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Romance Christmas Fiction

Cartersville, West Virginia

     The door to her office squeaked and she swiveled the chair around. Her friend and co-worker, Sayla, popped her head in.

     “Hey, Lorena,” she began, the dimpled corners of her mouth quirking up, “Whatcha doing for the holidays?”

     The holidays. Christmas. New Year’s Day. Everyone was always asking the same question around this time of year. Truthfully, she wished she could forget the holidays or at least spend them catching up on the extra paperwork and articles constantly demanding her attention.

     Mentally reverting back to reality, she did her best to look cheerful. “Family get-together, back home.”

     “Well, you don’t look very happy about it. Is something the matter?”

     Lorena sighed. “Not really, I guess I just have too much to do around here, you know?”

     Sayla chewed at the corner of her lip and then pushed the door open wider and stepped in. “Family issues?”

     Lorena grimaced inwardly. Sometimes her friend knew her too well. “I guess you could say that. There are reasons that I live here in Cartersville instead of Greenville, South Carolina.”

     The drive to Greenville was an inevitable six hours at least and by the time Lorena arrived at her destination, she was in no mood for her mother or sister.

     “Listen, honey,” said her mother, rubbing her hands together. “I just can’t wait, this party is going to be fantastic, isn’t it?” Without waiting for a reply, she snatched Lorena’s coat from her and hung it up in the entryway closet. “You’re gonna love this, come with me.”

     Lorena’s teeth chewed at the inside of her lip, but she reluctantly followed her mother into the family room. A mound of colorfully wrapped gifts pushed up the bottom branches of their annual Christmas tree and Lorena’s 16-year-old sister Abby was perched on a stool trying to hang a star on top of the tree.

     “Lorena!” Abby practically fell off of the stool in her attempt to reach her sister and throw her long arms around her.

     Allowing herself to smile, Lorena hugged her back. “It’s good to see you, Abby.” Her younger sister was taller than herself and very skinny and Lorena could feel the outline of her ribs as she patted her back. “You need to eat more.”

     Abby pulled away. “That’s what Mama always says and she also won’t let us get a different tree. Even Daddy wants a new tree now.”

     Lorena glanced at her mother, who was gently fingering the lowest branch of the tree. At least this one didn’t shed pine needles all over the floor like real trees did. She gave her sister another quick hug and then straightened her cardigan. “Look, Mom, if you don’t mind, I would like to take a walk down to the store and pick up a few things.”

     Her mother twisted around, eyebrows raised. “But you just got here. I was going to-”

     “I won’t be too long,” Lorena interrupted. “I just need to . . .get some air.”

     The air was crisp and cold, and Lorena walked the three blocks down to the local grocery store as fast as she could. The warmth of the entryway was welcoming and for a minute she simply stood there and looked in. Taking a deep breath, she entered and made for her favorite aisle - the snack bar section. Really the fabric aisle in stores generally rivaled the snacks but Greenville Grocery’s fabric section wasn’t much to speak of, most plaids and solids; boring stuff.

     After browsing through all of her favorites, she finally decided on a bag of salted cashews and pecans and proceeded to make her way up to the checkout.

     The cashier had his back to her, counting change from a donation jar and putting it in an envelope marked Cartersville Prison. Unsure of whether to just wait for him to turn around and see her or not, she cleared her throat gently.

     His head whipped around. “Oh, sorry, I-” Mid-sentence, he paused and his light eyebrows lowered, “Lorena Gibson?”

     “Chatham?” Lorena felt her face grow warm. Odd that she hadn’t recognized him before, even from the back it was hard to miss that head of thick blond hair. 

     A tentative smile crossed his lips. “It is you. Wow. It’s been awhile.”

     “I know. High school was four years ago.”

     He turned away from his change counting job and approached the checkout counter, staring at her with those super light blue eyes.

     Unnerved, she averted her gaze for a second. Chatham Bredahl hadn’t exactly been her favorite person in high school. He was always watching her with that cocky grin and annoying air of confidence. Despite that, he had occasionally come to her mind at odd moments during boring hours at work and he now seemed quite glad to see her and slightly more shy, maybe. This is awkward. “Um, I would like to buy this, please.” She set the bag of nuts on the counter.  

     He made no move to take it, smiling again. “How have you been?”

     “Busy.” She shrugged. “Nothing exceptional, just the normal grind that any job has.”

     He nodded slowly, still watching her.

     She chewed at her lip. “I didn’t, uh, know you were working here.” 

     “Well,” He gave an exaggerated shrug. “ ‘Money is like a sixth sense – and you can’t make use of the other five without it.’”

     What? Against her better judgment, she laughed. “And where did you steal that from?”

    He grinned, running his long fingers through his hair. “Well. . .I borrowed it from the Web.”

     “Interesting.”

    An awkward silence ensued for the space of a few seconds and then Chatham reached for her bag of nuts. “I assume you wanted to buy this.”

     Lorena attempted another little chuckle. “Oh, um, yes,” she shrugged. “I did, actually. It’s pecans and cashews. Salted. They’re my favorite, or one of them.” Why am I talking so much? 

     “Oh, absolutely,” He laughed as he beeped the barcode with a scanner and mimicked a generic cashier voice, “Would you like a bag?”

     “Yes, please.”

     “Coming right up.” He bagged her nuts and handed them over the counter to her.

     “Thank you very much.” She turned to go. “It was good to see you again.” What did I say that for?

     “Yeah. . .” his answer was quiet.

     Lorena hadn’t gone five steps out into the cold when she felt a light touch on her shoulder.

     “Hey,” It was Chatham. The wind picked up and whipped through the top of his hair.

     Her eyes widened questioningly.

     He offered another smile. “Um, can I have your number?”

December 22, 2023 14:41

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4 comments

Ann Valdez
15:25 Dec 28, 2023

I love how the ending leaves it open for our imaginations. Great read on capturing the essence of awkward moments we can all relate to!

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Molly Layne
18:03 Dec 28, 2023

Thank you!!

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Mary Ann Ford
14:12 Dec 23, 2023

Nice!! I'm definitely laughing right now. Great read!!

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Molly Layne
14:44 Dec 23, 2023

Thank you!! I'm glad you enjoyed it lol Jason suggested the title haha

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