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By Christine DePetrillo
To anyone who’s ever been afraid
to ask Santa for something really special…
She had just one wish for the holidays. That wish involved a remote for the Universe in which she could fast forward directly through this damn holiday.
Most Wonderful Time of the Year?
“More like Most Miserable Time of the Year,” Katherine Graves grumbled as she waited in a long line of cars all dying to get out of the overstuffed parking lot at Seafield Crossings. She’d had to elbow through an ocean of shoppers to finish buying gifts for her parents and sisters who weren’t even going to be around for Christmas. They’d all decided to go on a Caribbean cruise for the holiday. Of course Kat had been invited to join them, but she’d be the only single person. The only one without a spouse.
The only one who was apparently unmarriable.
Her parents had been happily hitched for a million years, and her two sisters—both younger, gasp—had tied the knot in a lavish double ceremony three years ago. Their husbands were romance novel gorgeous and doted on Jessi and Ariana as if they were royalty. It was cute at first, but it got sickening real quick. Kat swore she had an allergy to seeing such lovey-doveyness.
So while her entire family was off sunbathing on a white sand beach, she was freezing her ass off in Rhode Island and battling aggressive shoppers hungry for a deal.
“This is what you get for waiting until December 23rd, dummy.” Kat squeezed the steering wheel of her little purple Mazda and growled in frustration over the lack of movement in traffic. She swore she’d spent at least forty years creeping toward the shopping center’s exit and it still didn’t seem any closer.
She flicked on the radio, but quickly snapped it off when “The Twelve Days of Christmas” blared through the car’s speakers. She needed twelve days of adult beverages just to make it past Christmas. With a mountain of snow forecasted, empty shelves at the grocery store, and her tiny house where she’d spend the holiday completely, utterly alone, this was definitely shaping up to be the Worst Christmas Ever.
Kat’s cell phone chimed in her purse, and she reached over her purchases to locate her handbag. After digging past her wallet, a half-eaten package of gummy bears, peppermint lip gloss, and something sort of sticky, her fingers closed around the phone. She yanked it out and glanced at the screen.
“Hiya, Kitty Kat. Where are you?”
I’m imprisoned in a never-ending parade of cars. Send food.
“Just leaving Seafield Crossings,” she said instead.
“Bet you regret that decision.” Her father chuckled.
“You’re a mind reader, Dad.” She rolled her eyes up to the ceiling of the car, noted a piece of red lint stuck there, picked it off, and tossed it down by her feet. These were the things you noticed when you were trapped in your vehicle with no end in sight.
“Did you buy me something wonderful?” Her father was always like a kid around the holidays. He’d don the Santa hat, pass out candy canes to absolutely everyone, and decorate the lawn in a Walt Disney World fashion. There were lights, music, and last year he even added a snowman who recited ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas whenever you crossed its path. It was all pretty tacky, but seeing how delighted it made her father always made Kat smile. Her mother had to use every tactic available to get the man to go away at this time of year. Maybe Kat would go by the house to see the set-up he had on a timer while he was gone.
If you ever get out of this abominable parking lot…
“I got exactly what Mom told me to get you,” she said.
“The cordless reciprocating saw with the forty different blades?” Her father’s voice had risen in excitement.
“No, the fifteen piece stainless steel cookware set. You know, for all those dinners you’re going to cook now that you’re retired.” She threw a look over her shoulder at the reciprocating saw box in the back seat and grinned. Teasing Dad was one of the small joys in life.
Her father whined into the phone. “Aw, c’mon, Kat. I don’t want pots and pans.”
“We’ll have to let Santa decide then. Something tells me there’s a black mark next to your name.”
Her father laughed, and suddenly Kat wished she’d gone on that stupid cruise. What was she going to do all alone over the next few days?
“I’ve been a perfect angel. You can even ask your mother.”
Kat heard the phone change hands then her mother said, “He actually has been an angel, Kat. I think the drinks with little umbrellas are doing wonders for him.”
Her parents sounded so…so happy. Why couldn’t she be like that?
“Are you having a good time?” she asked. Stupid question.
“The best. Wish you were here, Katnip. You should have come. There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of nice looking young men on this cruise. I showed your picture to one of them last night, and he said you were the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He liked that you were a school social worker too. Should I give him your number?”
Oh, good God. Her mother was not scoping out potential mates for her in the Caribbean, was she?
“Yeah, give him your number?”
“Umm, no, Mom. Please don’t.” If she started going out with guys her mother had hand selected for her, she’d have to do something drastic.
Like drink poison.
“He’s awfully cute. I saw him by the pool this morning, and you should have seen the abs on him.” Her mother whistled.
“Still, I’ll pass. Thanks.” Kat popped a red gummy bear into her mouth and imagined it screaming for mercy as her molars pulverized it. Why did she want to be that gummy bear right now?
“Okay. Your call, sweetie. Oops. Your father and the rest of the family are dragging fingers across their necks telling me to cut this short. We’ll call you again on Christmas morning. Bye-bye, Katnip.”
Her mother was gone before she had a chance to say good-bye. Kat shut off her phone and dropped it back into her handbag, stealing another gummy bear in the process. Could a person survive on nothing but gummy bears? Looking ahead at the motionless traffic, she thought she just might get an answer to that question today.
Then, miraculously, it happened.
The car in front of her rolled ahead a whole fifty feet! Kat let up on the brake and closed the distance.
Ah, sweet victory.
It felt amazing to move even that small distance. She hunted for another gummy bear, craving an orange one this time, when...
Kat jolted forward when the nose of the car behind her slammed into her back bumper.
“Son of a bitch!”
Her eyes immediately went to the rearview mirror. What kind of a moron would hit her in barely moving traffic? Unfortunately, the driver in the car behind her was looking down to his lap, a ball cap covering his head.
Stupid punk. He was probably texting his parole officer.
She threw her car into park and nearly kicked open her door. She marched to the car behind her, ready to use every foul word she knew. It was damn frosty out and snowflakes were already falling. She just wanted to get the hell home and put on her pajamas, but now she’d have to call the cops and go through all the nonsense involved when some ignorant ass hit your car.
Happy Friggin’ Holiday.
The other driver opened his door, and when he stepped out of the car, Kat skidded to a stop, her black boots sliding a bit on the wet road.
“Kat? Kat Graves?” He smiled, and Kat remembered everything that came with that smile.
Join me tomorrow to read Chapter Two!
Buy my other holiday stories, Midnight Mistetoe and In the Nick of Time at www.christinedepetrillo.weebly.com