Holly Jolly Christmas
Prequel to Holiday Babies Series
by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author
Copyright © 2016 by Mona Risk
Heather and Jeff have always been in love. Yet to find herself pregnant now, at eighteen, before she even starts college and he joins MIT for a master’s degree… Talk about the wrong time. Besides, the news might kill her father who is battling cancer.
Although the decision to give up her baby is breaking her heart, Heather contacts an adoption agency. But Jeff absolutely refuses to consider her solution. How can they save their relationship and their baby’s future?
Heather had expected Jeff to argue against her decision but she’d never thought he’d be so negative. Couldn’t he understand she was doing this to allow him to fulfill his dreams, to protect their love and future? Dad had been thrilled to learn Jeff’s good news. She’d bet his parents must have been in seventh heaven for Mr. Bolin to call Dad right away and share his pride in his son. She couldn’t let Jeff destroy all the good feelings with a bad decision.
Besides, he might resent her later if she let him drop out of the prestigious MIT. Of course it wasn’t easy for him. Or for her. When she thought of the baby, she felt like curling up in a corner and crying her heart out. Was she a monster to give up her own child?
“I’ll make sure he’ll have a wonderful home,” she muttered under her breath while driving home.
“Who?” Claire asked, her eyebrows arching dubiously.
“Her dearest Jeff. Who else?” Tiffany answered from the backseat.
Bummer, these girls were so annoying with their sharp hearing and unrestrained curiosity.
Claire shrugged. “Right now, his lodge is rather microscopic, far from a wonderful home.”
“Haven’t you read that love is blind?” Tiffany snorted. “These two are in love, lovey-love. They can’t see beyond their own noses, which are usually too close together, if you ask me my humble opinion.”
“Enough, you too. No one wants your opinion.”
“Seriously, Heather, you’re becoming a pain in the patootie.” Claire sighed. “Even Jeff is fed up with you. Everyone at the pool noticed how you upset him.”
“Will you shut up once and for all, or I’ll drop you here. And you can walk the rest of the way home.”
“And Mom would kill you for sure,” Tiffany yelled from the back.
Darn, couldn’t they keep quiet? Heather bit her lip not to shout that she hated them, she hated Jeff, and mostly she hated herself.
Fighting the tears threatening to spill, she pressed her foot on the accelerator.
“Slow down, you’re going to kill us,” Tiffany screamed.
But Claire patted her arm. “Calm down. You’ve been a live wire. Is something wrong?”
Damnit, that did it. The tears rolled onto her cheeks and sobs shook her.
“Are you crazy? You can’t drive in this shape. Stop at the side of the road.” Claire was right.
Heather had better control herself if she didn’t want to cause an accident.
“Okay, I will.” She hiccupped and pulled to the side of the road. Her head dropped onto the wheel and she hauled in a few deep breaths.
“Care to share what’s going on? Maybe I can help.” Claire’s gentle strokes on her back helped her calm down. Her cries subsided.
“Thank you. I’m better now.” She started the car and took off slowly. Good God, she’d almost endangered her sisters and the baby. Bad enough she was giving him away, no need to traumatize the new life growing inside her. From now on, she promised herself, she’d think of the baby’s health and safety before all else.
At home, she parked the car in the garage and followed her sisters inside the house. Sure enough, they found Madelyn in the hallway. “Had a good time at the pool?” Big Sis asked.
“At the pool, yes, but on the way back, Heather wasn’t feeling well,” Tiffany said with an important air.
“What happened?” Madelyn raised her eyebrows with concern.
“Nothing happened, for heaven’s sake.” When would these girls learn to be discreet?
“You should give her a check-up, Maddy. Methinks she had a fight with Jeff and is now going into a depression,” Tiffany declared with a serious pout. “She couldn’t stop crying.”
“Thanks for telling me, Tiff. I’ll take care of that. Come to my room, Heather.”
“Gladly.” At least she wouldn’t have to listen to the little pests’ rant.
“Or better, we’ll go to your room. I’ll show you a few things on the computer,” Madelyn added after the two young ones had disappeared into their rooms.
“What things?” Heather couldn’t wait to see what Madelyn had uncovered about adoption.
“I found an agency that looks quite reliable.” She sat at the desktop and entered a link while Heather locked the door to avoid unwelcome interruptions. “Here, read this and then you’ll call them and get an appointment.”
“Thank you, Maddy. I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“Pregnancy can make the expectant mother very nervous. So you shouldn’t put more stress on yourself. Take one step at a time. First, you have to gather all the information, then explain it to Jeff. And then both of you will discuss the adoption benefits and come up with the right decision.”
“I already told him my decision. But it upset him. He started yelling and left. I was so disturbed I couldn’t help crying while driving home.”
“It’s not your decision alone. Jeff has to agree.”
“He’s too stubborn.”
Madelyn held up both hands impatiently and sat on the bed. “Stop arguing. Read the information they give you on this site. And then call them.”
An hour later, Heather noted an address on a paper. “I’m meeting a Norma Benson in two days at the agency. Will you come with me?”
“What about Jeff?”
“The woman said she doesn’t need to see the father. It’s my decision alone.”
“Seriously? I’m stunned. I don’t want you going to meet these people all alone. I’ll come with you.”
