Debbie stared off in a distance as she sat in the passenger seat of her husband's car. The ground was covered with snow that December in Wisconsin. Her body was in one place, but her mind was in another. Debbie and Travis drove in silence just listening to the sound of the car engine roaring away.
Once they arrived home, it was the same ritual. Travis would go and watch TV and Debbie would go to their bedroom and read. She'd managed to read over 75 books in the last six months. Reading was a way she escape her reality.
It was three days before Christmas, and she dreaded that more than anything. She'd forced herself to go to the mall a few times to buy gifts for her family but every time stepped in the mall, a few minutes later she'd run out crying.
It had been a painful six months. Thinking about everything that had happened, brought tears to her eyes. She was trying to get lost in one of her books, but instead she found her mind wandering. She was remembering last Christmas. Oh it had been a wonderful time. She could still hear the laughter of the children as they surrounded Debbie's father, George, who was dressed as Santa Clause.
April, her precious little girl was wearing her pink Barbie princess little dress. She was twirling around dancing and saying she was going to be an actress and be as beautiful as Barbie when she grew up. Debbie remembered the glow on her face. She looked like a little star full of life and hope.
Travis' eyes showed so much emotion that day. His family as well as Debbie's family was all gathered together at their house celebrating Christmas. Debbie's nieces and nephews were playing with April. They all adored her since she was Debbie and Travis' only child.
April was that kind of little girl. She was charming, funny, and sweet as can be. Debbie and she were close as best friends. April had just turned eight in late November. She was getting to be more beautiful each day with her long, silky brown hair that she inherited from her mother and her amazing blue eyes that she got from her father. She was doing so well in school and in her ballet class. Everything was looking so good and Debbie was the happiest she'd ever been.
"Honey? Are you hungry? I was going to cook up some beef stew," Debbie opened her eyes hearing her husband's voice and realized she had tears running down her face.
"W-what? Oh I-I I'm not that hungry. You can go ahead and eat," She said weakly hoping Travis wouldn't ask her once again what was wrong. She was tried of everyone always asking her that.
He looked at her with sadness in his eyes. He wasn't that tall, being about 5'7" and his shaggy blonde hair was getting long almost covering his eyes. "Ok then. I'll have some ready for you whenever you want to come and eat." With that he walked out the room closing the door behind him.
Debbie sighed and continued to try and concentrate on her reading.
It was Christmas Eve morning and Debbie woke up feeling exhausted. She'd stayed up late reading while Travis had fallen asleep on the couch. She tried to feel happy, but it was no use. Christmas was going to be so hard on her she just felt like taking sleeping pills so she could sleep her way through the day without having to think of April.
"I miss you my little star," Debbie said looking up at the ceiling. She'd get up every morning and whisper the same thing as if she was talking to April. She smiled as she looked up as if she could see her daughter. Luckily she still had memories of her beautiful daughter to keep her going. Photos as well, lots of photos that were decorated with April's beautiful smile.
Debbie got up and went to wash up. The house was silent as it had been for the last six months. She was already getting used to the quietness. She looked out the window and saw the white snow on the ground and the next-door children making a snowman. Quickly, she looked away not wanting to remember anything at the moment.
After washing up and getting dressed, she went out into the living room and saw Travis fast asleep on the couch. He had the remote control in one hand and the TV was still on. He looked so peaceful asleep. It seemed that sleep was their only time to have peace. She took the remote from his hand and turned off the TV. She put the soft blanket that was almost falling off his body and covered him up. He was cold. The entire house was cold.
"I love you so much Travis. I really do," She whispered hoping he'd hear her. She ran her fingers through his hair and watched him sleep. He was all she had now and she had been feeling so guilty for not having paid much attention to him lately. It'd been months since they had last made love. She wanted him at times but the sad memories kept holding her back. He was a loving husband having had so much patience with her.
He had been in his own depression the last six months but somehow he seemed stronger than Debbie. He was the one comforting her and taking care of her. She appreciated him more than anything.
