Tag Archive | Christmas

Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells #4

For December, Chrys. N. Jay brings a new tale to Tuesday Tales – a Christmas romance, Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells. Join us for the next four weeks as the story snippets are written to two picture prompts and two word prompts.

Week One and Week Three are picture prompt weeks. These snippets will be short, as they’re limited to 300 words.

This week we’re writing to the word prompt ‘snow’.

Return here for more Tuesday Tales reading.

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A light sprinkling of snow lit briefly on her cheeks. Katie looked away from the window and up towards the sky. A sprinkling of fluffy white flakes drifted through the air. Though not sticking on the ground…yet…the change in the weather spurred Katie into motion. She hurried the last few blocks towards home, anxious to get inside and crank up the heater.

Once inside she hung her jacket on the coat tree and nudged the thermostat up a few degrees. Her cat, PJ, met her in the kitchen, rubbing up against her ankles as soon as she flicked on the lights.

“I know PJ. You’re hungry. Hold on for a few.”

The urgent meows continued while the head butts against her skins got more insistent.

“Hold on little girl. You’re not going to die if you don’t get fed right this instant.”

PJ’s cries increased in volume.

Katie picked up the insistent feline and headed towards the pantry to retrieve a can of PJ’s favorite, flaky tuna and egg. Looking at the food dish on the floor, she saw the kitten’s problem. “Oh. I see now. You were almost ready to die of hunger. Your dish is only half full of crunchies. You poor starved little thing.”

PJ meowed in agreement.

Once the cat was taken care of and had a full belly, Katie rummaged in the refrigerator to see what she had for her own dinner. Not much. She been spending too much time working on client’s designs and purchasing supplies to make their dream holiday visions come to life that she hadn’t spent enough time in the grocery store stocking up on her own necessities.

Oh well. It’s not like there’s anyone else to cook for.

She pulled out a loaf of bread and decided to throw together an easy sandwich.

cnj_hot-teaAn uneasy feeling, apparent since her phone call with her friend Sally, had been tugging at the corners of her heart. She didn’t know why she was feeling so dissatisfied at the moment. Thinking she must be overly tired, she decided to have an easy night. No planning. No creating centerpieces. Just her and PJ and a sappy movie. She made a cup of hot chamomile tea, dropped in a lemon slice, and carried it to the living room.

CNJ_kitten on lap.jpgAs she settled down on the sofa, PJ hopped up beside her and began kneading the top of her thigh. Making room for the cat who proceeded to curl up in her lap, Katie picked up the remote and surfed to find something interesting to watch.

Searching the channels, she found one of the popular holiday movies, which wasn’t too far along, and started watching it. About ten minutes in it dawned on her – of course, this would be one that had a drippy, romance worked into the Christmas plot.

She watched for a while until the sweet romantic scenes had her almost in tears. Jabbing at the ‘off’ button with a vengeance, she shut the television down and headed for bed, leaving the dregs of her cold tea sitting on the coffee table for the night.

Sleep came fitfully that night, and Katie was glad when the alarm finally buzzed. Getting up she peered out the window to check and see if a white world awaited her. Seeing that the snowfall had melted, leaving no trace of its presence, she decided to walk to work again. Maybe another brisk walk would help her release some frustrations.

An hour later, Katie stood at the doorway to her office, stomping her feet to remove the damp bits stuck to her boots. Her phone rang as she entered the dark premises.

“Hello. Even-Glow Designs. Katie speaking.”

“Katie Owen?”

“This is she.”

“This is Ryan, with Bryrwick Electric. I was making a follow-up call about your outage. Has your power been restored?”

Katie leaned over and flipped a switch. Nothing. “Nope. Still out.”

“All right. I’m at the transformer at the end of the block. I’ll be there in about five minutes.”

Katie plopped down on the loveseat usually reserved to show clients different possible design options. No sense in taking off her jacket in the frigid office. She certainly couldn’t go bump the heat higher with no power.

