Chapter 33: The Three Gifts of Christmas

One week before Christmas, John Tyler received a very surprising telephone call. “I’ll be right there,” he said, and then hopped onto his motorcycle and raced toward the lights of the city.  Xmas and Egypt (22) 

And there she was. He hadn’t seen Wendy in nearly ten years – not since she had abandoned him with their newborn baby.  For years, he had hated her for leaving the way she did. But now, as he looked at her standing there, disheveled and skinny, she just seemed – well, so vulnerable, that all the bitter feeling left him.Xmas and Egypt (2)

“What is she like?” Wendy asked. “Our daughter? Is she a good kid?”

John Tyler tried to describe Arielle. She was a sweet, happy kid – sometimes sassy, with a great love for animals. “My family is having a Christmas party tomorrow night,” he told her. “Why don’t you come? I’m sure that Arielle would love to meet you.”

Xmas and Egypt (1) Xmas and Egypt (16) Xmas and Egypt (14) Xmas and Egypt (13)       On Christmas Eve, the Milito-Paz home was filled with guests in fancy attire, enjoying music and conversation. John Tyler paced around the house, checking his watch every few minutes. At last, Wendy arrived, along with a middle-age woman who had clearly once been a rocker.

“This is my aunt, visiting from Canada.” Wendy introduced the woman.

Across the room, Ari looked up. He saw John Tyler introducing Wendy to Arielle, and smiled. Xmas and Egypt (29)But then, he spotted the rocker-woman, who was now sipping on a glass of egg nog. No, he thought. It couldn’t be…could it? But then the woman turned his way. Xmas and Egypt (19)

“Ari?” the woman nearly dropped her glass of egg nog.

“Ophelia!” Ari rushed forward to greet his old friend. “What are you doing in Gold Valley? Wow!” Xmas and Egypt (21)

Ari and Ophelia spent the next few hours catching up, just as Wendy was catching up with John Tyler and Arielle. But at last, the guests began to trickle out the door, and the hour approached midnight. Xmas and Egypt (28)

“Time to open gifts!” Rosa cried, clapping her hands. Xmas and Egypt (18) And so the gift exchange began in a flurry of torn shiny paper and laughter and groans. Xmas and Egypt (17) At the end, Ari presented his family with – well, perhaps the third best gift of the evening – airline tickets.

“Hooray!” everyone cheered. And one week later, they left behind the chill of winter and found themselves back on the golden sands of Egypt. Xmas and Egypt (8)

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