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The Christmas Ruse.jpg

Two weeks before Christmas, just two years ago, Dior James was left at the altar in front of friends and family. This left a bitter taste in her heart about love and the holidays. Despite her apprehensions about the upcoming holiday season, she decides to attend her best friend’s holiday dinner, without a clue she was being set up with someone. 

Having her mind and her heart made up, she wasn't interested in taking another chance at love but surprisingly, in just a few hours after meeting Don, he checked off almost every item on her ‘build-a-man list'.

Their relationship developed quickly and in the few short months of being together, Dior is the happiest she's been in years. 

You know what they say about if something seems too good to be true, it probably is, which makes her begin to question whether Don was being truthful or masking his menacing intentions.  


Girl’s Night

     When I walked out the door for work this morning at 6 a.m., the snow had started to fall, and now it’s well after 2 p.m., and flurries have coated the street. Although the snowfall was light, I wasn’t in the mood for anything festive, not even wintery weather. Nothing about the holidays brightened my spirits; as a matter of fact, it did the opposite. I’ve felt like this for the last three years, and I doubt those feelings I harbored would change. We rarely have snow in Memphis, so this white fluff scattered on the streets and cars were a surprise. The smell and the warmth of the kitchen gave me a sense of comfort, and as I opened the oven, the rich scent of vanilla and cinnamon filled the air, reminding me of my mother. With Thanksgiving a week away, I’ve been overwhelmed with custom cookie orders while trying to keep baked goods stocked for my regular customers. Despite having an attitude from hearing the holiday music playing on the overhead speakers, I continued working on orders that would be picked up in the next few days. I really tried not to be a Grinch because of my issues with the holiday season, so I tolerated playing soulful Christmas songs in the bakery for my employees and customers.

“Dior, you’re still packing orders. I thought you wanted me to finish up since you were leaving early today,” Ariah, my assistant manager, said, storming into the kitchen.

“Well, with these orders coming back-to-back, I just couldn’t put that all on you. And I have at least another hour before meeting Denim, so I can probably finish packing all these orders. You know she’s always late, so I’ll get there before she does.”

“Oops!” Ariah shouted, covering her hands over her mouth as her chest rose and fell.

“What’s the matter, Ariah?” I asked. She took a few steps towards the counter with a nervous gaze and said she forgot to tell me Denim had come here about forty-five minutes ago, bought a dozen cookies, and was on her way to my house.

“Dior, it’s been a mad house out there. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before now.”

Moving a few steps from the counter where more boxed orders sat, I picked up my phone to see three missed calls from Denim and two text messages. She used a key I’d given her to my house in case of an emergency to go inside. Reading her last text, she had already ordered the Chinese food, which had probably been delivered. Knowing I was pressed for time since Denim was surprisingly already at my house, I unwrapped my apron from around my waist and hung it on the apron hook. After assuring Ariah that I wasn’t upset about her not telling me about Denim sooner, I confirmed tomorrow’s assignments with her since I’d taken a day off. I grabbed my purse after putting my coat on and rushed out of the bakery. The chilly wintery air hit me like snowballs to the face. I tugged my jacket until it felt tighter, clasped my arms tightly around my body, and sped towards my car. Once I was inside, I threw my purse onto the passenger seat. I texted Denim to let her know I would be there soon after starting the engine, allowing the car to warm before I put it in drive.

It’s relatively immature, but I’ve avoided Denim all week because I knew why she was at my house. She claimed she missed me and wanted some girl time to catch up and share some news with me. However, Denim has never been able to keep secrets, let alone something she has wanted to tell me for over a week. So I knew that this girl’s night was her annual convince me to come to dinner speech. Avoiding her had become too much of a task, so we’re having Chinese at my house tonight. We’ve been friends for over twelve years; she has always been my person, and I’ve always been hers.

Switching lanes and getting off on my exit, I turned up the volume as “Changed” by Tamar Braxton blasted through my car’s speaker. I sang along to the bridge as Tamar belted the lyrics. Even though I’ve been single for three years, this song made me think about my ex. It was

an unhappy ending to what started as a beautiful beginning, and I’ve long accepted its failure. That man messed my heart up so bad that I never wanted to be loved by any other man. I’m not one of those bitter-betty’s that linger on to hate because a man chose not to love me. I’ve never been a woman who tried to cuff a man that doesn’t want to be cuffed. What happened between Ryan and I is much deeper than that. From what I’ve experienced, I feel relationships are for desperate people because, in some way or another, the one who loves the hardest is the one who gets hurt the worst. I’m way over the point of crying, but I will never forget what Ryan did to me.