She hadn’t sit there for long when she heard footsteps approaching her door. The door sprung open and man stood in the doorway, his silhouette highlighted by the bright sunlight outside. Looking up at the six foot plus figure standing there, Katie almost thought it was a flashback from the movie from the evening before. Except for the grizzly stubble on his cheeks and chin and the hefty electricians belt around his far from tubby waist, the handsome vision standing before her was unlike any of the utility companies workers that she’d seen before.

Return here for more Tuesday Tales reading.

 

Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells #3

For December, Chrys. N. Jay brings a new tale to Tuesday Tales – a Christmas romance, Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells. Join us for the next four weeks as the story snippets are written to two picture prompts and two word prompts.

Week One and Week Three are picture prompt weeks. These snippets will be short, as they’re limited to 300 words.

Return here for more Tuesday Tales reading.

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When she found out that the electric company wouldn’t send anyone out until the morning, Katie decided to close for the day. Sure, she could make phone calls from her cell phone, but since she couldn’t see the paperwork in front of her face, there wasn’t a whole of lot of productive work that would get done.

Besides, it’s after four and it’s almost dark. Better head on home. I hate these short December days.

After locking up, Katie strode down the street, heading towards her house. Living only two miles from her office, she tried to walk to work whenever possible. The morning, while chilly, was still pleasant enough for a brisk walk. Although, on the days where she had to tote in boxes of supplies by the bushel, she drove her trusty Jeep.

The sun dropped from the horizon before she got very far. As the evening darkened, sparkling Christmas lights began appearing on trees and rooftops.

Everyone was busy last weekend. They’ve decked out the whole neighborhood.

She tucked her collar tighter around her neck to ward off the evenings cold and slowed her pace to enjoy the scenery of the houses bedecked in their Christmas glory.

The house on the corner caught her attention and she stood gazing at the scene visible through the window. Inside, a gaily decorated home shone brightly in contrast to the darkness around her. Brightly wrapped packages surrounded the decorated tree in the corner. Lights twinkled from the tree and the mantle, while a display of flickering flames gleamed from a display of brilliant red candles.

While beautiful to view, it wasn’t much different than Katie’s own festive decorating jobs. What brought a wistful longing to her heart was seeing it from the outside and envisioning this scene in her own home. If only she had a loving partner to share such a setting with.

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Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells #2

For December, Chrys. N. Jay brings a new tale to Tuesday Tales – a Christmas romance, Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells. Join us for the next four weeks as the story snippets are written to two picture prompts and two word prompts.

Week One and Week Three are picture prompt weeks. These snippets will be short, as they’re limited to 300 words.

This week we’re writing to the word prompt ‘bar’.

Return here for more Tuesday Tales reading.

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“…rats!”

“What? That all sounds great. I think they’d love it. What’s the problem?” Sally sounded confused.

“No, no. The décor is fine. The power just went out here. No lights. No computer. I can’t see a thing in this back room with no window.” Katie fumbled her way slowly to the door, trying to avoid banging a shin on any boxes or furniture.

Sally laughed. “Did you pay your bill?”

“Yes…I paid the bill.” Katie’s annoyance crept into her voice as she raised her voice in reply.

“Geesh. I was just kidding. Take a chill pill, gal.”

“Easy for you to say. You’re not so swamped that you’re running your hinney off for the next four weeks without a break. I do not have time to deal with a power outage today.”

“Methinks you need a little lovin’, my friend. That would take the edge of your stress.”

Katie finally finagled her way to the door and flung it open. At least the daylight streaming in the front window of the small quasi-showroom lit the interior enough so she could see where she was walking. “Ha! First of all, that would require…what’s that? Time. Which I thought we’d already determined I don’t have enough of. And secondly…I’d need a boyfriend for that. Of which I’m also lacking.

“You could always hit the bar one night.”

“Nope.” Katie shook her head for emphasis, as if Sally could see it from her cell phone. “Not gonna happen. I’m not into players and one night stands. Besides, it’s dangerous anymore.”

