In December 2015, I wrote what for me is one of my most pride-worthy stories. An Angel’s Wish won Literotica’s Christmas story contest that year. I have been meaning for years to edit and publish it.
This morning as I considered what to post for this final blog before Christmas, it seemed only natural. I must say that I was a bit disappointed when I opened Grammarly to make those edits. The task was a bit larger than I anticipated. But a couple of hours later…and too many tears to count, it is my pleasure to share with you a story that touches my heart.
Keisha Jackson rearranged the few brightly wrapped presents in the trunk of her older SUV to make way for her daughter’s wheelchair. How could something so small be so bulky and heavy? “How was choir practice tonight, my sweet angel?” she asked as she worked to get it in around the presents that she had picked from the charity while Breanne was at church.
Ironically, the one associated the US Marine Corps. Breanne’s father had been a Marine, but since they were never married, since he never knew that the friend and girl next door that had given him her virginity before he shipped out on what became his final tour was carrying his baby, their daughter was not entitled to any benefits.
She half-listened as Breanne rattled off about who had done what and how wonderful it had been. She tried very hard to focus but was more soothed just by the sound of her child’s voice after a long hard day than she was the specifics of what she said.
Keisha worked part-time as a secretary, not even an administrative assistant, just a plain old secretary, in a doctor’s office. The good part was that her hours allowed her to be there full-time for her child, which was important since Bree had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was eighteen months.
Of course, they received some help from her daughter’s disability every month. But from the moment she found out she was having a baby, well into her pregnancy, Keisha had been determined not to become a stereotype of the black teenage mother.
Even when her father, the pastor of the local Pentecostal church, kicked her out, she had refused to go on welfare. Though she had been forced to accept charity from friends and other relatives back then. But she had worked to repay them all over the past ten years.
Not that Keisha minded any of that. A mother did what she had to do. She inhaled and plastered on the smile she saved for those really rough days as she slammed the door closed and walked around to the driver’s side.
Looking over at the young beauty, whose smile reminded her of the only man she had ever loved, she asked the question that had plagued her all day, the one she could no longer put off, “So what do you want for Christmas this year, baby?”
Though she knew that whatever she could afford would not be as nice as the toys that had been donated, the off-brand tablet, or even the new coat that was such a blessing this time of year, Keisha made it a priority to buy her daughter something just from her each year. No matter what her bank balance said.
Her angel smiled and shook her head, “You don’t have to Mommy. Just being together is the most important thing of all.”
She fought back the tears at the child’s wisdom. At moments like this, she sometimes wondered if her daughter’s condition was not a mixed blessing. When other little girls her age were demanding grown-up clothes, make-up, and worried about their hair, her daughter had been through so much pain, so many tests and hospitalizations that she just seemed…like an old soul, she supposed.
But that only made her more determined to give her whatever she could; however, she could. “No, angel, Mommy wants to give you something special this year.” She forced the words out, “Whatever you want,” and steeled herself for the answer.
“Do you mean that, Mommy?” and Keisha’s heart beat faster. She supposed she could beg work for an advance though that would only make things tighter in the New Year.
But, yes, she meant it. “Of course, baby,” she nodded as she brushed her fingers across her daughter’s cheek.
“I want a Marine then, Mommy. One like Daddy was,” she said with all the innocence of a child as her mother’s heart stuttered to a complete standstill.
Did her child know what she was saying? Did she? “A Marine? I don’t understand, Bree. Santa doesn’t bring people for Christmas.” She inhaled deeply and fought back the pain that always came when she spoke of Bryan to their child. “And you know, no matter what that silly Christmas movie says, he doesn’t bring little girls new Daddies, either.”
Her daughter shook her head, and her thick braids with the Christmas ribbons bobbed on the ends. “No, Mommy, I know that. I’m not a little girl anymore, silly.” Her daughter reached across the console between their seats and took her hand as she explained, “I saw this billboard the other day, Mommy. Do you know that every day twenty-two soldiers like Daddy kill themselves? That there are over sixty thousand homeless Veterans?”
