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?
A smile lingered on Heather’s lips long after Jeff left. Dad had received his night medicine and switched off the light in his room. Too excited to sleep, Barbara and her daughters had changed into their nightclothes and gathered in the family room. “You want to watch a movie or the news?” Roxanne fiddled with the TV remote.
“Can we chat?” Tiffany said, her eyes sparkling with mischief. “It’s not every day that we have to prepare a wedding.”
“We?” Heather scoffed as her mother and sisters settled on the sofa, love seat or reclining chairs. “What are you planning to do for the wedding, Tiffany?”
“We have to shop for a wedding gown for Heather, outfits for the bridesmaids, a new dress for the mother of the bride, flowers, bridal cake, a place for the reception, and—”
They all burst out laughing. “How did you turn into such a wedding expert?” Roxanne dropped onto the sofa, leaving the TV remote on the end table beside her.
“My friend Kennedy’s sister is getting married next summer. Kennedy and I flipped through her bridal magazines. You can ask me any questions about weddings.” Tiffany bobbed her head with importance.
“You’re right, Tiffy, I should start shopping with Heather soon,” Barbara said.
“Tomorrow, Mom. Claire and I will come with you. Please, Mom?” Tiffany begged.
Mom glanced at Heather, and she nodded. “Sure. It’d be so much fun to be together.” Too bad Madelyn and Roxanne would be leaving early tomorrow to return to their workplaces.
Madelyn checked her schedule. “Can you set the wedding date in three weeks? I’ll be done with my current rotation and will have a weekend off.”
“Let me ask Jeff.” Heather called him right away.
Roxanne chuckled. “She’s already talking like a married woman.”
“He was having the same type of discussion with his family. And yes, third Saturday in August is perfect. Mrs. Bolin will meet with the priest tomorrow and organize the ceremony.”
“Good, because I hardly have time.” Mom sighed.
“Jeff and I will choose the flowers. Mom, can we have the reception on the patio around the pool? It’d be easier for Dad. If he gets tired, he’ll be able to take a break and rest.”
“If the Bolins agree, it would be great.”
“Our patio is so beautiful.” Claire spent her free time drawing and painting. She’d often asserted she’d be an architect when she grew up. “We’ll decorate it with banners and flowers. Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll take care of the decorations.”
“Mom, can you order the cake? You’re the expert.”
“I will, sweetheart. I’m going to bed now. It’s been an eventful day.”
At the top of the stairs, Mom held up Heather and Madelyn, after the three others entered their rooms. “Madelyn, don’t forget to give Heather your friend’s card. She needs to see a doctor and be sure everything is going well with the baby.”
“Everything is going great, Mom. He’s kicking often.”
“He does?” Mom broke into an elated smile. “I’m so happy. Regardless, you’ll go see that doc as soon as possible. Good night, girls. I hope Dad feels better tomorrow.”
Early in the morning, Madelyn drove Roxanne to the airport and continued to her hospital in Cincinnati. Around nine o’clock a nurse came to take care of Dad and give him his medicines. “Mrs. Ramsay, I’ll be staying with him until noon to check his blood pressure and monitor the effect of his new medication.”
“We’ll leave you for a couple of hours. You have my phone number in case he needs anything.” Mom added a few instructions and gave Dad a kiss on the forehead.
Claire and Tiffany already waited at the door. Heather climbed into the driver’s seat of the van while Mom settled beside her and the girls in the backseat. The first bridal shop didn’t excite them. The gowns offered were too elaborate, too low cut, or too expensive. The second boutique had a more restricted choice.
At the third shop, Claire chose a dress. “You’ve got to try this one. It’s beautiful.”
“Select as many as you want,” a sales clerk suggested. “I’ll bring them to the fitting area.”
When Heather tried the first dress and walked onto a platform, three pairs of eyes stared at her. “Turn around,” Mom ordered. “I’m not crazy about it.”
“Try this one.” Tiffany approached her and whispered, “Seriously, Heather. You’d better go on a strict diet and lose some weight before the wedding.”
