Sunday, December 4, 2016

All The Right Moves by Jannine Gallant


Part One

This was the absolute last time she kissed anyone under the mistletoe. At least it would be if Aaron Knight had any say in the matter—which he didn’t.
Standing alone near the buffet table on the other side of the conference room, he took a gulp of his drink. His eyes watered from the alcohol laced punch. Unless, of course, Tyne Darling chose to kiss him under the sprig of holiday greenery. Hell, a kiss from Tyne wouldn’t just make his night. It would make his whole damn year.
Aaron narrowed his gaze on the lip lock still underway near the Christmas tree in one corner of the room. For tonight anyway, the place was decked out in enough holiday cheer to make him see red…and green. That idiot Northrup from accounting had Tyne bent backward over one arm like some silver screen movie idol from the Golden Age. Typical of a man who considered himself God’s gift to women.
As the kiss ended and his two co-workers headed toward a small table by the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Los Angeles skyline, Aaron set his drink down with a thump that sloshed its contents onto the white tablecloth. After finally completing the ad campaign for a romantic comedy scheduled to release early in the New Year, he had Hollywood on the brain. The project had been a rush job that kept him and Tyne working until well after midnight most nights for the past week. He’d hoped the long hours spent alone together would change the way she looked at him. Apparently that hadn’t happened.
A sigh slipped out as he swirled the ice cubes in what was left of his drink. Kissing him under the mistletoe wasn’t something the woman he was crazy in love with would even consider. After all, he was her buddy, her pal, the one she came to with her man-problems. His fault entirely for falling into the role of best friend instead of romantic lead. If he wanted to change her perception of him, drastic measures would be necessary.
“What’s with the intense look, Knight? This is supposed to be a party.”
Aaron glanced over at the CEO of Gentry Advertising who ladled cranberry punch into his cup then took a swallow. The holiday libation resembled the Kool-Aid Aaron had drunk as a kid but tasted like someone had spiked it with a gallon of vodka.
“It’s pretty potent. I wonder who’ll be the first to lose all their inhibitions after drinking that stuff.”
 Steven Gentry flashed a toothy smile. “Let’s hope it’s Darling. The woman is smokin’ hot wearing that little red number.” He gave her curvy figure a slow up and down perusal as Tyne pushed back her chair and stood. “Hey, she even matches the punch.”
Aaron couldn’t argue with the sentiment, but he clenched his fist at the leer accompanying his boss’s words. “Tyne is always in control. She stayed cool even with those producers breathing down our necks all week.”
“And your Christmas bonuses will reflect the superb job you did getting that package together in record time.” He slapped Aaron on the back. “Your work is appreciated.”
His scowl deepened as Steven walked away. Tyne also appreciated his work ethic and talent. Not to mention his sense of humor and ability to listen. For all the good that did him…
The object of his intense scrutiny spun on one high black heel. A sleek fall of dark hair swung around her shoulders as she scanned the room. When her gaze met his, relief filled her big blue eyes. She skirted groups of chatting coworkers to head straight to his side.
He raised one brow as he took a sip of his drink. “Problem?”
“Why do I suck so much at choosing men to date?”
“I don’t know.” His lip curled as he set down his glass. “Couldn’t be because you go for glitz over substance, could it?”
A sigh was her only response.
He opened his mouth then shut it. The tears she blinked away melted any urge to say I told you so. “What did that idiot Northrup do now?”
“He’s not an…oh, who am I kidding? Heath is definitely an idiot. A complete ass.” She gritted even white teeth. “He baled on going to Yosemite with me for Christmas. At the last stinking minute, no less.”
She crossed her arms over her chest, which drew his attention straight to her breasts pressing against the scoop neck of the red dress. With an effort, he dragged his gaze upward. “That’s such a bad thing?”
“It pretty much sucks.” She touched the punch stain on the tablecloth next to a platter of shrimp and frowned. “My sister—make that my little sister—is getting married in the little chapel in Yosemite Valley over the holiday. Can you imagine anything more romantic?”
“Uh, am I supposed to answer that?”
Tyne rolled her eyes. “Anyway, now I don’t even have a date for the wedding.”
“Did Northrup break the news before or after mauling you under the mistletoe?”
She grimaced. “After. Definitely after, or I probably would have bit him. Damn, I should have known something was up yesterday when he hedged about what time he wanted to leave tomorrow morning.”
Aaron slid an arm around her to guide her away from the buffet table as several members of the management team approached. “Did he at least give you a reason for backing out?”
“Apparently he’s decided to go home to San Diego for Christmas, something about an old friend being in town.” Her scowl grew. “I got the distinct feeling this old friend is female.”
“I hope you told him to drop dead.”
Her breasts rose on another deep breath. “Yep, I made it crystal clear we were over. Done. Kaput. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out finished.”
Aaron could hardly believe his good fortune. Tyne was never single. She was so freaking gorgeous, men would swarm the second news spread she’d ditched Northrup. If he ever planned to make a move, now was the time. Except he sucked at making moves. Still, he had to try.
“If you want a date for your sister’s wedding, I’ll go with you. Yosemite during the winter must be spectacular.”
“We’re staying at the Ahwahnee…or whatever it is they’re calling it now. The Grand something. At any rate, the hotel is breathtaking, all decorated for Christmas.” She stared up at him with wide eyes. “You’d do that for me?”
“Sure. I’ve got nothing special going on. I’m not flying back to New England, so if you want—”
She grabbed him and planted a great big kiss…right on his cheek.
Typical.
“You’re the best. What did I ever do to deserve a friend like you?”
He gave her a long, slow perusal. “Maybe we’ll find out this weekend.”
* * * *

