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Christmas

Happily Ever After

Susan W. Hudson

Becky and Anna were sitting at Anna’s kitchen table. Anna had poured them both a glass of Chardonnay as she braced herself.  She knew Becky was going to share something dreadful. Becky looked like she had not slept in days; tears filled her bright blue eyes and spilled over onto her favorite shirt, which matched them. Her normally beautifully coiffed blonde hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail. She was just one deep pool of loneliness and close to hysteria.

“I just can’t go on. I have to tell someone,” Becky gurgled and huffed through a cavalcade of tears. “I think Steven has been cheating on me with someone at his law firm.” Anna grabbed her hand and held it tight. She had always lived in fear of this. It was a plague that relentlessly bored holes into the brains of the girls who married their high school sweethearts and struggled to get the husbands through law school or medical school, only to be left in the dust when the established professional rode off into the sunset with someone he found more desirable.

Becky and Anna and their husbands/coaches met in the hospital maternity ward. Both couples were in hard labor and pretty grumpy. Becky’s son was born about two minutes before Anna’s. In after-care and in nursing classes Becky and Anna became the best of friends.

Becky, fair-skinned, blonde, and blue-eyed had married her high school sweetheart, Steven. Anna, olive-skinned with luscious dark brown hair and smoldering big brown eyes married her high school sweetheart, Brian.

Steven did well at law school, and though he and Becky struggled to make ends meet at first, he worked his way up to partner at a prestigious law firm. Brian went to medical school, and though he and Anna also struggled for several years, he established himself as a reputable pediatrician quickly.

Becky and Anna developed a close friendship with a small circle of friends. Five years after the birth of their boys, they each added a baby girl to their family within days of each other. They had joint birthday parties and shared other holidays together. 

They founded a cookie exchange for the winter holidays. It was an immediate hit and flourished over the years.

After Becky’s breakdown, Anna came up with an idea. Why not extend the cookie exchange to Steven’s law practice and see if they would subtly sniff out the “other woman.”

Becky agreed to this plan, and they began to act on their strategy. The firm was still small, and it would not add that much to their preparations. 

Anna and Brian owned the larger and most recently refurbished home, so that would be the location. They got a list from Steven and hand-printed invitations to his partners and staff and their spouses. Steven hand-delivered them and they responded with a resounding yes.

Betsy and Anna put on the Ritz. They dug out all the silver, crystal, and fine china. They cleaned and scrubbed. The work kept Becky’s mind occupied. They decorated a huge tree in Anna’s living room and set up huge tables to display all the creations. 

The evening came. “Ok. You are the Commander in Chief of greeting, distributing name tags, and listening in on the gossip,” Anna told Becky. “Our goal is finding out who is who, and who’s doing who.”

They had sent out little cards with their invitations asking anyone who wanted to share their recipe. If it contained a secret ingredient, of course, he or she could leave that out.

The evening glittered on. The holiday music played over and over. The lights blinked against all the silver and gold holiday clothing. Drinks flowed and were heartily consumed. All was well. 

Lots of chitter-chatter ensued. Neither Becky nor Anna heard anything that gave them the clue they were seeking.

Becky and Anna had prepared a huge array of heavy hors d’oeuvres for their guests to combat their sugar highs from the cookies. While everyone was indulging in the food and drinks, Becky and Anna were tabulating the results of the vote. They had set up a voting station to decide whose cookie was the winner. 

Once again, Becky’s Ho Ho surprise cookies won. They collected all the recipes and promised everyone another competition to come soon. 

Becky did not rejoice in her victory. She had not gotten the information she was so desperately seeking.

All the guests left. Steven and Brian were having an in-depth discussion in the living room. Anna called Becky into the kitchen. 

“Becky, I can’t take it anymore. I have to tell you, it’s me. Steven and I have been in love for over ten years. We only recently consummated our love. We held off because of the children. I am so sorry, but I can’t go on with our secret.”

Becky was perfectly still for one whole minute. Her eyes were locked on Anna’s. They turned from bright blue to steely gray. Finally, she stood up and turned around as if to leave. The party was over. Steven walked in just in time to see Becky slam her right fist into Anna’s left jaw. Steven went to Anna.

Becky was a petite woman, but she put all of her angst into that punch. Anna knew immediately that her jaw was broken. Steven took Anna to the hospital. Brian took Becky home, gave her a sedative, and settled her into bed for the night. She was still upset, but very cooperative.

Brian went home to wait. Steven called to say that Anna had been admitted to the hospital and was being prepped for surgery the next day. “I’ll be there,” Brian sighed.

The next day, Becky took all of Steven’s belongings and dumped them on the front lawn with a sign screaming “FREE.” She had the locks changed on the doors and talked to her children about the future.

Becky learned through “the grapevine” that Anna came through her surgery just fine, but would need more surgeries to fully restore her jaw. Steven grabbed as much as he could from the “free” stuff on the lawn. The children were absolutely mute.

After months of negotiation, quarrels, name-calling and attorney fees, Becky and Steven finally reached an agreement and divorced. Their children were grown and went off to college. Becky went back to college to finish her degree, and then law school to do what she had always wanted.

Brian caved and gave Anna a divorce quickly. Their settlement was amicable. Brian soon married another doctor in his field. Anna floated like a leaf in the wind. She watched the children go off to college and their new lives. She never fully recovered and was always embarrassed by the way her face healed.

None of them lived happily ever after.

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December 11, 2020 19:30

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