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Christmas Contemporary Fiction

I am in line at the drive-through, waiting for lunch. It is busy, and the line is long. I guess it is a Sunday. It doesn't feel like a Sunday... but I am okay with that. Especially this time of year...


-~-


There we sat, side-by-side. It may have seemed ridiculous, but her and I liked to sit on the lake dock this time of year. It was our tradition. The first year we started, we brought Christmas lights and strung them out on the edges of the deck. And here we were again, our feet barely dangling over solid ice. 


"Anna."


She simply turned and looked into my eyes. Then leaned back into my arms. 


The silence was golden with the auras of stars that twinkled infinite-- in our atmosphere. Not just in the smoky sky above.


"I know what you are thinking," she said. I tilted my head slightly to look down. 


"We have been together a long time," she continued. "And you love me."


Yes, I squeezed her tighter. Yes, I do


She pulled away and turned around to face me. 


I signed to her. 


"I wish I could speak right now."


She interrupted, "But I love you just the way you are."


I took her hands in mine, then withdrew them. "Will you marry me?"


Thump, she moved to sit beside me, feet dangling over the ice. She pointed. "Do you see the stars?"


I nodded.


"They burn. For millions on millions of years. But even they die," she heaved, her blonde curls sagging.


I turned her face gently towards mine. 


"I will love you like the stars."


She looked down.


"I am just so scared it doesn't exist."


She began to cry, silent tears falling from her eyes. Trails frozen in time.  


She leaned back for a moment suspended in forever.


Turning back, she kissed me, the gelid rivers of her tears brushing my cheeks.


And she signed.


"Goodbye."


She didn't believe in forever.


-~-


Honk! I wake up and feel the same frigid tears on my face now, except I know I am warm.


I pull forward, then pull down my visor to look in the mirror. I dig deep into my pockets. But I feel no tissue. Only paper. I unfurl it. 


When you thought I was staring into your eyes, 

I was really gazing into the sky:

the color and contrast the brightness of starts that lasts

three million years and past

whatever flame of passion this is.


It killed me. To think I could not look into his eyes that night, so I gazed into the distant stars that tore me up. So I could leave him. 

Why? Why did I do it?


I don't know. I was broken. And I was wrong.


But I couldn't go back. 


A speaker crackles, "Hi, my name is... what would you like to order today?"


-~-


Back home, I plop on the couch. But an inner grouch bothers me, nagging me to get ready for the gift exchange in two hours. I sit there, listless but annoyed. Ring,,, Ring,,,, It gets to me, and once I stand up I realize the phone is ringing. I reach to pick it up, but it goes to voicemail. Ringg-- 


"Honey, I am sorry. I don't care about any of that-- your disabilities or anything. I love you for you. I know I act strange sometimes. I guess I just have weird ways of coping or dealing with things, but that doesn't change how much I love you and I want you to be my wife, Samantha. Please, please, do not give up on me. Please pick up--"


I pause, then pick up the phone.


"Hello?"


"Samantha?" He is surprised. "I know this is the wrong way to ask, but will you marry me?" He asks.


"Sir...you have the wrong number."


"Oh," he coughs, probably embarrassed. "Sorry," he wheezes, hanging up quickly.


I hold the phone. I almost wish it wasn't wrong. I half-lower it, then set it back on the receiver. Time to get ready.


-~-


I have arrived. And I am inside, standing near the buffet. Looking down, watching over dozens of cookies.


"Hey, Anna," says my cousin, Matthew.


"Hey, Math."


Math laughs and I smile, as we stare and watch while the children chase and laugh without care. I remember I used to be like that. We all did.


"Anna," nephew Arnold approaches, so stealthily I had not noticed. Children really creep up on you, sometimes. 


"Yes?" I ask, in a lilting voice that crescendos. 


"I have a question."


"What's that?"


"I really like you," he says, showing his missing teeth.


"Oh, well, I like you, too." 


I come up beside him and ruffle his hair. But he steps back out in front of me. And I pick up my drink from the adjacent counter.


"Really? Because I am going to marry you someday!" He announces.


I almost choke on my soda, but manage to contain myself enough to swallow just before laughing hilariously. I laugh and laugh, and Math joins in.


"What is wrong, Auntie?"


Math pats me on the back, and I cough out a reply. "Nothing, Arnie."


Math saves me, "She is just floored, that's all." He smiles an assuring smile at Arnie. Why don't you go and play tag with your cousins?"


He obliges, running off to do Math's bidding.


I look mischievously at Math. And let out a small laugh, but something in my throat feels tight. I return to my previous thoughts. Of how I was just like that, too. A child. I took risks and loved with all I had in my little heart. I would do anything and take any chance. It was that simple. Why hadn't I done that for Bryan? 


I begin to turn away from the counter and walk past Math. He grabs my hand. 


