The Perfect Christmas (Short Story)

The Perfect Christmas   by Kristen James    First Published by Skive Quarterly

 

Could this be a retirement-age crisis? Mark mused as he strolled down Sixtieth Avenue in the biting cold. Funny, he never imagined himself having one, but then, who does? He’d made it to sixty without any major breakdowns, and thus far had attributed that to his stoic prejudice against marriage. Only now did he question that.

A little late, he’d decided. But with Christmas bearing down on houses and shops with glaring lights, giant snow-filled balloons, and overly extravagant lawn figurines, he suddenly wished he could have a quiet evening celebration with someone. Not a wife. Not a big family. So he wasn’t sure what he wanted, and that was the crisis part.

Rushing around him, everyone else apparently had plenty of shopping to do. That he didn’t wish for. He’d enjoyed his time alone over the years when others were forced to migrate to family gatherings for long dinners.

He turned the corner and crossed the street to his office building. Though it was dark, he wasn’t done for the day. He’d taken the walk for a diversion, to waken himself and refresh his mind for another session. By putting in a few extra hours today, he would be done and could have an extended weekend to relax.

The itch for company? He used to find a companion here and there. They’d date for a few months – sometimes almost a year.

He saw the homeless woman standing outside his building and paused, ceasing his conversation with himself as well. She wasn’t blocking the entrance and he could enter without speaking to her. However, since she’d first appeared a week ago, he felt a need to see her face, hear her voice. Silly. Holiday hoo-ha catching up to him.

He passed inside and took the elevator up, wondering all the while what the woman looked like. She’d been facing the other way, dressed in a shabby, faded blue coat and black ski cap. His colleagues wanted her gone, taken care of, taken somewhere else. He’d contemplated giving her money for a hotel, at least for the holiday, but where would that lead? She’d simply be back on the street in four days.

He stepped out of the elevator and walked to his office, now thinking of the proposal sitting on his desk. There were a few letters to write, a phone call to make, and some loose ends he’d been pushing back.

That woman did look a bit like his sister. Sitting at his desk, he scanned papers with his eyes but couldn’t make his brain comprehend. He’d searched for his sister on and off all through his life. If alive, she’d be his only relative, and that wasn’t something he needed or wanted. But, maybe, it would be nice to know how her life turned out.

Sighing loudly, he threw up his hands in surrender. His mind must be aging as well as his body. Well, he supposed it wouldn’t ruin anything if he came in the next day to finish up. And what were his plans for the next day? For the weekend? For Christmas?

He took his trip in reverse, and somewhere between floor fifteen and one, he determined to give the homeless woman something. An old, solitary man like him had nothing to lose. Only everything to give. Maybe he should donate more; give his time, perhaps and do something besides ignore the imminent end to his existence.

Outside, the woman was still turned the other way, toward the busy street corner, holding her sign. Yes, very much like his sister, he thought with each step closer.

 

***

 

A car slowed, but only to let out a shopper. She tried for a smile, but the classy businesswoman didn’t even look. People stared right through her. They threw glares behind her, actually, and she realized another beggar must be edging in on her corner. She turned, not sure she could get him to leave. No, she would probably have to leave.

A man in an expensive coat and neat, gray hair stood lifeless ten feet away from her. He stared right at her, but his lined face wasn’t repulsed. Instead, tears streamed down both cheeks.

“Susan! My word, Susan!”

He rushed and embraced her before she could really see him. Who knew her? That voice . . . she slowly comprehended, but didn’t believe.

“Susan? You know your own brother, don’t you?”

“Mark? Can it be?” She felt weak and dizzy, but light. Could that be happiness? She wasn’t sure she remembered anymore. “Mark?”

“Yes, it’s your brother Mark. This is wonderful – you’re here for Christmas! Let’s go celebrate.”

 

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

We visited my dad today and my kids helped him decorate a small tree growing alongside the driveway. It was a small, 3 foot tree that looked a bit like a Charlie Brown tree, but very cute, especially after the kids hung the glittery ornaments.

He had another small tree for inside his house, a fake one that lit up and spun. It didn’t look like much, again, until they decorated it. We plugged it in and the little tree began to spin around and display little specs of glowing colors, which my middle son described as Northern Lights colors. We turned off the lights and watched it for a while as Elvis sang Christmas songs from the record player. I recently told my husband about my parents’ old Elvis records that I missed, and I was surprised to see them today. My dad had bought an old record player so there was even a way to listen to them again. It’s been a long time and many moves so I figured the records were gone. It seemed to work out perfectly for Christmas.

