Twas the Day After Christmas
Laura? Remington opened his door wider, I didnt expect you.
I wont stay. I just wanted to drop off a present. She handed him the small decorated box from the doorway and quickly turned around.
Wait a minute, he reached for her arm. Are you upset about yesterday?
I just as soon forget Christmas entirely this year, okay?.
Can you just stay for a minute and let me try to explain?
I talked Mildred into visiting her sister and I need to get her to the airport. Laura spoke in that controlled manner, telling him that her abrupt departure wasnt just about getting Mildred to her plane on time.
Will you be home this afternoon?
No, she nodded, I thought Id take care of a few other things.
What about tonight?
Im not sure when Ill be in. I should go, you know the airport the holidays and all.
This time he didnt stop her when she tried to leave. There was such hurt in her eyes, such despondence in her voice. He wasnt sure what he had to say would even make things better.
Laura was intent on just putting this Christmas behind her. Clean up the loft, clean up the office, and pack it ALL away; decorations, feelings, everything. She was intent to turn the calendar to a new year in a few days and hope maybe all would be new again. Think of the possibilities, think of the possibilities. Her determined, almost frenzied un-decorating came to a halt as she gazed across the room to her dining table. It was still set for two. Candles, long blown out and champagne, now warm were sad reminders of last night. A night was supposed to be about turning those possibilities into realities. Laura decided long before Dancer and his friends crashed their party that she would skip the annual pilgrimage to Connecticut to see Mother. After all, with Frances house being in a state of relocation upheaval and Mother somehow blaming Laura for taking her grandchildren so far away from her, Laura felt a few thousand miles was a prudent distance.
The intrusion of the three Santas managed only to delay her plans for one day. Christmas Eve dinner was pushed to Christmas Day, but her plan to jingle Mr. Steeles bells was still a go. She even chose to shut down the office the day after to give them the long weekend.
After such a harrowing experience with those Santas and the story of a boy desperate to find a home, she thought he would have welcomed celebrating Christmas in a place that is warm, with another present much better than a sled. If anything, another close call should have made their need to be together even stronger. Instead, Remington called just as she about to put dinner in the oven. He said he was tired and wanted to stay at home. True, he didnt know what present awaited him after dinner, but another missed opportunity only reinforced the same old uncertainty. Maybe things between them just werent meant to be.
Laura walked over to the table. Half burned candlesticks were thrown out. The dishes, silverware and champagne were put away since there seemed to be no imminent use for them. Cleaning up the office was next on her little list.
It wasnt surprising to find her there at all. She was such a bloody, hopeless workaholic. It was surprising, however to find the Christmas fanatic, Miss Laura Holt, taking down all the decorations the day after Christmas. Last year the poinsettias were pathetic sticks in a pot before she parted with them. If it werent for the nearly-bare tree still standing in the corner, one would have never known it was the holidays at all. She was teetering on the chrome armrest of a chair trying to reach the top of the tree when he cleared his throat, announcing his presence. She turned her head and began to lose her balance. Remington quickly stepped in, reached up to grip her firmly at the waist.
Thank you, Laura automatically acknowledged and turned back to extricate a strand of lights.
With his hands still at her waist and her backside delightfully at eyelevel, Remington said, I would offer to reach up there for you, but I prefer to work in a support capacity at the moment.
What are you doing here? Laura handed Mr. Steele a jumbled cord of lights and climbed down from the chair.
Looking for you. I thought you decided to close the office for the long weekend. You said 'no one' he pointed at her, You included, was allowed to step foot in this office until Monday morning.
Well that was before all my plans changed. Laura grabbed a trash bag and began tossing in Christmas cards.
<Laura throwing out Christmas cards! Something is seriously wrong.> Remington thought. He had to ask, What are you doing?
Cleaning up this mess. I dont know if I should even bother though. With Mr. Hastings blaming us for having his building blown up, well probably be evicted anyway.