Heather shrugged. “In three weeks? Forget it.” Her extra weight was too precious to lose.
The second and third gowns didn’t flatter her, but the fourth one chosen by their mother suited her so well. The dress sparkled with a beaded top and capped short sleeves. The high-waist skirt gathered under the breasts and spread into a flow of lace with embroidered appliqués. “So what do you think?” Heather pirouetted, posed, turned left and then right.
“I love it.” Mom’s ecstatic expression spoke volumes. “Darling, you look so beautiful.”
“That’s the one. It’s so you.”
“Take it, Heather.” Tiffany clapped her hands.
“It needs to be shortened.”
“Let me take your measurements,” the sales clerk said. “We’ll start on the alterations right away.”
After Heather changed into her clothes, Claire and Tiffany moved to the bridesmaids’ section and picked up two lovely short dresses with the same design but different colors, orange and yellow for Tiffany, light pink and hot pink for Claire.
“They are perfect. No need for alterations.” Mom paid and checked her watch. “Now take me home right away. It’s already noon. I hope your father is feeling better.”
In fact, Dad’s condition kept improving. Two days later, he didn’t feel like napping and invited Jeff’s parents to come over and talk about the wedding.
“David has chemo next week. These treatments exhaust him. He wants to postpone it until after the wedding, but his doctor doesn’t want to hear about it,” Mom explained to their guests.
“Don’t worry, Barbara. I’ll survive it. I have a bride to walk down the aisle.” Sure enough, Dad requested a pad, pencil and his phone. He prepared a list of guests. A total of fifty, including the bride and the groom’s large families, a few aunts and uncles, and a dozen friends.
Mom had insisted on inviting Dad’s oncologist, his general practitioner, and his nurse. There was no time to order and send invitation cards. “We’ll call the guests. This way you’ll have a yes or no answer right away.” Heather perched on Dad’s bed all day and helped with the phone calls.
Mom joined them to decide the reception menu and call the caterer and the bakery that would prepare the wedding cake.
The Bolins had agreed to handle the details of the church ceremony and provide the drinks for the reception. Jeff’s friend, Josh who dabbled as a DJ, offered to take care of the music.
Heather barely saw Jeff that week. He’d started to work and stayed long hours to impress his new boss from day one. Since the lodge was a part of the Bolins’ farm, Jeff’s father took over the construction of the addition and hired a contractor to continue the remodeling job. To Heather’s delight, he also decided to expand the tiny kitchen into the patio and create a dining area. She would have a complete little house to welcome her baby.
As their mother had feared, Dad’s chemo generated the terrible side effects that usually caused him so much pain. His doctor transferred him to the ICU and forbad any visits. Besides, Dad didn’t want his daughters around, crying, when they saw him suffering.
Jeff came to stay with them the whole week. He occupied Roxanne’s room and kept the wedding preparation going. Five days before the wedding, Dad was still in the hospital, sedated by more drugs than he’d ever taken, but in the evening the doctor discharged him. At home, he remained in bed for three more days with a nurse at his side to help him with his medication.
The day before the wedding Madelyn and Roxanne arrived. The Bolins, parents and children, showed up at five p.m. “To maintain the tradition, we brought the rehearsal dinner here.”
“Make yourself at home in the living room and dining room. Give us a few minutes and we’ll all be ready.”
For the first time since he’d had his last chemo, Dad descended the stairs to be part of the celebration. Everyone seemed delighted.
Everyone except Heather.
Her sisters had immediately donned pretty dresses. Jeff’s sisters exhibited equally nice outfits. But Heather stared at herself in the mirror. She’d tried every dress she owned and couldn’t fit in any. And she couldn’t appear at her own rehearsal dinner with shorts and a large flowing blouse.
Dismayed, she sat on the bed, frowning, not knowing what to do.
“Heather,” Mom called from downstairs.
“Heather,” Madelyn repeated from outside the door. “Can I come in?” She entered without waiting for an answer. “What’s wrong, sweetie?”
