Sunday, December 23, 2012

Believing in Christmas Miracles

 The best part of Christmas to me is that for a few weeks there is a belief in goodness, that all is possible, and that magical things can happen.  Christmas movies on TV leave you with a warm feeling as you allow yourself to believe in Santa and Angels, and that the magic of Christmas can transform people for the better.  I feel like this year, we need those feelings and beliefs more than ever.

My contribution to the Holiday Blog Tour is a very rushed attempt at a magical Christmas story, but I hope you enjoy it.     

Sydney drove the tight curves of the San Bernardino Mountains, her knuckles almost white with the grip she had on the steering wheel.  As she approached each turn, she slowed and kept her eyes glued on the white broken center line, afraid that if she looked to the right and saw nothing but the flimsy railing separating the road from a massive drop into oblivion, she’d throw up.  She hated mountain driving and was grateful that at least, this was California and even though it was almost Christmas Eve, there was no snow.
            She had one last delivery to make.  The Christmas season meant non-stop work for Sydney’s gourmet cookie and cup cake company.  She promised Christmas delivery, even if ordered on Christmas Eve as long as it was local.  Most of her customers ordered with enough time to ship, but every year there was someone who called Christmas Eve morning and begged for delivery of their special cranberry oatmeal cookies or scrumptious gingerbread men or red velvet cup cakes  - that day.  She wasn’t expecting to drive up a dang mountain tonight though.
            As she turned off Highway 18 into the little town of Blue Jay she noticed a change in the weather.  A slight breeze made the triangular flags wave at a corner gas station, and there was a distinct chill in the air.  She decided to stop and fill up.  On Christmas Eve, it wasn’t likely she’d find many gas stations or anything else open later.  She pulled the company SUV up to the pump.  “Damn,” she said, when she noticed it wasn’t a pay at the pump station.  Everything at the station looked like it hadn’t been updated in a couple of decades.  She went into the small convenience store and the guy behind the counter was laughing at a Sienfeld episode.
            She stared at the TV for a moment, remembering when she lived with her girl friends in Long Beach in the 90’s and how sometimes after work or college or dates gone bad, they’d sit together and watch Sienfeld and eat ice cream.  Those had been good times.  She didn’t talk to her friends very often anymore.  After Bridget was killed in a car accident – her date had been drunk – she and Clair had never felt comfortable living together, and after a bitter fight, Sydney moved out. 
            “Hey, can I pay for gas, please,” Sydney said.
            “Oh, sure,” the guy, distracted took her money, glanced at the fifty dollar bill, then back at her with a frown.  “How much do you want?”
            “Just put it all on pump one.”
            “Lady this is a fifty.”
            “Yeah, it’s all I have so it’ll have to be enough.”  She went back outside and began to fill up.  She crossed her arms at the chill in the air and leaned on the side of the SUV.  She watched the numbers on the pump spin and noticed that the price per gallon was $1.25.  Narrowing her gaze, she wondered if this was joke.  It cost her $20 for sixteen gallons of gas. 
            She went back inside to get her change.  “How do you manage to sell gas so cheap?” she asked.
            “It’s actually a little high, but we’re in the mountains.  Everything cost more up here.”
            Sydney laughed.  “High?  I paid $3.98 this morning in L.A.”
            “Right,” he said, and smirked.  “Here’s your change.”
            Sydney took the money, mystified by his strange behavior, but she had to deliver these cookies and then make a long drive home, so she left.  Driving through residential roads there were more twists and turns than on the highway, and the GPS’s change in directions confused her.  The female voice kept re-routing.  The electronic woman seemed more lost than Sydney. 
            Then surprisingly, a few flakes of snow began to fall on her windshield.  She drove slowly around the bend of the street and thicker snow began to block her view; coming down seemingly faster and thicker the farther she went, reminding her of when she’d visited Universal Studios with her parents and the tram went through a flood zone.  Off to the sides, pipes created a sudden rainstorm that made it appear to flood the road.  This was what it felt like on this road.  She wanted to look up to find out who was shooting fakes snow at her.  But the trees and road were turning completely white.  When she reached an intersection, she was stopped by a police car blocking the road ahead.  She rolled down the window.
            “Sorry, Ma’am, the road is closed until plowing can be done.  Probably until morning.”
            Sydney laughed.  “How can you need to plow, the snow just started.  And around the corner, there isn’t any snow at all.”
            “It’s been snowing for days, Ma’am.”
            Days?  “Look, I just have a delivery to make.  Maybe you can help me find the address?”