Laura, I call tell youre upset and I can explain about not having a present for you, Remington started.
First of all, I dont care about getting a present. Laura started to shove more in the trash bag.
Remington wrestled the trash bag from her hands. He wasn't going to allow her to busy herself into further avoidance of talking about what was bothering her. He prompted, " And second of all?"
"Second of all?" Laura mimicked.
"You said, 'first of all' so there must be a 'second of all'."
"Just forget it, this whole Christmas has been a disaster." She tried to snatch the trash bag back to resume her duties.
He held it tightly and refused, "Now, what else is the problem?"
Laura relented, "Okay, it's not the present itself , per se... just the idea that you were running out at the last minute to 'pick something up'. Like I was some forgotten oversight. Like, 'oops I forgot to get a box of candy for my cleaning lady...or oops, I really should pick up a gift certificate for my doorman....Ooops, I should grab something for whats-her-name, Laura'."
Laura started to unravel the tangle of tree lights. Remington pulled that distraction away from her as well, "That's not the way it is at all, Laura. You are always at the top of my lists."
"It sure didn't feel like it last night when you cancelled on me." This time Remington grabbed the glass ornaments and the packing paper before Laura could reach for it.
"Ahh, last night...See... you are upset about that, aren't you? I know the way you are about Christmas and I couldn't bring myself to show up empty-handed to Laura's Winter Wonderland."
Laura finally sat on the edge of Mildred's desk. He wasn't allowing her to squirm around it anyway, so she might as well lay all her cards out, "Christmas isn't just about exchanging presents. It's about spending time with the people you love. When it seemed like you didnt want that either, I was disappointed, I guess.
"Do I really fit into that category of people?" He stepped closer.
"Of course you do. And if you would have shown up last night, I would have", she looked intently and carefully annunciated, "<shown> you."
A roguish smile supplemented his reaction, "Really?"
He picked up the snowglobe from Mildred's desk to make room and sat next to Laura. He shook it and took an inordinate interest in the snowy display to avoid eye contact with Laura. She wasn't the only one skated around uncomfortable issues. "I have a bit of a confession to make. Last night, the real reason I begged off, was that didn't think I could stand the temptation."
"The temptation of what?"
With his eyes still fixed on the distraction he held, Remington confessed, "The temptation of you. After all we'd been through lately; the cases, the late nights, the time we've spent together... Well, when Dancer and his friends were sent packing, I saw you utterly exhausted and totally disheveled. I never wanted you more."
Laura chuckled, "I think there is a compliment in there somewhere."
Remington set the snowglobe aside, not needing or wanting to sidestep it any further, "I knew if I showed up last night, I may have pushed too hard and I didn't want to mess anything up between us. I couldn't stand the thought of being with you and not <being> with you, if you know what I mean."
"I know what you mean. I think for once we were on the same page."
"We just weren't in the same book last night," Remington quiped.
As if being pulled by an invisible force, they leaned into each other. At first, the kiss was gentle, almost hesitant. Once confirmed that they truly were on the same page now, their connection became uncompromising and unconditional. Remington's hand slipped behind Laura's neck. She loved the feel of his fingers under her hair, lightly caressing her there. Without breaking contact, Laura maneuvered off the desk to stand between Mr. Steele's legs, where she could touch him much in the same manner. Inexplicably, he began to laugh.
"What? Am I doing something funny?" Laura asked.
"No. Not at all. I was just thinking what would our Miss Krebs think if she knew we were doing this on her desk?"
"I think she would be sorry she missed it."
"Do you suppose we should continue this elsewhere?"
"You know I still have an herb-stuffed capon that I can't eat by myself. And you don't have to worry, Laura's Winter Wonderland has closed for the season."
"But it still is Christmas though, right? You still want to spend time with the people you love?"
"Person," she corrected, "the person I love."
"Good, me too."
Hand in hand they left the office, Walking toward the elevator's Remington asked, "I believe there was something you were going to show me, too, right?"