4 comments

Christmas Fiction Happy

The 3,000 ton ship slowly inched its way to an impossibly small dock. 

Chloe’s face was pressed so hard against the tiny round window that her cheekbone was aching. She had slept the entire second leg of the journey and missed the change in waterscape. 

Down below, she could see chunks of ice floating in the blue water. She had never seen water this shade of blue before. 

She leapt out of her twin bed, her blanket cascading to the floor. Dashing around the tiny cabin, Chloe dressed in her thermal gear as quickly as possible. She pulled on her thick wool socks, laced up her boots, and did a quick look in the mirror to adjust her hair under the knit hat. Finally, she pinned her ID badge to the front of her parka identifying her as Chloe Davis, research assistant - intern.

It was time to get to work.

As she stepped out onto the main deck, the moment was overwhelming. The air immediately bit her face. She stood for a moment taking everything in, trying not to forget a detail. 

The sky seemed lower, the air seemed thinner, and every sound seemed to be more significant than any sound she had heard before. Cracking ice, water sloshing, people laughing, shouting, talking.

For a moment, she almost thought there was something wrong with her vision. If not for the colors in the flag flying down by the dock, she would have thought she had gone colorblind. Everything was a shade of gray. A quick glance down at the colors in her mitten reassured her.

At the bottom of the exit ramp she paused. Looking down at her boots, she took a deep breath. 

“This is it, Chloe. This is what you’ve worked so hard for.” 

Slowly, she stepped onto the dock, took a few steps along the wet surface, and then sank her foot down into the arctic land. 

She smiled. She pulled her hat further down her ears and started towards the trailhead. 

*

“MOMMAAA,” the tiny girl called, tears in her voice. 

Chloe glanced over from the stove where she was stirring that night's macaroni and cheese. Her daughter had been more sensitive lately, and tonight was no exception. The girl reached for Chloe so she bent down and brought her into her arms. 

“Momma, when will you leave?” This was the question that had been on repeat ever since she had told her daughter where she was going. 

The answers were well rehearsed by now. 

“I’m going to the North Pole, my sweet girl!”

“Why?”

“Well, to walk in the snow, and take pictures of polar bears!”

“How come?”

“To help the earth.”

“What’s wrong with it? How come you have to go? Will Santa be there?”

She had wondered the same thing for months now. Wondered about each choice she had made since deciding to study biology, to leave school, to go back to school, to apply for the internship, to move across the country, to uproot her family…to leave her family. 

But she had to do this. This is what she was meant to do.

Being a mother is what you’re meant to do.

She pushed the painful thoughts aside. 

It was only 3 months. She had to do this. 

She had to go.

As they sat at the table eating dinner, Chloe tried to remember every single detail about the evening. How her daughter's hair lay across her face. How her teeth looked as she chewed her food. The size of her hand, how it held her fork, the way she kicked her feet as she ate. 

Next to her, her partner sat watching Chloe closely. They chatted about the days’ events, the plans they had while Chloe was gone. They chatted about what the weather would be like when she returned. Chloe continued to field questions from her daughter, hoping that when she returned home, she would have something to show her daughter that would make her proud. 

Gratitude swelled in her chest. In the morning, everything would look different. 

Everything would be different. 

*

After weeks of returning to her cabin feeling defeated, cold and exhausted, Chloe’s guilt began to rise. What was she doing here? They were getting nowhere. How much more could she take? Her data was underwhelming and the landscape was harsher than the guides had predicted. There was hardly a bird in the sky, let alone bears. 

Chloe thought about the idea of returning home to her family having accomplished nothing. How could she face them?

Later, as Chloe sat crouched in the snow with a lens pointing right at the bear, it all made sense.

Right before her eyes. It was all happening.

It suddenly occurred to her.

She had done nothing to earn the right to be here, and yet there she was. Others' choices would bring them sorrow and despair; dead ends and regret. Not this. 

How did she end up here? In this moment, watching the rarest of moments with people she hardly knew. 

In an instant, Chloe understood. 

She frantically snapped photo after photo; one tiny bear emerged, then its sibling, then another, and then…a fourth. This was unprecedented. 

Beside her she could hear her colleagues shallow breathing as they took in the moment as well. The mother emerged behind her fourth cub and they all made their descent to the bottom of the mountain.

After what felt like a lifetime, the cubs and their mother were out of sight. Chloe still couldn’t believe what she had witnessed. Four cubs? This was positive. This was a win for the earth. A win for her.

She gathered up her equipment and began the return hike to base. 

Back at basecamp, she checked on her water samples and was relieved to finally see some progress in her data. Instant relief swept through her. 

That night in her cabin, she opened her journal to document the day. As she sat down she caught a glimpse through the window. She saw some of her colleagues down at camp gathered around a small fire pit. One of the older crew members was dressed as Santa Claus. 

Chloe couldn’t wait to tell her daughter.

December 15, 2023 16:21

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

4 comments

17:55 Dec 19, 2023

This is really lovely! Really enjoyed thanks for sharing

Reply

Jorie Mack
18:22 Dec 20, 2023

Thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
J. D. Lair
18:16 Dec 16, 2023

A sweet story Jorie! I'm glad to see the risk was worth it and she will have some stories to tell her little one. :) Welcome to Reedsy!

Reply

Jorie Mack
14:14 Dec 17, 2023

Thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.