Gary only was going to stay that one night, but we insisted he stay the weekend. I was just happy things seemed to mend between Gary and me. He was still dealing with some guilt he’d carried for decades, but he watched Tony and I together and seemed to relax a bit. He also watched David and Sasha together and that seemed to ease his mind even more that there was real love at work between them.
The season between Thanksgiving and Christmas was always chaotic. Holiday parties and celebrations were almost nonstop. I was busy! Alan and I both had to work some evenings to keep the demands met and taken care of. I got Christmas and Alan chose New Years.
And we decorated again for the upcoming Holy Day which was fun with a child in the house. It was fascinating to learn how Alik had celebrated in Russia. It seemed the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church was not that dissimilar. Like the Catholic Church, they celebrated Christmas as did many celebrated Christmas Season on the 25th and on the 7th of January they celebrated Christmas as in opening presents like the West did. Then there was Ded Moroz, Grandfather Frost who delivered presents, but when the Soviet Union became the government, religion was barely tolerated and New Year’s was the holiday that was important. Ded Moroz and his granddaughter, Snegurochka, who always accompanied her grandfather delivered presents to the children. The children would sing around a tree, but it was a New Year tree. Christmas was done more quietly and in private. So, I felt less guilty about leaving them on the traditional Christmas week. And of course, there were the traditional shows that came on and I was going to watch them all as usual, only now there was Alik to share it with me! He got a stocking the we hung on our mantle beside Tony’s, mine, David’s and Sasha’s. And then I only told him that there was something I’d enjoyed for decades and wanted to share it with him. I promised I would translate when needed, but I hoped he’d like them.
That evening Tony had worked a little later and was coming home right before a show I always watched came on. I popped popcorn and got some cookies out for us when Tony came home. He came in greeting me and Alik as he entered, saw the popcorn waiting and cookies, wondered only a few seconds and then nodded.
“Rudolph?” He grinned at me kissing me as he put his briefcase down.
“Rudolph.” I nodded as Alik and I sat to watch. “This is an important time for Alik to get the full American Traditional Christmas experience.”
Sasha came down having showered and greeted Tony. He also saw what I’d prepared to do as his eyebrows rose. “Is there something special happening?”
Tony nodded pulling Sasha over. “Very special.” He said to Sasha in a hushed voice with a smile. “And Mitch is sharing it with Alik.”
I shushed them both as the news like reports of the bad weather the world was having in the show that made Rudolph’s nose necessary. “Either join us or go somewhere else.” I waved them off.
“It’s a very serious part of Mitch’s Christmas Tradition.” Tony explained in a whisper. “He’s never missed it in his entire life!”
That made Sasha’s eyes widen. “Then can I share it?” He whispered back.
“Just be quiet about it.” I growled irritated.
Soon we were four little boys watching that beloved story when David came in from school.
“Hi, every…” David greeted happily, then was surprised when he got four “SSHHH!!!” Which David stopped with his eyebrows rising, but looked at the screen. He grinned and sat down beside Sasha to watch it with us and dug in the popcorn. And there were questions from Alik. Why is his nose red? Why didn’t the other reindeer like him? I often just told Alik. “Vot uvidish.” You’ll see.
When it was over, I looked at Alik. “Well?”
I did have to translate somethings for Alik, but he loved it going on and on about how scary that monster was and how funny it was when the elf pulled all his teeth!
I smiled at them sitting there. “Now we’ve only got Charlie Brown, Frosty and It’s Wonderful Life.” I grinned. “Oh! And Miracle of 34th Street, all versions!” I said happily as I got the now empty bowl of popcorn and plates.
Sasha watched me…not really knowing what to say and then turned to Tony. “He does this every year?”
Tony chuckled. “Every single year.” He nodded. “Then he becomes my overgrown six year old.”
I spun on Tony. “I do not! I told you, if you’re too old for Rudolph…”
Tony nodded and said with. “…then you’re too old.” He chuckled. “I guess I’m not that old then.” Tony shrugged still grinning. “Either that or you have another fetish. This one for old white men with long white beards!”
There were a few uneaten kernels of popcorn which I flung at Tony as he laughed. “Oh, shut up.”
The flight to New York was taken. We again celebrated with Tony’s family at the traditional home where he and his sisters were raised. Nick arrived and we all celebrated the holiday. Nick said he was flying back to Europe when this was over, he’d be looking for a job by Spring. Tony and I again saw the Rockettes. That was becoming our tradition.
