Presents All Around | Nuggets From My Novels II | Vesper Edition

Last week, I began the second series on my blog entitled Nuggets From My Novels. I started off by posting the third chapter of the first novel, The Vesper Incident, in The Castlewood Saga (or Tales of Castlewood….it’s a work in progress, lovely humans, even the title…..). This week, it’s the fourth chapter where you’ll get a deeper look at Holly, Amber, and Adam Lawson as they struggle to play their role in the dysfunction that is the Lawson clan 🙂 Definitely check out Dividing Lines | Nuggets From My Novels I | Vesper Edition so you can get a bit of background!

In case you missed last week’s post, here’s a little family tree since I’m throwing you into the action. Parents on the top line, kids on the second line, ages on the third line. Stanley, Sandra, and Sabrina are siblings 🙂 Enjoy and feel free to let me know who your favourite Lawson cousin is in the comments below if you’re so inclined!


Stanley & Karen Lawson     Xavier & Sandra (Lawson) Vaughn    Sabrina (Rina) Lawson

Adam | Holly | Alex             Floyd                                                         Amber |Tyler | Sophia

20       | 17       | 16                 20                                                               17         | 16      | 3 mo.


Chapter Four | Presents All Around |

Thursday, December 25, 1997
6:30 am
Anderson CO

         Holly yawned and stretched as her eyelids fluttered open. An early-riser by nature, she encountered little difficulty with punctuality and preparedness. Quiet morning hours were peaceful and precious and even more so this Christmas. Her mood soured as she thought of what the day would hold. More familial tension and in-fighting. Awkward encounters with relatives. Zero of the joy and happiness which was supposed to mark the holiday season.

She threw off the covers and curled up with the blankets and pillows on the windows seat. Dawn tinged the sky though the sun had yet to really rise at all. Holly could just make out the outline of the Rockies as the jagged peaks rose to the heavens. It struck her then that the mountains resembled her family. Rough and uneven but cemented by the soil beneath them. She figured that’s why no one had left yet. Everyone stayed out of principle or perhaps out of a deeper sense of love. Christmas was a man-made holiday. Yeah, it was meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus but no one said that you were supposed to be happy at Christmastime…at least no one that had any influence. The people that made the rules seemed to have some sort of notion that everyone was supposed to be irrationally cheerful and festive and that Christmas Cheer was just supposed to explode into the air.

It was all lies.

So far, 1997 Christmas in Rivendell had taught Holly that if you wanted something you had to go out there and get it because no one was going to get it for you. She’d asked Adam to help her with the puppy plan but he’d failed her. Floyd stepped up and though she was immensely grateful and felt like they now shared some sort of bond, she was also a bit wary. In the end, she’d have to get the puppy herself…as usual. Holly sighed and snuggled deeper into the cushions. Middle-child syndrome wasn’t a myth. You just got lost under the radar. No one meant for it to happen but it just did. You learned how to float along by yourself and make your own way. Sad but true.

Holly fished her Bible out from the blankets where she had left it the night before. She couldn’t make her family change so it was up to her to be happy and make the best of the situation, though she was still peeved with Adam. Flipping through the Bible, Holly stopped when her eyes landed on Psalm 139, her favourite Psalm. She could just make out the words in the dim lighting but she didn’t really need to see them since she had the passage memorized. God knew her and it didn’t matter that she was forgotten or passed over by her family. In His eyes, she was fully known and fully loved and that was what kept her going. Christ had washed her clean and He’d never leave her even if everyone else did.

Christmas Day was going to be a struggle but she wanted it to be a special day for Floyd. She’d seen him in a new light after their fireside conversation and she wanted to be there for him. Running her fingers over the thin Bible page, Holly wished she had thought to bring him a gift. She hadn’t brought anything for any of her cousins, not even Amber. She was so focused on getting a puppy and on making sure Mom and Dad were on board that she hadn’t really thought about presents and gifts…well, presents and gifts for others.

Holly shifted her gaze from the Bible to the lightening sky and prayed that God would help her find a present for Floyd…somehow. Out of everyone at Rivendell, he probably hadn’t had a solid Christmas in a long time. Last year, he’d been in prison.


9:30 am

Amber jerked upright in bed as she struggled to focus on what had awakened her. Something felt odd. At first she thought she was back in Florida in her mother’s spruced-up-but-barely-affordable trailer home. The faint yet pungent odour of alcohol drifted up her nostrils and she squeezed her eyes shut. She hated liquor. She hated the physical stuff and she hated the destruction it left in its wake. It was a dragon that had roared into her dismal life on far too many occasions and burned up whatever shreds of joy her mother and siblings had.

