A Holiday-Themed Story, submitted by LolGirl_0967.
Thank you for your submission, LolGirl_0967!
The young, polished gentleman cast aside the porcelain snow globe in his mitted hands. “But Stephan...what about the fundraiser? What about the gift?” Her eyes were glistening with the twinkle of slow falling snowflakes as she gently blinked them away. “That’s just the thing, maybe it wasn’t about the holiday party, but the friends we made along the way.” He placed his hands on hers. “Judy...will you be my Christmas miracle?" “Chills...just chills.” Tamar fluttered her hands to her eyes, which were welling up with tears. She reached into the bag of maltesers in her lap, promptly giving Lady a scratch behind the ears. The living room was plentifully bestrewn with Christmas decor: she had the full arsenal unleashed. Lights, garlands, frosty glass bulbs, the works. Any one of these days her tree would come in. This year, it was going to be a real one. She reached for the converter and rewinded the movie to the beginning of the scene once more, adjusting herself comfortably before fixing her eyes on the television. Lady's ears twitched, and she sat upright. Ding! The door buzzed. Tamar threw aside her blankets, nudging her collie, who was fast asleep. She peered into the eyehole. There was a man with a delivery uniform under a winter jacket, clipboard under arm. His cheeks were rosy, and he looked nipped by the cold. She dusted the crumbs off her pajamas before unchaining all the deadbolts and swinging open the door. The little candy-cane ornament on the knob dangled as the door moved, and a whiff of gingerbread scented air freshener was sent gusting. “Yes?” “Eudora Express. I’ve got a package here for a...miss Tamar Greiman?” “That would be me, yes!” “Alright, great.” He patted his body and found a pen, which he produced for Tamar. “Just need a signature in a couple places. Here.” He handed it to her and she took hold of the clipboard like an artist; holding it against her side. She slowly jotted her name on the dotted lines, curling her letters and topping the “i” in ‘Greiman’ with a heart. The delivery man didn’t seem too bothered, he exhaled softly with amusement. “Quirky.” he smiled. Tamar looked behind the man to see if the tree was there, but it wasn’t. “Oh, the package is downstairs. Your landlord was real particular about not exceeding the elevator capacity. He said the maintenance guy could bring it up the freight elevator for you tomorrow. I hope that’s fine.” “Oh.” Tamar wrinkled her nose with the slightest sense of disappointment. “Well, I do believe you.” She smiled. “Phil...the guy you probably spoke with, right? He can sometimes be a bit of a...scrooge.” “I could tell.” he laughed. The two stood by the door, shuffling their feet for a quiet moment. “Anyways, afternoon, m’am. Merry Christmas.” he tipped his hat. “Merry Christmas.” Tamar shut the door. The Hallmark was still on, as the jolly-sounding credit music played gently in the background. Lady was awake, excitedly wagging her tail at Tamar. “At least it’s here, girl. No more waiting.” She scuffled Lady’s fur, and the dog began tapping her legs briskly, barking with glee. Tamar settled back into her spot, pulling over the covers. She reached for the converter to rewind. She sighed. “My Godmother. She’s the one who asked for it. I guess you could say it’s a bit of a family heirloom for her.” “Beautiful.” Stephan said. Judy was studying the snow globe in her hands, but Stephan was not looking at it. He was staring directly at Judy, and the way the dancing snowflakes decorated her golden blonde hair. Tamar paused. Another sigh. Perhaps it was a little banal, but Tamar was not one to dwell too deeply. The true enemy of Christmas spirit was cynicism, after all. That's how scrooges like Tamar's boss and landlord came about in the first place. She liked sappy. She wanted her real life to be sappy, too. “I want that tree, Lady.” she said to her dog, who barked joyfully. Tamar pulled on her winter coat and went to the door, but was hesitant. She wanted to see it for herself, but decided it would be best to wait until tomorrow. The maintenance man usually came after work. Surely it would take a while, but the wait would be worth it. ‘First thing after work,’. she thought, ‘then it’ll really feel put together.’. Tamar woke up with a startle. Lady was barking, nudging at her dish. Tamar looked at the clock over the television. “Goodness!” she exclaimed. It was already seven past eight. Without another moment to lose, she coarsely poured Lady’s food into her doggie bowl and darted to the washroom. She spat out her toothpaste and began to apply lipstick, almost all at the same time. It would take more than a Holiday miracle for Tamar to get to work on time! “Bye girl!” she hollered, as she hurried out the door. Down the stairs she went--this was her cardio for the morning--as she adjusted her collar and smoothed out her skirt. In the corridor, there it was: Tamar’s tree, laid out horizontally by the freight elevator. “Tamar!” her landlord, old Phil cried. His arms were crossed and impatient in his wheelchair by the tree. “What am I supposed to do with this monster-sized tree in my lobby?” “Sorry about that, Phil! I’ll have it out of the way by this afternoon, I promise.” “You better. Fire hazard. Big trouble otherwise.” he said, grumbling as he went back into his office. She chuckled. That was a classic Phil statement at this point. ‘Oh Phil...where’s your Christmas spirit?’