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Thursday, December 20, 2012
CFF #30: Christmas Unexpected by Lisa Tapp
Our 30th (and possibly last) Christmas Flash Fiction is so sweetly romantic, you just might get diabetes from reading it! Don't blame me, though. Blame the writer, Lisa Tapp! Do read on and please leave a comment...
“She’s lost all her good sense.”
Felice Day, the she in question, held her tongue and her place in the gathering crowd before Waldon’s large display window. How naïve was it to expect the news wouldn’t be all over town in less than twenty-four hours?
She knew the speaker behind her. Seventy-year-old Corrine’s blue-rinsed hair announced her boldness before she ever spoke a word. Meek by comparison, silver-haired Aileen and Clara would be nodding agreement in unison.
The curtain drew back, but instead of Walter Waldon, his son Kurt stepped onto the snowy-white cotton covering the floor of the display.
Funny, Kurt never mentioned he’d do the decorating.
For one brief second Kurt’s golden-eyed gaze landed on her. Felice couldn’t help but return his lopsided smile.
She’d known him forever; they’d both grown up in this small town. But since school, he’d traveled the world. They’d only become reacquainted when he joined the church choir last month. Kurt was playing the trumpet for the Christmas production.
Felice had repeatedly asked herself that very question since leaving the restaurant last night. She and Steven had dated off and on for the past twelve months. Yet his proposal had been as unforeseen as her response.
Through the store window, Felice’s gaze was drawn to Kurt. She held her breath as his long fingers slid over the buttons of his cardigan. Few guys could pull off wearing a cardigan, but on Kurt’s tall, lanky frame, it worked. His chestnut hair, a little long, a little unruly, curled over the rolled collar in a way that shouted bohemian sexy.
When he removed that sweater, every female took notice. His sleeves, folded to his elbows, revealed long, well-toned forearms.
“It’s not like she has other options.” The other two ladies had at least attempted to whisper. Clara didn’t bother.
Felice blew out a short breath. Options. Wasn’t staying single an option? It wasn’t the warmest or coziest choice, but last night, sitting in the cross-hairs of Steven’s expectant gaze, it felt like her best choice.
In the right corner, Kurt completed the Nativity Scene with the soft glow of a golden backlight. The families around her gasped with delight. It was beautiful, just as she knew it would be.
Kurt’s gaze sought hers and she gave him a tiny nod. Beside her, a little girl sitting on her father’s shoulders clapped.
Felice had made that suggestion during one of the choir’s after-practice hot chocolate runs.
He had been listening.
“She crushed that boy’s heart.” Aileen broke tradition and spoke up.
Suffocating heat bloomed over Felice’s cheeks. A quick glance on both sides, however, showed that everyone else remained focused on Waldon’s display. And Kurt.
Steven’s feelings had been hurt. Their night ended in terse words and a final good-bye. But honestly, they’d seen little of each other since the death of her beloved grandmother, two months ago. How could she have known?
Steven was staid and settled, his life planned out. He planned to live in exactly one house, Dottie’s, and have precisely two children.
And she? She needed more. She needed adventure.
In the left corner of the display, the tree stood tall and elegant. Waldon’s Christmas tree was always the largest in any downtown display. Many families had made it a tradition to watch the decorating. Whatever hung on the Waldon tree that year would grace the homes in town.
Kurt reached into the ornament bag and pulled out bowling ball-sized purple ornaments. An antique glaze softened the color, giving them an old-European look. Soft, enchanting. Unlike anything Waldon’s had ever sold. They were too big for home use, but perfect for the display.
Next Kurt pulled out more traditional ornaments in whites, silvers and crystals. The crowd murmured approval. Felice stood mesmerized.
The romance of it called to her. Kurt, weaving back and forth, drew her. His eyes, meeting hers over and over, dared her to look closer.
“I wonder what Dottie would say to all this?”
Corrine’s mention of Felice’s grandmother intensified the liquid warmth swimming through her veins. She knew exactly what the woman who had raised her would say. Grandma Dottie would drop a kiss on Felice’s head, hug her tight, and whisper her favorite advice. “Life can be unexpected, and unexpectedly perfect.”
Dottie’s friends no longer mattered. The thick crowd pressing close melted away. She, the tree, and Kurt were all that existed.
This time there was no mistaking Kurt’s glance. He held her gaze for one long, heart-pounding second. Dangling from his hand was an ornament shaped like the country of Italy. This he hung in the heart of the tree.
Felice couldn’t speak, couldn’t blink.
The only thing left was the angel. The prize of each season. Waldon’s would sell out of replicas within hours.
Kurt deliberately rummaged through the bag, his back to his audience. Walter stepped into the display. His bushy brows drew together; a frown marred his face as he saw his son’s choice.
Kurt spoke quietly to his father. Slowly Walter’s gaze lifted to the window. To Felice.
With the angel carefully concealed, Kurt climbed the ladder.
As per tradition, a reverent hush settled over the crowd.
Kurt glanced over his shoulder and found her.
Eyes wide, Felice watched, waited.
A tentative smile crossed Kurt’s face before he turned and placed a singing angel atop the tree. The crowd cheered, then abruptly fell silent as Kurt lifted his hands again.
Beside the singing angel, Kurt hung a trumpeting angel.
A roar rushed around Felice. Children leapt and danced; adults nodded.
Kurt descended and walked forward, his gaze never leaving Felice. Thick glass separated them, but his eyes said everything. His brows raised—Will you?
A strong breeze buffeted her. This—he—was totally unexpected. Did she dare?
Felice blinked back tears. Her quivering lips stretched into a huge smile.
Yes. Yes, I will.
Lisa lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her dog, Pooka. A nurse by day, she’s been dabbling in writing for years. This is her first attempt at flash fiction.