A glass of crazy, p.24
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.24

           Tina Laningham
After our mid-December Thanksgiving feast, Mom and I decided to make rosemary prime rib for Christmas. Cooking together had become an actual treat that we both got excited about and if anyone had told me a year ago this would happen, I would've said they were completely loco. God I missed Rafa.

  Still no response to the text I sent him last week and now it was Christmas Eve. It wasn't unusual for his family to visit relatives during long holidays, still, Rafa would've gotten the text on his phone. Even though it was nippy outside, I hopped on my bike and headed over to his house to see if his Dad's truck was in the driveway. When his house came in view, I squeezed the brakes and peeked from behind a car parked on the street. The truck wasn't there, which didn't necessarily mean his family was out of town, but at least there was a fifty-fifty chance of it. More importantly, I was officially reduced to the level of a stalker.

  I turned around and peddled what little bit of self esteem I had left home.

  At midnight Mass, Rafa's family wasn't sitting in the section where they usually sat, or anywhere else in the cathedral for that matter. Believe me, I looked. This meant they were definitely out of town and I would have to wait until school started up again in January to see him. Clearly, he was still hurt or mad or something because he could've texted back how much he missed me too and that we should forget the whole stupid break-up thing and go back to normal. Wait, not normal. Go back to the girlfriend-boyfriend thing or whatever.

  Since midnight Mass was special, we had a bishop telling us the story of Christmas instead of Father Sullivan. I checked my phone again for a text from Rafa while the Bishop wrapped it up and moved to the altar to receive the body and blood of Christ. Mom sat in a daze and didn't even notice I was checking my phone every five minutes. I knew she wasn't on drugs, so I figured she was tired. I had to nudge her when it was time for us to receive the body of Christ, but Mom said she wasn't getting in line.

  "I can't," she whispered. "The divorce."

  Mom closed her eyes and listened to a boys' choir singing from the balcony. When the procession of people in satiny robes headed up the aisle, I put my phone away in case it was a sin to text during midnight Mass. I wasn't sure exactly what would happen and with things getting better between Mom and me, I didn't want to blow it.

  The altar boys came by first, carrying poles that dangled brass incense burners. I sneezed and instead of acting like I hadn't, Mom dug around in her purse for a tissue. Next came two girls holding huge candles. After the Bishop passed by, Father Sullivan avoided making eye contact with Mom, which was strange because he used to nod since Dad was a public figure and a pillar of the community.

  On the drive home past blocks of Victorian houses set aglow with Christmas lights, I said, "You know, we don't have to go to Mass anymore. I mean, don't go for me."

  Mom hesitated. "We'll see."

  "Seriously, I only went to stalk Rafa."

  A smile spread on Mom's face. "You're definitely my daughter."

  That was the nicest thing she'd said to me, ever.

  I hate to admit this, but it didn't occur to me 'til Christmas morning that I hadn't gotten Mom a gift. When she handed me a shiny gold package with a beautiful silver bow, I turned red as the two Christmas stockings hanging on the hearth.

  "I hope you like it," Mom said, while my mind was busy conducting a brainstorming session on what to give her.

  The Pancho Villa T-shirt was the only recent purchase I'd made and I'd already worn it several times just to annoy Kat. Other than that, I had nothing. My eyes traveled up the tree and focused on St. Chamuel. Even a simple Christmas ornament would've been nice. I was the worst daughter ever-the slimiest worm beneath the dirt.

  I must've gone into a trance because when Mom said, "Aren't you going to open it?" my eyes came back into focus and I heard the muzak version of the song about the little boy who had no gift for Jesus, so he played his drum instead. Not a bad idea.

  "Wait!" I said to Mom, making a dash for my room. "Lemme get your gift!"

  My only talent was writing, but I couldn't think of anything gift worthy I'd written, other than a poem that came to me late one night in Mexico. I'd scribbled it down somewhere, but wasn't sure I'd even kept it. Flipping through the stack of stories I'd written in Mr. Oliver's class, I hoped at least one would work. I only needed one.

  Hurricane? No. A homeless person's right to steal food? Maybe. King leaving a queen for a younger princess? Definitely not. Suddenly the poem flashed in my mind and I scribbled it down again:

  Luz de la Luna (Light of the Moon)

  Moonlight rides dark winds

  Through gusty treetops unscathed

  And slips inside my window

  To laugh in my crazy dreams.

  Too short and barely gift worthy, but it would have to do. I tore the edges of the paper to make it look artsy, rolled it up, and tied a piece of ribbon around. Not bad for a worm.

  Mom was poking the fire when I returned to the living room with my poem in hand. "Found it!" I said, feeling guilty about lying in front of the Archangel of Love and Tolerance who was watching over me from the top of the tree.

  Mom took the scroll and said, "Thanks, sweetie."

  After Mom read it, her eyes got all watery and it took me by surprise since really, the poem wasn't that good.

  "You have a gift for writing," she said.

  Actually, I had a gift for pulling a present out of my butt on short notice.

  "Open yours," she said, handing it to me again.

  The box contained a stack of gift cards to restaurants, movies, amusement parks and all the other cool, touristy stuff to do on Galveston Island. In years past, Mom and Dad had always given me clothes I didn't like and jewelry I'd never wear, but this was like a year's worth of fun in a box.

  "It's for you and Rafa," she said with a sparkle in her eye. "I'll volunteer to be your taxi service 'til you get your license." Mom gave me a squeeze and I had a feeling she was forgiving me for stealing her car and going on that, ahem, joy ride.

  Rather than stalk Rafa's house every day, I decided to be mature about it and only go every other day. The truck reappeared in the driveway on New Year's Eve and even though I'd been waiting and waiting, I couldn't knock on the door. Maybe I'd wait 'til school started back. With more people around, talking to him would be less intense. Who'd of thought I'd ever be nervous about talking to Rafa, but I needed time to plan a strategy for this messy situation I'd gotten myself into and that's why I turned my bike around and pedaled home.

  At the magical hour of midnight on New Year's Eve, Mom said, "To new beginnings."

  We clinked mugs of hot apple cider, which by the way were unspiked, only because Mom had stopped buying anything mind-altering. As if there was something wrong with that.

  Mom had made "new beginnings" sound like a good thing, but I wasn't so sure. Dad was probably married to the Kat by now and sometime next summer, I'd have two half brothers or two half sisters or maybe half of each. You'd think that would've been the biggest thing in my life, but all I could think about was Rafa.

  - 25 -

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