Stop by tomorrow for Part Two of All The Right Moves! For information and buy links for my books, check out my WEBSITE. And for those of you curious about how my photo shoot went, the finished product is below. Not too bad, despite the wind off the lake blowing my hair all over the place. It took about 50 shots to get a decent one, and I don't plan to update it ever!


Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Sing-ular Tradition; Part Three by Margo Hoornstra



A Sing-ular Tradition

Part Three 
 

A few times Derrick had walked into Kenzie’s office on his daily mail run and caught her wearing a wistful expression as she either gazed straight ahead or contemplated the ceiling. More often than not when he came through the doorway, she was too busy to even look up at him. With her head down and full attention focused on whatever task was at hand in front of her, she’d mumble a distracted thank you and that was it.

Though he always meant to talk to her, asking ‘what’s wrong?’ wasn’t the best way to open a conversation with someone you’d only just met. But, she wasn’t bent over a paper strewn desk now. At this moment, she was focused totally on him.

Dude, quit staring at her and use your advantage. He winced in response to the devil perched on his shoulder. Don’t rush me. I got this.

“How did you wind up in the sunshine state? Even though you hale from the north, you’re a little young to be a snowbird.”

“A job offer I couldn’t turn down arrived at just the right time. I needed to get away from things in my old life for a while.”

“What kind of things? Problems?”

The wistfulness returned to those big blue eyes as her gaze strayed away from him. His heart stuttered at the idea maybe he’d gone and destroyed their light-hearted mood. Caused her to call up old and maybe unpleasant memories.

“I was engaged. Briefly. Until I discovered my so-called fiancĂ© was still married to someone else.”

“That had to hurt.”

“All I could think was how could he do that? To me was one thing, but to his wife? Not to mention the two innocent little girls I found out they had together.”

“I can relate. It’s been a pretty tough year for me too.”

“Why’s that?” Lowering her eyes, she took a hasty sip of punch. “It’s okay if you’d rather not say.”

“No. I don’t mind.” That she seemed to care enough to want to know spurred him on to share something he hadn’t told anyone around here. “I spent six seasons playing minor league baseball. As a pitcher.”

“That would explain your arm strength.” Eyes wide as if she’d just surprised herself, she took a breath. “Sorry.” As pink dotted her cheeks, she gave a little head shake, looked away then back at him. “Go on.”

“I was so confident my arm would take me to the big show and million dollar endorsement contracts. When that didn’t happen and I was unexpectedly cut from the team, I had no other life skills to fall back on.”

“One heck of a wake-up call, I’m guessing.”

“You have no idea.” He picked up their empty glasses and the napkin and tossed them into a nearby trashcan. “Then my wife left me for a teammate of mine. One of the guys who did make it to the big leagues with the million dollar perks.”

“Oh, Derrick, I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah. Thanks. Luckily we had no kids.”

“Even so, you’re no stranger to heartache.” She slid her hand over to cover his. “Like me.”

