As the song says, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I love the lights that take the edge of the darkest, dreariest days of the year. I love the parties, seeing family, and most important, the faces on the children as they wait for Santa to bring them all their Christmas wishes. I’d like to deny the commercialism associated with the holiday, but that’s simply another example of social evolution. We might decry it, but the reality is we all profit from it in one way or another at this magical time of the year.
This week, in honor of the season, my fellow authors and I are offering you something different. As usual we used a wiord prompt–Christmas–but we chose different ways of giving you a unique holiday gift. In my case, I present, Where There’s a Will…
This Chrsitmas short story will be given in three parts, one section each day for the next three days. Please come back and read it all.
Where There’s a Will… Part One
Brandi pushed a strand of red hair back behind her ear, oblivious to the dirt she’d deposited on her cheek. Sweat trickled down her back and between her breasts, but she felt alive for the first time in months. The warm mid-December sun, so different on Vancouver Island than in Ontario, beat down on her face as she raised it skyward allowing nature to add color to her wan complexion.
Looking around the front yard, she smiled at the evidence of three hours of hard work. Everyone in the neighborhood was decorating for Christmas, and while she couldn’t climb a ladder and string lights, thanks to a bum leg that would never fully recover, she’d added poinsettias to her iron planters and had strung lights in the pine tree and flanked it with a half-dozen lighted deer, giving the house a festive look. No dreaming of a white Christmas here in Victoria, but she wouldn’t wallow in misery. New city, new home, new life. Where there was a will, there was a way, and by God, she’d played the victim long enough. It had never been her style, and she’d be damned if it would be now. She’d fallen, picked herself up, and dusted herself off. It was time to get back to living, but she’d do it at her own speed, not anyone else’s—and that included her well-meaning sister, Jane.
Stepping inside the house, she admired the lights strung around the living room window and the decorated, table-top tree placed where those outside would see it as they passed by. The angel tree topper had been an extravagant purchase, but she’d loved it. Someday, it would sit atop a full sized-tree, but for now, it reigned gloriously over the miniature pine she’d plant out front as soon as the holiday season was over, a reminder that miracles did happen. Her collection of nutcrackers, a bittersweet reminder of her lost hopes and dreams, stood atop the fireplace mantel, the various soldiers and their multicolored uniforms adding to the room’s festive atmosphere.
She’d just filled the kettle when the familiar strains of “The William Tell Overture” announced her sister’s call. The thought of letting it go to voice mail surfaced briefly, but that would only bring Jane racing across town expecting the worst. Reluctantly, she picked up the phone, dreading the conversation to follow. Jane meant well, but she was so insistent at times it felt more like bullying than a loving sister’s concern. She pressed the call answer button on the fifth ring.
“Hey, Jane, what’s up?”
“What took you so long?” Jane asked, her voice filled with a mixture of suspicion, annoyance, and concern, but Brandi was certain annoyance would win in the end.
“I just came inside. I was decorating outside…”
“What? Are you crazy? You know you’re not supposed to exert yourself…”
Brandi laughed. “Obviously, you’ve never seen one of Adrianne’s sessions.”
“Adrienne is a trained physiotherapist. You, on the other hand…”
“I feel fine.” The white lie slipped off her tongue effortlessly. “I suppose you called about the Christmas party tonight. I’ve thought about it, and decided I can’t make it after all.”
“You just said you were fine,” her sister challenged suspiciously. “You promised you’d come,” Jane continued, playing the hurt card that inevitably got her what she wanted.
“I know you’re trying to do what you think is best,” Brandi said contritely, hating herself for being such a wimp, “but I’m not ready to face strangers.”
“Brandi, for heaven’s sake.” Her sister’s voice was filled with frustration, the hurt momentarily forgotten. “It’s been over a year. At this rate, you’re never going to be ready. There won’t be a single person here tonight you haven’t met before. My God, you performed in front of thousands. There’s no way I’ll let you shovel any bullshit about stage fright. You didn’t die in that accident, and there’s no reason to act as if you did.”
“I’m not comfortable driving the car in the dark yet,” she prevaricated, knowing damn well she had nothing to be afraid of. There would be no freezing rain here to ruin her life.
“Not a problem. Tom’s cousin Jarett is going to pick you up. You’re on his way. You must remember him. He was one of the ushers at our wedding. I think you two actually went to school together.”
If she hadn’t wanted to go before, Brandi was definitely dead-set against it now.
She remembered Jarett all too well—him and the gorgeous blonde who’d clung to him like Velcro at the wedding and had shot invisible daggers at her from behind venom-filled eyes. She also remembered the boy in high school who’d owned her heart, but had ignored her except when he thought to tease her by calling her names—Hey, Scotch; hi, Vodka; looking good, Bourbon; did you finish that math assignment, Gin?—he’d called her by the name of every alcoholic beverage but her own, except at the wedding when they’d danced.
You’ve grown into a beautiful woman, Brandi. His words echoed in her head, but then Yuri had claimed her and the blonde bombshell had whisked him away. Now Yuri was dead as was her career as a ballerina. She could walk, but she’d never dance again. Her last performance had been as the Sugarplum Fairy. She’d never even finished the run—the freezing rain had seen to that.
Svetlana Lunkina and Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
“I don’t know. I get nervous in any car and it’s just worse at night…”
“Brandi Alexandra Jameson, I just knew you’d pull a stunt like this, and I won’t let you ruin this party for me.”
Yeah, it’s all about you, Jane. What about what I want?
“It’s three o’clock, now,” her sister continued. “He’ll be there to pick you up at five. I suggest you get your ass in gear. He’s got orders to carry you out kicking and screaming if he has to.”
“You’re not being fair,” Brandi cried.
“Fair has nothing to do with this. It’s for your own good, and Mom and Dad agree, so unless you want to end up here in your pajamas or worse, get dressed.”
She winced as Jane ended the call with a satisfactory slam of the phone, something impossible to do with a cellphone.
Defeated, Brandi sighed. She had two choices: dig in her heels and refuse to budge, although she was certain that wouldn’t stop Jarett who had more muscles in his shoulders than Yuri, her best friend and fellow dancer, had ever had, or give in graciously, and make an appearance. Surely there would be a plant she could hide behind. She’d stay for an hour, two at most, and then get a cab back to the house. It wasn’t a huge rebellion, but it would send a message. Wearily, moving as if she were on the way to her own execution, Brandi climbed the stairs to her room to shower and get dressed.
Well, that’s it for now. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales and don’t forget to come back here tomorrow for Where There’s a Will… Part Two.