“True dat.” Another heavy sigh followed.

Katie mused about how Sally loved being dramatic whenever she had the chance. She was used to it after all these years. Katie doubted that Sally even knew how melodramatic she could be. “Hey, I’ve got to go. The power’s still out. I need to call and see if I can find out what’s going on.”

“Keep me posted. Maybe the electric company will send out a hunk o’ burning love to fix the problem.”

“Now you’re dreaming. Have you seen the guys working for them? Lots of beer bellies and chauvinistic attitudes from the ones I’ve seen.”

“Isn’t Christmas the season of miracles?”

“Good-bye, Pollyanna.” With a punch of a button, Katie ended the call and scrolled through her contacts looking for the number of the power company.

She wished she could be as optimistic and cheerful as her friend was. Even on a good day, far away from the two month holiday season that temporarily derailed her life, Katie knew she wasn’t ever as positive as her friend was. She wished she could be. At times she almost thought she’d brightened up her attitude. And about then she was smack dab in the middle of the frantic rush. Everyone wanted parties. Everyone wanted Katie for the job. Everyone wanted her to plan their events and decorate their homes. And everyone wanted everything perfect. Oh, and for very little money.

By New Year’s Day, Katie was always ready to ditch the company and go back to a nine-to-five job.

Fortunately, by the time the Rose Parade was over, she’d rethought that decision and knew she couldn’t do it. She loved what she did too much to stop. She thrived on coming up with unique, creative designs. Her signature décor was what had customers returning year after year. She also had enough of an administrative talent that she could plan all the details, keep the event on track, and stay under budget.

On top of all of those reasons, she also knew that there wasn’t any way she could go back to working for a boss, punching a timeclock, working eight hours a day following someone else’s commands.

With the phone ringing on the other end, Katie thought about how happy she was with her life and her career. However…a little thought nagged at the corner recesses of her brain…a special someone to share her life with would be nice too.

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Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells #1

For December, Chrys. N. Jay brings a new tale to Tuesday Tales – a Christmas romance, Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells. Join us for the next four weeks as the story snippets are written to two picture prompts and two word prompts.

Week One and Week Three are picture prompt weeks. These snippets will be short, as they’re limited to 300 words.

Return here for more Tuesday Tales reading.

 

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“C’mon, Katie…please? With sugar on top? The seniors would love you to death. Do you know how many brownie points you’d score with them?”

“Sally…really…do you have any idea how crazy my December is?” Katie took a deep breath and tried to remain calm so she didn’t strangle her best friend. She knew Sally meant well. Working at the senior center gave her friend a purpose. It was something she was passionate about it. But that didn’t mean that Katie had the time available to help her friend out. “You know my December is back to back parties. Without all the holiday festivities, my event planning business would likely be bust by now.”

“You can’t even sneak one little luncheon in? It’s during the week, not on a weekend.” Sally was nothing if not persistent.

Katie sighed, knowing that Sally would keep at it until she got her way. And she usually did. That was what their friendship had been like since they’d met each other in junior high. “What day is the luncheon scheduled?”

“Wednesday. The twenty-first.”

Scanning the large calendar on the wall, Katie saw that that day was clear. Unlike the two days after it, which were blocked solid with tasks and chores for the Johnson’s huge Christmas Even event. But that Wednesday was clear, with a few light days in the week coming up, which would give her time to scour for last minute decorations for this unexpected party planning event.

“Okay. You win. Something easy though?”

Sally’s cheer at the other end of the line was an evident answer. “Yes! And easy is fine. They’d be happy with any holiday cheer your holiday decorating can bring them.”

“I’m thinking natural. Fresh green boughs, pinecones, maybe candles in aspen or birch holders…” Before she could continue, the office was plunged into darkness.

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Christmas Love in the Square #3

Tuesday Tales is getting together to bring you a round of Christmas short stories. Some are complete in Tuesday’s post and other stories are a little longer and will run over three to four days.

