Chapter 2: A Christmas Date

Christmas time in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill is a living collection of Christmas Lights, Luminarias and Nativity Sets among varieties of stucco, pueblo and Victorian-era houses, in a climate that is bitter cold at night and warm during the day anywhere illuminated by the sun. Being located in a high-desert climate, any light dusting of snow that falls during the night or afternoon is immediately gone by 10 a.m. the next morning. The feeling of Christmas time in Nob Hill is non-existent during the day, until around 5:30 each evening, when the sun goes down casting long and deep shadows of dark brown, contrasted with the orange hue of the sunlight. These shadows give a distinctly ancestral feeling to pueblo-inspired houses due to the blocky geometry of these homes and the contrast between light and dark, with the homes resembling stairways coordinated in 3 or 4 orientations. During the transition between day and evening, the temperature drastically shifts from a warm 50-60 degrees to hovering or below freezing in a matter of minutes. An added affect of this transition is to immediately immerse this area with the feeling of Christmas time: with the illumination of Christmas lights and Luminarias, and families getting off-work, originating in a stretch of Central Avenue between Wellesley and Washington, for gift shopping among boutiques and drinking hot cocoa to fend off the bitter cold which immediately descended from a warm, temperate day. This pattern is repeated every day from Thanksgiving until the night before Christmas, which is then repeated year after year, when a certain feeling is shared among all of Albuquerque’s residents: a calm, serene, state of mind when staying indoors near a fire, shielded from the cold only heightens the anticipation for the next morning’s opening of presents.

It was during this time of year when Benjamin and Jennifer would resume their decades-long dance of love.

It had been almost 2 weeks since their chance encounter in Humble coffeeshop, when, as if on cue, Benjamin’s phone rang. Looking at the caller ID of an unknown number, somehow instinctively Benjamin knew it was Jennifer.

“Benjamin, Hi, It’s me, I mean it’s Jennifer.”

“Hi Jennifer, how are you today?” After years of constant wonder and pining over Jennifer, something was different inside Benjamin, and it was surprising even to him. He no longer felt the need or desire to be the constant source of motion and energy for their relationship. Benjamin reflected on his new found change of heart, was he maturing, or was this something else entirely?

“I’m great. Listen, Benjamin, I have a Christmas office party to go to, you know how the president and vice president of my company love to bring back the 1950’s. I can’t bring my girlfriend, Julia, they would flip. How about being a sport and being my date? It’s Friday at the old Albuquerque Rail Yards. Black-Tie event, free drinks–”

“You know I don’t drink.” Benjamin interrupted.

“Well you can drink egg-nog.” She continued with her enthusiastic selling of the idea: “Please Benjamin it’s just one night, and you look so good in a black-tie tuxedo.”

Jennifer continued, but Benjamin wondered how she was able to jump back in with such a friendly demeanor after such a long break of contact.

“I can’t, Jennifer. Abigail and I have plans.” Benjamin lied, but under these circumstances felt no obligation of niceties to Jennifer.

“Ah yes, I’ve heard about Abigail. Your wife?” Jennifer asked, her tone and quickness changing noticeably.  Jennifer, always the scientist, was now probing and testing to see Benjamin’s current love interest, much as she treated many of her experiments, in order to reveal their deeper truths. Inside herself Jennifer felt a tinge of jealousy and the beginnings of a slight panic. She had always been able to rely on Benjamin, had always assured herself that he would always be there for her, whenever she wanted.

“No, we’ve only been dating a few weeks. Besides, who told you about Abigail?” Benjamin asked, being sure to emphasize ‘Abigail’ vs. Jennifer’s pronunciation of ‘Abby’.

“I heard it through the grapevine. Besides, this isn’t a date, it’s just you accompanying me to an office Christmas Party. You can think of it more as a a bodyguard, if you’d like.” Jennifer knew that Benjamin, despite his exterior and calm demeanor, always loved to be her protector.

After a short moment of silence, Jennifer could tell that Benjamin was not quite convinced–yet. “Bring Abigail.” Jennifer threw out, which caught both of them off-guard. For Jennifer’s part, at least Benjamin would be attending her party. Benjamin thought this was a fair agreement and stated that he agreed. Jennifer continued: “And I’ll bring Julia, it will be a big group of us.”

