The week and a half leading up to Christmas Eve were some of the craziest days at Burlington Coat Factory. None of the crazy things that had happened on Black Friday happened, but it was still intense. Sarah spent half of her time trying to help customers who all seemed to have insane requests, and the other half just trying to keep her department clean. Emily rambled on about how there were so many customers buying so many things, and how she wished she could have a stool to sit down at the register. Jenn had another slight mental breakdown on a day where she had to do at least a hundred price checks. Still they all managed to make it through the days, taking it one day at a time.
Then Christmas Eve came, and like a solider has bad flashbacks to the war, Sarah had flashbacks to Black Friday. Sarah wondered to herself if anyone had done any shopping ahead of time. The lines to the registers went from the youth department in the back of the store, all the way to the front. All the customers seemed to have forgotten the holiday spirit, and were grumpy, most of them complaining about the wait, and how they had somewhere else to be. Sarah wondered why they had simply gone shopping earlier, than this wouldn't have been a problem.
A customer approached Sarah, "Do you have these jeans in size 0?"
"No ma'am, they don't make those jeans in junior sizes." Sarah said, trying to be helpful.
"Yes they do. I've bought them before." Sarah was used to customers who thought they knew more than they did. Sarah decided to just play along.
"Oh, well then we must be out."
"CHECK THE BACK. You must have more. My daughter has to have these jeans for Christmas!"
"We don't have anything in the back ma'am." Sarah said truthful. They had already rolled out all the new stock for the day, they didn't keep anything in the back.
"Don't get that attitude with me! I know you are just being lazy GO CHECK THE BACK."
"Just one second ma'am." Sarah knew this wasn't a battle she was going to win. She went to the back room and stared at the box crusher for a few moments, then walked back out again. "Sorry we don't have any size 0" The customer cursed under her breath, but walked away. Sarah was glad she hadn't pushed the issue any further.
The rest of the day went by without much issue. The store closed early, and all three girls were happy when they were able to go to the break room to collect their things.
"We should get those automatic check out things like every other store has. Then I could just sit there and make sure no one was stealing anything." Emily moaned.
"But I'd still have to do..." Jenn twitched slightly, "PRICE CHECKS ARRRRRRGHHH"
The two other girls giggled slightly. "Well at least we don't have to work tomorrow!" Sarah said, excited to have another day off, nothing having to deal with the crazy customers.
"Yeah, but after that..." Jenn twitched again. "THE RETURNS ARGGHHHHHHHH" Jenn calmed herself down. "Well I'll see you girls tonight. I can't wait for you guys to met Marisol and my dad."
"Yeah, should be fun." Sarah said, feeling a bit nervous about meeting new people. After the day she had, she didn't know if she could deal with more people.
After spending the last few Christmas Eve's with just Sarah, Tina was a bit excite to being going to someone else's house this year. When Sarah and Emily arrived home from their job, Tina wanted to go almost immediately. She thought maybe some of Emily's random energy was rubbing off on her. Still she waited patiently while the girls got changed into more comfortable clothes.
While they changed Sarah felt a sudden panic attack coming on. While she wanted to be there for Jenn, and met her father, she was suddenly nervous about meeting new people. "I feel sick I don't think I can go." Sarah whined.
"LIES!" Emily shouted, putting on a pair of socks that didn't match.
"I have a headache!" Sarah persisted.
"No you don't!" Emily giggled as she went over and modeled in front of the mirror. After deciding she looked okay, she continued in a sing songy voice. "You are just being shy again Sarah."
Her cover blown, Sarah just sat on her bed and sighed. "I'm not good with meeting new people."
"You did fine with me and Jenn, and this is only Jenn's family. You'll be fine." Emily said, sitting next to Sarah. "Oh! Forrest is kicking again! Feel!" Emily took Sarah's hand and placed it on her belly. Sarah felt the little kicks from Forrest, like she did most days. It never failed to amaze her, though, and today it helped calm her down.
"Alright, I'm ready to go!" Sarah said, smiling bravely.
They picked up the gifts meant for Jenn and her family from under their Christmas tree. Sarah admired the tree for a moment. It had mostly ordinary ornaments, but Emily had decided to put some of the refrigerator magnets on the tree as well. Somehow it worked out, and it looked very nice. Sarah looked down at the gifts she had bought, and almost had another panic attack, thinking she had bought the worst gifts possible. She was determined not to be upset, and to go with what she had. It's the thought that counts, Sarah reminded herself.
