“Christmas Kisses” by Conda V. Douglas

As a special holiday treat during the Christmas season, we present a new Feature Story here at Metro Fiction. Please check the Welcome page for more information about us. In this special feature story, we see that sometimes the best gifts come from above.

Here is our Feature Story: “Christmas Kisses” by Conda V. Douglas

“We can put the Christmas tree right next to the fireplace,” Tim said.

Janie whirled from where she unpacked a box. “Why are you still here?”

Tim took a step back. He raised black eyebrows over bright blue eyes. “Do you want me to leave?” he said.

Heat flushed Janie’s face. She tried to cover. “I don’t have a Christmas tree.” She bent back over the box. Hiding.

“Christmas tree?” Janie’s 4-year-old daughter Noel bounced into the kitchen. Noel always bounced. “Where, Mom? Where?”

Janie gave a soft moan under her breath. The ice around her heart thickened. No Christmas tree this year. Another disappointment to add to her daughter’s Christmas. How soon before Noel stopped bouncing?

“I’ll be right back with one,” Tim said.

Noel topped her twirl with a bounce. “I’m coming, me too, me with.” Her ever-so-slightly-too-small dress swirled around, an exclamation to her joy.

Janie almost smiled. Nowadays, only Noel could make that almost happen.

“No, you stay here and help your mom,” Tim said.

Noel stopped mid-twirl. Her grin dissolved.

“If you help, Santa will come that much faster,” Tim said. Then he was gone, out the back door of the tiny rental house.

Outside, thick clouds crowded close to Janie and Noel’s new home, turning the short day dark.

Janie returned to her task. She swiped away a tear. She prayed not one more thing went wrong this Christmas Eve. Wasn’t it bad enough that she and Noel ended up having to move on Christmas Eve? That the small box of gifts for Noel’s birthday and Christmas had been lost in the move?

“Yay! Yay!” Noel squealed. She started rummaging in her box of clothes. “Mommy, it’s already Christmas ‘cause we get to open boxes.”

“Oh Noel, my joy, my saving grace, my sweet angel,” Janie said. She looked at the few boxes containing her meager possessions. Maybe the Christmas box would show up today.

But she didn’t dare hope. Hope belonged to those whose husbands hadn’t been diagnosed with leukemia the Christmas week Noel had been born. Hope belonged to women who hadn’t spent every dime fighting the disease. Hope belonged to those whose husbands hadn’t lost the battle and died.

Janie swallowed back more tears. She forced a covering smile onto her lips. She’d learned to barrier her heart with a thin layer of icy cold control.

She sighed, her smile falling, and lifted her few cheap dishes from a box. Tim wouldn’t return. He’d been looking for an excuse to escape. She’d almost believed Tim would be different. More fool she.

She’d met Tim when she found a job in Boise, when she went to his “Free Find a Home” office. He’d helped her find their perfect new home, perfect for her and Noel, and at a price she could almost afford. Then, he’d surprised her with offering to help her move in.

Twice before she’d let a man get close enough to experience life with a young, broke widow with an active almost-4-year-old. And twice before the guy started searching for the quickest exit.

Oh, why not let him help? Janie had wondered then. Only now she knew Tim wasn’t going to be an exception. Janie cursed herself for allowing a little of the ice around her heart to melt. He’d been so easy to tell her troubles to, so kind, so helpful.

She sighed again, this time with relief. Better he’d left them, at last. Better it was her and Noel, together, alone.

Thrice burned, she wouldn’t try again. Not now. Maybe not ever. She’d keep her heart encased in ice.

“Tim’s back! Back! Back!” Noel cried.

Janie jerked upright. “Really?”

Noel ran to the kitchen door and reached for the doorknob. “A tree! A tree!” Noel couldn’t quite turn the doorknob. Yet. “Help, help, Mommy.”

Janie opened the door and stared. Tim walked up the sidewalk, a small tree in his arms. The tree was perfect for the small snug spot next to the fireplace. Around him fluffy pillows of snowflakes fell.

Janie’s heart warmed. The ice loosened. She bit her lower lip. No, she couldn’t let that happen.

Noel skipped to him, joy in every step.

“Why did you come back?” Janie asked Tim.

“I told you I wasn’t going anywhere,” Tim answered. “Not now. Not ever.”

Still skipping, Noel asked, “Is that my Christmas present?”

Tim set the tree down. “Nope, this is your birthday present.”

“So what will she get for Christmas?” Janie demanded. She couldn’t stop herself from adding, “Disappointment?”

Tim’s mouth quirked upwards at the corners in a half-scolding, half-sympathetic smile. He scooped Noel into his arms. He looked up at the snowflakes.

Noel followed his gaze.

“Snow,” she breathed. “Snow. Oh, snow.”

“Every time a snowflake touches your cheek, it’s God giving you a kiss,” Tim said.

Tim’s words battered at the cold constraints tight around Janie’s heart.

Noel reached up and touched the flakes upon her face. She laughed.

“Merry Christmas, Noel,” Tim said.

In that moment, Janie’s frozen heart finally thawed, the heat spilling over everything, warming her body and spirit, filling her heart with love. She stepped out into the falling snow and hugged Noel and Tim tight.

“Joyeaux Noel,” she cried. She raised her face to God’s kisses.

As the snowflakes fell upon her cheeks, she embraced her new life.

Conda grew up in the ski resort of Sun Valley, Idaho, and she’s always believed that snowflakes are kisses. And boy, has she been kissed a lot! She’s published many short stories and this year two novels, one the first in her mystery series, Starke Naked Dead and the other the first in her ‘tween series The Mall Fairies: Exile. For more about Conda (and her recipes!), please visit her blog Conda’s Creative Center and her Amazon author page.



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