Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Anger Games 10

Dave had been invited to Cam's and Joe's houses for the holidays in the past, but his parents had never allowed it.  "Holidays are a time for family."  Azriel had said flatly.  Dave had never had the nerve to tell her that their branch of the Ferraro’s were not a family so much as a pack.  Most days at the Ferraro homestead, holidays in particular, were tense and unpleasant with a lot of yelling and stress.   Christmas Eve was a day to fast and read the bible.  Dave didn't mind going to mass, but by midnight he was starving, and if he made the mistake of mentioning it he would be made fun of.  

Christmas morning consisted of a breakfast of buttered rolls and coffee or milk, which Dave and the other boys had to consciously refrain from wolfing down, the opening of their present which Azriel always left the price tag on, and then a choice of more bible reading or a day spent in quiet reflection, meaning no television or music. The boys weren't allowed to go out, but Devon and Dane would slip out of their windows or the back door, have a few cigarettes with their friends and be back in time for dinner, while Dave was conscripted to help Azriel in the kitchen.  She had no trouble backhanding or yelling at him whenever, in her opinion, he messed up.

But now, having finally shaken off the hold that Damien and Azriel had on him, and living with the Mancuso's full time, he learned what an average family was like.  

Hunter and Samantha would argue and tease each other just to liven things up.  Maia and Marcus argued over everything, each insisting that they were right and bringing the dispute to Lissie or Cam who would happily mediate.  Occasionally when they weren't available, Dave would be dragged in.  He would claim to need time to think about it and would take so long that eventually the twins would forget what they'd been arguing about and could be found playing happily in one of their rooms.  Jackson would pull Manny out of his quiet little world and play cops and robbers or a board game with him.  

The noise in Cam and Lissie's house was mostly happy, sometimes upset or angry, but the adults didn't raise their voices or yell at the kids, and the kids only rarely made enough noise to catch their parent's attention.  When a disagreement got a little too vociferous, Cam or Lissie would take one of the combatants into a separate room to sit and discuss the problem.  Sometimes the discussions would end in a smack or two on the instigators bottom, but there was nothing like the rage that seemed to rule the Ferraro home.

The days leading to the holiday were spent 'mall ratting' with Hunter and his friends, getting ideas for what everyone would want.  He even allowed himself to be made up and dressed in the Goth style.  Instead of feeling out of place and obvious, he felt like a part of the group and thoroughly enjoyed his time with them.  He'd seen Devon's wife who promptly put her finely sculpted, very expensive nose in the air and complained loudly about 'people like that' being allowed out in public.  Dave laughed when she didn't even recognize him.

This Christmas however, was relaxed and pleasant.  On Christmas Eve they'd had a meal of freshly made bread, and Giambot which David proudly prepared.  They attended a serene and relaxed midnight mass, dressed casually but neatly, unlike the tight suits and constricting ties Azriel had insisted her boys wear.  
(Giambot - vegetable or sausage stew)

Christmas Day was a treat.  He was awakened at eight o' clock by the happy shouts of the children as they discovered their presents under the tree.  Because he'd been living rent free for just about five weeks he'd been able to save money and buy everyone a gift.  Azriel didn't hold with gifts much, and Damien complained that Christmas was commercialized and that people had forgotten the reason for the holiday in the first place.

But David loved to give gifts and he was usually pretty good about picking out just what people wanted.  The reason didn't matter, Christmas, birthday.... What he liked most was seeing the faces of the recipients.

Mancuso family tradition was that the children opened their gifts first, and Dave was pleased to see that the kids all chose his gifts to open first.  Cam arched an eyebrow at Dave who had given a professional grade make up kit to Hunter.  At first Dave froze, afraid he'd done something wrong, but then he relaxed and smiled back as Cam winked his approval.

Samantha raved over the several pairs of sparkling earrings and the rings he'd picked out for her, which, thanks to Hunter's advice, fit perfectly.  They all laughed when Hunter threatened to steal a few of the earrings from her.

Maia was so pleased with her 'growed up' jewelery, consisting of a choker of faux pearls and a matching bracelet, that she ran to Dave and gave him a loud kiss on the cheek and a hug that nearly strangled him.  He couldn't have been happier.

Marcus showed off his new digital watch to everyone several times, and made himself the official Mancuso town crier by announcing every hour on the hour.

Jackson whooped over his new DSI 3D video game and nearly ran to his room to play it before he'd opened the rest of his gifts.

Emanuel smiled, shyly but clearly happy, as he unwrapped a stack of books he'd been asking for.

"Your turn, Dave,” Cam encouraged.

"Me?  I..."

"Yes, you silly.  Come on!  Mama and papa have to open theirs too!  You're ho'ding up the works." Marcus complained.

"You're just mad that you can't have breakfast til mommy and daddy open theirs!"  Maia argued, hoping for bacon and eggs this morning once Lissie had opened her gifts.