"Are you okay?"


 "Yeah." I sniffle. "I will you see you later."


"Are you sure, Anna?"


I nod, then hasten my steps. Throwing one last smile in Arnold's direction, I head out the door, walking quickly and jumping in my car. I need to get out of here. 


I drive, trying not to choke. Somewhere. Anywhere.


The dock. 


I get to the adjacent road and brake. Walking to the dock, I know I would not have thought to face this place. I guess I am just starting to give in. Or realize some things. To let me myself think and feel.


I know I blew it. I know it is my fault I feel this way. I know that Bryan probably cares, but I do not know if he has continued to feel pain like I do. Maybe he is with someone else by now. Maybe he is happy. Unless, he is miserable. And I do not know, but can't make it better anyway.


I gasp silently. 


-~-


There he is. Sitting on the deck. Christmas lights present, but unlit. It is dark, but I know it is him.


"I will burn and die for you," an inner voice speaks, reminiscent of the solid promise his brown eyes spoke that night. When I could hardly look at him and say goodbye.


"Bryan." I let go, releasing the tune of his sweet name to be carried by my voice over the gentle wind. 


He looks back at me. He has not changed -- except he is lonely. Sad, and a little surprised.


I reach inside myself: t remember all our times spent playing near the lake. Laughing. Boating. Signing. I can still do it, can't I? 


I can.


"I was never scared for me. I was scared for you."


I step my foot up, onto the dock. Tentative, not imposing. He nods, and I come closer. I sit down beside him. 


"Why didn't you believe in forever?" He signs.


"I do. I just, I did not trust myself. When we were kids--I used to be so happy. Then things changed. And I felt... guilty. Ashamed.

Like I could not love you right, the way you deserved. Like I would mess up. And love you only when things were good. Love as fickle as the rest of my life feels like it has been. Uncertain. I loved--I love you and I wanted the best for you. I realize now that I was wrong."


I place my hand on his shoulder. Signing and speaking, "I am sorry."


He starts to cry. Wretchedly. And we rest our heads on each other's shoulders. 


"I love you." He kisses me. "Please do not leave. Ever again. I love you just the way you are, too."


"I love you," I sign back.


"Friends?" He asks.


"Of course. But I am willing to be more. If you give me the chance."


He nods. And I lean back into his arms again. 


The silence was golden with the auras of stars that twinkled infinite-- in our atmosphere. And the sky was clear. 


December 26, 2020 03:08

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32 comments

05:07 Jan 03, 2021

Hi! I have to admit, I'm not usually a romance reader, so this piece may just not be my cup of tea. I was a bit confused at the beginning, since it is in first person, but from both the boy's and the girl's perspective? So it took me a bit to sort out who was talking and when. I don't think your beginning grabs attention. But I love all the accidental proposals, I think that was a clever way to tackle the prompt. I am a little confused, is the main character deaf, dumb, both? I was confused because he was signing but she was just speaking? S...

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Hope Reynolds
07:58 Jan 03, 2021

Yeah...I thought the same - more history. And yeah, I see that being confusing. Also, I think I may have thought of him as mute. I guess lip-reading would work too, except he couldn't read her lips while she was leaning in his arms. Thank you for your thoughts and positivity, too! Feel free to give more feedback if desired. Also, I read your bio! Would you mind telling me more about yourself -- what is it like to have kids all under 8? :)

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18:44 Jan 03, 2021

Busy! But less so than when I was homeschooling my two oldest for a few months thanks to COVID. We are super lucky to have moved to a place where elementary school is open full time, even if it is my in-law's basement. 🙂 I married young and started our family right away, so I'm probably younger than you imagine.

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Hope Reynolds
19:20 Jan 03, 2021

Okay! I was like 90% homeschooled, so it is not an unfamiliar concept to me, lol. Do you believe in prayer? If so, can you pray for my family? Some terrible things are going on right now. Divisive things, and I can't explain very well. I might be asking the completely wrong person. That is kind of random, though, and I would still be interested in hearing more about yourself, if you like ;)

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19:27 Jan 03, 2021

Happy to pray for you. Your mother (pardon my assumption?) must be a saint if she homeschooled! It is not for the faint of heart! Other things about me...I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I play and teach piano and I love to sing. I'm not at all athletically talented. And I'd love your feedback on my latest story! 🙂

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Hope Reynolds
19:30 Jan 03, 2021

Hehe, yes I have done much athletic stuff, either. I like badminton, though! She did homeschool us, but we used a curriculum, so we were more self-directed than her teaching. She helped us when we needed it, and graded the stuff that was not auto-graded. But before we were a bit older we were using textbooks, which was more at the basic level. I actually read your story, already! I am guessing that story must be personal experience? Is there a particular part or thing you would like feedback on or just a general impression? :)

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Sapphire 🌼
18:50 Jan 04, 2021

Ok so this is my best shot at critique- 1. This sentence - “The silence was golden with the auras of stars that twinkled infinite-- in our atmosphere. Not just in the smoky sky above.” is just so mesmerizing and perfect. Absolutely spectacular 2. When you said - “Thump, she moved to sit beside me, feet dangling over the ice. She pointed. "Do you see the stars?"” I don’t really know why, but the “thump” felt a bit...unnecessary? Sorry I’m new to critique. I think it’s fine if you omit that, but your choice of course! The sound affects kin...

