It was Christmas Eve night, and Simon sat down in his old leather chair. The chair had been in his family for over forty years, and he felt comforted every time he rested on it. This Christmas season, he needed the extra comfort, as he felt that this would be his last Christmas as the owner of the Deep Wood Inn. Just like the chair, the inn had been in the family for over forty years. It used to be an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city about 50 miles north, but now had seemed to lose its charm to people. Travelers seemed to be more interested in a skyscraper hotel instead of the big yellow house that was remodeled into the quaint bed and breakfast. Simon let out an exhausted breath and buried his face in his calloused hands. He felt like he was letting his family down. Not just his late father and his late grandfather, but his wife and ten year old son. How would he provide for them? The inn was all he ever knew. In the past five years, business began to slow as more and more people listed their own homes for people to stay at. The Deep Wood Inn had something hotels and other homes didn’t have-love. Simon and his family poured their hearts into their guests to make sure the inn truly felt like their home away from home. As memories flooded Simon’s mind, he began to silently weep. Alone in his office with just a small desk lamp on, he had to face reality-it was time to close the inn. His silent weep turned into aggressive sobbing. He felt so lost and afraid of the unknown. If his father could see him now, he knew he would be disappointed in his son. Simon was disappointed in himself, thinking about how his OWN son would say that he couldn’t wait to take over the inn one day. More vivid memories were coming to Simon but one in particular was sticking out-the moment he first walked into the inn. He was around 5— he knew he had been in before then earlier in his life, but this time was different. His dad allowed him to open the big gold knob on the door, and he pushed it open with a great force. The door let out a loud crack, and there it was, Deep Wood. The smell of pine needles and fireplace filled his nose. He remembered looking up and seeing the bright chandelier that his grandparents had brought over from Italy. His eye widened with a childlike wonder as his father and mother watched in amazement. Simon ran to the kitchen, where his grandma was making a fresh batch of gingerbread cookies. His grandma smiled as she handed little Simon a cookie and went back to her baking. Simon made his way, cookie in hand, to his grandfather’s office. There, his grandpa sat in the big leather chair, reading the newspaper and listening to jazz on vinyl. Simon quietly tiptoed towards his grandpa and jumped on his lap. “DOH!” his grandpa let out as Simon plopped down on his legs. “And what do we have here? A gingerbread cookie?” grandpa asked. “Cookie!” Simon remembers saying back to his grandpa. Grandpa laughed, “Your grandma makes the best gingerbread cookies!” The two sat in comfortable silence for a while, enjoying each other’s company. Grandpa looked at Simon after awhile. “Ya know, Simon, your father is going to take over soon. After he’s done with the place, I hope you will too.” Simon snapped back to reality after hearing the faint bell ring on the front door. Startled, Simon rushed to the door, expecting his wife and son to be there to pick him up. As he opened the big door to greet them, he was met with an unexpected guest. A woman and her daughter, who couldn’t be older than two, were standing on the front porch with a look of hopelessness. Their clothes were dirty and worn out, and their faces were the same. The woman looked up at Simon with tears in her eyes. “I’m so sorry,” the woman started, but her tears choked her voice. Simon hurried into action. “Please, come in and have a seat in front of the fire,” he said hastily as he welcomed them in from the snowy night. The woman and her daughter limped toward the grand fireplace and nearly collapsed in front of its warmth. “I’ll make you both some cocoa,” Simon said as he walked briskly to the kitchen. As he warmed the milk on the stove, the woman walked in behind him. “Th-thank you…so much,” she started. “We’ve been trying to find a shelter for days but they’re all full.” Simon’s heart sank into his chest. He felt remorseful for feeling sorry for himself a few moments ago. How could he complain when this woman had no place of her own? “Of course,” he said quietly trying not to cry. “You are both welcome to stay the night, I have no other guests.” The woman seemed confused. “How? This place is so beautiful, I thought it would be packed.” Simon shrugged. “Yeah, well…it hasn’t been packed for awhile.” The two walked back out to the living room. The woman handed her daughter the hot cocoa, and the daughter’s face beamed with light from her smile. Simon couldn’t help but smile too. He wished a simple gesture of hot cocoa would make him forget about his problems. The woman and Simon sat on the sofa, staring at the flames and embers. “How long have you been…” Simon started to ask but didn’t know if the term “homeless” was the right one. The woman interjected, “Homeless?” she said with a smirk. Simon gave an embarrassed grin. “For about two months. My ex husband kicked us out and took everything. We have no family or friends here, so it’s just us. I’ve been looking for jobs but..it’s hard,” motioning to her daughter who had fallen fast asleep on the carpet in front of them. Simon grabbed a flannel blanket from the closet and draped it over the young girl. “And all the shelters were full? How can that be possible?” he asked. “Well, there’s only two within a 50 mile radius of here. The mayor likes to act like there’s more but I can assure, there are not.” She took a long gulp of her cocoa and sighed. Silence grew between them as Simon’s thoughts ran away from him. He looked down at the sleeping child, then to the battered woman. He studied her face. She looked beaten down by life, weathered by the hardships that it can bring. After a while, the woman noticed Simon’s focus on her. “Is something wrong?” she asked. Simon thought for a moment. “Yeah, there is actually.” He turned to face her and grabbed her cold hands. “Thank you for coming to my inn tonight. You don’t know it, but you were the sign I needed to know what to do next with this place.” The woman was confused. “What do you mean?” she asked. “Well, literal moments before you rang the bell, I was coming to the reality that I would have to sell this place, and now I’m not going to,” Simon stated. “Oh…well…that’s good?” the woman said with a puzzled voice. “I’m glad I could be used for something! I’m sure the inn will prosper again soon.” Simon met her with the biggest grin on his face. “Oh, it will…” he paused. “Because I’m going to turn it into a shelter!” He jumped up. The woman’s mouth fell open. “WHAT?!” she yelped. “You don’t have to do that! I didn’t mean to make you feel bad about there not being enough shelters. This inn is beautiful and should be used how your family used it.” Simon smiled at her. “You’re right, this inn is beautiful and should be used how my family used it…”his voice trailed off. “And that’s with love. Love made this inn. Love has carried this inn through generations and it is what will continue into the shelter. I’ve been too busy moping to realize that I can do something amazing with this place, something my family would be proud of,” he began to tear up. The woman also began tearing up, not sure of what to do. Simon turned to face her again. “You know, I will need someone to overlook the guests and help manage the place with me, do you know anyone looking for a job?” he smirked. The woman looked up with her big brown eyes. “I might know someone.” 

December 26, 2019 20:23

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Mei Joan Guyll
07:23 Jan 02, 2020

Nice heart warming story...but would suggest the use of the word "smirk" in two places to be replaced by another word with less negative undertones.


17:05 Jan 02, 2020

Thank you!


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