Katrina opened the door, and heard Sally’s voice as she spoke to whoever had called.
"...got away? How did that happen?"
Katrina froze, icy fear clutching at her heart, as she strained to hear more.
"I see." Silence followed.
"No, she's asleep. She took her pain medication and went to bed."
Another stretch of silence.
"Do you think there's any way possible he can know where she’s hidden?"
This time, the pause seemed loud and ominous to Katrina.
"I see." Sally's now hesitant voice was very quiet.
Katrina had to concentrate very hard in order to hear her clearly.
"Yes…I will…no, he left to go to his hotel for a change of clothes and a shave, he said, and do some shopping.”
“No, he didn't say." More silence.
"Yes…I will. Goodbye."
Katrina heard the phone receiver being put back into its cradle. She didn't move. She couldn't move. It was as though she had grown roots. Panic filled her. Was she going to be safe, even here? Could Sally really protect her if Charleston found her and was determined to kill her? She doubted it. She didn’t believe any female could stand up to Charleston at the height of one of his rages.
A knock sounded on the door. Katrina whimpered. Sally, halfway to the door, paused and looked over her shoulder, meeting Katrina’s gaze. She motioned for Katrina to get out of sight and be quiet.
Katrina didn't move. The knocking sounded a second time, and Sally motioned again to Katrina as she drew her weapon.
At the sight of blue-black gun in Sally's hand, Katrina came to her senses. She backed into her bedroom, plastering herself against the wall, biting her lip to remain quiet. She left the door ajar so she could hear whatever happened.
Katrina heard nothing from the other room, then the chain rattled against the door frame. Sally’s voice was too low for Katrina to make out the words, then the chain rattled again, a little louder this time.
"You can come out, Katrina, it's Gavin!" Sally called to Katrina.
Katrina emerged into the living room as Sally closed the door, relocking and bolting it behind him.
Gavin had a large package under one arm, and was holding a small suitcase in his hand. His other arm was wrapped around a large shopping bag with gaily wrapped packages poking out of the top. His briefcase hung precariously from the two smallest fingers of that hand, which were turning white as he gripped the handle tightly.
Gavin looked at Katrina and grinned a silly, boyish, happy-go-lucky grin which promptly made her heart turn over. The beaming smile nearly stole her breath away. Katrina loved this many-faceted man with all her heart, even though she knew he didn't want her.
She dared not let him know. He would think her stupid if he found out the depth of her feelings, especially when he had discouraged her clumsy advances at every turn. Katrina deliberately neglected to remind herself of the obstacle of her uncertain marriage to Charleston.
She and Sally hurried now to help Gavin with the bundles and cases. They emptied his arms, setting the packages on the coffee table while he tucked his cases through the door into his half of their suite.
He returned, still grinning like a ten-year-old on his birthday whose stack of gifts was at least as high as he was tall. He placed his hands on Katrina’s shoulders, and guided her to a place on the couch, sitting next to her. Sally seated herself in the plumply stuffed chair at the end of the coffee table.
"I know it isn't your birthday or Christmas, Katrina,” Gavin said, “but I wanted to play Santa Claus anyway.” He laughed. It was a sunny, rich sound which enveloped Katrina in a haze of peace and tender warmth.
Gavin picked up a package. He had an excited look on his face as he handed it to her.
"Here, Kitten, open it." His grin split his face with incredible joy.
"But, nothing; come on, open it. I can imagine what your Christmases have been like for the last ten years. Just pretend it's Christmas. Open up your presents."
His smile was at once tender and bright, warming Katrina as effectively as any hearth fire would have done.
Catching his enthusiasm, she momentarily forgot the fact that Charleston was somewhere in the city, forgot they were hiding out to protect her life, forgot everything except that Gavin was here with her and he had brought her some gifts and she loved him more than she had loved anyone in her entire life.
Katrina untied the ribbons of the pretty box in her hands. Carefully, she removed the ribbons and tape, being careful not to tear the paper, or damage it in any way. She then removed the paper, carefully folding it before looking at the contents. It was a Monopoly game.
"Monopoly!" she cried. "Oh, Gavin, will you teach me to play it?" .
"Teach you?" Sally said. "Teach you? I thought everyone in the known world knew how to play Monopoly!"
Katrina dropped her gaze. Apparently she didn’t qualify as anyone in the known world. She looked back down at the box, but couldn't really see it for the tears lurking behind her eyelids.
