That First Christmas
13 Years earlier
"Take the dishes to the kitchen, brat!" he yelled as he yanked her good arm and hauled her over to the table. "And don't drop any or I'll whip you good!"
She backed away from his angry voice and kept her eyes down as she stacked several on top of each other. Walking slowly, she balanced the heavy weight on her other arm thinking her cast would support them. Barely seven years old, she didn't realize that the broken arm in the cast wasn't strong at all. She swayed slightly, barely righted herself and was relieved she hadn't dropped anything.
When she returned to gather more dishes, he glared at her again, making her wish she were somewhere else. He always made her nervous, lashing out at her for no reason except that he hated her. She backed away from the table, several dishes in her hand when he suddenly got up from the table, overturning his chair. Spencer was startled and stumbled, lost her balance, and fell heavily onto the Christmas tree by the door.
The broken dishes were the least of it. When she hit the tree, several ornaments fell to the floor and shattered. That wasn't the worst of it, either. The ceramic Christmas angel at the top of the tree fell off and broke into pieces. It was the man's favorite Christmas ornament and his rage was unbearable.
He picked her up off the floor holding her by the cast and she screamed in pain. "Shut up, you little bastard," he snarled, cuffing her face with the back of his hand - again - and again - and again.
"Put her down," a frail female voice commanded.
"She broke the angel, momma," he snapped at the woman in the wheelchair. "The bastard brat broke the angel. She'll pay for this."
"I said put her down!"
"I'll put her down all right," he yelled and hurled the child onto the floor where she landed on her side. He knew a bone or two broke because he heard them snap. It eased his rage and he stopped beating her. He didn't want to touch her. She was evil. He kicked her over and over until her unconscious body had been kicked to the front door. Opening the door, he kicked her down the stairs, went back into the house and righted the tree.
The neighbor saw him kick her down the stairs and called the fire station. They were closer than the police and someone would come right away and take the child to the hospital. She knew the man would go to jail until his mother came up with the bond money. It would take a day or two, no more. She didn't know if she'd see the child again.
It was dark when Spencer woke. At first, she thought she was in jail - there were bars on both sides of the bed and then, she remembered. "Hospital bed," she murmured. "I'm in the hospital again."
She hurt all over and tried to sit up to see what there was to see but she couldn't manage it. Her arm had a new cast, there was one on her leg, the wrist on her other hand was wrapped in a lot of bandages and it hurt to move her fingers. Her shoulder felt heavy like something was holding it too tight. But she could see and knew she didn't have a black eye.
A nurse rushed over when she saw Spencer was awake and smiled. "You're awake, child. Welcome back. You've been asleep a long time."
"About five days," the nurse replied, lifting her head and giving her a few sips of water.
"I missed Christmas?"
The nurse nodded. "But Santa came to the hospital and left you something," she said encouragingly.
"Santa?" Spencer was not stupid. At a little over seven years of age, she already knew there was no Santa Claus, no Easter bunny, and no fairy godmother to save her. That was for children who didn't get slapped every day, who hadn't been in hospitals more times than she could remember and who didn't hunt or beg for something to eat almost every day of their lives. She had been constantly told that she had been born evil; there was no Santa Claus for evil children.
"He brought you a beautiful pink teddy bear and a red ball," the nurse told the small battered child in the bed.
Spencer nodded. If she actually got to keep the toys, she could trade them for socks or something to eat.
"Sister Mary David is here to see you," the nurse said as the nun bustled in, her habit swishing as she walked, her wimple bobbing slightly.
"I'm happy to see you awake, child. Shall we pray and thank our Savior for your recovery?"
"Of course we will, child. Our Lord saved you. Let us thank Him."
"He didn't save me."
"Where was He when it happened?" the unbelieving Spencer asked.
"He's here for you now, child. Let us thank Him."
Spencer remained quiet while the nun prayed for her. She was in no position to run and she desperately wanted to tell the good sister what she really thought of this praying business. She knew a whole bunch of words that would probably shock the nun but she wasn't sure what they all meant and she didn't want to get yelled at unless she knew exactly why.
"Do you have an angel at the top of your Christmas tree, Sister?" she asked when the nun finally finished praying.
"Of course, Spencer. The angel is many things. For some, it is the angel announcing the birth of our Lord. At the convent, the angel is the Virgin Mary. She watches over all the good children."
"Is it terribly wrong to break the angel... the Virgin Mary?"
"Of course, child. Only an evil person would hurt the Virgin Mary. They'd be damned and go to hell."
"I thought I was damned and would go to hell. I thought all the bad things that happened afterward were because I hurt the angel. I thought all the bad things that happened before were because God knew I was going to hurt the angel. I didn't know if my life was the way it was because God was angry with me or because I was born evil."