Sunlight streamed into the room, slanting through the clouds. Amber felt the warming glow on her eyelids but kept them shut. Who was drinking at this hour of the morning? And why? Her mom had promised her not to bring booze on the trip to Rivendell and Amber had searched Sabrina’s bags prior to take-off as a final precaution. Her mother was a liar when alcohol was involved. Floyd was the next logical suspect, he and his friend Brett. Brett was cute, sure, but he had that look…the one Amber had seen enough times in her mother’s ubiquitous boyfriends, the one that screamed innocence and arrogance intertwined. He was trouble and she was keeping her distance.

She exhaled heavily through her nose and sank back onto the bed. Finding Aunt Jade would have to wait until next year. There was just too much going on. Once they all separated and left Rivendell, life would slap everyone in the face. She’d go back to mothering Tyler and Sophia while her mother continued her wild and irresponsible life. Adam, Holly, and Alex would fly back to Pennsylvania and Adam would return to college. Floyd would go who-knows-where and everything would go back to “normal”. She couldn’t abandon Ty and Sophia and take off on her own. That wasn’t fair to them. Perhaps the summer.

Amber opened her eyes and nodded slowly to herself. Yes, the summer. Adam would be home again and he could help them finalize details. A couple plane tickets later, they’d be in Montana. Aunt Jade would say yes, dish out some cash, Rivendell would be saved and the motley Lawson crew would be back here again at Christmas next year. She’d have to be patient for the next several months but her plan would work. It had to. Counting on her fingers, Amber ticked off the extra hours required at the diner. If she worked seven days a week, with ten-hour shifts instead of five days a week with eight-hour shifts, she could pull this off. Granted, she was a minor but the establishment she worked at wasn’t exactly known for keeping on the right side of the law. Amber was just grateful she had income to help keep her family’s head above water.

With plane-ticket money for her, Tyler, and Sophia taken care of, she turned her mind to her cousins. Adam had money but probably not enough for a plane ticket, no matter how cheap. He liked to blow cash on art supplies. Holly’d been saving up for a puppy so she probably didn’t have spare money either. Alex was just as penniless as Tyler so no help from that quarter.

Amber sighed yet again and closed her eyes. As usual, she was stuck being the mother to everyone. Tears welled in her eyes but she willed them to stay there. Crying didn’t solve problems; action did. So she’d work overtime at the diner and pick up whatever other odd jobs she could. If she ended up single-handedly paying for everyone’s plane fare, then so be it. Rivendell was that important.


12:30 pm

Adam stretched out on one of the fire-side couches in the living room, a sleeping Sophia lying on his chest. It was so weird feeling her little heart beating and he found himself trying to keep as still as possible. He didn’t remember ever holding his siblings when they were infants. He must have held them, he just didn’t remember. Sophia falling asleep on him was actually a really nice feeling because Christmas morning had been a disaster.

His dad caught Brett and Floyd chugging beers for the fun of it and while Adam found it odd that they were consuming alcohol this early in the morning, he didn’t really blame them. Everyone was getting bored. In an effort to console the boys, Aunt Rina accompanied them to the slopes for a skiing excursion which probably meant she’d sneaked some beers along and a tequila or two if Adam knew his aunt. He chuckled. His family was messed up. Aunt Rina had no intentions of ever acting her age and here he was snuggling with his baby cousin while her mother was off gallivanting.

After Aunt Rina, Floyd, and Brett left, the rest of the Lawsons valiantly attempted a Christmas morning but failed miserably. Uncle X was in no mood to celebrate anything and he actually threatened to pack up and head back home to California without Aunt Sandra. Adam’s mom tried to placate him but he was halfway out the door. It was Amber who surprisingly convinced her uncle to remain. Adam didn’t remember what she’d said exactly but whatever it was, it had the desired effect. Uncle X promised to stay for at least a few more days but retreated to the den downstairs which he’d sort of commandeered as his own.

So Adam’s parents, Aunt Sandra, and the rest of the kids ate brunch, sang a few carols, and read from Luke 2. It was a paltry attempt at Christmas but Adam didn’t care. No one even mentioned presents. If anyone had brought a gift, they remained out of sight. Without the giant Christmas tree in the living room, it didn’t really feel like Christmas at all. In fact, Adam was more than ready to get back to Castlewood, something he thought he’d never say. Everything was just too awkward and uncomfortable and he wanted to run.

He was alone in the living room. Just Sophia and a crackling fire. The only two bright spots in this entire vacation.

The heavy mahogany front door clicked open and the skiers returned, laughing loudly as they spilled over the threshold. Adam rolled his eyes so far back into his head that only the whites showed. His buddies in college called it his “superpower”. For kicks and giggles, he’d roll his eyes back and loll his tongue out of his mouth and the guys would double over with laughter. He’d gotten so used to doing it that it would happen accidentally sometimes, freaking people out. Right now was one of those times. He had rolled his eyes in an automatic gesture at the sound of his crazy aunt and cousin’s return but scaring the living daylights out of them seemed like a better option.

