Disclaimer: Characters and situations are all from my imagination. In fact, a couple of them might be familiar from other stories I've written. Takes place after my novel "On the Air."
Feedback: Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at email@example.com.
Fairytales of Squire's Isle
Copyright © 2007 Geonn Cannon
"All the street lights are coming on, now that the sun is down. Each one is kind of like a mini-spotlight, illuminating little Christmas card stories as people rush to get that last perfect gift. If you're going out tonight, be sure to bundle up nice and warm. Old Man Winter dumped a lot of snow on Squire's Isle this year. It'll be nice to have a white Christmas, but not if you have pneumonia. Right now, we're going to get back to the music for a little while with O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by Joan Baez. This is Nadine Butler, and you're listening to non-stop Christmas music from now until Christmas on KELF, 1220 AM."
Amy Wellis pulled the latest batch of cookies from the oven and hissed when the heel of her hand touched the edge of the pan. She put down the oven mitt she had been holding, sucked the burn and let one of her pastry chefs take care of the frosting. She went back into the front of the store where the lines were finally beginning to dwindle. The clerk turned, saw her, and said, "We're running low on the Rudolph cookies."
"They're coming," Amy assured her. "Where do you need me?"
The girl wiped her sleeve across her forehead. "Bagging."
Amy went to the long glass counter and pulled out a white bag. "Three Santa Claus cookies and a snowman," the clerk said. Amy pulled on clear gloves and used the tongs to transfer the cookies into the bag. She folded the top twice, ran her finger along the fold to keep it shut, and handed it to the right. She sang along with the music piped through the intercom system as she worked. KELF was playing all Christmas music and, on top of that, her favorite DJ was in the booth.
The music kept playing, the orders kept coming in and Amy kept filling little white bags like a machine on an assembly line. As the display case began to empty, the chefs from the kitchen brought in refills. The flow of customers finally began to drop off and Amy was able to relax. She put a hand on the clerk's shoulder and said, "Let me know if you need help. Don't let yourself get swamped, okay?"
"Okay. Sorry, Ms. Wellis."
"It's all right. You'll know for next time."
She wiped her hands on her apron and went into the kitchen to help with the clean-up. Some frosting had escaped onto the counters, cookie dough clumps hid under the edge of the center island. Amy rolled her shoulders and leaned on the broom. It had been a long day. The customers had started coming in around six, before they had even unlocked the front door. Christmas cookies, it seemed, were in high demand this Christmas Eve. Who would have thought?
Now she was tired, strained, weary, whatever adjective you wanted to use to describe her, she was about to fall over. And Kate wasn't even here to catch her.
Two days before Kate, had gone skiing at Whistler with some friends from college. She had offered to stay, said she could blow them off, but Amy had insisted. "Go. Have fun! We'll have lots of Christmases together. I'll be so busy I won't miss you."
A lie, as it turned out. She was busy and tired and she missed Kate so much it hurt. She searched the floor until she found the dustpan, next to the door that led to her apartment. She bent down and reached for it just as someone else grabbed it and snatched it away. Amy sighed, straightened and looked into Kate's cold-reddened face.
She wore a toque, pulled low over her eyebrows, and a thick scarf. Her North Face jacket was unzipped over her thick wool sweater. She held the dustpan in her gloved hands and tapped the flat end against her thigh. "So I started thinking," Kate said as an introduction, "I never really liked Kimberly when we were in school. And James and Lisa were such bores... The only person I was really looking forward to seeing was Dolly, and she stayed home with her baby this year. So, I thought, do I really want to spend my Christmas hurtling down a hillside with people I don't really care about, or do I want to slip on the ice outside your apartment with you?"
"What did you decide?" Amy asked with a grin.
Kate shrugged. "I'm still debating it."
Amy let the broom fall against the stove and trusted that Kate would catch her.
"That was Little Drummer Boy, by David Bowie and Bing Crosby, from 1977. We had Barry Manilow and Johnny Mathis before that. We're going to take a little break now for commercials, but we're by no means done. Coming up, we've got Bing Crosby, Jose Feliciano, and we're going to time-warp to present day a little bit with Sarah McLachlan, Dash Warren and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Before we go, I want to wish everyone a happy Christmas, a merry Hanukkah... whatever you're celebrating right now, I hope you're happy and celebrating. Whether it's for a holiday or not, this time of year just feels special. So take the time to think about the blessings in your life. We only get to go around once, so might as well make it worthwhile. Keep it tuned to KELF for your Christmas party soundtrack."