            He shook his head.  “Sorry.  If you turn around and make two rights, you’ll find a coffee shop that might be open.  You can get warm and call the person you’re trying to deliver to and let them know you can’t make it tonight.”
            “I have my cell.”
            “You’re what?”
            “Never mind.”  She made a U-turn, cursing the officer, the snow, this frustrating night, and the customer that waited until the last minute to order the cookies.
            She found the coffee shop and after ordering a cup of coffee, called her customer.  At first the phone rang without an answer, but when she tried a second time, a man answered the phone.  “Hi, I’m from Heaven Sent Gourmet Cookies, and I’m having a difficult time delivering the cookies you ordered.”
            “The cookies, I . . . ?  Sorry, but I didn’t order any cookies.”
            “Maybe your wife ordered them, but ­–.”
            “I don’t have a wife.  If this is some kind of joke –.”
            “It’s no joke.”  Sydney checked the phone number to make sure she dialed right.  “I’m supposed to deliver five dozen cookies to 29658 Tulip Drive.  Someone called in an order this morning.”  She hadn’t taken the call, but her employee had been with her for five years and practically ran the business alongside Sydney. 
            “That’s my address, but I didn’t order cookies.  Where are you now?”
            Sydney told him the name of the coffee shop.
            “I’ll be there in about thirty minutes.”
            Sydney drank all her coffee and cradled her head in her hands.  What a way to spend Christmas Eve.  Not that she had anyone to spend it with, but it would be nice to be home where at least it was warm and not snowing.  She lifted her head and looked out at the beautiful white drape of snow, an untouched and powdery dusting that covered the outside.  All looked fresh and clean and magical. Maybe it wasn’t quite so bad after all.
            The waitress re-filled her cup and offered her a piece of pumpkin pie that she accepted.  Moments later, a man entered the coffee shop, their eyes connected, and he began to approach Sydney’s table.  But the pie in her mouth suddenly became a clump of cement.  She couldn’t swallow it.  Sydney was looking up, into the face of the man who killed Bridget.  He was younger, not drunk, but it was him.
            “Are you the cookie lady?”
            “You’re a sick jerk.  How did you find me?”
            His eyes widened and he sat across from her.  “You told me where you were, what do you mean how did I find you?”  He waved for a cup of coffee.  “You’re right about those roads.  I almost didn’t get through, but I took a side street that wasn’t blocked.”
            “Are you trying to tell me that you don’t recognize me?”
            He grinned.  “Nope.  I’m trying to think of who might have ordered the cookies, but I don’t have a clue.  Since you came all this way, though, I’ll take them off your hands.”
            “I’m Bridget’s friend.”
            “Who’s Bridget?”  He frowned.  “Look, I was very comfortable on my couch watching President Clinton light the Christmas Tree in the White House.  I didn’t need to come out here, so you might try being a little nicer.”
            Sydney stared at him.  President Clinton lighting a tree in the White House?  She looked around at what people were wearing.  Thought about the cheap gas.  Something odd was happening.  “Clinton was in the White House?” She asked, afraid of his response.
            “Yeah, the news was covering it.  So where are these cookies?”
            “In my car.  Did Obama invite Clinton to light the tree?”
            Sydney slipped out of the booth, freaking out.  “Obama, our President.”
            “Clinton is the President, lady.  What’s wrong with you?”
            She shook her head and hurried outside.  Snow continued to fall and she almost slipped on the iced-over sidewalk.  She stood beside her SUV, breathing deeply.  What the hell was going on? 
            The guy followed her outside, a confused look in his eyes.
            “You dated my friend, Bridget.  You went out to a party and drank too much. You crashed.  She died.  You lived.  Clinton left office in 2001, by the way.  Our President is Barak Obama.”
            He moved closer, snow dusting his head.  “What are you talking about?” He asked, in a harsh whisper, as if afraid to hear her response.  “It’s 1996.  Clinton doesn’t leave office until next year – and then only if he fails to get re-elected.  And I don’t know who the hell Bridget is.”
            Sydney’s head spun as if blood flow or oxygen was being deprived.  Had she driven though some time warp?  She didn’t understand any of this.  Why, of all people, was she coming in contact with . . . “your name is Rick.”
            He clapped.  “You got one thing right.”
            She hurriedly reached for the file on the driver side of her truck and looked at the invoice.  No name under customer.  But the man in front of her was Rick Ortiz, the man who killed Bridget . . . except, he hadn’t yet.  She looked at him.  Opened the passenger door to the SUV.  “Get in for a moment.”
            He seemed unsure, but he got into her vehicle.
            “Listen to me,” she said.  “Have you ever wished you could go back in time and change something? Reverse a mistake? Fix something?”
