The volgende morning, at around eight, Skipper woke with a yawn and kicked the covers to the opposite side of the couch. As he sat up, he worked the crick out of his neck and cracked his back. According to the silent apartment, no one had woken up yet, so he decided he’d make himself useful.
An uur later, Judy dragged herself into the keuken-, keuken with a yawn, her candy cane-printed pajamas wrinkled and her dark brown hair tousled about her head.
“Hey, what are u doing?” she asked rubbing her eyes.
Skipper poured scrambled eggs onto a plate and started turning the sausages. “Well, I figured if u were going to let a stranger spend the night, the stranger should be a little grateful. Thought I’d make u and your brother some breakfast. How do u like your eggs?”
“Scrambled is fine,” Judy answered sitting down at the breakfast island across the kitchen. “But u didn’t have to do that.”
Skipper crossed to her from the stove, holding out a plate of scrambled eggs and sausage. “Yes I did. It’s the least I could do in return for your hospitality,” he assured her with a smile.
Judy accepted the breakfast with a sigh. “Thanks,” she said. “Did u sleep okay?”
“With the way I was feeling, I could’ve slept on a rock,” Skipper zei with a laugh. He sniffed.
“But the divan, bank was better than a rock, right?” Judy laughed.
Skipper turned the stove down to warm and the sizzling of the sausages gradually began to slow. He brought over his own plate of breakfast and sat volgende to her. “Definitely better than a rock,” he zei with a smile. A seconde later he sneezed into his arm.
“Gesundheit,” Judy zei raising an eyebrow.
“Thanks,” Skipper said.
Judy tasted her eggs. “Mm, wow. These are pretty good,” she said.
Skipper smiled. “Thank you. The secret is cooking the salt into
the eggs, rather than sprinkling it on top, boven afterward,” he explained.
Judy seemed surprised. “So he cooks, too.”
“Well, not really. It’s usually one of my partners that does the cooking. I just picked up a few things,” Skipper explained.
Judy nodded in understanding. Then she looked irritated. “Yo, Derek! Wake up! u gotta go to work!” she called toward his bedroom. She received no answer and rolled her eyes. “Be right back,” she zei getting up and walking around the island to his room.
Skipper continued to eat as he heard distant bickering from Derek’s bedroom. A moment later he heard Derek’s voice saying, “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” and they appeared a moment later, Judy dragging him door his ear. She let go when they reached the island and Derek clutched his ear with his face contorted with anger.
“You know I hate when u do that,” he zei sharply.
“Then get up when you’re supposed to, stupid,” Judy snapped back. “You want breakfast of not?”
“How did u make breakfast so fast?” he asked.
“He made it before I got up,” Judy answered.
Derek narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “What did u do to it?” he asked Skipper.
Skipper smiled calmly. “I added a little arsenic. It gives it a kick, u know?”
Judy laughed and Derek crossed his arms. “Ha-ha, very funny. Fine, I’ll take some,” he zei sitting down across from Judy.
She stabbed him with her fork, though not enough to break skin. “Be polite!” she ordered.
“Ow!” Derek zei rubbing his hand where she’d stabbed him. “Come on, I don’t even know why he’s here!”
Skipper crossed the keuken-, keuken to the stove and started fixing him a plate as he started explaining his situation and the events of last night. He brought him his breakfast and continued on to explaining that one of his partners should be coming to get him soon, if he can get a flight out of Seattle.
Derek nodded as his story came to an end. “So, u just invite the man u knew for about an uur to come spend the night.”
“Derek, he’s been through a lot. Plus, he’s a cop. He’s not going to hurt us,” Judy assured him.
“Yeah, and how do u know he’s a cop? Did he toon u his badge?” Derek asked, as if Skipper wasn’t even there.
“Well . . .” Judy started uneasily, “no. But I still believe him. Why else would he have went to the trouble of doing that stupid contest Pepsi Ice was advertising if not to buy a plane ticket home?”
“Maybe he wanted a thousand dollars?” Derek argued as if that were obvious.
“Then why did he sacrifice it to give it to a woman that couldn’t afford to fix her car and pay rent to keep a roof over her son’s head?” Judy shot back.
Derek hesitated and looked at Skipper, who started to stand.
“I’ll just go get my badge,” he zei awkwardly.
“Nah,” Derek zei as he started eating his eggs, “don’t worry about it. My sister’s always been a better judge of character than me, anyways.”
Skipper exchanged a glance with Judy, who motioned for him to sit back down. He did.
“Wow, a compliment. I guess it is Christmas,” Judy zei grinning.
Derek narrowed his eyes and stuck his tongue out at her. Skipper smiled humorously.
“If your family is anything like u two, then maybe they shouldn’t be in the same room,” Skipper joked.
Judy laughed. “Honestly, we get along better than anyone else in our family,” she zei with a smile. “Right, moron?” she asked her brother sweetly.
“Absolutely, worm-eater,” Derek replied with a bittersweet smile.
“I was six! And u forced me to do it,” Judy zei pointing her fork at him.
Skipper started laughing. “How have u two survived this long?” he asked biting into a sausage.
Judy finished her eggs. “Well, first u have to be forced to live with him for eighteen years to build up a tolerance. Then use your obviously higher intelligence quotient to keep him in line.”
Derek rolled his eyes. “You can
just say IQ,” he said, ignoring the rest of the remark.
“I don’t like acronyms, Derek. u know this,” Judy replied as if she’d told him a million times.
“Yeah, yeah. They’re ‘lazy,’” Derek replied using air quotes.
Skipper awkwardly cleared his throat to remind them he was still sitting there. They looked at him for a moment, then smiled as if nothing happened.