“So there you have it.” He immediately flipped his palm up in acceptance then twined his fingers with hers.  “More stuff we have in common.”

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas drifted over the patio. Deciding to go solo, Derrick picked up on the lyrics in a clear voice, mimicking as best he could the slow crooning style of Frank Sinatra’s velvety tenor.

When he came to the parts about troubles being gone, and the advice to lighten your heart, he leaned closer to Kenzie and lowered his voice for emphasis.

She rewarded him with a huge smile at the finish. “More instructions I need to pay attention to, I suppose.”

“Yes, you do.” His fingers tightened around hers.

“I’ll try.” Her wistfulness may have come back, but the sadness in her eyes was nowhere to be found. “I’m glad I came tonight, Derrick. If only for us to have a chance to get to know each other better.”

“My sentiments exactly.”

“Hey, Everyone. Santa will be here soon.” An unknown voice made the announcement before a raucous rendition of Here Comes Santa Claus erupted between them.

Derrick glanced toward the noise then back at her. “Shall we go inside? This is the point, or so I’ve been told, where they pass out little gag gift presents and we can all go home.”

“Go home.” The smallest hint of sadness was evident in her tone.

“I can tell you’re still a little homesick.”

She gave a half smile and nod. “Both my parents are back in Michigan. My two brothers and younger sister live nearby. The family should all be gathering at Mom and Dad’s tomorrow early to be together.”

Sympathy for her being away from the family she obviously loved tugged at his heart, and he had an overpowering urge to take her in his arms and make all the sadness in her life go away. Figuratively pitch every bad thing that had ever happened to her into some virtual trash heap somewhere. So he could fill the void with happiness and whatever else he had to offer.

“My last name is Winters, by the way.” He didn’t bother to release her hand as they stood. “If that helps to make you feel a little less homesick.”

“Actually I think it does.”

As they walked side by side, putting his arm around her waist seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do.

She glanced up at him and smiled, then slid her arm into place around him. “Merry Christmas, Derrick.”

“Merry Christmas, Kenzie. With many more to come.”

“For both of us, many more.”

Relishing the sound of their shared promises, he opened the door and ushered her in front of him then happened to look up. “Wait just a minute.”

“For what?”

Just inside the entrance he stopped then put both hands on her shoulders and turned her to face him. “We’ve come so far, wouldn’t want to break with tradition now.”

Brow furrowed in question, after a hasty glance upward, her frown cleared. A second sprig of Mistletoe hung above them. Eyes sparkling, she met his gaze and grinned. “No. We certainly wouldn’t want to do that.”

Those words coincided with both arms she brought to rest around his neck.

Her response was so swift, and couldn’t have been more perfect. Derrick smiled briefly as he closed his lips over hers. It wasn’t long before he was lost in the sweet and thorough enjoyment of a warm and inviting mouth.

This was the absolute last time he kissed anyone else under the mistletoe.

For good reason. No other kiss for the rest of his life could possibly surpass the wonder of this one.


 
 
For more about me and the stories I write, please visit my WEBSITE

Come back tomorrow and enjoy the first installment of All The Right Moves by Jannine Gallant.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Sing-ular Tradition; Part Two by Margo Hoornstra

 
 
A Sing-ular Tradition

Part Two 

Kenzie recognized the voice and glanced up. Framed in the garland trimmed doorway, Derrick smiled as he walked toward her, plastic cups filled with bright red liquid held out in each hand.

“I brought you some punch, mildly spiked. You can’t begin to celebrate the Christmas season without at least one glass under your belt.”

She accepted the cup he offered then had to smile at his kindness. “That’s very sweet. Thank you.”

“Call it a tradition.” Setting his drink down on a table beside the swing, he reached in his pants pocket and pulled out something wrapped in a red napkin he handed over. “I brought these too. You get first choice.”

She set her glass beside his to unfold the paper on the two iced sugar cookies then handed him the one in a snowman shape covered with white frosting.

“Frosted stars with sprinkles are my favorite.” She took a small bite of one corner. “Are these cookies a tradition down here, too?”

“I don’t know about that.” The swing swayed as he picked up his cup and sat beside her. “It’s our tradition now.” He smiled, and once again the dimple in his right cheek emerged full force. “Among others we’ve created.”