Christmas Love in the Square will run over three days. Come back tomorrow for the next installment, and then Christmas Eve for the end. If you’ve followed Starting Over or Thyme for Love, you’ll have met some of these characters all ready. In this short story, Bertie, from Scrappie’s Quilt Store, is the target of Cupid’s arrow. But after a long, happy marriage and being a widow for twelve years, Bertie isn’t interested. Did Cupid aim for a hardened heart?

 

This is the third and last segment of this short Christmas story. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Merry Christmas!

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The next few days Bertie wondered how she’d get it all done. Fortunately the quilting guild came in and spent a few afternoons wrapping presents instead of doing any sewing. A few had even spent hours at home making twenty six pillowcases out of fabrics adorned with Santa’s, reindeer, snowmen and Christmas candy. The gifts for each child went in a pillowcase with their name on it.

The handmade stockings ran the gamut from lush velveteen’s, fun Comic book characters, Disney princesses and whimsical prints. The ladies spent hours filling each stocking with an assortment of tasty seasonal candies, mints, candy canes, nuts and an orange. Little trinkets such as costume jewelry, chap sticks and figurines went in too.

The town was getting quite festive as Christmas themed quilts started appearing in the shop windows on the square.

In the midst of the confusion and chaos, as she still had a store to run with women needing last minute fabrics and accessories, Bertie’s friends from the square kept dropping in to pester her about going caroling. Victoria stopped at least once a day. Sally, from Crafters Cottage stopped in. Irene, from Pageturners came by a few times.

Even blustery old Hank, dropped in one afternoon. “Gotta go caroling with us Bertie gal.”

Everyone except Sam. He was mute on the subject. Which puzzled her a little. But then she got caught up in the frenzy and didn’t give it another thought.

Carmen, from Java Time, waltzed in Friday morning, carrying Bertie’s favorite drink, a steaming Peppermint Mocha. “So, you going caroling with us tonight.” She held the drink up high. “I bring you bribery.”

“Oh, all right,” Bertie grumbled, reaching for the frothy concoction. “I’m never going to hear the end of this if I don’t.”

So, even after repeated refusals, at dusk Friday night she found herself joining her friends around the towering pine tree in front of the courthouse that sat in the middle of the square. Spying Victoria, deep in conversation with Sally and Carmen, Bertie sidled up to the group. “Traitors,” she called out in greeting. “And here I thought peer pressure was something that happened to young people.”

They all laughed and embraced her in a group hug, chattering the whole time.

Heather, dressed in chic winter wear that made a statement, made the rounds, handing out stapled chorus books she’d copied for the event. As the ladies all took a set, Bertie looked around to see who else was there.

“No Sam?” she asked.

“Sam? I thought you didn’t give a hoot’s patooty about Sam,” Victoria said, in mock astonishment.

“I…um…I don’t…” Bertie sputtered. “Just curious, you know…since y’all seem so hot and bothered to hook us two old geezers up.”

“No…no…” they all claimed, trying to look innocent.

Heather whistled to get everyone’s attention. “While some of the shops are still open, I thought we’d start on this corner, and then make our way around the square until we get to Hank’s BBQ, which is open the latest. We can wander through Hank’s serenading those dining inside. Then we’ll sing our way over to Crafter’s Cottage, where Sally has hot coffee, tea and cocoa waiting for us.”

“Cookies and yummies too,” Sally called out. “From Marie and Three Tarts Bakery.”

A cheer arose from the small group, now extra excited about the festivities for the night. As Heather called out the first song – Good Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – and started singing, the group headed across the street, to work their way around the square.

A top hatted gentleman, complete with Victorian frock and ruffled cuffs, slid in between the women and bent his head towards the back of Bertie‘s neck. “Evening ladies. Bertie.”

The three spun around in surprise and Bertie gasped. “Sam?”

“Top o’ the evening to you mi’lady.”

“What on earth?”

