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A Christmas Excerpt


Here is a short excerpt from my Christmas story THE BEST BLUE CHRISTMAS. Enjoy!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

A muscle ticked in Cassidy’s jaw and she pulled the knitted hat further down over her ears, wishing it would provide just a little more insulation from the incessant noise. The tune invaded every corner of the overstuffed department store, a famous country singer crooning the words as if he really believed them. The sooner she got out of there the better.

“Merry Christmas!” Barbara Howard, the owner of the store, waved as Cassidy rounded the personal grooming aisle. Barbara, a middle-aged woman with dull brown hair pulled back in a severe ponytail, was restocking a variety of hair dye products. “Can I help you find something?” she asked with a smile.

“Um. I just needed to pick up some shampoo.” Cassidy side-stepped Barbara and the cardboard container sitting in the middle of the aisle. Maybe the older woman should try some of those products herself.

Cassidy stopped in front of the shampoo and tugged at her hat. It itched. She’d been about to take a shower that morning when she realized she was out of shampoo. Good thing Howards Department Store – the town’s one and only – was just a block from her apartment. The knitted hat covered her hair and nobody knew she was still wearing her pyjamas under her snow pants and ski jacket.

She scanned her choices and then grabbed a bottle with a little more force than necessary. Its shelf mate toppled to the side, starting a domino effect whose end was an assortment of personal grooming products in a pile on the floor.

Cassidy clenched her jaw to keep from letting out any colourful language and stooped to pick up a couple of bottles. It was the music’s fault. That crazy noise blaring in the background made her jumpy.

“Don’t worry about it, dear.” Barbara was by her side. “George likes all the labels facing the same way, so it’s best if I do it.”

Cassidy acquiesced, shoving a bottle into the other woman’s hands. George Howard was known for his borderline OCD, so she’d gladly let Barbara deal with it. Besides, she couldn’t tolerate another moment of that music.

Cassidy made a bee-line to the cash register and dumped the lonely shampoo bottle on the counter. An acne-faced youth rang in the purchase. “Would you like a bag for five cents?”

Cassidy shook her head. “No thanks.”

The boy handed over the shampoo. “Merry Christmas.” His tone was flat and emotionless.

Perfect. It was the first thing that brought a smile to Cassidy’s lips that day.

If she was honest with herself, it was the first thing that brought a smile since the calendar had rolled around to December.

Cassidy gave the exit an extra hard push on her way out of the building. The window was totally frosted over, making it useless as a porthole, and the build-up of ice on the bottom of the door scraped with the horrifying precision of fingernails on a chalkboard.

The instant Cassidy met the outdoors, her cheeks started to tingle. Her breath wafted out in a cloud of condensation, stemmed but not corked as she wound her scarf over her face. Who willfully chose to live in this climate she wondered as she began to trudge the short distance to her apartment? Whoever coined the phrase, “When hell freezes over,” was talking about an actual place and Walter Lake was it.

At least the crunch of her boots against the snow was better than the music inside the store. It was early in December, but it felt like she’d already endured a steady stream of carols and good wishes and it was only going to get worse. Twenty more days worse.

At nine o’clock on a Saturday morning, the sky, swathed in purple, was just starting to shed its dusky morning cloak. This far north, above the sixtieth parallel, daylight arrived late and departed early. There were days when Cassidy missed the sun altogether if she didn’t leave the office at lunchtime. She’d arrive in the dark and leave in the dark. Everywhere was dark. Kind of like her heart this time of year.

Someone was stapling a poster to a nearby light pole. The person was short, somewhat round, and genderless. The multiple layers of clothing necessary to maintain one’s body heat did that to people. The figure turned and waved before trundling away, frost-covered eyelashes the only indicator that it was a human being under the balaclava. Cassidy approached the poster, curious as to what kind of announcement would bring someone out on a morning such as this.

It read, “Hate Christmas? You’re not alone. A Blue Christmas celebration at the Anglican Church.”

Cassidy blinked. Weird.

Frosty icicles forming on her own lashes weighed on her lids, spurring her back into motion. There was no use contemplating what the poster meant out here in the cold. She needed to get home, let Fido out, and then enjoy that nice hot shower.

She lived in one of two second-story apartments over the insurance building downtown. Two sets of covered stairs were built on the outside of the building on either side. Her stairs went directly to her apartment, which was essentially half the size of the main floor insurance office. It was cozy, if one could actually use that for a descriptor. Tiny was more like it. A real bachelor pad. But she didn’t entertain much, or have any plans to do so in the future, so there really wasn’t a need for anything more extravagant. In a town this size, there weren’t many options, and since she worked right downstairs in the insurance office, it was a perfect arrangement.

Sometimes she wondered about the person in the apartment next to hers. He worked for Parks Canada, or so she was told. She didn’t see or hear him much, despite their shared interior wall. She supposed he spent most of his time sledding around in the mountains or something. It didn’t matter anyway. She and Fido were happy to keep to themselves. It’s why she’d escaped to the Yukon in the first place.

Curious to read more? Check it out here! (Only 99 cents!)

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