Camels, Stars, and Frosting... Oh my!

[This originally written as a Thanksgiving story based on characters from the American soap opera, Loving. Alex Masters had two children: Alexander (aka Sandy) and Alexis. Sandy's mother was Ava Rescott Masters. Alexis's mother was Egypt Jones Masters. Egypt was murdered and Alexis went to live with Alex and Ava. Kate Rescott is a Ava's mother and serves as a nanny / housekeeper for the Masters / Rescott home. A father, two kids, and frosting... how messy can it get...]

The smell of nutmeg and brown sugar drifted from the kitchen and mingled with the laughter of a young dark-haired boy. In his world of make-believe, the young boy pretended that the camel was talking to the other cookie cutters. His playful banter with the cookie cutters caused the older woman to smile and chuckle at his game. Kate Rescott bent down and pulled out a pan of camel-shaped cookies from the oven to cool and stuck another pan in to bake. She was relieved it was the last pan of cookies. She looked over on the counter and grinned at the fun that the kids and adults would have with over seven dozen cookies to frost and decorate. As the cookies cooled, she finished filling bowls with frosting for stars, camels, trees, bells, reindeer, snowmen, and candy canes. The small boy grinned watching her pour various candies and sprinkles into a number of small bowls.

"Gramma Kate... I like the blue ones!" Sandy crowed as she poured the sugary sprinkles into a bowl. "What color do you like? Can we start?"

"I like them all." Kate watched as her grandson's eyes grew large as she placed the bowls and spatulas on the table. Sandy started to reach across the table to get a bowl of frosting and she playfully swatted his fingers. "Hold on young man... we have to wait for your dad and Alexis."

"Why do we have to wait for Alexis... she's a crybaby."

"Sandy... that's not a very nice thing to say."

Sandy shifted off his knees and sat down on the chair. He looked as his grandmother innocently. "Well she does... I'm not making that up. She was crying again last night. Daddy's always with her."

Kate noticed Alex standing in the entry witnessing the exchange between her and Sandy. He signaled her not to say anything about his presence. "Well... Sandy we have to patient."

"Grandma..."

"Sandy." Kate looked at her grandson firmly. It was moments like this that she saw the tenacity of her daughters when they were children. Alex walked up and gently squeezed Kate's shoulder. "Ava and Ally? Let me guess, they're still shopping?"

"Hey Champ!" Alex tousled his son's hair as he sat down on a chair next to him. He looked around the table groaning with cookies, frosting, and candies as he grinned at the task before them. He looked up at Kate. "Where's Alexis?"

"Yes, they are ... They'll be back later this afternoon. Alexis...she's upstairs." Kate looked at him sadly. She was aware of the circumstances surrounding Egypt's tragic death. She felt bad for the girl and the pain she bared. It is was a pain no child should have to go through and it was pain that Alex understood too well. "I asked if she wanted to join us and she sat at the table for a little while. She was there until I turned around to put a pan of cookies in the oven, after that I looked back at the table and she was gone."

"Daddy... can we frost cookies without her?"

Alex looked at his son with a mixture of shock and sadness. He understood on some level what his son was feeling, but surprised that he could be so cold towards his half-sister. "Son, I know how you feel. But she's hurting right now. She thinks she's all alone with strangers. I know this is tough for you to handle. She needs our love, too."

"Daddy, She has you... I've got Gramma, Mommy, and auntie Ally."

"Yes, you do...but she only has me. She had her mommy for a long time before I met her again. We have to show her it's okay to laugh and smile again." Alex pulled his son into an embrace and held him for a few minutes. He quietly looked over at Kate for understanding. She acknowledged his comments to Sandy and agreed. It was a tough situation for them all and he wished there was a way to make it easier.

He pulled Sandy away before speaking. "Let's try and make her smile, Sport... okay?"

"I s'pose." Sandy pouted as he looked at him with a hint of sadness because he was uncertain if he wanted to share his father with a stranger.

"That's my boy." Alex playfully tapped his son's nose. He chuckled to himself, in many ways his son was a lot like his wife, but he knew better than to tell her that. "Who knows... you might actually become her friend."

"Daddy... she's a girl!"