            “Okay, I don’t understand how this happened, but I’ve gone back in time.  In a few months, you’re going to meet my friend, Bridget.  You’ll really hit it off with her and on the Fourth of July, you’ll go to a party, drink way too much and get in an accident.”
            “The accident where your friend gets killed,” he said.
            “And how do you know this?”
            “Because it’s already happened.”
            He stared at her, then burst out laughing.  “So, you’re from the future.”
            She closed her eyes and shook her head.  Yes, that sounded crazy.  When she looked at him again, he was still smiling.  “Listen, all I know is that when I got up this morning it was December 24, 2012, and I drove here to deliver cookies to you, and now here I am and you’re telling me it’s 1996.”
            His smile slipped.  Then disappeared.  “Twenty-twelve?”
            “I don’t know what is going on.  It doesn’t matter.  Can you just promise me that when you meet Bridget, you won’t drink and drive . . . ever.  But especially on the Fourth of July?”
            He shrugged.  “Yeah, okay, sure.”
            “You swear?”
            He looked at her like she was crazy.  “I promise.”
            “Good.  Good.”  She sniffed the cold air.  Then reached into her bag and handed him the bill for the cookies. 
            He took it, looked at it and gasped. “Eighty-six dollars and twenty-five cents?  For cookies?  Lady, you’re crazier than I thought.  Is this some kind of scam?”
            “It’s five dozen cookies, plus fifteen percent delivery.  The price is on our website . . . .”  None of this was making any sense to him.  It wasn’t making any sense to her.  What did cookies cost in 1996?  And who cared what they cost then, it was 2012!  “Never mind.  Just take them.”
            “Now you’re going to give them to me for free?”  He lifted an eyebrow.
            “Yes, just take them so I can go home.”  She got out of the truck and carried the boxes around to the passenger side of the truck.  When he got out, she handed him the boxes.
            He took them and gave her a twenty dollar bill.  “Keep the change,” he said, then with one last long perplexed look at her, he turned away and got into his car.
            Sydney drove down the mountain slowly, carefully.  The snow became less heavy as the elevation dropped.  After a few miles, there was no snow at all.  She was relieved when she made it all the way down and got on the freeway.  Finally, she felt like things were back to normal.  As she drove, nothing looked different.  Shopping centers were the same as always with the typical modern stores she was used to seeing every day.
            When she made it to her apartment she breathed a relieved sigh.  She wanted to take a warm shower and go to sleep.  But when she opened the door, her friends were inside having drinks and eating snacks.
            “Sydney!” Bridget said.  “You’re finally here.  Now, the party can really start.”
            Sydney couldn’t believe her friend was really standing in her living room.  Alive.  Older.  But alive.  Her other friend, Clair was there too.  And her employee, Darla, who ran the cookie store so well, but who never visited her house.  They were all very at home in her apartment.  Sitting on her couch.  Walking out of her kitchen.  Hugging their boyfriends.  Then Rick walked out of her bathroom.  He looked older too.  “Hey, Syd,” he said.  “What took you so long?”
            She stared at him.  “I had a delivery in the mountains.” 
            He smiled.  “Oh, yeah?”  He put an arm around Bridget’s waist and kissed her cheek.  “How did it go?”
            Sydney felt like this was a dream, but sincerely hoped not.
            “Get her a drink, Rick.”
            He nodded and turn toward her kitchen.
            “I’ll get it myself,” Sydney said, and followed him.
            He poured her a glass of wine and handed it to her.  She took it and gazed into his eyes.  “I delivered cookies to you.”
            He smiled.  “What?”
            “Rick, I just left you a couple hours ago.  Don’t you remember?”
            “A couple of hours ago I was waiting patiently for Bridget to finished getting dressed so we could come over.” 
            “You don’t remember me delivering cookies to you in the mountains?”
            “Are you talking about when we met?  When you brought me those cookies in that snow storm and told me that crazy story about being from the future?  Hey, you said it was 2012.”  He chuckled.  “That still makes me laugh.”  He pushed off the counter and headed out of the kitchen.  Then paused.  “What I’ve never been able to figure out though is how you predicted I’d meet Bridget.  Or the name of our current President.”
            Sydney gazed at him. 
            And he at her.  “I never did find out who ordered those cookies and sent you to me.  Maybe it was just a Christmas miracle.”
            That was exactly what it was.   Sydney’s eyes filled with unshed tears, and she smiled.  A Christmas miracle.
 I wish you a magical holiday with your own miracles!  

Please share the link to this blog on your favorite social media and leave me a comment below that you've done so.  I will have a drawing on Christmas day for one of my books.  The winner can choose either Evenings at the Argentine Club or Say You'll Be Mine

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