The Road to Christmas
Book Excerpt :: Chapter 1
Michelle Turnbull would have two turkeys in her house for Thanksgiving. One would be on the table, the other would be sitting at it.
“I can’t believe he’s still there,” said Ginny, her longtime clerk at the Hallmark store she managed. “You two are splitting so why not pull the bandage off and be done with it?”
Pull the bandage off. There was an interesting metaphor. Pulling off a bandage implied that a wound was healing. The wound that was her marriage wasn’t healing. It was fatal.
She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and went to unlock the door. “Because I don’t want to ruin the holidays for the girls.”
“You think they aren’t going to figure out what’s going on with you two sleeping in separate bedrooms now? Don’t be naive.” Ginny may have been her subordinate, but that didn’t stop her from acting like Michelle’s mother. A ten year age difference and a long friendship probably contributed to that.
Michelle turned the sign on the door to open. “I’ll tell them he snores.”
“All of a sudden, out of the blue?”
“Sleep apnea. He’s gained some weight.”
Ginny gave a snort. “Not that much. Max may have an inch hanging over the belt line but he’s still in pretty good shape.”
“You don’t have to be overweight to have sleep apnea.”
“I guess,” Ginny said dubiously. “But, Michelle, you guys have been having problems on and off for the last three years. Your girls have to know this is coming so I doubt your sleep apnea excuse is going to fool anyone.”
Probably not. Much as she and Max had tried to keep their troubles from their daughters, bits of bitterness and reproach had leaked out over time in the form of sarcasm and a lack of what Shyla would have referred to as PDA’s. Michelle couldn’t remember the last time they’d held hands or kissed in front of any of their daughters. In fact, it was hard to remember the last time they’d kissed. Period.
“You have my permission to kick him to the curb as of yesterday,” Ginny went on. “If you really want your holidays to be happy get him gone.”
“Oh yeah, that would make for happy holidays,” Michelle said. “Audrey and Shyla would love coming home to find their father moved out just in time for Thanksgiving dinner and their grandparents missing.”
“If you’re getting divorced that’s what they’ll find next year,” Ginny pointed out.
“But at least they’ll have a year to adjust,” Michelle said. “And this is Julia’s first Christmas in her new home and with a baby. I don’t want to take the shine away from that.”
The coming year would put enough stress on them all. She certainly wasn’t going to kick it all off on Thanksgiving. That would make for happy holidays.
Happy holidays. Who was she kidding? The upcoming holidays weren’t going to be happy no matter what.
“Well, I see your point,” said Ginny. “But good luck pulling off the old sleep apnea deception.”
Their first customer of the day came in and that ended all talk of Michelle’s marriage miseries. Which was fine with her.
After work, she stopped at the grocery store and picked up the last of what she needed for Thanksgiving – the whipped cream for the fruit salad and to top the pumpkin and pecan pies, the extra eggnog, for Shyla, her eggnog addict, and Dove dark chocolates for Audrey and Constant Comment tea, which was Hazel’s favorite.
Hazel. World’s best mother-in-law. When she and Max divorced he’d take Hazel and Warren, her second parents, with him. The thought made it hard to force a smile for the checkout clerk. She stepped out of line. She needed one more thing.
She hurried back to the candy aisle and picked up more dark chocolate, this time for her personal stash. She was going to need it.