Duncan unlocked the storage room door. It was freezing this first week of December, and his breath sent plumes of whiteness shooting into the air.
He rubbed his hands together as he surveyed the boxes before him. It had been quite awhile since the last time he visited. The old trunk he sought was pushed up against the far wall. It looked out of place amongst the wooden crates. He crossed the floor and knelt down. It had taken many years for him to be able to even consider opening this trunk.
Hands that had celebrated life and wielded death caressed the carved lid reverently. Memories of their life together flowed through him like water. He was thankful they no longer brought a stabbing pain to his heart. Only their love for each other was left behind as a wise friend had once predicted.
Lifting the lid, Duncan gazed into the trunk. It had been hard after Tessa died, but he had gone through all their Christmas ornaments and put aside the very special ones. She had made him a different ornament each year and he couldn’t bear to part with them.
They were pewter, a metal she rarely worked with. He laughed aloud, the curses he was never supposed to hear echoing in his mind. In the weeks before Christmas, Tessa would work on his special gift when she thought he wasn’t around. A few times, he found himself within hearing range and it didn’t take long to figure out what she was cursing at.
He smiled all the more as he fondly remembered all that had made his Tessa. Her fiery French temper, her love of life, her talent…her love for him. Beautiful, sexy, sensitive, Tessa.
One by one he lifted out each small wooden box. He marveled at the detailed work inside: a reindeer with a huge rack of antlers pawing the ground, power emanating from delicately carved muscles, an angel whose gown billowed with softness, stars that twinkled…
He didn’t know how long he had knelt there, but his knees were getting stiff. He gathered up the boxes and packed them carefully into his satchel. A flash of color caught his attention. Stuck in a book was a picture. Duncan drew it out his eyes widening in surprise.
“How did this get here?” Not realizing he had voiced the question, the memory assaulted him.
Christmas 1992 The Mall
“No Richie, you cannot have any more to eat!” Mac steered the eating machine away from the food court.
“Aw Mac, I’m a growing boy. Dinner was hours ago.”
“No Richie, dinner was an hour ago. You’re just letting that greasy smell get to you. Once we get some shopping done, maybe we’ll come back for a treat.”
Mac looked quickly away from Tessa, whose eyes clearly stated what kind of treat she wanted.
Richie broke away from his grasp and bounded over to the white picket fence that surrounded Santa’s little house. He wasn’t gaping at the curvaceous elf who was standing behind the camera, but at the kids sitting on Santa’s lap.
Tessa and Mac watched Richie for a few minutes. “You know, Mac, he probably never got to be one of those kids.”
“It’s a shame isn’t sweet heart,” said Duncan
putting his arm around her. “We were blessed with loving families and someone
like him with so much love to give got a life no one deserves.”
“Well, thanks to a certain ‘Highlander’, he does have a family,” said Tessa, giving him a squeeze. “Let’s go and have our picture taken with Santa. I’ll bet he’ll be thrilled.”
Mac looked at her like she was crazy. He mouthed, “Me in a picture with Santa?”
Before he could say anything, Tessa pulled him over to Richie, whispering in his ear, “For Richie, for our family.”
“Come on Richie, we’re going to have our picture taken.”
Christmas, Richie’s Place
Richie retrieved the mail. Sifting through the letters, he stopped when he recognized Duncan’s flowing script. Opening it, he uttered a cry as a picture fell out of the card. Tears clouded his vision as he read the inscription on the back: