On Wednesday, Randie divided her class into three different groups. The kids always got excited when they did board contests. Today, they were competing in math wars. Three kids went to the chalkboard and the first one who solved a math problem won a point for their team.
It was the last week of school before Christmas vacation, and the kids were getting more keyed-up every day. That’s when Randie reached into her bag of tricks to keep their attention. Her friend, Jonathan, was almost as bad as the kids. He and Priscilla were going to Key West over Christmas break, and Jonathan couldn’t wait.
She called Kelli after school Wednesday night, and unlike Jonathan, Kelli was struggling this year. “The more happy people I see, the worse I feel. I’m going to Bloomington to be with my family over the holidays. I need to shift gears, to get out of this funk.”
“When are you leaving?” Randie asked.
“Why wait that long? Why not leave right after school’s out on Friday? That’s what Jonathan’s doing.”
“Mom and Dad have old friends at their house right now. They leave Saturday. Mom needs time to change the sheets on the bed and get ready for me.”
“Do you have plans for Friday and Saturday?” If not, Kelli would hole up and mope.
“I’m meeting Toby for supper on Friday. He’s great to hang out with. Even when I’m down, the man can make me laugh, but he burns through women faster than I change earrings.”
“I think his parents made him commitment shy.” Randie looked at her calendar. She was taking Gram shopping for holiday food on Friday night. On Monday, she and Gram were cooking everything they could ahead of time with Lucas. Tuesday was Christmas. Lucas had surprised her by throwing out the idea of having his family and hers over for a get-together at his place on Sunday, so that everyone could meet. “Sort of like a casual Christmas Eve.”
Her parents had jumped at the idea.
“I have Saturday open,” she told Kelli. “There’s a home walk in a gated neighborhood on Saturday night. All of the homes are professionally decorated for the holidays, inside and out. The ticket proceeds benefit the Civic Arts center, a worthy cause.”
“Love home walks,” Kelli said. “I’m game.”
“I’ll grab two tickets for us. I’ll see you Saturday.”
“Oops, gotta go. Toby just pulled in the driveway. He’s stopping by for nachos tonight.”
Hmm. Toby was seeing Kelli tonight. And he’d see her on Friday. Randie couldn’t help wondering if more was going on than Kelli realized. And if it was, she’d be happy for her.
Randie looked at her calendar again. Just two more days of school, and then Christmas break would start. Jonathan and Kelli would both be out of town. She had lots of empty squares at the end of December that she could fill with Lucas, if he asked. She pressed her palms together. Please, let him ask.
But for right now, she just wanted to get through the next few days.
Thursday, she played even more games with her students. Jordy won the spelling bee and was so excited about the free book he could choose at the next school Book Fair, she decided to make that a prize more often. On Friday, she didn’t even pretend she could hold their interest at the end of the day. They had their holiday party for the last two hours of class. Cupcakes, punch, and a Christmas video—Raymond Briggs’ The Bear. When the kids walked out of her class, they walked out happy.
Randie didn’t bother to change, but drove straight to her grandma’s apartment when she left the building. Gram looked her up and down. “Anyone who survives first graders before Christmas vacation is made of tough stuff.”
Randie laughed. “Have you made your grocery list?”
Gram grabbed it on her way out the door. “We can quibble about side dishes on the way.”
There wasn’t much to argue about. Gram had decided on a big ham with a reduced apple cider sauce, scalloped potatoes, stuffing, sautéed apples, and honey-glazed carrots, along with sautéed mushrooms and brussels sprouts with cranberries. As always, there was bread pudding for dessert. They whipped through the grocery store, despite the crowds, and then stopped for supper on the drive back to Gram’s Townehouse.
As Randie walked Gram to her apartment, Gram said, “We had a good night. Is Lucas cooking with us on Monday? Or will he be tired of us after Sunday’s get-together?”
“He’ll be there, but his sister’s home now. He’s cooking with her on Saturday.”
Gram tsked. “Poor boy, we’re making him work twice as hard.”
“He doesn’t seem to mind. Says he’ll learn twice as much.”
Gram snickered. “Mr. Hot Stuff would stir gruel all day if he got to spend time with you.”
Instead of protesting, like usual, Randie said, “I sure hope so. I’d love to spend every day, for the rest of my life, with him.”
Gram’s jaw dropped in surprise. “It’s about time! Then make it happen, hon. Make that boy your own.”
When Randie went to pick up Kelli on Saturday night for the home tour, she replayed those words in her mind. On the drive to the gated community, Kelli said, “After the holidays, I’m selling my house. I love Toby’s bungalow. It’s small, and I like that. I never wanted a house that was a showcase. I don’t even like most of the furniture and decorations. That’s what I’m going to do first. I’m taking anything and everything I don’t like to the Salvation Army.”
“I like Lucas’s house.” Randie couldn’t believe the words popped out of her mouth. “I always thought I wanted Gram’s house, but I like his better.”
“Is it because he lives there?”
Randie grinned. Her friend had been careful to not drill her about Lucas. “There’s that, but I like how open it is, how easy it is to entertain there.”
Kelli gave her a direct look. “So, you not only like the man, you like his house.”
Randie turned onto the street for the home tour and drove through its open gates. “We’re going to see some expensive houses done up by interior designers. When I inherit Gram’s money, I could afford one of these. Let’s see how awesome they are.”
And each of them was phenomenal, but when they finished their tour and started for Wrigley Field’s Bar and Grill, Kelli sighed.
“I like Toby’s bungalow better.”
Randie laughed. “I know what you mean. Every house was impressive, but they’re too damned big. I like Lucas’s better, too.”
Did that mean that she and Kelli were too middle class? She didn’t care. This was just one more point to tick off on why she should nab Lucas and make him hers.