And for one of the only times of his life, Greg began to panic. What was she doing here? Was something wrong with Heidi? Was she upset at her? Was she upset at him? And although he tried hard to mask it, Greg knew Jamie could see the anxiety written clear on his face.
“Greg, are you going to let me in or I am going to have to be forceful?”
Greg swung the door the rest of the way open very quickly and gestured for her to come in.
“Uh, what are you doing here? If I can ask,” he hurried up and added when Jamie's look was bestowed on him.
“I think a better question is what are you doing here?” she said directing her gaze upstairs where she heard loud bass beats playing. Greg’s pulse quickened and he hoped Sam had the good sense to stay upstairs. “And the best question of all, where is Heidi?” She raised her one eyebrow at him as he stood there dumbfounded.
God dammit! She promised! She promised him she would tell Jamie. She promised she would send everyone an email as soon as she touched down in Munich. This was typical her, typical Heidi to bail on everyone. He didn’t even know what to say.
“Look I know that you have been keeping something from me, both of you and you are going to tell me what it is, right, now.”
Right then Sam came bounding down the steps with two blondes bouncing after him. All of them with smiles on their faces. Sam was yelling, “What's taking you so long dude...” when he stopped short upon seeing Jamie and that angry look on her face, the blondes lost their carefree looks also.
“Is that one of your girlfriends?” one of the blondes whispered. Great. The dumb blonde couldn’t keep her mouth shut. What was her name….Brittany? Briana? Brandy? He couldn’t tell. These broads Sam picked up were all the same.
“No I am not one of their girlfriends,” Jamie answered “But we do have something very serious to discuss, so I suggest you either go home or go wait somewhere else while we talk.”
The girls both looked at one another and then at Sam and Greg.
“I think you would be better off going,” Greg told them. They went upstairs to gather their things when Sam said, “I'll just head out too.”
“Oh no you don't,” Jamie said. “If you're here, then you are in this. You're staying.”
And she gestured them both into the living room.
“Now who wants to begin?” she asked once they all sat.
Sam and Greg were on the couch and staring at their shoes, while Jamie sat in a chair opposite them. Oh god, oh god this was not going to end well. Jamie was fine to deal with when Eric or Heidi was around, but he and Sam had been left to their own devices and there was no way either of them could come out of this unscathed.
After a few moments of silence Sam spoke up rushing all his words together, “Look all I know is, our apartment is being redone, so we needed a place to stay and Heidi offered us her house since she was going to be out of town. She needed someone to watch it and we needed a place so it worked out perfectly. That's all I know.”
Traitor. Greg threw Sam a look and he merely shrugged. Greg rolled his eyes at him and then continued to not meet Jamie's gaze.
“Thank you Sam. You may go now if you wish,” Jamie said dismissing him. Sam took off like a bullet out of the room and she could hear his footsteps falling on the stairs rapidly. So much for teamwork.
“Greg,” Jamie said after a few moments of silence. There was nothing he could do now, except tell her the truth. Not even he would be able to come up with a slick lie that fast.
“OK, look I just want to say I told Heidi to tell you and she promised me she would, but she's pretty good at avoiding things. She's in Germany.”
“In Germany? As in Europe? As in not even in this country?”
“I take it she went to see her mom?”
“Yes.” Greg said, hoping Jamie wouldn’t ask any further questions.
“And what else? What's going on? What's the matter with her?”
Greg exhaled. “I also think she went to escape. She's unhappy, I don't know exactly why, but she doesn't always eat. I've had to break in here to find her and make sure she's ok. She mopes around a lot and she doesn't always look like herself or like she's taking care of herself.”
“Halloween. I knew that there was something to her passing out, but I couldn't figure it out.” Jamie put her head in her hands.
“Hey, don't blame yourself. You don't have to figure everything out. It's not your job. And really Jamie, I don't think you could have fixed this one even if you knew. Heidi has to figure this one out on her own. I check in on her and make sure she eats when I can. I'm hoping this trip to Germany will bring back our old Heidi.”
“Why didn't she tell me she was going?”
“I don't know. She probably thought you'd stop her, or at least make her tell you why she was going. She knew that you would see through an excuse. Which is also probably why she's been avoiding you. I may not pick up on all the signs, but you would. Any of you girls would. Give her this space. She if she comes back her old self. Otherwise I think I may need the girls help.”
“OK,” Jamie said nodding her head. “I'm trusting you Greg. I know that you care about her, I know that you have been and will take care of her. So I'm going to rely on you. But you have to keep me in the loop. I need updates. I will follow your lead, but only if I'm apart of this.”
“I can agree to that.”
Jamie stood up then ready to go home, to be with Eric. She needed some reassurance. She wasn't used to letting other people fix problems. Greg walked her to the door.