Heather huffed and threw both hands up. “I can’t fit in anything. Why did they have to come? I hate surprises.”
Madelyn chuckled. “That coming from the girl who gave us the biggest surprise. Listen, I don’t have anything for you, but let’s raid Roxy’s closet. She’s the fashionista of the family.” She pulled Heather’s arm and dragged her to the next room.
Roxanne was putting the final touches on her makeup. “What’s up?”
“Can you be my proxy for tonight?”
“No way. You’re the bride.”
“I can’t go downstairs. I don’t have a nice dress to wear. I put on too much weight because…because…”
“I know, sweetie. You don’t have to explain.”
“Of course. I understood when I saw you vomiting three days in a row. Mom would have guessed too, if she wasn’t so busy and worried about Dad. Now let’s solve your problem.” Roxanne surveyed Heather’s waist and hips. “Hmm… I think I have something. Not a dress. But black silk pants with flared legs, and elastic at the waist. It comes with a gold silk blouse and a sophisticated golden crocheted jacket. Try them.”
Heather immediately peeled off her top and shorts. Roxanne and Madelyn helped her get dressed. “The blouse is a bit tight.”
“Leave the buttons undone in the back. Much better. Now wear the jacket. Lovely.”
“You’re a miracle worker, Roxy. Is it too low cut?”
“Who cares? Jeff will love it and the parents won’t say anything. You’re getting married tomorrow. Now wear these golden stilettos. And let me fix your hair and makeup.”
A few minutes later, Roxanne and Madelyn exclaimed together, “Wow.”
Heather glanced at the mirror and gasped. “Is that me?”
“You’re stunning,” Madelyn said. “Let’s go downstairs. Jeff must have arrived.”
When they walked into the living room, every pair of eyes stared at Heather with surprise and admiration. Jeff broke into a huge grin and came to her. “My beautiful bride. You are gorgeous.”
Sitting between Jeff and her dad, Heather had never felt so happy. She was glad that Jeff’s brothers snapped dozens of pictures, and a video of the toasts, dinner and delicious chocolate cake baked by his mother. Of course, Mom also served her famous cookies.
The party ended two hours later to allow Dad to rest before the big day.
At one o’clock, Mendelssohn’s Wedding March resonated in the church and the guests turned to the door to peer at the bridal cortege led by Tiffany, with Claire and Jeff’s sisters following, each carrying a bouquet of three orange roses and baby’s breath. At the altar, Jeff and Bert waited beside the priest and smiled at the pretty girls.
Soon Jeff’s jaw sagged at the sight of his striking bride, her hand tucked into the crook of her father’s elbow. With her white wedding gown and the long veil covering her blond curls and trailing behind her she was more beautiful than he could have ever imagined.
Wearing his own wedding tuxedo that now fit him after he’d lost so much weight, David Ramsay slowly proceeded down the aisle, tall, straight and displaying a radiant smile that brightened Jeff’s heart but brought tears to Barbara Ramsay’s eyes.
When they reached the altar, David put his daughter’s hand into Jeff’s open palm. “Take good care of her, son.”
“I promise, Dad,” Jeff said without hesitation.
“Thank you. I know you will have a happy family.” David kissed Heather’s cheek and sat in the first pew next to his wife.
Following Barbara’s request to spare David a long time away from his house, the whole ceremony, including the vows and a short homily about love, lasted ten minutes and ended with the priest’s traditional “You may kiss the bride.”
Jeff immediately obliged with a long kiss that won him a lot of applause. Holding hands, he and his bride walked down the aisle while “Ave Maria” filled the church.
At the door, he whispered to her, “How about going to the lodge to check the construction progress?”
“Barbara mentioned your dad will be resting for a couple of hours. The guests will go home or gather on your patio for a swim or a drink. The reception won’t start until four p.m.”
“Sure. Let’s go. My parents and sisters already left.”
