Chapter One: December First
Walking in a Winter Wonderland
Jim Kirk reached over and slammed the button down on the alarm. With a heavy groan he turned onto his back and stared at the dark ceiling.
“I’ll never get used to that.”
He turned his head to look at the alarm clock.
4:30 laughed back at him with big red digital letters.
Delaying it would do no good and his bladder urged him out of bed anyway. He swung his legs down to the furry throw rug beside his bed. Thank God for that anyway.
He made his way to the window in his bedroom, praying that the song he’d been forced to wake to hadn’t been literal. It was surely too early for snow.
Jim closed his eyes and heaved a sigh of relief. At least there was some luck on his side. This was bound to be a good day. He planned on asking the foreman down at the shuttle yard for a raise. And with the expected Christmas bonus, well, things should be looking good.
He’d showered last night before bed, so after he did his business in the bathroom, he brushed his teeth and dressed in jeans and a long sleeved T-shirt. He then went to the bedroom next door to wake his angel.
Jim spotted his four year old smack in the middle of her bed, legs bent and pulled up so high her feet were almost to her butt. She’d kicked off her covers and lay shivering in the middle with only her pink flannel nightgown for protection.
He sat on the edge of her bed and put his hand on her back to wake her.
“Lily. Angel. Time to get up.”
Lily moaned a little, but then her blue eyes, so much like his, sprung open to peer wide-eyed at him. “Morning, Daddy.”
“Morning, Angel. ‘Fraid it’s time to get up and go.”
He had to be at work at five-thirty and he had to drop Lily off at Maggie’s house. She was the lady who watched Lily for him while he worked. She’d been a lifelong friend of Jim’s mama before she’d passed away from cancer.
While Lily went into her bathroom to pee, Jim went to her dresser to pick out clothes for her.
“Pink or purple?” he called.
“Yellow,” he automatically corrected. But he frowned. “Thought you were on a pink or purple kick.”
She came out. “Nope.”
He sighed and dressed her in the yellow pants with matching yellow sweater. Then he put on her patent leather Mary Jane shoes.
“Picture perfect,” he announced.
They walked down the stairs of the too cold farmhouse together and into the kitchen. He poured himself coffee into a thermos, then got their coats.
“Maggie’ll have breakfast for you.”
“I know, Daddy.”
“Of course you do.”
“What day is it?”
“Uh. December first.”
Lily nodded, her gold ringlets bouncing against her face. “You said on Demember first we could get a tree.”
“December. I did, didn’t I?”
“How will Santa find us without a tree?”
Jim smiled. “How indeed. Okay. After work, we’ll go and get one.”
He bundled them up and then hustled them out to his hover car to make the trip to Maggie’s.
She was waiting for them, naturally. She knew the drill. She scooped up Lily and brought her inside. Maggie thrust a paper bag at him.
“A bagel with cream cheese. You’ll forget to eat,” Maggie admonished. “I promised Winona I’d watch out for you two.”
Jim smiled. “Thanks. You’re the best. See you around four this afternoon.”
And he was off.
It was about midday when Charlie asked to see him. Charlie was the foreman and Jim reckoned he was going to tell Jim what the Christmas bonus would be this year. And that’s when Jim intended to ask him for a raise. He’d been working at the Starfleet Shuttlecraft Plant for a good three years now and hadn’t gotten any raises when others had.
Charlie had a small office in the back and when Jim came up, he indicated a folding chair there in front of Charlie’s desk.
“Sit down, Jim.” He fiddled around with things on his desk. Then looked anywhere in the office except at Jim. “Jim, there’s no easy way to say this.”
“Gotta let you go. You’ve been here the shortest time and I gotta do layoffs.” Charlie sighed and leaned back. “Starfleet is pulling our contract after the winter season. Come the spring, they’re shifting all operations to Philadelphia.”
“Yeah. Eventually we’re all gonna have to go, Jim, and that’s the truth of it. Starfleet was our main contractor, building shuttlecrafts and ship parts for the starships. Without them, well, we ain’t got a business.”
Jim felt a little sick. “Wh-when?”
“Letting you go today.”
“Today? Before Christmas?”
Charlie still wouldn’t look at him. “I know you got Lily. I’m gonna give you severance that’ll pay you through the end of January. And you’ll get a five hundred dollar Christmas bonus. That’s all I can do.”
Five hundred dollars wouldn’t even pay the mortgage on the Kirk farmhouse. When Winona got cancer, they’d had to mortgage the place to cover treatments. If he was only getting paid through January, well, hell, none of the money was going to last long to take care of Lily.
But it was what it was, and Jim got up to accept it.
“I’m real sorry, Jim.”
“I know you are, Charlie. I know you’re doing what you can for me given what’s happening. I do appreciate it.”
Charlie stood up and shook Jim’s hand. “If I hear about anything…”
“Thanks, I appreciate that.”
Jim messaged Maggie from his communicator when he left work, so he didn’t have to tell her about it in front of Lily. The sympathetic look she gave him when he got there to fetch Lily nearly made him break down, but he got himself together and even smiled.
“Thanks for watching my girl.”
“I’ll always watch her, you know that.” Maggie hugged him. “Jim, I’ll help in any way I can.”
“And if I hear about anything…”
Lily came out then, carrying a purple stuffed bear. “Look Daddy! Maggie gave me a bear.”
“Did you say thank you?”
“Sure I did.”
Jim leaned down and picked up Lily in his arms. “Well, Daddy thanks her too. That’s a very pretty bear. You name her?”
“It’s a boy, Daddy.”
“Oh. Okay. What’s his name then?”
Jim chuckled. “Okay. Come on Lily and Sydney. Time to go home.”
But if Jim thought Lily was going to forget the tree, he was very much mistaken.
“Christmas tree!” she exclaimed.
Jim grimaced and tried not to show her. Last year the damn tree had cost close to a hundred dollars. He couldn’t spend that much on a tree.
“Uh.” He moistened his lips. “You know, Angel. I think we have a fake tree down in the basement from a few years back. What do you say we go home and have pancakes and I’ll get that tree and the ornaments, and we put that up tonight? We can put on Christmas carols and all that.” He smiled brightly. “Won’t that be fun?”
Her blue eyes were wide in her little pale face as she stared up at him with all the love and trust in the world. “Okay, Daddy.”
“Uh-huh. Long as Santa can find us.”
“Well, sure. Sure Santa will find us. Yeah.”
Lily clapped her little hands and Jim forced himself to remain cheerful for her sake. Somehow he would make it right for her. He would.