"Ow! Shh... sugar cookies."
"You think that fools him?"
Patricia glared at Jill and went back under the desk. Jill was sitting on the floor a few feet away, her legs folded in front of her. Scraps of wrapping paper littered the floor around her. She was already changed into her pajamas, her ankle socks tucked into the folds of her knees. She held a plain brown box on her lap and folded the paper around it. Patricia was still dressed in her work clothes, a plain white blazer and black trousers. She was currently on her side, under the desk, trying to get the new computer monitor hooked up. It wasn't going well.
"You need a hand, hon?" Jill said.
"No. It's personal now," Patricia grumbled. It had been her idea to get Michael his own computer, so she should be the one to suffer for it. She cursed under her breath as she scraped her knuckles again. The wires had to be threaded through an insanely small hole to get to the computer tower. She lifted one bare foot for balance and shoved the last wire through with a grunt. "There!"
Jill snickered and taped the fold in place. She pulled another length of tape from her wrist-mounted dispenser and looked up as Patricia wriggled out from underneath the desk... and straightened too soon. She smacked her head on the edge of the leg space hard enough to make the entire desk shudder. Her shoulders hunched, her expression became pinched and both hands went to the top of her head.
The half-wrapped present hit the floor and Jill was across the room in a flash. She straddled Patricia's legs and drew her head forward. She searched the curly locks for blood, and instead found a quickly-reddening patch of skin on a rising bump. She lightly kissed the injury and said, "Poor baby. Are you okay?"
"More surprised than anything else," Patricia said.
Jill stroked her hair and let Patricia rest her head against her chest. "Michael will appreciate it, I'm sure."
Patricia scoffed. "For about five minutes."
"No," Jill said. "Some of those games you got him will take at least an hour for him to master. And then the world is at his fingertips with the internet."
"Don't remind me."
"He'll love you, and it. Just maybe not in that order."
Patricia smiled and slid her hands under Jill's pajama top.
Jill snickered. "Trish, I just put these on..."
"I know," Patricia said. She slid her hands higher.
"How does your head feel?"
"Want me to kiss it again?"
"No," Patricia said. "But as long as you're offering to kiss parts of my body..."
Jill laughed as Patricia kissed her neck. "We don't even have mistletoe..."
"Who needs excuses?" Patricia said as her fingers went to work on the buttons of Jill's pajama top.
"For me, it's just not Christmas until I hear Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by John Denver and the Muppets. It always brings a happy tear to my eye and reminds me of Christmas when I was about... well, I won't tell you when I first heard it, because then it'll give you an idea of how old your Pixie really is. Suffice to say, I was old enough to appreciate it. So I play it as much as I can get away with during the Christmas season.
"While it was playing, I took a peek out the window here at the station. The city has gone all out once again with the decorations, hanging of the greens and whatnot. Each street lamp has Christmas wrapping and it seems like the front door of every business has a wreath. And if you're going down to Front Street, along the harbor, they're still offering carriage rides for the rest of today and Christmas day until six. There's nothing like seeing the harbor from a horse-drawn carriage. Kind of reminiscent of a more peaceful time.
"On that note, why don't we get back to the music? In this next block, we have a good king named Wenceslas, Snoopy and that dastardly Red Baron calling a truce, and a little girl whose only wish is, you guessed it, a hippopotamus. Right now, it's Burl Ives with a song particularly appropriate for island-folk. It's Christmas on the Sea on KELF."
The station was nice and warm, and the snow was still falling outside. The window of her booth was slightly fogged-over at the edges, giving it a wonderful look of Christmas. She was dressed in blue jeans and a Rudolph sweater. She had wanted to wear her 'silver bells' sweater, but she knew that the tiny bells hanging from the wrists would be hell on the radio.
There was a knock on the glass behind her and she craned her neck to look out. Miranda Powell, her boss and girlfriend, waved to ask if it was okay to come in. Nadine nodded and Miranda ducked into the booth. "Hi, hon."
"Halloween and now Christmas," Miranda said, leaning down to kiss Nadine's forehead. "You're becoming our regular holiday DJ."
