Scrooges can come in the form of a woman, too, just like the lady in Nora Weston's flash fiction story. But, like dear old Ebeneezer, redemption is only a good deed away. Read on and be sure to leave a comment...
As if conjured to provoke rage in Maggie Steele, snow fell on Christmas Eve to blanket Troy, Michigan with a layer of sparkling white mischief. Rattling her brain, the wind chime on the porch thrashed while the most annoying sound in the world to her grew louder.
Throwing Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar on the dusty, hardwood floor, Maggie abandoned the boxy, modern chair saying, “Horrible, detestable, downright despicable things…kids!” Storming toward the front door, she stomped along shoving her long, black locks away from a stunning face complete with deep blue eyes and lips so perfect they belonged on a porcelain doll.
With hatred in her soul, she opened the door. “Hey! All of you, you dirty hooligans with nothing better to do than drive me mad…get off my lawn, now!” Howling, the wild wind stung Maggie’s eyes.
Most of the children laughed. A few threw snowballs onto Maggie’s porch, and Billy Jenkins…neighborhood bully, yelled, “Back off, Mrs. Scrooge!”
“Quiet, Billy,” said Sophie while dropping her sticks, presumably for a snowman’s arms. “Sorry, Miss Maggie, we’ll go!”
“That girl, that polite little thing is the worst of the lot,” mumbled Maggie as she slammed the door. “Yet Nathan always said she reminded him of me…yeah, right.”
A picture of him, hanging on the foyer wall devoid of any signs of Christmas, smashed to the floor.
“No!” Maggie knelt down to clean up the mess, but paused to grasp her husband’s haunting black and white photo. “I miss you so much, sometimes, I can’t breathe.” Icy tears slid down Maggie’s face as her heart ached. She closed her eyes, trying to swallow the grief. “A year ago today, you and your plane vanished in Wisconsin. That day, I died.”
“What’s this?” Her eyes clenched tighter as Maggie enjoyed the aroma of a bold coffee tainted with brown sugar and vanilla Kahlua. “Nathan’s favorite —no, no way.”
“The children, hurry!” screeched an ethereal voice.
Adrenaline gushed through Maggie as a heightened sense of urgency hit her. “What have they done now?” Hastening to open the door, her blue eyes widened with disbelief. “I’m—I’m coming!” Maggie ran faster than she thought possible, jumping down two and three steps at a time to get to the street.
The children were shouting at her to leave, Billy bolted to get Joshua Reese who was Sophie’s father, and twelve year old Shane called 911, because Sophie had slipped onto the street exactly when Charlie McKnight lost control of his Chevy. Knocked out cold, Charlie had no idea he’d hit her.
“What have I done?” said Maggie looking down at innocence. Right away, Maggie performed CPR, all the while screaming within for being malicious. “Come on, honey!” Time slowed so each horrible second seemed a lifetime. Continuing with CPR, Maggie’s heart pounded with regret for disregarding the joy children bring, especially at Christmas when the birth of a King brought hope. Tears flooded Maggie’s eyes. She pressed on Sophie’s chest. “Stay with us!”
At that moment, Maggie felt unseen arms around her waist. “Don’t give up on her,” whispered the visitor. “It’s not her time.”
Maggie breathed in recognizing those arms and voice. Help her, dear Lord. One last breath from Maggie into Sophie, and then Christmas magic swooshed through them both.
Sophie opened her eyes and coughed a bit. “Oh…my head hurts.”
“Hush, child,” said Maggie. “You’ll be fine now. I know it.” Moving Sophie’s wavy dark hair, Maggie smiled.
“Sophie, oh, no!” yelled Joshua. Seeing Maggie by her side, contempt filled this man since he’d heard about Maggie scolding the kids. “Get away from her!”
Maggie didn’t say a word. Biting her bottom lip, the ice queen simply obliged him.
“Hold on. Let us handle this,” said a paramedic. “We need to get her and the driver to the hospital.”
Eight hours later, Joshua looked down upon his precious daughter who had a fractured, right forearm and a concussion. “Thank God you’re alive. I was so scared, baby.”
“Joshua?” Maggie entered the room. “I—uh, I’m truly sorry.”
“I have nothing to say to you.” His gray eyes pierced her frozen soul. Clutching Sophie’s hand, Joshua shook his head as though he was about to explode. “No, you know what? I have lots to say.” Tall and strong from years of construction work, he walked toward Maggie looking deadly.
“Wait! You don’t understand. I wanted kids so much with Nathan and then he…”
All of a sudden, Sophie sat up. Her eyes opened looking as though she’d been hypnotized. “Stop fighting! I’ll be home for Christmas. You can count on me…”
“Sophie?” said Joshua.
“Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree,” continued Sophie.
“Not Sophie,” said Maggie, “that’s Nathan…I’ll Be Home for Christmas was, is his favorite Christmas song. He’s alive…somewhere!”
“Maggie saved Sophie, Maggie saved Sophie, forgive.” Faster and faster, the words toppled upon each other as Nathan spoke through her. “Forgive, forgive…it’s Christmas.”
Maggie looked at Joshua, he at her, and then together they embraced Sophie.
Joshua said, “You saved her? My gratitude is forever yours, but I thought it was you who ordered the kids to leave and she fell, and—”
“Yes and yes. After Nathan disappeared, I changed…been drowning in grief, but never would I want this,” said Maggie. “He came to me, to help Sophie.”
Sophie’s body relaxed. She fell back on the bed. “Gogebic…so cold.” Now, looking like a Christmas angel, Sophie slept.
“Lake Gogebic in northern Michigan? The rescue search was done in Wisconsin, where you were scheduled to fly.” A ghostly kiss was placed on Maggie’s cheek. “My God, Nathan was found with no identification and possibly slipped into a coma. The plane must have sunk in Lake Gogebic, but someone helped him.”
“So go get Nathan,” said Joshua grabbing Maggie’s trembling hand. “Sophie always said he’d come back. Such faith she has, ya know?”
Maggie Steel’s heart thawed. “Yeah, I do. Sophie is a joy to the world, indeed.”
Bio: Nora Weston’s fiction and poetry slips in-between and all around science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her publishing credits include the novels Guardian 2632 and The Twelfth Paladin, plus anthologies, magazines, and e-zines. Themes found in Nora’s work relate to good against evil, Internet safety, the powerful consequences for one’s actions, and the ability we all possess to improve the world. As a mother of six, you can understand why she is "almostsanelady" on Twitter. Feel free to connect with her!