Yule – Khloe Summers

I load dishes into the dishwasher and grab the broom from the pantry, sighing loud enough that I hope Greg will hear me in the next room. Not that he’ll do anything about it. He’s watching the game. ‘The game’ as in, football. No one interrupts him during a game. I mean, really if it’s not football, it’s hockey, or basketball, or baseball, or golf. There is always something flickering on the television that he can’t tear is eyes away from. Just once I’d like to be the thing he’s staring at. I bend down and sweep the crumbs from dinner into the dustpan then dump them into the trash. My eyes rolling with fury as Greg enters the kitchen. “Hey babe,” he says. “What’s for dinner?” I want to scream. “Dinner? Dinner. Greg, I just ate dinner. I called you twice.

” He cocks his head to the side, “Oh, sorry babe. I couldn’t hear you over the game.” He opens the fridge, searching for remnants. “What did we have?” He pulls a ceramic bowl of fried chicken and settles it onto the counter. “You hate fried chicken. Did you make this for me?” I nod and cross my arms, leaning my hip into the counter as I look away from him. He walks towards me with a pouted face and open arms. “Babe… I’m sorry. I get so into the —damn it. Come on guys.

You’ve gotta catch the fucking pass!” His head has snapped back towards the television in the living room. My ear drum now blown from his screaming. I pull away from his grip and empty the bowl of chicken into the trash. “What the hell are you doing?” His arms are in the air, his eyes wide as he finally looks towards me. “What am I doing?” My voice is raised. “I’m reminding myself that my sole purpose in life isn’t catering to you.” He narrows his eyes. “Please, you make one fucking dinner and you think you’re being abused.” My eyes are so wide I actually feel air moving around them. We’ve been married for three years.

I wish I could say this was new for him, but it’s not. The lid lowers on the trash can and I turn to walk towards the bedroom. “I’m done with this Greg. I work six days a week, sometimes twelve-hour days. I get one day a week to spend with you. One day. I’m not—” “I’m not your fucking dog, Cora. You don’t get to take me out when you feel like it. Sunday is football day. I didn’t ask for you to be busy the rest of the week.

” I contemplate whether saying anything else will help. I decide it won’t, but talk anyway. “Right,” I say with sarcasm. “And Monday is football, and Tuesday is fantasy football trades with the guys, and oh… Wednesday, that’s when you go hit balls with Jeff. Thursday is football again. Friday you get beers with people at the office and what the hell happens Saturday? Oh, that’s right, you spend all day playing video games because you need ‘time to relax’. I’m over it. I’m not doing this anymore.” I turn away, trying to hide my tears, but they overwhelm my face. “You didn’t even notice I put this on for you.

” I motion over my body, pointing to the lacy nightgown I put on this morning in hopes of garnering his attention. He looks me over with a quick glance. “I’m sorry I didn’t notice your nightgown or hear you when dinner was called.” He’s so emotionless when he speaks that my blood begins to boil and pop beneath my skin. “That’s no reason to throw my food in the garbage.” I nod my head slowly and cross one arm over the other unintentionally pushing up my breasts as I speak. Greg looks back towards the television, as the crowd roars, then pumps his fist in what looks to be anger. Good to know the day is completely ruined when his fantasy team is losing. I turn to head into the bathroom. A nice long bubble bath with a good book will hopefully sooth my nerves, but the doorbell rings.

Knowing I’m wearing what’s practically lingerie I look towards Greg, thinking he’ll at least answer the door, but he doesn’t. His full attention now on the next guy running with a ball. The doorbell rings again. I roll my eyes and storm towards the door, the back of the silky white gown fluttering up as I move. “Can I help you?” I say gruffly. A tall, muscled man turns around. He’s in his early thirties with a shadowed beard and dark brown eyes. “Ma’am. I’m…” he pauses for a second and takes my shape in without hesitation. I cover my hardening nipples with bare arms.

I shouldn’t be as flattered as I am, but it feels good to be ogled. The man clears his throat. “I’m Mr. Ivanovich with Niagara Power. I just wanted to let you know that I have to turn power off at this address.” I narrow my eyes, now shivering a bit at the door. “What do you mean you have to turn off the power? It’s twenty-eight degrees out here.” “We’re shutting off for non-payment.” I shake my head and smile a bit relieved. “No, I’m sorry.

You have the wrong house. Everything is paid up here.” I begin to swing the door closed, but he reaches out a hand and stops it. “I don’t enjoy this part of my job Ms. Johnson. But we have nearly five thousand dollars in past due electric bills dating back to last November. I can give you the name of an emergency she—” “No. That’s impossible. My husband pays the bill.” Bits of jagged air circulate, but there’s no flow and my heart begins to race.

“One second.” I close the door, walk into the living room, and turn off the television. Greg pulls his head back. “What the hell are you do—” “There’s a man outside from the power company. He says they haven’t been paid since last November. I need the receipt from our last bill so we won’t lose power.” Greg lifts from the couch and runs his hands through his greasy black hair as he makes his way to the door. The powerman lifts his head up from his phone. “What’s this all about?” Greg shouts. “I was told they wouldn’t do a shut off in winter.

