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Liberty For Christmas

Liberty For Christmas

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Liberty For Christmas

211 pagine
3 ore
Oct 27, 2019


Two deserving girls. One adorable beagle puppy. Who gets Liberty For Christmas?

All 11 year old Alexis Hartman wants for Christmas is Liberty, an eight week-old orphaned beagle puppy. All 10 year old Casey Taylor wants for Christmas is Liberty, as well. All Liberty wants for Christmas is love and a family. After a mix-up at a local pet store results in competing adoption claims for Liberty, the perfect Christmas visions of Alexis and Casey are threatened.

When neither family can agree on who has a superior legal right to Liberty, the single parent of each child (Felicia for Alexis and JT for Casey) consents to employ a neutral third-party to observe Liberty with each child, and render a binding decision as to whom should be awarded permanent custody of Liberty. Forced to temporarily share rotating custody of Liberty, Felicia and JT rekindle a childhood friendship that began and ended in grade school, some thirty years earlier. To JT and Felicia’s pleasant surprise, in the span of days, their unexpected union deepens into feelings far more heartfelt.

As part of the evaluative process, both families agree to a set of rules, with the two most important being—1) remain civil to one another at all times, and 2) do no harm unto Liberty.

Liberty responds well to, and loves the attention given by, both Alexis and Casey. She would be happy with either child, either family. However, neither Alexis, nor Casey can conceive of Christmas without Liberty. Ultimately, the evaluative process strains the relationships of all involved. When both rules are challenged and compromised, unintended consequences occur, which definitively impact which family secures permanent custody of Liberty.

Liberty For Christmas is a heart-warming and enduring novel of love and family for any age, at any time. For as we all know, in the end, everyone wants Liberty For Christmas.

Oct 27, 2019

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Anteprima del libro

Liberty For Christmas - Michael Hunt


Chapter 1

All Alexis Hartman wanted was a perfect Christmas. Was that so much to ask for? After all, over the years, she had noticed a number of boys and girls, who should have been on the naughty list, still receiving their favorite toys and gifts from Santa and others. Alexis believed that she was far more deserving than Bobby Wilcox, who cut Jenny Bryan’s ponytail with a pair of rusty scissors. And certainly she was more deserving than Sheila Spencer who failed to invite her classmate, and next-door neighbor Allison Sheppard, to the first and biggest sleepover of the fall.

So, Alexis believed that she deserved a perfect Christmas. And for the single-minded eleven-year-old, with braces, a dog would represent the perfect Christmas gift. There was just one problem—in order to celebrate the perfect Christmas, Alexis would have to meet the condition set forth by her mother—otherwise, the perfect gift and perfect Christmas would be nothing more than a vision destined to vanish on Christmas Eve.

Leave it to her mother to devise an obstacle and challenge so diabolical, and so hard, that it defied most odds for success. For in order to receive a dog for Christmas, Alexis had to receive all A’s on her quarterly report card, a feat she had never accomplished in five plus years of school. Perhaps, it would have been simpler for Alexis’ mother to have set a more realistic goal, such as developing a cure for the common cold, or running the mile, in less than three minutes. But Alexis chased all A’s for that was her only path to an elusive, but effusive perfect Christmas.

Last year, Alexis’ mother had challenged her in the same way. Receive all A’s and a dog would be the ultimate Christmas reward and gift. Last year, instead of all A’s, Alexis received all C’s. She attributed last year’s colossal failure to a final fling of immaturity. A glutton for punishment, and a prime candidate for repeat failure, Alexis nonetheless accepted the challenge again. As extra incentive, her mother had installed a white picket fence around the perimeter of the property, and doggie entrances/exits on the rear house doors.

More focused and determined to succeed, Alexis thought that victory was within her grasp. She prepared for each test as if her survival depended on making an A. And in a way that was true, for Alexis desperately wanted a dog she could call part of the family. So, she studied as she had never studied before. Further, Alexis restricted her social chat time to a minimum, so that she could concentrate on memorizing state capitals, and Revolutionary History key dates. Alexis was certain that the capital of Idaho was Boise, and that the Battle of Yorktown took place September 28, 1781. Those facts she could spit out with robotic ease. But math was another matter, another matter indeed. While she remembered formulas, she was not certain she always used them at the proper time. There was no need for further worry however, for the school quarter was over.

On the next-to-last day of the school quarter, Alexis received her report card. While a number of her classmates opened their report cards immediately after the last bell of the day, Alexis waited and walked home, slowly—so slow in fact, that she thought a turtle passed her.

Inside her two-story colonial house, she stopped in the traditional, u-shaped kitchen, and poured herself a glass of chocolate milk. Alexis sat the glass of milk next to her backpack, as if the milk would absorb any bad or substandard grades. She sipped milk, then stopped, then sipped some more. Nerves soothed by chocolate, but with cold, moist fingers, Alexis removed a five-by-seven brown envelope.

