Sit back, relax and prepare to read her work.
THE CHRISTMAS LETTER
Ugh thought Maggie Rushford as another Christmas Song started over the speakers, filling the cafe where she worked with a cheery melody. She couldn’t wait for this entire holiday to be over.
Sure it was nice being on Holiday Break, even if she had to work but she didn’t mind it too much. It took her mind off other things, namely this holiday. Things were supposed to be chaotic given the season, yet still she felt like she couldn’t escape the telltale hum of Christmas in the air. It was around every corner, extravagantly decorating store windows, even the streets.
There were cheesy romantic Christmas movies on repeat on the television that she thought gave an unrealistic expectation of what one should expect for the season. There was no way she believed that you could realistically fall for someone in the span of a few days. Like where was the logic?. And this whole questioning your entire life choices simply because of Christmas, unlikely.
It was the hardest time of the year for her. All this talk of a family Christmas when her reality was very much different, but she had just packed up those emotions and hid them away. She and her dad had a strained relationship at best. He just wasn’t sure how to deal with a ten-year-oldten year old girl on his own, since there was no other family to rely on, so he and Maggie had been on their own.
She pushed her thoughts aside just as another customer came in allowing herself to get lost in the repetition of making and serving various caffeinated drinks.
* * * *
Travis Callahan stood outside of the cafe and sighed, pushing his hands deeper into the pockets of his jeans. He didn’t know what he was doing there really. The girl at the counter, Maggie, smiled at another customer, but there was no sincerity in her eyes. It was a smile made out of pure politeness. He didn’t know if the person on the receiving end of that smile could tell, but he’d spent enough time observing her to know the difference.
He had been working up the nerve to talk to her since the beginning of the week, but it seemed that he was still working up his way to do so, because here he stood outside the building looking in at her. He turned away from her. He would try some other time.
Three days later Travis was standing in front of her as she looked at him expectantly, waiting on his order. Inhaling deeply he reached out his hand, where he held something that had once belonged to her.
Maggie tentatively took the piece of paper Travis was holding out to her, looking at him through confused eyes. She knew who he was, of course, she had spent lots of time stalking his house—the house that used to be hers—but had never really spoken to him before. She hated that when she passed the familiar structure she saw the signs of a happy home that wasn’t hers anymore and that just made her feel like a jerk.
She shouldn’t have hated people just because they were happy.
“What is this?”
“That’s yours. I found it hidden in my fireplace.”
She unfolded the aged paper to look at the childish handwriting marked in crayon covering the paper. It was hers. Tears rushed to her eyes, goosebumps rising on her skin. She blinked it away, the memory of a scared, lost little girl rushing into her mind. She couldn’t believe that he had found this, she had forgotten how hopeful she was then. A futile effort because all her hoping didn’t help her mom get better. Just a few days after she had written that letter–to God to Santa, she didn’t know– her mother had died.
“Did you read it?” she choked out, the vision of him cloudy.
He looked at her sheepishly, and she had her answer. Embarrassment pinked her cheeks. “I kind of had to, you know to–”
“I don’t need it,” she cut him off, hastily folding back the piece of paper and handing it to him.
“You can throw it away. I don’t need it again; now if that’s all I have to get back to work.”
Travis was stunned. He was sure when he found the letter that it was something that she would have wanted, but it wasn’t. Maybe he had read the situation all wrong and it was a mistake coming here,; but he couldn’t help feeling like she needed the letter.
Carefully he placed it into the pocket of his backpack. She might not have wanted it now, at this moment but, he wasn’t about to throw away something that obviously held some kind of sentiment to her.
He would come back. Maybe after the initial shock of it all faded away she wouldn’t be quite as standoffish.
* * * *
“What are you doing here?” Maggie wanted to know.
“Ordering a coffee,” he answered seriously. She looked at him with a raised eyebrow, sure he came in here all the time but it seemed like every dayeveryday this week he was there, watching her. She didn’t like that she basically had a mini-breakdownmini breakdown in front of the guy. “I’ll have a latte.” He offered her a boxy smile and her lips twitched; she didn’t like this endearing quality about him.
He shook his head and grinned.
Travis watched as she aptly prepared his drink. She was so unreceptive to him that it made him even more determined to get her to talk to him.
* * * *
“Tell me about Maggie.”
Grace Wells was Maggie’s friend, he had spent enough time watching her to know that Grace was one of the few people that Maggie actually smiled for. Not the polite one she gave most people, but a real smile where her eyes got brighter and her cheeks turned rounded like chipmunks.
“Hi Travis, how are you? I’m fine Grace, how are you doing? Well, thanks for asking. I’m doing great. So Travis what can I help you with now that you’ve spoken to me nicely.”
Grace was a bit dramatic, but maybe he deserved that. He didn’t have the greatest start.
“I’m sorry,” he apologised. “I was just–”
“Yeah I get it,” she waved away his explanation. “What about Maggie?”
“That’s just it, I want to know about Maggie.”
