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A Merry Little Christmas(51)

By:Melanie Schuster

Lillian was amazed by what her daughter was telling her. For the first  time in a long time, she felt connected to her youngest child and the  woman she had become. There would always be a part of her that regretted  the years they weren't close, but she would make sure that this  closeness would remain for the rest of their lives.                       


The rest of her visit was a great deal of fun. Instead of running from  mall to restaurant to gallery, they took it easy and relaxed together,  watching Angelique's collection of old movie musicals. It was something  they'd done when Angelique was quite small and Lillian was amazed that  she remembered and still liked the same movies.

"I have a lot to learn about you, my dear, and I'm looking forward to every bit of it," Lillian said before she left.

When Donnie and Angelique took her to the airport, it was with genuine  regret. Donnie had to pry them apart to get Lillian on the plane.

"Lillian, I promise we'll be down in a couple of weeks. I can see that  we'll be spending a lot of time in Atlanta," he said as he hugged her.  Altogether it was a memorable and wonderful time in Angelique's life, a  time she would always treasure.

So when she agreed with Martha that she was a lot happier now, she was  telling the truth. A better relationship with her mother, a truly happy  marriage and a beautiful baby ... she couldn't ask for anything more.  And Christmas was coming. A year ago she'd been wondering if she'd ever  be happy again and now she knew what true happiness was.


Before Thanksgiving had arrived, Angelique was in a Christmas frenzy. To  Donnie's loving amusement, she had set up a holiday timetable that  included dates for volunteering at a soup kitchen and a convalescent  home, dates for decorating the house inside and out, and the exact date  all their Christmas cards would be sent out. She had taken what she  called a family portrait, consisting of her and Donnie posing with  Jordan and Pippen, both of whom were wearing big red bows on their  collars. She made sure that her burgeoning belly was well displayed,  too. She was still thrilled about being pregnant, even though it was  getting a little stressful.

Sleeping on her stomach was completely out of the question, but sleeping  on her back was no easier. She had to sleep propped up on so many  pillows, it was like she was sitting up. And she found herself getting  crankier as the days went on. There were days when she would cry at the  drop of a hat. Just seeing a sentimental holiday commercial could set  her off. There were other times when something like not being able to  see her feet would make her so frustrated, she would end up throwing a  shoe. The day she went out of the house with one brown shoe and one  black one was memorable indeed.

In balance, though, life was good. She wasn't going into the studio  every day now, as she was taking very few assignments. But on the  occasions that she went in to work, she was thrilled with the  traditional holiday look of the lobby and arcade. With the classic  restoration of the building, it reminded her of an old-fashioned movie  musical set. There were Christmas carols playing and tasteful  decorations, enough to satisfy even her desire for festivity. Donnie  delighted in indulging her every holiday whim and began putting up the  outdoor lights early just to please her. They went shopping for  Christmas decorations one weekend, and, thanks to her persistence,  scoured all of southeastern Michigan for beautiful baubles.

One day she and Paris even ended up going to Frankenmuth, a German town  near Saginaw that was home to Bronner's, known as the Christmas  Wonderland. They'd gone to Saginaw one Tuesday afternoon for their  regular hair appointments with Danny Watley, one of Vera's dearest  friends and the owner of the Hair Gallery in Saginaw; it was a sign of  his skill that both women went to see him once a month to keep their  hair glowing. They would do their own shampoo and sets but no one was  allowed to do anything serious to their hair except Danny. On the drive  up to Saginaw, Angelique had sung along with the Christmas music she  insisted on playing, to Paris's amusement. She was happy to tease her  cousin about it, too.

"Angel, remember last Christmas when you were so blue and lonely? Now  look at you. You're a happily married lady, soon to be a mommy and  you've got enough holiday spirit for ten people. I'm so happy for you,"  she said.

Angelique smiled a huge and blissful smile and rubbed her firm, hard  tummy with both hands. "I'm very happy for me, too. For me, for Adonis,  for my family, for everything. It's unbelievable, isn't it?"

The hour-and-a-half drive to Saginaw was over quickly and they pulled  into the parking lot of the Hair Gallery. Tuesdays were Danny's light  days and the lot wasn't crowded. Angelique walked into the salon  employing the little-pregnant-lady waddle so often seen in the last  stages of pregnancy.

Danny's eyes got big when he saw Angelique. "Look at you, you look like  an olive with a toothpick stuck through it," he exclaimed when he saw  her big pregnant belly.                       


Angelique smiled and embraced the tall handsome man and paid no  attention to his teasing. She knew Danny well enough not to take him  seriously. He eyed her speculatively as Paris hung their coats up in the  back of the immaculately clean shop.

"When did you say you're due?"

"Christmas Day," she said proudly.

He shook his head. "You'll never make it to Christmas," he predicted.  Years of working, with women, plus being exposed to the gestations of  his many cousins, made Danny uniquely qualified to speculate. "That baby  is coming out before December twenty-fifth." He looked at Angelique  front, side and back and shook his head again. "You'll never make it all  the way to term."

Neesha, a cousin of Danny's who managed the salon, emerged from the  shampoo room to hear his prediction. "Pay him no attention," she said  airily. "He sounds like he knows what he's talking about, doesn't he?  Well, he doesn't. As a baby predictor he's a good hairstylist," she  said, then squealed as Danny grabbed her and gave her noogies. She  rubbed her head as she sat down at the desk. "Seriously, Angel, just  ignore him. He knows nothing about it, he's just guessing."

Angelique didn't comment; she was busy getting her box of gingersnaps  and a carton of fat-free Lactaid milk out of her tote bag. "Anybody want  some?" she asked, waving the two items.

In a few minutes, Danny had her situated at the shampoo bowl, where she  settled into the chair and sighed with relief. When he asked what she'd  been up to lately, she smiled.

"Getting the nursery ready for the baby, of course, and getting the  house decorated for Christmas. I haven't been this excited about  Christmas coming since I was a little girl, Danny. It's like all the joy  and magic of the season have come back to me," she said happily. "I'm  driving my poor husband crazy, but I can't stop buying Christmas  decorations. And all I put in the CD player now is Christmas music."  Donnie was totally sympathetic. He loved the holiday, too, and always  pulled out all the stops. "Have you been to Bronner's?" he asked.  "You've got to go there, you'll love it."

He explained about the store and then said, "Frankenmuth is only about  twenty minutes away, and I don't have any more appointments today, would  you like to run over there?" Paris and Angelique had been awed and  fascinated by the gigantic store full of the most exquisite decorations  either woman had ever seen. Danny stayed with Angelique as they walked  the store. "Ooh, Danny, look at that!" she exclaimed, pointing at a  nearby display.

Danny suddenly grabbed her hand and stared at it. "I'm too busy looking  at this. When is that man going to get you a ring? You've been walking  around with a bare hand long enough, don't you think?"

Angelique blushed to the roots of her hair-her shining, perfectly styled  hair, thanks to Danny. "He already did," she confessed. "It's sitting  at home in the little Tiffany box because it's too big. And I never took  it to have it sized because I don't like it. The stone looks like a  headlight and it's platinum. It's just not me."

Danny looked disgusted. "Girl, I ought to beat you. Your husband buys  you a beautiful platinum wedding ring and you're too cute to wear it  because the stone is too big? You should be ashamed of yourself. Have I  taught you nothing about fine jewelry and the need to have as much as  possible?"

Angelique had glanced at her ringless hand, and she had felt shame. Even  before she had declared her love for him, Donnie was committed enough  to buy her a big beautiful ring and she was too picky to wear it.  "You're right, Danny. I think I need to do something about that."