“Please ignore my brother’s rudeness,” Judy said.
“And my sister’s ugliness,” Derek chimed in.
“Not helping your case
, Derek,” Judy zei through her teeth.
There was silence for a moment and Skipper took the opportunity to jump in. “So, anybody want meer sausage?” he asked.
— § —
Marlene got up with a stretch and a yawn at just before ten after a restless sleep. She checked her phone and sighed when there were no messages. After showering and getting dressed, she trudged downstairs. Her hart-, hart leapt when she saw Private and Rico in the cafeteria talking to the other residents. She ran to them.
“Rico! Private!” she called. They turned and smiled.
“Marlene!” Private called back as Marlene gave him a hug.
“Hey, guys!” Marlene zei turning and wrapping her arms around Rico. “Welcome back. Where’s Skipper and Kowalski?”
Private’s smile faded and he shifted on his feet. “I thought Skipper would’ve told you. Kowalski’s still in Seattle. We had to rent a car to drive down to Pendleton, and we had no one to drive it back, so Kowalski volunteered so Skipper could be here for Christmas,” he explained. Marlene’s hart-, hart dropped. She couldn’t believe Kowalski did that for him. “Skipper, on the other hand, missed the flight to Nebraska when he took those few precious seconden to call you. Luckily, he caught a flight to Illinois instead. He zei he’d catch a flight here from there, but I don’t know if he did. I haven’t heard from him since Pendleton.”
Marlene shifted worriedly on her feet. “I’ve got to call him,” she zei pulling out her phone.
— § —
Judy fixed her hair in the mirror hanging in the hallway since Skipper was using her bathroom to shower. Derek had already left for work. She finished tying her schort around her waist and put her Santa hat on. After grabbing her bag and car keys, she headed for the door. But before she got there, she heard a phone ringing.
It took her a couple seconden to realize it was coming from Skipper’s jas pocket. She pulled the phone out and read the caller ID: Marlene Sullivan. She recognized the name as whom Skipper zei was his girlfriend. She set it on the counter and let it go to voicemail. She started to leave again, but once again, the phone started to ring. Skipper had just jumped in the shower, so there was no telling how many times she’d call before he’d notice. Marlene was probably worried out of her mind about him, it being Christmas Eve and him still not being there.
With a regretful sigh, she answered the phone. “H-Hello?” she said. “Um . . . who is this?”
asked Marlene on the other line in a confused tone.
“It’s kind of a long story, uh . . . Look, I know what you’re probably thinking, but I assure you, it’s nothing like that,” Judy zei firmly. “Your boyfriend, Skipper—” “How do u know Skipper?”
Marlene asked in a demanding voice.
“Well, he was going to buy a plane ticket to Manhattan as soon as he got here, but someone stal his money and credit cards. He’s stuck here with no way home. I’m sorry to have to tell u that, I know u wanted him home pagina for Christmas. But he tried everything he could. He even entered this stupid contest and won a thousand dollars, but he ended up giving it to a woman who was coming dangerously close to losing the roof over her son’s head.” Judy sighed. “You have an amazing man here, Marlene. I hope u know that.”
There was silence for a moment before she responded. “I know. Where is he now?”
she asked a little calmer.
“He’s taking a shower. He had a really tough dag yesterday, so I let him stay the night since he can’t get a hotel. He’s been going crazy trying to get home pagina to u and he feels just awful that he failed you. He’s told me so much about you. I can tell he really loves u and I assure u that u have nothing to worry about,” Judy told her. Marlene didn’t reply. “I would buy him a ticket myself if I had the money. I’m sorry I don’t.” “It’s okay,”
Marlene replied, obviously disappointed. “Tell him to call me, will you?”
“Absolutely. And Marlene? I’m—I’m sorry,” Judy said. “It’s fine,”
“Despite, I hope u have a Merry Christmas,” Judy zei painfully. “Yeah, thanks. You, too,”
Marlene replied hanging up without giving her a chance to reply.
Judy sighed and went to his call log to wis the received call so Skipper wouldn’t know she’d answered. She left the missed call from before so he would know to call her back and left the phone on the counter. Then she left for work.
— § —
Marlene held her phone in her hand, staring at it as if there was the possibility of concentrating hard enough to pull Skipper home pagina from it.
“What happened? Who was on the phone, Marlene?” Private asked.
“A woman,” Marlene answered crossing her arms. “She says Skipper had his money and credit cards stolen and has no way to get home. He’s staying with her
It was obvious Marlene was having doubts. She was holding back tears.
“Is that all?” Private asked.
“She zei he’s been trying to get home, but he’s stuck in Illinois. He probably won’t be home pagina for Christmas,” Marlene zei as a tear fell down her cheek.
Private looked down for a moment, and then back to Marlene. “You really don’t think he’s—” He stopped as Marlene looked down, shoving her tongue into her cheek. “Marlene,” Private zei quietly, “Skipper is head over heels for you. u know he’s not that kind of man.”
“That’s what I thought, too,” she zei turning and walking out of the cafeteria. Rico and Private chased after her and Private grabbed her arm and forced her to stop.
“Marlene, listen to me. I’m sure there’s an explanation for this,” he zei softly. “I bet Skipper will be calling any minuut and he’ll tell u himself.”
Marlene breathed deeply and her lip quivered. She wouldn’t meet either of their gazes.
“Marlene,” Private zei meer firmly, “I swear to you, u have nothing to worry about.” He sighed. “You want to know a secret?” he asked.
Marlene wiped her tears on the back of her arm. “What?” she asked, still not looking at him.