“Jamie,” he said as she was walking out. She turned to him, waiting for him to finish his thought. “Thanks for having confidence in me.”
She grabbed his hand. “Greg, you are the only person that I would allow to do this.” She smiled at him and squeezed his hand. Then she headed home.
Heidi was awakened by church bells. She stretched in bed, eyes closed, smile on her face. It was here. It was Christmas. It was Christmas which meant that everything was going to be ok.
Excited now, Heidi jumped out of bed and looked out the window at the new-fallen snow. It had been so long since she had had a white Christmas. The snow was absolutely beautiful against the pale pink morning sky. Feeling like a little kid, Heidi quietly left her room and ventured downstairs.
“Thought you could sneak up on me, didn’t you?”
Heidi jerked around and saw her grandmother at the kitchen counter.
“Frohe Weihnachten, Heidi!”
“Merry Christmas, Grandma” Heidi said, pulling her into hug.
“Come, there is much to do this morning before they come over”
“The family” her grandmother answered simply.
“Frohe Weihnachten!” her grandfather called, coming through the front door. “Merry Christmas to all”
“Merry Christmas, Grandfather” Heidi said, helping him take off his coat. His jacket was damp and there were flecks of snow in his hair. Like a dog, her grandfather shook his head, sending droplets of water everywhere.
“Frederick!” her grandmother scolded as she was suddenly showered with water “Please behave”
“Calm down, Gisela” her grandfather said, kissing his wife on the cheek “Today is a special day. I can do whatever I please”
She rolled her eyes at him and turned her attention back to the baking supplies on the kitchen counter.
“Besides” he said “I have a Christmas surprise for you” he held out a package that had been behind his back and presented it to her with a flourish.
“Frederick, what’s this?”
“Frohe Weihnachten Gisela”
Heidi walked into the living room. She could hear her grandmother gasp as she unwrapped her present. Most likely it was some kind of jewelry. Not wanting to be in the way, Heidi looked around the room and finally settled her eyes on the tree.
It was absolutely magnificent. Regal and tall in all it’s glory. Heidi would have liked to think that her grandfather chopped it down himself, but most likely he bought it from a stand of Black Forest firs. It was decorated in gold and ivory with strings of garland wrapping protectively around the shiny ornaments as if to hold them in place. At the top of the tree was a beautiful angel. She looked old, but despite her years on top of the tree, she was absolutely majestic. Heidi smiled when her eyes saw the presents wrapped under the tree. She bent over to take a closer look.
“Not yet” Heidi whipped around and saw her grandfather smiling at her “No peeking until the family comes over”
“Frederick” her grandmother pleaded “Couldn’t we just give her one present?”
“No Gisela” he said, mock-seriously “Heidi has been a very bad girl this year and she doesn’t have any presents”
“She doesn’t have any presents?!” her grandmother gasped “How horrible!”
“Well, maybe there is one present hidden that has her name on it” Frederick said, smiling at his wife. He and his wife exchanged knowing glances and Heidi wondered what was going on.
“What’s going on?” Heidi asked, cocking her head to one side “Is there something I don’t know about?” But her grandmother only smiled. Heidi watched her grandfather move around the room.
“Is it over here?” he asked, looking behind the presents under the tree. “Or perhaps in here” he motioned to a stocking hanging above the fireplace.
“Perhaps in the kitchen” her grandmother offered.
“I don’t think so” her grandfather said, moving out of the living room, “but perhaps her present is outside”, he swung the front door wide open.
Heidi almost died when she saw her mother standing on the front porch. She was holding a package in her hands and Heidi could see the tears in her eyes.
“Mom” she said, startled. She noticed her grandparents had left the foyer.
“Frohe Weihnachten, Heidi” Elsa said, shakily. Heidi saw the first tear fall down her mom’s face and felt her own tears threatening to spill.
“Merry Christmas, Mom”
There was a knock on Heidi’s door.
“Come in” Heidi said, thinking it was one of her cousins or her grandmother. The day had been filled with excitement. Family came from all over and Heidi was packed into a living room with dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. She was almost relieved when it was all over. Everyone had been very nice to her but she needed some time to relax after such a busy day. She was slightly surprised to see Elsa come in. She was carrying a tray with a plate of gingerbread cookies, two mugs of hot cocoa, and a small stack of presents.
“Hi sweetie” Elsa said, setting the tray down on Heidi’s desk.
“Hi Mom” Heidi said. She reached for a cookie and nibbled on it, trying to deny the awkward silence that had since filled the room.
“This is weird, Mom” Heidi said, after a few moments. She heard Elsa sigh.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly “I don’t know what to say”
“You could start by telling me you missed me”
“Every day” Elsa said. Heidi could hear the break in her voice and knew her eyes must be filled with tears.
