Healing Our Hearts: Christmas baking at the O’Hagans’

Dec 22, 2018

This scene was originally included in the book, but after a recent revision, I decided to take it out. It’s a glimpse into a funny moment in the O’Hagan family’s life at Christmas. If you haven’t read “Healing Our Hearts” please note this scene includes spoilers, since it happens near the end of the book.

* * *

December 24

The last few months had flown quickly. So many things had happened, including the birth of Chris and Melissa’s son. I barely had time to realize it was nearly Christmas until today, Christmas Eve. Now that I was in my mum’s kitchen, baking gingerbread cookies with my siblings just like we used to do when we were children, I almost expected Declan to walk in at any minute and help us with the decorating.
“David, can you please stop ruining those cookies?”
Our mother sounded as if she was on the edge of exasperation, but I couldn’t really understand why she had to make so much fuss about it. She’d been worrying too much about tomorrow’s lunch, and I knew it was because of Colin and his grandmother coming over. He’d spend Christmas Eve with his grandmother and his aunts, but we’d agreed they’d both spend Christmas day with us so he could officially be introduced as my boyfriend, although everyone in my family knew we were dating.
Ever since I’d told my mum I’d invited them, she’d become obsessed with food and kept fussing over the smallest details. Like the gingerbread cookies. David had appointed himself Official Decorator, while Maggie and I kneaded and baked, and he’d actually been doing a good job so far.
“Why, what’s wrong with my cookies?” David asked innocently, looking at me for support.
I smiled. “There’s nothing wrong with them, David. I’m sure Colin won’t mind if the gingerbread men have a silly face or Santa’s suit.”
Mum snorted, shaking her head. I really couldn’t understand why she acted as if the King of England was coming to lunch. It was only Colin after all and, knowing him, he’d love David’s creativity.
I looked at his last work of art and gaped at it when I realized what he’d done. “Gosh, David. Does that cookie have dreadlocks?”
Our mother’s head whipped up, and she took a step toward the table, smacking David’s head and causing me to giggle.
“Okay, okay. Got it, ma!” he said in a huff, and picked up the cookie, smirking at me. “This was my masterpiece but since no one seems to understand my talent, I guess I’ll have to eat it myself. Want the head, sis?”
I grinned and he gave me half of the cookie, popping the other piece into his mouth and munching happily.
“Hmm… delifous!” he said with his mouth full, crumbs spilling over the table. I giggled, eating my share.
“David, you’re such a child!” Maggie chided, shaking her head and playing the part of the adult for once.
“Here’s the pot calling the kettle black. You’re worse than me!”
“No, I’m not, you eejit!” Maggie threw a dish towel at him, that he deftly dodged.
“Your aim sucks, Maggie. Try again.” David looked at me and chuckled, which infuriated Maggie even more. She tossed a coaster, and he ducked his head. It hit a plastic jar on the counter and made it tumble to the floor, making rice spill everywhere.
Our mother let out an exasperated snort and David stuck out his tongue at Maggie.
“Mum!” she whined.
I stared at the scene, feeling as if we’d gone back to Christmas Eve some fifteen years ago or so when David used to love teasing Maggie just for the sake of it.
“Yes, run to Mammy, Mag. That’s all you’ve ever been able to do!” David said in a childish tone, and Maggie’s cheeks turned red with anger.
“Stop it, or I swear I’ll kick your arse!”
“You’ve gotta catch me first,” he said with a smirk, and he was out of the door a second later, with Maggie in hot pursuit, cursing after him. I couldn’t help but laugh while I cleaned the mess they’d made. As my mum handed me a clean towel, she hung her head and shook it in resignation.
“You’re lucky you don’t live here anymore; sometimes I feel more like a kindergarten teacher than the mother of twenty-year-olds.”
I smiled, knowing too well how childish Maggie and David could be. Still, the silly banter that had gone on between them had made me feel a little nostalgic, and for a moment I really wished I could turn back the hands of time and be back in this house, with my siblings running around and Declan still alive. My mum must have noticed the expression on my face because a moment later she crouched down on the floor next to me and laid a hand on my thigh.
“I still think of him every single day,” she whispered, her voice trembling a little. “Every time I stand in front of his grave I can’t bring myself to believe my son is buried there. When you came home today, I almost expected him to show up, too, just like he did last year—like he did every year since he left home.”
I took her hand in mine and squeezed it. I’d avoided talking about Declan; I’d never been to the graveyard with her, even though she’d asked me to, and now I felt awful about it all. I’d thought it would be best not to mention him because I didn’t want to cause her any more pain than she was already in, but I hadn’t thought that not talking about him wouldn’t erase it. Pretending nothing had happened and that he was still living in New York wasn’t going to help Mum or anyone else get over the sorrow.
“So did I,” I whispered, and my mother looked at me with eyes filled with sorrow. “I miss him, too, Mum. I still wish it had all been a bad dream, that I’ll wake up and find out the accident never happened.”
She nodded and brushed my cheek, smiling condescendingly. I wondered if this would be the right time to tell her about Declan. I knew at some point I’d have to tell my family, to help them find a little peace of mind, just like I had. But I couldn’t simply come out of the blue saying: “Hey family, guess what? Declan’s my guardian angel and he healed me; oh, by the way, for five months after the accident I saw him every other day, isn’t that grand?” No, I couldn’t do it like that; I needed to find the right time and make sure they’d believe me. The last thing I wanted was for them to think I’d gone crazy.
David and Maggie came back into the kitchen then, their arms linked, acting as if they hadn’t just finished playing chase. I knew this wouldn’t be the right moment for confessions so I stood up and we all went back to baking.

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