This was written for a point-of-view weekly writing challenge, loosely based on an encounter I had this morning. Did this in a one-hour sprint. Pretty psyched to be getting back into the writing swing of things. (For those interested in the challenge, it can be found here: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/point-of-view-challenge/)
Baby’s First Christmas
1. It was Melanie’s second week working at the gift shop and so far she hadn’t made a single sale. Jim, her boss, was a bit of a tight ass, who continuously urged her to actively follow patrons around to make product suggestions based on what items they were looking at. She knew this didn’t work, and most people got irritated within seconds of her approach. She could see him eyeing her from across the room though, his long nose wrinkling from behind his wire-rim glasses—his signal for her to hunt down the next victim. This time it was a young man, red hair, in his early thirties, looking at some of the children’s holiday outfits. He was chatting quietly with a dark-haired woman on the opposite side of the clothing rack, but she couldn’t see much else but the top of her head. Jim was motioning his head toward the couple now, glaring at Melanie. She sighed and began walking toward them.
“Oh, those are adorable, aren’t they?” she said to the young man. He looked over, nodded, and went back to browsing, then picked up a baby girl’s outfit in red and white with the words, “Baby’s First Christmas” stitched on the shirt.
“Look at this one,” he motioned to the dark-haired woman. They exchanged weary smiles.
“You must be having a girl, huh?” Melanie said so the woman would hear, shooting a look over in Jim’s direction. He was gone, though. Probably in the back room going over inventory. She noticed the dark-haired woman give her an icy stare and coolly replied, “No.”
“I’m, uhm, I’m sorry. You know, I didn’t even look to see if you were pregnant…” Melanie said, visibly shrinking into herself. Fuck, why’d I have to go and open my big mouth, she thought to herself. The dark-haired woman looked down at the floor and muttered something like “It’s okay” and hurried out of the store. Melanie thought about the mouths she had to feed in her own home and walked over to some customers staring at some candlesticks.
2. Devin didn’t want to go into the gift shop, but his wife Claire had insisted.
“They’ve got so many Christmas decorations already and we’ve got an hour to kill before mom gets here. C’mon, please?” she had pleaded with him, tugging at his long, blue shirt sleeve. He let her lead the way. They hadn’t gotten much of a holiday in the previous years. They’d lost their daughter in a car accident nearly three winters ago. He would do anything to see his wife smile again.
There were Christmas trees all set up around the store, with every ornament you could think of hanging off their branches. There were wreaths and bows and tinsel and angels and fake presents galore. Claire found a toy record player underneath one of the trees and said, “This would be great for Katie when she’s a little bigger.” Devin’s sister was expecting a little girl right around Christmastime. It was bittersweet.
They continued around the shop and Devin found some baby clothes hanging by one of the trees. It reminded him of all the clothes they’d bought for their own little girl, which was all kept in a box in their attic, a painful reminder of the future their child never got to have. There was one outfit in particular that caught his eye. A simple pair of candy-cane striped leggings and a red shirt with the words, “Baby’s First Christmas” stitched on the front. They had bought one almost exactly identical to that one for their baby girl, but she never got to wear it.
“Look at this one,” he said quietly to Claire. She looked up, still holding a plush gingerbread man in her hand. She smiled softly and they exchanged that look they’d been exchanging for years now. She isn’t here. She will never be here again. Why does it still hurt?
“You must be having a girl, huh?” a short, curly-haired woman said from behind him. He saw from the badge on her beige top that she was one of the employees, “Melanie”. Claire looked up at her and quickly replied, “No.” Melanie looked agitated.
“I’m, uhm, I’m sorry. You know, I didn’t even look to see if you were pregnant…” Claire dropped the gingerbread man and stormed out.
“It’s alright…” he said to Melanie, chasing his wife out of the store and into the sea of holiday shoppers bustling through the mall.
3. “It’s been three years since we lost her. We haven’t had a single Christmas the entire time we’ve been together. It’s just been…too difficult,” Claire told her therapist, recounting the day’s events.
“So what happened today? What triggered it?”
“Well, we were in the mall, just wasting some time. We were supposed to meet my mom for lunch at the TGI Fridays but she was running late. I saw a cute little gift shop next to it and dragged Devin inside. It didn’t seem like he wanted to go in, but I figured it was time to start getting back on track with life. I saw they had lots of Christmas decorations and wanted to maybe pick a couple things out for starters. He came with me and everything was fine, you know? But then he found some of the baby clothes…Anyway, his sister’s pregnant now. Due any minute. Gonna be a Christmas baby. And I’m excited, but also scared. I’m afraid she’ll look like our little girl. That I’ll see some of him in her. I don’t know…It’s just. It’s just fucking hard.”
Claire’s voice began to shake a bit. She grabbed a metal water bottle from her red purse, unscrewed the top and chugged.
“Take your time,” her therapist said, soothingly.
“I know, I know…Anyway, so he wound up picking up this one little outfit. It was cute. Candy-stripped leggings and a red top that had the words ‘Baby’s First Christmas’ on it. It was just like one we had gotten our daughter, except she never got to wear it after the accident. It’s in her box somewhere in the attic. But…yeah. He showed it to me. And my heart kind of sank but I didn’t want to say anything. It wasn’t until this woman came out of nowhere. One of the employees. I guess she was trying to be nice, to make conversation or whatever. But she wound up saying something like, ‘Oh, you must be having a little girl, huh?’ And I just lost my shit. I must have given her the dirtiest look. I didn’t mean to, honestly. I just couldn’t help it. I wanted to say to her, ‘Why the fuck are you even talking to us you dumb cunt?!’ but I knew that wasn’t appropriate. And I didn’t really mean it. It just…stung. I just said no, and I had to run out the damn place because I started shaking so bad. It was like I was back in that place again. Back in the hospital. Back at the moment they gave us the news that she wasn’t here anymore. I just, I couldn’t, I can’t…”
The tears came stronger than they had in months. Her therapist gave her a sympathetic look and brought over the powder blue box of tissues.
“It’s okay, Claire. She’ll always be your daughter. You don’t have to explain any more.”