They all packed into Tina's car. A few more inches of snow had fallen, making it look and feel like Christmas. Tina put the address into her GPS, and they made their way to Jenn's father's house.
Despite her nervousness, Sarah had a good time. She met Jenn's father Tim, a rugged looking man, but with a kind smile, Marisol, a petite woman who wore glasses that made her look like a teacher, and Dennis, Jenn's little brother who was fourteen and looked almost exactly like his sister but with short hair and a screw the world attitude.
They shared a ham dinner. Emily, Marisol, and Tina sat together, all discussing the finer points of pregnancy. This was Marisol's first baby, and she was a bit nervous about it. Dennis didn't talk at all, instead he spent the whole dinner on his phone. That left Sarah, Jenn, and Tim to talk amongst themselves.
"I really want to get my own apartment, but I want to go to school first." Jenn was telling her father, as he listened intently.
"Oh? Whatcha wanna go to school for?" Tim said gruffly.
"I want to be a make-up artist! You know like the people who put make-up on celebrities! That would be neat." Jenn seemed to be less awkward around her father now. Sarah saw that as a good sign.
"Oh yeah, Jenn's really good with make-up, you should've seen how well she painted my nails." Sarah said, trying to contribute to the conversation.
"Oh that was nothing. I can do even cooler things!" Jenn said with pride.
"So what do you do for a living Mr. MAKEUPALASTNAMEFORJENN?" Sarah asked Tim politely.
"Oh well I'm kinda a jack of all trades, as they say. Right now I'm doing snow plowing, but other times of the year I do landscaping. I also do some plumbing on the side. You can call me Tim though, I don't like being called Mister." Tim laughed roughly.
"Alright then...Tim" Sarah said timidly.
Dinner ended, and it was time for opening gifts. Dennis opened his gifts first. Sarah had almost forgotten to get him a gift, and had decided on getting him a gift-card for Amazon.com at the last minute. He seemed to appreciate the gift, but didn't even say thank you. He just slunk back to a corner and continued playing with his phone. Sarah wondered how the battery hadn't died yet.
Jenn opened her gifts next. She got a cute cell phone accessory in the shape of a puppy from Emily, a sweater from her father, a new fashionable purse from Tina, and a gift certificate to the mall from Marisol. Finally she opened Sarah's gift, and smiled.
"Oh yes thank you so much Sarah!" She looked over the gift with glee. Sarah had gotten her a kit for mixing your own nail polish colors. Jenn looked immensely pleased with the gift. Sarah was happy she had chosen such a good gift for her friend.
Emily got her gifts next. Jenn got her a cookbook that's title was "100 easy recipes for you and your baby". Tim got her a sweater that wouldn't fit her until after Forrest was born, and another gift-card to the mall.
Sarah's gifts were similar to the two other girls, but Jenn had gotten her a small stuffed cat. For some reason it made her feel very nostalgic, and she cuddled it for the rest of the night.
Marisol loved the candle Sarah got her, saying it was her favorite scent. Tim laughed at the tie. "I don't got much of a reason to wear a tie, but hey dear, maybe I can wear it to our wedding." He laughed, and Marisol ever so lightly bonked him on the head with a book Tina had gotten her on Early Child Care, all with a smile on her face.
The night concluded, and Tina, Sarah, and Emily all piled back in the car. Sarah had fun that night. She wasn't sure what she had been so nervous about, things had gone well. She was happy to finally meet some of Jenn's family. She felt like they were becoming closer friends all the time. Still, something about the stuffed cat Jenn had gotten her made her feel very strange, like it was from a memory of a far off time, something that Sarah could see, but it was just barely out of grasp. Sarah tried not to think about it.
They drove the long way home, looking at all the glimmering Christmas lights. Emily oohed and awed at them almost like they were fireworks. A couple of neighborhoods had put out milk jugs with candles in them, lighted the side of the street. It was all magical and beautiful, just as Christmas is supposed to be.
They all quickly fell asleep that night, Emily muttering something about Santa Claus as she drifted off, and Sarah holding the stuffed cat in her arms as she rested.
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