Nadine turned away from the console as Miranda pulled over a folding chair. She sat in front of Nadine and put her shopping bag down between them. Nadine said, "I know you'll be here to keep me company. That's all I need."
Miranda smiled and leaned down. She took a wrapped gift from the bag and held it out. "Merry Christmas, Dean."
Nadine took the package and leaned forward. She kissed Miranda's lips and said, "Thank you, baby. Did you pick up my gift for you from the house?"
"I did. You want to go ahead and open them? Do we have time?"
Nadine looked at the counter and said, "Yeah, unless you got me something like a teddy or crotchless panties."
Miranda laughed. "No, nothing like that." She paused. "Those are at home."
Nadine grinned, a glint in her eye as she tore at the paper.
"We're coming to the end of my time with you fine people. Like Warren Zevon sang, I'm bound for glory, I'm on my way, because my ride is here. But never fear, because Leah Nettles is coming in later to keep watch for old St. Nick. For now, I'm going to leave you all with one thought: be good to one another. Not just because it's Christmas, but because it's the right thing to do."
Amy ended up closing the store early. Kate helped her clean up the debris from the long, long day of cookie sales, they bid farewell and merry Christmas to the departing final customers and the exhausted staff of Coffee Table Books, and turned out the lights. They joined hands as they walked through the dark store, slipping through the kitchen to Amy's apartment.
"We only get one go-around, so why do we waste so much time? We spend one month a year being kind to strangers, thinking about others first, finally believing that it's better to give than to receive. Imagine how full our hearts could be if we did that all year long."
Patricia and Jill put their clothes back on, caught each other's eye and started laughing again. Jill kissed Patricia and went back to wrapping the last of the presents. They promised to blame any noises Michael may have heard on Santa Claus, despite the fact he was outgrowing the jolly old elf. Patricia finished hooking up the computer, Jill put the last package under the tree and they headed to bed by the twinkling, multi-colored lights strung along the living room window.
"I hope everyone out there has a very, very Merry Christmas, and a happy new year. We don't need excuses to be kind. We don't need a holiday in order to celebrate. Let's celebrate that we're alive, and together, and in good health. That's all that's really important, right? Forget about all that bad stuff that keeps us down the other eleven months of the year."
Nadine rested her elbows on the table, her hands folded on top of one another. Miranda sat very close, her head resting on Nadine's shoulder as she listened to her talk. "When I was a kid, the Christmas holiday started around December fifteenth, when we got out of school. Now-days, it starts right around Thanksgiving. Earlier and earlier, with the Christmas sales and songs on the radio. So let's see if we can push the envelope. Get that Christmas spirit fully-charged in January to carry us through the year.
"That's all for me. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and God bless us, everyone. It's Christmas Day, Mr. Scrooge, you didn't miss it. I'm going to leave you tonight with a classic... The Christmas Song, by Nat King Cole. This is Nadine Butler, your very own Christmas elf, signing off. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
She switched over to the song and helped Miranda clear the debris of their gift exchange. They left the booth as Leah slipped inside, shared brief hellos and joined hands. Nadine leaned against Miranda as they walked through the dark bullpen, down the stairs and out into the snow-covered streets. They walked down to the harbor, to watch the horse-drawn carriage Nadine had mentioned on her show.
Miranda reached down and brushed snow off the lenses of Nadine's eyeglasses. She let her palm rest against Nadine's cheek and they kissed lightly. The snow swirled around them and Miranda pulled a small package out of her coat pocket. She leaned back from Nadine, fumbled to get it open with her gloved fingers and then took off Nadine's left glove.
Nadine watched the gold ring slide down her finger. Miranda made sure it fit correctly, then put Nadine's glove back on. They looked into each other's eyes and Miranda said, "Yeah?"
"Yeah," Nadine said.
"Good." Miranda smiled and drew Nadine close. They kissed in the cold, as the snow swirled around them. Nadine pressed her face against Miranda's coat collar, tears of happiness in her eyes at the thought of what the ring on her finger meant.
The clock chimed midnight. Christmas morning had come to Squire's Isle.
I hope you enjoyed my story! If you enjoyed the characters,
check out my website to learn about my novels
"On the Air" (available now from Amazon.com and SCP),
"Gemini," and "World on Fire" (due in 2008 and 2009, respectively).
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