I’m about to speak but there’s no need because Maisie leaps to her feet and begins defending me.
“It’s not like that!” she exclaims quickly while turning to the audience. “Everything is being mischaracterized. Let me start by saying I’m no young, innocent naïf. I’m a twenty-five woman and I have a full-time job. I work at a vet’s office downtown, and pay my taxes like an adult.”
The word “taxes” seems to shake the audience out of its trance. At that moment, the screen flickers off as well, giving me relief. No one needs to see our naked bodies frozen on screen like that. But my girlfriend continues, talking a mile a minute.
“My parents are right. I met Patrick at his gym as a result of the personal training sessions they bought for me, but why is that wrong? I wasn’t taken advantage of. I wanted it. Plus, I willingly went on several dates with him, as any young single woman has the right to do. Yes, I still live at home, but I’d ask you to ignore the comments of Lorraine and Henry. I love my parents, but they’re misguided, and nothing untoward happened between Patrick and I. In fact, I’m pregnant with his child and proud to be carrying his baby.”
That causes another gasp of surprise to run through the crowd. In fact, I can hardly breathe myself as the air escapes from my lungs. Is it true? Maisie turns toward me with tears in her eyes.
“I’m having your baby,” she says in a voice that carries. “You are my man, Patrick Walker, and I couldn’t be more proud to be with you. You deserve to get this business permit, and I know that both your supplements store and your gym will thrive. You are the man for me, Patrick, and I am your woman.”
Heart thumping, I can barely breathe for a moment. But then I literally leap over several rows of chairs like Superman before dashing to my girl and pulling her into my arms.
“I love you,” I growl fiercely into Maisie’s ear. “Fuck this permit. Fuck this town. As long as I have you and the baby, that’s enough for me.”
The rest of the world seems to dissolve into a blur of nothingness as my beautiful girl smiles up at me with tears in her eyes.
“Do you mean it, Patrick?” she asks. “You’re not angry that I’m pregnant?”
I shake my head.
“How can you even think that, sweetheart? I’m lucky to have you, and we’re blessed to be expecting. You’re the best holiday gift that I could ever have, and I thank my lucky stars that your parents brought you into my life.”
She sniffles a little.
“Are you mad at Lorraine and Henry?”
I think for a moment.
“This is a conversation for another time because people are watching, baby girl,” I say, jerking my head over my shoulder, indicating the audience. “But no, I don’t think I am. They’re misguided but they just want the best for you, sweetheart. They don’t realize that I treasure you and our child above all else, and that no matter what happens, I will always put your needs first. Will you marry me, Maisie? Because these are the words that have been circling in my head for a while now. I love you, and the baby brings everything together. Please say yes, honey, and make this the best Christmas ever.”
Tears really begin to fall from my girl’s beautiful brown eyes then, but they’re tears of joys.
“Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!” she whispers, pulling me close for a kiss. And at that moment, my life becomes complete. I have Maisie, we’re expecting a baby, and what else could a man ask for? My business can wait because Santa’s given me a wondrous gift, and I intend to cherish our relationship until the end of my days.
A month later.
I’m visibly pregnant now, and Patrick adores my baby bump. My husband rubs my belly with delight, running his huge palm over the gentle swell.
“Do that too much and the baby will want a massage after he’s born,” I joke while lying on my back. “He’s getting so used to your through-the-belly massages.”
Patrick merely growls.
“It’s okay. This is a way for babies to get to know their father. Have you talked to the Valencias, by the way?”
I swallow, carefully thinking about how to answer.
“Yes. Well, sort of. Okay, no. I talked with our attorney again, and he said they’re still in negotiations with the Valencias about getting the videotapes into our possession. Evidently, there was more than one camera fixed on that stupid Santa sleigh, so there I guess there’s an entire archive of our activities that night.”
Patrick shakes his head with disbelief.
“Who would have guessed? Why are they so paranoid?”
“It’s like my parents said. I guess the Christmas decorations cost a fortune, and they wanted to keep an eye on them. Allegedly, the Valencias spent thirty thousand on that diorama, so I guess it makes sense that they want to keep tabs on their investment.”