Sir I wanna buy these shoes, for my momma please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry sir?
Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes will make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful
If Momma meets Jesus tonight
— Bob Carlisle, Christmas Shoes
Nicole shifted her weight from one foot to the other and rolled her neck. How long did it take to get from Fifth Street to Forty-Eighth anyway? She was tired of standing on this bus.
Her parents had always told her not to go on buses–but she couldn’t ask them for a ride today. Besides, they thought she was at Cathy’s house and Cathy had been instructed to make an excuse in case her father called.
But he wouldn’t. Her father hadn’t left the bedroom in a few days. See, her mother had been kind of sick and he was worried about her.
But it was Christmas Eve and seven-year-old Nicole was braving the Port Charles streets all by herself. She’d saved for weeks and weeks to buy her mother a pretty pair of earrings and she thought she had enough so she’d climbed the bus to head to Wyndham’s.
The bus lurched to a sudden stop, sending Nicole flying forward. She landed in the lap of a young blonde woman sitting with a little boy. “I’m sorry,” she said, righting herself.
“It’s all right.” The woman studied her and cast her eyes to the direction Nicole had come from. “Where’s your mother, honey?”
“She’s at home,” Nicole said. “She got some kind of…” she hesitated, “lou-kem-cem…she’s sick.”
“Leukemia?” the woman supplied.
Nicole nodded. “Yeah. My daddy’s with her but I hope this bus gets to Wyndham’s soon because I wanna buy these earrings for her. I saw them in a catalog a-and I’ve been saving for weeks. I think I have enough but I had to come today because Daddy says she’s gonna be an angel soon and I think angels need pretty jewelry.”
The woman’s eyes softened and she looked at her soon. “Scoot over, Kyle.”
The brown-haired boy scowled but obeyed his mother and she moved over to create a small space for Nicole. “Thank you,” Nicole said gratefully.
“What’s your name, sweetheart?” the woman asked.
“Nicole Maria Emilia Morgan,” Nicole told her proudly. “The Emilia is for my aunt Emily.”
“I’m Maxie and this is my son, Kyle.” The woman tipped her head towards her son. “Honey, say hello.”
Not wanting to be outdone, Kyle sat up and puffed his chest out. “My name is Kyle Andrew Radcliffe, Jr.,” he said. “My daddy is police man.”
“My daddy works with coffee and he always smells like it,” Nicole wrinkled her nose. “I’m seven and three-quarters.”
“I’m eight,” Kyle boasted. He frowned. “What did you mean when you said your mommy was gonna be angel?”
“That’s what my Daddy says,” Nicole told him. “He says that sometimes people get really sick and then they go to be angels and that way, my mommy can take care of me forever but I won’t be able to see her.” Her eyes filled with tears. “I want her to stay with me but Daddy says Mommy is too good and pure for this world and that’s why she’s his angel.”
“Your daddy sounds like he loves your mother very much,” Maxie said. “He’s lucky to have such a beautiful and caring daughter.”
“He says I’m an angel too,” Nicole said. She sighed. “I hope Mommy doesn’t become an angel until after tomorrow. She loves Christmas. She let me put the angel on top of the tree this year and I made paper chains. She calls my dad a paper chain expert but he’s really bad at it so I think she’s just being nice.”
Maxie smiled. “I hope you get Christmas with your mommy. Hey, we’re coming up to Wyndham’s stop.”
Nicole smiled brightly. “I’m kind of excited. I’ve never been there by myself.”
Maxie matched her smile and took Kyle’s hand. “Tell you what. Why don’t Kyle and I walk you to the jewelry counter? And then we’re meeting his dad at the police station so maybe we can give you a ride home.”
“Wow, really?” Nicole clapped her hands together. “That’s great! I don’t know which bus to take home anyway.”
Nicole pressed her face up against the glass case of the jewelry counter and her face crumbled. “I don’t have enough.”
Maxie crouched next to her. “Didn’t you say you saw it in a catalogue?”
Nicole nodded, her lip trembling. “But that’s the one I saw and it wasn’t that much then.”
Maxie followed Nicole’s finger and saw a tiny pair of sapphire earrings in a silver settings with a price of three hundred dollars. She felt a pang in her heart. There was no way that the angelic girl had saved that much.
She straightened and looked at the sympathetic salesgirl. “Were these earrings on sale at any time?”
The girl nodded. “Yeah, they were on sale for fifty bucks back at the end of the summer but it’s Christmas, everything’s inflated.” The pretty redhead looked at the tiny girl staring forlornly at the jewelry. “Look, I have about twenty bucks on me. I can go ask my friend Joy if she can offer anything. Maybe between the three of us, we can make up the difference. She looks so sad.”
Maxie nodded and lowered her voice. “Her mother’s very sick and I get the impression she’s not supposed to last much longer.”
“Wait here and I’ll go talk to Joy.” The girl moved to find her friend at the other end of the counter waiting on an elderly woman.
Maxie looked back Nicole. “Honey, how much money do you have?”
Nicole reached into her pocket and took out a plastic bag full of bills and it jingled with change. Maxie took it from her and started to count.
By the time the salesgirl and her friend Joy had rejoined them, Maxie had counted out forty dollars. For a seven-year-old girl to save that much money…
“Between us, we have sixty dollars,” the salesgirl said.
“Yeah, when Lea explained what was going on, I couldn’t help but give some money,” Joy told her. “Does it help?”
Maxie bit the inside of her cheek. Nicole was still short two hundred dollars. The little girl saw the hesitation on her new friend’s face and smiled. “It’s okay, Maxie. I don’t have to have the earrings. My mommy is pretty without them and I guess angels don’t really need jewelry.”
