Margie had expected her sister, Carol, to call. It was Christmas Day after all. But as the hours went by, and the phone stood silent, the realization that her sister had once again snubbed her began to take root.
Why? What had Margie done? Those thoughts tumbled through her brain as she gathered her cup and saucer, poured the water she'd boiled over the tea bag, and sat down at the kitchen table. There, she spied the photo book she always liked to look at on holidays. The photos--all worn and faded at this point--reminded her that life hadn't always been so colorless and that at one time, she'd been happy. Or at least she thought she'd been happy...
The trill of the telephone pushed through Margie's thoughts and her hands trembled as she reached for the receiver.
"Hello?" Margie had forgotten to look at the Caller ID before she'd pushed the TALK button.
"Margie, it's me, Rita."
Margie's shoulders relaxed and she leaned back against the chair. She'd known Rita for almost as many years as she'd known her own sister, and she knew exactly why Rita had phoned.
"Hi Rita, and Merry Christmas to you and Ron."
"Thanks. He's watching TV with Jordan and has probably had too many glasses of wine at this point. I thought it was the perfect time to ring you."
"Thanks. I'm just sitting here, having some tea. The usual, you know."
A laugh sounded across the line. "Yeah, I know. You and that peppermint tea. Soothing, isn't it? Let me guess, Margie...Carol didn't call."
Margie swallowed her tears and tried to answer. "I...she...no..."
"When are you going to get it, Margie? When? I'm not trying to make you feel bad here, but she doesn't care about you. I'm not sure she ever has."
Margie wasn't quite sure what to say to Rita, so she sat there, phone in hand as she dabbed at her eyes, which had begun to water. "What do you want me to say, Rita? That you're right? She's my sister, dammit. Shouldn't she call me on Christmas?"
"Yes, she should." Rita's voice had taken on a low, calming tone. "But she should call you during the week, too, and she doesn't. She should visit you from time to time, check in and see how you're doing. She doesn't do any of that..."
"I know. And I don't know where I went wrong."
Now Rita's voice rose again. "Margie, you're my best friend and you have to believe me when I say that you did nothing wrong. I was there, remember? I saw you go out of your way to help Carol. I watched as she walked all over you day in and day out. I knew from the moment you had your accident that she wouldn't be the one to help you. And look, I'm right, you know? I have never minded coming to help you out as I do each week--I love you and that's what I want to do. But you know what? She's your sister. She should love you just as much, if not more so, than I do. She should be helping you..."
Sniffles overcame Margie as she tried to reply. "I...know..."
"And all she does is hurt you. Do you want me to come over?"
Through the haze of her tears, Margie looked at the wall clock. Seven o'clock on Christmas night probably wasn't the best time of the day for her to ask her best friend to come over. But Margie knew she'd have trouble settling in this evening and that the hours would pass by slowly. "Would you mind?"
"Ha! Anything to get away from those two lugs in front of the television! What better way to round out my day than with my best friend. Hang tight, lady. I'll be over within the hour. Is that okay?"
"That's great. And Rita?"
"You're welcome. See you soon."
Margie hung up the phone, flipped the pages of the photo book past the pictures of her with Carol, and left the book open to the photo of her and Rita that had been taken before the accident. She rose and moved toward the kitchen sink, placed her mug on the counter, and stood, looking out the window at the dark night air. She saw her reflection in the window: the upturn of her lips, the brightness of her eyes. Having Rita's company for a few hours would help turn the defeat of the day into something more palatable. And she promised herself that in the new year, she'd try to forget that Carol ever existed. Life might be easier that way.
The trill of the telephone once again interrupted her thoughts. Had Rita changed her mind?
Margie shuffled to the phone, looked at the Caller ID, and whispered, "Carol." She pushed the END button and never felt better.