A bang on the door interrupted them. “Mom said dinner will be served in ten minutes. Be downstairs,” Claire said without bothering to open the door.
“We’re coming. Now put a smile on your face and let’s go.” Madelyn didn’t wait for her.
A smile? When she felt like crying again? She washed her face, changed her clothes and combed her hair on her shoulders. A touch of makeup would give her a cheerful appearance. She ran down the stairs but stopped mid-way, struck by the smell of garlic and rosemary emanating from the kitchen. She splayed one hand on her midriff and pinched her nose with the other.
Oh no, why now? Afraid of vomiting on the stairs, she rushed back to her room.
“Heather,” Mom called.
“Oh God, help me.”
Her door burst open. Madelyn walked in with a small towel. “I saw you on the stairs. Put this on your face and slowly breathe. I wet it with alcohol. And take this pill. It will calm down the nausea.”
Grateful, she nodded and obeyed.
“Lie down on the bed. I’ll tell Mom and Dad to excuse you for a few minutes. And I’ll increase the AC ventilation.”
“Thanks,” she murmured and sprawled on her bed.
Ten minutes later, she felt better and went down to the kitchen. By then, Mom had switched off the stove. The air-conditioning blew cold air and the food odors had subsided.
“Sorry, Dad. Jeff called unexpectedly.” She hated herself for lying but what else could she say? Certainly not apologize for almost vomiting.
“It’s okay, sweetheart. He must be so excited.”
“You should have asked him to come for dinner,” Mom said.
“You know, Mom,” Tiffany started but got pinched in her side. “Ouch.” She lowered her head and remained silent.
“Did you have a good time at the pool, girls?” Dad asked.
“Very good time,” Heather hastened to answer before Tiffany could put her foot in her mouth and relate Heather’s argument with Jeff, or whatever she’d heard of it. “Claire and Tiff did great in their training. I’m sure they’re going to win next month’s competition. Claire, tell Mom and Dad about your diving and swimming.”
Claire cast her a knowing glance and launched into a lengthy story about their prowess. Interested in her daughters’ sportive accomplishments, their mother didn’t notice when Heather slid her food into Madelyn’s plate with a pleading look, and ate bread only.
“Your turn, Heather.” Dad’s loving gaze and proud smile filled her with guilt. Any report she’d give about her day would be laced with lies. But their father insisted on a family conversation where each member shared news about the day.
“Let’s see. Nothing really interesting today, apart from Jeff visiting and coming with us to the pool. We all enjoyed a swim. Claire, Tiff and I raced and I won. It was fun watching Tiffany hanging on Jeff’s neck while he swam the length of the pool. That’s about it.” At least this was the truth.
“I like this boy. One day he’ll make a terrific dad.” Her father’s compliment banged on her stomach like a baseball bat, roiling her emotions.
Stunned, she drank a sip of water, hiccupped and prayed for her food to stay put. If she dared throw up, Mom would take her straight to Dr. Newman.
“Don’t we all know who’d be delighted with this compliment?” Madelyn caught Heather’s hand and laughed. “Why don’t you give him a call, sweetie? I’m sure he’d love to know we all appreciate him. Go, go.”
She nodded, threw Madelyn a grateful look, and rushed out of the dining room, taking the stairs two at a time. “Be back in a minute.”
In her room, she inhaled and exhaled, then lay on her bed and pressed the towel moistened with alcohol on her face as Madelyn had shown her. Better, much better. The pungent smell calmed the nausea. Not ready yet to tackle the family gathering, she went to the bathroom and tried to throw up. Nothing came out. The crisis had passed. To be safe, she poured more alcohol on her small towel and shoved it in her shorts pocket.
On a sudden impulse, she called Jeff and related her conversation with her parents. “Dad said you’ll make a terrific father.”
“Ah.” A big exhale followed. “Glad you came to your senses, sweetheart.”
“What do you mean? I haven’t changed my mind about the adoption. Tomorrow, I’m meeting with a social worker.”
“Don’t you dare go behind my back and give up my baby.”
“It’s in my body. You can’t order me. Bye.” Trembling with aggravation, she flipped off her phone, breathed the alcohol from the towel, and closed her eyes to recover her calm.
How dare he? Why couldn’t he understand she was suffering too?
They made a mistake and she was trying her best to fix it. Loving a baby was not enough. He needed care they couldn’t give him. But Heather would make sure to show her baby the biggest proof of love by securing his future with caring parents. Even if the decision broke her heart and sleep eluded her at the thought of losing him.
(To be continued on 12-2-2016)
Holiday Babies Series
With high moral values and a strong sense of unity, the Ramsay family counts five daughters—Madelyn, Roxanne, Heather, Claire, and Tiffany, and their mother Barbara. Later, stepdaughter Monica Roland joins the clan.
Christmas Babies: Can a career fill her life? (Madelyn and Dr. Nick Preston)
Valentine Babies: Can he love a woman expecting another man’s baby? (Roxanne and Dr. Greg Hayes)
Mother’s Day Babies: Never too late to find love and happiness. (Barbara and Lou Roland)
Wedding Surprise: Is it the worst or best wedding surprise? (Claire and David Wheeler)
Christmas Papa: Who’ s my papa, Mommy? (Monica and Michael Wheeler)
On Christmas Eve: We want a mommy for Christmas. (Tiffany and Dr. Matthew Alonso)