Writing

The Whole Story

Everyone is writing Christmas short stories, so I decided to try my hand at one yesterday. As always, it turned out overly dramatic, but here you go anyway!

Sadie hung the last ornament, a simple silver bell. Perhaps the simplest of all her ornaments. And yet. With a soft stroke of her hand, the tiny ornament let out a clear chime. She set it back a little further in the tree to ensure it didn’t fall and stepped back to admire the gleam nestled in the pine.

“It sure is pretty.”

She startled at the voice, swiveling to look at her friend…no, acquaintance…who was smiling as she held out a Santa Clause shaped mug. Sadie forced a friendly smile to her face as she accepted the hot cocoa. She’d almost forgotten Erin was here. She took a sip of the rich chocolate to steady her emotions before she answered. “Yeah, that one’s my favorite.” It was sweet of Erin to be here. Really.

Erin looked at her with a tilt of the head and then followed her gaze back to the tree, nodding as she saw the bell. “I meant the whole tree, but I agree—that bell is gorgeous.”

“Oh.” Sadie blinked. “Um, yeah. I guess it is.” Be friendly, she reminded herself. You could use some friends. It isn’t her fault you are such a homebody.

“Thanks for inviting me over,” Erin continued. “I’m not getting a tree this year, so it was fun to help put it up.”

Inviting? Sadie was pretty sure Erin had cajoled her way into an invitation, hinting so often it would have been rude not to invite her. But she nodded anyway. “Sure. I usually have to put it together by myself.”

Erin took a few steps back, settling on the sofa facing the tree, and patted the seat next to her invitingly. “We should sit and admire it awhile.”

Sadie moved slowly toward the sofa, trying to let Erin’s friendliness lift her spirits. She paused as her doorbell rang out, as clear and stark as the silver bell. “Just a minute.”

She stepped out of the living room and hurried down the hall, balancing her cocoa so none spilled over the edges, hoping it wasn’t carolers. She really wasn’t in the mood. In fact, all she wanted to do now was curl up on the sofa, by herself, and turn on The Bishop’s Wife so she could feel sorry for the angel, destined to be alone forevermore. Maybe Erin liked The Bishop’s Wife too.

She paused at the door, peering through the peephole. Her heart stopped and she froze. Maybe he hadn’t heard the creak of the floor as she approached. As she began slowly backing away a loud knock made her jump.

“Sadie?”

Her stomach went jittery as Pete’s voice came through the door, muffled.

“Sadie. Please. Open the door.”

She swallowed, clutching her hot chocolate like a lifeline.

“Please, Sadie.”

Her heart quailed at the sound of his voice. Low. Pleading. But it was Erin’s curious face, peeking around the corner of the living room and down the hallway that made her finally reach down and tug the door open.

“What do you want?” The words came out harsher than she meant them to. But maybe that was a good thing.

Pete dropped the fist that had been posed to knock again and looked at her with those soulful, dark eyes. If she wasn’t careful, she could melt into them. But if she didn’t concentrate on one thing, she’d be tempted to take in all of him, all his six-foot 2-inch frame, hair as black as the coals that would probably fill her stocking, that dimple on his cheek that only appeared when he smiled, and, of course, those broad hands that used to fit her waist so perfectly.

His nose. She would look at his nose. That was innocuous enough.

“Sadie.”

Focusing on his nose didn’t stop her from hearing the longing in his voice, didn’t stop her soul from longing in response. “I told you not to come. Why are you here?”

“Please let me in. Let’s talk.”

“We finished talking a long time ago. And again a few months ago. And again last month. Seriously. We are done.” Sadie began closing the door, but he stopped it with a hand, stepping closer, his breath huffing out the cold air.

“Look at me, Sadie.”

“I am.”

“No, you are looking at my nose. Look at me. Please.”

With a grimace, Sadie dragged her eyes from his nose to his gaze, trying to remain stern.

“I still love you, Sadie. Please give me another chance.”

“If you loved me, you wouldn’t have broken up with me.” She wished the heartbreak didn’t ring so clearly in her voice.

“I’m sorry, Sadie.” The desperation in his voice made her want to back away before she caved. “It was a mistake. I knew that right away. You know I did. Forgive me. Please.”

Sadie rolled her lips together, focusing on his nose again and forcing herself to remember how it had felt when he broke up with her. “No.” She stepped back. Pete captured her hand as it retreated inside and she froze. He turned it over and leaned down, pressing a kiss to her palm.

“One date, Sadie. One date. One chance.”

When she didn’t immediately pull back, he lifted hopeful eyes to hers. “We can get another silver bell. Have a matching set.”

Sadie pulled her hand back. “No.”

She slammed the door and turned, pressing her back to it. She lifted her trembling hand to her lips, pressing it there as though she could transfer his kiss before realizing what she was doing and pushing herself upright to go back to her Christmas tree.

She stepped into the quiet living room and her eyes again focused on the silver bell. Maybe it should move a little to the left.

“You okay?”

She startled again, exhaling a frustrated sigh as Erin sat up from the sofa. “Yes. Sorry about that.” She moved to sit next to Erin, focusing her gaze on the ornament, hoping her heartache didn’t show too clearly.

“He sounded sorry.”

She swung an amazed gaze on Erin who didn’t look remotely guilty for inserting her opinion. “You were listening?”

Erin shrugged. “Sorry.” But she didn’t sound sorry.

Sadie shook her head. “Not that it’s your business, but he broke up with me.”

“A mistake.” Erin’s voice was soft but insistent.

“One mistake can lead to more.” Sadie stared resolutely at her bell. “How can I trust him not to hurt me again? One thing can make all the difference.”

Erin was quiet and for a moment Sadie thought she had silenced her. Then she spoke again, her voice soothing.  “A full Christmas tree is more beautiful than a single ornament.”

Sadie furrowed her brows, and turned to look at her again. “What?”

Erin met her eyes without apology. “You keep looking at that one ornament. Maybe you should look at the whole tree.”

The whole tree. Sadie turned back and forced her gaze to refocus. The tree was exquisite. The warm lights, each ornament adding its own piece to the story, even the tinsel that would be a nightmare to clean up after the season reflecting the soft lighting in the room. Somehow, gazing at the whole tree, the position of the single ornament didn’t seem to matter. She bit her lip. The whole story was more beautiful than one part. She shot to her feet and hurried to the door, flinging it open and dashing out. She tripped over something and began falling. Straight into Pete’s arms. He caught her from his sitting position on her steps.

“Pete,” she squeaked.

An amused smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes turned up his lips as he set her upright and then stood, using her hands to lift her with him. “Going somewhere?”

She gulped and looked down. “Yes.”

“Where?”

“No. I mean, yes.” She took in a breath and raised her eyes, letting her gaze take him in. All of him. “Take me for a date.”

He blinked and his eyes lit up as his hold on her hands tightened. “Really?”

“Really.” She smiled at him, stepping closer.

“Why did you change your mind?” He gazed down at her as if it was too good to be true.

She exhaled, long and slow. “Because our whole story is more beautiful than one piece. And I want to see how it ends.”

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