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Chapter 3 :
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town


December 23, 1977

It's going to be the second Christmas without Marie. Surely it wouldn't be as tough as the first time she thought. She was driving herself and everybody crazy with the preparations for tomorrow's dinner. She started cooking very early in the morning but she still had so much to do. She had been running all day in the apartment. All the famiglia was invited. The cousins, the uncle, Tony, his father and Samantha. Tony had insisted to help her. He had already done all the shopping and was now in the living room decorating the Christmas tree with Sam. He even proposed to help for the cooking. She knew he was a terrific cook and she actually could use some help but no men would ever enter her kitchen ! Besides, Gina was already here to assist her...

Happy laughters were coming from the living room. Mrs. Rossini poked her head through the kitchen door. Tony was carrying his daughter who was trying to hang a star on the top of a the tree. Matty was supervising the operation from the couch. There were garlands on the walls, a holly wreath hanging on the front door and Tony had removed the plastics from the furnitures. Gina and Mrs. Rossini decided to take a short break and join them.

When Samantha was done everybody clapped. Tony put her down and she went to the kitchen where a slice of cake was waiting for her.

" Ladies and gentlemen : the final touch ! " said Tony mysteriously. He picked an electric garland in one of the boxes and unrolled it in front of their expecting eyes.

" Aaahhh " everybody smiled.

Gina took the other end of the garland " Here, let me help you " she said softly. As they were putting it around the tree they glanced at each other through the branches. Tony smiled shyly. Once they were finished Gina helped him pick up the last decorations on the floor and put everything back in the cartons.

Matty smiled mentally as he watched Gina and Tony. Finally, he seems to be moving on. He knew that deep down his son was still grieving. It was too soon for him to fall in love again. But Gina was a very nice girl and she could help him healing. Matty loved Marie too. She was a very sweet, beautiful young woman, and he also knew how deeply she loved Tony. His son deserved a kind woman like her. She gave Tony a wonderful daughter and a lot of happy memories. But life had been cruel. Luckily his son was brave and the fact that he had to be strong for Samantha had helped him to cope. But an extra help couldn't hurt...

Gina bursted out laughing " Tony please ! I'm trying to clean ! " she protested playfully as Tony was throwing spangles at her. Samantha rushed out of the kitchen and joined her father on the battle field with excitement.

" Well I guess that's about it, everybody. Jim, don't forget to send me the new file during the holidays. Harry, Angela, you did a great job with the presentation ". They all started to get up and leave the room. " And don't forget to leave your phone numbers to my secretary before leaving. I want all of you to be available nights and days " added Grant, laughing at his own joke. The room was almost empty when a young woman went to Angela.

" Hey, Angela, your husband on line 2 "

" Oh okay, thanks Rosie. I'll take it here " She picked up the receiver.

" Hi darling ! ... yes I'm finished... so, how was your flight ? Oh, by the way, did you see how I decorated the tree ? I'm so looking forward ... how could you not ? It's right by the fireplace " she laughed. " What do you mean you're not home ? I thought you were supposed to be home 6 hours ago... you're going to be late ? Did your flight... oh, I see. But don't you have people who could handle this ? ... oh, come on, I'm sure they'd do just fine... no, Michael. I don't know how hard it is to assist a zebra giving birth to twins... tomorrow ? But that means you're not going to be here for Christmas... and what about me ?... oh, you're sorry ! Thank you I feel so much better... no, mother told me yesterday she already had plans and she already left... but Michael, you can't leave me alone for Christmas ! ... I can't believe you'd rather spend the holidays with a couple of zebras than with your wife ! ... yes, that's what it means !... You're supposed to make a documentary, not... well how noble of you ! ... well I have every right to be ! I'm going to spend Christmas all by myself while my husband plays midwife at the other end of the country ! ... No, don't bother calling. I won't be home. You don't expect me to stay at home moping, do you ? I'll go spend the evening at Wendy's... Oh no, please, don't spoil your night worrying about me !... Okay, so you're terribly sorry. I heard you... listen, I gotta go, I got things to do...yes.. Bye "

She couldn't believe it. This couldn't be happening. She was so mad at him ! Angela instinctively put her hand on her flat belly. She was worried about the kid. She just wished it's father would be here for it's birth. Of course, he will. Don't go there Angela. Not now.

