Snowflake day is upon us many weeks later. The day where families come together, friends drink and be merry and children scream with excitement because the big man somehow managed to break into our house without anybody noticing. I'll admit, even when I was young, it baffled me that nobody, not even my parents, was able to catch Santa redhanded. Yet here I am so many years later with children of my own and they don't suspect a thing. They just barged into Kam's and my room at seven o'clock in the morning telling us that he was here and he left presents. Oh, what it was like to be young and none the wiser.
The doorbell ringing snaps me out of my thoughts. I am standing at the counter, half my arm shoved inside a turkey while the other one is holding the other end. I call for somebody to answer the door but between the boys playing their new video game system and Kam upstairs hooking up the karaoke machine his parents sent from Sunset Valley, nobody seems to hear me and I end up having the pull away from tonight's meal, rinse my hands clean and answer the door myself.
Olive Spenser is on the other side, a plate of egg rolls in her hand and a big smile on her face.
In the few months since my family moved here, I haven't gotten to know many people. Mainly I've spent my time unpacking and trying to be a good mother by juggling three children, four if I count Kam. I met Olive one day when I drove Renaldo to school after he'd missed the bus. She says she recognized me from the Halloween festival back a while ago, though for the life of me I couldn't and still can't remember if I met her or not. It didn't matter all that much. She asked me if I wanted to get a cup of coffee that day and since then we've become good friends.
"Happy Snowflake day!" she says and pulls me into a hug.
"Same to you!" I say, and I'm looking around. She's the only one at my doorstep. She has a young boy, the same age as Renaldo, whom I told her to bring along. Actually, I told her to bring her whole family foolishly before I learned that it was only her and her son N.S. Her husband Ichabod passed not yet a year ago in an electrical accident.
"Where's your son?" I finally ask.
"Oh, he's just in the car. He's going to help our nanny bring some of the presents. You don't mind that I invited her, do you?"
"No, of course not. The more the merrier. Renaldo is so excited that N.S. is coming. It's nice that they've gotten so close at school. I--"
"Happy Snowflake day," says a sultry voice and I actually am paralysed at what I see...
When Olive brought up her nanny, I was expecting an older lady with nobody other than herself to be around on this very day. Empty and lonely on the inside and a strong urge to full it by being around other families. Call me old fashioned, but this woman, this doll...! Long hair pours over this child's shoulders the colour of rubies, big doe eyes and a body that would make any woman jealous. In what world is she not busy on Snowflake day?
"Chasity," says Olive and I actually have to shake myself to snap out of it, "this is Rose Thorne."
"Rose Thorne?" I repeat. Her parents must have had a sense of humour.
"What a pleasure it is to finally meet you," she says to me, grabbing my hand and shaking it. "Olive has told me so much about you."
"All good I hope."
Rose giggles girlishly and passes me a bottle of red wine. "Thank you so much for having me."
I don't know what it is about her that I don't like. It could be that every sentence ends with what sounds like a question. It could be that weird way she keeps giggling like a schoolgirl. But I think it is more of the fact that she reminds me of those girls back home that all joined me on the road to fame through modelling and that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I almost immediately open the bottle of wine once we all gather inside and try to wash it away.
Both families join in the afternoon while the turkey is cooking for some fun activities. We have a snowball fight, make snowmen and angels and take pictures that we all know we will never print.
We also skate on the rink Kam has been working on for weeks. I am surprised how solid the ice is for how mild the weather has been leading up to today. It's only been the last few weeks that things have gotten deeply cold. I'm not the greatest in a pair of skates. Thankfully, neither is Olive or Kam. The three of us get laughed at by the children as they literally skate circles around us. Kam is probably the worst of the three of us and while I have tried to help him to his feet countless times, he drags me to the ground not once, not twice, but several times. I end up abandoning him and working with Olive to keep upright on the opposite side of the rink.
"Looks like he just needed a little help," Olive says as we spin together. I follow her gaze and notice Rose and Kam mirroring us, though neither of them are looking our way.
"I've got to continue dinner," I say with haste, letting go of Olive's hands and hoping not to fall down again. "The turkey must be almost ready and the vegetables still need doing."
After undoing my skates, getting my shoes back on and trudging back inside, it's not long before I am back in front of the oven. Olive has followed me inside and she's helping me with what's left to do.
"I'm sorry," she finally says after a few minutes of silence between us. "That was a really stupid thing for me to say."
"No, it's fine," I assure her. I scoop chopped carrots into a pot and place it on the stove.
"I shouldn't have brought her, I know." She turns and looks out the window and the others playing around. "I'm sorry, it wasn't appropriate. I should have known after what you said a few weeks ago."
I press my lips together. She's talking about my encounter with Gretchen. I spoke to her about it a few days after left this very house and told Olive how much it affected me.
"When I mentioned Rose helping Kam on the rink, I didn't mean how it sounded."
I also mentioned to her how Gretchen said how Kam looking for somebody else was a pattern of his and that karma will come around to me too. I told her all of it and obviously Olive sees the parallels.
Olive's prattling now.
