Happy Thursday, Christmas fanatics! Welcome to the twenty-sixth official installment of “Another Christmas Story“!
This week, Lauren Simone will read to all of you Chapter Twenty-Five of our tale, entitled “My Grown Up Christmas List”. Within this chapter, we catch up with Megan, Jake, and Amy Rankin as they continue their attempts to get to Manhattan in time for Aaron’s performance at Radio City Music Hall! We hope you like it! If you do, make sure to share this episode and our website, upon which the text of this installment is posted, to get it in front of as many ears and eyes as possible!
Coming up on the show this upcoming Monday, July 26th, we will be dropping our episode on the 2002 made for TV movie, “It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie”! And on Tuesday, July 27th, the elves will be joined by some very special, frequent and beloved guests to record another Double Feature of an episode, which will be dropping in your main feeds on Monday, August 2nd! We’ll be discussing the one Christmas episode of HBO’s critically acclaimed, hit television show, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” – Season 3, Episode 9: “Mary, Joseph and Larry” and the one Christmas episode of the far-too short-lived, hit TruTV comedy, “I’m Sorry” – Season 2, Episode 4: “Couple’s Massage”! Before that drops in your feeds though, on Thursday, July 29th, you’ll get to hear Chapter 26 of “Another Christmas Story” entitled “Hark the Herald Angel Sing”, which Adam Parker Sibun of “Merry Britmas” will be reading to y’all, and this upcoming Sunday – July 25th, which is Christmas in July already if you can believe it – you’ll find another bonus episode in your feeds to honor the occasion! So make sure to keep your eyes on your podcast feeds for that as well.
Enjoy, y’all! 🎅🏻🎄🎁 🦌🦉⛄️🔔 🤶🏻 🎀 ❄️
Chapter Twenty-Five: My Grown Up Christmas List
December 24th – 2:30 p.m. EST
“What do you mean you can’t pick us up?” Megan Rankin’s knuckles were white from how tightly she gripped her cellphone close to her ear.
After their plane had turned north in order to approach the upstate New York suburb of Westchester, it still needed to circle the small airport for some good two-and-a-half-hours before they were given the clearance to land. The descent turned out to be as rocky as the pilot had promised, and once the wheels had touched down, it took another half-an-hour to pull up to the gate due to the icy conditions on the runway. When Megan leaned over Jake to glance out of the window, her heart sank slightly at the sight of what appeared to be a complete whiteout.
Now, Megan was standing beside the motorized baggage carousel on the ground floor of the tiny airport that looked as though it hadn’t been updated since the seventies. Besides the people who had just disembarked her flight, the space was empty apart from a skeletal airport staff – all other departures and arrivals had been cancelled until further notice. A long line had formed in front of a customer service desk, manned by a frazzled looking man who looked as though he were still in college and did his best to smile politely as he dealt with all of the passengers trying to arrange transportation to their final destinations by Christmas morning. Judging by their irate reactions, it appeared as though no buses or taxis were willing to run in this weather – at least not for a few more hours when the storm was due to die down a bit. Megan had anticipated this, which is why she hadn’t even bothered getting in line and called her mother instead.
Unfortunately, her mother was being less than helpful. “Megan,” she was saying in a condescending tone of voice more suited for explaining something simple to a small child. “Have you glanced outside recently?”
“Yes, I’ve glanced outside, mother,” Megan snapped, annoyed. “I’m looking outside right now!” It was true. She was staring past Jacob, who was holding Amy and standing beside their luggage, and out of the glass front windows of the airport at the heavily falling snow that seemed to bewitch her children.
“Then you’ll see it would have been hard enough for your father and I to get to Newark to pick you up, as close as that airport is!” Caitlin explained. “We’ll never be able to get out to Westchester and back into the city in time to see Aaron’s performance! Not in this weather! We’ll be lucky if we make the show as it is just heading straight over there from our house!”
“Well, what do you expect me to do?” Megan demanded, the desperation evident in her voice. “I don’t want to miss my son’s performance!”
“I’m sure you’ll find a way, Megan. You’re very resourceful! And, if not, at least Aaron will have his grandparents in the audience!”
Megan rolled her eyes, blinking back hot tears so her two children wouldn’t see her cry. “Right.”
“We’ll leave your tickets at the Will Call window in case you do make it, okay?”
“You sound angry.”