. thought Tamar to herself. Tamar made her way to her car, which was conveniently outside of the building and not difficult to find, unlike the vehicles inside the parking complex. As she stepped to the door, someone caught her eye. A recent face; it was the rosy-cheeked delivery man from last night. He looked slightly disoriented, as if he were in a bind. “Can I help you with something?” she asked from afar. Her voice caught his attention, and an expression of relief overcame him. “No, that’s alright. Just need to find a way to get back on the road. My truck’s battery died.” ‘He must have been here all night in the cold.’ she thought. “Perhaps a boost?” Tamar suggested “That would actually be...great. Thanks.” Tamar got into her car and pulled it up to his delivery truck. She produced the jumper cables and hoisted the hood of her car, and then of his. The man tried to help lift it, but she refused. “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” she smiled. “You sure?” “You know,” she said as she connected the terminals, “just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I don’t know my way around an engine.” Humbly, he nodded, beaming in agreement. “That is true, miss.” “I’m going to start my car and idle it for a moment, you try and start yours, okay?” “I can’t thank you enough.” “No need to thank me,” she said. She reached into the rolled down window of her car and turned the key into the ignition. “Just trying to make the holidays as miraculous for others as they are for me.” He entered his truck and attempted to start it with Tamar’s cables still attached. The engine made many trying noises, and finally puttered in defeat. “Guess it’ll take more than a miracle to make this old girl start again.” he sighed. “I’m sorry about that.” “No need to be, you did your best to help me. I appreciate it.” “Is there anything else I can do?” “As of now, I think this truck’s out of commission. She’s seen better days. This is a problem the company’s gonna have to deal with.” “I see.” The two stood again once more in foot-shuffling silence, before Tamar broke it with a sudden gasp. She rolled up her coat sleeve and looked at her watch. ‘Goodness, goodness! I’m gonna be late for work!’ . “You probably have to go, right?” he asked. “I do…” she began. ‘He’s been here all night. This type of cold could give anybody frostbite.' “Say, where do you need to go?” “Me? Oh, just to the Eudora Expert Express centre, it’s the big place with the loading bays right outside main on downtown.” “Maybe I can give you a ride on the way, then.” “I appreciate your gesture of goodwill, miss,” he began, “but I’ve got to call a tow. My boss won’t be too happy if I don’t file the paperwork for this sort of thing.” “I understand. Well, phone’s inside if you need it, just ask Phil through the comms.” she said as she went inside the driver’s seat. “You think he’ll let me use it?” he asked. “Oh I’m sure of it. I know Phil is a grouch, but he’s got a good heart under all that scoff.” “Sure hope you’re right, miss." “Well then, if it’s all the same to you…” she started her car, backing out of the spot. “Take care of yourself. And don’t ever stop being so kind.” he said, waving goodbye to her by his truck. Tamar’s cheeks flushed. “I won’t.” Tamar couldn’t help but glance at the clock every few moments. She just wanted to be done already. After today, it was officially the holidays, and things would kick into high gear. She could already imagine it...the turkey stuffing, the songs on the record player...her nana and everyone else coming over. And her beautiful tree, the first real tree. Every other year, she had to make do with the small plastic one, but that was hardly in comparison to the beauty of an authentic evergreen. Just visualizing the strings of popcorn and glass bulbs on the needles of it, the little drummer boy, the angel, and the elves, of course, all suspended on its framework. And at the top, the Northern star, the glass one Nonno had brought from France. ‘They say if a little angel puts this on the top, it will snow in Arkansas.’. he would say, hoisting little Tamar in his arms. ‘But Nonno,’. she would ask, ‘it does snow in Arkansas, doesn’t it?’ . ‘Not for a hundred years in Eudora, my little angioletto.’. ‘Then I’ll make it snow, Nonno.’. she’d say, as he would lift her to the top. “Tamar, are you daydreaming again?” her boss snapped at her. She was standing over Tamar’s cubicle, where Tamar was slouched back in her chair. She tapped Tamar’s computer display. “I’ll need at least half these spreadsheets before the day is done.” “Yes, ma'am.” Tamar said obediently, leaning with her back curved forward in her initial uncomfortable position. “Merry Christmas, Tamar.” she patted the back of Tamar’s chair as she walked away. ‘Just power through this, and you’ll have the rest of the season to yourself.’. she thought. It was her sole motivation to get through a mountain of work, after all. The sun had already set by the time Tamar finished. There were still a few others at the office. She stretched with relief to be done, reaching for her jacket. Over the top of her cubicle, Tamar could make out her boss and some of her coworkers sitting by the water dispenser, smiles on their faces. One of them began to sing a Christmas carol, and the others joined in. Her boss shook her head and refused to join, but she seemed entertained by it anyways. ‘Guess it’s time for everyone to wind down.’. Tamar thought as she pulled on her coat, grinning softly. ‘Including me.’ “Checking out?” the receptionist of the building asked as Tamar made her way to the rotating doors. “Yes, my last day until next year, actually.” “Lucky. I’ve got to stay here until tomorrow.” she said, typing away at her computer console. “Ah, well Merry Christmas.” “Merry Christmas,” Tamar said with a sudden chirp of joy as she entered the doors, “and a happy New Year, too!” The receptionist kept her eyes glued to her computer, but couldn’t help but smile. Tamar pressed her car key, and the vehicle’s headlights blinked. She pulled the car door and settled into the driver’s seat. Her breath was visible in the frigid air of the car, as she turned the ignition on to start the engines. It was awfully cold. She pressed the heat button. Pulling her purse into her lap, she made sure to check that all was in order, which was routine for her. She rummaged through it for a moment, until she felt snug and ready to drive. “Don’t say another word, you stupid fucking whore.” Cold barrels pressed into her temples. Her body turned to stone. For a moment she was so petrified, she couldn’t even move her eyes. She darted a glance into the rearview mirror without moving her body, not even her head. He was wearing a black ski mask and a leather jacket, directly behind the driver’s headrest. “Drive.” Three seconds went by. She tried to think. Jump out. Drive. Talk. Before the fourth second, he compressed the gun harder against her head, and she decided to listen. Tamar kept her head straight, not daring to look behind, as she reached cautiously for the stick and reversed. Her hands were trembling madly when she placed them on the wheel. She swallowed slow, repressing the fearful reaction festering within. When she got onto the main road, she sat upright. She wasn’t going to risk looking behind. Her side view mirrors would suffice. “Highway.” he muttered. She touched her indicator, and the signal flickered like an echo to her high strung heartbeat. Tamar drove, and even though minutes had passed, it was hours to her. He didn’t falter the grip of his weapon even once. If anything, he tightened it against her head every couple of seconds, and Tamar would instinctively drive faster without the need for him to verbalize it. “One question.” he mumbled. “You get to ask one question.” Tamar exhaled. She kept her eyes on the road ahead. She didn’t want to talk. She didn’t want to risk it. “Go ahead,” he repeated, “I said one question.” his tone was slightly agitated. It wasn’t that she didn’t have any, it was that the words wouldn't come out. They wouldn’t even reify from her vocal chords. Her lip shook. Grip tightened. Her head was about to explode, anyway. “You’re not even trying to hide your voice, are you?” she uttered. She winced, her hands fastened round the wheel to brace for the worst. “What did you just say?” She swallowed. “You’re…” “Shh.” She held her breath. She was ready for it at any moment. Of all the thoughts she considered would befall her before her death, of all the people in her life she wasn’t ready to leave behind, the only image in her mind was that tree. That stupid piece of lumber, obstrcuted the entrance of that big metal elevator. The tree was inconsequential now, just like Tamar’s life. She knew it was, but the deep-seated begging for survival in her body overtook all else. Another fifteen minutes had passed. She wondered if the other cars on the highway could glimpse into her car, for even a moment, and understand what was going on. But in the dark of the evening, all that could be seen was a woman--sitting tensely in the driver’s seat--perhaps going home, or out for an excursion. Peripherally, nobody would be able to see the shadow in the backseat gambling with her life in his hands, unless she stopped. And even then, what would the odds be anyway, before her consciousness would be blown out of her skull? “Exit.” he said. She glanced into the rearview again. Behind the corner of his head, she couldn’t see anybody. As far as any other cars went, she was the only one taking this exit. The gravel converged into a two-lane road. It was pitch black. She had no idea where she was. This was nowhere. That was the worst part. Tamar kept going. Tremors shook her fingers as she slowly lifted her left hand off the wheel to turn on her high beams. She made sure not to make sudden moves so that he could see and comprehend exactly what she was doing. Almost immediately after she had done this and the beams turned on, his hand snaked to the window side and he flicked them off just as quick as she had turned them on. Her throat was so dry from convulsing that she could not even swallow. “Turn.” She turned. Trees, bumpy road. No streetlights. Water gleamed in the distance, or maybe it was closer? It was hard to tell. The sound of Tamar’s brain pulsing drowned out any other noise outside. “Pull over.” Tamar slowed the car down and pulled over to the shoulder. She was paralyzed, her foot still on the break, her hands still wound around the steering wheel. “Take off all your clothes.” he instructed. Her breath was suspended. “I said take off all your clothes.” The gun clasped harder against the temples. She stayed still. “You fucking dumb whore,” he barked, “I SAID--” She rammed her foot into the accelerator. The whiplash sent him flying back, and it was so spontaneous that neither of them could discern what was happening before it happened at all. The car plummeted as it took to the air off the bridge, trampling over the fencing from its speed alone. There were only seconds before her car hit the rocks. He cried for his life, but she did not. Her hands stayed fastened around the wheel, as if she still had control of the vehicle at all, as the hood crumpled like paper and glass danced through the windshield. Bouncing at the mercy of the rocks, the car finally made its crescendo and what was left of it disembarked on the water. And for a moment, even if it were just a fleeting second, the twinkling shards came down from their skywalk, almost resembling sleet-like flakes. It had snowed in Eudora after all.