Chasing Contentment

Friday, December 2

Despite being quite the little pessimist (which balances my husband's never-ending optimism well), I am an eternal romantic. Hopeless. Hopeful. I love sappy movies and romance novels. Christmas, I think, is the perfect time to blend the sappy and the romantic and the holiday.

Each year I try to find a wonderful Christmas romance novel to send to my friend, Mika, for Christmas. This year, I decided to write my own and send it instead. It's a very short story, but not quite short enough for one post here, so I'm going to post the story in installments.

I've always dreamed of writing my own romance novels as a career, but one thing or another always seems to be more important than pursuing that dream (which is okay with me... family is more important right now & I still write for friends). So, I think that posting my creative writing here is just as good for now.

The Christmas Card
By Chel

"My brother, Percy, had two of the most defining moments of his life in this lodge. Two moments that changed the course of his life."

Fingering her water glass, Shelby turned to face Mac as he stared into space, talking about his younger brother, Percy. Born to a Southern mother who married what her family took to be a Northerner, both Mac - short for MacAllister - and Percy Lamar were given strong Southern names. Their mother swore they'd know their heritage, and she started from the cradle.

Mac and Shelby were dining at the Great Winged Lodge which was a converted ranch house and property. The Lodge's restaurant boasted both the best food and the best view of the mountains in the region.

Shelby had been engaged to Mac for several weeks, having dated him for several months. Both in their early forties, they didn't want to wait long to get married. Both of their families were thrilled with the impending holiday nuptials, and they were close to one another's siblings.

But Shelby had never quite understood Percy's affection for women who would clearly never be marriage material. She had asked Mac once about Percy's dating choices, but he had only mumbled something about arrogance and missed opportunities and moved on. Shelby was certain it wasn't a topic Mac wanted to revisit.

Which was why it was so odd for him to be talking about Percy in this way when they were gazing out the picture window of the Lodge looking at the vivid landscape of God's autumn handiwork.

But Shelby knew that if Mac wanted to talk about this, it was best for her to simply listen to the story he might tell.

"There was a girl once, a woman, really," Mac began. "And she was beautiful. Not in the gosh-she-could-model way. She wasn't the type men would turn to watch walk by. But she was beautiful because of who she was. She was kind, and she was gentle, and she was amazing when you got to know her."

"And beyond all reason, she loved Percy."

Mac took a long drink of his coffee and paused, looking off into the distance as if seeing the young woman one more time.

"But Percy was arrogant and selfish, and he thought that he could do better. So he dated wildly beautiful women who were no match for him. And she was quiet about it, though we all knew she was hurt."

"Finally, one fall day - a couple of years ago - a bunch of us came up here for dinner, and Percy took her aside. He explained that he knew she loved him but that he could never love her that way. He told her that he had other priorities."

Mac cursed quietly, shaking his head. "He assumed that because she wasn't stunningly beautiful, no other man would be interested in her and that he could play the field for a time and then return to her loving arms, ready to be made whole."

"He was wrong, of course."

The waiter brought their dinners, and they ate in a companionable silence. After the dishes were cleared, they ordered flavored coffees and chocolate desserts, and Mac began again.

"Percy rejoined our group saying that she would be along soon, but she didn't return to us that night. Sitting at the bar nursing a hot toddy, she met a man and spent the evening in conversation."

"We all went about our business - you know how things get - and several weeks later... okay, six weeks later. Six, to be exact. Six weeks later, Percy and I were up here to meet our folks for dinner when she came up to our table looking radiant. She introduced the man with her as her husband."

"She hadn't had much family, and so they had eloped to Las Vegas the previous weekend and got married. Percy was stunned."

Mac had been playing with his chocolate cake while he was talking, and when the waiter took it away, he had hardly eaten any. He seemed genuinely troubled by the story, by the way it had touched his brother.

"Her new husband got a job promotion soon after that, and they were gone by the holidays. She hasn't spent another Christmas here since. Percy spent that holiday season well into the eggnog, always with a new piece of eye candy on his arm."

"Come the first of that next year, Percy changed his ways some. He became more aware of the people around him and less concerned with how things benefited him. He became a better man, even if he does still have lousy taste in women."

The lights in the restaurant were dimming and the music was slowing to a quiet hum. "I'm sorry. Have we stayed too late? We can go on back to town now."

"No, please, Mac. Finish the story. That can't be all of it. Why are you thinking of all of that tonight? We've been here tons of times, so it can't be the place."

"No, it isn't the end. Less than a year into their marriage, her husband was killed by a drunk driver, and she was left alone in a new place. Recently, her one remaining family member passed away, leaving her all alone."

Shelby's eyes misted over thinking of what it must feel like to suffer such loss.

"I'm thinking of all of this now because we'll be seeing her tomorrow for the first time in a long time. Ellie will be here for Gram's funeral."

"Ellie? She was related to Gram?"

"She was Gram's one last descendant. Eleanor Daniels. Ellie. My brother fell in love with - and arrogantly left - the girl next door. And now, she's coming home ... literally, to the house next door ... to bury the grandmother who reared her. And I hurt for her loss, but I can't seem to stop thinking about Percy."

"And wondering if maybe he'll get one more chance at getting things right."

--- (the second installment on Monday...)

[  posted by Chel on Friday, December 02, 2005  ]


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