"Sandy..." Alex gave his son a stern look and the boy backed down. He shifted his attention to Kate as he rose from the table. "I'm going upstairs to get Alexis. We should be back down in a few minutes. Do your best to keep Sandy out of the frosting."

Kate shook her head smiling as Alex got up from the table and headed towards the stairwell. She grinned and held out her hand to Sandy. "Well young man, you can come and help me for a few minutes."

Alex went quietly up the stairs and rounded the corner. He smiled at the blue and yellow butterflies decorating a ceramic nameplate that hung on his daughter's bedroom door. It was one of a few things brought over from Egypt's apartment to make the transition easier for Alexis. He recalled the day that he went with Ava to retrieve Alexis's things. They brought back her clothes, a few toys, in addition to a few things that belonged to Egypt. He placed those items that came from Egypt in storage until Alexis was older. Sighing heavily to himself, he was a father she barely knew, but he was determined to be there for her. He released the breath he was holding as he gently rapped on the door.

Getting no response, he pressed his ear next to the door and heard sniffling from the other side. He gently turned the doorknob and peered in. "Princess?"

He quietly stepped into the darkened room decorated with butterflies and flowers. He looked around and saw her curled up on the bed hugging her stuffed dog. Approaching her bed, he softly called out her name and got no response. He gingerly sat on the edge of her bed and gently rubbed her back. "What's wrong, princess?"

"Nothing..."

A small smile formed on his face when he watched Alexis wipe the tears away from her face with her hands while facing the wall. Alex reached over to the night stand and plucked a tissue from the box with one hand. Reaching across the bed, he used his other hand and gently pulled his daughter into an embrace. He looked down on her as she snuggled against him. She had Egypt's eyes but her daddy's smile. He planted a kiss on the top of her head as her long dark ponytail cascaded down her back. He wiped away a few stray tears with the tissue and encouraged her to blow her nose.

"Why are you up here by yourself, then?" Alex wrapped both arms around his daughter and held her tight.

"I miss Mommy. We always made cookies together." Tears trickled down her face. Alex reached with his thumb and gently wiped the tears away. He hated to see his daughter crying over a pain he could not fix. Despite his own feelings of anger and hurt from his time with Egypt, they did have some good moments. He was grateful for their daughter.

"I know you do, princess." Alex held her for a few moments before speaking. He gently pushed the stray stands of hair back from her face. He looked down at her face and smiled. "I would love for you come downstairs."

"But Sandy's mean to me... I'm scared."

"Give him a chance. He doesn't know you." Alex grinned as his daughter buried her face deeper against him.

"Gramma Kate would like you to come down, too. She has all sorts of fun planned for us." Alex gave his daughter a hug of encouragement.

"Really?" Alexis wondered aloud as toothy grin broke out across her face. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure..."

"If I come down... can I initiate you to the Order of the Reindeer?"

Alex looked at his daughter's shining eyes and wondered what sort of mischief he was about to get into. In the back of his mind, he decided if it made her smile, he would do it. "What's the Order of the Reindeer?"

"It's a game Mommy and I would play when we frosted cookies. We would dab frosting on our noses and then say we are part of the order."

Alex pondered the definition for a few minutes and a sly smile spread across his face. "Well wise one... Frosting awaits... shall we go honor the Reindeer?"

Alexis jumped up and down with excitement and clapped her hands. "Just a minute.. I need to get something."

Alex laughed at her enthusiasm and how quickly her mood changed. Alexis grinned at her father before racing to a cabinet to pull out three headbands with antlers. In the back of his mind, he wondered what she planning to do with them and if they were part of the order's ritual. Shaking his head, he grinned as Alexis bounced back onto the bed to show him the antlers. He shrugged his shoulders at what anyone else thought about the antlers because he was ready to have fun with his kids.

"Well ... Let's get going then!" Alex grinned as he held his hand out to Alexis as she bounced around him. The pair quickly made their way back to the kitchen laughing and antlers in hand. He grinned as they entered the kitchen. Kate wondered what transpired upstairs as she saw the good mood on Alex's face. She had a growing fondness for the little girl and was glad to see her smile.

Alexis ran up and gave Kate a hug before heading to the table with the antlers. Kate looked at over at Alex and wondered what happened. He walked over to the counter where she was standing and whispered in her ear about what transpired upstairs. She was touched when Alex asked if it was okay if Alexis could call her grandma and she nodded her approval. She even thought the plan of knighting could be fun for them all. Gesturing to Alex to sit down at the table, she picked up last of the bowls from the counter and headed there herself.

