Good master and good mistress
She was always very careful with her toys. Each little room was neat as a pin, as if the doll's house was lived in by a particularly house proud family. She'd had it for such a long time, years and years and years. It had always stood in the corner of her room, almost a replica of the house she lived in. Carefully, she set the delicate present boxes under the Christmas tree. Tomorrow, one of the presents she would open, one of the glorious pile of presents that shone like wonderful secrets under the big tree would be something for her house. She hoped it was a piano. She'd started piano lessons that year and therefore her house needed a piano. She sat her little girl doll down next to the tree and put the mother doll next next to her, angled so they could both watch the father doll reach up as though he were putting the star on the top of the tree.
"Are you still up, Martha?" her mother came in, smelling of cinnamon and warmth, slipping an arm around her shoulders to hug her. "It's past your bed time."
She let her mother walk her to her bed, though she didn't want to. She pushed off her slippers and climbed in, snuggling down under the blankets.
"I'm a big girl now. Can't I stay up until Daddy comes home?"
"Martha, sweetheart, I told you Daddy wasn't going to be able to get home tonight."
"But he'll be here tomorrow, won't he?"
Her mother tucked her in, head bent as though she was very interested in the blanket under her hand. "I'm sure he'll do everything he can to be here. Go to sleep now. When you wake up it will Christmas. Won't that be wonderful?"
Does bed made you tired, she wondered, closing her eyes, feeling her mother's warm goodnight kiss on her forehead, and slipping into sleep with the happy image of her father and the Christmas tree.
Pray think of us poor children
Waitressing made you a good judge of character. Gloria often said she could teach a course to some of the rubes they got in here. Danny the short order cook teased her, called her the Dean of the School of Hard Knocks. She could tell these two kids, hurrying in out of the cold on Christmas Eve, had not had a good day.The girl had no coat of her own, but her dress was good quality. The boy looked a little rougher, not a city kid that was for sure, but he was hovering over his girl like a mother hen with a single chick, face pinched, the kind of sad that comes after the anger has drained away and you started to think about consequences . They looked cold and tired and resigned, sitting in the booth, holding hands across the table as if their lives depended on it.
"You kids just want one coffee and one slice of pie?"
With his free hand the boy was fidgeting with a thin and worn wallet. His shoulders stiffened. His girl picked up on it straight way and said, "Jonathan" in a sweet voice that was searching for resolve and not quite finding it. Oh honey, Gloria thought. You poor thing. She tucked her pad and pencil in her apron pocket. "Okay. Be right back with that."
When she returned she had a double size slice of pie of and Danny's mug full of coffee. It was chipped but it held a lot more than two cups. She put them down on the worn table top, along with a bill that said "Christmas prices - no charge". The girl started to protest. Gloria made the face that shut her kids up toot sweet and kept it up until she was sure it had worked. The girl smiled at her, a brave little toaster of a smile, and picked up the fork. "Merry Christmas," she said, and ate some pie.
Love and joy come to you
Every Christmas eve, the last thing they did was to sit down together with a glass of warm milk and one slice of pie between them. Their second Christmas eve, her first without her parents at all, her first as Mrs Martha Kent, they'd shared a coffee. One restless night of bad sleep later Martha had decided it would still be a perfectly good tradition without caffeine. But tonight, instead of sitting cuddled together on the couch feeding each other forkfuls of pie, trying to get milk mustaches for the delight of kissing them off each other, they were standing in Clark's room, watching him sleep.
Martha did not imagine she would ever lose the feeling that he was her joyous miracle. Clark slept with one hand curled into a fist, pressed against his plump cheek, his soft dark hair curled on his pillow. He'd settled in with them as though he'd always been theirs, as if they'd been meant to find him, to give him a home and love him as their own son. She hoped that she and Jonathan were strong enough to give Clark, their very special miracle, the kind of home he needed to grow up in this world. It wouldn't be easy teaching him to understand that he was different. A good kind of different, but one that many people wouldn't understand.
"Tomorrow will be his first Christmas," she said, softly.
"We don't know that. We don't know what —" Martha put her finger on Jonathan's lips, stopping his words.
"Tomorrow will be our first Christmas." Her expression was one part joy and one part tentative and one part firm and all Martha. Jonathan took her hand in his, kissed her finger, bent his head and kissed her, wrapping her up into a hug. When he stopped kissing her, when she consented to him stopping, he kissed her cheek and nuzzled her ear.
"The first of many Kent family Christmases, Mrs Kent. The first of many."