Have a Very Happy Holiday!
Lizabeth S. Tucker
Roy DeSoto collapsed onto the couch alongside Henry, the station mascot, letting his head fall back.
“What’s wrong, Roy?” Mike Stoker poured himself a cup of coffee. Eyeing his coworker, he pulled another clean mug out of the closet. He poured, added sugar, and took it to Roy.
“Thanks, Mike. You’re a lifesaver.” Roy buried his nose deep in the cup, enjoying the fragrant odor.
“That’s your job,” Mike retorted, earning a quick look and a grin. He sat at the kitchen table while Roy savored the coffee. He was a patient man; he could wait for Roy to explain his demeanor.
“Where is everyone?” Roy asked finally.
“Johnny and Chet are playing some one-on-one basketball. Marco, being a glutton for punishment, is refereeing. Cap is doing paperwork in his office. We’re pretty much alone.”
The paramedic gave a deep sigh. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m just…I’m tired. Jo and I have been running around for what seems like ages, getting ready for Christmas, dealing with my being gone fighting that canyon fire. We hardly have any time together, you know what I mean?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I do, Roy,” Mike replied.
“We need time for just the two of us, but that won’t happen anytime soon.”
“Your mothers can’t take the kids for a while?”
“No. My mother is on a cruise to Hawaii. Jo’s mom is busy helping her other daughter during her chemo, so she can’t watch the kids either. Besides, where would we go? Nah, we’ll just have to wait until later in the year.” Roy closed his eyes, muttering, “if we survive that long.”
Mike felt someone’s presence in the doorway and looked up to see John Gage, Roy’s partner, standing there. Johnny held his finger up to his mouth in the universal sign for silence and slipped away without Roy ever seeing him.
“Merry Christmas, Johnny! Come in,” Roy ushered his package laden partner into his house. Joanne stuck her head out of the kitchen and called a cheery greeting to her husband’s partner. “What can I get you? Beer, coffee, eggnog?”
“Eggnog? With or without?” Johnny asked, referring to the alcohol content.
“Both. The kids like the taste and don’t realize the adults have something extra in theirs,” Roy replied, laughing.
“With sounds great. Thanks.” Johnny distributed his Christmas gifts under the twinkling tree, carefully putting a sparkly silver and gold package the size of a tie box near the back. “Hey, where are the kids?”
“They’re next door playing with Billy Thompson.” Joanne was wearing a frilly cream apron with gold bells sewn around the edges over a dark wine pantsuit. “How have you been, Johnny? I haven’t seen you since we had Thanksgiving dinner.”
“Been working some serious overtime.”
“That’s what Roy said. Are you in financial trouble, John? You know that Roy and I would help.”
Johnny blinked, and then flashed his lopsided grin. “No, I’m not having money trouble. You guys are the best, you know that?” Johnny jumped to his feet and grabbed Joanne around the waist, giving her a squeeze and a kiss on the cheek.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Roy asked, returning with three mugs of frothy white liquid. He was started to find himself grabbed in a bear hug, the drinks rescued by his quick depositing of them on the table. “Whoa, Johnny, what’s got into you? You been drinking already?”
“Nah, I’m just feeling happy.”
Happy didn’t begin to describe the younger man’s demeanor. He was about to jump off the walls, his leg bouncing up and down. Roy and Joanne exchanged puzzled glances. Johnny was excited about something, something big. They wondered if they would find out what it was before the evening’s end.
The door flew open and the DeSoto children barged into the room. They greeted their parents and shouted cheerful hellos to Johnny. The conversations crisscrossed each other, punctuated by giggles and gentle teasing. Johnny enjoyed every minute of it.
After their Christmas Eve dinner was done, it was time to open their gifts. Roy and Johnny were working Christmas Day, so they were celebrating the holiday on the night before. Roy didn’t want to miss seeing his children’s faces when they opened their presents.
Jenny handed out the presents, ably assisted by her brother. Everyone took a turn opening a present, but it normally wound up with the three adults watching the kids tear into the packages, paper and ribbons flying everywhere.
Dolls were duly admired and the newest Hot Wheels were test-driven before Joanne picked up the small rectangular box.
“Johnny, is this from you?”
“Yeah. It’s for both you and Roy. I decided to combine the gift this year.” He looked down shyly, then peered up at his partner, his golden brown eyes sparkling. “I hope you like it.”
“Roy, do you want to open it?”
“No, hon, you go ahead.”
Joanne was a Christmas paper saver and would drive the others nuts by carefully unwrapping her gifts, folding the paper for later reuse. Roy watched his partner edge forward on his seat, his leg bouncing again. This was the reason for Johnny’s excitement, but what was in the box?
Joanne looked at the paper inside the box, slowly lifting it out. She gasped, looking up at Johnny, then at her husband. “Roy? Look at this.” She handed him the papers.
Roy was puzzled. Once he finished reading the papers, he also stared at his friend. “Johnny? What is this?”
“Well, I know you and Jo have wanted to get away from the rugrats for a while and I thought I could help out. We have four days off right after the first of the year, so I thought you and Jo might like to go away then.”
“But, Johnny, this is a reservation confirmation for the new resort in San Diego.”
Johnny beamed at his two best friends. “Yep. I’ll be staying here with the kids. And, in case you’re worried about me having them for so long, Cap’s wife has agreed to give me a hand if I need it or if you want her to check up on me while you’re gone.”
“Of course we’re not worried about that, John; we know you can take care of them. But how…why…?”
It wasn’t very often that Johnny or Roy saw Joanne flustered, but she was definitely overwhelmed now. She jumped up and flung her arms around Johnny, bursting out in tears. Confused, Johnny patted her awkwardly on the back while throwing Roy panicked glances.
