Memory of a Christmas Gone By
By Dana Clay
Jack just sat there staring at the file; in fact he'd been sitting there for hours. It was just a week until Christmas so he let Jamie go home early to be with her daughter. He was almost jealous of her, since he had no one anxiously waiting for him to get home. His thoughts drifted back to the open file on his desk. It was a drunk driving double homicide, someone had too much booze at an office Christmas party, got in their car and killed a young woman and her six year old niece. But all Jack could think of was Claire, the woman in the car was about her age, Claire, the best thing to happen to Jack since God only knows when.
The fact that it was almost Christmas made it even worse. He thought back to the first Christmas he'd spent with Claire and almost started to cry. Instead he poured a glass of scotch, he'd done that a lot lately, probably too much. As hard as he tried to fight it his mind wandered back to Christmas and Claire Kincaid.
"What was the first thought you had when you woke up, Jack?" asked Claire. She smiled at him from across the bed.
"I hope the neighbors didn't here us going at it at 2 a.m." he answered. She laughed and hit him with a pillow.
Suddenly Claire said, " I just realized it's only a week until Christmas, we should do something special." She rested her chin on his chest and stared into his big brown eyes.
"What do you want to do?" Jack replied as he leaned down and kissed her.
"Let's rent a cabin upstate somewhere, Vermont or New Hampshire. Somewhere that we can do whatever we want whenever we want to without worrying about neighbors," Claire said as she rolled him over on top of her.
"As soon as we finish this case," Jack answered "Deal?"
"Deal," she said and they kissed again.
The ringing phone interrupted Jack's thoughts. He snatched up the receiver, grateful for the distraction. It was Adam asking him to stop by his office as soon as he was free.
"I'll be right there," Jack told Adam. Jack raced up to Adam's office. He entered and sat down.
"You wanted to see me?" Jack stated.
"Yes. I've been concerned about you. I was worried that this drunk driving case has really gotten to you," Adam replied.
"I'm fine, Adam, really I am. Nothing's gotten to me."
"Really," Adam said with a smile, "and that's why I passed by your office at six and you were just sitting at your desk looking like your dog just died. At seven I walked by again and you were still sitting there with that same expression."
"It's been a long day. I sent Jamie home early so she could be with her daughter," Jack replied sadly.
"What about yours?" Adam asked.
"Your daughter, you know Carol?" Adam said.
"What about her Adam?"
"Why don't you give her a call. Maybe she could help you through this Claire thing. It's almost Christmas, a time to be with your family."
"What Claire thing?" Jack retorted angrily.
"Don't tell me this case doesn't make you remember her."
"Maybe a little, but I'll be fine, Adam."
"I know, but I want you to take some time off. This case won't go to trial until February at the earliest. Take two weeks and don't come back until you've talked to your daughter, a shrink or someone else who can help you deal with losing her. I want you in tip-top shape for this trial."
"But there will be motions and briefs to handle between now and then," Jack stammered.
"Ms. Ross can handle them. Now get out of here and don't worry so much. Call your daughter."
Jack left wondering if he was that obvious. Back in his office he pondered Adam's suggestion about his daughter. He and Carol had been estranged for years now. He wasn't even sure why anymore. Jack knew by now she had to be almost twenty-one. "I've already lost one person I love, I'm not going to let it happen again," he thought. He decided to give Carol a call in the morning.
He looked at the drunk file and his mind filled again with thoughts of Claire.
"I got us a nice cabin in Vermont" Jack told Claire after they had just finished a rather long case involving rape and murder.
"Thank God," she replied "I can't wait to get out of this city and away from fucked-up people like our esteemed defendant."
"We won," Jack reminded her. "We leave tomorrow morning and stay for a week."
They arrived at the cabin the next evening. They barely made it in the door before tearing each other's clothes off. Claire threw her coat on the floor and reached for the buttons on Jack's shirt, hurriedly unbuttoning them. He pulled her shirt off and carried her over to the bed. They made love all night long.
This was how most of the week was spent. On the night before they had to leave they sat in the bathtub together, Claire's head on Jack's chest.
"Merry Christmas, lover," she said.
"Oh God I totally forgot today was Christmas."
"It was yesterday," she said with a smile, "but we were busy and I totally forgot about it until just now."
"I got you a present, Claire"
"What is it?"
"I'll go get it, don't move."
Jack got out of the tub. Claire watched him walk across the room and get something out of a bag.
"Bring my bag in here, I got you something too."
"Okay," Jack replied.
He returned and handed her a box as he got back into the bathtub. She opened it and pulled out a sparkling diamond bracelet.
"This is beautiful" she gasped "Thank you, thank you, thank you." She said as she kissed him repeatedly.
"Glad you like it, what did you get me?"
Claire reached into her bag and came up with a small box. Jack opened it and removed the gold watch.
"Read the inscription," Claire told him.
"'To the light of my life, love, Claire 1995,'" Jack read.
"I love you," Claire said as she sat the gifts next to the tub and kissed him again.
"I love you, too."
Jack sat at his desk fumbling with his watch and rereading that inscription for the hundredth time. He realized it was nearing ten o' clock. It wasn't too late to call Carol, he decided. Jack picked up the phone and after a few moments came up with his daughter's phone number.
Carol McCoy picked up the phone in her Soho apartment.
"It's me, Jack, I mean Dad." he stammered "I was wondering if you wanted to have dinner, I'd really like to talk to you."
"Why?" she replied "You never cared before."
"Please," Jack pleaded.
The next night he met his daughter at Luigi's. To his dismay it was a place he and Claire had gone many times. Jack waited at their table for her. Suddenly he spotted a young woman walking toward him. "That must be her, God she's grown," he thought.
"Hi Dad," she said as she sat down across from him.
"Hi, how have you been?" he asked.
"Okay," Jack lied.
"Like hell you have."
"Excuse me." Jack said shocked at her response.
"I heard what happened to your last assistant, and that you were more than coworkers, and you took it pretty hard."
"Heard from whom?" Jack replied.
"You talked to Adam?" Jack asked her.
"Yes, once. He was very concerned about you"
"Well that's Adam for you."
"So Dad, tell me about Claire."
Jack stared sadly into his water and began his story about how much he loved Claire and still did.
"It was my fault she died," he said, close to tears.
"It was not."
"If I hadn't been out drinking..."
"You didn't hit her," Carol interrupted.
"She was on her way to get me."
"Let's take a walk," Carol suggested.
They paid and left the restaurant. As the walked down the street Jack slipped his arm around his daughter and she rested her head on his shoulder. They walked to a park and sat down on a bench.
"What did Claire look like?" she asked suddenly.
Jack pulled out a picture of the two of them in Vermont that weekend.
"She was very pretty," Carol stated.
Jack looked down at the picture and traced the outline of Claire's face and all of a sudden started to cry.
"Yes she was lovely and I loved her," he said through his tears.
His daughter put her arms around him.
"This is a step in the grieving process" she reassured him "the next step is saying good-bye and letting go."
"Good-bye Claire," Jack whispered. "I'll always love you."