Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Little Christmas Romance

Several of my writing friends create special Christmas stories as a gift to their readers. I've joined them this year, and have posted my 2015 Christmas gift below. It's the length of two single-spaced pages, complete in this post. I hope you enjoy it.

Got Plans?

Kay’s boss leaned into the ready room with a schedule planner in her hands. “Can you take the Christmas Day shift? It’s triple pay, you know, and I don’t have anyone else who can do it.”

She meant everyone else had family. Somewhere to be, and someone to be with.

“But I took Thanksgiving.”

“Yeah, well, Todd’s doing Christmas Eve. If you can take midnight to noon, I’ll try to sweet-talk Phyllis into working with you.”

Kay knew there would be days like this when she became an EMT. She just didn’t realize she’d be the fall guy for every major holiday. “Sure, I’ll take it.” Working ranked somewhere on the list higher than moping around her apartment alone.

Slipping into the 11 pm candlelight service on Christmas Eve, Kay bowed in worship of the King. This, her second Christmas alone, seemed even tougher than last year. Because last year she expected something to have happened by now. No handsome prince nor cowboy had charged up on his steed to sweep her away. It seemed the good ones had already been taken. They had wives and little kids around their Christmas trees.

She took communion and left before the benediction in order to get to the firehouse by midnight, releasing Todd to be with his family.

Sleep came in patches between calls, all due in some degree to alcohol. About mid-morning, she and Phyllis fried eggs and bacon and made pancakes. Calories didn’t count on Christmas Day, right?

Phyllis filled their mugs again. “Whatcha gonna do this afternoon? Got plans?”

“Think I’ll snooze, maybe do something domestic like finish the cross-stitch I’ve been working on.”

“Gonna have dinner out?” Phyllis’ brow wrinkled. “Look, you can hang out with me and my boyfriend. We’re going over to his mother’s—”

The honking alarm went off. “Motor vehicle accident, male victim, corner of Hulen and Bellaire, power lines down. Proceed with caution.”

Kay shoved in another forkful of pancake loaded with maple syrup and made a dash for the truck. Roaring down the street, alarms blaring, she knew she wouldn’t take Phyllis’ invitation, just like she’d turned down two already. She could worship on Christmas but not act like it was a happy day.

Oncor trucks had arrived and police were busy cordoning off the scene. Near the wrecked car, a power pole leaned at a crazy angle. Kay lifted the yellow tape and stepped inside.

A policeman in winter gear reached out an arm to block her path, hitting her across the chest. “Not yet. The electricians have to cut the power to those lines before you can approach the car. Sorry. Did I hurt you?”

“No.” She strained to see the man needing medical assistance. “Is the victim conscious?”

The policeman snorted. “Sort of. Drunk as a skunk, but he’s conscious enough to yell at us.” His name patch read “Chandler”, and he looked familiar.

Kay’s attention returned to the driver. Drunk on Christmas. It made her blood boil.

“Can I trust you to stay back? And not let anyone else close?”

She could see the danger in his expression. “Sure. I’m not suicidal.”

Long, cold minutes passed in the blowing wind. The trapped victim cursed and thrashed one arm from the window of his crushed Chrysler while she paced, tense and ready to run help him.

Chandler drifted over again to where she and Phyllis waited. “Miserable cold, huh?”

“Totally.” Kay pulled her knitted cap lower over her ears. “Say, your surname is Chandler? That’s my pastor’s name.”

“Yeah, that’s my dad. I thought I’d seen you somewhere.”

“I’m there when I can be, EMT shifts allowing. But I guess you know about that.”

He checked his watch. “They’re expecting me for dinner at about two, but they’ll understand if I’m late. You got plans?”

“No family around. A guy like this killed my parents on Christmas Day two years ago.” She didn’t usually tell people, because what could they say? It just made folks uncomfortable.

“No brothers or sisters?”

“My sister is married to an Air Force pilot. They live in Hawaii. And my brother flies for American.” She looked at the gray sky. “He’s on his way to Germany about now.”

“Too bad.”

The okay eventually came from Oncor, and she rushed to the door and yanked hard. It took two firemen with the wicked cousin of a crowbar to open it, then Chandler stayed around to help them get the man and his bloody legs on a stretcher. Now in shock due to cold and trauma, he no longer swore. His silence rang more ominous than his foul words.

Chandler followed them to the hospital in his cruiser. “That was a tough one.” He rolled his shoulders. “Reckon he’ll keep those legs?”

“We did what we could. The rest is up to God and the trauma unit.”

“I was thinking…Would you like to come to my parents’ house for dinner? I know they’d be pleased to have you.”

“Aw, I couldn’t do that. They don’t need an extra guest on Christmas.”

“It’s not like that. I mean, it would be a favor to me.”

She searched his eyes for understanding. Nice eyes. Clear blue. “How’s that?”

“Mom’s always after me, you know, about finding a nice girl to date. I sort of told her a fib a couple of weeks ago. Told her I had my eye on someone.” He blushed and looked down the ER hall. “So it would kind of take some pressure off if you’d come.”

“When is it?” She thought of several reasons to say no, but a bubble in her chest pushed them all down.

“Like right now.”

Dismay hit, and she realized how much she didn’t want to be alone today. Dinner with Pastor Chandler and his sweet wife and their family on Christmas dangled before her. “I can’t go like this.”

“Why not? I’m going like this.” He brushed a hand down his uniform, which definitely looked better than hers. “We’re police and EMT. We’re on duty today. This is what we wear.” Then his brow rumpled. “But there’s going to be a lot of Jesus talk. You know, prayers and reading the story from Luke and all. We gather around the fireplace for that between the dinner and dessert.”

Dinner with her pastor’s family. A fireplace. A policeman with blue eyes. “I’m okay with Jesus talk.”

Happy birthday, Jesus.

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