She suspected he referenced the kiss they’d shared upon her arrival, along with the mutual knowledge of how thorough and complete a kiss it was. The evidence was right there in those eyes of his as they stared deeply into hers.

“Traditions can be nice.” She picked up the punch she brought to her lips.

“Yes, they can.”

This close, details she’d never noticed when he pushed his package laden cart into her office to set her portion of the day’s mail on one corner of her desk were crystal clear. The movie star resemblance being one of them, along with a definite sparkle in his deep blue eyes.

With some effort she kept her gaze from dipping back to those firm lips and cleared her throat. “This is a far cry from the piles of snow and freezing temperatures I’m used to.”

“For better? Or worse?” The words, along with a tantalizingly warm breath, grazed over her left ear, the super sensitive one.

She turned toward him at his question then took her time to answer.

*****

Derrick Winters bit the head off Frosty then took a fortifying swallow of his punch. So far, so good. She wasn’t ranting at him. Yet. There was no screaming bloody murder as she ordered him to leave and never speak to her again. However, he did refrain from swiping a hand over his brow.

“That remains to be seen.” She lowered her gaze from his to concentrate on finishing her star.

“Fair enough.” Derrick let out a short sigh, and then took to polishing his cookie off too. He wasn’t totally out of the woods yet. The decision to snatch the kiss when she first walked in had been a spur of the moment thing. Sheer madness really. Though once into it, he did maintain the presence of mind to put forth his best effort.

Call him a true traditionalist. As far back as he could remember he’d always been a sucker for long, blond hair and big blue eyes. After all, he was only human. Except being around Kenzie, he couldn’t shake the impression he was in the presence of a goddess.

“I feel a little out of my element around here.” She dusted a crumb from the corner of her mouth.

Tell me about it. “How so?”

“This nice weather is a culture shock for someone used to howling winds and driving sleet.”

“There can be pluses to sunshine and warm breezes.”

She watched him for a long, slow moment before she spoke. “You could be right. It beats navigating through snow clogged streets and walking on slushy sidewalks.”

Those bright blue eyes studied his with an intensity that made him blink, but he refused to look away. If only he could come up with a clever comeback.

“A toast to a prosperous year behind us and even more successful new year ahead.” The male voice rose over the music and conversations going on inside to burst into their silence.  “And fellow employees here at our firm to share in the good fortune.”

Kenzie glanced up. “Sounds like Mr. Simms is speaking. That is one of the reasons we’re here, isn’t it?”

“Maybe why he’s here. I propose a toast, too, but not necessarily to what he said. How about we toast traditions?”

“Okay.” She lifted her glass to touch his. “To traditions.”

Eyes on each other, they took small sips.

Laughter from the party mingled with the lyrics of Have a Holly Jolly Christmas and Kenzie turned her attention toward the solitary opened window to listen.

At the faraway look that shadowed her eyes, Derrick had no choice but to do the same.

‘Have a jolly holly Christmas.’

“Those instructions to enjoy ourselves with friends and family sound pretty definitive.” Corny as it was, he started to bob and sway to the music.

Offering a grin, she moved with him to the lively rhythm. “Then I guess we’d better comply.”

Doing a silly-ass dance, while sitting down at that, Derrick didn’t feel the least bit foolish. The beautiful woman beside him had a lot to do with it. More amazing though, for the first time in a long time, the shield he’d built up to protect his busted up heart wasn’t nearly as stiff and rigid as it had been.

When Kenzie started to sing the words to the Burl Ives classic, he couldn’t help but catch her enthusiasm and join in. Keeping his gaze locked with hers, savoring the good feelings he got from her smile, Derrick sang with all his heart.

As the cheery singer mentioned someone under the Mistletoe awaiting a kiss, he couldn’t help but smile. Yes sir! I certainly will kiss her, more than once, for you.

“….this year. Da dum-dum.”

The song ended and their voices drifted away.

“We’re pretty darned good.” He made the assessment as they exchanged cheerful gazes.

“We are that. Except I don’t think either one of us should quit our day jobs just yet.” Her eyes actually lit up and his heart swelled.

“You don’t?” He dead panned the response. “In your opinion we don’t have the slightest shot at stardom?”

“Sorry, but no. We are good, but not that good.” She tossed her head back and thick, golden waves swung around her face as she laughed out loud.