“Gee, ma, what would make you think that?”
“There’s no need to take that tone with me, young lady,” Caitlin barked. “I’ve told you for years not to wait until the last minute to do everything! Why you’d wait to get a flight out–”
“I’ve got to go,” Megan interrupted. “I’ll see you later.” And without saying another word, and refusing to let her mother get another word in herself, she hung up the phone with a loud groan of frustration. She closed her eyes, wracking her brain for a few moments, when an idea finally formed in the back of her mind. And though it was a desperate, horrible idea, it was the only one she could think of that might work; that might get her, Jake, and Amy into Manhattan in time to make Aaron’s show. Her eyes springing open, she called across the eerily quiet and still airport. “Jake! Jake! JACOB!”
Jake, who was clutching his baby sister close to him, spun around at the sound of his name. He wasn’t the only one; many tired and frustrated passengers still waiting in line at the customer service desk glanced at her in annoyance. Ignoring them, Megan jerked her head in the direction of the ladies’ room and mouthed, “I’m going to go pee”, while holding up her index finger to indicate that she’d be back in a minute. When her son nodded his acknowledgement, she flashed him a quick smile before scurrying off into the bathroom.
Thankfully, the sterile, tiled room – which was illuminated by atrociously bad lighting – was blissfully empty. The privacy it provided Megan with would make it easier for her to swallow her pride and do what she had to do. Before she did, however, she glanced at herself in the spotty mirror to find her pale, freckled face was sporting enormous bags beneath her sad, brown eyes. As she heled up a strand of dark hair, one of many that had fallen out of place from her hastily tied ponytail, she couldn’t help but laugh. She was only thirty-one, yet somehow she had three children – one of whom was an unruly teenager – that she loved very much. How the hell had that happened?”
Her laughter died away slowly when she spotted the end of the scars that spanned the length of her inner right forearm poking out of the end of her sleeve. Sighing in resignation, she began to scroll through the contacts in her phone until she found the one she had been searching for. Biting down on her lip, she dialed the number and waited with bated breath for somebody on the other end of the line to pick up. “Come on, come on, come on, come on,” she muttered impatiently, as the ringing echoed in her ears.
The voice that picked up the phone was not the one that Megan had been expecting. It was the raspy voice of a woman, and it had practically been a shout to ensure that Megan could hear her over the sound of the music blasting in the background. Holding the phone a few inches away from her ear, Megan raised her voice to reply. “Uh – yeah – may I speak to Tobias, please?”
“Tobias!” Megan stated again, louder this time.
“Who’s calling?” The woman on the other end asked, slurring her words.
Megan bit down on her lower lip hard in order to prevent herself from snapping at the woman before patiently answering. “Tell him it’s Megan.”
“Megan his ex-girlfriend,” Megan spat, annoyed now. “The mother of his children!”
“Hold on,” the woman replied. But rather than going to get Tobias, she shouted loudly, “Toby! Phone!” Her voice was so loud, it sounded as though she had screamed directly into the receiver for Megan’s benefit. Megan, in turn, winced and was forced to pull her own phone farther from her ear, as she heard a deep voice shout back, “Who is it?”
“Megan! The mother of your children,” she added mockingly.
Megan felt her heartrate increase as silence fell on the other end of the line, broken only by the pulsing music wherever the woman and Tobias currently were. It felt like she was listening to it for hours, when in reality she knew it was only seconds. Finally, the deep, playful voice of her ex-husband, Tobias, broke the silence. “Hello?”
“Hi, Tobias,” Megan replied, reserved.
“Hold on,” he instructed her before calling loudly, “Would you turn down the damn music? I’m on the phone here!” A beat before, “Give me the finger again and I’ll break it, ya hear?” The words chilled Megan to the bone, as they brought memories rushing back to the forefront of her mind. She heard the woman with her ex shout something incomprehensible back at him, yet acquiesce to him nevertheless. When the music died down, Tobias addressed Megan again. “Well, well, well. How’s it going, Meggy?”
“I’ve been better,” Megan admitted, her voice catching slightly in her throat. Then, injecting as much confidence and bravado as she could muster into her voice, she asked, “Who answered the phone? New girlfriend?”
“Must we label everything?” Tobias asked. “Why do you care? Jealous?”
“Not on your life,” Megan replied firmly.
Tobias chuckled at the declaration before admitting, “We’re just fooling around.”
