Christmas Town: Chapter 2
Time to be introduced to the requisite Cute Kid in this Christmas story: Nathan Ratchford, son of Joella.
There’s always the question in Christian romances of why each half of the couple is still single. The untimely death of a beloved first spouse is common, because divorce needs to be handled delicately—considering the number of Christians who consider divorce immoral under almost all circumstances, with possible exceptions for abuse, adultery, and abandonment.
In this case, Joella’s jerk of a husband was the valedictorian of their high school in Christmas Town. He and Joella married and escaped their one-horse town and went to college, but…
…two years later, Nathan was born and college put on hold for the more important job of motherhood. But Andy [her husband] stuck with it, graduated with Joella’s help and took a promising job with a major bank. Not long after, Andy told Joella his lawyer would be in touch. She didn’t fit his plan any longer.
So, abandonment. And Nathan is none too happy about never seeing his dad. This is the e-mail he composes in his head, but never sends:
Dear Deadbeat Dad,
In case it has slipped your busy, important mind, you have a son, aged seven years and eight-point-two months, who is growing up without the bare essentials—a computer, a pair of purple-and-teal high-top sneakers, or even one measly ticket to a Charlotte Hornets home game.
Nathan the Half Orphan
Okay, that is waaaay too precocious a thought process for a seven-year-old. And I’m sorry, but the letter is just so…acquisitive. Nathan doesn’t ask for his father’s love and attention, he just wants stuff.
Upping his cuteness factor, Nathan is bespectacled. And his glasses are off as he’s sitting at Venita’s desk, and so he has a foreshadowing reaction when he sees a blurry Jordan Scoville:
But when Jordan is introduced, precocious Nathan knows exactly who he is:
…the man everybody said was coming to town to fire them all and put them out of their homes. Wo! Nathan was excited. A real, live, bad-to-the-bone business tycoon!
Not the reaction I think I would have had if I had met the man who was about to put my mother out of a job…
Mommy, the guy who’s about to fire the whole town is SO COOL.
Also, Nathan thinks of the Uncle Billys as “old geezers.” Not sure I like this kid.
And then comes the big meet, Joella and Jordan for the first time. Joella shows up to pick up her son and announce herself as informal stand-in for the rights of the mill workers.
Refreshingly, Jordan is impressed, not put off, by Joella’s directness and take-charge attitude. He appears not to be an Alpha Male, which makes me like him. He’s quite conflicted about the whole mess, but one thing is clear in his mind:
There was no way anybody from the mill was going to sit in on meetings about closing the mill. Not until Jordan had figured out a way to cover up the things that needed covering up.
Otherwise, Mitchell and Truman Scoville [his father and uncle] would spend their last years in prison.
Well, shit. It’s worse than I had initially assumed.
Jordan does put Joella off, though: he comes across as a cold bastard. Again, I kinda like that; it’s artfully done: putting the couple at cross-purposes, but both of them doing things they think are right and good.
The romance was the worst thing (okay, one of the worst things) in Twas the Night Before, but I’m getting the feeling that it might not be bad here.
Later that evening, Joella and Nathan engage in some banter at the dinner table that continues to establish that Nathan is ever-so-cute (I can see why so many romances feature babies and toddlers—it’s much easier to make them cute).
Joella worries about her finances:
If push came to shove, she’d have to humble herself and let all those social services people take Andrew to court for child support, the way Venita had been telling her to for years.
Wait, what? Joella could have been making Andy pay child support all this time, and hasn’t? Jesus, lady, it’s his kid, too! Nothing humbling about asking him to share a bit of responsibility. Holy crap.
Money is so tight, in fact, that Joella tells Nathan that they can’t have a Christmas tree. Also, there probably won’t be any Christmas Town Christmas lights, which leads us to a point from the guidelines I just posted!
No lying, not even to your little kid.
So in answer to his direct question about Christmas lights in town, Joella is forced by Christianity to respond:
“I don’t know, Nathan. Maybe not. Nobody’s sure yet.”
Weird thing: Joella apparently taught her kid about Santa Claus. (A school friend set the kid straight.) So, how is this not a lie?
This revelation turns Nathan against Jordan. I mean, sure, it was all well and good when all he was doing was firing the whole town, including his mommy, but now it’s all Jordan’s fault that there won’t be any Christmas lights, and that, Nathan cannot abide!
“He doesn’t believe in Christmas and he doesn’t care if anyone else does, either!”
The chapter closes with Joella praying that God, with her help (or her with God’s help—it’s unclear) changes Jordan “from the Grinch into jolly old Saint Nick.”