"Well ... Let's get started," Alex cheered as he laid several towels in his lap and a roll of paper towels on the floor near his chair. He smiled lovingly at both of his kids and looked at the table filled with sweet fun. He gave them both of a high five as they waited for the fun to begin. He hoped that Ava would forgive him, if the kids ended the day on a sugar high, but it was worth seeing them laugh and having fun. He looked over at Alexis and gave her wink to go ahead.

She put her antlers on and looked over at her daddy. "These antlers are for you, Daddy. You have to put them on before you're added."

He took the antlers with great seriousness and placed them atop his head. The red headband with brown antlers stood out against his graying sides. Kate looked away to keep from bursting out in laughter at Alex because the antlers did look funny on him. Sandy watched Alexis with suspicion and he wondered what she was up too. He was uncertain what to think as he watched his father put on the antlers and adjust the brown, red and green antlers on his head. Part of him wanted to be angry, but his Daddy did look funny with them on. A wide smile spread across his face as he tried to keep from giggling at his Daddy. Alexis slipped off her chair and walked to the other side of the table to where Sandy was sitting.

"Sandy, you can put this pair on. Then you'll be added too." Alexis grinned widely and her eyes blazed with mischief. "We can all be members of the Order of the Reindeer."

Sandy took the antlers from her hands and placed them on his head while Alexis reached for a bowl of red frosting. He was glad that he matched his daddy and now they all matched. He looked at her and wondered what she was going to do with the frosting. In a small bowl, she dipped her finger in and touched his nose with red frosting.

"You are now a member of the Order of the Reindeer and that allows you to frost cookies." Alexis announced proudly as she moved to where Kate was sitting and proceeded to put frosting on her nose. She went around the table to where Alex was sitting and placed frosting on her daddy's nose before going back to her seat. Alex put a little red frosting on the end of his finger and dabbed it on the end of Alexis' nose.

Kate tried to stifle the giggle that threatening to erupt but she was happy to see the smiles. Giggling at the three of them, she grabbed the camera sitting on the counter and started taking pictures. She took a picture of Alex and the kids dressed in their antlers and donning their red frosting noses, in addition to several several pictures of them individually. Deep down, she hoped Alex had a plan to explain the pictures to Ava. Alex gestured to Kate to come the table as he stood up. He quickly set the timer on the camera sitting on the counter and rushed back to the table to capture another picture featuring members in the Order of the Reindeer.

"Mark, get set...," Alex looked over at both of his kids and devilish grin spread across his face. The kids looked at him as they waited for the last command to start. Instead, he stretched his arms and rested his chin on his hand, while watching them squirm. His eyes burned with mischief as he listened to the cries of protests coming from Alexis and Sandy for several minutes. Kate looked at Alex and shook her head. Thinking to herself, she wondered if Alex was grown kid at times because of the mischief that he managed to get himself into. Alex yawned, stretched his arms again, and picked up his spatula. "Go!"

At that point, everyone dived into the middle of the table for frosting, sprinkles, and candies as Kate started to parcel out cookies to Alex and the kids. Alex reached for the tan frosting, a stack of camel-shaped cookies, and started to frost them. Kate placed an empty pan near them so the finished cookies could be placed on the tray and moved off the table.

"Ummm... Daddy, you missed a spot." Alexis chided as she started to put yellow frosting on her collection of stars. She narrowed her eyes at her father while putting red sprinkles on two cookies she finished frosting.

"What do you mean, Lady of the Reindeer? It's perfectly frosted," Alex offered innocently as he finished frosting the camel and laid it on the table. He knew some fathers would not approve of being ran roughshod by their children, but deep down he was having as much fun as they were. Sometimes you have to be a kid and to see the fun through their eyes.

"It has no pretties." Alexis chided him as she offered Alex some yellow sprinkles and red hots to her daddy to put on the camel.

"I agree Daddy, it needs more sparkle." Sandy added to Alexis' remarks as he started to put multi-colored sprinkles and candies on his green trees. Kate gently moved Sandy's finished trees into the tray in an effort to keep the boy's elbow from getting into the frosting on the finished cookies. She chuckled as the table started to become sticky from the frosting. It was turning out to be a fun afternoon.