Jeff led her to his car and helped her into the passenger seat. After he drove away, he turned to her and winked. “Finally, we can enjoy some privacy without hiding or enduring frowns.” He gently squeezed her hand. “I can’t wait to hold you in my arms, Mrs. Bolin.”
At his lodge, he opened the car door for her and lifted her into his arms to pass the threshold of her new home. She burst out laughing and kissed him until he set her in the middle of the living room.
“My small bedroom will become our office.” He allowed her a quick tour of the additions. “This will be our bedroom. That little area is the new bathroom between our room and the baby’s room.”
Heather held her skirt up to protect it from the dust and debris on the floor.
“Sorry, I cleaned as much as I could.”
“Don’t worry. It’s all so lovely. A dream come true.”
“When they finish the construction, you’ll be in charge of decorating and furnishing our house.”
“That’s the easy part. I love it. When will we move in?”
“No sure yet. Maybe in two months. Now come see the kitchen. They will knock down the end wall and use the patio to build a dining area.”
“Thank you, Jeff. You’re amazing.” She thanked him with a blazing kiss.
“Hmm… How about a little nap in your hubby’s arms?”
She chuckled. “Anytime.”
At four o’clock, they returned to the Ramsays’ house. Cheers and applause greeted them when they stepped onto the patio decorated with banners and golden balloons. The warm fragrance of roses and lilies wafted over a light breeze. Around the pool, several round tables decked out with white and golden tablecloths awaited the guests.
Madelyn, Roxanne, Jeff’s brothers and their relatives milled around with drinks and hors d’oeuvres plates in their hands. Claire, Tiffany and Jeff’s two young sisters sunbathed on lounge chairs. At the sight of the bride and groom, they dashed into the house to get dressed.
A moment later, Jeff’s friend, Josh, playing the master of ceremonies announced, “The father and mother of the bride, and our hosts for tonight, Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay.”
Holding hands, Barbara and David stepped outside and walked to his recliner at the head of a table.
“Mr. and Mrs. Bolin, the groom’s parents,” Josh announced as Jeff’s parents sat at their hosts’ table.
“The bridesmaids, Claire and Tiffany Ramsay, and Ann and Michele Bolin.” The four girls had slipped into their pretty dresses but their wet hair draped down their backs.
“And now, drums roll. The groom and his bride. Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Bolin.”
With ear-to-ear smiles, Jeff and Heather sauntered to stand next to the pool. A languorous song started and they danced together as husband and wife.
After their first dance, they sat at a bridal table decorated with pink roses. Bert toasted the bride and groom. “Wishing you long life, happiness, and many children.”
“Yeah. To many grandchildren.” David raised his flute of champagne but didn’t drink.
Waiters set the plates of salad on the tables. When Heather finished her salad, Jeff signaled to Josh who started the music again. “And now, the father of the bride will dance with his daughter.”
David stood and buttoned the jacket of his tuxedo. Heather had already jumped to her feet and approached him. His eyes shining with love, David wrapped an arm around her waist and held her hand. “I was looking forward to my dance.”
Every guest raised a camera for a memorable picture.
Soon after dinner, David fidgeted in his large chair but refused to leave the wedding party to rest. Barbara helped him out of his jacket and untied his bowtie. Jeff and the male guests followed suit. Attentive to his father-in-law’s condition, Jeff asked him if he could adjust the footstool of the recliner. “You’ll be more comfortable to watch the party, Dad.”
“Thank you, son.”
“Jeff, please, tell the waiters to bring the wedding cake. No need to wait longer,” Barbara said.
A moment later, two waiters carefully rolled a cart with a two-tier cake and placed it in front of the parents. The bride and groom cut the cake, fed each other a piece, and brought the first slice to Heather’s father. He hardly tasted it.
“It was a beautiful wedding. Keep eating and dancing. I am going upstairs. Goodnight.” He hugged Heather and Jeff, and held on to Barbara’s arm to walk inside.
“I’m so glad he was able to attend my wedding,” Heather said as their anxious eyes followed him.
(To be continued on 12-16-2016)
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)