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Prelude

As Emily sank deeper into the simmering warmth of her tub, the candle on the vanity flickered with almost ghostly reflections in the mirror adding a virtually eerie ambiance to the bathroom. The scents of lavender bath oil beads that had melted in the water earlier coupled with the mulberries of the wafting aromas of the candle. Emily kept her eyes loosely shut as her naked body relaxed in the tub and her mind meandered back several eventful years ago. So much had changed in her life in that time and she found herself reflecting on those memories that will haunt or inspire her for the remainder of her days on this Earth.

Year One

Emily was a thirty year old woman fresh out of a failed marriage. Her husband was a philandering cheat, a reckless spendthrift, and had roaming eyes that no longer seemed to land on her as a source for sexual gratification. After a few years of distanced living bereft of love or compassion, the only real reward of her wedding vows was her one year old daughter. Samantha was the light of her life and desires for her to have a privileged life were the motivations Emily had for finally launching divorce proceedings. She never heard from her deadbeat ex husband again.

Emily had married her husband right out of school. She attended university for her first year, but dropped out when her husband promised to take care of her for the rest of her life. Emily confessed that he did just that for the first few years of their marriage. The seemingly insurmountable challenge emerged now that she was alone to face the obstacles of life without an education, a vocation, or a means to support Samantha.

Emily had become somewhat close friends with her landlady Tara. Tara owned the complex and the two women virtually of the same age had become solid friends. One Saturday night, Tara came by the apartment to find Emily leafing through the want-ads and typing up multiple letters of application to relatively modest entry level positions of employment. After a short discussion over a steaming mug of coffee, Tara offered Emily an opportunity that changed the face of her life for the next few years.

Tara always seemed to have an abundance of disposable income, but Emily had never contemplated for a moment that Tara may have outside sources of income. Tara saw a need to confess and in the next few minutes explained that she had been an “escort” for some years. While Tara started off as a companion for hire, she now exclusively orchestrated dates with men seeking out time and companionship. Tara explained that she earned a substantial income which allowed her to procure this complex several years before they had met.

It didn’t take long for Emily to be convinced. Looking over at the rapidly emptying fridge and knowing her purse wasn’t in much better shape, Emily knew the time for a revolutionary change was fast approaching. Christmas was coming soon and she didn’t want to face Samantha on Christmas morning without a gift for her little girl.

Emily and Tara set up a safety net for her to use for every appointment she made. Tara would call her shortly after the onset of her appointment and Emily would pretend a family member was calling. It was an innocent fib to protect Emily’s safety. The code word was Aurora — Emily’s little sister’s name.

Tara started to set up appointments for Emily. When Tara told Emily one of the first clients to contact her was a woman, Emily almost refused to meet her. No woman had ever been a candidate for her sexual yearnings. Could she face a woman on a sexual playing field? Tara confided that she had some past lesbian encounters and had enjoyed them each and every time. The few female clients in this business were actually prized.

Emily briefly struggled with the arrangement, but finally decided that her emotions in this business would have to remain impersonal in the long run. She wouldn’t grow attached to her clients and they would be gone from her life after a few hours of sacrifice on her part. Emily’s curiosity, too, was growing about this mysterious client. In the end, she agreed to the meeting.

The time soon came for Emily’s first appointment. She worried all day long as she exercised, showered, and primed herself for her upcoming liaison. Emily borrowed a beautiful dress from Tara. Tara did Emily’s makeup and her hairstyle that flattered her sculpted features. Tara agreed to take care of Samantha for the remainder of the evening.

Whenever Emily was stressed out, worried, or otherwise on edge, she found herself pacing methodically if not frantically. It seemed as if she was going to wear a hole through the beaten path of her fading carpet when she heard the knock on the door that broke her haphazard concentration. It’s now or never, Emily.

For a skip and a beat of her palpitating heart, she thought about calling off the whole ordeal. Emily took one more scan of the spartanly decorated room, took a deep labored breath, and opened the door.

Standing on the doorstep was a fetching bahis firmaları woman very close to her own age. The woman stood a few inches taller than Emily. Her body was athletically built no doubt from countless hours in a gym. Her long tresses of blondish white hair draped down her back. The woman was dressed conservatively and was bundled in a supple leather jacket. She was carrying a poinsettia in her arms.