Then it was New Years. And I had to cover the hotel that holiday. There were the other parties and those who thought nothing of drinking to excess at the hotel, which we never allowed to drive home, but took them home or put them in a taxi. That was our normal operations.
Being as it was a busy time, both Sasha and I worked New Year’s Eve. I rode with Sasha in Bubba that evening. I waited for Sasha to finish to ride home with him. My evening had been very busy, but I knew Sasha’s was even worse. But he’d become the favorite for the restaurant and hotel and very much in demand.
Sasha finally got off and walked through the lobby to meet me.
“I am really tired.” Sasha confessed. “Not sleepy, just tired. Can you drive?”
“Sure.” I chuckled. “I was running all night, but I saw you were a constant blur.”
Sasha laughed back. “I was a constant blur.” Then he brightened. “But I made lots of good tips!”
Sasha insisted I drive back. Which, well, it was my truck and I did miss Bubba, but I had gotten used to the other car Tony insist I drive to and from work. Using a clutch was not hard, but I had gotten used to the Mercedes. But it came back pretty quickly.
What happened next, I will tell you what I remember. We were going back home on the highway and all I remember were these bright lights suddenly going the opposite way. It was divided highway! He had to have turned down, going down and up heading assess lane. He was now going east in direction on the west heading lane and going very, very fast. I tried to avoid him, but he had to be doing at least seventy and I was going sixty. It would be a bad impact! I remember it hit the front but to our passenger side and then turning it seemed in midair and then…nothing. I do remember hearing what sounded like a buzz saw and wondering why. There were shouts and men speaking loud instructions, but I don’t remember what was said. I have a faint recollection of seeing the roof being pulled back that had been cut away as men were moving in toward me. Firemen? I know I saw a woman with a mask in her hand attached to a tank, but she was working beside me. Sasha. There were brief moments I remember, lights overhead as we moved down a hallway and uniformed men and women in scrubs.
The first real memory I had was opening my eyes and wondering where I was. It didn’t feel like I was home. I was thirsty. Waking up more I wondered why I was having trouble moving and then I heard someone move quickly and over me was Tony, but he looked terrible! His face was covered in what I’ve never seen. His beard looked several days old, his hair was washed, but it looked like he’d washed it will just soap and he was wearing scrubs. As his face came into view, I saw his eyes water as tears were forming.
“Mitch, can you hear me?” Tony asked taking my left hand bring it to his lips as he kissed them. “Please be awake, baby.”
I wanted to say of course I’m awake, but all that came out was a sort of gurgle; a dry, rasping sound. I moved my head in what I thought was a nod. Tony grabbed something from the bed and pressed a button.
“He’s awake!” Tony all but shouted to no one I was and then turned back to me. “Come on, please Mitch.” He pleaded as grateful tears were coming now. Then I heard someone else come in the room and a man was looking and went to a phone dialing and said something to someone.
“The doctor’s on his way, Mr. Delveccio, she’ll want to assess the situation.” The man said to Tony.
“I’m not leaving!” Tony said in his growl as if he’d said it before. “He can assess all she wants, but I’m staying!” He looked back at me. “It’ll be okay, honey, I promise.” He said kissing my hand again.
I heard a beeping noise and saw IV bags and a monitor going for heart monitoring. I saw the numbers and what they were for. “Thirsty.” I managed to get out.
Tony smiled and suddenly was looking around. “Water. Do we have water?”
“I’ll get some ice. That will help.” The man said hurrying away only to return quickly with a cup which he handed to Tony. “Just a few chips, just put some on the tips of your fingers and run them over his lips for now.”
Tony grabbed some of the ice and did as instructed rubbing the chips over my lips and let some of it drip in my mouth which seemed to absorb it quickly. My mouth had a strange taste to it and now that was easing. I saw then as a tiny little woman in her late thirties came in wearing scrubs and a white coat. A short haired blonde. She smiled at me as she got near me.
“I’m Dr. Honeycut.” She said touching my face and peering into my eyes and shined that little light thing in them watching my pupils’ reactions. “Do you know where you are?”
“Hospital?” I asked and then I remembered a little more. “Sasha!”
Tony nodded squeezing my hand. “Sasha’s being taken care of, Mitch. He’ll be fine.”
The doctor nodded. “So, do you remember what happened?”