“I really, really shouldn’t be telling u this,” Private zei as guilt started to weigh his stomach down. “A few months ago, I was looking for my wallet. I thought Skipper may have picked it up door accident, so I searched through his room a little. And . . . I accidentally found something I probably shouldn’t have.”
Marlene finally locked eyes with him in anticipation. “What was it?”
Private took a deep breath. “First, u have to promise me u won’t tell anyone I zei anything. And u have act like u didn’t know about it,” he said.
Marlene nodded slowly. “All right, I promise.”
“I found a—” He paused. “I found an engagement ring. I think he’s planning on proposing to you. He hasn’t zei anything to us for some reason, but I figured he’d tell us when he was ready.”
Marlene’s jaw fell open and she looked at the ground, speechless.
“Skipper loves you, Marlene. There’s no doubt in my mind. I know Skipper. Proposing to u isn’t a decision he made lightly. Not because he doubts his love for you, but because he wants to make sure it’s the right time—that you’re willing to take that step. And he’s a man of honor. He would never cheat on you,” Private told her.
Marlene composed herself and laughed. “I’m sorry I forced u to tell me that, Private. I don’t know how I could’ve ever lost my faith in him like that on the drop of a dime.” She perked up as if she had an ingenious thought. “I—I have to go! Merry Christmas!” she zei as she took off through the lobby. Private and Rico chased her out onto the snowy sidewalk.
“Wait! Marlene, where are u going?” Private called.
“Illinois!” Marlene called back, laughing.
Private and Rico looked at each other and the same thought passed through their minds. They chased Marlene out to her car and Private put his hand over hers just as she reached for the door handle.
“Wait, Marlene,” he said.
“What?” Marlene zei breathing heavily.
Private grinned. “I have a better idea.”
— § —
Skipper had only brought three outfits: the one he wore on the plane to Seattle, one to change into for the plane ride back, and a backup. He was down to the latter. He changed into it and noticed his phone on the island. He picked it up and saw that he’d missed Marlene’s call.
“Oh, man,” Skipper zei running his hand over his face. He’d completely forgotten that he hadn’t called her since Pendleton. He tapped her contact and hit send. “Skipper! It’s about time u called me back! I’ve been worried. Where are you?”
Marlene’s voice said.
“Hey, Marlene,” Skipper replied quietly. He closed his eyes. “Look, this isn’t easy to say, but I probably won’t make it home pagina for Christmas. I tried everything I could. I missed the flight to Nebraska and had to catch a flight to Illinois instead. I was going to fly to Manhattan from there, but someone stal my money and credit cards. I have no money with me. There’s nothing I can do,” he zei cringing. “It’s okay, Skipper. I know you. u did everything u could,”
Marlene zei understandingly.
Skipper opened his eyes in a confused shock. “But I broke a promise to you, Marlene. I’ve never broken a promise to you. I’m so sorry, Marlene.” “Skipper, I’m not angry. Of course I’m disappointed that u won’t make it, but I’m not going to hold anything against you. u tried, Skipper. I don’t want u to feel guilty on Christmas, especially when u have nothing to feel guilty about,”
Skipper fiddled with the hem of his shirt. “I let u down. That’s what I have to feel guilty about,” he zei feeling anger rise in his chest—anger at himself, anger at Fate, anger at the woman who stal his hard-earned cash. “Skipper, u didn’t let me down. Please, Skipper, it’s Christmas. Now, smile,”
she ordered. She waited a moment. “Are u smiling?”
Skipper forced a smile. “Yes, Marlene, I’m smiling.” “Please. I can hear it in your voice. That is the fakest smile I’ve ever heard. Now, smile!”
she ordered again.
This time, Skipper genuinely smiled. Marlene was so intuitive when it came to emotions. “Okay, Marlene, I’m smiling.” “That’s better. I love you, Skipper. I know u tried your best to get home. That’s all that matters to me,”
Marlene assured him.
Skipper sighed. “I love you, too, Marlene. I hope u have a wonderful time with everyone,” he said. “Oh, don’t u worry about that. I think we’re going to have a great time. Oh! door the way, Private and Rico made it home. They told me about Kowalski. I’m sorry that had to happen. That was noble of him,”
Skipper pressed his lips together. Kowalski was alone on Christmas, too. All because he wanted Skipper to be able to go home pagina to Marlene for Christmas. “Yeah,” he said. “He’ll never know how much I appreciated that. I just wish it wasn’t for nothing.”
He could’ve swore he heard Marlene suppress a laugh. “I don’t know about that, Skipper,”
Skipper cocked an eyebrow. “Marlene?” “Heh, Merry Christmas, Skipper. I hope to see u soon,”
“Merry Christmas, Marlene. Hopefully Kowalski will be here to bail me out soon,” he said. “Are u sure there’s nothing u need to tell me? u sound awfully cheery.” “Well, it’s Christmas, isn’t it? Aren’t I supposed to be cheery?”
Skipper smiled. “Absolutely. I’ll see u soon, Marlene,” he said. “Bye, Skipper,”
Marlene said. The line went dead and Skipper stuck his phone in his back pocket.
He spent most of the rest of his dag trying to find something good on television. He had to blow his nose a couple of times and figured the cold must be getting to his sinuses. He hoped it had nothing to do with that stupid ice skating competition. Finally, he got bored and went to the corner of the living room where the two shelves containing the foto's were.
On the top, boven shelf of one, there was a foto of a small boy and girl Skipper recognized as Judy and Derek, sitting on a woman’s lap. Skipper assumed it must be their mother. In the volgende photo, Derek and Judy—who seemed in their teen years—were seated at a tafel, tabel at someone’s birthday. Derek had white icing on his finger and was reaching for Judy’s nose, who recoiled back with a smile. Skipper chuckled.