"I…I'm sorry, Katrina.” Sally said. “I'm…just so surprised, that's all. It's as hard for me to believe someone doesn’t know how to play Monoply as…” she groped for a comparison, then continued, “…as someone who has never tasted homemade ice cream in their whole lives. Or someone who never saw Gone with the Wind or…never heard of Elvis Presley or the Beatles. I apologize for being rude. Please forgive me." She gave Katrina a rueful smile, then turned and went to the kitchenette without waiting for an answer.
Gavin put a finger under Katrina’s chin and lifted her face.
"Don't let her spoil your Christmas, Little One. I have several more presents here for you to unwrap, and I really hope you don't know how to play any of them. That way, I'm sure of winning at least the first game, anyway."
The smile that lit his countenance and the bright understanding shining in his eyes made her heart constrict in her chest once more. Then she smiled shyly.
"At least I do know who Elvis and the Beatles are," she giggled, her expression clearing under the warmth of Gavin's gaze.
"You've never seen Gone with the Wind or eaten homemade ice cream, though?" he asked, his eyes continuing to search her face.
Katrina shook her head, blinking hard.
Gavin grinned. "Boy, am I going to have fun!"
Katrina saw the happy-go-lucky smile on his face once more.
"What do you mean by that?" she wanted to know.
"You'll see, Kitten. Here," he said, handing her another box. "Open this one now. It's one of my favorites. I hope you don't know how to play it, either.” He laughed with boyish anticipation, his head tilted back in his glee.
Katrina drew her breath in sharply at the love which swamped her.
His smile was wide as he looked at her, and she dropped her eyes once more to the package now sitting on her lap.
Katrina got the paper off to find it was Sorry. She'd never played it.
The next box held Parcheesi, then there was Chinese Checkers, a set of Rook cards, Clue, Scrabble, all new to her, and finally, three jigsaw puzzles. At least she knew how to work those, she had protested to Gavin. He simply smiled expansively, his eyes twinkling merrily.
Katrina looked around her. Gavin had been right. It was like Christmas, but better. Christmas, for her, had been mostly underwear and a few clothes, or, rarely, a dime-store necklace or ring. She hadn’t really liked holidays while she was growing up. She’d especially felt guilty at Christmas, because she’d become a burden thrust upon her grandparents. It hadn’t seemed to matter they were family. Her parents were dead; she was a burden. Grandmother had taught her that.
Now, Katrina and Gavin giggled and laughed over each gift, all oldies-but-goodies but ones she had never played. There was only one box left. Gavin smiled as he handed her the brightly colored, beribboned package.
"This box you're going to love," he said, smiling widely at her, "and I know for a fact that you can play this one." His eyes were full of mischief, now, and delight, his mouth generous in the smile playing there, the dimples very pronounced.
"I don't know about that," she said as she untied the ribbons. "You’ve been sure I’d played several of the others, and I hadn't. What makes you think I've played this one?" She looked at him and saw the unmistakable gleam in his brown eyes. His mustache now twitched with his effort of holding back his laughter.
"I just know. Open it," he urged.
She removed the ribbons and tape, again careful to keep the paper undamaged or being torn from the tape.
“Why do you save the paper and ribbons so carefully?” Gavin asked
“So I can re-use them,” Katrina answered, looking up in surprise. "Why? Doesn't everyone do that?"
"Most people do,” he said. "I was just curious if that were the only reason."
"Grandmother taught me that." Suddenly she giggled. "I used to wonder how many times that same paper had been used. I'd seen the pattern so many times before and the paper had so many creases in it you almost couldn't see the print anymore. I don't think there was a full square inch that didn't have at least one fold across it.
"When it finally wore out for wrapping gifts, she'd carefully iron it flat and use it to line her kitchen drawers with it. I don't think Grandmother ever threw anything away.”
“Waste not, want not,” Gavin said.
Katrina giggled. “That was her favorite expression. I was afraid to throw anything out, even if I knew it could never be used again. I'd just give it to Grandmother. Most things, sooner or later, I'd see again, used for something else."
Katrina looked back at the box in her hands, still covered by the paper. She removed the wrapping and caught her breath. It was a combined set of checkers and chess. Tears came to her eyes as she ran her fingertips lightly across the box.
She looked up at Gavin and whispered very softly, "Thank you,” around the sudden lump in her throat. Gavin was watching her carefully, and she shifted under his gaze.
Sally came over to them just then and, now distracted, they both looked up at her. She gestured toward the dining table as she spoke.
"There's sandwiches and soup for lunch, if you're ready to eat."
The interruption had given Katrina a moment compose herself. She looked up and smiled at Sally.
"Thank you, Sally, I am rather hungry. I could probably eat a whole plate of sandwiches all by myself. I'll go and wash up. I’ll just be a moment."