Her self-esteem was terribly hurting too. Angry tears began to blur her sight. She knew she had been lying, she would never have the nerve to ask Wendy to stay at her place. Everybody had plans already and she didn't want to impose. Besides, she couldn't even begin to think about telling someone that her own husband just stood her up. She thought about calling her mother but decided it would only make things worse. Her mother never liked Michael anyway and she didn't want her to feel sorry for her. She had to handle this problem like a big girl. She'd work things out by herself, like she always had. But strangely, winning an account seemed easier than dealing with her emotions right now.

" Everything alright, Angela ? "

Angela jumped. " What ? Oh... yes. Sure " She quickly straightened her dress, hoping her face and her voice were as neutral as possible. " By the way, Rosie, what are you doing tonight ? " she asked, trying to sound casual.

" I'm going home. My family arrived yesterday from Washington and they're staying over for the holidays "

" Oh, that's great " Angela tried to hide her disappointment.

" Are you coming ? "

" Ahh... no, not yet. I... I'd like to finish something. "

" Okay. Well, I have to go if I don't want to miss the train. Have a nice holiday, Angela. And take care of that baby. Merry Christmas ! "

" Thanks. You too "

Rosie disappeared in the elevator and Angela found herself alone. A strong feeling of loneliness began to settle in her heart. She went back in the room, opened her brief-case and decided to start working on the next account, pushing momentarily any unhappy thoughts away. She needed to take her mind off Michael.

She hadn't been working for 10 minutes when she heard a knock on the door.

" Are you almost finished, miss ? " The woman had a broom in her hands. Angela looked at her with surprise " I gotta close every room before the holidays "

Angela checked her watch " Oh my, it's that late already "

The woman nodded.

" Well, I guess I'd better go then " Angela felt embarrassed. She quickly put her papers back in her brief case and left the building . She found herself in the cold streets of Manhattan, briefcase in hand.

What do I do now ? I don't want to go home yet, that would be too much depressing, she thought. She had nobody to call. Nowhere to go.

The evening was going well so far. Matty had his granddaughter sitting on his lap. She had a long day too and with all the excitement of the preparations she was tired. Tony and Gina were laughing, looking through the high school pictures. Once in a while Tony would comment a picture or tell stories about him and Bobby Governale.

Mrs. Rossini went out of the kitchen with a sandwich. " Here you go Samantha. Tony, are you sure you don't want a sandwich too ? You've been workin' all day "

" Thanks Mrs. R. But it's still early, I think I'll just make myself a little something when I'll go back to my apartment "

" You sure ? "

Tony nodded.

" What about you Matty ? " she turned to the old man.

" I'll do the same. Don't worry Carmella "

" Are you staying here for tonight, Mr. Micelli ? " asked Gina.

" No. He got his own apartment. He has his pride, ya know. He won't even stay at my place " explained Tony.

" Don't make fun of your father, Anthony. I maybe old but I can still take care of myself. And of you ! " Matty said on a warning tone but with a smile.

Mrs. Rossini bit her lip " I wish I could all invite you to eat tonight but now that we... "

" That's okay, Mrs. Rossini " said Gina " I'm sure they don't mind. "

" Yeah, that's right " Tony approved. " And you, Gina ? You don't want to eat something ? " he asked.

" You know, I spent the whole day cooking and tasting. I don't think I could eat a bite until tomorrow night " she laughed.

" Right " Tony smiled.

" Looks like someone needs to go to bed " Matty gestured toward Samantha who was sleeping on the couch.

" Well, it had been a long time since she fell asleep before 7 o'clock " Tony took her in his arms.

Mrs. Rossini convinced him to put her in the guest room. " She'll share the room with Gina "

Tony, surprised, turned around " You're staying at Mrs. Rossini's tonight ? "

" Yes. She invited me for Christmas... she didn't tell you ? "

" No. Well that's terrific " said Tony with a genuine smile. Gina returned his smile.

Once Samantha was in bed, Matty finally got up from the couch. " I think I'd better get back to my apartment now. It's been a long day for me too ". They all said goodnight to each other. Tony and his father went back to their respective apartment.

When Tony entered his room he suddenly realized he didn't have any Christmas present for Gina. Tomorrow would be too late. He had to buy it tonight. Tony grabbed his jacket and the keys to the van. He knew that terrific store in Manhattan.