“Uh, Jo, are you okay? Roy, did I do something wrong?”
“No, Johnny, she’s just happy, that’s all.” Roy grinned, reassuring his children as they watched their mother sobbing on their Uncle Johnny’s shoulder.
“Oh. O..kay, if you say so.”
“How long have you been planning this? Was this why you were working so much overtime?”
Johnny shrugged. “You guys have done so much for me, taking me in, feeding me, helping me when I’ve wound up in the hospital and after I get out. I felt it was the least I could do to show how much you both mean to me.”
“Johnny, this is too much,” Joanne protested, her tears under control.
“No, it’s no where near enough, but it’ll have to do. Now, how about another glass of that eggnog, only without the extra since I’ll be driving home soon and we’re working tomorrow?”
Joanne jumped to her feet. “You’ve got it.”
Roy sat staring at his partner until Johnny began to squirm. “Johnny, I don’t know how you found out how much I needed this, but thank you. I owe you…”
“No! No, you don’t. Roy, you can’t imagine what being part of your family means to me. You know that I lost my parents when I was a sophomore in high school.”
“Yeah, and that you moved to Los Angeles to live with your aunt.”
“I’ve always had lots of casual friends, but…you guys are my family. And you, Roy, you’re my best friend. There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do for you, Jo, or the kids.”
“I know, Johnny. You’re the brother I never had. Thank you.” Roy got up and held his hand out.
Johnny smiled and gripped his friend’s hand, only to be pulled up and enclosed in another bear hug, this one instigated by the usually reticent Roy. They broke apart when Joanne arrived with mugs of eggnog. They toasted their friendship and resumed their previous conversations, the kids playing with their new toys. Johnny looked around the room and felt his heart swell. Sitting on the couch next to Jenny and her Barbies, Johnny let his head fall back and sighed deeply with contentment.
Roy had one arm around his wife and the other gripping a suitcase as they walked to the Camino del Rey reception desk. The clerk looked up and smiled. “May I help you?”
“Yes, Roy and Joanne DeSoto, checking in.”
The woman broke out in a large smile. “Of course, we’re been expecting you. Jason, the DeSotos are here. Would you take their luggage up?”
A young man came hustling up, a matching smile on his face. “Mr. DeSoto, if you’d let me carry that for you.”
Roy blinked, handing over the case. He and Joanne followed behind. The lobby was small and intimate, wood paneled with gold marble floors. Joanne was looking everywhere, enthralled by the beauty of the entrance.
She leaned closer to Roy and whispered in his ear. “Johnny outdid himself with this gift.”
Going up in the elevator, Jason gave them a short guide to what was where in the resort hotel. “We have three restaurants, heated indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a whirlpool, tennis courts, a golf course, if you’re interested. Room service is available 24 hours a day if you’re prefer to not leave your room.”
Arriving on the top floor, Jason led the way down the hallway to a pair of ornate wooden doors. Unlocking them, he handed the key to Roy and threw the doors open. The DeSotos walked slowly into the room, agog.
“There must be some mistake. This is a suite,” Roy protested weakly.
“No mistake, sir. Mr. Gage picked this room out himself. The bedroom is through here. There’s a Jacuzzi bath in here,” Jason pointed to the bathroom. “The controls for the stereo system are on the wall in every room so that you can have music where ever you are. In here,” he led the way back into the living room area, “there’s a small refrigerator.”
Still in shock, Roy managed to remember to tip Jason, only to have it refused.
“No, sir. Mr. Gage took care of that already. Have a lovely stay, sir, ma’am.”
Roy stood gaping long after Jason had left. Joanne looked around the living area, smelling the pale pink roses sitting in a vase on the table. She spotted a card nestled in the bouquet and pulled it out, reading the writing inside.
“Oh, Roy, look.” She held the card out. “These are from Johnny.”
Roy glanced at the card, shaking his head. “That partner of mine has quite a lot to answer for.”
“I think it’s sweet.”
A knock at the door pulled Roy away from his wife’s side. “Probably discovered their mistake and want us to move.”
He opened the door to find a waiter with a rolling cart outside. On top of the cart were covered dishes and a bucket of champagne. Shrugging his shoulders, Roy waved the man inside.
“Compliments of Station 51, sir.” After revealing an array of tidbits to munch on with the champagne, the waiter gave Roy a card. He also refused a tip, stating that it had already been taken care of by Mr. Gage.
Roy, Joanne leaning against his shoulder, opened the card after the waiter had left. He read the card’s contents out loud.
“Roy and Joanne, Johnny told us what he planned to do and we thought we’d like to join in. Dinner will be served to you at 7 this evening, these are just to whet your appetite. Have a wonderful vacation. Signed Hank, Mike, Marco and Chet.”
Joanne was in tears again. “I’m going to give that partner of yours the biggest kiss and hug he’s ever had when we get home!”
“Well, Cap ordered us to have a wonderful vacation, so shall we get started? How about a relaxing soak in the Jacuzzi?” Roy began nuzzling his wife’s neck. “Right after we try out that king-sized bed.”
“Ohhhh, that sounds…won…wonderful,” she purred, arching her neck to allow her handsome husband better access. She giggled as Roy swept her up in his arms and ran into the bedroom to collapse onto the bed.
“Hey! Mrs. DeSoto, that type of behavior…ahhhh…will definitely get you…oh, yeah…get you on Santa’s naughty list!”
The End (we’ll give the DeSotos some privacy, shall we?)
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Stories By Lizabeth Christmas Stories