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One morning, still a few weeks before Christmas Olivia was in her office and Natalia in hers. Rafe had a morning class and wasn't due back until 11am. Olivia has known for a while what she wants to get Rafe for Christmas, her problem is going to be convincing his mother. She knew that she had to get Natalia's approval first. If she didn't she'd figured she probably be sleeping on the couch for a week and that just wouldn't do. So she bit the bullet and decided to finally talk to her fiancé. She walked across Rafe's office to Natalia's and knocked on the open door.
"Hey, got a sec?"
"For you, always."
"I've been thinking about what I want to get Rafe for Christmas, but I'm not sure you are going to approve?" Said Olivia as she leaned on the front of Natalia's desk.
"OK, what do you want to get him?"
"A car or truck actually."
"Olivia, we've talked about this." Replied Natalia as she got up from her desk and rounded the front to meet Olivia.
"I know, hear me out OK? If you still don't want to do it I won't say anything again."
"OK." Replied Natalia as she turned to go sit on the sofa.
Olivia followed her fiancé and sat down beside her.
"OK. I know you said you didn't want me to spend so much money on Rafe, but look at how well he's done since he's come home. He's working and going to school. His grades, for him, I think he's doing really well, Bs and a couple As. I know his statistics grade is not where he'd like it, but I think he'll be able to pull a B out for the semester if he does good on his final. I've been working with him a lot on that. I'm pleased with his work performance, aren't you. And look at his free time, he's doing his community service and not complaining. He spends his free time with us, Emma, his friends. He is doing really really well for a recently paroled felon. I'm proud of him and I want him to see that we are proud of him too."
"But, a truck Olivia? Why a truck?"
"Do you not pay attention to any of your son's reading material?" Asked Olivia.
Natalia shrugged her shoulders a bit. Olivia got up from the sofa and went into Rafe's office. Natalia heard a drawer open and close, then Olivia came back with several magazines. Olivia sat back down on the couch next to Natalia and started handing her the magazines. They were auto magazines and each was already turned to a certain page. And they all had the same truck on the page. A pearl white Ford F-150, four door, 4 wheel drive, Lariat with step bars.
"I think we know what he wants." Said Olivia.
Natalia sat there flipping through the magazines. She knew Olivia was right that Rafe had been doing very well. He had been doing better than anyone would have ever expected. Everyone assumed that Rafe would have been released from prison still angry, mad at the world with a chip the size of Texas on his shoulder; yet he is the complete opposite. He is not taking for granted the position he is in and the numerous second chances that people have given him. He is proving himself to be a functioning member of society. He has worked hard for all that he has accomplished in such a short time. What was holding her back was the money. For so long, Natalia would rarely have two nickels to rub together much less be able to buy a new car.
Olivia was watching Natalia consider everything she had said. She knew from the get go that money would be the issue.
"It's the money? You can't see spending that much money?" Asked Olivia.
Natalia looked at her fiancé and smiled, her dimples barely showed.
"Olivia, I've never spent more than $3000 on a car. I think…I think we just need to have a conversation about money. We both are looking at this from opposite sides and we need to understand each other and figure out how we are going to do this. We are getting married and they say that money is lots of times the one thing that can drive a couple apart. We've both been through too much to let that happen." Said Natalia as she got up to close her office door.
"You're right. Can I start?"
"Talia, I grew up poor so I do know that value of a dollar. I worked hard to make a good life for myself and my girls. I could have stayed at being a chef. I loved it, I always will. But I wanted more out of life. So when the opportunity came to buy 50% of the Beacon, I did. I had to work with a partner and that was OK, but there were things I wanted to do that Cassie didn't. After I bought her out, I moved full force to make the Beacon my own. I've made the improvements and changes I wanted to in order to make the Beacon a 5 star luxury hotel. All of my hard work has paid off. I am very successful and that success came to me in the form of money. You've seen how I live. Even before I moved in here, I didn't spend money frivolously, but if I want something I'll buy it. I like nice things and I can afford to buy them. I know this is foreign to you, but when we get married I fully intend for you have whatever is mine. I'll add you to my personal bank accounts or I thought we'd combined our accounts. I'll have you come with me when I see my financial advisor about all of my investments, because they are your investments now too, or they will be when we marry. I want to be able to give you everything you could possibly want or need. I love Rafe just as much as Emma and Ava. Why can't I buy for him as I do them?"
"I know Olivia. This is…it's just going to take me some time to get used to it. I am so accustom to barely living paycheck to paycheck. Part of me sees spending $35,000 on a car as so completely unnecessary, but then the other part of me knows that we have no problem spending that kind of money on a car or truck."
"Imagine how happy he'll be. Not only to have his own truck, but to see that we trust him enough to give him this kind of responsibility. How about this? We'll buy the truck for him, but he's got to pay the insurance and maintenance on it? With what he makes here he can afford that and still have some money to save up or spend. It will get him started on figuring out how to save and spend his money because once he completes his parole, he'll be free then to move out. Another thing, you are letting me pay his college tuition, so we are already spending my money as our money, right?"