Benjamin reached for his cup of coffee and took a sip. Lately Benjamin had been adding cream & sugar to his regularly black coffee: he enjoyed the way that the sharp, bitterness of the coffee was mellowed by the cream, with a bit of sugar added for taste. “Sounds good, see you at 8. I’ll talk to you later, I’m writing a book and I’ve got to finish this chapter.” Benjamin said in a rushed manner.

“Father Time is undefeated.” Jennifer reminded Benjamin.

With that, Jennifer heard the click of the phone hanging up and Benjamin began to type on his laptop with a new fervor.

Jennifer noticed a small change in Benjamin and began wondering what exactly it was. Their conversation was much different than usual, she was usually in control of the pace and content of their conversations. An intrigue began to develop that Jennifer felt the need to solve. Who was Abby? What was different about Benjamin? She asked herself. Benjamin would never place another person above her, she reassured herself. Benjamin, her rock, who she always unknowingly relied upon the idea of whether they were close or apart. Through failed jobs and failed relationships, Jennifer always comforted herself that somewhere, Benjamin would always be waiting for her.

On Friday night, Benjamin stopped his Black Porsche 911 in Jennifer’s driveway and opened the passenger side door for Abigail, and together they walked to Jennifer’s 5,000 square foot mansion located in the foothill’s of Northeast Albuquerque. Benjamin was wearing a crisp black-tie tuxedo with a red lapel, matching Abigail’s red skin-tight dress, accentuating her muscular yet feminine physique, the physique built from years as a high-school and college track athlete. As they climbed the three steps leading from Jennifer’s driveway to the entrance of her home, two giant double-doors dwarfed the couple, and before they could ring the doorbell Jennifer had opened the door to welcome Abigail and Benjamin into her home, with Julia standing at attention in a black sequin dress, eager to greet the couple.

“Benjamin! Abigail! So glad you both could make it. Please, come in. Abigail, Benjamin, this is the love of my life, Julia.”

After taking a few steps into Jennifer’s large entryway, Benjamin’s attention was drawn to a large chandelier, centered in the large entrance between two large flowing staircases leading to the second floor of Jennifer’s home. White marble flooring and Venetian plaster lent the home a classic and refined ambiance, and the entire home was spotlessly clean with art and furniture perfectly placed in order to maximize the hospitality and comfort of the home. Benjamin realized how this home fit Jennifer perfectly: clean, pragmatic, yet still impeccably beautiful and maintained.

“Abigail, can I offer you something to drink?” Jennifer asked, with the hospitality and professionalism of Vanna White.

“Sure, I’ll take a water.” Abigail responded, as Jennifer appraised her muscular shoulders, arms, legs and calves. Jennifer realized that Abigail had the same sleek, sharp curves of Benjamin’s Porsche, both formed by years of hard work and engineering, both for beauty and utility.

“Sure thing, sweet heart.” Jennifer replied, and with that Julia disappeared into the kitchen to retrieve a glass of water, returning after a few moments and handed Abigail a tall, crisp glass of water.

After a few moments of small talk, Benjamin calmly collected the attention of the entire group with one simple question, “Shall we?”, and all 4 in the group walked through Jennifer’s front door, climbed into Benjamin’s Porsche and together they whisked off to the holiday party as the sun continued to set, illuminating the sky with orange, pink and red bladed-clouds.

All eyes were on Benjamin as he walked into the holiday party with 3 of the most beautiful women in New Mexico, resembling a large, ancient Greek statue of chiseled features and exquisite physical features. Benjamin was at the peak of his physical conditioning, only a few months out from active military duty, his muscles had been refreshed and filled by his new schedule of rest and proper nutrition, which were all on show underneath his black tuxedo, and accentuated by his flank of 3 beautiful women in the flower of youthfulness. The crowd of 300 stopped all conversation to admire the 4 newest members of the party, whose superior physical beauty lent a new sense of urgency to the festivities of the holiday party. Located at the top of a stairway above the crowd, Benjamin took the hand of both Abigail and Jennifer and led them, step by step down the staircase until they reached the same level of the large group enjoying egg nog and champagne, a renewed vigor and spirit filled the room as each person began to discuss the new participants of the party.

“Jennifer! So glad you could make it!” A tall, older gentleman grabbed the attention of Jennifer, Benjamin, Abigail and Julia as he hugged Jennifer with a familiar, patriarchal spirit. He continued: “And tell me, who is your friend?” Speaking of Benjamin, he reached his hand out for a firm handshake.