"Olive, I get it. It's fine! Okay? It's fine."
Olive nods and continues mashing potatoes. "Has she come by since?"
"No, thankfully. Kam signed the papers and mailed them out the next day and not even a call from her. I really hate how easily she can get into my head, though."
"Don't let her get into your head. There are people out there with the ability to destroy us and letting them get into our heads is like opening the door for them."
"I let that door open a lot over the years. I don't expect you to understand."
Olive snorts. "You know people think I killed my first fiance after he left me at the altar, right?" She doesn't let me answer. "Is Kam coming home on time?"
"Is he making excuses, making late calls, staying overtime as Gretchen suggested?"
"Then maybe Gretchen was wrong."
"Maybe," I say, draining what's left of my wine glass and filling it up again for the fourth time. "Maybe."
I call everybody in for dinner after the table is set and we eat. I notice N.S. walk into the kitchen in the middle of dessert.
"N, where are you going?" Olive asks, leaning back in her chair in an attempt to get a better look at where he's going. He mumbles something back at her, something nobody, myself included can understand. He's completely out of my line of sight, but from where Olive sits, she can see him. "N!" Olive doesn't get a response. Her frustration burns through her cheeks, though I watch as she forces a smile on her face, slapping her napkin on the table and getting to her feet. "Be right back," she says in a reassuring tone.
"Hey, Hun, do we have whip cream for the pie?" Kam asks me from across the table.
"Oh, yeah, of course," I say, though a bit slurrish, and I am back on my feet. I forgot to bring it out. As I make my way back into the kitchen I spot Olive and N at the garbage by the window.
"You're not going to find something like that here, Subject!" Olive says sharply even if very quietly. "They are not like us. They're outsiders."
"But I need something!" N whines. "I'm getting shaky."
"Not now! Go back and eat your pie and we will talk when we get home."
I have just made it to the fridge and pull the door open. "If you guys are looking for the whip cream, I'm getting it right now."
Olive spins around to face me, the colour draining from her face. "Uh, no," she recovers as fast as she can. "N was just looking for more meat. He's a typical child carnivore."
"There's more turkey if you want more," I tell them. I motion to the platter on the counter.
"Not that," N mutters as he storms back into the dining room.
Olive laughs it off or at least tries to. "Children."
After opening presents, Olive and the others go home. I have to tell the boys to go to bed even though they are transfixed on their video games and after feeding the newborn, go to bed myself. Kam is already in bed, reading on his tablet.
"Fun day," I say as I take off my clothes and put on my sleepwear.
"Yeah, it was nice. Nice to meet some of the people you've spoken about. Olive and her son seem nice. Rose too."
As I take a seat on the edge of the bed, I pump a glob of hand moisturizer in my palm and begin working it in. "Well, I never met Rose before today. I didn't even know she was coming to be completely honest."
"It turned out to be a pleasant surprise nonetheless."
I chuckle under my breath. "I'm sure she did." As I lean back, I notice Kam cock his head toward me.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
I open my mouth to speak. Heck, there are so many things I want to say to him, accuse him of. But I shut my mouth almost immediately.
"What is it, Chas?"
"Chas, you've been acting weird all night."
I try and think about what all I want to say to him. It's all rather hurtful and even though it is hard to detect, I know it would be the alcohol talking and not my clear mind. I decide on something else.
"I'm having second thoughts about this place--"
"Again with this," he says albeit a little exaggeratedly. "We go through this almost every night. I know you have a high anxiety with everything especially after all that happened back home, I get it, but are we really going to have a problem with every place we go?"
"But you haven't heard what I've got."
If Kam could roll his eyes any harder than a schoolgirl... But he motions for me to go on and I tell him. I tell him what I overheard in the kitchen.
"Really?" I wish Kam spoke with excitement, but it is obvious he thinks my findings are lacklustre at best.
"She called us outsiders!" I counter.
"She was speaking to a child--her child, who was having a tantrum. She probably wanted to get to the cause before making a scene."
"I can't believe you right now," I say, pulling at the sheets and kicking them apart with my feet so that I can slip in between them.
"And I can't believe all you did was drink all night."
"I had a few drinks," I snap at him. "Pardon me for letting a little loose after having to carry our daughter around for nine months. Life knows I needed it."
"You were an embarrassment during dinner--"
"What? Because I forgot the whip cream?"
"You could barely hold your head from hitting the plate. Slurring your words and talking over others."
"Well, is it possible that maybe you googling the nanny may have had something to do with it?"
"What are you going on about now?"
"Rose! Rose!" Ugh, just the sound of her name makes me want to throttle everybody within a ten-mile radius. "All day, next to her you were!"
"She was a guest who was with people she'd never met before."
"Ha! Isn't that how it always goes? I had to make her feel special, make her comfortable? Blah, blah, blah!"
Kam shakes his head and puts his tablet on the table next to him and gets up.
"Where are you going?" I demand.
"I'm going to give you a moment or maybe a few since it is so clear you need one."
And then he leaves the room. I listen to him walk down the stairs and slam the front door.