At the light, happy sound that rose into the night he had to join her then couldn’t help it when his gaze zeroed in on her mouth. On the lips he’d captured on a whim a short while ago, and longed to taste again. Restraining himself, he pulled in a breath. Not just yet. For their immediate future, he was content to learn more about her. The woman he noticed the first day she arrived.
 
The breathlessly beautiful woman with the sad eyes and seeming inability to smile.
 
 
 
Please join me again tomorrow here at The Roses of Prose, for Part Three of A Sing-ular Tradition.

For more about me and my other stories, please visit my WEBSITE

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Sing-ular Tradition; Part One by Margo Hoornstra


Happy Holiday Season and Merry Christmas and welcome to Mistletoe Magic presented by The Roses of Prose. As has become a tradition here at The Roses of Prose, we bring you short stories every day for the month of December. Although our offerings have a little twist. Each story begins with the same first line. The winner for 2016 is: This was the absolute last time she kissed anyone under the mistletoe.

We diverse authors take it from there. My contribution follows:


 

A Sing-ular Tradition

Part One

This was the absolute last time she kissed anyone under the mistletoe.
For good reason. No other kiss for the rest of her life could possibly surpass the wonder of this one. She merely paused in the doorway to fix the sandal strap that slipped off her heel. The next thing she knew, warm fingers lifted her chin and inviting lips touched lightly on hers to send tiny shock waves of pleasure rolling up, down and all around her insides. Or was it the arm that came sure and strong at her waist?

The one that somehow seemed meant to be there?
With her eyes closed, Kenzie Adams had absolutely no idea who the near perfectly utilized mouth belonged to. If she had to guess, her boss maybe? The wildly successful investment guru with looks, money and charm to spare. Though, quite honestly, she never had gotten close enough to know for sure about that last one.
“Thanks for being a good sport.”

As she lowered her left foot and lifted her lids, it sure wasn’t the eyes of handsome Marshall Simms, Founder and President of Simms and Associates Investments that held her gaze. The incredible blue eyes locked in a stare down with hers belonged to the less affluent, but equally handsome Derrick Something or Other, from the downstairs mailroom.

“I must say that was some welcome.”

Being brand new to the company, Kenzie in no way wanted to make a scene. If, however, this was standard behavior for this group at the investment firm, she’d tender her resignation, effective immediately, and start this fresh beginning of hers somewhere besides Jacksonville, Florida.

“I probably shouldn’t have done that, except…” Lowering his gaze, Derrick shrugged. “Guess I got too caught up in the Christmas spirit.”

He did have a point. Appropriate holiday music flowed through a sound system usually reserved for the dry, monotone speeches from various company VPs regarding sure-fire investment strategies. Strands of green leaves and red holly berries were draped in scalloped fashion from the conference room ceiling. Artificial wreaths in glittery gold were hung at even intervals in between.

Regardless, by all rights she should have been offended. Would have been too, until he punctuated his words with a sheepish smile and genuine blush.

“That’s okay.”

Her actual response was a far cry from the one she’d planned when she was first ambushed as she walked into the employee Christmas party. That initial reaction would have involved the palm of her right hand coming up, hard, against the cheek of the offending intruder.

Shocked. Befuddled. His priceless expression had stopped any mean-spirited reaction from her dead in its tracks. Eyes wide in alarm, it was as if he couldn’t believe what he’d just done any more than she could. Plus, the mouth that had just lifted from hers formed the most endearing O. Startling good looks didn’t hurt his cause either.

Or are you so conscious of becoming an old maid you’ll lower your standards and your morals for any and all male attention?

She ignored the sass from her internal censor. Was it too much to ask for maybe a few pleasant dinners after work with someone other than a talking head on TV? A movie on the occasional Saturday night with a friend?

“How long have you worked here?” Despite the festive atmosphere, all she could come up with to talk about was job related.

“Three months next week. I was hired just a short time before you.”

“You started out in the mail room then.”

“I needed a job that afforded me some precious down time I can use to study.”

“Study? What are you studying?”

“Human anatomy this term. Chemistry, bio-engineering. I’m in the pre-med program at the University of Florida.”

“You’re going to be a doctor?” Funny it never occurred to her he was anything but Derrick the mail guy.

“Hopefully. If I work hard enough to make it through med school.”