“Well, since I’ll be decked out as the jolly old man himself tomorrow night, figured I needed my Christmas finery on tonight. “Just trying to impress the lady,” he said with a wink, then continued on with the carol as if nothing were remiss.

A little bit later Victoria nudged Sally and whispered, “I think Bertie’s distracted. She’s having trouble keeping up with the songs.”

The next hour passed quickly as they sang Dashing Through the Snow, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, and other favorites. At Hank’s BBQ they finished up the revelry with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer which had the children joining in. When they left, the entire restaurant broke into applause.

Feeling pleased with their performance, the group headed back down the street to meet up for refreshments. Good cheer spread through the crowd and even the frosty breath in from of them didn’t dim their happiness.

Sam moved in closer to Bertie and her friends. As they started to go inside, he cleared his throat. “Um…Bertie…” She stopped in the doorway as he motioned to the greenery hanging in the doorway above her head. “Mistletoe, ma’am. I get a kiss.” With that he dropped a quick kiss on her cheek before she knew what was happening.

With that the group entered the store, where goodies were laid out on the counter. Sam spent the rest of the evening circulating and not giving Bertie any special interest.

That night Bertie didn’t sleep as well as she usually did.

“Henry,” she spoke aloud. “Are you there? Can you hear me? You know I loved you with all my heart, don’t you? More than life itself?”

Memories of Christmas’ past trickled through her mind. She remembered their first Christmas together, with their pathetic little tree and handmade ornaments. A ditch tree, they called it in Iowa. One they cut down from a ditch in the road. The Christmases when the children were little. The last Christmas together after Henry was so ill.

She almost thought she heard him in the whisper in the night. “It’s all right, dearest. Live and love.”

She finally fell asleep, sometime before dawn broke, but not by much. When the alarm went off she kept hitting snooze until she knew she’d be late to open the store if she continued sleeping.

Being the last Saturday before Christmas, the store was packed from opening till closing. She didn’t have time to think or fret. She finally almost pushed the last customer out of the door, with barely time to lock up and head to where everyone gathered around the fire truck, festooned with twinkling lights and a dashing Santa. He was already seated up on top next to the Chief, waving to the crowd.

A stage set up in front of City Hall featured entertainment until the fire truck finished their rounds and made it back to town. The high school band, their instruments gaily wrapped with colored lights, performed. The choir sang Ave Maria. But the children from the preschool with their song and dance were clearly the favorites of the evening.

Soon the old fire engine returned to the square, horn honking all the way. The crowd gravitated to where it parked, with Bertie right in the midst. She wanted to catch another glimpse of the cheery man in the red velvet suit – who maybe wasn’t so much of an old coot after all. But he wasn’t there.

She was surprised at the empty feeling she had, not seeing him seated on top where he was when they left.

The crowd quieted as a new sound entered the air. Bells. “Sleigh bells,” someone called out from the crowd. They tinkled louder, getting closer, and then the clip clop of hooves joined the jingling bells.

Around the corner came a fancy white carriage, pulled by four horses outfitted with old time sleigh bells. Sitting in the carriage was a familiar looking Santa, with a cozy comforter draped over his legs.

The driver pulled to a stop in front of the crowd. Sam stood up and hollered to the milling throng. “Bertie! Bertie Mills. Your chariot awaits.”

Bertie couldn’t reply. She was too choked up. With tears. With joy. She started making her way towards the team of horses. “Coming Sam, you jolly old coot,” she finally hollered out.

The smile that lit her face let everyone know that ‘old coot’ was now a term of endearment. It seemed that love, after all, isn’t only for the young. And another romance was soon to blossom in Oak Grove Square.

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Christmas Love in the Square #2

Tuesday Tales is getting together to bring you a round of Christmas short stories. Some are complete in Tuesday’s post and other stories are a little longer and will run over three to four days.

Christmas Love in the Square will run over three days. Come back tomorrow for the next installment, and then Christmas Eve for the end. If you’ve followed Starting Over or Thyme for Love, you’ll have met some of these characters all ready. In this short story, Bertie, from Scrappie’s Quilt Store, is the target of Cupid’s arrow. But after a long, happy marriage and being a widow for twelve years, Bertie isn’t interested. Did Cupid aim for a hardened heart?

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pat tt christmasWith a grunt of displeasure, Bertie crossed the street and headed to the book store. Pageturners sat on the same side of the square as Scrappie’s, but on the opposite end of the block. Since Irene was at the merchant’s meeting they’d just left, Bertie figured that Sam was holding down the fort. She wished that Irene would have agreed to ask Sam about being Santa. It seemed the whole square conspired to get her and Sam together.

She wound her way through the empty outdoor tables at Java Time, the coffee shop situated next door to the book store and was surprised that Carmen hadn’t pulled them in for the winter yet. She held up a hand of greeting as she passed the large window filled with painted steaming cups of coffee and cocoa, wrapped with curly holiday ribbons and bows.

When she got to the bookstore’s window , she halted to take it all in. The display depicted a vintage Christmas from long ago. A tree filled with homespun ornaments, paper chains and burlap bows took center stage, surrounded by more children’s picture books than Bertie could imagine. An old time wagon sat next to the tree, filled with stuffed dolls, teddy bears and balls while an old fashioned train sat in a circle.

The tinkling bell over the door announced her entrance and as Sam turned from the counter and saw Bertie, his face broke out in a megawatt smile. “Bertie, love, such a radiant ray of sunshine you are.”

“Oh, stuff it, you old smoosher. Some day you’re gonna give it up.”

“Not a chance, dear. Not a chance.” A twinkle filled his eyes. “Way I see it, some day I’m going to wear you down and you’ll give in and have dinner with me.”

Bertie threw up a hand to stop him there. “What do you even want with an old lady that’s well past her prime?”

“Well, Bertie, my love, if you haven’t noticed…I’m not so far from death’s door myself. The only thing young about me is my spirit.”

She nodded her head towards the front window. “Irene borrow some things from Victoria’s shop?”

“Not at all. Why would she do that when she has me? That old wagon? Mine. Got it one Christmas when I was just a tyke. The dolls were my sisters, God rest their souls.”

“You lost your sisters already? You have any family left?”

“A niece and nephew. In Michigan. I don’t hear much from them. A birthday and Christmas card sometimes.”

“No kids or grandkids?”

A flicker of pain passed through his eyes. “I had a daughter. She was in the car with Mabel when the drunk driver hit them.”

“I’m sorry…” She laid a hand on his arm, a lump in her throat preventing her from saying more.

“Ayep. My life changed in that moment. Lost both my loves without a chance to say goodbye. Alice was just twenty eight. In the prime of her life. About to be married herself.”

“…how long ago?”

“Coming up on twenty years this Christmas Eve.”

“On Christmas Eve? You must hate the holidays.” Sympathetic pain filled Bertie’s heart. “And here I came over to ask you about being Santa.” She turned to go.

“Santa? For you Bertie dear, I’d love to be Santa.”

His words stopped her in her tracks and she turned back with a puzzled expression. “How can you, with what this time of year must mean to you.”

“Oh, now don’t get me wrong. For years and years I couldn’t have.” He dropped his voice to a whisper. “Truth be told, for too many of those years, I hid behind a bottle until the holidays were over.”

Her interest was piqued. “So what changed from that to the cheerful man you are today?”

“Because I finally learned that life is precious. Even mine. Throwing away my life wouldn’t bring my wife and daughter back.” He paused, a wan smile drifting across his lips. “And one night Mabel came to me…”

“She did? In a dream?”

“Not sure. Seemed I was wide awake. Maybe a little drunk. But, boy howdy, did she lay into me! Said I was wasting my life and she was disappointed in me. Said my actions were undermining anything good we’d built together and that I’d better shape up. If I wanted to honor her and my daughter‘s memories, I‘d better do what I can to leave this place a little brighter before I follow her home.”