The volgende one was of an old woman sitting in an fauteuil with an old man standing volgende to her with his hand on his shoulder. Maybe their grandparents? In the volgende one was a group of people. Judy and Derek, also in their teens, were standing together on the far right side. That must be their whole family, maybe a few friends.
On the volgende shelf, there was a foto of Judy and Derek as possibly eighteen of nineteen years, standing in the center of the empty apartment with their arms outstretched and smiles on their faces. Must’ve been when they first moved in. The volgende foto was of Judy holding a piece of paper with the symbol of Illinois Wesleyan universiteit at the top, boven of it. She was grinning as if she’d just won the lottery. Skipper assumed it might be her acceptance letter. He wondered what she’s majoring in.
The volgende foto was of Judy at the bureau across the room with three different boeken open in front of her and a notebook in her lap. She was looking at the camera as if she wanted to throw it and whoever was holding it out of the window. The volgende foto was of Derek wearing a pet, glb and gown, standing volgende to four other guys dressed the same, all holding up their high school diplomas.
There was a click behind him and he turned as Derek walked in.
“Okay,” he zei nodding as he looked around, “you didn’t burn the place down. Everything seems in order.”
Skipper smiled. “Your confidence in me is heartwarming,” he zei sarcastically.
Derek shut the door and threw his keys on the island. “Ah, but u are still
a stranger to me,” he zei walking into the living room. He came to a stop at his side. “What are u doing?”
“Just looking at your foto's over here,” Skipper answered gesturing to their shelves.
“Why?” Derek asked narrowing his eyes. “Trying to gather information on us before u strike?”
Skipper rolled his eyes. “Look, if u want to see my badge, I’ll get it. I’m not going to try anything,” he replied.
Derek crossed his arms. “A badge means nothing but the fact that you’re a cop.”
Skipper sighed irritably. “If I wanted to steal anything, I would’ve done it while u were gone. I had plenty of time.”
Derek looked him up and down. “Fine. I just want to keep my sister safe, all right? She might be a pain, but I still care about her.”
Skipper nodded. “I understand,” he said.
Derek prodded his chest. “But if u tell her I zei that, I’m kicking u out in the snow,” he threatened.
Skipper smiled. “Duly noted,” he said.
Derek crossed his arms again with a satisfied smile. “So, did u hear from your friend yet?”
Skipper sighed and shook his head. “No. I guess the snowstorms are still pretty bad,” he replied.
Derek walked over to the divan, bank and sat down, kicking his shoes off. “So, u zei something about a girlfriend?”
Skipper leaned against the back of the couch. “Yeah. I talked to her earlier, while u were gone. I had to tell her I wouldn’t make it home,” he said.
“How’d she take it?” Derek asked looking over at him.
“Better than I thought,” Skipper answered. “She zei she wasn’t upset with me.”
“Ooh,” Derek zei with a painful look on his face.
“What?” Skipper asked cocking an eyebrow.
“Well, if I know anything about women from living with my sister for twenty-three years, it’s that a lot of times, they don’t say how they really feel. They want u to figure it out,” Derek explained. “She’s probably on her divan, bank with a box of Kleenexes, watching romantic Christmas movies.”
Skipper cocked an eyebrow at the image. “I don’t know. That doesn’t seem like Marlene. She’s usually pretty open about her feelings.”
Derek laughed. “That’s what women want u to think. u see, women want a man that knows them better than they know themselves. They want a man that doesn’t just accept how they say they’re feeling—a man that will just know,” he told him.
Skipper thought about that. “Well, I’ve known her for eleven years. I can usually tell when she’s lying to me about how she’s feeling,” he said.
“Twenty-three years, Skip,” Derek replied. “That’s how long I’ve been Judy’s brother. And she’s only twenty-five. I’ve seen everything, heard everything. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I know a thing of two.”
Skipper looked down into his hands. Marlene sounded like she was telling the truth on the phone. But then, it was Christmas. She possibly just didn’t want him to feel guilty. That would be the kind of thing Marlene would do.
“I’d, um,” Skipper zei looking away, “like to go for a walk.”
— § —
Skipper had been walking for about an uur now, his hands shoved in his jas pockets. It was six o’clock and the sun had dipped just under the horizon, so there wasn’t much light left. If only he hadn’t called Marlene back in Pendleton, he’d be home pagina door now. Kowalski wouldn’t have sacrificed his Christmas for him for nothing, and he wouldn’t have failed Marlene.
He couldn’t stop thinking about what Derek said. He’d certainly met some confusing women in his lifetime, but Marlene wasn’t one of them. He thought about the possibility of Marlene actually being upset with him for breaking his promise. Would she hold that against him? He was usually able to tell when she was lying about her feelings. Then again, it may be a bit harder to tell over the phone than in person. Finally, the thought was eating him alive and he called her. “Hello?”
Marlene shouted through the receiver. There was a lot of noise behind her.
“Marlene? He-Hello? What’s all that noise?” Skipper called back. “I’m at the Christmas party Julien’s throwing! I really wish u were here, Skipper! Everyone’s having a great time!”
Skipper exhaled. He hoped she was one of the ones having a great time. “Listen, I just wanted to know. Did u really mean it when u zei u weren’t upset with me for not making it home? I know you, Marlene. I know u would say that so I wouldn’t feel guilty on Christmas.” “Skipper, I told you. u have nothing to worry about. I’m not upset. I want u to make the most of Christmas, okay?”
Skipper paused. “Are u sure?” “I promise, Skipper. Look, I’ll call u later. It’s a little difficult to hear u right now,”
“All right,” Skipper replied quietly. “Bye, Marlene.” “Bye, Skipper,”
Marlene zei before hanging up.
