~ A Christmas Short Story ~
It was still snowing when I returned to the cabin. He was waiting for me by the porch. Hands shoved into a blue ski jacket. Bless him he was shivering and trying to hide it, for my sake.
“Been here long?” I asked, feeling slightly guilty for keeping him waiting, even though I’d been blindsided by the visit.
“Only about half an hour.” He responded, through chattering teeth. At the look on my face, he cracked a smile, “Don’t you worry about me. I’ll be all right.”
“Let me be the judge of that! Come on in.” I commanded, unlocking the door. Immediately, I hung my jacket and scarf on the hook and began fixing up the fire.
He knelt beside me, tossing logs onto each other and… watching me strike the match. I was aware that a blush crept up my neck. He held his hands out, rubbing them together every now and then, generating more heat.
“So how come you were shivering on my porch?” I asked, rolling up a scrap of newspaper and flicking it onto the fire.
“Came here to see you, didn’t I?” He mumbled.
I bit my lip, hiding a smile.
We sat back, watching the dancing yellow flames and basking in the warmth.
I wrapped my arms around my legs, sneaking a glance at him. Half his rugged face lit up in the amber glow. The other half was hidden in darkness. Much like himself.
“So, you sticking around town then?” He asked, catching me gazing at him.
I looked away, embarrassed. “Yeah. Looks like it. This snow isn’t going away any time soon and I don’t think there’ll be any flights till… gosh, at least after the New Year.”
“You picked quite a time to run away from home.” He said, with a smirk.
My mouth fell open at the brashness of the comment. “I – I was hoping I could get back in time.” I said, my voice small. It sounded pathetic actually. Not an excuse at all. I knew it and so did he.
“Well, you know you’re more than welcome to spend Christmas at mine. I got the brother, his wife and kids round. They only live in the town so, it’s easy trekking up here”
I nodded slowly, envy pinching at my heart. “You’re lucky. Having family close by.”
“Yeah well… after Mum and Dad died. We only have each other.” He said, his voice tightening. “We don’t really get on. We avoid each other most of the time. Life just gets in the way, you know? But this time of year… the loneliness screams at you doesn’t it?”
I nodded, pursing my lips.
“Yeah. Exactly. So it’s best we put our differences aside for the sake of my nieces and nephew.” His cheek twitched into a smile. “And my parents memory. They love the holidays.” His smile melted. “Loved. They loved it.”
I cleared my throat, “Thank you, that’s kind of you. But I think I’ll spend it here at the cabin. A nice quiet Christmas.”
He raised a brow, “Quiet Christmas? In a cabin?”
I lightly kicked him. Well, it was more of a nudge with my foot. “It’s a nice cabin! I rented it especially so I could just… disappear…” I trailed off.
We were wandering into dangerous territory now.
“Disappear?” He echoed, “You mind if I ask what it is you’re… disappearing from?”
I shrugged, “Things back home.”
His cheek twitched. “Look, I don’t know what it is you’re… trying to disappear from. But I know a runner when I see one. Hell I was one. Still am sometimes.” He leaned closer. I could see the golden flecks of the fire, reflected in his eyes. “I’m not trying to pry. Your business is your business. But it’s Christmas. And… I won’t be able to enjoy mine, while you’re up here alone. In this… cabin.”
I almost laughed, “Are you gaslighting me into spending Christmas with you and your family?”
“Gaslighting?” He grinned, “Nah. Just some regular, healthy, emotional blackmail.”
The laughter broke free. “Oh God, you know who you are? You’re that guy from that song!”
“What song?” He asks, his eyes gleaming in amusement.
“You know? Baby it’s cold outside? The song about a woman trying to leave and her date won’t let her.”
“But that guy’s a creep!” He pouted. “You think I’m a creep?”
“You could be, for all I know.” I reply, picking at the threads of my jumper, “I barely know you.”
A smile played upon his lips, “We’d have to fix that.”
He stared at me, the intensity of his gaze, burnt into mine, stronger than the fire crackling next to us.
I wondered what I should do. Luckily I was saved further embarrassment. He broke the spell.
“I should head back.” He said gruffly. Standing up quickly. He wiped his hands on his jeans and nodded. “Yeah… so Christmas Day? I’ll see you at one?”
I opened my mouth to argue but then caught the pleading look, hidden behind the facade. I nodded, “Yeah. Sure.”
He beamed, “Great.” As he backed away, he kept throwing me small glances.
He was nervous. I made him nervous.
Absently, I rubbed my ring finger, still not used to the bare skin. I turned my attention back to the fire.
I think I’m going to like it here.
© By Christina Alagaratnam
*I already love this story so much, I might make it a thing! What do you think? Let me know in the comments!