Focusing his eyes normally, Adam allowed an arm to slip off the couch and hang down. He waited until he heard the heavy clomp of someone’s boots on the wooden floor and then rolled his eyes back while letting his tongue hang out of his mouth slightly.

Aunt Rina’s high-pitched, musical laughter floated to his ears. “Helloooo, anybody home? We’re back, people. Where’s my baby girl?” She slipped a bit on the smooth floor and giggled as Brett held onto her arm to steady her. “Thanks, darling. You’re a gem.” Righting herself, she tramped into the living room. A shriek split the air as Sabrina saw Adam. She covered her mouth and fell onto the floor, smacking her elbow against the edge of the stone fireplace. Pain rippled up her arm but she hardly noticed. “Adam! Sophia! Someone’s murdered them!”

Forcing himself to keep his eyes in their eerie and rather uncomfortable position for a few seconds longer, Adam prayed that Sophia wouldn’t wake just yet. It would ruin the effect. But his aunt’s screech had unsettled the baby’s sleep and Adam felt Sophia stirring on his chest. Thinking quickly, he reached out and grabbed Sabrina’s foot.

She screamed again and Adam focused his eyes. A deep laugh travelled up from the recesses of his chest and exploded through his lips. Sophia started wailing and he sat up, cradling her in his arms while his body shook with merriment. Oh that had definitely made up for the disastrous Christmas morning.

Aunt Rina slapped his leg and glared at him. “Adam James Lawson, what a cruel thing to do!” She wacked him again, this time with a ski pole. “It’s not funny! Give me my daughter!”

Floyd and Brett had hurried around the couch in time to see Adam roll his eyes back to their proper position. Instead of joining in his cousin’s twisted humour, Floyd clenched his hand into a fist. Adam thought because he was the golden child, he could get away with a stunt like that and he was right. No one would rebuke him…at least not seriously. Even Aunt Rina’s anger would cool after an hour or two. Helping his aunt up from the floor, Floyd addressed his words to the still-laughing dark-haired young man. “Shut up, Adam. You’re a jerk.”

Adam waved a hand and wiped at his face. “Oh come off it, Floyd. It was a joke. Lighten up. Think of it like a present. Merry Christmas!” He laughed again. “Ho ho ho and all that drivel.”

Brett shrugged out of his ever-present leather jacket and shook his head slightly. “Yeah, not cool, man.”

All mirth slipped out of Adam’s face and he handed Sophia to his aunt. Standing, he faced Brett. “Hey, you don’t get to reprimand me, okay? You’re not even a part of this family.”

Arching an eyebrow, Brett backed away, his hands raised. “Family ain’t who you’re born with, man.”

Floyd narrowed his eyes at his cousin. “Yeah, family’s who you’d die for.”

Adam swore he could feel his blood boiling. “What’s that supposed to mean, huh? Okay, you wanna talk about family, cousin? Fine, let’s talk about family. Let’s talk about how you sank this family in debt. Let’s talk about how you’re ripping this family apart.” He stepped closer to Floyd and matched his glare. “I wouldn’t die for you, Floyd Vaughn, so yeah, I guess we’re not family after all, are we?”

Sabrina slipped between her nephews. “Okay, boys, I can smell the testosterone but dial down your manhood. This isn’t a contest. C’mon Floyd, help me with Sophia. You too, Brett.” Her voice sounded stern and commanding and seemed to have lowered an octave. It was sort of like she’d done this before. She gripped Floyd’s arm with her free hand. “Floyd, let’s go.”

Practically shaking with suppressed rage, the ex-convict turned away and followed his aunt out of the living room. Adam didn’t get it. He thought he could just throw his weight around and everyone would bow to him. He didn’t get it at all. Did he think Floyd wanted to be known as the black sheep of the family? He’d embraced the title because it gave him a sort of status but he hated it too. No one knew the truth. No one but Brett knew what had happened when he got arrested. He’d taken the fall for someone else and now he was paying for it every day of his life. Doing good was overrated if this was the thanks you got.

~            ~            ~            ~            ~            ~            ~            ~            ~            ~            ~            ~

That’s all from Vesper for now, lovely humans! Next week, Lord willing, nuggets from The Refiner’s Fire, Book Two of The Castlewood Saga (or Tales of Castlewood….still deciding…). Orrrrrrr I might return to The Office Shenanigans….who can tell? ❤


Proverbs 14:12 | Current theme verse for The Vesper Incident |

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