glittering pieces in the display cases. He and Frank had strolled around the mall when they first arrived, throwing out ideas about what they should get for Laura. After looking in various store windows and stopping for a cup of coffee, they decided on a piece of jewelry. The first two stores they looked in had been disappointing, but Joe thought this one showed promise.
Joe smiled as he stopped and stared at the sparkling piece of jewelry that had caught his eye. On a slim gold chain hung a pendant of three diamond chips, arranged vertically, each one just above the other and each one slightly bigger than the one above it.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" the saleswoman's voice asked.
Joe looked up and nodded in agreement.
"Would you like to see it?"
"Please," Joe responded, as Frank appeared at his elbow.
Gently removing the necklace from the showcase, the woman placed it on a black velvet display stand and held it at an angle for the boys to see. The bright lights caught on the diamonds and gold, causing them to sparkle.
"The chain is 24 karat gold. Each of the stones has a specific meaning. This one," she pointed to the smallest diamond at the top, "represents the past. The middle stone symbolizes the present and this one," she indicated the largest stone at the bottom, "stands for the future."
Joe looked up, straight into his brother's eyes. They stared at each other for a long moment and then Joe nodded his head once.
"We'll take it," Frank told the woman.
The boys paid for their purchase and slowly made their way through the crowded mall. Finally emerging into the parking lot, they walked to the car and got in, only to find themselves mired in traffic just to get to the exit. Frank found he needed to focus all his energies on navigating through the surface streets, which were clogged with last minute shoppers, only relaxing when he finally made it safely on to the interstate.
"So what are you and Vanessa planning to do for New Year's Eve?" Frank asked, assuming the fun loving couple had probably been invited to more parties than they could count. He and Callie, having spent so much time apart their first semester at college, had already decided to spend the evening alone, together.
Joe looked out the window, uncharacteristically quiet. He sighed softly before responding. "I was thinking we might spend New Year's Eve at home – with Mom and Dad. I know they weren't planning to go out anywhere."
Frank swallowed hard. "Sounds like a good idea. Maybe Callie and I will join you."
The remainder of the drive home was made in silence.
Arriving home, Frank and Joe stopped at the hall closet, hanging up their coats and putting gloves and scarves away. Joe turned to head upstairs, anxious to wrap Laura's present and put it under the tree when he stopped short. His heart caught in his throat as he spun around to look at Frank. Seeing the look in his brother's eyes, Joe knew Frank had heard it too. Soft, muffled sobs coming from the family room.
Joe hurried to the family room, stopping just inside the entranceway, afraid to take another step. Standing beside the Christmas tree, Fenton was holding Laura in his arms as she cried softly. He couldn't tell for sure because Fenton's face was buried in his wife's hair, but Joe thought his father was crying too.
'NO!' Joe thought panicked. They must have heard from Dr. Tanninger with the results of the biopsy. And from the scene before him, Joe knew what the results had to be…
"No," he said aloud, his voice nothing more than a whimper. Feeling a hand on his arm, Joe turned to his brother, terror in his eyes. "Frank, no…"
"Come on," Frank said softly, his arm on Joe's elbow, nudging his brother forward. "Dad?"
Fenton looked up, surprised, obviously not having heard the boys come in. He stared at them for a moment and uttered one word. "Negative."
"Negative?" Joe repeated, unsure if he'd heard correctly.
"Negative," his father repeated, smiling through tears.
Joe felt his knees go weak and knew he would have fallen had Frank still not had a hold of his arm. He took a stumbling step forward, then another. Two more steps brought him to his parents' side, where he threw his arms around his mother, crying. He felt his father slip an arm around his shoulders and then felt Frank behind him.
"Negative," Frank said over and over again, sounding almost dazed. "Negative…"
Joe turned to smile at his brother when the angel atop the Christmas tree caught his eye.
'Thank you,' he thought, nodding at the miracle angel. The light on the angel blinked on for the briefest of seconds before going out. And Joe wasn't the least bit surprised…THE END
Information gathered from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation website and the breast cancer dot org website were used in writing this story.
I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas, or a very happy holiday of their choice! :-)