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My Entry Starts Here:
Holly ducked her head as she walked past the ribbon-filled Christmas display at the General Store where she worked. Christmas wasn’t on her list this year.
She felt tears threaten as she put on her frumpy red work smock. Looking in her locker mirror, she told herself to keep her chin up, keep her smile bright. She smiled at her reflection, but it looked forced.
It would have to do. Her break was over and she had to work. She closed the locker, clocked herself in, and went to take over the register from a teen who hadn’t even bothered to learn her name.
Small town life wasn’t really all that wonderful. Few jobs available, no place for singles to meet other than a few bars, and not much to do during the winter, other than take snowy hikes.
Holly liked walking in the snow, hearing it crunch and pack beneath her boots. She thought of this as she listened to “Winter Wonderland” on the store’s Christmas play-list. She used to love everything about winter and Christmas. The tears threatened again, and she was glad there weren’t any customers in the store. It was pretty bleak this time of evening, dinner hour to close, but she needed the hours.
To make the best use of her time, she wiped down the sparkling clean counter, then locked the register and walked around the store, looking for something to re-stock.
The doorbell jingled and she went back to the front.
A young man, bundled with a scarf around his face and parka, stood in the entryway.
“Hello, can I help you find anything?”
He unwound his scar and gazed at her seriously. It was Brad. And, he had obviously heard the news about her parents.
“Hey, Holly Jol-,” he paused and didn’t finish his childhood nickname for her. “I hoped I’d find you here.” He held out his arms for a hug.
She wouldn’t deny herself a good, warm hug from Brad, even if they hadn’t been close since high school. So, she threw her arms around him and held him close, pressing her face into his snow-damp shoulder.
“I heard,” he whispered. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make the funeral. I …,” he paused again, his breath hitching.
“It’s okay, Brad,” she said. She didn’t cry, would not allow herself to. She started to draw back, keeping her head down, but he didn’t let go.
“After your mom’s accident when we were in high school, I know you gave up a lot, Holly, but now, maybe you can … I mean, after you take some time to grieve and make sense of things, you can go and do some of the things you used to dream of doing.”
Hot anger that bubbled up inside her, the anger she’d been holding in every time someone tried to comfort her, or told her she could go do something different now that her parents were dead.
She yanked away and marched over to the register.
“I’ve made sense of things already.” This wasn’t exactly true, but she had gone over the finances. She knew the reality of her situation. After her mom’s post-dated medical bills had been paid, her parents’ second-mortgaged house sold, she would have just enough to live for a month or two, no more.
As she started to wipe away her tears, Brad handed her a handkerchief.
It was soft when she took it in her hands. Of course, only the finest things for Brad Morgan. She swallowed that thought back, tried to force the sting of jealousy away.
“Please, Holly, you can talk to me. My mom said you haven’t talked to anyone, haven’t even gone to church.”
“I talk to customers,” she said.
He shook his head, then wandered over to the Christmas décor section. “You know I’ve been thinking of getting an advent wreath, you know the kind with the candle-holders, not the evergreen kind. Do you have any here you recommend?”
She gazed at his broad shoulders, noticed he wasn’t even looking at the display as he glanced back at her. She walked over to him and pointed.
“I’ve always liked this one, with the gold and silver leaves. It’s simple, just a circle of candle-holders, but it seems peaceful to me.”
“So, this one.” Brad picked it up. “Do you sell candles for it?”
She tried to ignore the way he looked at her so hopefully. “Yes, we have them in blue, purple, pink, and white. Some people like blue for hope, and some like purple for the royalty of Christ, and then there’s a single pink one for joy, and then a white one to put in the center of the circle on Christmas day.”
“Which color are you using? The blue for hope or the purple for royalty?”
She shrugged. “My parents used purple, but I haven’t put one up this year.”
“Holly Jolly, it’s your favorite time of year, your birthday, you have to celebrate it somehow, with someone.” He dipped his chin, his puppy dog eyes serious.
“Please, Holly.” He put his arm around her shoulders gently.
“Are you asking me to celebrate Christmas with you, or Advent? The Advent Wreath’s meant to be used every day.” She wanted to step away, but found herself getting closer to him somehow.
“Why don’t you light the first candle with me tonight, then I figure out a way to light them with you every night, either commuting or Skyping.”
She felt his warmth seep into her side, but she didn't have anything to offer him in return for his comfort. “I don’t know.”
“Blue for hope, then.”
She smiled slightly at his determination. “Okay. Blue for hope.”
He grinned. “I always win at arguments.”
“What?! You do not. Remember debate class, when I beat you?”
“It was rigged.” He gave her an exaggerated wink.
She shook her head, but smiled. Maybe Christmas was on her list, after all.
Helpful criticism would be great! I don't often foray into semi-romantic fiction, so I have a couple of questions:
1. Do their physical actions work with their words and the tone?
2. Does Holly's movement from sorrow to hopefulness (and a tiny bit of flirtation) work or is it way too rushed?
This really wasn't what I planned on writing, but it was where the story went.
This is my last post here for 2018!
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!
I HOPE YOU HAVE A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR!
And, as a little fandom Christmas gift to you all, if you haven't seen it yet here's the official trailer for Avengers: Endgame: