Archive for the ‘holiday’ Category

It was by far the oddest setting she had ever experienced.  The room was full of Democrats and Republicans, energetic, idealistic youth, middle-aged mortgage holders with job woes and the calmer, slower elderly battling arthritis and other ailments. It was not her definition of an ideal party.

She watched from  her corner perch. People flowed through the kitchen, dropping off dishes full of treats as they exchanged hugs. Wine and conversation flourished. Music exploded from a nearby speaker as young cousins ran hand in hand. Doctors, Lawyers and Judges clinked glasses with waitresses, mechanics and store clerks. Drinks flowed, food disappeared and laughter grew. One by one the group migrated to the festive living room.

It was here people handed each other brightly wrapped packages. It was here they related stories of their past. It was here they passed out more hugs than gifts. It was here she realized that she was going to like the family she married into. It was here she discovered the values that shaped the man she loved. It was here that she realized she loved her new family.  It was here that her husband pulled her into the group for a hug. It was here that she realized the perfect gift didn’t have to come from a store. It was the ideal party.

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Submit a story or poem, inspired by a weekly photo in this fun, flash fiction group. You can read submissions or add your work HERE.  Comments welcome, as long as they are respectful and helpful, not hateful. Category: Drama Words: 100 Rating: PG

 

maui-from-mauna-kea

Photo Copyright – Douglas M. MacIlroy

Her mind roiled like an angry ocean as it plodded through her anxiety. The dream was intense,  it contorted her sleeping limbs as her head rolled over the pillow. Teddy bears sunk under waves as Barbie plunged off a cliff.

Shortly before her sleepy eyes greeted the morning sun, she had a vision of a white cat emerging from the surf. It circled her ankles and led her to safety. When her mom entered to wake her for school she sat up, her decision made.

“I want a Hello Kitty birthday party momma!” Seven year old Jenny beamed.

When she opened her eyes, everything was as it should be, if she had been alive in the 1830’s!

“What the hell?” she mumbled, touching the back of her head as a wave of pain washed over her skull.

Through the haze, she watched women with bulbous sleeves, tiny waists and large, conical skirts bustle down the walk, sporting ornate hats as their square-toed slippers tapped against the cobblestones. Men sporting waistcoats, tailed jackets and pork-pie hats, bowed, moving to the side to allow ladies to pass.

“Wow, wild dream,” she muttered, wilder yet was the fact that she didn’t remember going to bed! The last thing she remembered was rubbing the grime from an old photo album as she argued with her sister about how to handle Christmas with her aging parents. She felt spending time with them was good enough and her sister wanted to dig out ALL of the decorations and invite the whole family! Then Wham-Bam, she was staring at dim, yellow lights, oddly dressed people, men selling roasted nuts and women tucking whole, dead birds under their arms as if they had just struck gold. Attempting to rise, she felt her legs give way as she slid down a frigid wall.

“Are you alright young lady?”

Snapping to attention she noticed the concerned woman. She was eighty if she was a day, with unruly gray locks spilling out of her bonnet. Her face, wrinkled and kind, her mouth, smiling, but her eyes conveyed concern,

“I think so ma’am,” she whispered, wondering where the urge to call someone “ma’am” came from.

“I beg your pardon Miss, but you don’t look very well. Do you wish me to call a doctor?’

“No, I’ll be ok. I just need to go home,” she insisted.

“And where may that be Miss? If you don’t mind me asking.”

Looking at the cobblestone walks and oddly clad people she sighed. “I don’t rightly know ma’am.”

When her savior insisted on taking her home, she hesitated. But unable to come up with a single, viable option she accepted.

“My name is Elsie girl, do you have a name?”

“Uh, yes ma’am,” she gasped, “It’s Elsie.”

“Well, ain’t that something, what a coincidence,” the woman chuckled as she steered her over the uneven walks.