Debbie went on and cleaned up a bit. She knew that tomorrow her family would be calling her or maybe they wouldn't. It seemed that they had become rather estranged after everything that happened.
"Daddy. I miss you. I forgive you Daddy. I love you," Debbie said these things in her mind but never managed to tell her father. She had wanted to pick up the phone and tell him how much she loved him for such a long time but she couldn't. She felt so strange even talking to her father.
She was about to start making coffee, when the telephone rang. She felt her heart stop for a minute but quickly ran to answer it so it wouldn't wake Travis up.
"Hello?" She answered in a nervous tone.
"Debbie? Sweetie it's me," She heard her mother say.
Debbie sighed. "Hi momma."
"Hi. How are you doing? I haven't heard from you in a few days."
Debbie stayed quiet.
"Yes momma I'm sorry. I was distracted. I've been busy with work and all," she lied.
"Well tonight's Christmas Eve and we're having a family get together. I really hope you and Travis can make it."
Debbie's heart sank. She knew she couldn't possibly make it. How could she be around all her brother's and sister's watching them be able to play with <I>their</I> children and she would be there without April? There was just no way she could handle that.
"I don't know if I can make it."
Her mother was silent for a few seconds. "Well I really hope you and Travis can make it. I really want you here and so does... so does your father," She said almost hesitant to say it.
Debbie felt tears roll down her face. "I'll think about it momma. I have to go but I'll call you later."
"Ok sweetheart. Please do call."
Debbie hung up the phone and sobbed softly. She wanted more than anything to see her family on Christmas Eve. It was a tradition that all family gets together at one house, sleep there and everyone wake up on Christmas morning together. It was a wonderful tradition that Debbie felt she couldn't handle.
"Debbie? Who was that?" Debbie turned around almost startled by Travis' voice.
"Oh Travis! You scared me," she said wiping her tears.
She smiled weakly at him. "It was just my mom. She was inviting us to go over tonight for the traditional Christmas get together."
His eyes searched hers. "Are we going?"
She nodded. "No. At least I'm not."
He moved closer to his wife putting his arms around her. "Well I'm not going if you're not going. I want to be with you."
She held him and fought back her tears. She knew she'd only worry him if she continued to cry. She'd cried so much that she felt as if her eyes would dry out.
"I think I want to stay home today. Let's just stay here. Me and you OK?" She asked.
Travis ran his hands through her hair. "Yes honey. We'll stay here. Just the two of us."
The couple spent the morning basically reading the newspaper and cleaning up the house. Debbie wanted to finish reading her book that she began to read the night before. Travis had informed her that he was going to visit his parents for a while that afternoon. Debbie felt somewhat relieved to have the house to herself. She enjoyed the time alone. It gave her time to think and to be able to talk to April without having Travis find her talking to herself and thinking that she'd lost her mind.
She got in her most comfortable sweat pants and sweater. She lay on her bed reading her book. It was a little past one in the afternoon and she could hear children playing outside. She kept trying to block out the laughter and screams of the children but she couldn't. Once again she found herself remembering April.
"Momma, my teacher thinks I'd make a good Claire for the nutcracker," April came home from ballet class one evening beaming with joy.
"Of course you would. You are a wonderful dancer sweetie!" Debbie put her arms around her daughter. April looked so excited and she started to dance around the room.
"So is my little star going to audition for the nutcracker?" Debbie asked smiling.
April was almost breathless and laughing. "Yes I am. And I'm going to make it momma. I am."
Debbie smiled remembering how excited April was and how lovely she looked on stage dancing around in her pink little ballet outfit. Everyone was so proud of her and Debbie knew that.
"I hope you're doing well my little star. You know this Christmas isn't going to be a real Christmas without you here," Debbie spoke out loud.
She put her book down and felt her eyes heavy. The sounds of the children playing outside slowly faded and she fell in a deep sleep. It seemed like only a few seconds passed and she felt a soft hand on her shoulder.
"Mom? Mom? Wake up!" The sweet little voice said.