Jack feigned sleep as the clock radio clicked on with "Christmas Music". Denise rolled over and turned it off. Pressing herself lightly against Jack's back, she kissed him gently on the shoulder before slipping out of bed leaving only the faint scent of Jasmine.
Listening to the familiar morning sounds of his family, he rolled onto his back wiping his damp eyes with angry gestures, "How could I be so stupid?"
A hard pain formed in his chest as he wondered why he would jeopardize his own family for the whims and fantasies of others. Although he knew he wasn't Tom Cruise, he understood that he wasn't totally unappealing to the opposite sex.
He tolerated a good deal of good-natured kidding because of high morals and happy home life. He was a disappointment to his buddies when he ignored the office flirt, Amy.
He was flattered in an annoying sort of way because she was a beauty. He hoped her bright business mind would someday catch up to her obvious good looks.
Unfortunately, after working late last week he stepped into the elevator to find Amy waiting inside. Leaning seductively against him, his body became a traitorous bunch of hormones. Lifting her lips she planted a long and suggestive kiss on his mouth.
When the elevator opened she stepped out as if nothing had happened. He felt shaken and surprised at his teenage mentality. He hoped she would forget it had happened.
This wasn't the case and Amy decided to make a game of it. Her suggestive looks and silent smiles had the whole office wondering and talking.
The desire to remain in bed for the rest of his life was short live. Denise called out to him that breakfast was ready.
I'll be right down honey," he managed to say with a touch of light heartedness.
"I can't hold anyone else responsible for my own stupidity," he muttered.
The sounds of laughter and the phone ringing reminded him that his day was just beginning. Jack knew that his mother called every morning faithfully. He admired Denise's patience with her.
He loved walking into the kitchen each morning. The smell of coffee and homemade bread. Christmas lights decorating the window. Denise had a collection of copperware and antique molds mixed in with lush green plants and blue wicker.
Denise blew him a kiss as she balanced the phone on her shoulder, "Yes mom, I know. We all love your special meatloaf. Why don't you come over tonight and fix it for us. I'll take you shopping this afternoon."
Jack rolled his eyes at the idea and Denise punched him playfully, "Okay mom, I'll see you later."
"You are so good to mom since Dad died," Jack said.
"She's just feeling lost right now honey, don't forget ... today would have been their wedding anniversary," Denise said. "I'd feel the same way about you ... if I lost you."
That familiar ache began again in Jack's chest. He busied himself pouring orange juice and clearing the breakfast table.
The kids came running into the kitchen planting kisses and grabbing their lunches and adjusting their winter coats as they flew through the back door and slamming the screen.
Jack leaned back against his chair and forced himself to sip his coffee and enjoy these precious morning moments that Denise like to call her favorite M and M's. He tried to will his aching chest away.
Denise attempted to appear nonchalant as she removed the bread from the oven and brushed the tops with butter, "Oh honey, I forgot to tell you that Amy from the office called again last night."
Coming around and leaning over the back of his chair and wrapping her arms around his neck she whispered, "I told her to quit bothering you or I'd come down and punch her nose." Denise was smiling over her confession as she kissed his neck.
Tilting his head back he could see her green eyes shining as they were surrounded with the faint scent of Christmas Jasmine.