They hadn’t gone more than two blocks before the woman led her to an ornate, three-story house with intricate trim and a wide porch filled with fire wood. Climbing the steps she watched her host open a heavy, wood door sporting thick, lead glass windows before signaling for her to enter. The first thing she noticed was the aroma of fresh-baked bread, mingled with a hint of ginger. Then she noticed the girl, no more than twenty, dressed in the same period clothing, bent over an ancient, cast iron stove. Scanning the room she noticed the lack of a microwave, coffee maker or anything else she was used to. Hell, she couldn’t even see a phone!

“Angelique, we have a visitor!” The woman announced,stomping her feet on a crude, braided mat, “this is another Elsie if you can believe that child, and she needs a bit of help.”

The girl dropped the spoon onto a plate, wiping her hands on her apron before extending one in greeting. “Pleased to meet you Elise,” she giggled, “Please forgive me, it feels a bit odd to use my mother’s given name.”

“I understand,” she replied, “I feel a bit odd right now myself, it seems you have the same name as my grandmother.”

“Angelique is a very common name, it is no surprise she holds the same as I,” the girl shrugged.

‘Not in my time,” she muttered.

“Excuse me dear?” Elsie asked in confusion.

“Nothing, sorry, I think I hit my head or something. I’ll be alright in a little bit.”

“Perhaps then you will be able to tell us what happened to your clothing,” Angelique said.

“What’s wrong with my clothes?”

“Tis obvious they are like nothing from this area,” Elsie smiled before turning her glare on her daughter, “Angelique, please mind your manners. It isn’t polite to point out things that may cause our guest discomfort.”

“Yes ma’am, I’m sorry ma’am, and you too Miss Elsie.”

“Think nothing of it” she mumbled in confusion.

As odd as the situation was, she found the next few hours oddly comfortable, as if she had known these people for years. The younger woman saw to her needs as the elder shared her life story. She told of relatives that risked everything to come to this new world and make a new life. She spoke of loss, love found and businesses formed. She proudly presented family photos and refilled her tea-cup. She ended her story by pointing at a decorated fir-tree perched in the corner.

“I dare believe, that when you look upon it, you see a simple holiday tree. When I gaze at it, I see a family united. Our journey was hard, our lives veered down varying paths, but once a year we forget our toils, and troubles, with some of us going to great lengths, to gather together. The candles on that tree light the windows, a beacon for our loved ones. No worldly possession is worth its weight in gold, if it is not surrounded by love. Oh how I prattle, I apologize my dear. How about we talk about you, if you feel you are ready.”

“I don’t think I have much to offer, my mind is still a blank,” she sighed.

“You must have a family somewhere that loves you, can’t you remember anything?”

When Angelique offered a tray containing a chocolate pot and four cups, she gasped. The old woman’s worlds fell on deaf ears as she stared at the cobalt blue porcelain pot with the gilt roses. She could almost hear the pieces clicking together, the feeling of familiarity, the names Elsie and Angelique, the familiar sounding stories and now the chocolate pot. Her own mother had served hot chocolate from that pot, or one just like it every Christmas, always telling the story of how the set only had three cups and nobody knew what happened to the fourth.

“No, no, this is too weird!” she shouted, jumping to her feet.

“What’s wrong child? Have we offended you?”

“No, this is all wrong. That is my mom’s chocolate set! Who are you, do I know you?”

“Calm down child. We need to find your mother, I think you need her now.”

When she opened her eyes, she found herself prone on her mother’s sofa, her parents and sister staring down at her. Sliding up the arm she sat up, noticing the delicate cup still nestled in her hand.

“Here Mom, I think Great-Grandma wanted you to have this, now you have all four!” she smiled, leaping to her feet. “Let go get the rest of the Christmas stuff and call cousin Seth, oh, and we can’t forget Lou and his new wife, oh hell, call the whole family!” She shouted as her stymied family watched her descend the basement stairs. If her ancestor’s could find time to travel through time to help her, or had she traveled back in time, oh hell, it didn’t matter, she could take time to connect with her family. “Well come on! If we are gonna get the house ready for Christmas we have to get moving!”

“The legend says, if you put a star on the top of your tree, it will bring you luck and fulfill your deepest wish,” he said, presenting her with a gleaming, gold star.

