The bell above the door jingled. Two women, one maybe forty, the other… twenty? It’s so hard to tell sometimes.
“Welcome to Hope’s,” the counter girl chirped over Elvis’s “Blue Christmas”.
The ladies smiled their response. They stood just in the door, taking in the whitewashed brick if the fireplace with the simple nativity figures on its mantle, the tree all decked in white lights and pinecones and gingerbread men, the fresh snowfall of pineboughs blanketing every surface.
After a moment’s pause, the younger stepped forward. The older jumped to follow.
“What can I get for you today?” the girl waved her hand on the direction of the glass case full of baked things. The women looked at each other. The younger’s hands went to get braid. She nodded sightly for the older to go ahead.
“Oh look! They have those pecan squares you love!” The women turned from the glass to face the younger.
“I don’t eat nuts anymore, Mom. With Trevor’s allergy…” The narrow shoulders shrugged.
“Oh, I—I didn’t know.” The older woman massaged her temples. Her dark lashes settled on her cheeks as she closed her eyes and sighed.
Both ordered hot chocolate and a ginger cookies. Each paid for her own. They settled at the nearest of the five little tables to the fireplace.
“So Trevor, he’s… three now?” The mother twisted straight, dark hair around her finger.
“Yeah.” The daughter eyed her over her cup.
“And, how is he doing?”
“Good.” Her voice was hard. The counter girl went back into the kitchen.
“You hate me.” The mother’s eyes closed as of to hide from the reality.
The girl—she really was just a girl—looked up and blinked rapidly. Her voice was too quiet.
“Not as much as you hate me.”
“No! I love you! I—”
“Threw me out of the house!” The counter girl poked her head out of the kitchen, then awkwardly retreated. The daughter caught herself, repeated it quiet, but firm. “You threw me out of the house, Mom. What kind of love is that?”
The mother said nothing. The girl nibbled at her cookie. The café was empty. The stains of “Mary Did You Know” filtered through the speakers.
The girl stood and set her empty mug on the counter. “Well, I guess I better go.”
“Wait. I have something for Trevor. A Christmas gift.” She gently lifted a folded blanket from her oversized purse. “I—I made it a long time ago. For my first baby.”
The daughter gently took the blanket. She unfolded it and held it up to admire the tiny stitches. Her brow furrowed. “But, you never had a baby. I thought that’s why you…”
A tear slid down the mother’s cheek. “He was stillborn. And two more after him. I was so young.” She smiled through her tears, “Then we got you. You were three years old. We loved you so much.’
“And then I messed up.”
“No, I messed up. I was afraid I’d loose another child…I guess I did.”
The girl swiped at tears. She shook her head. “No, you didn’t.”