Hello, readers. We're happy to share our gift to you, a short Christmas story that will run from today through December 21st. Please join us and comment each day to win what we call a Book Blast. We will pick two names and if you win, you'll get books mailed to you from our authors. Several books!!! So come back often and enjoy our gift to you!
By Debby Giusti
Grace jumped to her feet. “I’ve got hot chocolate warming on the stove,” she said over her shoulder as she scurried into the kitchen. Her cheeks burned with embarrassment at Grandpa Jeb’s comment about how she and Jericho should kiss and make up. Evidently, her grandfather didn’t realize that what she and Jericho had shared that special Christmas Eve had been as foolish as her dreams of a lifetime of white Christmases spent in the former Marine’s strong arms. What had happened was buried in the past and would never surface again, no matter how much she wished things could have been different. Jericho had moved on with his life and so had she.
With a determined sigh, she grabbed three red ceramic mugs from the cabinet and placed them on the table next to the open box of Christmas tree decorations. Working quickly, she lifted the pot of hot chocolate from the stove, poured the steaming drink into the mugs and topped the frothy mix with plump marshmallows, remembering the chocolate they’d sipped so long ago. Jericho had teased her about the marshmallow mustache on her upper lip. They’d laughed so hard until the world stood still for one long moment and--
Hearing footsteps in the hallway, Grace steeled her resolve. She wouldn’t allow the swirl of confusion that had unsettled her after seeing Jericho mar the few days she had with her grandfather. She grabbed the table for support, but as strong as she tried to be, her resolution evaporated as soon as Jericho stepped into the kitchen.
He came up behind her, causing her heart to skitter in her chest. Needing to distance herself from the woodsy smell of his after-shave and the magnetic pull that was as intoxicating as ever, she reached for the plate of sugar cookies on the counter.
“I thought you and Grandpa Jeb might enjoy a snack after your long ride up the mountain.”
“Shhh,” Jericho placed his finger to her lips. His touch--light as a feather--caused her head to spin. “Your grandfather’s drifted to sleep.”
Glancing down at the plate of cookies, he reached for a roly-poly sugar snowman and then flicked his gaze to the box of decorations open on the table. She swallowed hard, realizing her mistake as he stared at the one ornament she should have buried along with her memories.
“You kept the keepsake bulb I gave you.” His voice was husky with emotion that tugged at her heartstrings. As much as she wanted to counter with a flip retort, she couldn’t think of anything to say except the truth.
“Silly of me, wasn’t it?” She tried to laugh but the sound wasn’t humorous. Instead it told of the heartache she’d carried for too long after learning Jericho had left Reunion.
“’Let’s make a memory,’ I told you that night.” Jericho turned to face her, his gaze filled with expectation. “We wrote notes to one another and tucked them in the ornament’s keepsake box, promising to read them the next Christmas we shared together.”
She stared into his eyes, wondering if he remembered her reply.
As if he could read her thoughts, Jericho leaned closer. “I’ll never forget what you told me that night.”
Grace closed her eyes. Her heart thumped in anticipation of his kiss until footsteps on the back porch and a rap-tap-tap at the door pulled her out of the moment.
Both Grace and Jericho turned as a full-figured woman, early seventies, wearing a red sweater and Santa hat cocked over white curls, opened the door, a swirl of new fallen snow entering the kitchen along with her.
“Mary Noel,” Grace exclaimed, working hard to control her surprise. “What brings you back to Reunion?”
“I came to see Jeb and clear up everything that happened on our last Christmas Eve together.” Long lashes fluttered over Ms. Noel’s blue eyes. “Where is he? Where’s Jeb?”
“Tarnation, can’t a man nap without an interruption?” Grandpa Jeb pushed his wheelchair into the kitchen and stopped short when he saw the visitor. His eyes widened and a hint of a smile tugged at his full lips. Slowly, he let go of his chair and straightened his spine. “Welcome home, Mary.”