My brows creased when I made a left on my street and saw the multicolored lights. I keep forgetting my neighbors have already started decorating for Christmas. My street looked like Candy Cane Lane. All the houses were decorated with many colorful lights, giant inflatable Christmas trees, candy canes, and other festive décor. However, my home sat in the center of the cove, bland as unseasoned stuffing. Parking next to Denim’s car in my driveway, I switched the car off and unlatched my seat belt. Staring straight ahead, I squinted, noticing the large Christmas wreath on my front door. Despite my reservations about the season of being jolly, Denim did sneaky things like this anyway. As usual, I give so I won’t fight her on the wreath. I sat in my car, reluctant to go inside, so it took a few minutes before I had the guts to get out of my car. Unlocking and opening my front door, the heat flowing through the vents warmed my bones. The aroma of shrimp fried rice hit my nose, and Denim’s loud voice arguing with someone on the phone vibrated on the walls.

“Oh honey, I’m home,” I sang with a giggle, pulling my coat off and setting it on the table with my purse and keys as I entered the living room. Denim smiled and waved at me when

our eyes met but continued her loud conversation on the phone. From the half-full bottle of wine on the table, I see she started without me.

“It’s not up for negotiation. Look, I’ll see you when I get home. Make sure Mario Jr is bathed and in bed when I get there. Dior is just getting home, so I’ll be here for a while,” she sucked her teeth, tapping the end button on her phone and setting it on the table.

“I know you’re not using me as a pawn to be away from Mario.” I gave her a knowing look, making my way towards the couch.

“Now, Dior, you know I don’t need an excuse to get a break from that man. He’s just getting on my nerves about my annual Friendsgiving. His momma has invited herself and insists on bringing her nasty ass pies, trying to mess up what I have planned. This was just supposed to be something for our friends and co-workers. That woman has been a trip ever since I married Mario. When we were dating, she barely said a word when we made plans for the holiday.”

“Girl.” I giggled, flopping down on the other end of the couch. “His momma sees you as a threat now. You have her only son’s heart when she’s been the only woman with it for years.”

She took a few sips of wine and shrugged her shoulders. “Possibly so. But let’s discuss why your house is the only one in the cove that is not decorated. I’m sure that’s some neighborhood violation you’ll be penalized for.”

Why Demin was acting brand new was beyond crazy to me. She sounds like a song on repeat. I never decorate anymore. I haven’t in three years, so nothing has changed. The same way she manages to hang a wreath on my door every year. It’s a routine we’re not trying to part with.

“These people are not checking my house for decorations, especially when you took care of it already. There is a giant wreath hanging on my front door.” I snarked.

She dismissively waved me off. “How long have we been friends? You already know how I‘m coming. That wreath is nothing compared to what I should’ve done. And don’t think of it as me trying to force anything on you. I would never dismiss your feelings about the holidays, but the word no is hard to accept. Like bitter-tasting medicine, I know I have to push Christmas on you in small doses. Besides, the wreath is a very tiny gesture. So will you let it stay on the door?” She asked after all that aggressiveness with her hands in a prayer position. Denim was too animated, but I wouldn’t take anything for her.

 I pushed out a breath before I said anything. I should be used to what Denim does, especially around the holidays. She always finds a way to force the Christmas spirit on me when I want nothing to do with this season. Despite wanting to say no, I gave in and told her the wreath could stay up for now. “But if—” I tried to say when Denim told me she wouldn’t be mad if I threw the wreath away if it became too overwhelming to see. “So, you wanted some girl time over Chinese and wine. What is this really about, Denim?”

I knew my question was redundant because I knew why we were here. So it was no surprise when Denim jumped up from the couch and sprinted to the kitchen without responding. She returned to the living room carrying two Chinese take-out boxes in one hand and a bottle of wine in her other hand. She set the take-out boxes in front of us and began her annual speech. Mingling, dating, and opening myself to love were her main points. She laid it thick about all the fun, food, and liquor we would enjoy. I couldn’t help but envision couples all hugged up and the sound of holiday music playing in the background. It was convincing and even tempting, but I just wasn’t sold. Once upon a time, all of these things excited me, but now I couldn’t care less about any of them.

In between her speech, Denim managed to take a breath. I couldn’t help but smile at her passion. But no matter her persuasion, I often gave a convincing, “Maybe I’ll come,” with no intention to attend. I realize I must seem ungrateful when she’s been nothing but a good friend, including me in everything in her life. But with all that happened on my wedding day three years ago, it’s hard for me to socialize in a couples setting. Emotionally I’m fucked up, but at least I can admit it. Denim knows I’d drop everything if she ever needed me. I will show up and show out for her, but I couldn’t attend her holiday parties. I just wasn’t ready to be chipper and never wanted to damper anyone’s happiness. So, I avoided the holidays. Although owning a bakery forced me into the proximity of the holiday madness, at least I didn’t have to bring it home.

