The Christmas Women by Elyse Douglas
When 38-year old Trudie Parks learns that her high school drama teacher is seriously ill, she immediately contacts her two best friends in high school, Kristen and Mary Ann. Together, they’d been known as “The Christmas Girls.” They’d produced and starred in the annual high school Christmas show, which their teacher, Mrs. Childs, had directed.
Determined to show their love for Mrs. Childs, they plan a 20-year reunion to recreate the Christmas show for her. What they don’t anticipate is the complicated emotions this provokes, as former sweethearts appear and rekindle romance, painful memories and the sting of unrealized dreams. All three women must reassess their lives and their friendships, while struggling to produce the show, even while Mrs. Childs seems to grow weaker by the day.
As Christmas Eve approaches, The Christmas Women prepare for an event that will take them and the audience to the farthest reaches of the human heart and resonate throughout the rest of their lives.
After she hung up, Trudie remained sitting, watching the wind stir the trees and create little cyclones that went spiraling off down the street. She placed her chin in her hand, as a vast distance filled her eyes. She wanted to be in that cyclone, being blown off to somewhere—anywhere but Deer Lake, Ohio. Not that there was anything wrong with Deer Lake, except that her life here had not gone the way she’d thought it would. Maybe it would be nice to be blown off somewhere else, over a rainbow or beyond a snowstorm.
But in truth, did anybody’s life go the way they’d hoped or dreamed or planned? What about her best friends in high school? Mary Ann had married an airline pilot and moved to Denver. Last she’d heard, she was divorced with two teenage daughters.
Kristen had moved to New York, studied for a law degree and married some rich investment banker. Trudie remembered their address, having been very impressed and a little jealous that it was on West 79th Street, in New York, NY. They’d gutted and remodeled a 3-story brownstone and Kristen had posted photos on Facebook. It looked fabulous. But the last time Trudie had heard from Kristen, she said her marriage was not going well and their only son was attending a private school in Massachusetts. She worked fourteen hours a day and most weekends. What kind of life was that?
They spoke on the phone to each other maybe once a year. Then there were the obligatory Christmas cards, with no personal news. Kristen always sent a Christmas card with a photo of her now 13-year-old son, Alexander, who was rarely smiling. From Our Family to Yours was printed across it, something Trudie struggled not to bristle at. It wasn’t Kristen’s fault that Trudie had no family, but why couldn’t she be a bit more sensitive? And why couldn’t she ever include a photo of her and her husband? It was always just the cute blond-headed boy she’d never met, standing alone next to a spreading oak tree with blazing autumn colors. How WASP.
And then there was Mary Ann’s version of the Christmas card. Although she didn’t like social media, she now sent an electronic Christmas card with the usual blah, blah, Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth and little birds flying around. Not that there was anything wrong with little birds or wanting peace on Earth, but there was no personal news. No information about what was really going on in her life.
They’d been like sisters in high school —maybe even closer than sisters, at least for a time. They’d shared everything, from family secrets, to backseat adventures with boys, to hopes for the future. They had truly loved each other.
Trudie heaved out an audible sigh, missing them and their friendships. The 20th high school reunion that could have brought them back together was cancelled last May after a tornado ravaged the town. Part of the courthouse square, dozens of homes and most the junior high school had been demolished.
Trudie padded off to the kitchen and put on the red kettle to heat water for coffee. While the water hissed and steamed, she folded her arms and leaned back against the kitchen counter, blinking around at the spotlessly clean kitchen. She scooped a spoonful of instant coffee and dropped it into the cup, pausing before she poured the water. What had that young teenage girl said to her yesterday as she was cleaning her teeth? They had been discussing some middle-aged movie star who had never married.
“Have you ever been married?” the young girl asked.
Trudie gave her the stock answer. “No… never found a man I wanted to live with. They’re all so messy, you know.”
About the Author:
Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the married writing team Elyse
and Douglas Pennington. Elyse grew up near the sea, roaming the beaches, reading and writing stories and poetry, receiving a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Columbia University. She has enjoyed careers as an English teacher, an actress and a speech-language pathologist. She and her husband, Douglas Pennington, have completed five novels: The Astrologer’s Daughter, Christmas for Juliet, Wanting Rita, Christmas Ever After, The Christmas Town and The Christmas Diary.
Douglas grew up in a family where music and astrology were second and third languages. He attended the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and played the piano professionally for many years. His two detective books include Death is Lookin’ for Elvis and Death is a TapDancer. His great great grandfather lived to be 132 years old, and was the oldest man in the world when he died in 1928.
Elyse Douglas live in New York City.