Christmas Contemporary Romance

I stood watching the door, my elbows resting on the table. Every now and then, my brother and I would glance at the clock, counting the minutes until we locked the door. 

Jackson pulled his apron off and threw it on the table the second the minute hand moved. “Why do we even bother?”

“It’s our businesses.” I hung up my own apron and wiped the counter. 

“We don’t stand a chance… I have half a mind to go down and find a way to shut them down.”

I shook my head. “That’ll only make everything worse. Just leave them alone. If we haven’t talked to them yet, there’s no need to ever. Besides, they could sue us for all we have.”

“Which isn't that much,” Jackson mumbled, sitting and rubbing his nose.

Being a small bakery business in a small town worked out just fine until the big chain bakery came rolling in and stole all our customers away from us. It wouldn’t be much longer until we had to get used to the idea of shutting down. Grandma would not have wanted it, but she’s not here anymore. Jackson and I would have to become new people to support ourselves. 


So here we stand again, our oven still hot, our Christmas decoration still sparkling, our tables and chairs still empty, the clock slowly ticking to our doom. Jackson ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “I’m going home.” 

“It’s not closing time yet…” He ignored me and walked out the door, grabbing his hat and coat and throwing them into the car. I leaned against the counter and waited. He’d be back. I squeezed my eyes shut. If there was any way to save our bakery, to keep my grandmother and all her hard work alive, I would take it. If I had to give my life up and leave it to Jackson and his fiance Millie, I’d do it. It couldn't have been easy for Grandma to raise her two grandkids without help while working full time in her own business, but she did it. I just wanted to be like her in any way I could. Even if Jackson gave up, I would work and work to save it.

Dang chain bakery.

I turned quickly as the bell rang at the door and my mouth turned up out of habit. Mr. Claypole came wobbling in, leaning on his cane. 

“I hope I’m not too late, Casey…”

I glanced at the clock… technically we were closed. But this was Mr. Claypole, our forever faithful customer. My grandma’s best friend. And mine, for that after. I don’t care what people say, old men are the nicest creatures on earth. 

I walked up to him and grabbed his arm, leading him to a table. “You’re never late, Mr. Claypole.” He sighed as he sat down, leaning his head back. “Can I get you something?”

He smiled mischievously. “Do you have one of those sugar cookies? Your grandma’s old recipe?”

“I certainly do…” I walked around the counter, grabbing a still warm bell-shaped cookie. “How’s your family?” 

He nodded slowly. “Angie’s bringing the grandkids for Christmas all the war from Toronto this year. And Chris… thank you…” He reached out a shaky hand and grabbed the cookie. “Ooh, smells good Casey… you always know how to bake the right way.” He took a bite and smiled as our conversation about his kids ended. “It always makes me wonder why there aren’t more people around here all the time. It used to be packed… cars everywhere.” He eyed me as I glanced at the sole coming off my old, worn-out shoe.

Either he heard about the bakery and wanted me to talk about it or he heard and forgot. Maybe he didn’t hear at all. I laughed once and shook my head. “There’s a new bakery, remember? Across town. They’re better known, bigger, richer. So people go there instead.”

“Oh no… no I haven’t heard.” I looked up at him and could tell he had heard. His eyes danced as he leaned forward. “But why does that mean people should go there?”

I shrugged. “It’s better, I guess.”

“Because they have more money?” I stared at him, calming down. His voice shook slightly as he talked. “This is a small town. People will eventually get bored of the big rich company and come back, realizing how hard you’ve worked to get where you are.” I tried to stop my eyes from watering. Mr. Claypole reached out a small, wrinkly hand and touched my arm. “If you think that bakery and take over yours, you and Jackson are wrong.”

“But they have so much more than we do… Jackson is scared of them, and he’s not scared of anything… I don’t think we can keep it up, there’s no point in even trying…” He held a finger up in between our faces.

“‘You can often change your circumstance by changing your attitude.’” 

I felt a sharp pounding in my chest. Jackson and I were willing to give up… why wasn’t Mr. Claypole?

“Eleanor Roosevelt said that.” He crumpled his napkin and stood up slowly, grabbing his cane. I stood with him, staring straight ahead. He touched my shoulder gently before walking past me. “I hope I’ll see you at the Holiday Festival this weekend.” I hardly heard the bell ring and the door close. 


I thought of a lot that night.

Mostly that we couldn’t afford to keep up our bakery. I counted all the cash we saved from it, and there's not enough. I considered taking from our bank accounts, but those aren’t necessarily abundant either. 

So before the Holiday Festival, I talked to Jackson.

We’re going to close. 


People were everywhere; Sometimes I didn’t even know how crowded our town was until we were all together. The nice thing was, though, I knew nearly everyone. I’ve lived here my whole life and I planned to stay for the rest of it, and I know a lot of other people did too. It was nice to know you’re going to see familiar, friendly faces your entire life.