Woman — “You must be Linda. I’m Jocelyn.”

Linda was the name that Emily had chosen to conceal her identity. She needed to come up with an alias that didn’t sound particularly faked, but also didn’t closely resemble her own real name. Emily wasn’t fond of welcoming strangers into her home, but at the moment this really was her only option.

Jocelyn — “Can I come in, Linda? You seem a little nervous. We can rebook if another time would be more suitable.”

Emily — “No Jocelyn. Come in. Come in.”

Jocelyn — “Thanks Linda. I brought this plant for you. It’s so close to Christmas and one of the youth groups was selling them at the corner.”

Emily — “Thanks Jocelyn. That was very kind of you. Can I take your jacket?”

Jocelyn turned around and Emily hovered in behind her. Emily reached for her waist length leather jacket as Jocelyn shrugged the garment from her arms. Emily caught a whiff of her client’s perfume. Emily didn’t recognize the scent or the brand, but admired it nonetheless. She hung up Jocelyn’s jacket and started to walk into the living room towards the inner rooms of the apartment.

Jocelyn took an eager look around and through the open doors of the hall nearby. After a moment of sizing the place up, she looked back at Emily with a thoughtful smile.

Emily — “Shall we go to the bedroom?”

Jocelyn crooked her head and peered past Emily. She looked into the living room.

Jocelyn — “That sofa looks pretty comfortable. How about we sit in there?”

Emily sat down on the somewhat ragged sofa that she inherited from the last tenants that left the forlorn furnishings behind in their haste to avoid eviction. Jocelyn sat a few feet away from her on the edge of the cushions.

Jocelyn — “This is your first time, isn’t it?”

Emily — “How did you know?”

Jocelyn — “You seem very nervous. I won’t bite. I promise.”

Emily — “That’s good to know. I must confess I’m very nervous.”

With that, the phone rang and Emily picked it up. Hearing Tara on the other end, the masquerade continued for a minute of small talk allegedly with her little sister. Emily glanced at Jocelyn scanning her for signs of trouble. Detecting nothing out of the ordinary, she said goodbye to her little sister “Aurora”.

Jocelyn — “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I was right here after all. Will you see your sister over the holidays?”

Emily — “I’m afraid not. She lives a few hours drive away and I don’t own a car.”

Jocelyn — “That’s a shame. Perhaps she could come this way to visit you?”

Emily — “I don’t think so. She’s in a similar position as I am.”

Jocelyn — “She’ll be here in spirit, I guess, and you can talk to Aurora any time you’d like on the phone. Maybe next year will be better. It’s always important to look forward to things with a certain hope.”

Emily — “Thanks Jocelyn. I hope so. I guess we better make your time here worthwhile, shouldn’t we? Shall we go to the bedroom?”

Jocelyn — “Oh I think we’re fine here. Hey, I know. There’s a Christmas special I always loved as a kid on the television tonight. Do you remember ‘The Year Without Santa Claus’?”

Emily — “No I don’t think so. You want me to turn on the television and you can show me?”

Jocelyn — “Would that be ok with you? I’d really hate to miss it. I try to catch it every year.”

Emily was a bit taken aback, but she reached for the remote control. Tuning in to the channel specified by her beaming client, she was amused as the story came to life. Emily admitted the story did seem oddly familiar and she may have seen the special at some time in the distant past. Jocelyn seemed fascinated by the show and rarely looked away from the glowing screen. Emily was starting to feel very comfortable with Jocelyn. During the first commercial break, Emily made hot cocoa for the two of them.

Do you remember this special with the quirky little marionette elves, the Heat Miser and the Cold Miser, and the vanishing Santa Claus? No? Do you remember the almost surreal song and dance of the puppets as they careened across the screen? I do suggest you catch it. It’s simply Too Much.

When the special came to an end, another special from yesteryear was aired. And then another. Soon enough, three hours of reminiscence had passed. Jocelyn uneasily turned to Emily.

Jocelyn — “Thanks Linda. I really enjoyed that. I didn’t want to miss that first program. You were a good sport putting up with my childishness. I think I had better get going. I guess our time has long ago been up.”

Emily — “Yes, kaçak iddaa I guess it is. I didn’t expect to be spending the evening doing that.”

Jocelyn — “No I guess you wouldn’t.”