“And…so…”

“And, so…here I am trying to spread a little sunshine…and trying to court the most eligible gal in the square, who won’t give me the time of day…”

“Samuel!” Bertie batted at his shoulder, not quite sure how to answer that.

“So yes. I’d love to be Santa. Just tell me when and where.”

“Here in the square. Saturday. And you’ll have to go with the Fire Chief on the old engine to deliver the presents to the children that the square adopted for Christmas.”

“Ho Ho Ho!” he bellowed out with a chuckle. “Just practicing, dear. And afterwards…you’ll go to dinner with me?”

With another swat at his shoulder – and a half a grin this time – she muttered, “We’ll see…ya old coot,” as she scooted away.

Sam just smiled and didn’t reply. Seems her words didn’t have quite the clipped tone in them that they usually did.

He had a few surprises up his sleeve. He didn’t live to be seventy without learning a few tricks. He’d be Santa all right. And this year, Santa was going to show Oak Grove Square – and Bertie in particular – a special kind of magic.

 

Cone back tomorrow for the final installment!

 

Christmas Love in the Square #1

Tuesday Tales is getting together to bring you a round of Christmas short stories. Some are complete in Tuesday’s post and other stories are a little longer and will run over three to four days.

Christmas Love in the Square will run over three days. Come back tomorrow for the next installment, and then Christmas Eve for the end. If you’ve followed Starting Over or Thyme for Love, you’ll have met some of these characters all ready. In this short story, Bertie, from Scrappie’s Quilt Store, is the target of Cupid’s arrow. But after a long, happy marriage and being a widow for twelve years, Bertie isn’t interested. Did Cupid aim for a hardened heart?

Return to Tuesday Tales for more Christmas romances.

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“…and a huge thank you to Bertie, over at Scrappie’s Quilt Shop, for volunteering to coordinate our Quilted Christmas Memories on Oak Grove Square.” Heather, the merchant’s association liaison from the city, strutted in front of the group as proud as if it had been her idea. “Bertie, can you give us a report on where we are and what still needs done before our grand weekend?”

Bertie hesitated before she eased herself up from the cold, metal chair. “Didn’t know I’d have to talk in front of everyone,” she mumbled.

“Can’t hear you,” a voice from the back of the room called out.

“Oh fiddlesticks, t’aint much to hear.” But she did attempt to speak a little louder as she stumbled over her announcement. “The quilters are finishing up the last of their quilts. I have a list over at Scrappie’s of all the businesses that agreed to hang a quilt in their window. Most everyone is participating.” She took this chance to turn and glare at Hank sitting in the last row.

He raised his hand in protest. “Hey, I’m a Bar-b-que place. You don’t want hickory and mesquite smoked into your precious quilts do you?”

“Naw. Suppose not…“ Bertie conceded. “We do still need a Santa for Saturday night though…don’t reckon you can help us out by being Santa, can you?”

He shook his head sternly. “Not a chance! My cantankerous behind ain’t getting’ in no jolly fat man’s suit. Try Sam, over at Pageturner’s. Betcha he’d do it.” A sly grin crossed his face as he chuckled. “Specially for you, Bertie. I think the man would do anything you asked him to do.”

Most of the crowd giggled softly or grinned. A lot of hands flew up over their mouths as the other business owners tried to suppress their amusement. Poor Sam had held a flame for Bertie for a long time. Not that it did any good. Bertie refused to give him an ounce of encouragement, going out of her way to rebuff his attempts at even a friendship.

Bertie called out across the room. “Irene, Sam’s your employee. You suppose you can ask him if he’d help us out by being Santa?”

“Well, Bertie, I could…“ Irene answered, “…but I think Hank’s right on this one. I think he’ll agree in a flash if you ask him. You know, you being the committee chair and all.”