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Hope Reynolds
19:37 Jan 04, 2021

Mmmm...I really appreciate that feedback on the Thomp. I know what you mean! On number 4, do you mean the second part, where they are on the dock? Yeah, that was from the guy's perspective, where the very first part was from her perspective. Not very consistent...that is a big point of improvement, I guess I just might have preferred to tell that part from his point of view, in some ways. But probably a definitely confusing choice. Did the part about signing/impairment come off confusing? Okay! This is a good critique! Don't worry about...

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Sapphire 🌼
19:48 Jan 04, 2021

The impairment thing wasn't really too confusing actually! Thank YOU for reading my thoughts! I'm glad you weren't offended or anything lol. Your welcome! Yeah the deadlines for changes are kinda annoying haha.

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Hope Reynolds
20:57 Jan 04, 2021

Haha, yeah...I guess in a certain sense they are good, though. To show us how far we have come and that no-one is perfect.

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Sapphire 🌼
20:59 Jan 04, 2021

When you look at it that way- Yeah! That is a pretty deep meaning XD

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Hope Reynolds
21:02 Jan 04, 2021

XD I definitely could use more effort in looking my stories over before I finish, though. I do try to work on my stories before submitting them, but I still don't always notice typo's or such when I am correcting my plot.

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B Easton
02:31 Jan 09, 2021

WOW! This was a really good story. I liked the dynamic and relationship between the characters despite how little time we had to spend with them, and some of the dialogue they had were really interesting. If I could make one suggestion, I felt like the first paragraph could/should have been cut. If the first paragraph would be cut, I think the opening sentence "There we sat, side-by-side." would be a much better opener and get us to meat of the story faster. Regardless, great story!

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Hope Reynolds
20:04 Jan 09, 2021

Oh my gosh, that makes me so happy to hear, from you, even. I did not feel the surest about this story or some of the dialogue, so that is great! Thank you so much for taking the time to check out my story and give me advice! Yeah, I can see that. Except, it may not make sense when she comes out of the flashback from his point of view, where she is for a second - unless I just clarify that. Plus, it may be beneficial to cut out that beginning so there is not as much back and forth between the points of view, and the reader can take the trans...

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B Easton
16:27 Jan 12, 2021

Yes, more than happy to. It very enjoyable to read, and yeah, I do see your point there. If there'd maybe been more to the first part, then I think it would've worked as well, like if it'd been extended to give us a better feel of the character before getting the flashback. :)

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Hope Reynolds
17:35 Jan 12, 2021

Gotcha....that makes sense. :D

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Hope Reynolds
21:21 Dec 26, 2020

Hi Guys! This is kind of an experimental - seeming work of mine! I kind of experimented with the voice and tense, and it is my first story with more romantic content. I am not sure I really like that. I might just take it down, but if you could give me your feedback on it, I would really appreciate it! Considering the different ways I changed my writing up this time around, too. Thanks!! Also, do you think it should be "Smoky or Bright" or "Smoky or Obscure" instead of the current title? Let me know :)

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Hope Reynolds
18:18 Jan 03, 2021

Hi Guys! This is kind of an experimental - seeming work of mine! I kind of experimented with the voice and tense, and it is my first story with more romantic content. I am not sure I really like that. I might just take it down, but if you could give me your feedback on it, I would really appreciate it! Considering the different ways I changed my writing up this time around, too. Thanks!! Quick notes: there are two typo's, that I am not proud of *cough* - starts should be stars, and "t remember" should be "to remember," I believe. Also, do...

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Love your name “Hope” is such a pretty, vibrant name :D

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Hope Reynolds
05:59 Jan 14, 2021

Aw,, thank you so much! Is Celeste your pen name or real, if you don't mind my asking :)

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Hope Reynolds
16:37 Jan 14, 2021

That's neat. I looked it up, and similarly spelled "Shinobu" means endurance. So with your first name, it could mean together something like (heavenly or celestial endurance; or a celeste is also a musical stop on an organ, so it could be like enduring in a more musical sense), too.

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Wow you are really - WOW

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Hope Reynolds
16:56 Jan 14, 2021

Kudos to the power of the internet and the beauty of naming. I once had someone give me a name meaning card that said "Hope. Meaning: Hope" XD

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