Happy almost Christmas! This story will be short, just this week and next. I hope you like it!!
The glass was cold against my fingers. I traced the small chips that made up the bright red berries of the holly. I blew on my fingertips, then tucked them under my arms. My ears and nose burned. My steps squeaked in the snow as I walked away from the new store.
I coughed, the rasping bark breaking the quiet as I fought the spasm. On a dead street, in the tiny town I’d recently drifted into, everyone was at home enjoying the holiday with family. Except me.
“Hey!” A hand grasped my shoulder, stopping me. “Hold on a second.”
I stopped, too tired to argue when he turned me, never letting go. “What?” All I wanted to do was sleep.
“You don’t sound too good. Maybe you should come inside?”
Blinking, I studied the man staring at me. He was older, his hair gray with bushy eyebrows shadowing his dark blue eyes. He looked at me funny. “I’m not homeless,” I blurted out.
He chuckled. “Okay.”
“No, really. I’ve an apartment four blocks over. I just was cold and I have to walk to work.” Okay, the second jacket I had on was ragged, but it was one Mack had left when he back home for the holidays. He’d taken his good one. I’d been traveling light before I found my way to my one college friend so I’d borrowed it. I was too tired to argue with this guy though. “I swear, you can che—”
I started coughing. Fighting to breathe, I couldn’t stop the man from pulling me back to the holly building. He pushed me down onto a couch. My whole body ached but the cushions cradled my body. I tried to sigh and started coughing again.
“Stay right there.” He picked up an earthernware mug and filled it with yellow liquid from a teapot. I wrinkled up my nose. Tea was not exactly, well … my cup of tea.
The man chuckled. “Just try it.”
The first sip wasn’t too bad; the heat soothed my throat. I groaned as warmth began to soak into my body. I took in the shop around me. Mack would love it. It was full of antiques-many of them Celtic. Blinking began to take more effort. I didn’t want to move but I needed to get home to my cold, quiet apartment.
Where I would be alone, at Christmas, while sick. Happy Holidays to me.
My voice was raspy when I said, “Thanks for the tea, but I need—” A yawn took over before I could tell the guy I needed to go home. I couldn’t seem to stop drinking the tea.
“I know what you need. First you must rest.”
I couldn’t stay with a stranger. “I don’t even know your name.”
“Call me Dag. This is my shop.”
“Thanks, Dag, but I’m—” The cup slipped in my hand and Dag caught it before it broke.
He chuckled and set it aside, guiding me down. The pillow felt like a cloud under my head and my exhausted body was too heavy to move. I should’ve been worried but I wasn’t.
“You can sleep safe here, friend. The holly will have you better before you know it.” Dag tucked a blanket around my shoulders. I yawned.
He mumbled, “Now for the other.”
“You’re a wee fool, aren’t you?” The accented voice woke me. Cracking open my eyes, I looked up. Mack was scowling down at me.
“How did you get here?” I croaked. Mack held out a glass of water. “How did I get here?”
I was in the bed at Mack’s apartment. I tried to figure out how I’d gotten home. Had I imagined the store?
“A weird guy named Dag called, said he’d rescued you walking down the street with a fever. He helped me bring you home. I told you to use my car while I was gone. Instead the only thing you borrow is my ratty old jacket.”
I’d never admit I’d borrowed it more for the fact that it was his than warmth. Way too juvenile.
“You’re already giving me a place to live til I get my feet under me.” Having a place to call home this year meant I was better off than last year. I’d been nursing a bit of a flame for Mack for a few years but I was trying not to screw things up so I’d kept it to myself.
“Well you can’t stay here now.”
My heart sank. I’d screwed up again. No real family and I was bad at making friends. Mack was really the only person that I’d cared to keep tabs on. I threw back the blanket, meaning to leave before the tears burning in my eyes could fall.
“Why’m I naked?”
“You were soaked when your fever broke.”
That was not how I’d wanted Mack to strip me. He’d already seen me so I threw modesty to the wind and stood up.
Tried to, at least. I would’ve crashed into the table if Mack hadn’t caught me.
“Where are you going?” he snapped, pushing me down.
I needed some clothes and my shoes then I’d be out of Mack’s hair. “You said I couldn’t stay.”
“I said stay here. Mom said I was to bring you home. Now that you’re too weak to argue, you’re going.”
So Mack could take care of me?
“You know, you talked a lot in your fever.”
Nausea twisted my stomach. What had I said?
“I thought you weren’t interested in being more than friends,” Mack said. “Have you really been carrying a torch for me for five years?”
I shrugged and looked away.
Mack’s hands felt good on my face as he pushed my hair back. “I want you to come home with me for Christmas, as my boyfriend.” I was lost when I met his bright green eyes.
Maybe it would be a good Christmas after all.
TBC Next week!
Don't forget to check out the other great Holiday stories by the other Wednesday Briefers!