Note: This is part of a series. The series starts here: Steve & Kayla: Steve Stalks Kayla
Christmas 1986 is a small oasis in the Steve and Kayla story, after his admission that he cares about her and before it all crashes down around them on New Year’s Eve. I skipped over this little happy interlude in my last S&K analysis, and some of my faithful readers requested it. So let’s kick back, sip some eggnog, and let Steve and Kayla be happy for once.
Steve tells Kayla that he plans to leave town for Christmas and steadily resists any and all invitations to spend it with her. Kayla gets frustrated over Steve’s Scrooge-like attitude. (Okay, so it’s not all hearts and flowers.) She is complaining about it to Hope on the pier, and she sees a man dressed in a Santa suit giving out presents to children who wouldn’t otherwise get anything. She says, “Now why can’t I find a guy like that?”
Of course it’s Steve. When she realizes it, she says, “This just makes me madder.” Hope questions her logic, and Kayla continues, “Maybe Steve really is like this but that’s not the side he shows me. And I am tired of getting hurt.” This is a good point, one I’m glad the show takes the time to show us. Is she willing to do all the work, to keep putting her heart on the line, to be with someone so secretive? Does he have to hide even his smallest instinct for goodness? It’s nice to see her occasionally wonder what the hell she’s gotten herself into.
Since Kayla is Kayla, she goes to confront him about it at the Cheatin’ Heart. “What’s this? Your laundry?” she says sarcastically, holding up the big red suit. “Why do you insist on hiding this side of you, the sweet side, the side that makes me care about you?”
Long pause. “Maybe that’s why I hide it from you,” he says. What an admission! First, it’s a totally honest answer, which is rare enough. Also significant is that he doesn’t mock her for making a big deal over nothing. Mostly, however, this hints at his fear of getting close to her, of opening up and being cared about, akin to his recent admission: “if I love you, I don’t think I’d be able to leave.”
He even says that he might be able to spend Christmas with her family … someday. “Stranger things have been known to happen.”
“They certainly have,” Kayla says, clearly thinking of how much has changed since they met.
They move closer to kiss, only to be interrupted by Max and Frankie coming to give Steve his Christmas present. (Timely Interruption #3 1/2—the 1/2 because they are in a bar, after all. It’s not like they were going to get busy on the pool table. But come to think of it, what a scene that would be!)
The next day, Christmas day, Steve finds Kayla in the park, and somewhat shamefacedly gives her a Christmas gift. He’s embarrassed and downplays it, saying it’s left over from the gifts he gave the kids the day before.
Kayla is stunned. She holds the gift so gingerly, so reverently, like it’s the crown jewels and the Holy Grail all rolled into one, and she has no idea what to do with it. He has to prompt her to open it.
It’s a necklace—lovely and clearly valuable. Kayla holds it up, looking at him, trying to read him. “It’s beautiful,” she says.
“Kinda pretty,” he says, like it’s not the most precious possession he owns. He helps her put it on, and I love how she slips her glove off in order to touch the necklace with her bare hand. She probes a little, trying to get him to admit that it isn’t a kids’ gift, but he just says blandly to wait until her neck turns green.
Later that day, Kayla finds him and gives him his present: a cookbook, with an open invitation to cook dinner at her place. He says that he hopes she has a fire extinguisher, because “if I start a fire I might want to put it out.”
And Kayla says archly, but with meaning, “Really? Not me.”
He only laughs and thanks her, and she gently mocks him for downplaying his own gift earlier: “I saw it in a trash can, and said I can’t let that go to waste.” She asks him to read the inscription. It’s a portion of the lyrics to “The Rose”:
When the night has been too lonely, when the road has been too long
When you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong.
Just remember, in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow
Lies a seed, that with the sun’s love, in the spring becomes the rose.
Cheesy? Wonderful? Undoubtedly in the eye of the beholder. For me, in this moment, in this situation, it’s perfect. It resonates with the theme of Kayla patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) melting the ice of Steve’s exterior to get to the “seed” of his gentle, loving side. It touches on Steve’s lifetime of unhappiness and pain, and it holds out the promise of redemption.
The next time we see them, it’s in a series of nearly plot-free scenes, when he comes to see her at the Emergency Center. A flood of patients arrive just as her assistant calls in sick. Steve helps out, getting the patients to fill out their forms and wait their turn, finally leading them in a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” when they get restless. Afterwards he asks her to eat with him, but she regretfully refuses, saying she has some things to finish up. He leaves but returns to take her back to his place and make her dinner, using a recipe from the cookbook.
The largely meaningless banter in the script is enlivened by the joy with which Mary Beth Evans and Stephen Nichols infuse their lines, in exchanges like this:
Kayla: You’re not even sick. You came here to see me.
Steve: You’re pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you?
Steve: What an ego.
Kayla: Or have you forgotten your earlier dinner invitation?
Steve: My “dinner invitation.” That’s so formal, Miss Kayla.
Kayla: Do you want to eat with me or not?
Steve: Now you’re getting bossy.
Kayla: You bring out the best in me.
Or this, when he gives her a beret to wear with dinner:
Kayla: Is this supposed to make the food taste better?
Steve: No, but it’ll make the woman eating it look real cute.
Kayla: (puts on the hat) Do I look ready to eat?
Steve: Yeah, you do.
We see Steve letting himself simply relax and enjoy her company, and Kayla blooms in the light of his appreciation. This is the potential she saw.
But even in the midst of these delightfully inconsequential scenes, the show connects with the issues they’re struggling with. She thanks him for helping her at the Emergency Center: “You’re pretty terrific, you know that?”
“Yeah, I know that,” he says, and the throwaway line has a beautiful irony.
After dinner, Kayla complains about how sore she is from her long day at work, and Steve offers to give her a massage. He tells her to unbutton a few buttons on her blouse: “strictly professional,” he says. She does, and lays down on the bed in the flickering candlelight. He lays his hands on her neck and shoulders. “You’re so beautiful,” he whispers.
During her massage, an exhausted Kayla falls asleep (there’s no way!), and Steve pensively watches her. “What are you doing here with a man like me?” he says. Then, “I’m glad you’re here, though.” This perfectly captures where Steve is now: no idea what she sees in him, starting to be happy about it anyway … but only able to tell her when she’s sleeping.