“Hmm.” Megan pursed her lips, as she leaned in toward the bathroom mirror and tried to fix her hair as she talked. “If I’m remembering correctly, that’s what you claimed we were doing. And look what happened.”
“What happened exactly?”
Megan bristled at the words. “What happened?” she repeated, outrage building within her. “What happened?”
“Calm down,” Tobias replied condescendingly. “I’m joking.”
But Megan wasn’t in the mood for jokes. “You knocked me up three times, that’s what happened! And then you walked out on me, leaving me to raise all three of our children on my own!” She laughed in disbelief. “Do you know how hard of a job that is to do well while trying to hold down multiple minimum wage jobs in order to try and make ends meet? Huh? What am I saying, of course you don’t! You’ve never taken an ounce of responsibility on in your life!”
“Don’t!” She swiftly cut across him. “Just don’t. Do you know how hard it is being mother and father to three kids? Being the ‘bad guy’ all of the time? Jake – he resents me.” She laughed humorlessly. “He just wants his father back in his life, and he can’t understand why you don’t want to be a part of it. He takes your absence out on me though, and while I try not to take it personally, it hurts. It really does, Tobias.”
“And Aaron,” Megan continued, her voice rising hysterically. “He’s the sweetest little boy. He truly is. He does so much to try and help me around the house. He – you know, he saw you for what you truly are. He saw how you treated me; recognized how you treated them. He’s my pride and joy. And I just – I feel so bad for him because he’s being bullied in school, and I feel so helpless to do anything to stop it.” Tears were welling up in her eyes now, but she blinked them away as her voice continued to rise. “And Amy. You didn’t even stick around to meet Amy! Didn’t stick around long enough to even find out she was going to be a girl! She’s the cutest little baby. She has my face, but she has your eyes. She’s always so happy, she doesn’t have a care in the world, and I’m so nervous for her to grow up and lose that joy.”
“Megan,” Tobias interjected. “Listen to me a for a second.”
“No!” Megan snapped, her voice sharp as she wiped away her tears. “No, you listen to me, Tobias, because I’m not done yet!” She took a deep, shuddering breath as she began to pace the bathroom floor. “You know what happened between us, Tobias? We were young. We were in love. We were careless. And we were stupid. But despite all of that, despite all of the abuse you hurled my way and the situation you left me in, I somehow got three amazing children out of it. That’s what happened. I wouldn’t change a second of any of it if it meant giving up any of them. Not one. I would absolutely do it all over again. I’m the luckiest person in the world to be their mother, and you aren’t only a bastard for walking out on us, but you’re also the unluckiest man in the world for not wanting to be a part of their lives. I feel sorry for you.”
She lapsed into silence after her speech, breathing deeply in order to slow down her racing heart. It took a minute, but eventually Tobias asked gently, “Are you done?” When Megan didn’t reply, he continued. “Did you just call to lace into me?” When she still refused to answer him, he sighed deeply. “I don’t know what you want me to say, Megan. That I want you back?”
Megan let out a bark of laughter. “Absolutely not.”
“Then what?” Tobias demanded, raising his voice now. “What do you want from me? An apology for ruining your life? For getting you addicted to heroin? For giving you three children before the age of thirty-one? Fine. I’m sorry.” Megan bristled at the sarcasm dripping from every one of his words. “But you know what I’m not sorry for? I’m not sorry for leaving you when I did. I never wanted to be a father; especially this young.”
“Maybe you should have thought of that before having sex with me,” Megan pointed out bitterly.
“Maybe you should have taken that into consideration when you refused to get an abortion like I suggested,” Tobias shot back.
“You’re a piece of shit, you know that? God, I don’t even know why I called you!”
“That makes two of us.”
Megan let out a long, frustrated breath before admitting quietly, “I need a favor, Toby.”
“A favor?” Toby asked, registering the use of his nickname. “What kind of a favor? I don’t have any money.”
“It’s nothing like that.” Megan rolled her eyes. “I’m in New York. With the kids.”
“You are?” For the first time in their entire conversation, he sounded surprised.
“Aaron’s performing in the Christmas show tonight at Radio City with the rest of his class. They flew in this morning,” Megan explained. “Jake, Amy, and I took a later flight in to surprise him; he has no idea we’re here. We just landed in Westchester, but because of the snow, we have no way of getting into the city. None of the buses or taxis are running, and so–”
“—you decided to call me,” Tobias finished. It wasn’t a question, but a statement of fact. “You want me to drive upstate to pick you up in the middle of this storm and drive you into the city?”
