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 and Jeff spent their wedding night in a five-star hotel—a wedding gift from David and Barbara. The next day, they lingered in their luxurious room, chatting, laughing and loving each other.
After the wedding, Madelyn and Roxanne returned to their respective jobs, and a week later Claire and Tiffany started school. At Barbara’s request, Jeff moved into Heather’s room, and decided to stay there until the birth of the baby. In order to help her mother and spend more time with her father, Heather postponed her college enrollment to next year.
By mid-September, Heather announced to her little sisters and friends that she was expecting a baby. “No wonder you put on so much weight,” Claire stated, her eyebrows arched high. Heather hushed her with a finger on her lips.
Dancing with happiness, Tiffany declared she couldn’t believe she’d be an aunt at eleven.
Jeff worked hard at his new job and attended classes three nights a week, saving as much money as he could to prepare for the baby’s arrival.
In October, the maple trees in the backyard offered a rainbow of colored leaves that David loved to watch. Every passing day saw him getting weaker. In spite of the chemotherapy and his doctors’ best efforts, the cancer had spread and sapped more of his energy. Always a man with a positive attitude, Dad spent as much time as possible with his family and enjoyed listening to his daughters’ stories.
On beautiful days, Heather and her mother accompanied him to the patio where they soaked in the sun for a couple of hours, Barbara crocheting and knitting adorable outfits for the baby, David reminiscing about his daughters’ youths, and Heather choosing baby names and sharing her ideas for the furnishing and arrangement of the new addition to the lodge.
Heather had swollen out of every pregnancy shirt she’d recently bought. Surveying her humongous belly in front of the mirror, she huffed and puffed. “How did I ever think I could hide this balloon? Baby boy, I hope you won’t hurt me too much when you come out.”
The doctor who regularly checked her had sent her and Jeff to take the Lamaze childbirth education classes to help them prepare for a safe and healthy birth. But nothing had prepared her for the horrible pain that suddenly started at night on December 14.
Jeff rushed her to the hospital in her nightgown. Dressed in sterile garb with a cap on his head and a mask on his face, he spent the day with her reminding her to breathe, inhale, exhale until his own jaws hurt. All that for nothing. Dr. Lui told them the baby was breech and needed to come out by C-section as soon as possible. Now Heather could relax while the doctor took over. Jeff stayed by her bed and held her hand. A moment later, she heard a wailing.
“Our baby is born,” Jeff shouted. “He’s here, darling.”
They put the tiny boy in her arms. She cried and laughed, and drifted off.
Two days later, Jeff drove her and Baby David George to her parents’ house.
Delighted, Mom held Baby David in her arms while Heather dragged herself to the family room and Jeff settled the bassinet.
“Congratulations.” Lounging in his recliner, Dad opened his arms to hug her. “Show me that little scamp.”
Barbara placed the blue bundle in his grandfather’s arm and Jeff snapped the first picture of David Ramsay and his grandson.
Heather wondered how she’d have survived the first few days of her son’s life without Barbara’s constant help. Her mother managed to change the baby, carry him when he cried, and teach Heather how to breast feed, in addition to cooking and taking care of David.
“Mom, I don’t know how you do it,” Heather cried. Gee, she was constantly exhausted without doing much. Just changing and feeding her infant. “How on earth have you done that with so many?”
“You’ll learn, sweetheart, and you’ll be a great mom too.”
Soon Heather got the hang of it and Mom spent more time in the kitchen, cooking and baking for Christmas. The baby visited with his grandfather several times a day and dozed in his arms.
“It’s going to be a holly jolly Christmas.” Dad kept humming the tune as a scent of warm potpourri filled the house. “A Holly Jolly Christmas…”
Claire and Tiffany helped by holding the baby and walking him around until he slept. “He’s so cute,” Tiffany repeated while lavishing her nephew with soft kisses on his chubby cheeks.
Madelyn and Roxanne arrived for the holiday two days before Christmas. They too fussed about their adorable nephew, but they both gasped when they caught sight of their father slumped on his recliner. “Oh God, he lost so much weight,” Madelyn whispered.
“How are my big girls?” Dad said with a wobbly voice. “So happy you’re here. A holly jolly Christmas,” he mumbled.
Madelyn and Roxanne joined Heather in her room while she fed the baby. “What did the doctor say about Dad?” Madelyn asked.
Heather sighed. “They put him on a hospice program at home. But he keeps smiling and singing ‘A Holly Jolly Christmas.’”
Barbara entered to announce dinner. “Dad is deteriorating every day.” Desperation crept into her voice. “We can’t stop the cancer.”
At Dad’s request, Barbara had invited Jeff’s family for an early Christmas Day dinner. Jeff and his brothers helped David down the stairs, almost carrying him to his recliner by the Christmas tree that his daughters and son-in-law had set up and decorated the day before.
Jeff served the drinks. Since not all her guests could fit around the dining room table, Barbara suggested they help themselves and take a seat in the family room around David. Jeff and his brothers brought folding tables to hold the plates and glasses.
David asked for the baby and held him in his arms to say grace. “Five months ago I prayed to the Lord to give me the joy of walking one of my daughters down the aisle. Then I asked him to see my grandchild. Then I asked him for a last family reunion and for a holly jolly Christmas. The Lord granted me all my wishes. Thank you, Lord, for this meal, for my Barbara, the most wonderful wife a man could wish to have, for my five beautiful and loving daughters who made me a proud dad, for my perfect son-in-law and for my delightful grandson. I am a blessed man and it’s a holly jolly Christmas indeed. Enjoy it.” He lifted his glass of water.
They all raised their glasses in a toast, but no words came out of their tight throats. Barbara’s delicious food lightened the mood and the baby’s antics made everyone laugh. They spent the evening tasting different desserts, sipping on hot cinnamon punch and playing games while listening to or humming Christmas carols.
“Thank you, Barbara, for a great Christmas party,” Jeff’s mother said as they left.
“Yes, it was a fabulous Christmas,” Barbara answered, but she was not smiling.
The next day, David fell back when he tried to raise his head from his pillow. “David, David,” Barbara called. He didn’t answer. “David,” she shouted.
Her daughters rushed into their parents’ room.
“Help. Dad is not answering,” Barbara yelled.
Madelyn held his wrist, shook her head, and then dashed out to return with her stethoscope around her neck. Jeff followed her with the baby in his arms. Barbara rubbed her husband’s hand.
Madelyn placed the stethoscope at the base of his neck, moved it over his heart, and listened. Her eyes filled with tears. “Dad is gone.”
Mom bent and kissed their father’s cheek. “Pray for us, David. We’re going to need it.” She covered his fingers with hers. Heather and her sisters held hands to say a prayer. Then Barbara straightened. Her eyes brimming with tears, she opened the night table drawer, withdrew an envelope, and pulled out a letter. Her jaw hardened as she slowly turned to face her daughters. “Dad’s last recommendations. Read it Madelyn.”
Life MUST continue. Claire and Tiffany, I count on you to ace your studies and go to college. Roxanne and Madelyn, do your best at work, but remember that a career is not enough to fill a heart. You need a loving partner. Heather and Jeff, take good care of your baby. Barbara, you need to learn to live again. Loneliness is not good.
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)