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With December came the time of the year when the D’cunha home wore its best festive look. The big, welcoming, green and white wreath hung on the mahogany door. A white star with red bow & bell prints swayed on the patio. Stockings hung from the mantle and over the mantle greeting cards received from distant friends and relatives stood proudly in a row. The wooden stairway leading to the bedrooms upstairs was covered with Bethlehem light garlands accentuated with gold and red bows between the uniform curves. Twinkling fairy lights lit the window sill making it a delightful sight. It was, however, the Christmas tree which left everyone in awe.

The Christmas tree brought D’cunha family together. Gran Frankie wouldn’t have it any other way! For the last 62 years, her Christmas tree would be put up together with her kids and now the grand-kids joined in too. With carols playing in the background, they laughed and reminisced about all the previous year’s festivities. The red and white candy sticks, golden bells and buntings bought life to the magnificent tree. And later the presents lay temptingly under it. This year wasn’t any different except for Jesse and Ray, who, lately, have been living like strangers in their own home.

Gran Frankie’s son, Ray and daughter-in-law Jesse were at daggers drawn to each other for a few months now. After 12 years of marriage, it seemed like love and patience was lost between them.

Hayley, their 9 year daughter had spoken out her fears to Keith, her elder brother.

“Mum and Dad are always fighting. I don’t like it when they are mean to each other.”

“That’s what adults do sometimes. You don’t worry a thing.” Keith had consoled, but he had seen a little bit more of the world than Haley and he knew how adults sometimes can be thick headed and complicate relationships.

~~
It was the day before Christmas. The evening outside was cold and windy. Gran Frankie and Gramps Abe settled in front of the fireplace and it wasn’t too long before Hayley and Keith joined them to listen to her stories which they never got tired of.

“It was the December 1952. Your Gramps was quite a dreamboat as a young man. And spunky too, I must add. On Christmas Eve, when the whole world was thinking of Baby Jesus, your Gramps was at the church, eyeing pretty girls.” Gran looked mischievously at the old man sitting in front of her, dressed in blue shirt and suspenders wearing a content smile on his white moustache face.

“I had my eyes set on only one girl. She was dressed in Red and looked beautiful like a decked up Christmas tree.” Gramps replied indulgently making Gran Frankie’s wrinkly, freckled cheeks go pink.

“He had the gall to come over to wish me Merry Christmas and then in front of my friends…”

“… I kissed her. I knew then that I was hers… Forever!” This was Abe’s favorite Xmas story too.

The kids giggled and nudged each other. Jesse, who was prepping up the stuffed roast chicken smiled at her mother-in-law. She wondered how Frankie could be so happy. She tried to understand what was going wrong in her own marriage. Jesse’s eyes unconsciously reached out to Ray who was busy pouring wine for the adults and hot chocolate drink for the kids. A lost memory of a special Christmas day tugged her heartstrings.

Jesse had met Ray at a Christmas Party. She was dressed in Red with reindeer antlers headband and Ray wore a shiny Red nose with green bow tie.

“My favourite carol is – Rudolf the Red nose Reindeer.” Ray had confessed.

“Mine too!” Jesse had beamed.

Both had got along like a house on fire. They spoke and waltzed and laughed and enjoyed each others banter. It was when their host rang a brass bell and everyone clapped and cheered that Jesse realised they were standing under a mistletoe. She had laughed nervously, but Ray’s strong, calm hands held onto her and she felt warm when their lips met. Jesse knew then that her heart belonged to Ray… Forever.

~~
Ray must have sensed Jesse’s thoughts, for he looked up and for a fraction of second their eyes met and they both were transported to a time when they believed Love will get them through. The spell broke when Hayley spoke aloud, “Another story Granma,” but the memory remained. After months of fights and arguments, Ray and Jesse shared their first smile.

Gran Frankie looked up to see her Son and daughter-in-law finding that little bit of spark which keeps a marriage going. Her only wish for Christmas looked like coming true.

The house smelled of Gran’s famous Christmas pudding and cake. Gramps led the gingerbread cookies troop whilst kids decorated it with icing and sprinkles.

That night Keith and Hayley woke up to the faint sound of music. They both tiptoed and sat at the top of the stairway in wonder, their small frames hidden behind the Bethlehem garland.

There stood in the hallway, Ray and Jesse, arms in arms, waltzing to “White Christmas” – Frank Sinatra’s deep voice bringing them closer. Their embrace looked awkward, but welcoming. Ray missed a step and Jesse laughed when they both stumbled. It was Ray who leaned in to kiss his wife and this time he didn’t need mistletoe. Jesse revelled in the familiar, secure feel of Ray’s touch. That kiss took away Keith and Hayley’s fears too.

Gramps Abe, who was also witnessing the Christmas miracle returned to bed and kissed his beautiful Frankie Goodnight.

Keith returned to his room and took out the little snowman snowglobe that he had bought for Amy – his best friend. They had fought over something stupid and he hoped she would forgive him.

“Christmas brings out the best in people.” He remembered what Gran Frankie always said. As he drifted off to sleep, Keith hoped that when he grows up, he too will have a Christmas story to share.

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