Maxie felt Kyle tugging at her jacket and she turned to look at him. “Yes, honey?”
He reached into his pocket and took out the envelope full of his own money. Maxie’s eyes filled with tears. Kyle had saved over a year to get a new Xbox and he had a hundred and fifty dollars with him.
She kneeled in front of him and kissed his cheek. “Oh, baby, I am so proud of you.”
Kyle shrugged. “She just wants her mommy to look pretty when she becomes an angel and I think it’s sad that she won’t get to see her every day because I would miss you.”
She took the envelope from him and gave him a tight hug. When he woke up the next morning, that Xbox he’d saved for would be waiting for him. She’d make sure of that. “I have never been more proud to be your mother than right this second.”
She stood, set the envelope on the counter and reached into her own wallet to take out the remaining money.
Lea smiled brightly, rung up the purchase and then even wrapped the velvet jewelry box herself. “Here you go, honey.”
“Thank you!” Nicole said. She smiled again and looked up at Maxie. “Can you take me home now? I want to make sure my mommy didn’t become an angel while I was gone.”
When the trio had exited, Joy sniffled and reached for a tissue. “Man, times like this, I’m glad I waited to quit until after the holidays.”
Kyle Radcliffe, Sr. frowned that night when he saw the credit card purchase receipt for the video game system. He looked at his wife who was arranging their son’s presents under their tree. “I thought we agreed Ky was going to buy this on his own?”
“We did.” Maxie stood and sat down on her husband’s lap. “Your son gave the money away.”
Kyle raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“You remember the little girl who we gave a ride home?”
Kyle nodded. “Jason Morgan’s daughter. I know him–he used to work for Sonny Corinthos before he got married and left the business. I heard his wife was sick.”
“Leukemia and it’s bad. Nicole said her father told that her mother was going to be angel soon.” Maxie sighed. “She wanted to buy he mother a pair of earrings for Christmas but she didn’t have enough. Kyle, she saved forty dollars. Do you know how wonderful that is?”
“How much were the earrings?” Kyle asked.
“Three hundred dollars. So the salesgirl threw in a twenty and her friend put in forty and then Ky put in his entire hundred and fifty dollars.”
“He’s been saving that money for over a year,” Kyle said, surprised. “Birthday, allowance, report card grades…he wouldn’t even buy baseball cards. He gave it to a little girl he never met before?”
“He said that he felt sorry for her because she wouldn’t see her mother anymore and that he’d miss me if that happened.” Maxie rested her forehead against her husband’s. “How can I not buy him that game system after that?”
“I guess he earned it.” Kyle smiled at him. “And you were worried we’d screw him up.”
Nicole climbed up on her mother’s bed and rested her head on her mother’s chest. “I love you, Mommy.”
Elizabeth Morgan’s hand slowly came up to stroke her daughter’s long blonde hair. “I love you, too,” she said softly before looking at her exhausted husband sitting at her side. “How was Cathy’s?”
Nicole sat up and reached into her jeans pocket. “Mommy, I…I didn’t go to Cathy’s. I went and got your Christmas present.”
“Aww, honey…” Elizabeth started to struggle into a sitting position. Jason quickly sat on the bed and helped her. “You know you didn’t…”
Nicole sniffled. “Daddy says you’re gonna be an angel and I thought you needed pretty earrings. I saw them in a catalogue and I went on the bus to get them. I didn’t have enough but a pretty lady and her son helped me.” She held the neatly wrapped present out to her mother. “Here. You can open it tonight.”
Elizabeth hesitated but saw the hesitant and excited look in her daughter’s eyes. She was so proud of herself for doing this–for apparently not asking her father for the money even though Jason could have taken care of it. She took it from her and pulled the wrapping off as fast as her exhausted body could handle.
She tilted the box open and the sparkle of the sapphire stones took her breath away. Her vision blurred with tears and she looked at her daughter. “Oh, baby…”
“I wanted you to look pretty,” Nicole said. She wrapped her arms around her mother’s waist and started to cry. “Please stay here. I know Daddy says you’re too good for this world but you’re my mommy and I need you. Someone else can be an angel.”
“I don’t want to go,” Elizabeth said. She closed her eyes and held her tightly. “I love you so much and don’t listen to your daddy, he’s always thought I was too good for things. Too good to love him, too good to marry him. He’s very biased and I think he labors under the impression that I’m perfect or something.”
She looked at him with a soft smile. “But I love him for it and I love you.” She kissed Nicole’s head. “No matter what happens, I will always be your mother and I will always love you. Please remember that.”
“Okay.” Nicole kissed her cheek. “Will you wear the earrings tomorrow?”
Elizabeth nodded. “Sure, baby.” She looked at Jason. “Why don’t you put her to bed? It’s getting late.”
Jason nodded and picked their daughter up off the bed. He kissed his wife’s forehead. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
The next morning, Nicole woke up to see her father kneeling next to her bed, with tears in his eyes. “Hey, baby,” he greeted hoarsely.
She sat up and her lip trembled. “Is Mommy an angel now?”
He nodded and pulled her into a hug. “Mommy’s an angel now and she wore your pretty earrings to heaven.”
“I wish she’d stayed here but you’re right, Mommy’s so good and sweet and pretty that everyone should get her to look out for them and not just us.” Nicole kissed her father on the cheek. “Now she’s your angel forever.”
“Yeah.” Jason managed a smile. “But she already was anyway.”