Gerry lay with his hands clasped behind his head, staring at the far wall of their bedroom. It needed painting. The whole place needs painting. The walls in the hallway still bore marks of the kids’ attempts at home decorating, back when they were preschoolers, a million years ago. He heaved a heavy sigh. Here it was Christmas morning, and the house was silent as a tomb. You know your kids have grown up when they don’t come pounding in at sparrow fart on Christmas morning, demanding to open their presents. The realisation made him feel old, and melancholy.
There were other reasons not to be cheerful. If it hadn’t been for Chris, the Sydney developer, coming through with a nice fat cheque, Visser Kanaley wouldn’t have been able to pay their December wages bill. The two or three staff who’d left the firm lately would not be replaced any time in the foreseeable future. Every day, it seemed, another client cancelled, and Gerry had a nasty feeling – which he hadn’t shared with Marcus – that the Kansas City gallery people were getting cold feet about their planned extension. If he could just keep them on side for another six weeks, till he could meet with them in person after the New York conference . . . Yes, that meeting’s going to be critical. Make or break.
Susanna, lying on her back beside him, was snoring gently. He shook her shoulder; she murmured, and rolled onto her side. Gerry contemplated her sleeping face. Disappointing, the way she’d been so distracted lately, ridiculously preoccupied with this paper she was writing, and her damn art show. For a moment he found himself envying Chris his marriage to Terri, not only a wife but a savvy business partner. Someone who understood what was going on in the wider world.
Sunlight was seeping in now around the edges of the blinds. Gerry was just thinking of getting up and going for a run, since his family was apparently going to treat this like any other day and sleep in, when he felt a soft stroking on his arm. Susanna had woken and was looking up at him with a drowsy smile. ‘Hiya, handsome,’ she murmured.
The irritation he’d been stoking faded away. ‘Hello, sleepyhead,’ he said, smoothing back her tousled hair. She caught his hand and gave the knuckles a little kiss. ‘Merry Christmas.’
He was just lowering his head to kiss her when they were interrupted by muffled voices from the hall, and the bedroom door being pushed vigorously open. In came a tray, carried by Seb, with his sister right behind him carrying another. On their heads were those cheap sets of reindeer antlers, bright red, Stella- Jean’s festooned with green tinsel.
‘Merry Christmas!’ they yelled in unison.
‘Well, if it isn’t Prancer and, um, Blitzen,’ said Gerry.
‘Hello, kidlets.’ Susanna sat up, plucking at the neck of her nightgown, which had slipped somewhat indecorously to one side. ‘Merry Christmas. What’ve you got there?’
| copyright © 2010 Kate Veitch |