Chapter 11: The Holiday Pageant

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As December progressed, holiday cheer took over at BI. That Friday, the day of the twins' Kindergarten Holiday Pageant, half the office had left early, even Stu, claiming he had a "hot date in the city with his wife." Knowing he wouldn't have time to cook, Andrew drove through the fast food line and picked up two kids' meals and a burger for his dad.

He called them from the car on his way back. "Everyone's home? In one piece?" Andrew asked his father.

"We're fine. I got the girls in their outfits, but I can't do their hair. They're yelling at me that I'm not doing it right. Isn't it kind of like tying a knot? I can't figure out how to make the ribbons stick to their heads."

Andrew scoffed. He loved the image of his father, the burly ex-Army sergeant, sorting through ribbons and being criticized by his little monsters. "I'll do that when I get home. Can you put their robes on over their dresses so they can eat without making a mess?"

"Good idea. How far are you?"

"Five minutes."

"Okay, be safe."

Switching off his call feature, he turned on his music, listening to the Heatherby soundtrack for the millionth time, and remembering his night at the theater with Emma. Was it only a week ago when she'd danced with him at the holiday party? After he told her about Hayley, his heart felt heavy, so he stayed a little while longer then snuck out without saying goodbye. He did send her a text though, thanking her for everything and wishing her a happy holiday.

She hadn't responded. Maybe it was easier that way.

He could still remember how it felt to hold her in his arms. To feel her body moving with his, her peppermint scent filling the air around them. He'd wanted to bury his nose in her hair, feel her against him, but he'd refrained and was glad he did, for both of their sakes.

When he'd danced with Rhonda, she'd made a few snarky comments about him and Emma. Andrew couldn't lose his job, and Emma had just made some good traction with the employees. A scandal was the last thing either one of them needed.

Finally, he pulled into the driveway with ten minutes to spare until they'd have to leave again. In a whirlwind, he fed the girls, did their hair, and loaded them and his father into the Honda. After he'd driven down the block, Devon begged him to go back home because she forgot Ginger. Andrew weighed the consequences of going back versus not going back, threw the car in reverse, and stopped in front of the house, so Jeffrey could run back in for Ginger. But other than that, everything went smoothly.

They arrived backstage and delivered the girls to Miss Robinson. With kisses on their cheeks, he left them with her, cursing himself as he saw the other parents holding balloons and flowers for their kids. "Damn it, Dad," he said to Jeffrey. "I should have gotten them something."

"No time now. We'll tell them there's a surprise tomorrow. We'll think of something. For now, we better get in the audience before we miss them all together." Jeffrey motioned toward the doors to the high school's auditorium, where the pageant was being held.

Hordes of people crowded in, laughing and chatting. Big families with kids and grownups, old and young. Again, guilt crept through Andrew that the girls only had him and Jeffrey.

The sounds of the high school orchestra, which was accompanying the little ones that night, carried through to the hallway, and people started moving faster. Jeffrey and Andrew were last in line, and just about to enter the auditorium when the entrance doors to the school burst open.

Emma, dressed in a long winter coat and carrying two giant bouquets of flowers busted through the doors like she was on a mission.

From his spot at the end of the line, Andrew did a double take. "Emma?" He nudged his father and pointed. "Is that Emma?"

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