How ironic she’d often thought he had an amazing resemblance to that actor who played a doctor on television. The one they referred to as Doctor McDreamy. The one they killed off when he wanted out of his contract. Even so, her impromptu comparison fit perfectly. Dark, wavy hair, clear blue eyes and, surrounded by one sexy as hell five o’clock shadow, those marvelous lips she’d recently been introduced to.

Blood rushed up to heat her cheeks. “Somehow I think you will.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

If memory served, the television character was a neurosurgeon. “What specialty are you going into? Neurosurgery?”

He shook his head. “Probably not. My interests lean toward the non-surgical. Internist maybe. Pediatrician. I enjoy being around kids.”

There it was; he’d opened the conversation up to personal matters. She dove in with both feet. “Do you have any of your own?”

His brow creased. “Not yet. I have to find a wife first.”

That’s usually how it’s done. The words sailed into her mind, and she opened her mouth only to shut it again. Surely she could do better, come up with some witticism in response? His gaze met hers, and those mesmerizing eyes zeroed in on her lips. As the frown cleared, he quirked up one corner of his mouth. The most appealing dimple appeared and her breath caught.

“Hey, Derrick. You have to hear this one.” The voice of John, the mid-level manager from IT broke the spell.

Suddenly witticism became only a word in the dictionary, right there on the same page as withdrawal.

“Be right there.” Her version of McDreamy pulled his gaze free of hers to glance over. In the next instant, he was focused on her again. “The king of off color jokes. I’d ask you to join us but…you know.”

“Yeah. I know.” She gave a short nod. Disappointment cutting deep caught her off guard. “Don’t let me keep you.”

“It’s not that.” Shaking his head, he raised both hands her way. “It’s just. If I don’t go over there, he’s bound to come over here to share his latest. You might be offended, and I wouldn’t want that.”

She had no immediate response. Was he being overly sweet, if not maybe a little sexist? Or does he just want an excuse to get away from me?

“Derrick!”

He took two steps backward. “Gotta go.”

“I understand.” Shaking off an unexpected loneliness, she turned to walk further into the room.

“Kenzie, good, you’re here.” Wanda Marks, Kenzie’s co-worker from two offices down placed a hand on her arm.

“Wouldn’t miss it.” Only because the interoffice email invitation had a definite you will be there tone.

“It’s so nice to be out for an evening without the twins.”

One of the first to befriend Kenzie when she arrived, Wanda had quickly shared she’d been happily married for close to five years and had two beautiful babies to show for it. Another success story of that ever elusive happily ever after.

“I imagine.” Kenzie came out with the first thing to pop into her mind then winced at its truth.

Single and childless, all she could do was imagine, fantasize really, about what it must be like to have a loving husband with all the trimmings. Not that Kenzie really needed a soul mate to share her life, the requisite number of children and possibly even a family dog. She did have her career.

“I so needed some adults only company and conversation.”

Kenzie’s thoughts scattered. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer began to play through the speakers.

Wanda glanced up and grinned. “My kids love this song. They dance to it all the time at home, wiggling their little tushies to the music and jumping around. It’s so cute.”

“I know exactly what you mean.” Stacy from accounting stepped over to join the conversation before Kenzie could respond. “Mine, too.”

With four kids of her own, Stacy seemed to embrace Wanda’s family anecdote as the two moms went on to compare motherhood notes.

Kenzie used the opportunity to excuse herself and head outside to get some air.

A towering artificial fir, hardly indigenous to this tropical climate, graced one corner of the lobby. Its metal and plastic branches were loaded with shiny gold tinsel and sparkling white lights all winking at her as she walked by. Nice enough as decorations go, but that’s all they were, adornments with no real meaning behind them.

Not that she’d done any holiday decorating of her own to speak of. The chores associated with unpacking boxes and settling into new living quarters had been overwhelming enough. Not to mention settling into a new life.

Headed for the side entrance, she pushed out into the warm Florida night. Stars twinkled in welcome as she stepped onto the open cement patio. That was something. Walking past three square picnic tables with attached benches to the redwood porch swing at one end, she sat on the cushioned seat. An instrumental version of Deck the Halls floated over her from an opened window in the two story building.

“Fa-la-la.” Her feeble attempt to sing along drifted into silence as an ever present sorrow took the form of a ten-ton weight dragging down her heart.