JC swallowed hard. He had kept calm while she told him the story - rubbing her shoulders and hugging her, encouraging her to keep talking. It was very easy to picture the small child she had been, bruised and battered, with broken bones, kicked repeatedly. He was outraged at what had happened to her and he was saddened that the nun's words had misled her to think she was evil.
"You were a baby, sweetheart," he said softly. "It was an accident. There is nothing evil about you."
"I know that now, JC. But I didn't know it then and I was always being told how evil I was."
"Were you raised a Catholic?"
"No, the people I was fostered with didn't go to church. I don't know what they were - if anything."
"So you never wanted an angel for your tree," he said quietly.
"I always thought... if I had a real tree, I'd leave the top bare but then we saw the wooden star and I thought that would be better than having an angel... Then I was brought back to that awful time and..." She looked up at him, and bit her lip. "For a minute... I was a kid again. I thought I might break the star and I didn't want to... to..."
"Shhh, bambina. It's all right now," he murmured, kissing her brow, his lips rubbing against her eyelids and her temples with great tenderness. "It was a bad time for you, but it's in the past and it's over. There's nothing to worry about. If any of our ornaments break," he cupped her chin, "including the star... we'll simply buy another one."
He lifted her in his arms so he was cradling her. "Now, tell me about the quilt," he said quietly.
"It's enough for one night, JC."
"Tell me now or tell me in the morning," he said softly. "Which will it be?"
The next song on the tape began - Amazing Grace - and Spencer loved the song. She put a finger on his lips while they listened. It reduced her to silent tears and she lay her head on his chest and let the tears fall. JC held her close, rocking her gently, trying to ease the pain of her memories away, and more determined than ever that she have a sweet and joyous holiday. He held her in his arms all night, never letting go of her even after she slept. His thoughts were in turmoil, remembering her words, the picture of her as a child - battered and bruised - etched in his mind.
Spencer stirred in his arms and stretched. When she opened her eyes, she smiled at the warm chocolate ones looking at her.
"Sleep good, baby?"
"Mmmm, I did. It's awfully light out. What time is it?
"JC, you have to get up. You'll be late," she warned.
"Not going in today," he murmured and leaned down to kiss her.
"Why not? Do you feel okay? Are you...?"
"Called in and told everyone not to disturb me unless it was an emergency. Staying home with you, today."
"Playing hooky, sailor man?" Spencer laughed softly. "That might call for a disciplinary session," she whispered.
"I could handle that," he smiled at the imp. "You planning on holding it here in bed?"
"Sounds like a plan," she agreed, pushing her tongue between his lips.
She wanted to love him and he willingly let her do what she wanted, enjoying every loving touch, every caress and every kiss. She straddled his chest, her knees near his waist and massaged his neck and shoulders. Her mouth sought the tiny crease where his arm met the side of his upper chest and she licked the spot, making him shiver. This only encouraged her and she wiggled her nose under his arm and nipped the sensitive flesh there, making him growl at her. Spencer laughed and ordered him to put his hands behind his head.
"Say please," he said quietly, not moving.
"Do you say please when you give orders, sailor man?"
"Not in a thousand years, imp," he chuckled.
"Then why should I?"
"Because I said so," he grinned, sitting up and unseating her, their positions now reversed and his mouth at her breast.
"You keep doing that," she gasped as he suckled a rosy nipple, "and I'll start playing dirty."
"Dirty?" his grin grew wider. "What do you think playing dirty is like?"
"Breaking the rules," she answered quickly.
"What rules?" He slid down her body and licked the hollow of her hips before nipping her mons. "No rules in lovemaking, bambina."
"None? Are you sure?" she hung onto his neck as his mouth moved over her, the delicious feelings rapidly building inside her.
"Just the unspoken one," he murmured, licking her, teasing her with his lips and tongue, his hands stroking her thighs.
"The unspoken one?" she murmured, arching her hips closer to his mouth.
"Uh-huh. The one about enjoying each other and giving each other pleasure."
She didn't answer him. He had turned her over his knee and delivered the sweet spanks that made her body soar. When she came back to earth, she was on her back and he was hovering over her with his hands cupping her rosy bottom, his body poised between her thighs.
"Come inside," she softly urged him, her hands going to his strong hips. "I need to feel the length of you inside me. Come fill me, JC. I want you."
Her words inflamed him and he swiftly plunged - hard and thick - silk over steel - he plunged inside her and filled her with his body. He pushed into her, retreated, then filled her again and again until the roar of his release finally faded.
"I love you, squidlet," she murmured softly as she caught her breath.
His hands caressed her back as his mouth roamed over her face. He was sated and content. "I love you, mia amore. Don't ever forget that," he whispered before capturing her mouth again.