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Clara stood in front of the large oak dresser wiping her makeup off. It had been a busy day, but everyone seemed to have had a great time. Dinner was great, and even when they had all settled in the sitting room to watch the game everyone was still in high spirits.
She smiled as she went over what happened that day. However, there was one thing that made her frown.
“He was a widower, wasn’t he?” Clara asked Rafe, who was taking off his coat in the walk-in closet.
“Who?” he called out
“The Prime Minister. Didn’t his wife die before he was elected?” Clara tried to recall everything she had read about the man who had just died.
“Yes.” Rafe had undressed and was now only wearing a towel around his waist. “A car accident.”
“The poor man. They don’t have kids… to die alone like that.” She felt sorry for the popular Prime Minister.
“That’s why he’d been so involved with the children. He often visited orphanages and hosted events for little kids.”
“He had that Christmas party where he handed out gifts dressed as Santa Claus, hadn’t he?” Clara recalled seeing it on TV last year.
Rafe nodded. “He was a good man… Britain will not be the same without him.” He picked up the TV’s remote and turned it on. When the images began being projected he almost fell over. He never could get used to the projection. He missed the days when TVs were simpler.
Clara chuckled as she saw the look on her husband’s face. He truly was old fashioned. He sat down on the bed and started watching the news. She walked over and sat next to him.
“There has been a breakthrough in the investigation of one of the worst traffic accidents in history,” the anchorman reported. “Last week, Rio was shocked by the number of casualties when two cars collided at an intersection and caused a massive pileup that claimed the lives of no less than fifteen people and injuring dozens more.”
Clara shook her head and whispered a soft prayer for the souls of those who died in the accident. Most of the ones who died and were hurt were children. A school bus had been part of the accident.
Rafe had sent their sympathies to the Brazilian government. He had also extended the help of forensic specialists to help in investigating what caused the initial collision.
“Do we have any news on from the team you sent over?” Clara asked her husband. She didn’t usually meddle in Rafe’s job, but the accident had involved children. As a mother, she had been deeply affected. She had started a fund drive to offer assistance to the parents of the children who had died and those who had been injured.
“It’s looking like it may have been driver error. I know it sounds so… so petty. But one of the drivers had turned at an intersection towards a one-way street. It was a blind turn, so the driver of the other car never saw him. Right behind it was the school bus… it was followed by a truck carrying…” Rafe paused. It looked to Clara like he was struggling to find the words.
“Gasoline,” she finished. She had seen the list of vehicles that had been involved.
“Jesus Christ.” Rafe could only shake his head. “It crashed into the school bus that had managed to avoid hitting the car in front…” Rafe finished.
Clara didn’t need to hear any more. Everything had happened because one man didn’t follow traffic rules. The kids would never have a chance to fulfill their dreams because of one stupid decision.
She was surprised when Rafe suddenly stood up and turned off the TV. “Let’s go sneak downstairs for some ice cream.” He suggested playfully. “Remember, we used to have a midnight snack in the kitchen before we came to the White House? How about we bring back that tradition?”
“You’re hungry Mr. President?” she teased. “You just had two servings of pumpkin pie. Are you planning to play Santa Claus this Christmas?”
Rafe’s laugh was a delight to hear, Clara thought as it echoed inside their room. They’d been together since college, but she never tired of hearing it. “Pie! Great idea! Do you think they have apple pie in the kitchen? I’m craving pie a la mode all of a sudden.”
Clara found herself giggling when her husband started describing the dessert he intended to fix once they get to the kitchen. He ran to the closet and started putting on his sweats.
“Didn’t you wear that this morning?” she asked with her left eyebrow raised.
“I won’t tell if you won’t,” he replied. “Come on, hurry up!”
They were like little kids as they ran down the hallway. She stopped in front of the boys’ bedroom and grinned at him. “Let’s make this a family affair,” she suggested and knocked loudly.
The kitchen staff would probably have a heart attack when they come in the next day, Clara thought. She looked around at the mess they’d made. There were candy sprinkles and marshmallows scattered on the countertops and even some on the floor.
They had taken out tubs and tubs of ice cream as they couldn’t all agree on one flavor. Clara had wanted vanilla, the boys wanted chocolate and strawberry while Rafe was able to dig out a cookie dough tub at the back.
Rafe had prepared his pie a la mode and decided to pig out on other pie as well. The two boys created a gigantic banana split with everything on it. It was hilarious how they had all dug into the ice cream with gusto. There was chocolate syrup all over their pajamas, and they’d smeared it on the counters as well.
“They’ll think monkeys came in and ate the ice cream…” she chuckled.
“Just like old times, huh Mom?” her youngest son Brice grinned.
“Just like old times,” she agreed.
“Dad… will you be going to the Prime Minister’s funeral?” Noel, the oldest of the two boys asked.
Clara watched Rafe put down his spoon and look at his sons. “Yes. He was a good man and our country needs to pay our respects.”
“I was wondering if you could…” Noel paused and scooped a spoonful of ice cream into his mouth. Clara wondered what it could be that their son was going to ask for as he seemed reluctant to finish. “Well… only if it’s okay of course… could you get me a pair of Stackers?”
“Of what?” Rafe asked with a puzzled look on his face.
“They’re sneakers Dad,” Brice explained. “Everybody in school wants them, but the brand is based in London. They won’t be released here until after New Year’s.”
“I got excellent grades. And they’re not that expensive… plus I’ve been saving up my allowance. So… if you’re gonna be there anyways…”
Clara grinned as she realized the reason behind what the boys had said they were thankful for. But she still felt proud of her kids. They had grown up understanding that they still had to work hard for everything. Noel saving up for sneakers was just a reminder that she and Rafe had done something right in raising them.
She thought about those kids on the bus in Rio, how they wouldn’t get to open Christmas presents or hug their parents anymore. She felt tears brimming in her eyes. She felt her heart break for the mothers of those children. She said a silent prayer of gratitude that she had her boys safe and sound at home.
“Hey, Mom! I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to be disrespectful or anything,” Noel apologized. “I know it’s a funeral, but I was only… I mean Dad if it’s…”
Clara laughed at the look on her son’s face. “No… no… It’s okay. If your dad can find the time, I’m sure he’ll be happy to get those shoes for you. Come here…” She held out her arms, inviting her boys to hug. “Did you want a pair too Brice?”
“Me? No… I’m okay. I don’t really like the way they look.”
“I love you…” she whispered to them. “I’m just really happy.”
“You’re weird, Mom,” Brice said with a frown. “How can you be happy when you look like you’re about to cry?”
“Moms are supposed to be weird,” she answered. She looked over their heads and caught Rafe’s eyes. He smiled at her. There was no need to explain why she was feeling emotional at that moment.
“Well… hurry up and finish your ice cream. How about a movie? You boys can camp out in my and your mother’s room tonight. What do you say?”
Clara let go of her sons as they both excitedly agreed to Rafe’s idea. This was certainly a Thanksgiving they would all remember for a long time. She walked over to the cabinets and started looking for snacks she could bring upstairs. Her boys, Rafe included, would definitely be expecting popcorns or chips.
For a moment she was able to forget that they weren’t back home in Boston. If she closed her eyes and just listened to the boys, she could easily pretend they were still in their old charming kitchen.
“Are you asleep, Mom?” Brice asked
“No, you monkey… just trying to remember which of these snacks you guys like.”