Keisha’s throat tightened even more as she fought back the tears. Would this special angel never stop amazing her? “No, baby, I didn’t know any of that.” Sometimes she got so caught up in her daily struggles to realize how lucky they were. Even just their tiny one-bedroom apartment and food on the table were more than many people had this time of year.
“So you want to donate to a charity in your father’s name? Or did you want to take blankets and stuff to a shelter?” She stopped shy of suggesting they spend Christmas Eve working in one of the dozens of soup kitchens that were scattered around Atlanta. The logistics of Breanne’s wheelchair would be more trouble than help in that situation.
Her daughter shook her head, and those ribbons danced again, “No, Mommy, anyone can do that. I want to bring one home. A homeless Veteran, another Marine like Daddy, if we can find one.”
Keisha’s mind exploded, but her daughter continued merrily along, “He could take a hot shower. We could throw his clothes in the washer and dryer, maybe even buy him some new-old ones from the second-hand store where we get ours. Then he can have Christmas dinner with us. And if he will, maybe he could even come to church with us and hear me sing the special song I am doing for Daddy.”
“That’s what I want for Christmas, Mommy. What I really want,” her little girl glowed from within with the innocence of youth and the best intentions in the world.
Keisha inhaled deeply as she turned and gripped the steering wheel. It sounded so simple when the child said it like that. It would be far cheaper than what she had thought to pay for a present. The extra money could be carried over into the New Year, the tiniest bit of cushion, something they rarely had.
But still, she knew that what the child asked was anything but that simple — bringing a stranger, a homeless man, into their home. The what-ifs and nightmare scenarios that only a mother could dream up assailed her fertile imagination.
Despite those statistics that she had no doubt were accurate, Breanne had a unique talent when it came to remembering such things; the truth was that the homeless issue was not that simple, not cut and dried. There were so many other factors, especially when it came to Veterans. What about PTSD? If a Vet was living on the street, he was almost certain to have such problems. Was it even safe to consider such a thing?
She closed her eyes. She had quit praying to any god the day that her father kicked her out of the house at seven months pregnant, calling her a whore and a Jezebel. Telling her that her baby, the only thing that she had left of the man that had been her friend, like the big brother she had never had and her soul mate, was a sin and an abomination. His words had turned her love for the god that he supposedly served into a bitter cold hatred.
And though she allowed her daughter to attend church with their neighbor, even going so far as to chauffeur her to and from the choir practice she loved, Keisha never went to church with her unless like on Christmas Eve, her daughter was performing.
No, when she closed her eyes, it was not a god to whom she prayed and sought counsel. It was him. Bryan. Sometimes if she tried really hard, she could almost hear his voice. Sometimes it was the high and sweet Southern twang of that ten-year-old little boy that had run off the bullies on the playground when she was just a first-grader. Other times it was the deep and soothing caress of the lover that had held her just that one night. But either way, it always brought her the comfort and wisdom she sought.
And this time was no different. “What can it really hurt, Key-key?”
She opened her eyes and looked up as she always did. This time the North star blazed in the sky as if confirmation of those words. Hell, if she was not still so angry at her father’s god, she might have even compared it to that star which led the wise men to the babe all those thousands of years ago…if you believed such drivel.
She turned back to their daughter and gently tugged the braid that was closest to her. She could see the pleading in those deep brown eyes. Breanne’s eyes too were so much like his. Keisha had never felt safer than when Bryan looked at her with those eyes. And though it was very different, her little girl gave her that same sense of belonging, rightness, just being. No, there was no way she could deny such a selfless request.
“Okay, Bree, we will try. It may not be as easy as you think, but we can give it a go.” She smiled as his words sprang from her lips, “What can it really hurt?”
For the rest of this novella (a little over 13,000 words), you may click on the PDF file below or follow the link at the beginning of this blog.
Goddess bless us all, each and every one.