I’ve always been sentimental about the holidays and family – even as a kid I remember getting caught up in the emotions and traditions. Now I have my own kids to share this time with. I love this festive time of year, and this holiday season feels extra special to me. I took a lot of different steps this year to get my books out to more readers, and I’ve gotten to watch the results over the last five months. I reached 10,000 book sales, and the amazing part is that I sold most of them in September through November. A Cowboy For Christmas broke into the top 1000 in both the US and UK. All of my books have been following, making their way up the Kindle charts. More Than Memories was at 2,500 today. I’ve had some fun with writing too, publishing a Fantasy Romance novella and an Action Spy Thriller called Kauai Spy Games. Earlier in the year, I published Book Promoting 101 and A Miraculous Fate, a mystical thriller co-written with Tommy Garrison. Yeah, I know, I have quite a few different genres there! I just love a good story and enjoy writing romance, romantic suspense, action, thrillers and fantasy. I started three different novels lately and expect to publish several books again in 2012.

I’m very excited to see what happens this month. It’s been amazing to connect with readers through Facebook and Twitter, and these are just a fraction of the people reading my books. I’ve always dreamed about people all over the world reading my books. I have all kinds of big news to share with you this month along with some guest blogs. I joined a romance blog hop the 12th – 24th and will be giving away some ebooks too. So stay tuned, and enjoy this magical season!

Living In The Christmas Tree

Living In The Christmas Tree – a Christmas short story about family

Copyright Kristen James, all rights reserved.

 

We used to worry about finding Libby a heart, but now we only think of the best way to let her go. The understanding doctors let us bring a small Christmas tree into her hospital room and decorate it.

“Move it closer,” she asked, “Please. I like looking up into the branches.”

“Let’s see what we can do.” I had the two-and-a-half foot Noble Fir on an end stand, and I pushed it as close as I dare. Who knew what would happen if I disturbed all of her machines. “Can you see better?”

Slightly turning her head, she smiled as she looked at it. We’ve always had Noble Firs for our Christmas tree because their branches are spaced, leaving room for ornaments to hang. The kids especially like hanging tinsel.

“I used to wish I could live in those little worlds.” Libby said, looking between the branches at the scenes made by our figurine ornaments. I remembered her then, every year, lying under the tree, watching the lights and ornaments. Gazing into the tree’s branches now, Libby smiled. There haven’t been many smiles in the last few months as her condition deteriorated. Finally, the doctors said there weren’t any available hearts, and she would need one right away to change things. Dr. Lane’s eyes had filled with tears when he said, “We’ll make it as comfortable as possible . . . we’ll do our best to make it a great holiday.”

Losing my daughter is the worst Christmas present I can think of, for anyone, but I turned my thinking around and promised to make this her Christmas.

Andrew, Libby’s younger brother, and Joanna, her older sister, were hanging ornaments, asking Libby each time, “Where do you want this one?”

Libby has been so brave through all this. Joanna and Andrew, too, have been strong and haven’t cried in front of Libby. I haven’t done so well in that category.

“Leave room for the presents!” Andrew sternly told Joanna, as always trying to be a leader.

Joanna gasp, suddenly remembering something. “Libby, wait till you see what we got you!”

Libby’s eyelids flickered. She looked terribly tired but whispered hoarsely, “Why did you do that? You know I don’t need anything. You’ll just have to get it back in a few days.”

I turned away quickly and dug in my purse for something, anything, and tried not to hear the awful silence behind me. When I had my eyes under control, I went to the Christmas box and pulled out one of the small, shiny ornaments to hang, forcing a smile for the kids.

Libby sighed such a quiet little sigh that I barely heard it. “Sorry…you can get me something if you want.”

I’ve agonized in the stores already, searching for something for her. Her and I both know she can’t keep it, but still… it’s the last chance I will ever have to buy my baby a present. When people talk about having a difficult time finding a present, they don’t know. They really don’t know.

I glanced down at her and followed Libby’s gaze into the tree. I found myself wishing we could all go there, and be together as hanging figurines, forever. I took her hand, overwhelmed once again by the helplessness.

The door popped open with a harsh click and swoosh, followed by an animated Dr. Lane. Three nurses rushed in with him. I felt my own heart try to stop. Not now. I wasn’t ready. By habit, I looked at her monitors but they didn’t look any different.

“We have a heart! We have a heart!”

They grabbed wires faster than I could think, moving quickly, doing things I didn’t understand. I only saw Libby’s bewildered look.

“Don’t be afraid,” I said because she looks scared. Her grip on my hand tightens.

“We have to get her in right now.” Dr. Lane grabbed my other hand. “Merry Christmas.”

I looked at my daughter but couldn’t see through my tears. Someone out there . . . who isn’t there anymore . . . gave us this gift. I hope they felt ready, unlike my Libby, and I hope they went home for Christmas.

The doctor and nurses began rolling Libby out of the room. She looked exhausted still, but managed a smile, and told Joanna, “Wait for me to open presents, okay?”

 

Free Christmas story, Christmas author, Christmas tree, the meaning of Christmas, family, holidays, heart transplant, saving your child