“I missed you too, Mom” she whispered.
And pretty soon they were both crying, and hugging, and smiling; but mostly smiling. It had been a long time since the two of them had smiled together.
“Shhh” her mom said after a few minutes “Stop crying” Heidi looked up. “It’s Christmas” Elsa continued “And we have things to do, starting with those” she pointed to the stack of presents sitting on Heidi’s desk and watched her daughter’s face light up.
In the gift department, Elsa didn’t disappoint. She got her daughter some much needed winter clothes (all made in Germany, of course), a new pair of boots, some beautiful necklaces, and a new case for her phone. She even got her a copy of “The Sound of Music” in German, to “help her practice the language”, which they proceeded to watch uninterrupted while they ate their cookies and sipped their cocoa. Secretly, Heidi knew they both were trying to be on their best behavior because it was Christmas. She knew that there were things that needed to be discussed but she also knew that this was neither the time nor the place to do so. They would talk things over another time, but for now, Heidi needed to be with her mom on Christmas, and she needed it to be the way it had been years ago. And it was.
That night, after everyone had gone to bed, Heidi laid awake. It was crazy, almost surreal how things had changed overnight for her. Everything had moved so fast and she was barely able to keep up with things in the whirl she was suddenly swept into. She heard the clock strike11:30. Christmas was almost over. It would be around 3:30 back home.
Home. She had promised to send the girls an email. Heidi jumped out of bed and went over to the desk where her laptop was. She quickly emailed the girls, wishing them a Merry Christmas and letting them know she would be in Germany until the new year. When she was finished, she closed her laptop and walked back over to her bed. As she sat down, something on the floor caught her eye. It was her carry on bag from the plane. She had never unpacked it.
Greg’s present! She had forgotten about it. She rummaged through her bag until she finally saw the small bag. She took out the tissue paper and reached inside the gift bag. He had gotten her a scarf; a beautiful scarf. It was red and gold with flecks of charcoal and silver. It was stunning. Attached to the scarf was a note. Heidi opened it and read it.
-To keep you warm in the Black Forest. Merry Christmas.
Heidi smiled and put the scarf around her neck. She could feel California when she wore it, she could feel home. She sat back down on the bed, but she wasn’t ready to go to sleep. She had one more thing to do.
It was late on Christmas night when Greg finally sat down at the table in Heidi’s kitchen. His day had successfully been void of all emotional and sentimental ties and now there was nothing left to do but count the last few hours of the holiday season.
He had never really been one for Christmas. Not really a family holiday type of guy. Not really a family type of guy. He reflected on that now. Thinking about family in that moment made him think about Heidi. Christmas was over now in Germany. Was she with her family? Was she with her mom? Was she with that German boy? Not that he would ever know; Heidi wasn’t exactly the best at keeping touch. Not that he was either, for that matter.
The phone rang. Greg remained frozen at the table, staring at his bottle. He had just cracked it open, but he had no desire to drink. Something didn’t feel right about getting drunk on Christmas. The phone rang again. He rummaged through the pantry to try and find something to fill him up. He heard the answering machine beep.
It was Heidi. Greg immediately froze.
“Merry Christmas. Hope you and Sam had a good day today. I know you’re probably home right now and if I had to guess you’re probably in the kitchen because you don’t know what to do with yourself on such a mass-marketed holiday and you didn’t answer the phone because you didn’t want to hear anyone be sentimental and emotional”
He exhaled. She was ok.
“The Christmas cookies are on the left in the pantry at eye level because I know you won’t see them if they’re anywhere else”
He missed them. They were staring him in the face and he missed them. He immediately grabbed the box and brought it to the table.
“Not sure how they taste with beer but you could give it a try. It’s really early in the morning here but I just wanted to call and wish you a Merry Christmas. I miss you and everyone else like crazy. Tell Sam I say hello when he wakes up, but make sure whatever girl he’s with doesn’t steal any of my clothes. Don’t forget my present—it’s probably still in your jacket pocket. I’ll try and be in touch but if I don’t talk to you, see you next year when I get back. Merry Christmas”—beep.
Greg went to the couch in the living room where his coat was and brought it back into the kitchen. He reached into the pocket and pulled out the box Heidi had given him. He quickly unwrapped it and opened it. His eyebrows rose when he saw what was inside.
She had gotten him a Rolex. A real Rolex for Christmas. It was big and silver and sleek. He took it out of the box to put it on his wrist when he saw the note underneath it.
--It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, count the hours until then in style. Merry Christmas xoxoxo
Greg smiled slightly and sat back down at the table. After eating some cookies, he leaned back in his chair and let his mind cloud with thoughts. He turned the shiny watch around and around in his hands and wondered how he was going to keep his promise to Jamie.
**Comment with Part 3 if you read the entire thing xoxoxo**