The Christmas Song, Part 3

There is always a freshly minted ex-boyfriend to talk about at Christmastime, as if the three or four weeks since she brought him to Thanksgiving dinner are a test no guy could ever pass. Is it the Christmas shopping, Michaela wonders, the way Ashley’s credit card comes out at nearly every window she shops? Or is it the long hours at the club, the novelty of dating a stripper wearing off once she starts picking up extra shifts to compensate for her perpetually open wallet? Is it the boyfriend picturing Ashley taking her clothes off for a stranger who ends it, or is it Ashley, looking at the boyfriend and seeing the scowl on his face as he pictures her doing her job?

This year it is Gordon, the last of the boys from high school who poked fun at her before her weight loss, the last of the revenge relationships. Last—that word catches in Michaela’s mind, and it isn’t long before she’s shut off the kitchen sink and is reaching for the roll of paper towels to dry her eyes.

It was always Michaela who took the kids to the doctor. A doctor herself, she knew how to communicate with those people—or at least that was her husband’s excuse for laying it all on her shoulders. When Gordon knocked out that piece of Ashley’s two front teeth when they were kids, it was Michaela who took the day off and brought the Ashley to the dentist for the reconstruction. She was the one whose hand Ashley squeezed as each new instrument was set into her mouth. She was the one who took her overweight daughter out for pizza afterward and had to debate over whether to put an end to the binge—and therefore cause a scene—or to sit there silently and do nothing as Ashley buried her sadness and her anger under slice after slice after slice.

Michaela had also been the one to take Ashley to oncologist, just last week, after she’d found the first lump. And the second.

To be continued…

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