“You’ll get to see your kids,” Megan pointed out, desperate now. “You’ll get to meet your daughter. I just – I wouldn’t have called you if I had any other choice, but I don’t. Don’t do this for me, do it for them. Please,” she added, stopping just short of begging. “I don’t want to miss Aaron’s performance. I don’t want to disappoint him.”
“You said you were surprising him,” Tobias replied. “He can’t really be disappointed if a surprise he has no idea about doesn’t end up actually happening, can he?”
Megan ignored the comment. “Toby, please. It’s Christmas Eve.”
“That’s right, it is,” Tobias replied curtly. “And I have better things to do than pick up my ex-girlfriend and her children from the airport.”
“I have to go,” he cut across her. “Merry Christmas, Megan.” And before she could protest, the line went dead. After angrily pocketing her phone, Megan grabbed either side of the sink in front of her and began to kick the tiled wall angrily in frustration, as she cursed the heartless callousness of her ex-boyfriend. She only stopped when her foot began to hurt considerably, and she caught sight of her tear-stained, blotchy red face in the mirror. She had no idea what she was supposed to do now.
After taking a few minutes to regain her composure and make herself look a little more presentable, Megan exited the bathroom and strode over to where Jake and Amy were waiting by the doors of the airport with the luggage, still staring out in fascination at the snow. “Sorry I took so long,” Megan apologized when she reached them, injecting her voice with fake cheeriness. She reached out to take Amy, whom her teenage son gratefully handed over. “Hi baby,” she cooed, as the baby girl grabbed at her hair affectionately.
“Where’s grandma and grandpa?” Jake asked without preamble.
Megan’s smile faltered. “They – uh – they can’t make it out of the city due to the weather.” She nodded her head at the glass doors at the white powder piling high on the ground. “So I don’t know how we’re going to get into the city.”
“Are you kidding me?” Jake demanded furiously.
“I wish I was.” Megan flashed him a sympathetic smile. “But it looks like we’ll just have to wait it out until the buses and taxis start running again.”
Jake glanced out of the windows of the airport once more, clearly crestfallen, before rounding on his mother once again. “What about the show? We’re just going to miss Aaron’s performance?”
Megan cocked an eyebrow, fully aware that the teenage boy wasn’t concerned about missing his brother’s debut as the little drummer boy and was just anxious to get into Manhattan to experience the most famous city on the planet firsthand. “We may have to.”
“There has to be a way we can get into the city!” Jake argued wildly. “What about calling dad?”
Megan’s stomach sunk at the words. “Jake, I don’t think that calling your father would be such a good idea.”
“Why not?” He stomped his foot on the ground angrily like a petulant child. “I understand you don’t like him, Megan–”
“Jake,” the woman interrupted, her patience waning fast. “Please don’t.”
“But he’ll come pick us up! I know he will!”
“He won’t,” Megan insisted, craning her neck in order to try and keep her lips out of Amy’s reach, as the baby was desperately trying to pull on her lower one. “Trust me.”
“I thought you wanted to get into the city to see Aaron perform!”
“I do! But–”
“Clearly not enough!” Jake rolled his eyes, as he crossed his arms across his chest. “Otherwise you would do anything to get into the city, including calling dad!”
“I did call your father, Jacob,” Megan snapped, taking her son by surprise. She nodded in response to his wide eyes of shock. “That’s right. I did. In the bathroom. And it killed me to do so. But you know what he said? He said he had better things to do on Christmas Eve than pick up his ex and ‘her kids’ from the airport. That’s the kind of man your father is, Jake. He just doesn’t care! Not about me, not about you, your siblings – none of us. He doesn’t care about anybody but himself.”
Jake’s face fell instantly, and Megan’s heart broke at the crushing disappointment exuding from her oldest son. She hated hurting him like that, but she had to make him understand. She made to place a hand on his shoulder, but he sidestepped her quickly. “I don’t believe you,” he muttered.
“You’re lying!” Jake yelled angrily, causing a few of their fellow, stranded passengers to turn and face him with scandalized expressions of surprise on their faces. “You’re making up stories about him because you don’t like him!”