” I push into the doorway, the inappropriate nightgown now the furthest thing from my mind. “What do you mean, they told you… you knew this wasn’t paid? You said you had the bills; I work six days a week. How could we not be paying the bills Greg?” Snow has begun to fall outside, but I’m burning up. “You’ve been receiving notices sir, and calls. Once you’ve gone past the five thousand threshold, we can shut off any time of the year. Like I told your…” he pauses and does that thing again with his eyes. The look where he swallows me up, takes me in, warms me with a single look. “Like I told your… Ms. Johnson. I can give you the name of an emergency shelter.

” “I don’t need the name of a fucking emergency shelter because I’m calling your boss, and you’ll be right back here turning everything back on.” The powerman nods his head as though he’s heard the song and dance a million times. “Can I pay you now? To leave it on, I mean,” I ask. He shakes his head, but Greg interrupts. “Let the man do what he’s going to do. I’ll have him fired for this.” “But it’s two days to Christmas. Can’t you cut us a break?” I beg, hoping the man will have a change of heart. “Sorry ma’am, they call me the grinch for a reason.” “Get the fuck out of here!” Greg hollers towards the man.

Ivanovich nods, this time with a coy smile as he steps off the porch. Is it wrong that I watch him walk away? That I beg him silently to take me with him, that I wonder what his big hands would feel like against my skin, that I wonder what life is like with a man outside these walls? I turn away from the door and stare back at Greg who’s taken to the couch. “So, what’s going on?” The words bite from my lips as I stand with crossed arms in the hallway. The heat from uncertainty still warming my skin. Greg sits silently, glowering at the black screen as the power to the rest of the house cuts out. “You’re going to want to sit for this.” Chapter Two Yule One Year Later I put the truck in park and lift my thermos from the passenger seat. I’ve stopped here every morning for the last ten years. This is a small town, and usually I see the same group of people. Officer Fallon grabbing a donut, Ms.

Harlow grabbing an iced something or other on her way to class, and sometimes Grant Jones, who I’m fine to avoid most days anyway. This morning though, there’s a woman I don’t recognize with the hood of her car popped a few spaces away. Her long butterscotch hair cascades down over the sleeves of her thick black coat. “Everything okay?” I ask, not expecting her to jump. “You scared me!” She grips her chest and rolls her eyes away before looking up. “I don’t know. I think it’s just overheating, but this stupid thing hasn’t been running right for months.” “What happened?” “The engine started making this knocking noise. Then smoke started to come from the hood. Do you know anything about cars?” I glance towards her, then back at the car.

Pulling the oil stick from its place to check the levels. “I don’t know much about cars at all really.” I say, sliding the stick back into place. “Except they need oil to run, and this one has none.” She looks towards me and pulls back her head. Her eyes a soft amber that looks nearly green in the light. “Oh.” “There’s a gas station right around the corner. I’ll grab you some and be right back.” She narrows her brows.

“No, you don’t have to.” “It’s no big deal. It’ll take three seconds.” She motions towards my thermos. “I’ll get you some coffee then.” I hesitate for a second, but her help would be nice. I’d only allotted enough time to grab the coffee and get to work. I hand her the mug. “I like it black.” She nods and takes the thermos as I jog towards the gas station.

It’s just past the ravine, but with snow falling it takes me a little longer to maneuver the rise and fall of the landscape. When I finally make it to the station, I grab the oil, then jog back to the woman’s car. The snow has picked up. Today is going to be a nightmare trying to get around from house to house in this shit. As I empty the canister of oil into the woman’s car, I catch glimpse of her finishing up in the coffee shop. She looks familiar, but I can’t gauge from where. I shake my head and twist back towards the car, lowering the hood. I see people all day, after a while the faces start to blur together. Hers though, sticks out for some reason. Just as I am lowering the hood, she pops from the coffee shop with soft appreciation in her tone.

From this angle, I’m allowed full view of her curves as they slope and bend. She’s beautiful. “You have no idea. You just saved my day. This is my only day off all week. Coffee isn’t enough to repay you.” She hands me the tall mug, now warm to the touch. The motion gives me time to check her hand for a ring, it’s bare. “I mean, if you really wanted to thank me, I wouldn’t be opposed to a steak.” “A steak?” she says as she lowers her head.

“Yeah, you take me for a steak dinner tonight. Longhorns on the square is a good place.” She tilts her head to the side. “Really? That seems like a pretty big thank you for some oil. I was thinking more like twenty dollars and an extra thank you.” She begins riffling through her purse—her full lips parted just slightly. “Well, you could give me an oil change as well if you prefer. Eye for an eye kind of thing.” I say with a smile. She fights away a grin with a roll of her eyes, as though amused.

“I hardly think those are my only two options. I could just thank you and leave.” I step towards my truck and open the door. “Yeah, but something tells me you’ll be at Longhorns tonight at seven. I mean, I could be wrong, but I have a hunch.”

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