Coming Home for Christmas

By: Marie Ferrarella


 It felt very odd to be back.

 In all honesty, he never thought he’d be back here again. Not back in this city. Certainly not back in this house.

 But then, he never thought his mother would become someone he’d be forced to think of in the past tense, either.

 Granted, he and his mother hadn’t spoken in almost ten years. But despite his criticism the last time words—angry, hot words—had been exchanged between them, she had always struck him as being a force of nature. Forces of nature didn’t just cease to exist. They continued. Whether or not someone was there to witness the force, it continued.

 Somewhere in his unconscious, he had thought his mother would be the same way. She would just continue.

 But Dorothy O’Connell didn’t continue. Quite abruptly, without any warning, without any lingering diseases, her heart just suddenly gave out and she died. If it hadn’t been for the phone call he’d received from her neighbor, he wouldn’t even have known this had transpired.

 Well, now he knew. Knew when there was nothing further he could do about it. Knew that there would never be an opportunity to mend the rift that had existed between them.

 Not that there would have been much chance of that, even if she were still alive and they had another twenty years. The wounds had gone too deep.

 And he had lost his mother long before he’d walked out of the house that day.

 Keith sighed as he looked around the first-floor family room. You would think, after ten years—and knowing that she was gone—he wouldn’t expect to see her come walking into the room. Wouldn’t, on some level, strain to hear the sound of her voice as she called out to him, or to Amy.

 Or both.

 The house had always been filled with her voice and her presence. At least, he amended, for most of the years he’d lived in it. It was only after—after the car accident—after Amy wasn’t around anymore—that everything changed.

 And somehow, in an odd sort of way, it had stayed the same. Except tenser. So much tenser. He supposed that part of it had been his fault, too.

 Keith shrugged even though there was no one there to see him do so. No one there to call him on it.

 It didn’t matter. All the tension, the things that were said, the things that weren’t said, none of it mattered anymore. It was all in the past now.

 Just like his mother was in the past.

 He was here. Here to tie up all the loose ends, to tend to the arrangements. To shut down that chapter of his life and put it all away in a box.

 After all, life went on. Except, of course, when it didn’t.

 Keith resisted the fleeting temptation to go upstairs and look into rooms he hadn’t looked into in ten years. There was no point to that. He wasn’t here to thumb a ride down memory lane. He was here for one purpose only: to sell the house and everything in it. The items in the house were of no use to him and hadn’t been for a very long time.

 Squaring his shoulders, Keith got down to business. The sooner he was finished, the sooner he could get back to the firm up north in San Francisco and to his life.

 And forget all about the house on Normandie in Bedford and the woman who had lived in it.

                       Chapter One

 With her trim figure and attractively styled light blond hair, Maizie Sommers looked far younger than the actual years noted on her birth certificate. She liked to tell people that her family and her real estate company kept her vital and young, which was true.

 And then there was her other hobby, the one she was involved in with Theresa and Cecilia, her two best friends since the third grade. The hobby that, she firmly believed, aided her in finally getting the son-in-law and grandchildren she’d always hoped for. She, Theresa and Cecilia were very skilled at, quite unashamedly, matchmaking.

 Specifically, covert matchmaking. The unassuming objects of their selfless efforts were never aware of what hit them when love came barreling into their lives.

 The matchmaking tasks were usually undertaken at the behest of either one unwitting participant’s relative or the other, most often a parent. And the ladies happily took it from there.

 As it turned out, they were enabled in their altruistic endeavors because of the companies they had formed during the second half of their lives. After each woman had raised her child—or, in Theresa’s case, children—and found herself squarely faced with widowhood, all three friends had met the resulting emptiness in their lives the same way. They turned their attention to whatever skills they had and transformed those into what eventually amounted to lucrative livelihoods. Maizie went into real estate, Theresa undertook catering and Cecilia, always the very last word in organization and neatness, began her own housecleaning service.

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