“Dior, I know how you feel about anything that involves the holidays, but at least consider coming,” she replied, setting her glass of wine on the table and picking up her take-out box of rice.

I pushed out a deep breath because having this conversation stressed me out every year. I sat there, taking in Denim’s words as she scooped a chopstick full of rice in her mouth and tucked her feet underneath her as she got comfortable on the couch. When she smiled, I knew it was forced because this conversation was a repeat of last November. “You know I miss coming to your parties, but the holidays are just difficult for me.”

Denim leaned closer and nudged my knee. “I know you get tired of my harassment, but you’re my best friend. Who else am I supposed to invite to these things? I miss you. I hate hosting these things without you.”

“Denim, you will never know my embarrassment after Ryan cowardly walked away from the altar, leaving me looking like a fool. My Christmas was ruined. My New Year’s, too, and

then three months later, my mom died. How could anyone expect me to want to celebrate ever again after what happened to me?”

“Dior, what happened to you is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. And I was right there with you when Ms. Dioranne passed. I never left your side. And it wasn’t Christmas that broke your heart, nor was it me. To this day, I call Ryan’s phone and curse him out like he’s not a ghetto white boy. I could’ve told you that white meat ain’t always the right meat. What he did to you is unforgivable. But you can’t let one incident, one unworthy man, or grief make you stop living and celebrating. You have always loved Christmas, decorating, and my holiday parties. So stop feeling sorry for yourself because Ryan did you a favor. He never deserved you.”

Denim’s words had nothing but compassion, yet heaviness swept the room after she chastised me. I was blessed that she was my biggest supporter. I took my eyes off her and down at my food. Despite my appetite weakening, my stomach grumbled as I twirled my noodles with my chopsticks as a distraction. Her speeches were just a way of encouraging me to open my heart up again. I just wasn’t ready. For three years, I’ve been unmovable about my feelings. Ryan jaded my heart towards everything I used to love. The truth is, I wanted to get over my disillusioned perception of love and the holidays. I didn’t know how to. I sat there in silence, considering everything she’d preached to me. I could probably recite her speech word for word, except for the small extras she adds each year. At this point, every November with us had become predictable. No matter the case, neither of us was ready to admit defeat. But I’m not prepared to lose my friendship with Denim because of my issues, so something has to change.

“Denim, I appreciate how you go above and beyond for me. And I don’t want you to think I’m ungrateful because that’s the furthest thing I could ever feel,” I expressed, knowing she would never think that, but it had to be said.

“That has never crossed my mind, but you’ve been in solitary for too long. And you cut everybody off.”

Denim’s words touched my core. They cut me deep. Her intent was not to hurt me, but I still felt guilty. Hearing the truth hurt. But the truth is, I did withdraw from friends and what little family I had left, never considering how losing me would affect them. Ryan was the first man I really loved. When I met him at the Grizzles game six months before we started dating, I had no intention of dating anyone. Yet, I fell hard and ended up with a broken heart. The day he left me standing in front of a room full of people in my wedding dress weighed my heart down. So, the thought of another Christmas had numbed me. It was time for me to confront my fear. Heaviness rested in my chest, but I managed to push out a breath and set my take-out box on the table. “I see how much this means to you, so I’ll come to your Friendsgiving.”

Denim’s lips split into a wide smile. She set her food on the table and hugged me, swaying our bodies from side to side in a dance. When she pulled apart from our hug, I thought I saw a tear in her eye. Excitement was all over her face. I was skeptical about my change of heart and hoped I wouldn’t regret changing my mind. We reminisced and laughed a lot during the next few hours, catching up on everything. A little after nine, I walked Denim to the door. We hugged, and she promised to call me when she arrived home. I watched her until she was inside her car and had backed out of the driveway. When I closed the front door and set the alarm, I could only think about what I had agreed to. I hadn’t been to any holiday events in three years. I’ve just thrown myself into my bakery, trying to keep my finances thriving. Regardless, I couldn’t back out, but I knew I would give her an excuse by the time the twenty-third arrived. I do the same thing every year, but part of me wants that to be different this year. After adjusting the temperature on the thermostat and entering my bedroom, I opened my walk-in closet.

I pushed clothes back on the left side of my closet, only to see my wedding gown hanging in a gold garment bag. I’d put it up for sale on Poshmark, and it sold two days ago. This dress, still hanging in my closet three years later, is evidence I had never really let go of my relationship with my ex. But I was breaking all ties. The sentimental value and history of this dress were finally ending. The dress will be shipped to Nashville to a new bride in the morning. Perhaps I am practicing what I preached, letting go of all the old things in my life.



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