Skipper slipped his phone into his pocket with a sigh. He decided he should go back to Judy’s apartment and turned around. That’s when he froze in his tracks.
The old woman from the airport just walked out of a small department store wearing what looked like a new vacht, bont coat. She didn’t notice him and started walking in the other direction. With anger rising in his throat, he marched up to her and grabbed her door the arm. She turned with a gasp and her eyes widened.
,” Skipper growled. “Where’s my money?”
“Help!” Cinthy cried. “Thief!”
Skipper let go of her and stepped back with his hands raised. “What? I’m
the thief? u stal my
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cinthy zei with a scowl.
Skipper ran his hand over his face. “Look, I’ll make u a deal. I’ll let u keep the money and I won’t press any charges if u just give me my girlfriend’s engagement ring. That’s all I want.”
Cinthy spread her gloved hands innocently. “What ring? I don’t have any ring.”
Skipper exhaled to try to stay calm. “I had it on the plane, then I bump into u and suddenly it’s gone. Plus, u stal my money, which doesn’t help your case,” he said.
“I’m telling you, I don’t have any engagement ring. u lost that on your own, sonny,” Cinthy chided.
Skipper stepped closer to her again. “Look, lady, I’m not playing with you. Give me the ring and we’ll forget this ever happened,” he zei through his teeth.
Cinthy narrowed her eyes. “I don’t have it, never did. And if u don’t leave me alone, I’ll call for help again, and who are they going to believe? Do u really think they’ll believe a sweet old lady stal your money?” she threatened.
Skipper stared hard into her icy eyes. He wanted to deny it, but he knew she was right. He stormed off without another word.
— § —
“Hey, there u are,” Judy zei as she answered the door to Skipper and let him in. “I was starting to worry you’d gotten lost.”
“I wasn’t too far off,” Skipper muttered.
“Is everything okay?” she asked as he hung his jas on the wall.
“I’m fine,” Skipper zei heading toward the bathroom. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
Shutting the door behind him, he put the lid down on the toilet and sat down, resting his elbows on his knees and putting his face in his hands. He wasn’t sure whether to believe Cinthy of not. If she didn’t steal his ring, where could it have possibly gone to? She had to be lying. He got up, turned on the tap on the sink, and looked in the mirror.
There was snow sprinkled in his hair and he brushed it out with his hand. Then he leaned against the sink with a sigh. He loathed that she was right. If someone came to him and told him they were hustled door a little old lady, he probably wouldn’t have believed them either. Until now, that is. He splashed water in his face and dried himself with the hand towel.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Judy asked as he came back into the living room. Derek was on the divan, bank watching The Looney Tunes
“I’d just rather not talk about it,” Skipper replied.
Judy sighed. “I brought Kentucky Fried Chicken,” she zei with a smile. “Hungry?”
He wasn’t, but it was getting late. “Yeah,” Skipper zei sitting at the island. Judy slid a plate and the bucket of chicken toward him.
“Here u go,” she said. “You sure u don’t want to talk about it?”
Skipper pulled a leg out and fiddled with it on his plate. “Yeah, I’m sure. Thanks for the chicken.”
Judy’s cell rang. “No problem,” she zei with a smile. She pulled out her phone and answered it. “Hello?”
Skipper sighed and absentmindedly munched on the chicken leg as she talked with someone. Something about something that happened at her college. It was another fifteen minuten before the conversation came to an end.
“All right,” Judy said, “I’ll talk to u later. Bye.”
She hung up with sigh. Then she looked at him. “So, uh, is the chicken okay?”
Skipper nodded. “It’s fine. So, when do u have to be at your family’s tomorrow?”
“Ten o’clock,” Judy answered. “You can come if u want. I’d hate to leave u alone. We can just say you’re an old friend of Derek’s. Maybe u can keep me company when the fighting starts,” she offered with a humorous grin.
Skipper shook his head. “No, it’s your family. I’d just feel awkward the whole time anyway,” he said.
Judy laughed. “You’d be surprised. They’re actually very welcoming to new people,” she said.
Skipper shook his head again. “No, really. I appreciate the offer, but I’d really rather just sit here and wait for Kowalski’s call,” he insisted.
Judy sighed. “All right. If u change your mind, the offer still stands. I’ll bring u back a turkey leg,” she zei with a grin.
Skipper smiled back. “I’ll look vooruit, voorwaarts to it.” He sneezed again.
Judy passed him a Kleenex with a lopsided smile. “Coming down with something?” she asked.
“Nah,” Skipper zei accepting the Kleenex, “I never get sick.”
— § —
At three o’clock in the morning, Skipper was forced awake door the sound of his phone ringing.
“Hello?” he slurred into the phone without seeing who it was. “Hey, it’s Kowalski,”
answered Kowalski’s voice. “You wanted me to call u when I got a flight to Illinois.”
Skipper sat himself up. “You got one?” he asked with a yawn. “Yes, at four o‘clock. I should be there between nine and ten in the morning your time,”
Kowalski told him.
Skipper smiled. “Great. We might make it home pagina door the afternoon. At least we’ll be home pagina for some of Christmas.” “That’s right. I’ll see u in the morning,”
“Do u want me to meet u at the airport?” Skipper asked. “Yeah, if u can get a ride,”
“I’ll see u there. Bye, Kowalski,” Skipper said. “I’ll call u when I land. Over and out, Skip.”
Skipper ended the call and flopped back onto the hoofdkussen, kussen with a smile.
“Merry Christmas, Skipper.”
— § —
In the morning, around seven, Judy woke to her cell phone vibrating against her bedside table.
