Just Like A Sam Elliott Christmas Movie

It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas and for Isaiah Dalton that wasn't good news. Christmas meant family and Isaiah wasn't sure how much more he could take of his family. Not only did he work with his father at Dalton Ford Car Dealership, but he had moved home the previous February upon his final medical discharge from the Army. The house was big enough for privacy even though his mom could be over-motherly at times, but now his siblings were coming home for Christmas and that was only going to add to the chaos that was his life.

Isaiah's mom had decorated the house with Christmas cheer the day after Thanksgiving and now, three weeks later, Isaiah was already Christmas'd out and the holiday hadn't even arrived yet. There was Christmas music constantly playing in the house and the only thing his mother watched these days were the endless Holiday movies on Hallmark and Family channel. He'd sometimes find her sitting in the living room sniffling over some tearjerker when Santa brings the true meaning of Christmas to some sappy couple in love. With both his marriage and career over (not to mention his life), Isaiah wasn't exactly in the mood for gushy love stories.

That's why Isaiah wasn't thrilled when his sister Cindy announced that she was bringing Katha home with her for the holidays. In the small world department, the two childhood friends had reunited in New York City where Cindy worked as a book editor and Katha was some sort of actress or performer – but maybe that was all a crock and she was really just a waitress! Isaiah grew up with the perpetually cheerful and bubbly Katha who lived just down the street but he hadn't seen her in years and he really hadn't thought about her much until word came that she'd be around again. Katha's parents had moved away years ago so there was no reason for Katha to return to Greenville before Cindy's ill-advised invite.

Isaiah hadn't been paying attention to the particulars so he was caught off guard when he came home from work a week before Christmas and found Cindy and Katha standing in the kitchen chatting away with his mother who was cooking dinner. Isaiah was struck by how much older his mom looked in comparison to the two younger women. She was still attractive in her mid-sixties, her graying brown hair pulled back in a bun. She looked almost stereotypical working away in the kitchen but she had a long professional career as a school administrator and she certainly saw the world beyond her kitchen.

"Oh, Isaiah!" His mother exclaimed with excitement. "Look who's here!"

Isaiah's sister gave him an earnest hug and laugh. "Hey, big bro," she said. "Good to see you. How's it going?"

"Fine," Isaiah murmured, but his eyes caught sight of Katha grinning at him and he slowly broke Cindy's embrace.

"Hello, I-Man," Katha smirked.

Isaiah felt his heart beating fast in his chest and perhaps a blush flash across his cheeks although he had no idea why after all he had been through. He remembered the first time he ever saw Katha. She had moved into the neighborhood when she was ten and she made quick friends with Cindy. Isaiah smiled the first time she came into the yard and Katha seemed to melt into the grass but then she quickly recovered and said: "You're kind of goofy."

That was the start of their weird back friendship that lasted until Isaiah left for the Army. He knew Katha went off to Emerson to study acting which seemed like a lame choice to him and it wasn't until Cindy came across her in New York years later that Isaiah knew whatever became of her.

Katha was dressed casually in jeans and a green Christmas-y sweater. Isaiah was wearing his usual suit coat and tie for the professional car salesman look even though his fake feet had permanent purple sneakers on them (his choice). His black hair was streaked with gray at the temples while Katha was no longer blonde – her hair now a brownish red hue but it felt as though nothing had changed in the intervening years because here they were again.

"Do I still look goofy?" Isaiah asked as Katha gave him her usually bubbly and cheerful hug.

She laughed. "Always," she assured him, breaking from the embrace "Did you miss me?" She teased.

"You were gone?" Isaiah jabbed.

"Oh, you two!" Mrs. Dalton beamed.

"Pathetic, aren't they?" Cindy groaned.

Cindy probably changed the most out of all of them. She was New York City sophisticated now with an expensive wardrobe, fancy hair style, too much make up, long fingernails, unnecessary jewelry, familiar with big name authors and other celebrities, divorced from a local television news anchor. Of the three kids, only Kevin remained married, producing enough grandkids (five) to keep their parents happy even if Cindy and Isaiah hadn't produced any offspring.

Isaiah saw Katha's eyes sparkle and he had to glance away, not wanting to look into those killer eyes of hers, especially the way he was feeling. He liked being left alone these days.

"I can't believe you kids are so grown-up now," Isaiah's mother gushed as she continued preparing the evening meal.

Katha laughed. "It's only been – what? - thirty years - since we met?"

"Almost," Cindy confirmed. "God, I feel old!"

"We are old," Isaiah mumbled.

"Speak for yourself!" Katha laughed.

"I'm going to be forty in June," Isaiah reminded them.

"You're still older than us!" Katha grinned.

"Only by a year," Isaiah protested.

"And it's always going to be a year!" Katha grinned.

"How do you think I feel!?" Mrs. Dalton groaned. "I've got twenty-five years on all of you!"

"Hello!" A Booming voice rang through the house indicating that Mr. Dalton was home.

"Go have a drink with your father," Mrs. Dalton suggested.

Cindy and Katha bolted for the living room while Isaiah followed behind more slowly, a spring in his steps for all the wrong reasons.

"Hello, Katha," Mr. Dalton spoke up after he gave his daughter a long hug and kiss.

"Hello, Dalton Gang Leader!" Katha smiled as she gave him a hug too.

Mr. Dalton was tall and thin with thinning gray hair and a thick moustache. He had a natural smile that aided him in his work and he had always liked Katha.

"Merry Christmas!" Mr. Dalton grinned.

"Seriously?" Isaiah frowned before limping to the stairs and disappearing from sight.

"He doesn't seem as bad as the last time I saw him," Cindy observed as Mr. Dalton went to the portable bar to fix the drinks.

"Good days, not so good days," Mr. Dalton sighed, handing his daughter a glass. "He's been getting more moody as the holidays approached."

"My brother The Scrooge," Cindy sighed.

"I suppose getting your legs blown off will do that to a person," Mr. Dalton replied with understanding.