Whether Alexis would have a perfect Christmas would be determined by the contents contained in an otherwise ordinary-looking five-by-seven inch brown envelope. The contents of the envelope would either fulfill her dreams or dash all hope. She would be in either extreme bliss, or the depths of depression, as soon as she reviewed her grades.

Calm down, Alexis repeated, in an attempt to slow her racing heart rate. Alexis placed the envelope containing her report card to one side for a minute or two, so that she could surf on her smartphone and connect with Walrus, the new and trendy social media site less than a year old. With a tag line Walrus? Why not!—Walrus was already the most popular Internet social site for pre-teens, and teenagers under sixteen. At least two dozen times a day, Alexis visited her personal page called a Tusk, and communicated with friends and classmates via short messages referred to as textfins, or longer posts called Walflaps.

On report card day, Alexis thought visiting her Tusk page would calm her frazzled nerves. But to her dismay, classmates Genevieve Douglas and Audrey Maxwell had already posted Walflaps announcing to the world that they had received all A’s. Alexis scrunched her nose in disgust. Of course, Genevieve and Audrey would receive all A’s, they were Mrs. Colby’s favorite students. They got A’s just for showing up to class.

Alexis picked up the envelope, then promptly set it back down on the kitchen table.

Sighing, Alexis gazed outside and stared at the picket fence. She glanced at the rear kitchen door complete with its dog entry/exit way. Had they been installed prematurely, Alexis wondered?

Alexis stared at the envelope for one, two, three minutes. Breathing a bit erratically, Alexis realized that this was the moment of truth. There was not the possibility of a do-over, and the governor would not grant clemency if she failed to achieve all A’s. After grabbing the envelope, Alexis unclasped the back, then twirled the envelope in the palm of her hand.

Finally, Alexis exhaled deeply and started removing her report card from the envelope. Suddenly, Alexis stopped. Who was she fooling? Alexis had never received all A’s in every class during a grading quarter. Sure she had studied harder than in any ten weeks in her life. But all A’s? Alexis slowly realized that her mother had set for her an unreachable goal, one designed and destined for failure.

Alexis gulped more milk, so as to reduce her stress level. She sighed, said a silent prayer, then removed the report card slowly. Once removed from the envelope, she opened the report card quickly, as if removing a bandage from a sore. Alexis shook her head in disbelief, as she stared at each class, and each grade.


All Felecia Hartman wanted was a simple, quiet Christmas. Since the death of her husband eight years ago, Felicia had struggled through every holiday season. Before Marshall’s death, they had shared a successful and financially beneficial, yet unemotional life. Felicia served as chief regulatory counsel for one of the top law firms in the District of Columbia, and Marshall thrived as a highly effective lobbyist for the telecommunications industry. Despite the shortcomings of their marriage, daughter Alexis was their one constant, and shared love. But life interrupted love, and Marshall died of a heart attack, at age thirty-six, five weeks before Alexis’ third birthday.

As Felicia drove home, she transitioned from thoughts of the past to those of the present. Today was the day of revelation, for today, Alexis’ report card would reveal whether she would receive a dog for Christmas. With a white picket fence surrounding a back yard of almost one-acre, Felicia knew there was enough room for a dog to run, roam, and explore. She was less certain as to whether Alexis would meet the condition precedent, necessary to secure her ideal Christmas. Last year, Alexis had failed the challenge in a grandiose miserable fashion. But this year, she had renewed the challenge and opportunity for Alexis. All she had to do was receive all A’s on her courses. Was that too much to ask from her daughter?

After parking her triple-waxed, black SUV in the detached, three-car garage, Felicia wondered if she had placed too much of a burden on her only child. Perhaps if the grades were not all A’s, Felicia could soften the blow a bit by offering a large, extra pepperoni pizza for dinner. On the other hand, if Alexis succeeded in her quest for all A’s, they could celebrate with a dinner of butterfly shrimp at The Plentiful Bucket.

Felicia walked through the house, and stopped in the spacious u-shaped kitchen. There Alexis sat, staring at her report card. It was as if Alexis was in a trance, for her blank facial expression provided no guidance or clue on her grades. "Well, let’s hope for the best," Felicia said to herself. "So, my beloved daughter, did you get all A’s on your report card?"

No, Alexis replied barely above a whisper.

No? Felicia replied, disappointed at Alexis’s answer. Felicia thought that she had given the proper incentive for Alexis focusing on school work and improving her grades. Perhaps she had placed too much pressure on Alexis. Regardless, Felicia had conditioned the Christmas present on Alexis receiving all A’s. She sighed. Perhaps it was for the best. Next year, Alexis would be a year older, and maybe more responsible, at home and at school. In an effort to comfort Alexis, Felicia said, Well, I know you studied hard. Sometimes, in spite of all we do, we come up a bit short. I am sure you will do better next year.

"Better than an A in every class, except Art, in which I received an A-plus?" Alexis responded, finally smiling broadly.

Not believing her ears, Felicia replied, What?

"I received an A-plus in Art, and an A in every other class, even Math and Geography! Alexis exclaimed. I am going to finally get a dog for Christmas."

