Cliché? by A. M. Linton

“I know it’s cliché for me to say this, and what I’m going to say is also cliché, but I just love this time of the year!” Tara exclaimed, singing the last several words.

She wore blue jeans and a red floral turtle neck sweater.

“I’m glad that you do,” Tony said, “but I still think it’s a pagan religion, and Christians shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”

He wore black jeans and a navy blue sweater.

“Pagan religion,” Tara laughed, “do you even know what pagan means?”

“I’m serious,” Tony said, folding his arms across his chest.

Tara laughed.

“I love this time of the year, the lights, shopping, the food and the smells, just everything,” she said, standing on her tippytoes and kissing him on his freshly shaved cheek.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells,” began to play through the mall’s PA system.

Tara began snapping her fingers and singing along with the song as she moved forward in the checkout line.

“You are hopeless,” Tony said, shaking his head and laughing at her.

Suddenly, the alarm in the mall rang out, and Tara instantly stopped singing and laced her arm around Tony’s.

Her eyes darted around the store in the mall.

Then, as suddenly as the alarm started, it ended.

“Do we still have to leave?” a shopper called, “the alarm stopped, and I really need this laptop for my niece.”

“Let’s go. We’ll come back later,” Tara said, pulling Tony out of the line and towards the door.

She left the red shopping basket with the things she would purchase on the floor and left the store and then the mall.

“What’s the plan?” Tony asked, “We’ll stay outside for a bit and then return?”

“Nah,” she replied, “if you don’t mind, can you drop me off at home?”

“Really? But we were having so much fun. I thought we were going to spend the day together?”

“I’m sorry,” Tara said, “I’ll … can I have …a rain check on today?”

Tony looked at her, and she turned away from him as they walked through the parking lot to find his black Toyota.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

She shook her head, “No,” she said, “but I will be.”

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s okay, Tony. I’ll be okay.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I just need to go home for now.”

“Then home it is,” Tony said before briefly touching her on her shoulder.

Two days later, they were back in the mall, and after purchasing the previously abandoned items, they went to the food court to eat pizza and drink Pepsi.

“I was seven years old,” Tara said, wiping her mouth with a white tissue.

She sat opposite Tony, who wore a black sweater and blue jeans, while she wore a green and white sweater and blue jeans.

She took a deep breath before continuing, “When my dad shot my mom, and when she fell on the Christmas tree, the lights started an electric fire.”

“What?” Tony asked, almost spewing the food out of his mouth.

“Yes,” Tara said, nodding.

“But your mom is alive. I waved goodbye to her when I picked you up earlier.”

“I know,” she said, nodding, “the person you waved to, legally, she is my mom, but biologically, she is my biological mom’s identical twin.”

“What?” Tony leaned back in the chair.

“I know this is a lot to take in,” Tara said.

“No, no. I want to know what you are willing to share,” Tony quickly replied.

She took a sip of her drink before continuing.

“My dad says he loves me in the twelve letters he sends to me from prison yearly, but how could he, when he was so abusive to my mom and then took her life?”

“Oh, Tara,” Tony whispered.

“My mom loved the Christmas season and always ensured that I had a great Christmas,” she said, smiling. Tony wiped his hands on a tissue. “On Christmas Eve, when I was seven years old, my mom and I were decorating the Christmas tree and having a great time when my dad came home. He was angry with his boss because he did not get the big bonus he was expecting.”

A child in the food court was laughing above the quiet chatter around them.

“My mom tried to tell him it was okay, everything would be okay, but her words just seemed to make him angrier, and he left home.”

“Okay,” Tony said slowly.

“On Christmas morning, a loud noise woke me up, and when I heard some jingling, I thought it was Santa Claus. So, I jumped out of bed and ran out of my room, hoping to catch him, and for the next fifteen years, the only thing I remember after leaving my room is the fire alarm ringing in my ears.”

Tony’s hand went to his mouth.

“My aunt adopted me, and although I knew she was my aunt and not my mom, I started to call her mom, and I still do today.”

“That’s heavy,” Tony said, nodding.

Tara sipped through the straw until her mouth was full of drink.

“While I do not have to celebrate my Lord’s birth, death, and resurrection when the world says, the last memory I shared with my mom is the two of us enjoying Christmas. Therefore, nothing will take that away from me.”

Tony stared into her eyes, and after breaking their eye contact, he said, “Hey, do you want to check out the Christmas decorations downtown tonight?”

“Really?” she exclaimed.

“Yeah, really.”

The End

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