“Kent, in the first place, I don’t believe in that crap,” she said pushing him backwards, “and second, I don’t even have a tree.”

“You do now!” he shouted, pulling a large tree through the door.

“I don’t want a tree!” She shouted, stomping a foot.

“Too bad, it’s going down Ms. Linda Brown,” he grinned, dropping a plastic tree stand on the floor.

Now she hadn’t had much use for Santa Claus, or Christmas since foster home number 3, or was it number 4? Living in the system had taught her long ago that they were no such things as magic and miracles. But she did believe in Kent, he just may be the man she wanted to spend her life with, and this seemed important to him.

When the tree was leveled in the stand, and all 9 of the ornaments he brought were hung, she collapsed on the couch, smiling at his goofy grin. Dropping to join her, he uncorked a bottle of wine, filling two glasses before raising one in a toast.

“To us,” he said.

“To us,” she replied, clinking glasses.

They sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes before she felt a giggle ready to erupt.

“That’s a pretty sad-looking tree ya know,” she laughed.

“Minimalism at it’s best!” he replied, “Wait, you have to put the star on!”

“You do it, I’m tired,” she yawned.

“No, no, no! You have to put it on or you wish won’t come true.”

“What a load of crap!” She snorted, instantly regretting her words as she watched his face fall.

“I’m sorry,” he said avoiding her gaze, “it’s a family tradition I thought you might get a kick out of it. You don’t have to,” he said, kissing her forehead.

Feeling like the world’s biggest ass, she blinked back a tear. “You know what? You’re right! Give me that star!” It took a kitchen chair to stand on and his fingers through a belt loop to keep her from falling, but she nestled it atop the tree.

“Now what” she asked.

“Nothing, if you need something bad enough, the star will know,” he said helping her to the floor. “Grandma said you can’t ask for anything stupid or selfish, it has to really mean something.”

They spent the next few hours snuggling on the couch, munching popcorn and watching movies. Nestling her head against his chest, she gazed at the tree as sleep tugged at her eyelids. A wish granting star, what a silly tradition. There was only one thing in the world she craved, a single object, a piece of her mother that had been lost. If that star could fulfill that wish, she would believe in Santa, miracles and Kent’s grandma!

She woke the next morning with Kent stroking her face.

“Hey sleepy head, time to wake up, it’s Christmas!”

Her tongue searched for moisture as she rose on an elbow. “What? Oh, Christmas. Just another day, I didn’t buy any gifts.” she mumbled.

“Well, someone did,” he said, pointing at the tree.

“Why did you get me a gift? I don’t have anything for you!”

“Linda, I brought the tree, but I didn’t bring a gift.”

“Liar, Liar pants on fire,” she lilted to lighten the mood.

“I mean it Lin, I didn’t bring that.”

Determined not to ruin his day she rolled off the couch, snatched up the package and tore it open. Puzzled by the plain, white cardboard she peered over her shoulder, “Gonna keep me guessing as long as you can, eh?”

“Linda, I did NOT put that package under the tree!” He insisted, scooting to the edge of the couch.

Unable to identify the heavy object pulled from the box she searched for a booklet, or anything that told her what it was. The heavy metal object turned out to be a garbage disposal unit.

“Oh my god! I never told you I wanted this! My landlord promised to put one in a year ago, but I never got one.

“I didn’t buy that!” He insisted.

“Nice try,” she grinned, pulling him from the couch, “let’s go put in it.”

Her unwilling partner grabbed a few tools from the closet and wedged his way under the sink. With a turn of his wrench he freed the trap from the drain pipe, freezing when something bounced off his forehead to roll onto the floor. He would never forget the moment she screamed.

“Oh my god! It’s mom’s ring! It must have fallen down the drain,” she squealed as tears slid from her eyes. “My uncle gave me mom’s wedding ring after her funeral. I cried for a month when I lost it. I tore every inch of this place apart, but I never dreamed it had fallen down the drain. Slipping the ring on her finger she cried, clinging to Kent until the sobs subsided. Glancing at the tree, she vowed to give the star a place of prominence as long as she lived.