"Okay, okay... You both win." Alex snorted in defeat as he took possession of the sprinkles and candies that Alexis offered. He shook his head in amusement because he realized that he was being upstaged by young art critics. After he finished decorating his bare-naked camels to the satisfaction of Alexis and Sandy, he stopped and watched them for a few moments. He was amused by Alexis's stars as some had a silver ball in the middle of the cookie.

"Why are doing that?" Alex asked curiously as he wiped some of the frosting off his fingers as he reached for some white frosting and red hots to start working on a pile of snowmen.

"Mommy always said that it allows the person eating the cookie to see their loved ones. It makes the stars twinkle." Alexis offered as she finished putting green sprinkles and silver balls on her stars. Kate nodded at what Alexis was saying as she recalled hearing something similar regarding bells. She placed a silver ball on the handle of the bell to help it ring.

"Alexis, I've heard the same thing about bells. It helps a person to hear the angels." Kate offered as she finished putting blue frosting on one of the bells. She picked up one of the bells she had already finished to show the young girl. Alexis flashed Kate a huge smile and nodded her approval.

Alex nodded in approval as the frosting mania continued. The table and floor were becoming sticky and crunchy from dripped frosting and spilled sprinkles. He was pleasantly surprised that only a few cookies fell victim to the taste test initiated by Sandy. Alex had tears running down his face as Sandy started imitating the Swedish Chef from the Muppets in his diatribe. Kate was struggling to hold herself together as Sandy continued to give a running commentary about the cookies and the frosting.

After a period of time he looked towards the back door when he noticed a figure standing at the door waiting to come in. Kate motioned for him to enter as she unlocked the door. Tony Solieto, Alex's partner at the police department, entered the kitchen and rubbed the cold out of his hands. He stamped the snow off his feet as he turned around and looked at the scene before him. Choking back a giggle that was threatening to erupt, he grinned as he caught the look on Alex's face and the antlers on top of his head. "Nice look, Masters. I dare you to wear that to the station."

Alex narrowed his eyes and snorted in amusement at Tony. He carefully chose his words before speaking, "Don't you dare to say anything outside of this room Solieto, ... or... or ...the order will be forced to reprimand you. Better yet, you can deal with three annoyed Rescott women."

Tony shook his head as felt three sets of eyes peer into his soul. Thinking to himself, it was probably wise not to upset the ladies or the kids. He preferred not to deal with Ally when she was annoyed. He finished shaking the snow off his cap and placed it in his coat pocket. As he pulled a chair up to the table he could not mistake the sound of crunching beneath his feet. He figured it was wise not to ask questions about why the floor was crunchy.

"I don't plan on saying a word. My lips are sealed." Tony nodded at Alex. "Umm... what's the order?" He wondered aloud as he picked up a spatula and reached for a bowl of frosting.

"NOOOOOO! Daddy he's going to start frosting." Alexis looked over at Tony with wide eyes and fury, shaking her head in horrror. "You can't frost until you have been recognized by the order. You're not added yet."

Tony looked over at Alexis and then back at Alex as he tried to figure out what was going on. He was completely puzzled by their actions and the absurd idea of an order. He wondered to himself if the frosted noses was part of the order they were alluding too.

"Tony, you've upset the order." Alex teased the dark-haired man as calmly put red sprinkles on the star he finished frosting. Sandy and Kate looked away to keep from laughing in Tony's face. "That was not a wise move, Tony. Not at all... Go do your thing, Alexis."

Alex rested his chin on the palm of his hand as he watched his daughter put frosting on the end of Tony's nose and conduct her little ceremony. He used his fingers to hide the broad grin spreading across his face, especially when Kate got up and reached for the camera. Thinking to himself, he could have some fun with that picture if he wanted to torment Tony. He was well aware of the incident of the teddy bear at the station. He raised his eyebrows as Tony's head turned to face him. He looked rather amusing with dark, wet hair from the snow outside and a glob white frosting on his nose.

"Quiet Masters!" Tony snorted playfully as he reached for some cookies.