All A’s including an A-plus in Art represented the ultimate Christmas miracle, and deserved the perfect Christmas, complete with the perfect dog. Felicia grabbed the report card from Alexis’ hands and double-checked each grade. She reveled in Alexis’ momentous accomplishment. Still firmly grasping the report card, Felicia turned and hugged her ecstatic daughter. Yes, you deserve, and have finally earned a dog this Christmas.

Felicia understood that it would be difficult for Alexis to replicate such a feat during the next grading quarter. However, the next grading quarter was four months in the future. Tonight she would celebrate Alexis’ milestone with butterfly shrimp and sweet tea. In the coming days, she would make good on her promise and facilitate adopting a dog for Alexis.

With the weight of grades finally off her shoulders, Alexis could not stop smiling. At long last, she could stop dreaming about walking her dog down the street, and along the nearby nature trail. Soon, oh so very soon, Alexis’ dream would materialize into four-legged joy. And on that day, the hugging of her dog for the first time would be forever etched in Alexis’ most pleasant memories, and eclipse any prior dreams.

Yes, Alexis was finally going to get a dog. In what little free time Alexis had during the last several weeks, she devoted to reading articles about dogs in general. While learning state capitals, Alexis stuffed her brain with endless canine trivia, including discovering puppies are born blind, and deaf, and similar to babies, puppies often sleep in excess of fifteen hours a day, during their first year. Expanding beyond trivia, Alexis watched several videos on numerous dog breeds, and the care and attention that each dog breed required and deserved. Alexis believed she was focused and up to the task of raising all but the largest, and most aggressive dogs.

I know that you have been talking to your classmates, and looking at different websites concerning dog breeds. So, in a perfect world, what type of dog would you want?

What type of dog indeed?

Various Internet sites listed at least three hundred ninety-two dog breeds worldwide. Alexis thought she had received almost as many suggestions on the best dog to integrate into a home setting. Of course there were the usual and popular breeds, such as terriers, Golden retrievers, and Shetland sheepdogs. Alexis’ best friend at school, Lauren Wilkes, spoke highly of poodles, and Alexis had to admit that Lauren’s dog Oodles was cute, well-mannered, and energetic. Several websites listed the pug as the best and easiest dog to handle. But after exhaustive re-search, Alexis believed that she would bond best with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

So, Christmas would be all that Alexis imagined and more. She wished that Currier and Ives could capture the moment she first hugged her dog. In bullet-point fashion she drafted an outline detailing the necessities for her dream dog. At the end of the exercise, she had identified thirty-seven items needed immediately.

Mother and daughter left for dinner, happy at the events of the day.

Chapter 2

With less than a minute left in the game, Casey Taylor quickly advanced the soccer ball down the field and past two defenders, in order to score the winning goal.

All right! Casey squealed, as she raised her arms, and jumped for joy.

Casey’s teammates surrounded and embraced her one-by-one. In ten games, Casey had scored six goals; but, she finally scored the winning goal with her seventh goal, in the final game of the season. Though Casey participated in basketball, she enjoyed soccer the most, for it included elements of team conquest, and individual pursuit.

Molly Banks, mother of teammate Belinda, congratulated Casey, and said, Great foot-work and excellent game.

Thank you, Mrs. Banks. Trotting off the field, Casey spotted her number one fan. We won, auntie! Casey exclaimed.

Well played, Casey, Monica said, and she hugged her ten-year-old niece. Since the death of her mother, seven years ago, Monica had served as Casey’s surrogate mother, and that role increased after Casey and her father moved to his former hometown eighteen months ago.

Casey’s father, Jefferson Tyler known to all as JT, and named after Presidents Thomas Jefferson, and John Tyler, had moved back home, in order to simplify his life, and that of Casey. But that simplification had come with unintended consequences. For as much as Casey loved her aunt Monica, and soccer, Casey wished that her father had been present to witness her winning goal. In fact, Casey wished that her father had witnessed any of her goals over the long fall season. But his job as an executive pilot ensured odd hours, an irregular work week, and guaranteed missed soccer games.

Sensing her momentary disappointment, Monica kissed Casey’s forehead, and said, I have a feeling that next year, your father will see all your games, and all your goals.

Casey sighed, Next year, that’s what I heard last year. She paused, then added, I hope so.

Monica empathized with Casey. She intended to broach the subject with her brother later in the day, after he returned from his latest job.

Coach Gladys Virginia Smith high-fived Casey, and presented her with the game winning soccer ball, signed by every teammate, and each coach. Remember, we are having our combination End-of-Season/Holiday party on the twentieth. It will be at five p.m., at Belinda Banks’ house. Be sure to bring a wrapped, age-appropriate gift, between fifteen and twenty-five dollars in value.

Casey answered, Sure thing coach Smith. Should I bring anything else?

I am sure that Mrs. Banks could use recycled paper plates and cups.

Will do.

As they walked to Monica’s red sports car, she asked, "Well, what does the game-winning soccer player

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