I think it's time for some holiday cheer. As you all know, I wrote and published two holiday novellas this year, which was a new experience for me in a lot of ways. First, I wrote about Christmas, something I rarely do. I'm much more a Thanksgiving and 4th of July kind of girl. Second, I wrote a Regency, which I loved doing and will write more of. Third, I self-published the aforementioned Regency, but the jury's still out on whether that was a good decision.
In order to get into the holiday spirit during the blazing heat of August, I decided to start the process by writing a short Christmas story about hope. I'm sharing it here today, in the hopes that 2017 is a year filled with wonder and joy. And hope. Happy New Year, everyone!
Leah Harrison loved the week after Christmas. It was the time for bargains, a perfect shopping climate for someone on a budget. Even though she needed to sleep, since her night had been taken up by her office cleaning job, she roamed the aisles of the big-box store, combing the remaining Christmas merchandise before it got too sparse, touching the red and green ornaments, ribbons, artificial trees and wreaths, and inhaling the fragrance of the pine-scented candles. She picked up a canister of shortbread cookies, and some chocolate candy as she searched for a new ornament or two for her tree.
The only other person in this part of the store was a man who was in the same aisle, looking extremely uncomfortable as he picked up and discarded one ornament after the other. She followed his movements as he came closer to where she stood, mentally assessing him. Tall, good-looking, well built, dark hair. He uttered a mild expletive each time he tossed an ornament back into its bin before moving on to the next.
When he arrived at the portion of the aisle where she stood, he raised his gaze to her. “Kind of pathetic, don’t you think? All this picked-over merchandise, leftovers, things nobody wanted.”
She smiled at his take on the goodies left behind and tucked her long brunette hair behind an ear. “I prefer to think of this aisle as one of hope. People are already planning for next Christmas when they pick up merchandise here.” To prove her point, she deposited a box of Christmas cards into her basket.
“That’s one way of looking at it, I guess. Are you always such a Pollyanna?” His smile softened his words, and made Leah’s knees go soft as well.
“I’m not a Pollyanna, just optimistic. Now, what are you searching for?” She gazed into his green eyes, and momentarily forgot where she was.
“My mother has a collection of turtles.” He stopped talking and grinned at her. “Not real ones, she won’t even touch a live turtle. But any doo-dad she can put her hands on that has a turtle shape, she’s all over it. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find turtle ornaments every year?”
Leah laughed at his predicament and placed a hand to her heart. Any man who would scour the aisles of Christmas merchandise in search of a special ornament for his mother spoke volumes. “I saw something that might work a few bins down.” She took a step away from him, going back the way she came. “I’m Leah, by the way.”
He hurried to catch up and strode alongside her. “I’m Cam. Thanks for helping me in my never-ending turtle quest.”
“Cam? Is that short for Cameron?” Leah wanted to keep the conversation flowing.
“No, it’s short for Campbell, my mother’s maiden name.” He grinned at her again. “I guess I was destined to be a Mama’s boy from the moment I was born.”
Leah stopped in the middle of the aisle and glanced at him. “Nothing wrong with loving your mother. I think it’s sweet.” She tore her gaze from him and peered into the bins of ornaments. “Ah, here’s the one I came across earlier.” She pulled out an ornament shaped like a wind chime, each piece of the chime fashioned into a baby turtle. Mama Turtle was in the center, surrounded by her babies. She handed it to Cam, enjoying the heat from his hand as she passed the ornament over.
Cam held it up to the rays streaming in from the skylight, twirling the ornament to take in all the baby turtles, each of which was poised differently. “This is perfect. I bet I could even make it count for several years, since there are so many turtles in one place.” He switched his gaze from the ornament to her. “Thank you for helping me find the perfect gift. Now, I must repay you somehow. Would you like to go next door and grab some coffee?”
Leah glanced at his left hand, which held the decoration. There was no ring on his finger. She sucked in a breath. Between her two jobs, she’d had little time for dating, so it had been months since she’d done something as simple as sharing a cup of coffee and conversation with a member of the opposite sex. “I’d love to. Let’s go check out and then head over.”
Perhaps the time had come to give herself a present. By agreeing to continue the small bond that had developed in the leftover Christmas aisle, Leah did just that. Her vision of hope for next Christmas grew even brighter as he took hold of her basket of goods in one hand and her hand in the other.