"I'm not going to say a word, am I kids." Alex gave each of kids a wink and continued to frost cookies. His kids nodded in agreement but they both knew better. They knew he liked to tease and they both realized that their daddy would not miss any opportunity to engage in that activity. Alex motioned to Sandy to pass the blue sprinkles and continued to decorate his cookies.

"You know there are witnesses to my actions and I always keep my word," Alex mused. Sandy choked back a giggle as his father's words of not saying anything did not include him and Alexis. The boy wondered to himself if his grandmother would say anything to his mom and aunt. Alex looked at Sandy and gestured for him to keep quiet.

Kate cleared the table of frosted cookies and brought over the last batch of the cookies to be frosted. The counter was covered with decorated cookies. The table and spatulas reflected the different colors used in the frosting as it mingled with spilled sprinkles. The table was messy, but it overflowed with light-hearted chatter and laughter as each person started to grow spots of frosting on their hands and face. Black frosting mingled with yellow and red. White spots on the table mingled with dollops of blue and tan creating a different view on food couture. Alex shook his head at the mess and smiled as he mused to himself that the table and floor turned into their own version of Picasso with frosting intermingling with the cookies.

Kate shook her head and smiled as the kids would be in need of clean clothes after this adventure. She was glad they were having fun. It had been years since her own children were small and indulged in the creative, sticky fun of frosting cookies. She chuckled as he looked over at the kids, both had frosting on their arms and face, in addition to Alexis having red frosting in her hair after Alex leaned over and gave each of his kids a kiss on the top of their heads. Kids clean up, but the memories are forever Kate mused to herself. Alex and Tony were not doing much better as frosting was creeping up their arms also. She tried to keep from laughing as Sandy managed to get a dollop of yellow frosting in Alex's hair.

Alex turned his head as he heard the rustle of paper bags and two women chattering in the living room about their retail conquests. He wondered to himself how much his credit card bill would be in January because of Ava's fondness for shopping. "Well kids, sounds like your Mommy and aunt Ally are back."

"Can we add them to our group?" Alexis looked at him with questioning eyes.

"I can't see why not. I'm waiting to see how your aunt Ally will react to Tony." Alex looked over at Tony teasingly as his friend's face and fingers were streaked with frosting. Tony offered Alex a facetious smile as he turned several shades of bright red.

"Come on, Alex... Give me a paper towel ... Quick!" Tony's eyes pleaded in vain as he held out his hand motioning for a paper towel.

"Uh, Uh... what do you say?" Alex chided Tony as he watched him plead.

"Daddy makes us say please and thank you." Sandy corrected Tony as he watched the man squirm in his chair. Sandy tried to keep from giggling as he returned to frosting the last of his snowmen and placing red hots on the snowman for the nose and mouth. Alexis looked over at Sandy and nodded in agreement. Tony shook his head realizing that his partner's children just nailed him.

Ava and Ally walked into the kitchen just Tony was going to speak. The women stopped in their tracks when they saw the deer antlers, frosting smudged faces, frosted cookies on the counter, in addition to frosting in places that was not intended. Ally buried her head behind Ava's back to stifle the laughter that was threatening to erupt. They were greeted with wide grins and frosted fingers as they tried the distinguish the children from grown-up kids. The counter was filled with colorful cookies as evidence of their handiwork.

"I see it but I don't believe it." Ava laughed as looked over the motley crew. She could feel Ally standing behind her giggling as she tried to gain control of her own reactions. "So ... did you get any frosting on the cookies?"

Kate gestured to Ava and Ally to look at the counter as she carried another pan of frosted cookies to the counter. The counter was loaded with yellow and blue stars; green trees; white and yellow snowmen; red, blue and green bells; brown and white camels; along with brown and red reindeer. The cookies had a variety of candies and sprinkles to reflect the creativity of the participants. Deep down she knew they had fun and truth be told, that was the important part. She was happy to see Alexis smiling and having fun. She looked at Ally and they both came to the same thought.

"Can we join in on the fun?" Both women parroted as they looked over at the crew seated at the table. Kate reached into a nearby drawer and grabbed two more table knives for frosting.

"Welcome to the party!" Alex nodded to Ava to sit near him as he moved his chair closer to Alexis and pulled a stool over for her. Ally pulled a stool up to the table and sat near her mother.

"Wait a minute! They can't frost yet!" Alexis looked over at her father with pleading eyes."