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The response Bertie’s uttered was so low no one understood it. Which they were fine with. They didn’t really want to know what she’d said. Heaving a big sigh, she continued. “The response for the angels on the tree has been terrific. We have wishes from twenty six underprivileged children on the tree. The quilt club ladies made handmade stockings for each of them. We asked the children for three wishes – a piece of clothing and their size, their favorite candy or treat, and a toy or fun item they wished for. We have almost every item. We’re just lacking a few.”

Hank raised his hand from the back. “What ‘cha lacking, Bertie? That I can help with. Put Hank’s BBQ down for what you still need. Bring me over a list and I’ll finish up the last pieces.”

Victoria, who owned the antique shop, Serendipity, was sitting next to Hank. She started clapping and the rest of the merchants chimed in, bringing a red flush to Hank’s face. She turned and patted the embarrassed man’s arm. “Thanks, Hank,” she said under her breath. “You’re not really such a scrooge after all, are you?”

The group started chattering to each other and Heather cleared her throat to get their attention. When that didn’t work she threw her shoulders back (which she was prone to do anyway, being very proud of her silicone gals) and clapped her hands in the air. “Ladies…and gentlemen…” With the emphasis on gentlemen, she battered her eyes and glanced at the men in the front row. With a wink at one, she announced, “To deliver the presents to the children, I do believe our kind Fire Chief has volunteered the use of the old engine for the night.”

He nodded in agreement, a proud grin plastered across his face. And most in the group knew that he’d only agreed with the request because Heather – and her gals, usually prominently displayed in a low cut blouse – had asked him.

It was Christmas. ‘Tis the Season. And the flirting and desires in Oak Grove Square continued whatever the season.

The group finished up with the agenda and most scurried out the door, intent on getting backing to their businesses and livelihoods. Victoria hung around the back door. She’d wanted to speak to Bertie but was late to the meeting and had slipped in the back, taking the last empty seat next to Hank.

Victoria caught Bertie’s elbow as the older woman tried to slip out with the crowd. “I wanted to ask you. Come caroling with us Friday night?”

“Nope. Can’t make it. Too much to do.”

“C’mon, Bertie. It’s only for an hour. Where’s your holiday cheer?”

“Honey, this is my holiday cheer. I do what I can to bring magic to some children’s lives. For me…I haven’t enjoyed Christmas for myself since my Henry died.”

“How long’s your husband been gone?”

“Twelve years last September.”

“Twelve years? Surely that’s been long enough that it’s time for Bertie to have a little fun, isn’t it?”

Bertie stared intently into Victoria’s eyes before answering. “You know, honey, sometimes I almost think so. And then a rush of memories come flooding over me, washing me away back to the past. We were so happy, he and I. We had thirty eight Christmas’ together, coming up on thirty nine before the Good Lord called him home.” She stopped and wiped a tear away that threatened to trickle down her cheek. “Christmas just isn’t the same without my man.”

“Goodness that’s a long time together. I didn’t make it that long my first time around. I hope that Toby and I make it as long as you two did. Haven’t you even dated anyone since?”

A flash of happiness erased the tears in Bertie’s eyes. “Now you and Toby, I declare. That’s the best match I’ve seen in this town square since I’ve been here. You just glow when you’re around him.”

“I don’t know…” Victoria demurred. “Sally, over at Crafter Cottage, caught a pretty special guy when she found Izzy.”

“Ayep. Them too. But you ladies are young. Why me, I’m just an old geezer, tottering on towards my own grave.”

“Why Bertie…you’re only…what? Sixtyish?”

“Sixty eight last month.”

“That’s not old. You still have plenty of life and spark left in you.”

“Twouldn’t know about that.”

Victoria gave an impish grin. “There’s Sam…now he thinks you’ve got some romance left in you.”

“That old coot?” Bertie sputtered. “He can kiss my flying hide if he thinks he stands a chance with me. Ain’t no man, specially him, gonna take the place of my Henry. It’ll be a cold day in Hades before I see the romance side of life again.”

 

Come back tomorrow for more!