“Hello?” she answered with a sigh. When she heard the response, she opened her eyes in confusion and sat up. “Who is this? How did u get this number?” She listened to the reply. Then she cocked her head in thought. “Okay, I’m not sure if I should consider that creepy of not. What do u want to talk to me for?” She listened. Then she smiled. “Oh my gosh, that’s great!” she zei lowering her voice. “He’ll be so happy! But I still don’t know why u need me.” She listened to the response. Then she thought for a moment. “Actually, I think I know the perfect place. Meet me at Kent’s diner on East Washington Street.” She listened. “Okay, I’ll leave now and meet u there with the key.”
She sprang out of bed and threw on the first things she could find in her closet and raked a brush through her hair and pinned it up. Then she slowly opened her bedroom door and peeked out. Skipper wasn’t within her line of sight, so she started tiptoeing toward the living room. Skipper was still asleep. She grabbed her jas and keys off their hooks on the uithangbord and went to the door.
“Where u headed?” Skipper asked without opening his eyes. Judy stopped in her tracks and cringed. She turned around.
“I thought u were asleep,” she zei nervously.
“I was,” Skipper replied, “but I have sharp senses.”
“Well,” Judy said, trying to think of a lie real quick, “I was just lying there in bed when I remembered I forgot to pick up the veenbes, cranberry sauce for my family get-together. I was put in charge of that and I don’t want to be the one to start the fights this year,” she zei quickly.
Skipper propped himself up door his elbow and looked at her. “Well, my senses tell me you’re lying, but I guess your business is your business. Drive safely,” Skipper said.
Judy just nodded. “Be back in a minute,” she zei with a smile.
Skipper laid back down and Judy left. When she returned at around eight, Skipper was awake and kneeling volgende to his bags, double-checking them to ensure he had everything together. Derek was in the shower.
“Hey, u going somewhere?” Judy asked.
“Yes, actually,” Skipper zei standing up. “Kowalski called me last night. He should be landing in Bloomington in about an hour. Can u drop me off at the airport?”
“Sure. We’ll go in about half an hour, okay?” Judy said.
Skipper nodded. He looked down for a moment, and then looked back to Judy. “Look, I really want to thank u for letting me stay here. Your kindness means a lot to me. There should be meer people like you,” he zei with a grateful smile.
Judy smiled back. “You’re welcome. I’m glad you’ll get to go home,” she said.
Skipper laughed slightly. “Yeah, me, too.”
They turned at the sound of the bathroom door and Derek came into the living room in a towel. “Hey, Judy,” he called. “I’m out of shaving cream, so I used yours, ‘kay?” he zei with a smile. He turned and walked into his room, shutting the door behind him without waiting for a response.
Skipper tried not to laugh as Judy strangled the air for a moment. Then she went to the fridge with a laugh. “Want something to drink?” she asked.
“Nah,” Skipper declined, “I don’t want anything forcing me to using those tiny airplane toilets,” he zei with a laugh.
Judy laughed. “Gotcha,” she replied grabbing a glass and filling it with oranje juice. She held it up. “Then I guess here’s my one woman geroosterd brood, toast to a veilig flight home,” she said. Skipper smiled and she drank down the glass in one go, setting down the glass with a sigh. Derek walked into the kitchen, thankfully fully clothed this time.
“So, when are u leaving?” he asked leaning against the island.
Skipper smiled. “About twenty minutes,” he zei bittersweetly.
Derek held out his hand and Skipper hesitantly grasped it.
“It was wonderful
knowing you,” Derek zei all too kindly. “Thank u for not murdering me in my sleep.”
“I’m sure it took restraint,” Judy muttered across the room. Derek glared at her for a moment and she shrugged innocently. Skipper refrained from laughing.
Skipper dropped his hand. “I hope u two have a wonderful Christmas,” he said, ignoring Derek’s earlier remark.
“You, too,” Derek said. He looked at his bags. “I’ll go put your bags in the car.”
Skipper didn’t protest. Anything to get him to leave. Derek picked up his bags and Skipper opened the door for him. Judy stepped closer to him.
“I know you’ll have a wonderful Christmas,” she zei with a smile. She stood on her tiptoes and wrapped her arms around his neck. “It was good to know you, even in such a short amount of time.”
Skipper put his hands on her back. “You, too. Thanks again for everything.”
Judy pulled away. “No problem. Let me go change and fix my hair real quick. I was in hurry when I left earlier.”
Skipper nodded. “All right.”
Twenty-two minuten later, Judy and Skipper climbed into her car and buckled themselves in. Derek stood at the entrance of the apartment building and waved at Skipper. Skipper rolled his eyes and waved back with a forced smile.
Judy laughed. “Sorry you’ve had to deal with my brother,” she said.
“Ah, I’ve met worse,” Skipper assured her with a smile.
Judy looked at him in mock surprise. “Worse than Derek? Oh, u poor thing!” she said, causing both of them to laugh. Judy pulled out of the parking lot. A few minuten later, she gasped as a thought came to her mind.
Skipper looked at her. “Something wrong?”
“I just realized I forgot to lock up the diner yesterday,” she said. “Would u mind if we stopped door there and made sure everything is untouched?”
“Yeah, that’s no problem,” Skipper said.
Judy drove to the diner and paralleled in front of it. It was completely dark through the windows. Then she and Skipper got out and walked to the door. Judy cautiously looked through the glass door and pushed it open. Skipper followed her in and nearly jumped out of his skin when the lights flicked on.
“Surprise!” shouted a group of people.