I made my way through the crowd, wishing I had one friend to talk to. The only problem with this town is they’re all… old. And don’t get me wrong, old people are fantastic. Mr. Claypole is superior to us all. But I wish there was someone my age. Someone I could have dinner with and play games with or even just have a pizza night with. But the only people within ten years of me were my brother and his fiance, and I don’t like being the third wheel, so I let them go. 

So I sat on the bench, all alone. People waved and smiled, said hello. And then there was Mrs. Grover. The town gossip. I should have known she’d show up by my side sometimes tonight.

She said hello and sat down next to me, not even taking a breath before starting her story. “How’s your bakery doing?”

I nodded and stared ahead, trying my best to look happy. “It’s alr-”

“Well, do I have news for you,” She adjusted her large torso and turned, leaning into my ear. I could feel her warm breath on my cheek. “There’s a new bakery in town.”

I widened my eyes. “Really?”

She leaned back, fiddling with her gloves. “About three weeks now. A big one. ‘Sugar and Spice’, have you heard of it? It’s fairly big.” She almost looked worried for me. “I wanted to make sure you and Jackson were still getting enough business.”

My mind flashed to Mr. Claypole but I shook it off. “A little, yeah... Just waiting for their big rush to end and-” I rolled my eyes as she interrupted me again.

“Well, I do hope you won’t have to close. What a shame that would be.” She patted my leg and stood up. “If you’ll excuse me…”

For another ten minutes, I sat on that bench, trying not to break down or freak out. I apologized over and over in my head to grandma, tried to think of any possible solution, but there wasn’t an option. We’d have to close. I guess not all stories have a happy ending. But that’s ok… that’s what makes life interesting, I guess. I’m positive Jackson wasn’t happy when I joined the family, but he got used to it. We were, of course, more than upset when our parents died, but we still had a good childhood. There’s still a lot to be thankful for, I guess.

I guess too much.

I sat on the bench watching the snow when I heard a distant noise right beside me. I turned my head and there was a person sitting there. He laughed as I blinked at him.

“I’m sorry, did you say something?” I’ve never met him before.

He scratched his cheek with his gloved hand and smiled. “Yes, I did. Where were you?”

I shrugged. “Thinking.”

He nodded slowly and held a hand out. “My name’s Thomas. I’m just moved here.”

I shook his hand, half hoping he would leave so I could day-dream again. But at the same time, he looked friendly, helpful… and he was pretty cute… “Casey. Nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, you too…” I felt him staring at me as I gazed ahead, watching my brother hand out presents. He looked so happy, even after we made our decision. I knew it was Millie. After we ended our past, he had a future. I had nothing. Maybe I’ll move.

“Are you not a fan of Christmas?”

I looked over at him, almost forgetting he was there so soon. I smiled and let out a breathy laugh. “No, I… I love Christmas. I’ve never had a bad Christmas in my life.” Until now. 

“But you seem so sad... What’s wrong.” I eyed him. He ran a hand through his silky brown hair and watched the adults open their presents. There were almost no kids in this town... That’s one thing I really don’t like. “You can trust me. I’m very trustworthy.”

At this point, I’d trust almost anyone. Except… I pointed ahead and he followed my finger. “You see that woman over there?” We watched Mrs. Grover for a couple seconds as she walked around, looking at everyone’s gifts. He laughed and nodded. “I don’t want this to get to her, understood? You have to keep it to yourself.”

He held out his hand, his pinky outstretched. “I promise.”

I stared at him… his dimples, his light green eyes… All in all, I usually don't trust people I’ve just met. I don’t even trust people I know… but he seemed legit. I linked my pinky into his and smiled before leaning back on the bench and looking up at the snow falling from the dark sky. “My bakery is closing.”

“Oh?” He shifted and I looked down at my feet. “What's it called?”

I smiled. “‘Everything Nice’.”

He chuckled softly. I wanted to join him but I couldn’t. Everything was not ok. “That’s cute. Matches with the new one.” It does… I never really thought about that, ‘Sugar and Spice’ and ‘Everything Nice’… then again I never really wanted to think about it. “ So why can’t you keep it open?”

I sighed slowly. He should know, did I really have to say it? “Because… the new one’s bigger and better… they have more customers. They took them all for us.” I scoffed and tilted my head at him. “It’s really their fault. If they hadn’t come, Jackson and I would be fine.”


I’ll never forget the look on his face when he said that… it was almost disappointed. Did he think I was married… “Jackson’s my brother. We inherited the bakery from our grandma about two or three years back.” I looked at the ground, squeezing my eyes. I wouldn’t say another word or I’d burst into tears, and that would be very embarrassing in this instance.  