"Why?" Alex looked at Alexis as he tried to figure out why. A sly smile formed at the corner of his mouth as he realized why.

"They need to be in the order, first."

"Well, you better do the task . . Oh, Lady of the Reindeer."

"Alex, what does she mean?" Ally questioned as she watched Alexis slide off her chair and reach for a bowl of frosting.

Alex held up her finger to be quiet as Alexis made her way over to Ally. Ava watched with great interest and wondered if this was a way to make Alexis smile. The sound of crunching from spilled sugar and candy sprinkles could be heard underfoot as the small girl made her way to the other side of the table.

"Ally, lean forward please so you can be marked as a member of the Order of the Reindeer." Alexis leaned up and placed a swipe of frosting on Ally's nose as he leaned forward. "Now you're a member!"

Ally leaned forward and planted a kiss on the top of Alexis's head. "Thank you milady." Ally smiled as Alexis made her way to where Ava was sitting. She grabbed her knife and reached for a pile of cookies and shared a bowl of blue frosting with Sandy. As silly as they looked with frosting on the end of their nose, it was fun to see everyone enjoying each others company.

Alexis finally made her way over to where Ava was sitting next to Alex. Alex gave his daughter a wink as she proceeded to initiate Ava into the order. His heart stopped when Alexis leaned up and planted a kiss on Ava's cheek. He smiled at his daughter as he made her way back to her chair. Ava looked over at Alex and wondered what that was about as a small smile formed at the corner of her mouth. She was surprised by the gesture.

"Accept it for what it is," Alex said as he reached over and wiped a stray tear near Ava's eye and leaving a streak of yellow frosting on her cheek. "So ... let's get back to frosting and clean up."

Kate wiped her hands and grabbed the camera to take a few more pictures of the order's members. It was a special day and she could feel the love in the room. She realized that the kitchen was a sticky and crunchy disaster, but sometimes, it is the little things that give the biggest rewards.

"Ummm... Tony," Ally snickered as she noticed his frosting covered hands, "did you get any frosting on the cookies?"

"Ha ha!" Tony gave Ally a pained expression as Alex and the kids tried to keep a straight face. The group made quick work of the remaining cookies. As the final cookies were being frosted, Ally and Kate started to collect bowls of frosting in order to get a jump on cleaning up. After the bowls were collected, Ally proceeded to start cleaning up the frosting on the table, chairs and floor, while Ava started to place the frosted cookies in a variety of different tins.

Alex led the kids upstairs to clean up and change clothes. He watched from the door of the bathroom as Alexis and Sandy washed their hands. Smiling at their playful banter, he was glad they were getting along. It warmed his soul to see that, as it was something he did not have as a child. Deep down, he would do his best to be there for his kids, because his parents were taken away from him when he was a child living in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

"Let's inspect." He looked at their warm smiles and tried to resist giggling as they presented their freshly scrubbed hands. Grinning, he tapped their noses, "Ummm... you two missed a spot."

He chuckled as they quickly scrubbed the frosting off their noses. Sandy grabbed the wet washcloth and washed the frosting off of Alex's nose.

"Thank you!" He was surprised when he was tackled by his kids in the hallway and all three of them fell on the floor laughing. He planted kisses on the top of their heads and gave each of them a huge hug.

"Thank you daddy for helping us. It was fun!" Alexis and Sandy gave him a hug and planted a kiss on each of his cheeks. His heart melted from those words. It was the little things like this that warmed his soul.

Later in the evening, after the kids had gone to bed, he sat relaxing on the couch lost in thought, when he was joined by Ava. His thoughts were distant and he was startled when she curled up next to him. He absentmindedly played with her hair as he watched the Christmas lights and the falling snow outside. His mind wandered through ancient memories of when he was a child before his father died. He vaguely knew his mother as she died when he was very young. What memories he had of her were through stories and pictures that others possessed. It was the little things he remembered the most and the time spent with a parent or relative.

He was thankful that his kids would have the fun memories from the day's activities to fall back on when times were tough. They also had the gift of knowing the love of people who cared about them. Perhaps the greatest gift was the love they had for one another. For a moment, the lights twinkled a little brighter and a feeling of warmth came over both of them. He came to an understanding about the season and the greatest gifts don't always come in wrapped in pretty paper but from the heart.