Skipper looked around. “Roy? Burt? Julien?” he zei looking around. He recognized all his vrienden from his apartment building in Manhattan. “What’s going on here? How did—”
He stopped short when he saw Marlene rise from a chair, looking at him with a smile. “When I found out u were in Illinois with no way home,” she started, “I couldn’t let u spend Christmas alone. I was planning on driving here myself, but—” She paused and turned to Private, who stepped forward.
“But I suggested that we rent a bus and all of us drive here instead,” he zei with a smile.
“Did u see the look on your face? Ha!” Julien zei laughing. When he composed himself, he said, “I hope you’re happy, because I paid good money for this.”
Skipper swallowed as his eyes glossed over. He smiled. “I’m meer than happy,” he said, his voice breaking. “I can’t believe u all came here.”
“We couldn’t let u be alone on Christmas!” Becky zei at his left.
“You’ve done a lot for each of us,” Maurice cut in. “It was the least we could do.”
Skipper sniffed and Marlene stepped up to him.
“Merry Christmas, Skipper,” she zei softly.
Skipper took her door the waist and wrapped his arms around her. He smelled the familiar scent of her hair and smiled with joy. Everyone around them watched in awe.
A thought struck him and he pulled away and looked at Judy, who was standing a short ways behind him with a smile.
“You knew about this?” he asked her.
She nodded. “I got a call this morning from your girlfriend. Don’t even ask me how she got my number,” she zei with a roll of her eyes. Marlene covered her smile with her hand.
“Sorry,” she said.
“Forget about it,” Judy replied with a smile. “Anyway, she told me she was here in Illinois and asked if I knew any place they could rent out for the day. I told her to meet me here and I’d let her in.”
“Does your boss know about this?” Skipper asked.
Judy shifted. “Not particularly,” she admitted. “But it’ll be all right.”
He smiled gratefully. Then he looked back to Marlene. “What about Kowalski?”
“Over here, Skipper,” zei Kowalski’s voice off to the right. Skipper looked at him. “That flight actually landed at about seven in the morning. Marlene called me yesterday and told me what she was planning.”
Skipper smiled. “You sneaky liar,” he said.
Kowalski smiled back. “Guilty as charged.”
Skipper looked back to Marlene. “I can’t believe u did this for me,” he zei softly.
Marlene gripped his collar. “Well, believe it,” she zei before pulling him vooruit, voorwaarts so his lips met hers. Skipper gripped her waist and held her closer. Becky dog whistled and the two of them laughed as they pulled away and put their foreheads together.
“Well,” Julien broke in, “I say it’s time to get this party started!” he zei hitting a button on the boom box. It started playing Jingle klok, bell Rock
and everyone started dancing to the beat.
Skipper held Marlene’s face in his hand. “I’ll be right back.”
She nodded and Skipper turned to Judy and walked out with her. “Thank u again for everything. If u happen to want to come here when your family starts fighting, you’re meer than welcome,” he zei with a grateful smile. They stopped door her car.
Judy smiled. “Thanks, but no thanks. They won’t fight for too long, they don’t have the energy for that,” she zei with a laugh. “My family may be difficult, but they’re still my family.”
Skipper nodded in understanding and grabbed his bags from the backseat. “Goodbye, Judy,” he said.
“Bye, Skipper. I’ll drop door later to lock up,” she said. “Merry Christmas.”
Skipper smiled. “Merry Christmas, Judy.”
He watched as she climbed into her car and drove off. Then he went back inside and set his bags door the uithangbord near a fake plant. He took off his jas and laid it on top. Marlene grabbed his arm.
“I believe u owe me a dance,” she zei dragging him to the center of the diner as, ironically, I’ll Be home pagina for Christmas
started playing. But this time, Skipper wasn’t annoyed door it. He braced his hands on her waist and she on his shoulders and they swayed together.
This had turned out to be their best Christmas together yet.
— § —
After an uur of mingling with all his friends, Skipper took Marlene off to the far side of the diner, volgende to the windows. With one arm around her waist, Marlene rested her head on Skipper’s chest, and he, her head, and they watched as snow slowly began to fall outside.
“So, how did someone steal your money, exactly?” Marlene asked.
Skipper looked down at her and cleared his throat. “A, uh, guy on the plane must’ve picked my pocket,” he lied. He wasn’t about to tell his girlfriend that he was hustled door an old lady.
A seconde later, he saw a woman and her daughter walk door the diner. Skipper recognized them as Sarah and her mother from the plane.
“Wait here, Marlene,” he zei running toward the door, leaving his confused girlfriend behind. “Sarah!” he called. The girl and her mother turned.
“Mr. Skipper! I thought you’d be in Manhattan door now,” Sarah zei furrowing her brow.
“It’s a long story,” Skipper zei kneeling in front of her so their eyes were level. “Look, I just wanted to say u were right. Fate was just trying to make things turn out unexpectedly for me,” he zei with a smile.
Sarah grinned. “I told you! So, your Christmas isn’t so bad, then, huh?” she asked.
Skipper shook his head. “Definitely not.”
Sarah continued to smile. Then she perked up as she remembered something. “Oh, I almost forgot!” she zei as she started rummaging through her small purse. “I realized my comb fell out of my pocket on the plane and went to look around my zitplaats, stoel and I found this under yours. u must’ve missed your pocket and it fell when u got up. I was planning on giving it to the airport Lost & Found, but we were in such a hurry, I forgot I had it,” she zei pulling out a small velvet box and holding it out to him.
Skipper’s stomach flip-flopped. He took the box from her and opened it to see his engagement ring unharmed. He laughed. He couldn’t believe it.
“What’s so funny?” Sarah asked.
Skipper closed the box and shook his head. “Nothing. Thank you, Sarah. u have no idea how I felt when I thought I lost this.”
