Welcome to December at The Roses of Prose and Merry Christmas. Our gifts to you every day this month are original short stories, written by some of us, each beginning with the same first line: Pulling this off would take a Christmas Miracle.
Pulling this off would take a Christmas miracle.
Tina Monroe blinked, willing her eyes to adjust to the gloom of the underground garage. Not only were she and Ty far away from home. Right now, she and Ty were, literally, on the run again. Desperate to escape.
Voices echoed. But from where? Side by side they stood still. Waiting. With Christmas only a few days away, most people were already snug inside homes decorated for the season. Awaiting the arrival of family and friends.
Too bad she and Ty weren’t most people.
“Come on, sweetheart.” He thrust out his hand. “We have to make a break for it. Let’s go. Now!”
Her thoughts scattered. All she could do was grab hold, hang on tight, and take off for all she was worth. Two sets of footfalls echoed on the smooth cement. Hers and his. The man on whom she’d bet her entire future.
“Stay with me. Keep moving.”
I have no choice. No way could she utter those words out loud. Spare the precious oxygen she needed to keep running.
Who knew what fate awaited if she fell behind.
“Almost to the car. And safe.” Ty’s comments came out in staggered spurts. He was getting out of breath. What if they couldn’t make it? What if they got caught?
Right foot, left foot, right foot left foot.
Just when Tina was sure she didn’t have the strength to make it much further, up ahead the headlights from their SUV flashed on from the shadows. The locks popped open with a reassuring thunk. Once inside with the doors shut, she raised the hood of her sweatshirt to cover the top half of her face, then held her breath until the glare of the dome light faded then went out.
“Relax, sweetheart. We’ll be out of here in no time and on the way to our hideout.”
“Our hideout. I can’t wait.” She glanced over at Ty, struck by his word choice even as she mimicked the term he used.
He reached over to program an address into the on-board GPS system. Though she had no idea where he planned to take her, Tina trusted him completely. In the three years they’d been together, he’d never given her a reason not to. As usual, her heartbeat picked up as she glanced over at his near perfect features illuminated by the light of the dash. The solid jaw and firm mouth dusted with the charm of a five o’clock shadow. Longish brown hair with curves more than curls at his collar only added to his appeal.
Facing forward, she secured her seat belt with a click. Sometimes she believed she knew more about Ty Bentley than she knew about herself.
Which these days, wasn’t much. Not with the newness of what she had become.
“Do you think anyone is still looking for us?”
“Unfortunately, some will never give up, I’m afraid.” He lay his hand over hers where it rested on the seat between them for a second before he put the car in gear and steered out of the parking spot.
“In other words, we’ll never truly be free again.”
“Not the way things have been going for us these days.”
Late afternoon dusk crept across the high-rise buildings as Ty and Tina drove onto the street and headed out of downtown Denver.
“Do you ever regret this lifestyle of ours?”
He shrugged. “We don’t enjoy some of the freedoms we used to have.”
“A lot of the freedoms we used to have. Most of them really.”
A set of headlights coming toward them lit up his features. The edges of deep set eyes creased in concern, mouth flat and determined. The next set of beams struck her square in the face. She couldn’t help it. Panic grabbed hold and squeezed tight. On automatic, she snatched a baseball cap from the backseat and settled it low over her forehead, stuffing strands of her long blond hair up under its protection. With the hood of her sweatshirt flipped up again, she reached for her sunglasses hooked to the visor.
Ty didn’t mock her for it. “Don’t worry. We’ll take the backroads.”
“Hard to believe day after tomorrow is Christmas Eve.” She spoke to herself as much as him.
What she didn’t add was she had yet to get into the Christmas spirit. She really did try as they drove past houses rimmed with colorful lights. Wreaths on their doors adorned with bright red bows. One front yard contained a huge inflatable Santa beside a sleigh overflowing with gaily wrapped gifts. A knot twisted in her stomach. This year, decorations only served to make her more homesick.
As if to amplify her sorrow, strains of I’ll Be Home for Christmas filtered through the audio system, and she reached over to turn up the volume. As she began to sing along, memories of what home and Christmas used to mean brought a bittersweet longing.
Her two sisters Kate and Jan, with families in tow, would gather at their parents’ house. They’d share a turkey dinner with Mom’s special giblet stuffing, Kate’s corn casserole, and the rest of the special holiday fare. If Tina were there, she and her dad would play piano duets, as the rest of the family gathered around to sing carols. Her family would all be together, enjoying traditions and festivities she and Ty couldn’t be a part of this year.
She let out a sigh as the view out her side window changed from apartments and houses to open rangeland and pastures. Gran and Gramp Parker would be there too. Well into their eighties and still able to make the two-hour road trip. Images of her grey-haired grandma with a plateful of her trademark Chocolate Crinkle cookies came to mind, and she smiled. Her favorite holiday treat, covered with a dusting of sweet powdered sugar to be licked from where it stuck to fingertips and lips.
The car swayed right and slowed. In the brief time it took to reach the stop sign at a busy intersection, she was bolt upright in the seat, her gaze front and center out the windshield.
“No big deal. Change of direction is all.” Ty spoke in a soft tone, as if not wanting to spook her any more than she already was. “It’s not like they have a description of the car.”
“You don’t know that for sure.”
He put his hand over hers again to offer the warmth and comfort of his touch. “Don’t worry. We can do this. We will get away.”
“In five hundred feet, make a right.”
He navigated that turn and a few more as instructed by the onboard computer. It soon became clear they were headed into the vast and beautiful Rocky Mountains. In the waning light of a winter sunset, scenery along the roadside alternated between dense forest growth and jagged walls of rock as a highway of curves, twists and switchbacks took them higher and higher. Now and then, an expanse of sheer drop-offs to the valley below brought together thrill with fear as their car sped by a road edge with no guard rail. Sounds around her dulled as Tina’s ears popped when she yawned in response to the ever-increasing elevation.
“Do you often wonder what it would be like to have a normal life?” Dulled sounds or not, she’d feel better if they kept talking. “Or remember what it was like when we had one?”
“Someday, when this is all behind us, maybe we’ll have a normal life again. Celebrate Christmas like everyone else does.”
“Luckily, I had that bit of down time in November to shop for everyone’s gifts and have them mailed in plenty of time for a Christmas Day arrival.” Gifts she’d bought on line, of course. The long weekend she and Ty had been too far away to make it home for Thanksgiving.
Not that a room-service turkey and dressing dinner alone with Ty wasn’t special. It just wasn’t…home.
“How much farther? Any idea?”
“Only about another half hour.” He glanced over and smiled in the dim light of the dashboard.
Taking a deep breath, she willed the tightness in her shoulders to ease. If Ty was loosening up, she could too.
Eventually, the rocky terrain leveled out. Coming to relatively flat stretches, they passed through the remote mountain town of Tabernash. Large signs beside the highway advertised Hot Sulphur Springs, Winter Park Ski Resort, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Ty slowed to turn down a narrow dirt road lined with trees and bushes on either side. The vehicle bumped, swayed, and climbed along an ever-narrowing lane. They came around one final bend before he eased the car to a stop. In the time it took him to put the gearshift in park and shut off the engine, all she could do was stare out the windshield.
In absolute wonder at what had appeared before her.
Please join me here tomorrow for Part Two of Home For Christmas. Until then, for more about me and the stories I write, including a few for free download, visit my WEBSITE