“I’m not,” Megan insisted quietly. “I wish I was, but I’m not. I’m so sorry, Jake.” Her voice was barely more than a whisper now, as she blinked rapidly. “I really am. It’s not your fault though. If he doesn’t want to be in our lives–”
“I know it’s not.” Jake spat venomously. “I know it’s not my fault. It’s yours. You drove him away.”
Megan winced. The accusation hurt, and was utterly false. In retrospect, she wished she had been strong enough to leave Tobias, or to drive him away, but she wasn’t able to, which is why it was Tobias who had eventually picked up and left them. But how could she ever explain that to her son who refused to admit a single bad thing about his father? Before she could even attempt to, a soft voice spoke meekly behind them. “Excuse me, ma’am?”
Megan turned to find herself face-to-face with a man so beautiful, it made her blush. He was tall and had shoulder-length red hair, perfectly clear skin, and dazzling blue eyes. Though he looked as though he were cold, wrapped in layers of winter clothing, his toothy smile of curiosity radiated warmth. “Y-yes?” Megan finally asked when she found her voice, trying not to stare too hard.
“It’s just – I couldn’t help but overhear your plight from over there.” He motioned vaguely behind him. “You need to get into Manhattan, right?”
“Desperately,” Megan admitted.
“I’d be happy to give you a ride. I’m heading there myself.”
“You?” Megan cocked an eyebrow. “How are you planning on getting there?”
“Driving.” The man shrugged. “I work here. My shift just ended, and I need to get home. Which just happens to be on the island.” He stuck out a hand. “I’m Gabe.”
“Megan.” She took the man’s firm hand and shook it. When Amy reached for it as well, she laughed. “This is my daughter, Amy. And my son, Jake.” She indicated the sulking teenage boy.
“Amy,” Gabe repeated, allowing the baby to grab his index finger with her whole tiny hand. “It’s a pleasure. It’s nice to meet you too, Jake.” He raised a hand at the boy, who ignored him. Meeting Megan’s eyes once again, politely confused, she instructed, “Ignore him. He’s in a bad mood. We’ve had a long day so far.”
“I figured,” Gabe replied, looking slightly guilty. “I – uh…” He cleared his throat awkwardly. “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation.”
Megan flushed a deep shade of red. “I’m sorry. I–”
“No, no. Don’t apologize,” Gabe insisted. “It’s my fault for listening in. But, like I said, I can help you get to where you need to be. Radio City, right? It’s on my way.”
Megan hesitantly bit down on her lower lip, unsure of whether or not she should take the man up on his offer. ‘What is there to think about, Megan? What, you want to be stuck here all night?”
“Jake, hush!” Megan shot him a dirty look before uncertainly glancing at Gabe once again. “I don’t have money.”
“I’m not asking for any.”
“I’m not that kind of woman either,” Megan stressed. “If you’re expecting some other kind of favor in return for a ride–”
Gabe laughed loudly, drowning out the rest of the woman’s sentence. “Ma’am, I assure you, I don’t want anything in return. I just want to help you get where you’re going.”
“Why?” Megan asked suspiciously. “You’re not going to kill us, are you? You wouldn’t kill a single mother and her two children, would you?”
“No, no, no, no, no.” Gabe shook his head. “Absolutely not.”
“It’s Christmas.” Gabe shrugged. “You’re supposed to do good for others around Christmas. And, frankly, nobody should have to spend it in an airport. Especially one as depressing as this one.” He stared around the dreary airport in disdain.
Megan laughed despite herself. Then, thinking of Aaron, she nodded. “Alright. Sure. We’ll take the ride. Thank you so much.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Gabe insisted. “Honestly. Here, let me help you with your bags.” And before Megan could protest, he grabbed the handles of their luggage.
“I insist.” Gabe waved his hand through the air nonchalantly. “Now, follow me. I’d zip your jacket though, young man. You’ll freeze to death in this weather.”
Megan smiled down at Jake to see that, rather than appearing relieved about the fact they were getting a ride into the city, he still looked miserable. She had truly hurt him with what she said about his father, despite the fact that it was true. She would have to make it up to him later, however, when she could think more clearly. At that moment, she was too elated that they had a shot at making it into Manhattan in time to catch Aaron’s performance. And, with that thought at the forefront of her mind, she followed her guardian angel of a stranger and led her children out into the snowy world just beyond the airport doors.