She tried to pretend it didn’t matter that Warren hadn’t called. She’d voiced all her arguments earlier when he’d gotten the page calling him away on Thanksgiving Day. After all the years of hard work and sacrifice, she thought at the very least they should be able to relax and enjoy the holidays without interruption.
Warren was dedicated and whenever called, he went without thought to anything else. Diana had been proud of his decision years ago to forgo private practice and stay at the county hospital. She knew deep down she was still proud of that decision, but it would be nice to have one meal, one holiday, without the worry of Warren’s pager going off.
She didn’t notice the enticing aroma arising from the open oven as she basted the golden brown turkey. What on earth could be keeping him? She prayed nothing had happened to Mrs. Simpson. Shutting the oven door, she reached for the phone to call the hospital, jumping when it rang just as she started to pick it up.
“Yes, Dee, it’s me. I’m stuck in traffic on First Street, but I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Warren, the children will be here any minute, how late do you think you’ll be?”
“Maybe a half hour, not much longer than that. I’m sorry, Dee. I knew traffic would be bad on Thanksgiving, but I thought it would have cleared some by now.”
“Maybe a lot more ladies having babies than just Mrs. Simpson.” Diana laughed. “What did she get this time, boy or girl?”
Warren chuckled. “Another girl, that makes five and I think Mr. Simpson has finally seen the light. He was asking about a vasectomy.”
“Poor man. Hurry home, Warren, I’ll keep the turkey warm.”
“Thanks, Dee. Tell the kids I’m on my way. Goodbye, dear.”
“Goodbye.” Diana hung up the phone just as the doorbell rang.
Sarah and Lily stumbled into the foyer while Diana held the door open, their arms laden with gifts. Diana smiled a welcome, hugging each of the girls in turn. Sarah laughed as her mother became tangled in the mass of packages and her protruding stomach got in the way of the hug.
“Careful, Mom. We need to get these presents under the tree. I assume you’ve put it up already.”
“Of course, here let me take some of those.”
Diana relieved Sarah of several bags and the girls followed her into the large family room where the tree stood in its usual place in front of the wall of windows leading to the patio.
“I can’t wait until it gets dark and we can turn the lights on.” Lily went to unload the presents from the bags she carried, placing them around the tall, gaily decorated tree.
Sarah placed her packages beside the ones her mother and sister had put under the tree and stretched upwards, her hands massaging her lower back. “It will be several hours before dark, but we’ll have Mom’s delicious dinner to occupy us until then.”
Diana went to her oldest child and placed her arm around her shoulders. “Are you all right, Sarah?”
“Sure, Mom, my back just aches a little. Not unusual with this huge stomach of mine. Only two months to go and I’ll be nice and flat again.” Sarah laughed and rubbed the mound where the baby rested.”
“And I’ll have my first grandchild.” Diana was looking forward to being a grandma. She intended to dote on the child and spoil it rotten.
“Mom, here open this present now.” Lily held a beautifully wrapped box out to her mother.
“Lily, it’s still a month before Christmas.”
“I know, but Sarah and I bought this for you and we want you to have it now. Please, just open it.”
“Very well.” Diana took the box and took care not to damage the ribbon or tear the wrapping too much.
“Come on, Mom, just rip the sucker open.”
“Lily, such language. Besides, I want to save this beautiful wrapping and ribbon.”
Lily looked at her sister with a grin at her mother’s admonishment. Their mother was a lady through and through and had taught her daughters well. The training had taken with Sarah, unfortunately Lily would always be a little bit of a tomboy and her language would always be just a little too colorful for her mother’s liking. Lily often wondered if her mother had ever in her life just cut loose and screamed or cursed or threw things. If so, she’d never allowed her children to see it and Lily couldn’t even imagine her mother acting that way.
Diana parted the soft tissue paper and gasped as she pulled the beautiful red cocktail dress from the box. The style was simple, elegant, and sexy. She hadn’t worn anything like this since before her marriage. She knew the dress would hug her curves in all the right places. The neckline was cut low and the hem would probably fall a couple of inches above her knees.
“It’s beautiful, girls, but don’t you think I’m a bit too old for a dress like this?”
“We bought it for you to wear to the hospital Christmas party with Daddy. You’ll knock his socks off in it.” Lily giggled and looked at Sarah for help in convincing their mother that the dress was perfect.
“Lily is right, Mom. You’re only forty-four, not eighty. You’re still young and beautiful. You don’t have to always hide your awesome figure in those matronly evening suits you wear. Lily and I were in perfect agreement when we saw the dress. We knew it would be perfect with your auburn hair and dark green eyes.”
Diana laughed. “You make me sound like a Christmas tree.”
“Or a present that Daddy can’t wait to unwrap.” Lily snickered.
“Try it on, Mom, please. We can’t wait to see you in it.” Sarah took her mom’s arm and led her toward the stairs. “Where’s Daddy, is he here? We don’t want him to see it until the night of the Christmas party.”
“No, dear, he had to deliver Mrs. Simpson’s new daughter. He called a few minutes ago and is on his way. What about Russell, is he coming with Robbie?”