"You do have a point there, but a brand new car, Olivia?"
"Talia, you've never had the chance to own a brand new car. You need to buy one at least once in your life. There's no other feeling like it. I really want to do this, Baby, please?"
Natalia was looking deep into her fiancé's eyes. She knew that eventually she would give in and let Olivia buy the truck. She took a deep breath and sighed in relief.
"OK, I guess we are going truck shopping?"
"Yay!" You know what I would love to do?" Exclaimed Olivia as she pulled Natalia in for a hug.
"I'd like us to set up a scavenger hunt that he has to go through on Christmas morning. The one and only happy Christmas I can ever remember having as a child, my father did this when Marissa and I both got bicycles one year. He had us traipsing all over the house following the these clues each to a new location where we would find another clue and so on until the last clue led us to our new bikes."
"Olivia, it's one thing to hide a bike, but where are we going to hide a truck?"
"Sweetheart, you do own a barn…remember?"
"Oh, yeah. I do." Replied Natalia hesitantly.
"Alright, we probably need to go today or tomorrow. If the dealer has to bring the truck in from another dealership somewhere else, that may take some time."
"We could cut out after Rafe leaves for his 3pm class. That should give us a couple of hours. If you have Phillip pick Emma up from school we won't be pushed."
"OK. We have a plan. Have I told you lately, Ms. Rivera, just how much I love you." Said Olivia sneaking in and stealing a kiss from Natalia.
"Not since this morning, Ms. Spencer." Replied Natalia as she returned the kiss with a bit more fever.
The ladies separated and got back to work. They did call Phillip to pick up Emma and by the time they got home for supper, Rafe's truck was ordered. The dealership had the exact truck that they wanted, but it was hunter green. The salesman located a white one in St. Louis and he made arrangements for it to be brought to Springfield. Phillip let the ladies hide it in the garage on the Spaulding Estate and they would figure when and how to get it into the barn without Rafe knowing on Christmas Eve.
Christmas had descended on the Spencer-Rivera household in full force. The house was decorated, the live tree nestled in the corner of the living room beautifully decorated. It seemed as though each day the pile of presents under the tree multiplied. Emma and Rafe were both out of school; Rafe decide to put in 8 hour workdays during the break. The Beacon would need the help through the holiday week. Since neither of the ladies nor Rafe would be home, instead of having Emma stay with her nanny, she would spend her days with her daddy. Either the ladies or Rafe would drop her off with Phillip on their way to work.
Ava was due in on the 23rd and she would be heading back out on the 27th. When Christmas Eve rolled around they had everything ready. Phillip and Beth were having a big Christmas Eve dinner, so just after lunch Rafe took Emma over to her dad's. The ladies, Rafe and Ava would pick her up on their way to their church's Christmas Eve program. While they were at church, Phillip and Beth brought the truck to the farmhouse and put it in the barn and put the keys in the hiding spot that Olivia told him too. After they got back from church, Rafe carried a zonked out Emma up to her room and then he went on to bed as did Ava. Olivia and Natalia changed a sleeping Emma out of her Christmas dress and leggings into her flannel PJs and tucked her in. As they were saying good night, the little girl mumbled not to forget Santa's cookies and milk and the carrots for the reindeer.
They ladies each placed a kiss to their daughter's head before slipping back out into the hall. They changed out of their dress clothes into sweats, then they headed downstairs to play Santa. Olivia and Natalia had already written out all the clues to Rafe's scavenger hunt, all they had to do was place each clue in their spot. Afterwards they spent an hour or so setting up the gifts that Santa was bringing Emma and Ava. Lastly, they set out the evidence of the eaten cookies, carrots and empty glass of milk. They were crawling into bed just into bed shortly before 1am.
"Talia?" Asked a sleepy Olivia who was settling next to her fiancé.
"I love you, so much and our kids." Said Olivia as she slipped a leg over Natalia's as she snuggled against her.
"I love you too, Olivia."
Olivia placed a lingering kiss to Natalia's pulse point and then whispered.
"Merry Christmas, Talia."
"Merry Christmas, Olivia."
It was only minutes before both ladies were sound asleep. The next morning they were woken up when Emma came barreling into their room around 6:30am.
"Mommy! Ma! It's Christmas morning! Exclaimed Emma as she climbed onto her moms' bed.
"Em…Emma sweet stop bouncing please. What time is it?" Asked Natalia.
Emma still her movements and responded to her Ma.
"It's 6:30 Ma, we need to get up and see what Santa brought us."
"It's still early, Bean. Look your mom hasn't moved a muscle since you came in." Said Natalia pointing to a near comatose Olivia.
She saw Emma emotions deflate.
"Come here, come snuggle with us?" Asked Natalia as she pulled the sheets back for Emma to crawl in between them.
