“Mommy, you look so pretty.”
Ruthie stood in front of Mommy, rubbing her hands over Mommy’s pretty dress. It was fancy, with tiny blinky pieces and ruffles all over it.
I lay on the back of the couch and watched them. Ruthie told me Mommy and Daddy were going out for a work party at an expensive restaurant.
“Thank you, sweetie.” Mommy smiled. “Doesn’t Daddy look pretty too?”
“Mommy, he looks handsome.” Ruthie giggled and ran over to give Daddy a hug. Daddy didn’t have a pretty dress like Mommy, but he did have a collar around his neck with a rope hanging down, and Ruthie told him that was nice. I wondered if Mommy was going to hold on to the rope and lead him around, like they did with a leash on Bruce when they took him out for a walk.
“You have a good time with Jake,” Daddy said. He picked Ruthie up and gave her a squeeze. “And be good.”
Ruthie gave Daddy a smacky kiss on his cheek. “Mmm, you smell nice.”
“I used some of Mommy’s perfume.” Daddy grinned. “Do you like it?”
“Oh, Daddy.” Ruthie bopped Daddy on his nose. “You’re silly. I know that’s your shaving stuff.”
“Mmm hmmm. Very funny,” Mommy said. “Let’s go. Where’s Jake?”
“I’m coming, slow but sure.” Jake bumped down the stairs with his crutches. “Thanks, you guys, for letting Ruthie stay home to take care of me.”
Ruthie giggled and ran to Jake. “Oh, Jake, you’re goofy. You’re taking care of me.”
“Oh yeah. I remember now.” He tapped her foot with one of his crutches. “Have fun, you guys. Eat a lot and burp really loud.”
“Jaaaaake,” Ruthie said, shaking her head.
After Mommy and Daddy left, Ruthie laid some pillows on the rug in front of the fireplace. “Okay, Jake, sit down. I’ll go pop the popcorn. Mommy showed me how.”
“Sounds good, bug.” Jake lowered himself down onto the pillows, and when he was settled, he picked me up. “Come here, Millie. You can sit here with me. Do you want some popcorn?”
“No, no, no,” Ruthie called from the kitchen. “Millie can’t have any popcorn. Mommy said it might make her choke.”
“Really?” Jake rubbed my face, and I purred. “Maybe you shouldn’t have any either, bug. Maybe it’ll make you choke. I better eat it all.”
“Ha ha ha,” Ruthie said.
She came and snuggled down next to Jake. I sniffed and raised my head. I’d seen popcorn before. It smelled yummy. I stood up and leaned my head over the bowl, sniffing.
“No no, Millie,” Ruthie said. “Jake, you take the popcorn and give me Millie.”
“Nah, she’s okay.” Jake turned me over on his lap and rubbed my belly.
“Meow.” I tried to sound grouchy. Mama said we should always act like we don’t like this, but I loved it. I purred louder and rubbed my face on his hand.
Jake and Ruthie ate popcorn. It sounded crunchy.
“Jake, will you read to me?”
“Why don’t you read to me?” He tugged on her hair.
“Not tonight. Please, Jake, read me the story about the night before Christmas.”
I liked listening to stories, but I didn’t hear much of this one. As soon as he said something about a mouse, my mind wandered. Mama had told me about mice, and how cats chased them. That sounded like fun. We didn’t have a mouse in our house, but I wanted to meet one.
“Jake?” Ruthie set the popcorn bowl down, picked me up, and sat on Jake’s lap.
He hugged us. “What, bug?”
“Do you know some kids think Christmas is all about Santa Claus instead of Jesus?”
“Yeah, I know that.”
“Mommy says I shouldn’t argue with them about it, but isn’t that funny? Santa’s fun, but Christmas is all about Jesus.”
“Yeah. That’s what Daddy and my mom used to tell me too. Don’t argue with kids. It is okay to tell them about Jesus, though.”
“Yeah.” Ruthie rubbed my nose, then turned her face to look up at Jake. “Jake?”
“I’m sorry you don’t get to see your mommy this Christmas.”
“Me, too.” Jake rubbed Ruthie’s hair.
Ruthie picked me up and buried her face in my tummy. She looked up at Jake again. “I’m glad you’re going to be here with me, though. I love you.”
Jake squeezed us. “I love you too, Bug.”