“There was something that hit us. We must have been in an accident.” I said now worried about Sasha.
“That’s right.” The doctor smiled. “It was pretty bad. Your friend Sasha was also hurt pretty bad, but we’re doing all we can for him and like you he’s starting to recover.” She put her hand on Tony. “Do you know this man?” It wasn’t a question.
I smiled. “He’s my husband Tony.” I saw Tony smile as he wiped his face from the tears he’d shed.
“And a damned fine husband.” She patted Tony’s shoulder grinning. “We practically had to call security to examine you, but he’s never left your side. He’s very stubborn.”
I chuckled. “He can’t help it, he’s Italian.”
She nodded smiling more. “Oh, is that what it is?”
I looked around the room and saw flowers and not just one but several and a few of those “Get Well” balloons. “I’ve been here a while.”
She nodded. “You came in with a pretty bad head injury. We worried about swelling on the brain, so we had to induce coma.”
“How long have I been out?” I asked.
“We induced it for five days and then let you wake up on your own. So, about eight days.” Dr. Honeycut replied. “Now let’s see if you’re making connections like you need to.” She then did the whole thing, making me move my arm and touch my nose and ran a thing up my feet to gauge a reaction which I felt. She smiled. “I think you’re making all the right connections. I think we can get you to a step down unit.” Then she cocked her head. “I’d take it easy with eating though. Are you hungry?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so, but let’s not go with the clear liquids, okay? Even when I’m throwing up, when I’m hungry, I’m hungry! Ask Mom!”
She laughed at that. “I will! Don’t think I won’t.”
Tony grinned. “She’s here waiting to see you.”
I looked at Tony. “Mom’s here?”
Tony nodded. “And your Dad and Grandmother.” Then he shrugged a nod. “Dad took Grandmother back to rest, but she’ll be back, but your Mom’s been waiting.” He was smiling even more. “I’ll get her, if you want.” He pointed out of the room.
I reached for Tony which he took my hand quickly. “In a minute.” I motioned for him to come closer. “Sorry about any bad breath.”
Tony looked at the doctor uncertain. “You said not to jostle him. Can I kiss him?”
“While he was in the coma and we worried about brain trauma, I cautioned you to be careful not to jostle him.” She smiled. “The princess can be wakened with a kiss. Nothing wrong with those.”
“I’m no princess.” I growled.
Tony nodded with a laugh. “He most definitely is not.”
“Whatever, a kiss should be fine. In fact, I’m ordering you to. Doctor’s orders.” She chuckled pointing at me. “Proceed.”
Tony leaned in kissing me very gently, but increased the pressure slightly. When he stopped his pressed the side of his face to me. “I was so scared.” He said as the tears came again.
“I’m sorry you were scared, baby.” I said touching his hair, which felt just wrong. Gone was the silky softness and then I wondered how I looked. “I probably look horrible.” I ran a hand over my face feeling the hair there. “I haven’t shaved at all!”
Tony shook his head. “You look beautiful. I never lie to you. Believe me, you’re beautiful.” Then he frowned. “But I have bad news. There was a loss in the family.”
My mind went a lot places. Kathy? Al? Louise? I ran through the whole family. “Who?”
“Bubba didn’t survive.” Tony said a little serious. “I know how much he meant to you, but he did a fine job protecting you two. That hard metal kept you from dying.”
My truck! Yes, it did hurt. I’d had Bubba forever!
“I’m sorry.” Tony said truly sad. “It’s not like we can’t get you something else. I’ll get you anything you want, even a Rolls if you like.”
I grinned. “An Aston Martin?”
Tony didn’t even change expressions. “Anything.”
I touched his face. “I’m kidding. I don’t need anything. Just you.”
Tony kissed me again. “You have me.”
Dr. Honeycut sighed. Was it because Tony and I clearly loved each other? I can’t say. “We’ll give it twenty-four more hours. If you do as well as I hope, we’ll move you down to the next level. If you eat and tolerate what we give you, then we’ll talk about steak and potatoes, Okay?”
Tony hugged her. “Thank you, Doctor.”
She accepted the hug and even gave it back. “That’s what I do.” Then patted Tony’s arm. “And if I need to, I’ll write an order. Kisses as needed whenever requested or just feel like giving them or getting one. So, it’s PRN.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” I smiled as Tony squeezed my hand he wouldn’t let go of.