It didn't take long for Emma and Natalia to fall asleep again. It was now an hour later when Olivia felt something jab her stomach. She fought through the haze to bring herself awake. When she did she found Emma in her bed asleep curled up beside her Ma. Feeling a little let down that she didn't get to wake up this Christmas morning in Natalia's arms, she knew she had the next best thing. She leaned over Emma and placed a lingering kiss to her fiancé's lips. Almost immediately Natalia's eyes sprang open.
"Merry Christmas, Olivia."
"How long has she been in here?"
Natalia leaned up to look at the clock.
"About an hour."
"Wow, guess she was excited."
Olivia reached down to Emma's shoulder and woke her little girl. Soon everyone was up and heading downstairs. Rafe kept a hand over Emma's eyes so she wouldn't see her Santa gifts as they went through the living room into the kitchen. They quickly put together breakfast as they knew Emma was anxious. It didn't take long for the living room to become a disaster area of boxes, bags and wrapping paper. Olivia and Natalia were ready to give Rafe his gift; they handed him an envelope. It was the first clue.
"Ma? What's this?" He asked.
"You'll have to follow the clue to find out." Replied Natalia.
He read the clue and that led him to his mother's Bible. There he found the next one that led him to the coat closet in the living room. About 6 clues later he was led out to the mud room. Written on the outside of the envelope were instructions that everyone must put on their shoes, coats and hats, before the last clue is read. They all followed the instructions and then he opened the last clue.
'Where do I go if I am a cow or horse seeking shelter, from the cold harsh winter?'
"The barn. Come on everyone!" Shouted Rafe.
The family went out the back door to the snow covered path the leads to the barn. Snow was lightly falling and the sun was trying to burst through the vapor filled clouds. They rounded the corner to the big front doors of the barn and there tacked to the door was a nearly frozen zip lock bag with another envelope inside it. Rafe pulled the stiff bag off of the tack and got the bag open to retrieve the envelope. He opened it and it was a card from his Ma and Olivia. There was a hand written note inside, he read it out loud to everyone.
Sometimes it's hard to except that you are a grown man, but you are. You had to grow up quick when you were sent to prison. It was so hard to be separated from you and not be there to protect you. I had Olivia and Emma. They helped me not miss you as much. Now you are home, free (almost). Rafe, Olivia and I are so proud of what you have accomplished since your release. Working, going to school, it's more than I could have ever hoped for a year ago. But here you are; you are using every second chance you are given and doing the most with it. We are so proud of you, our son; who's become a loving son, amazing brother and a wonderful young man. Merry Christmas, Rafe and please be careful.
Ma & Olivia
Rafe had to wipe the tears from his eyes as did his Ma. He took a deep breath and turned back towards the barn door. He pulled the pin out of the latch and flipped it away then each hand grabbed a door. As he walked backward, he pulled both of the big doors open to a point and let them go. He stood there frozen staring at his dream truck. He was brought out of his haze when Sam slapped him on the back.
"Rafe, wow man! That's so cool." Said Sam.
Rafe turned back to his Ma and Olivia.
"Seriously?" He asked not believing what he was seeing.
Natalia was struggling a bit to find her voice to Olivia spoke up.
"Yes, Rafe. Your Ma and I meant every word in that card."
Olivia stepped forward and placed a hand to his shoulder and Natalia followed.
"We both are so proud of you and we wanted to show you how much we love you and how proud we are of everything you've accomplished since coming home."
Rafe swallowed hard. Never would he have ever expected this would be his life, not that his Ma was in a romantic relationship with a woman, but that he had a real and true family for the first time in his life. This is what it felt like to be loved unconditionally and to be accepted for who you are faults and all. He took one step into their personal space and pulled them into a hug each woman in an arm. They stayed there for what seemed like eternity. Everyone now seemed to be crying happy tears.
"I love you both. I don't know what to say except that I will do my best to always make you proud of me. I don't know if you'll ever realize just how much this means to me. Thank you." Said Rafe.
They pulled out of their hug. Natalia went to wipe Rafe's tears and he did his Ma's. Olivia reached into her pocket and pulled out the keys and dangled them in front of Rafe.
"OK, Sport. We have a couple of rules?" Said Olivia.
He stepped back and stood tall waiting for the instructions.
"You are responsible for the insurance payments, maintenance costs and gas. Even working part-time, you'll still have plenty of money left over each month to save or spend." Said Natalia.
"OK, done. What else?"
"No off-roading. The 4 wheel drive is for when you need it like now in the snow." Said Olivia.
"Not a problem, I want to keep this baby looking brand new for as long as possible!" Replied Rafe.
"Alright, then, here you go." Said Olivia as she tossed the keys to Rafe.
He caught them and ran around to the driver's side door while Emma went to the passenger front door, Sam behind her to the passenger back door and Ava followed Rafe on the driver's side to that back door. Olivia and Natalia stood there arm in arm watching their family enjoying this wonderful surprise.