Today, I'm offering a taste of Crys and Gabe's story from A Grantham Christmas. We all know that the holidays can be stressful, but these two newlyweds have more on their plate than most. And, as we learned in Human Hieroglyphix II (I'm still shaking my head at using such a long-ass title!), Crys and Gabe aren't the best at handling their stress.
The glint of sun on metal caught my eye through the huge window that fronted my store and watched as my new husband, Gabe, parked his truck.
Oh shit. Gabe!
I raced to the back and grabbed one of the boxes piled up and quickly slit through the tape. I pulled out the packing list as I heard the bells on the front door tinkle in the unmanned space of my shop.
God! He couldn't have come at a worse time! No customers, nothing for me to do except to open a box from a pile of boxes that were being returned without me even opening them. I couldn't afford the stock so why should I open them? Although each and every one was still going to cost me in return shipping and restocking charges.
Acting casual, I stepped to the interior door holding the packing list. "Oh, hey, baby."
"Hey, kitten," his beautifully deep voice almost echoed in the confines of my little space. "Got a minute?"
"Sure, but I can't chat long. Lots to do, you know," I offered, waving the sheet in my hand and keeping hold on my voice which for some reason wanted to shake.
In fact, my whole body wanted to vibrate at having my husband at my place of business. Outside of my opening day, I couldn't remember the last time he'd been in.
"The stickies. You know, the ones on the fridge?" he started and I watched as he pulled off his thick-knitted beanie and his gloves.
"Yeah. I left you one this morning. Should we decorate for Christmas or not?"
He sighed and turned his eyes to the tall display I had of earrings arranged not just by style but by color. When his gray eyes came back to mine they were guarded.
I don't like Gabe with guarded eyes. History had taught me that lesson a little too well when it came to the person I'd been in love with my whole damn life.
"We never talk anymore, kitten," he rumbled.
Were you shittin' me? He'd given me the big speech in October on how we were bleeding money and how we had to cut back in order to stay out of debt. And he was now complainin' that we never talked? "It wasn't my idea to save money by changing our cellphone contracts," I offered trying to keep the mad out of my voice. "Four hundred minutes isn't a lot when you're a small business owner, Gabe."
I watched him as he dragged a hand through his hair, making an already gorgeously messy mop even more scrumptious before he grabbed the back of his neck.
"Yeah, I get that. But it just seems, like…" he started and then stopped speaking.
"And you're never home to talk to," I went on as if he hadn't said anything. He wanted to talk, so he was going to get my two cents whether he wanted it or not!
"I couldn't work with all the noise of the kitchen re-do going on, Kess, you know that!"
"Yeah, I understood at the time," I admitted truthfully. "But the renovations were completed back at the end of October, baby. And yet you're still at Human Hiero every evening working on your designs."
"Don't you blame this on me, Crys!" he yelled, slapping a hand down on the counter.
"Read the sign, ass-wipe! You break it, you buy it and that includes the fuckin' display units too!" I'd tried keeping it civil but as soon as he shouted, my own temper had kicked in.
"Sorry," I heard him mumble, though his voice held no sincerity on the word. By my calculations, we hadn't actually spoken in over a week face-to-face and I hated that when we had a chance to talk we were fighting. But, then that's what had happened last time as well.
"I tried, Gabe," I said, reining in both my voice and my temper. "I would close up here and go to Human Hiero to be with you. Remember?"
His eyes met mine and just like it'd been since we were little kids, I felt a tummy-tumble at the deep connection we'd always had between us.
"Why did you stop?" came his harsh whisper as he continued to stare at me.
I shrugged and at his frown I tried to explain further. "Used to be, Gay, that no matter what you were doing, if I walked into a room you'd stop whatever you were doing to be with me. The last few times I showed up, you would barely even look my way."
I saw him do a deep blink and his eyes became unfocused.
"Once I wasn't bringing you dinner of pizza or Red Dragon it was like I was just somebody who came by to distract you," I said. "And you don't like to be distracted."
"Christ!" he shouted when I was done talking. "You have it so wrong!"
"Do I?" I countered. "I don't think so, baby."
I watched as he shoved both hands in his hair to fist and twist.
"Argg," he yelled, giving full voice to his frustration.
"Rather than sit around like some little groupie, I started coming home and working on the lessons Leila had for me with my reading," I wanted to circumvent Gabe's very active imagination.
He needed to know I wasn't out partying but had spent my time actively learning how to read. I had been severely dyslexic growing up but Leila's methods of teaching to those of us with that kind of learning disability was amazing. At her last test, I was reading at a sixth grade level. My goal was to get to the eighth grade tier. She said the Wall Street Journal was written at an eighth grade level.
Gabe's eyes roamed wildly around my shop which signaled to me that he was losing control of his temper.
I needed to shut our shit down before it got, well, worse. Where neither one of us were able to speak without shouting, where we threw cuss-names at each other instead of endearments.
Waiting a moment to see if the quiet would help calm him, I backed away from the counter. "If that's all, baby? I've got shit to do."
"We haven't had sex in three weeks, Crys!" I heard him blurt out from behind me as I went to the door that separated the back of my shop from the front.
That couldn't be right.
I looked back at him and caught the stricken look on his face. Which told me that he hadn't planned on saying those words and he wasn't sure how I would react to his announcement.
"So this was your idea of a booty-call?" I asked incredulously but between you me and the lamppost, my body had already skipped to the part where we'd re-set that particular schedule he'd obviously been keeping track of.
A workday quickie was just the thing my body required to get everything back in balance between us.
"Christ! Crys…" he moaned. Or whined, I couldn't make up my mind on which note in his voice to go with. One seemed anticipatory and the other offered a complaint.
"Should I just bend over the counter and drop trou right here?" I said, half-turning back to him with a grin. "Or would you prefer the privacy of the back room?"
I had to give it to him.
My husband could move pretty damn fast when he had enough reason to do so.