Jocelyn paused a moment as if lost in contemplation.

Jocelyn — “Do you think I could come back this time next year?”

Emily — “Are you in the habit of making plans a year ahead?”

Jocelyn — “For the right plans, yes I do. If you aren’t still doing this next year, I’ll understand of course. Maybe I could call your friend Tara next year and see if it’s still feasible?”

Emily — “That sounds nice. I do wish you’d come back sooner rather than later.”

Jocelyn — “If I get too much of a good thing, I’d want it all the time. Besides, it gives me something to look forward to.”

Emily — “Then it’s a date, Jocelyn.”

Jocelyn got up and took another lingering glance through the apartment. As she slipped into her jacket, Emily leaned in and held Jocelyn in a soft, welcoming embrace. She planted a wet kiss on her cheek.

Jocelyn blushed and peeled back from her.

Jocelyn — “Thank you, Linda. Merry Christmas to you.”

Emily — “Merry Christmas to you too, Jocelyn.”

Jocelyn placed an envelope on the small table perched in the front hall and turned to flee. Emily watched her walk down the hall and Emily returned to her apartment. She opened the envelope remembering Tara’s advice to count the contents of her tribute before she left. Emily leafed through the envelope to find that not only had Jocelyn covered Emily’s rates, she had left a fairly sizeable surplus.

Emily had never looked upon another woman and caught even a hint of attraction. Why did she suddenly feel that unexplainable attraction to Jocelyn? She found her mind passing over a vivid image of the shapely woman that had just left her company. Perhaps she always felt this way about women but had never paid it much time or thought.

A few days passed and Emily was visited by men with very different agendas. In truth, she had a good time with each of them. Her Christmas plans were coming to fruition and many of her bills were getting paid. Emily was actually seeing a glimpse of happiness and hope for the first time in a very long time. With that, a knock was heard on her door.

When she opened the door, nobody was there. Just as she was going to close the door, she looked down at the floor of the hall. A hamper containing food, blankets, and clothing sat at her feet. A small box of Christmas ornaments sat inside. A bottle of wine, a carton of egg nog, and a box of colorfully decorated baked sweets were there too.

Best of the treasures was a fully assembled artificial Christmas tree. It was tiny, like the one on the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, but it was pretty special anyways. A small tear of happiness formed in the corner of Emily’s eye when she noticed a couple wrapped gifts under the tree.

Bringing the bounty inside, she sat at the couch. Could it be Jocelyn? Was it Tara? Her family? Who could it be? Did it matter? Regardless of who it was, they wanted to remain anonymous. They had left their gifts at her doorstep and fled before she could thank them.

For the first time in many years, Emily found herself humming along to the Christmas carols she remembered from many years ago. She reclined on the sofa as she fell off to slumber with dreams of sugarplums dancing in her head.

Year Two

Emily caught up on all the impending responsibilities she would have neglected if not for this change of pace. The bill collectors stopped calling. She provided for her daughter all the material things she could possibly need or want. Emily found that she desired that her daughter have what she didn’t when she was growing up.

Emily contemplated how some might think she ended up in this line of work. Was it her upbringing that brought her to this stage in her life? Emily admitted she had fond memories of her childhood, but her parents always struggled with tight purse strings and very rarely made ends meet. Her young life was full of fond memories regardless so she couldn’t blame her parents for how things turned out.

In all honesty, there was no culpable blame to be shared for this peculiar turn of events. Emily needed to earn a substantial income in a relatively short period of time. Given how life had turned out in the last ten years, she didn’t have many options to exercise to achieve those short term goals.

While she persisted in setting up appointments with clients through Tara, she saw fewer clients and spent more time with her daughter. Emily earned enough to pay the bills, buy some luxurious gifts for her daughter, and stash a little money aside for those inevitable rainy days. It meant she only had to visit with a few clients every week.

Emily often let her mind wander to that first night with Jocelyn. She wondered if she would hear from her before Christmas time. As the months crept along, it became evident that she would have to wait kaçak bahis for Jocelyn’s call in December. Emily made it abundantly clear to Tara that she wanted to speak with Jocelyn personally.

Emily bided her time with a developing friendship with Tara and others. She spent most of her waking hours with her daughter. As the winter descended upon the neighborhood and the first snow blew across the region, Emily was anxious about Jocelyn’s meeting. She knew she shouldn’t get her hopes up as Jocelyn may very well not call. Emily knew nothing about her and couldn’t predict that she was a woman of her word.

