"Christmas in Texas," he'd announced to her with a grin, as they sat in the theatre one night waiting for the show to start.
It was late November, two months after they'd met.
"You'll love it, Tova - ain't nothin' like it."
"But - I - I have to work on Boxing Day."
"What's a Boxing Day when it's at home?"
"It's the day after Christmas when Canadian stores start their discount sales - they make more money then than they do before the holiday. It's one of the few times they need me on the floor."
Sam had looked crestfallen for a moment, but he'd rallied. "Surely they got to let you out for New Year's Eve, now, don't they? Y'all can come down and see in the new year with me! I got it all worked out. I'm gonna be stayin' with my friend Hughie and his wife - we went to high school together - they have a big old house in Roseford - and of course you could stay there too, but if you'd be more comfortable, there's a nice little hotel nearby - the only one in town, in fact, but I think you'd like it - what's wrong, honey?"
"I just don't know if I can afford it, Sam. I'm sorry, but with the airfare and -"
"Let it be my Christmas present to you. I can afford it."
"I don't know if I should let you do that ... well, I guess maybe I could manage it, if I fiddle with my budget; I don't usually spend much money."
"Let me at least get your plane ticket. I got frequent flyer points, you know."
Tova knew that Sam no longer had family in Texas - he'd been an only child and both his parents were gone - and she'd gotten the impression he'd been glad to leave the place behind. So she'd been a little surprised by his sudden yen to be home for the holidays. But she could tell it meant something to him, and it meant something to her that he wanted her there with him.
His hometown, Roseford, was a small town in the north of Texas. It did sound idyllic, although she had to wonder. Some of the tales he'd told her about the way he'd been treated when he was a kid who liked to make up stories and write poetry were pretty heartbreaking.
"I didn't think you had many friends in high school," she'd said, as the seats around them filled up.
"I just had the one, it's true. But this ain't a Stephen King novel, darlin'. I know I became a lot more popular in Roseford after I moved to New York and got successful, but I can forgive. People are what they are. So, you gonna come?"
"It has been a long time since I've had a date on New Year's Eve," she'd said wistfully.
"I only wish I'd known," he'd murmured into her ear. "Now I'd sure like to rectify that, as best I can."
At which point the lights had gone down and he'd done something delicious to her ear that almost made her miss the beginning of the show.
Her boss would only give her a couple of days off, so she'd flown down on December thirtieth. Sam had met her at the airport in Amarillo, in Hughie's old Buick; he'd waited while she dropped off her suitcase in her quaint, comfortable room at the Roseford Hotel and then he'd given her the grand walking tour of Roseford. It did look idyllic, under its lacy tablecloth of snow, with its general store and its little Methodist church.
He pointed out Hughie's house, a rambling Victorian right next door to the church.
"Is Hughie the minister?" she'd asked.
"You know, I'm a little disappointed that you'd make an assumption which I have to say is, well, kind of sexist. Hughie teaches English at the college in Amarillo."
"Oh. His wife is the minister? Roseford has a woman minister?"
"Reverend Sally, that's right. And yes, here in the Panhandle, there's some that consider it downright scandalous. But she's so sweet, she's won over most everyone - most everyone in her congregation, at least."
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