“No problem, Mr. Skipper. Merry Christmas!” she zei as she and her mother started walking away.
“Yes, Merry Christmas!” Skipper called back. He looked at the box in his hand and put it in his pocket. Now he just had to be man enough to ask her.
“Who was that, Skipper?” Marlene asked as Skipper came back in brushing snow out of his hair and off his shoulders.
“Just someone that was on my flight here,” he answered. He took her door the hands. “Marlene, I’m really sorry I broke my promise to u and didn’t make it home pagina for Christmas—that u came all the way out here just for me,” he zei looking into her eyes.
Marlene gripped his hands. “That’s just it, Skipper. u didn’t break your promise. It doesn’t matter if we’re in New York, of Illinois, of Timbuktu! To me, home pagina is wherever u are,” she said.
Skipper smiled. “You’re absolutely right, Marlene,” he said. He made a split-second decision and his hart-, hart started to pound. “Thank you.”
Marlene furrowed her brow. “For what?” she asked.
“For giving me the courage I needed to do this.” He lowered himself to one knee and looked up at her, still holding her hands. Her jaw dropped and her eyes glossed over. “Marlene, I’m in love with you. Inevitably, irreversibly, and indefinitely. You’re the most stubborn woman I’ve ever met, and we don’t always get along, but I would give my life for u without hesitation.” He took one hand, pulled out the small velvet box, and opened it. Then he held it up to Marlene. “Marlene, will u do me the honor of becoming my wife? Will u marry me?”
Marlene dropped to her knees as a tear ran down her cheek. “Yes,” she zei without even needing to think about it. Skipper smiled and let out the breath he didn’t realize he was holding. Then he kissed her as everyone around them applauded, whooped, and hollered. He didn’t realize they’d tuned in, but he didn’t care.
Finally, Marlene pulled away and Skipper took the ring out of the box and set the box on the floor. With a smile, Marlene took it from him and put her other hand over her mouth.
“Oh, Skipper, it’s beautiful,” she said. Then she noticed the engraving and sighed with awe. “Always & Forever
,” she read. She took Skipper’s face in her hands and kissed him again.
Skipper pulled away and took the ring back from her. Then he took her left hand and slipped it onto her ring finger.
“Merry Christmas, Marlene,” he zei wiping the tears off Marlene’s face.
Marlene put her hand over his. “Merry Christmas, Skipper.”
— § —
Back in Manhattan, the dag after Christmas, Skipper sat on his divan, bank with a box of Kleenexes, pulling a cover up to his shoulders. Marlene came into the room with a bowl of hot soup.
“So, u never get sick, hm?” she asked with a smile.
Skipper sat vooruit, voorwaarts and accepted the soup. “No,” he started, his N sounding like a D, “you see, what happened is that germs have been scared of me for so long that they’ve decided to revolt.”
Marlene laughed. “Of course. That must
be it. I’ve got to go take care of something. Be right back,” she zei grabbing her jas and leaving his apartment.
Skipper gently blew the steam from a spoonful of soep and shoveled it into his mouth. Several minuten later, Marlene came back in carrying a bucket in one hand. Smiling, she sat down volgende to him and set the bucket on the floor between them. Skipper saw that it was filled with snow and he smiled, remembering when he’d done the same for her.
“So,” Marlene said. Skipper looked at her as she smiled like a child. “Do u want to build a snowman?” she asked, mimicking the voice of the character in the movie.
Skipper chuckled. “Gosh, that movie’s starting to get on my nerves.”
“Aw, why?” Marlene asked crossing her arms.
Skipper set his bowl on the coffee table. “Because no one will stop talking about it,” he answered.
“Because it’s a great movie! It’s all about self-acceptance, and not letting fear control you,” Marlene explained.
Skipper thought for a moment and looked at the ring on Marlene’s finger. Then he smiled and wrapped his arm around her. “You’re absolutely right. I love that movie, too.”
— § — Note:
So, the reason this is late is because I didn’t get inspiration for it until the twentieth and have been working feverishly to finish it since. The inspiration for this came from the song link
from the link
endorsed door the Penguins of Madagascar Movie
. I hope u enjoyed it, and Merry late Christmas!
First, a big thanks to Google Maps. I couldn’t have done it without you, buddy. No, really, I couldn’t have.
The songs that were used in the “every station reminds me of my problems” scene were: I’ll Be home pagina for Christmas
door various artists, One Way of Another
door Jesse McCartney, and My Only Wish (This Year)
door Britney Spears (not a fan, just have a couple clean songs door her).
I didn’t intend to incorporate Frozen
into this story when I started it, but when the opportunity came I couldn’t help it. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, Do u Want to Build A Snowman?
is door Anna when she tries to get her sister, Elsa, who is afraid of her powers, to come out of her room. The joke about “Baby unicorn killer!” is a reference to the snowman, Olaf, who claimed when Anna gave him a carrot nose (which ended up going too far in his head at first and just barely showed through his face), “It’s like a little baby unicorn!”
Yes, I just had to add Cheezy Dibbles to Rico’s snack stash. It was the perfect opportunity!
Mikey is a reference to an old commercial about a boy who supposedly would eat anything.
While Derek’s character was fun to right, none of his aantal keer bekeken on women reflect mine. I’ll let u be the judge on if u think he’s right of not.
Bet u didn’t think Sarah had the ring. Surprise!
I had a lot of fun writing this! I hope u enjoyed it, that I kept everyone relatively in character (with the exception of Gomer), and that it made for a good Christmas story! Please review!
Also, sorry I had to post this in separate parts. Fanpop wouldn't let me publiceer it as a whole.