"Neither can you..."  Marcus began.  He stopped abruptly when Lissie clapped her hands and gave them a stern look.

"Here,” Hunter said, fishing one out and handing it to Dave.  "It's from me and Kelly,” He explained, referring to his current girlfriend.

Dave opened it and laughed aloud.  Inside were a pair of black jeans, and a 3D black and grey shirt that looked as though it had lightning bolts shooting out of it.  A second box from Lissie and Cam held a pair of glossy black biker boots that Dave had been looking at but had never had the nerve to buy for himself. 

Samantha's and Jackson's gift was a gift certificate to the local Piercing Pagoda.  "You've been saying you wanted your ears pierced, so we thought we'd give you a little nudge,"  Samantha said with a grin.

Maia and Marcus had apparently chipped in for a pair of black leather, fingerless gloves.

"Go on, get dressed and I'll do your make up!  Kelly's expecting us for lunch!"  Hunter smiled.

"Wait, I want to see your folks open their presents!"

"Dads gonna give mom a bathrobe, and the kids are gonna give her slippers, bubble bath and perfume."

"Hey!"  Marcus protested.

"Its what she gets every year.  Dad's gonna get a..."

"You're gonna get something you're not expecting if you keep that up."  Cam said in a matter of fact tone.

Hunter rolled his eyes, sank back onto the chair he was in with his arms crossed, huffed a sigh and offered a halfhearted apology.

"Keep it up and you won't be going anywhere but to your room, kiddo."  Cam warned.

"You can't do that, dad!  It's Christmas!  No one ever gets punished on Christmas."

"You'll be the first.  Now hush up." Lissie said sternly.

"I'm sorry, mom, dad.  I didn't mean to be a buzz kill, I just want to see Kel."  Hunter apologized.

"Apology accepted, and you can wait til after breakfast."  Cam held up one finger when Hunter opened his mouth to protest then closed it with an audible click.

"Better.  Now, where's my yearly Christmas tie?"  Cam demanded with a smile.

Cam and Lissie opened their gifts from each other.  Lissie opened the box, looked in, turned red and closed it. Cam grinned while the kids demanded to know what it was.  

"Never mind!"  Lissie replied sharply, while still blushing and smiling.

"Hey!  Look Dad, there's a big box in the corner."  Manny exclaimed.  He ran to it and read the tag.  "It's for you and mama!  It says from Santa's Helper!"  He looked a little disappointed.  "Why wouldn't Santa give you a present himself, you're good, aren't you?"

Lissie and Cam exchanged a smile and reassured their son that they were pretty good, all things considered. Manny smiled and pushed the somewhat heavy box over to them.

Cam looked at the tag and recognized the handwriting, having seen it on order sheets many times at the restaurant.  Dave smiled self-consciously but remained silent.

The two adults helped each other open the box and take out each individually bubble wrapped item, which was wrapped in gleaming foil wrapping paper underneath.  They gasped as they uncovered each photograph, which was labeled in beautiful calligraphy.

In his efforts to clean the basement, Dave had found boxes of photographs, some that dated back to the 1930s. One picture of a young girl on a beach next to a row boat looked the spitting image of Sammie, except that on the back it had been labeled "Agatha, 9 years old, 1939."

He had had the best photographs enlarged and enhanced, then he'd gone to antique and discount stores until he found the perfect frames.

The first one was an enlarged picture of Cam and Lissie on their wedding day.  

After that came two narrow, rectangular frames, each containing three 5 x 7 pictures.  The first one contained pictures of Cam as a dark haired, smiling baby of about 1 year old, another apparently taken in high school and the last one perhaps taken in college.  

The frame containing Lissie's pictures featured a pixie with her short dark hair drawn up into two little pigtails, a teenaged Lissie with her dark hair tumbling down her shoulders like a glossy brown waterfall and a smile that hinted at some juicy secret, and another picture taken in front of a car loaded with boxes.  The caption behind that one had said 'Lissie off to college.'

Two wedding pictures were unwrapped, one of Cam's parents and one of Lissie's, each in a bleached beach wood frame.  

Yet two more wedding photos this time of each set of grandparents. Dave had found two old wooden frames, sanded them smooth and spray painted them antique gold.  The effect was beautiful.


"Where did you find these?"  Breathed Lissie.

"They were buried in your basement."  Dave laughed, “The pictures I mean.  I asked a friend of mine to enlarge them and... well... they were too pretty to leave in the basement."  He said, not mentioning the spider carcasses and dried out egg sacs he'd had to endure in order to get to the pictures themselves.

"Dave these are perfect!"  Cam said happily, holding out a hand to Dave to shake.  He was pleased that the boy only flinched slightly at the extended hand before smiling and extending his own hand.

"Handshakes!"  Lissie said as if scandalized, “Vieni mio piccolo orsacchiotto, dare la mamma un abbraccio.!"  She drew him in for a big hug. 
(Come my little teddy bear, give mama a hug.)


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