OCFW Christmas serial story
this chapter by Sharon Srock
Copyright © OKC Christian Fiction Writers
Tad watched Eleanor climb the stairs, her childhood limp a little more pronounced as she navigated the steps. The long tunic she wore over her jeans did little to hide the curves she carried on her five and a half foot frame. Her sleek black hair bounced against the back of her shoulders, taunting him.
Little Ellie Clark had grown up into a beautiful, curvaceous woman.
His best friend’s sister…Robbie’s twin sister…had been a part of Tad’s life for as long as he could remember. And ever since girls had stopped having cooties, he’d been trying not to notice her.
Tad knew Eleanor had always resented his place in Robbie’s life. Tad was the friend that had driven that first wedge between the fraternal twins. The summer of Eleanor’s accident—sixth grade—Robbie had turned to Tad for companionship. The friendship forged during those difficult months had lasted for the rest of Robbie’s life.
Tad and Robbie, the only boys in households overrun with women, had found in each other the brother they craved. It had been Tad who’d shared in Robbie’s high school antics. The skirt chasing, prank playing, sports crazed years passing too quickly into adult responsibilities.
Tad had hoped to be a comfort to his friend’s family during the holidays. Robbie’s death six months ago had left a hole in everyone’s heart. Eleanor’s attitude reminded Tad that she still blamed him for many things.
He couldn’t help feeling frustrated that their first encounter in two years—except for the funeral—had started out on the wrong foot.
Eleanor unpacked her duffle bag in the solitude of her childhood room. Mom hadn’t changed it much in the years Eleanor had been living on her own. School memorabilia decorated the walls along with posters of once favored actors and singers. She was comfortable here despite the out grown remnants of her childhood. This room had been her haven since birth. With Tad in the house all week, it would continue to be.
Eleanor shook out one of her not-so-new, new outfits. Since her surgery, she’d become a thrift store junkie. As the pounds came off, it made more sense to buy gently used clothing instead of spending money on brand new stuff that would need to be replaced with smaller sizes in the coming weeks.
This was her secret, hers and Robbie’s. Her twin brother had been her support through the months of decision and weeks of preparation for her lap band procedure. He’d listened to her fears, held her hand, and gone with her to the hospital only days before his leave ended. She’d sworn him to silence, not wanting to worry her parents, or face Janice’s criticism over this very personal decision. Robbie had taken her secret to his grave. He’d been killed two weeks after her surgery. His support and love for her just one more incentive on her road to a healthier lifestyle.
She stuffed her workout clothes inside a tote bag. She had an appointment with Crystal for some gym time and shopping and the weather wasn’t going to stop her from keeping it. This week, more than ever, she needed both the comfort of her best girl friend and the calorie protection her exercise program provided. Eleanor bundled a bulky sweater around herself to shield her secret from the too shrewd eyes of Theodore Varner.
Unfortunately, he was coming up the stairs as she went down, his presence spoiling what she’d hoped would be a quiet get-away.
Eleanor averted her eyes, praying he’d simply let her be.
“Where are you going?”
She gave him a smile in obedience to her mother’s instructions as she hurried past. She flicked her straight black hair away from her face. “The gym. Then shopping.”
Tad stopped and grabbed her arm, the contact sizzling through her. “Did you fail to notice the blizzard brewing outside?”
“We don’t have blizzards in Oklahoma.” She shook off his big, warm hand while keeping a smile plastered to her face. It was hard. He always made her feel like she was still Robbie’s kid-sister. “Should God choose to bless us with more snow overnight, that’s just one more reason for me to finish my shopping this afternoon.”
Tad sighed. “Hang on, I’ll drive you.”
No! “Not necessary, I’m meeting my friend Crystal. We have some serious girl time planned.” She let her gaze travel from his expensive loafers, past the designer sweater, and finally met his killer blue eyes. “Besides, you’re not dressed to go out in the weather.”
She hurried to the bottom of the stairs, grabbed her purse and a coat from the closet, and tossed him a wave. “See ya.”
Tad flinched as the door slammed behind Ellie. Confounded girl…woman.
Her brush off was disappointing, but expected. But there was something else… something different in her since Robbie’s funeral. Tad stared at the door she’d just walked out of, wrestling with images from then and now, trying to figure it out... Eleanor’s raven black hair hadn’t changed much, was still sleek and straight, if a little longer. She still had the most unusual eyes he’d ever encountered, and her complexion…he snapped his fingers. That’s it. Her face. Eleanor’s face was thinner than he’d seen it in years.
He shook his head. She must not be eating. Grief over Robbie stealing her appetite? A week of her mother’s holiday cooking would take care of that in a hurry.
While he was here, he’d watch and make sure.
Eleanor stepped into the gym and stomped the snow from her feet. Her glasses fogged again and she yanked them off. She planned to reward herself with contacts when she hit the fifty-pound mark. She couldn’t wait.
A squeal sounded from somewhere to her left. She turned just in time to receive Crystal’s enthusiastic hug.
“Look at you, at what’s left of you.” Crystal took a step back, Eleanor’s hands clasped in both of hers. “You look FANTASTIC. How much?”
Eleanor grinned. “Twenty-five pounds. Does it really show?”
“Are you kidding me? Has it been hard?”
Eleanor shrugged. “Yes and no. It’s a definite life style change, but I feel so much better and I get to go shopping for new clothes every couple of weeks.”
“Have you told your family yet?”
“Not yet. I wanted it to be a Christmas surprise. They’ve worried about me for so long. I wanted to make sure I could do it before I told them. Now, it will probably have to wait till after Christmas.”
Eleanor leaned her head on Crystal’s shoulder. “We have company for the holidays.”
“That’s normal around your house.”
Crystal gasped at the name. “No…”
Eleanor accepted comfort from her friend, knowing she didn’t have to explain things to Crystal. Crystal already knew Eleanor had fallen in love with Tad the summer of her accident. She’d been twelve, and that’s when the whole downward-spiral had begun. Eleanor had spent the summer confined in a body cast, comforting herself with chocolate.
And never stopped.
Check back on Friday for the next chapter!