“Yes, he’s picking Robbie up at Kevin’s and will be here in half hour or so. Now go on and try the dress on before the guys get here.”
Diana headed up the stairs and Sarah went back to join Lily, plopping awkwardly down onto the comfortable sofa beside her sister.
Lily reached over and touched Sarah’s hand. “Thanks, sis. She would never have accepted the dress from me.”
“Yes she would have, Mom would never hurt your feelings that way.”
“That’s true, but she’d never have worn it or even tried it on. You know you’ve always been her favorite.”
Sarah gaped at her sister. “That has to be the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever said to me. Mom doesn’t play favorites. Besides, you know Robbie is her favorite.” Both girls burst into gales of laughter at Sarah’s comment.
Diana took one last look in the mirror. Maybe with this dress and a whole lot of courage, she’d be able to turn things around and make everything right with Warren. Turning from the mirror, she made her way down the stairs. She could hear the girls laughing and smiled as she entered the room.
“I’m glad you girls are having such a good time.” Sarah and Lily jumped guiltily at the sound of their mom’s voice.
They got up off the sofa, Sarah needing Lily’s arm for assistance. Turning they stopped and stared at their mother with their mouths gaping open in astonishment.
“You two look like a couple of fish gasping for air.” Their mouths clamped closed at their mother’s teasing comment. They’d known the dress would look good, but had no idea just how lovely and sexy their mother truly was.
“Oh, my. Mom, you’re so beautiful,” Sarah whispered.
“I am so jealous.” Lily rushed to her mom and hugged her tightly. I wish you could wear it for dinner today, but it’s a little too much for the occasion. I can’t wait for Daddy to see you in it.”
Diana looked at the girls staring at her and then down at the dress. “You really think it looks okay?”
Lily giggled, “Mom, if it looked any more okay, we’d have to call the fire department.”
Diana hugged her younger daughter before going upstairs to change. When she returned in her black slacks and royal blue sweater, the girls were in the kitchen squabbling over who was the better cook.
“My dressing is to die for and you know it, Sarah.”
“Maybe so, but my pumpkin pie is better than yours and you can’t deny that.”
“You are both wonderful cooks and this is Thanksgiving, girls. Stop squawking at each other the way you did when you were little. I thought when you two became young women, you’d get along better.”
“What? We get along just fine, don’t we, Sarah?”
“Of course, we were only having a little discussion, that’s all.”
“Ha! A discussion that I could hear all the way upstairs.”
Lily made a face at her Mom. “You look like a teenager with your hair pulled into a pony tail like that.”
“Thank you, my sweet. A comment like that to a woman my age is always a compliment.”
Lily opened her mouth to say more but was interrupted by the ringing of the phone. Diana answered cheerily and then fell silent, all the color draining from her face. The girls looked at their mother’s chalky face and rushed to her side.
“What is it, what’s happened?” Sarah asked.
“I’ll be right there.” Diana hung up the phone with shaking hands and made a visible effort to calm herself as she turned to her daughters.
“That was Dr. Thompson from the hospital. Your father has had an accident. I don’t know any details, but I have to go right now.”
Tears stung Lily’s eyes . “We’re going too.”
“Yes, I’ll get the car started. Lily, help Mom with her coat.”
When Sarah snatched her coat off the hook, Diana seemed to snap out of her stupor. “Wait, Sarah. Lily and I will go now. I want you to wait here for Russell and Robbie. Tell them what’s happened and come to the hospital with them.”
“No, Mom, I want to go with you now.”
“Sarah, honey, be reasonable. Someone needs to be here to tell them, and if this is serious…” She stopped, swallowing back the lump in her throat. “Sarah, you may be glad to have Russell beside you.”
“Mom, I’m coming.”
“Sarah, please. Someone needs to be here for Robbie.”
Sarah wanted to argue more, but knew she was wasting time and her mother needed to go now. She was sure everything was going to be okay, but her mother looked so frightened.
“Okay, Mom, we’ll be on our way as soon as they get here.” Kissing her mother and sister, she watched as they ran out to the car.
Diana stilled the trembling in her arms and legs as she concentrated on the road ahead. Icy fear lay at the back of her mind trying to claw it’s way forward. She pushed it back. She didn’t know that it was serious, Dr. Thompson had refused to give any details, only saying she needed to come right away. Diana knew from being married to a doctor for twenty-three years what that meant. It was serious, life threatening. Oh, Dear God, Warren could die before I even get there. She had to stop thinking, just drive. Concentrate on the road and nothing else.
Lily turned her tear streaked face to her mother. She wanted to say something to reassure her. She wanted her mother to say something to reassure her. Looking at her mom’s white knuckled grip on the steering wheel and her tightly clinched jaw, she knew she’d have to be strong. Her mother needed her.
Besides, Daddy is going to be all right. He’s a strong man, still young at forty-five and he’ll be fine. It was probably only a minor traffic accident and we’ll bringhim home tonight.
Come back tomorrow for the next page…..
Copyright Elizabeth Melton Parsons