It had been hard for her, no downright impossible, to get into the Christmas spirit this year. Constant sunshine and eighty degree temperatures weren’t at all synonymous with the holiday season to a girl who grew up way north in the land of snow, sleet and below zero wind chills.  A place she’d left far, far behind. Along with former fiancĂ©, Elliott.

Closing her eyes, she lifted her face as a warm breeze drifted over her features.

“I thought I saw you walk out here.”
 

Join me here tomorrow for Part Two of A Sing-ular Tradition.

For more about me and my other stories, please visit my WEBSITE
 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Holiday Season by Diane Burton

It’s official. The holiday season is upon us. Every year, I promise to start my Christmas shopping earlier. Then I get involved in a project—like finishing the darn book—and my promise goes the way of the Dodo bird. I did dog-ear catalogs that came in the mail this year. Found perfect gifts for some family members. Have I ordered them yet? Of course not. <groan>

My mother-in-law shopped all year round. She wrapped the gift in a plastic grocery bag and taped the name of the recipient to the bag so she would remember who she bought it for. When she passed, we found many gifts under her bed or on the shelf in a closet. Some even had dates (several years past) written along with the names. Hubs and I doled out the gifts, saddened that MIL never got to see the enjoyment the recipients expressed.

The PTO at the grandkiddies’ school had two bookfairs this year. I went to both when Daughter was working so she could tell me which books the kids would like and which ones they had, along with suggestions for the little one out in AZ. So I am sort of ahead on the gift purchasing. Sort of being the operative phrase.

As we get older, Hubs and I are at a loss as to get the other. He used to be easy to buy for. Power tools and woodworking machines were always a good bet. But now he has more than he needs. Gift cards to a hardware store sufficed for a while. Now I tell him to buy what he wants. He’ll ask what I want. My usual response is “I don’t know.” Real helpful, huh? Sometimes I’ll see something I like, buy it, and tell him he can give it to me. LOL Hey, it works.

I have more fun watching the kiddies open gifts than opening my own. Their delight fills me with warmth. Tossing gifts of clothing over their shoulders accompanied by rolling eyes makes me think of my favorite movie, The Christmas Story” aka “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

Decorating the house is becoming more of a challenge. The decorations are kept in big tubs in the basement. Carrying those tubs upstairs is too much for Hubs now. So he’ll make several trips over many days carrying the decorations upstairs. Not good. Maybe this weekend we can “borrow” the kiddies to do the running. One thing is a must, no matter how limited the decorations. The ceramic nativity set my mother.

Cards and the Christmas letter. Ever since our first move away from family (1981) Hubs has written a letter chronicling our year. Then he gives it to me to “clean up.” His spelling is, shall we say “original” and he must have slept through grammar classes. Since content outweighs mistakes, I try to keep the flavor of his words. Some in our family tell us they really enjoy our news. Nowadays so many are on Facebook, they already know everything we’ve done. Well, almost everything. LOL Getting a family picture from family and friends is my favorite thing. I love the letters, too, but seeing the little kids I used to know growing into adults is always fascinating. We have a great family picture I’ll be including this year.

As the end of the year approaches, I start making lists of what I want to accomplish the next year. Career-wise, I’ve made the same goal for the past three years: publish two full-length novels plus a novella. For two years, I managed the novels. This year, only the novella. Don’t know why I slowed down. Life, I guess. Lack of focus, maybe? For 2017, I’ll repeat my goal. Maybe this time I’ll get it right. If I don’t, oh well. I have other things to stress over.

Stress. An ugly word. For me, stress came when I tried to do too much. I had to make cookies. I had to buy the perfect gift. I had to clean. I had to decorate. Everything had to be just so. Letting go of those “had to do’s” made me calm and helped me enjoy the season. Now I do what I can and forget the rest. Makes life easier. Why is it that wisdom comes as we grow older?


Each December, we Roses have a tradition. Strictly voluntary, no have-to’s. LOL Our gift to you, our readers, is a collection of serialized short stories. Each story begins with the same first sentence. This year it’s “This was the absolute last time she kissed anyone under the mistletoe.” I am so looking forward to read what each Rose has written. My story will run from December 26 to the 28th. It picks up where last year’s story ended and was a lot of fun to write.

Come back tomorrow for Margo Hoornstra’s “A Sing-ular Tradition.” I can’t wait.