One night in late November, Emily was cuddled up on her couch with a warm quilt. She was sipping on hot cocoa as she watched the local televised Santa Claus parade. Emily was drawn out of her almost vegetative trance inspired by the television when a knock was heard at the door. Emily thought about ignoring the door as she didn’t want to leave the comforts of her warm quilt. When the knocking became frantic and increasingly louder, she also heard the muffled voice of Tara on the other side of the door.

Emily wrapped the warm quilt around her slender body as she shuffled over to the door. Opening it, she found Tara. Tara rarely smiled, but her face was awash with glee. Tara held her hand out to Emily and passed her the handset of the cordless phone.

Emily — “Hello this is Linda. Merry Christmas.”

Jocelyn — “I’m glad to hear you say those words, Linda. I’ve been hoping I would hear some real merry-ness this time around.”

Emily — “Jocelyn?”

Jocelyn — “Yup. It’s me. Can I come by tomorrow night?”

Emily — “Any night that is good for you, Jocelyn. Any night.”

Jocelyn — “Can I come by around six?”

Emily — “Any time that is good for you, Jocelyn. Any time.”

Jocelyn — “Hospitality is very becoming of you, Linda. I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

Emily — “I can’t wait.”

As she hung up and the two girls sat down at the kitchen table, Emily poured another mug of cocoa for Tara.

Tara — “You really like her, don’t you?”

Emily — “Yes, I really do. I wish I could see her more often.”

Tara — “I really liked the first guy I met in this business too, Emily. We still go out for drinks from time to time.”

Emily — “It’s silly for me to think of her like this isn’t it?”

Tara — “It can be dangerous to feel that way too, sweetie.”

Emily — “I can’t help it. I think she was really kind to me and Samantha.”

Tara — “You only think she was?”

Emily — “I think it was her that left those gifts last year and the little Christmas tree too. Unless it was you or my family I can’t think of who else it might have been.”

Tara — “It has her name written all over it Emily. I can’t take the credit.”

Emily — “She even wrapped up a gift for Samantha and I. Samantha still sleeps with the stuffed doggie she got to unwrap on Christmas morning. She cuddles him every night. And the outfit she bought me I haven’t worn yet. I thought I might wear it tomorrow when she comes.”

Tara — “I think she might like that, Emily. Just be careful, sweetie. You really don’t know her much at all.”

Emily — “I know I shouldn’t let her get too close, Tara. I think I’ll tell her my real name though. Is that foolish?”

Tara — “You really trust her, don’t you?”

Emily — “Yeah I guess I do.”

Tara — “Go with your heart in the heat of the moment I guess. Most of the guys I’ve been setting you up with seem harmless if not a little lonely. Jocelyn doesn’t give me that impression, though. The lonely part that is.”

Emily — “Me either. I’m wondering what she’s going to want to do tomorrow. I’ve been thinking about it all year long.”

Tara — “Let her have her fun. At least, she’ll likely keep her hands off of you.”

Emily — “To be honest, I sort of feel a little rejected by her not touching me. It feels weird.”

Tara — “I have a sprig of mistletoe we could put up above the door. Maybe you can at least get a kiss out of it all?”

Emily — “Can I borrow it for the night? If it feels right, I’ll ask her for that kiss.”

The day passed and Emily passed the time decorating her modest apartment with affectations befitting the Christmas season. She dug out a box of ornaments her mother had given her years ago. Sadly, Emily had to pawn a few of the ornate baubles over the course of the last few years. They still sat on consignment at a somewhat unscrupulous local pawn broker. Emily had never gotten the money together to buy them back from him.

She baked some goodies making sure the aromas of her sweet goods wafted through the air of the kitchen. It gave the kitchen a homely appeal. Emily dressed herself in the gift of last Christmas suitably in greens and reds and she watched as the fabric hugged her curves like a second skin. It was tailored perfectly and fit splendidly. Jocelyn had a good eye.

Emily thought for a blink of a moment that Jocelyn may not have been her mysterious benefactor. Besides, she had fled the scene to preserve her anonymity. Emily thought that while she wanted to honor the gifts by enjoying them, she would not mention them outright.

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