He placed a hand on my shoulder, gently. “I’m sorry… It all must be so hard...” That’ when I realized why I trusted him… he was different than Jackson or Mr. Claypole or Mrs. Grove, even. When we talked about the bakery, Jackson was angry, Mr. Claypole encouraged me to keep it open, and Mrs. Grover… well… But Thomas was just here, a person I’m hardly even acquainted with, comforting me. He didn’t offer advice or gossip about it, he was just there. He was able to understand me but not change my mind about anything. I don’t get that a lot… and that’s really nice.

“So you don’t have the money to stay open, is that it?” I nodded. “Is there any way to get the money if you wanted to stay open?” 

I shrugged and wiped the single tear falling down my cheek. “Not that I’ve thought of...” I laughed it off, every piece of my heart breaking inside. “Can we talk about something else?”

He smiled softly and nodded. 

“What do you do? You just moved here.” 

“Well, actually I-” His phone started ringing and he took it out of his pocket, standing up. “I have to take this, I'm really sorry… Merry Christmas!”

I smiled back. “Merry Christmas.”

So I stared ahead again, thinking of our entire meeting and conversation… it wasn’t that long and I’ve relayed nearly every piece of my problems to him. I didn’t have a ton of problems but when I did, they were big. And now he knew about them all… Why did I tell him? He might not even be trustworthy. 

I snapped out of my tenth space-staring sequence of the day when the speakers squeaked. Mayor Timson hit the mic softly and brought it up to his mouth. “Merry Christmas, everyone!”

Everyone replied except for me. I stared at him from my lonely little bench. “How is everyone doing tonight?” 

I replied sarcastically to myself “Oh just fantastic, thank you for finally asking.” That’s another thing. Thomas was the only person who asked how I was. No one else really did that...

“To start the night off, I’d like to hear a few words from the head chef of our astounding new bakery, ‘Sugar and Spice’! Would Mr. Simmons please come up and…” I stood up forcefully and walked to my car, driving at a speed I probably shouldn’t have.


I hardly slept at all that night. I didn’t try to sleep, either way. I sat up in bed, thinking and thinking about the bakery and grandma and Thomas… it just never stopped, so I kept thinking.

Of course, I also knew in the morning I’d have to go to the bakery and put up signs that we’re closing, get my decorations and recipes, maybe bake one more pie…

I got dressed, ate some cereal, stalled, got in my car parked in the bakery’s parking lot, stalled, and finally got out. I taped a flyer to the door, even though no one would read it, and stood behind the counter. I’ve been staring at empty chairs for a long time now, but this was different. They’d always be empty. From this point on, there’d never be another person enjoying my grandma’s hot chocolate recipe, no Mr. Claypole munching on a sugar cookie. Mrs. Grover would talk for a week or two about the closing but then forget about it when Jackson’s wedding got closer. It made me feel terrible for grandma. She worked and worked in a hard time and opened her bakery which was passed on to us. Maybe it had been better if we never got it at all. At least we wouldn’t have failed it. 

I rested with my head in my hands for five minutes, crying. Finally letting out everything that’s been going on for the past three weeks. Finally, I got up the courage to heat the oven and start my final treat of Grandma's famous sugar cookies. The whole time I thought of telling Jackson to come, but he had Millie. It didn’t matter anymore.

I heard footsteps coming into the kitchen and a small knock on the door frame. I looked up quickly and wiped my cheek, dusting flour off. “Are you making a last round of cookies?” Thomas whispered.


He shifted on his feet in the doorway. “May I come in?” I nodded. He walked in slowly and looked all around the kitchen. “It's cute in here. The decorations look nice in the front.”

I leaned on the counter, staring at my cookie dough, knowing how messy I looked. And the kitchen too. He had on a nice button-down shirt and had on a fancy rich person jacket, and here I am with flour and eggshells and butter all over me. 

“I have a Christmas present for you.” I squeezed my eyebrows together and looked up. He held out a small envelope. When I didn’t take it, he shook it gently in front of me. “Come on, now. I don’t have all day.”

I reached out slowly and took the envelope, which was actually quite thick. I turned it over to open it and saw a small stamp in the middle… Thomas Simmons... 

I shot my head up at him. Mr. Simmons, head chef. He looked away sheepishly and I opened the envelope, nearly dropping it. Money. Money galore… I’ve never seen so much money in one time in my life.

“I want you to know I never meant to steal all your customers. Mine’s also a family business, I wanted to expand.” 

I covered my mouth, my breath shaky and my eyes watering. 

“I hope you can use that.” I laughed and threw my arms around his neck, forgetting my appearance. I kissed him roughly on the cheek. 

“Thank you so much…” He wrapped his arms around my back.

“Merry Christmas.”   

December 08, 2020 15:07

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