“Why?” he didn’t know how to answer her without sounding a little weird. Last week I found a letter that she wrote about her mother dying when she was ten and now I’m curious about her because she has a pretty smile and she won’t give me the time of day, were the only thoughts that entered his mind in answer. “You like her,” she all but shouted at him.
Did he like her? He wasn’t sure. He did know however that he was fascinated by her, but he would let Grace think whatever as long as she helped him.
* * * *
“Come skating with me,” Grace tried again as she wiped down another table. It was nearing the end of the day and she was helping close up before heading home, when Grace had come in trying to convince her. “Please,” she pouted and Maggie couldn’t help but smile. She looked so baby with that expression.
“I’m tired Grace, I just want to go home.”
“Two hours tops. An hour and then I promise that I will get you home.”
“You should go,” came a voice from behind them and both girls turned. “If my legs were still good I’d be down there right now.”
Harley Kane was the owner of the Cafe and acted like he was seventy-three and change when he had only just cracked thirty. He was one of those generally nice people that Maggie counted as her friend as well as boss–even though he never really acted like a boss but more like an older brother.
“And what exactly is wrong with your legs?” she wanted to know. He had a habit of going on a ‘When I was your age’ sermon often, especially if he and Grace were trying to get her to do something outside of school and work, like now.
He shrugged and grinned impishly. “None of your business. Now go skating and stop acting like you’re going to be retiring tomorrow.”
* * * *
Maggie looked at the face of the boy who had been visiting her often for the last week and turned to scowl at Grace. She had begun regretting her decision to come with her now.
“You little traitor.”
Grace just shrugged. “Well traitor to you, and ally to Travis. I like him more than you anyway.”
“Funny,” Maggie deadpanned.
“Come on,” she cajoled taking her arm and pulling her towards the group. “Give the guy a chance. He’s not so bad.”
She didn’t think that he was, even if that may have been the impression that she gave. He had just seen her at her most vulnerable and she didn’t like that. She didn’t like feeling like he actually saw her. Not the part of her she showed on the outside, but that bruised person on the inside of her that she tried so very hard to hide.
Still, she tried not to be rude and get along with him, for Grace’s sake.
Okay, so she had to admit he was actually fun to be around and two hours into their little skating adventure, she had ended up having a nice time. Now though the tiredness of a full shift was finally catching up to her and she had begun to feel tired. Even the atmosphere of fun and energy was making her feel tired.
“Hey Grace,” she alerted quietly after stifling a yawn. “I’m gonna take off.”
“Are you sure?” Maggie nodded and Grace yelled from where they stood. “Hey, Travis! Can you take Maggie home?”
“Sure!” he answered maybe a little too quickly, but Maggie didn’t protest too much. It was easier to just go with it.
* * * *
They were walking along the street together in cordial silence when Travis offered to buy her a cup of hot chocolate. She wanted to refuse but she didn’t feel like passing up an opportunity for free hot chocolate so she agreed. He went inside while she waited outside before coming out with two cups.
“You feel sorry for me?” she wondered as they continued walking.
He shrugged and inhaled the crisp air. He didn’t think it made sense denying it. It was how he felt anyway. “Yes.”
Out of the corners of his eyes, he saw her frown and a smile tilted on his lips. Maggie was one of the most expressive people that he had ever known and he wasn’t sure if she knew this but she was just so damn endearing.
“I’m not going to deny it just because you don’t like the way it sounds. I do feel sorry, not to you, but rather your situation.”
“Isn’t that the same thing?”
“Not really. I have no reason to feel sorry for you. You are strong and capable and getting by despite everything. What I feel sorry about is the ten-year-oldten year old you who just lost her mother and was so scared about what her life would be like then. That’s not the you now.”
Maggie stared ahead for a long while not sure what to say about the way he had just put things. Travis had an eloquence when he spoke that if he told you the earth was flat he could make you believe it simply because of the way he spoke about it. She wasn’t sure that was all good, but in this moment it made her heart feel warm.
“At least you’re honest Travis Callahan,” she said quietly, their conversation dying down with a quiet wind.
* * * *
After that night they had spent much more time together and she realized this entire thing was his attempt to show Maggie a great Christmas. He had decided at some point in all the moments that they had spent together that he was going to show her how to enjoy Christmas. She wasn’t totally against the idea of Christmas, it was just that she didn’t understand the fuss of it.
He had learned that after her mom died she and her dad never really did anything that could be called family activities. All they really did was buy each other a few presents. Travis was a little appalled to know that they never really felt the need to even get a Christmas Tree.
Christmas without a tree was like going outside in the snow without pants in his opinion.
* * * *
Maggie was standing in the middle of a Christmas Tree lot with Grace as she browsed through the various sizes. Maggie shuffled on her feet and sighed. She had ambushed her yet again and dragged her here.
“What are we doing here Grace?”
Her head popped out from behind one of those trees, her cheeky grin in place. She had been suspicious since she announced that they were going to the tree lot. She figured that this was something that someone would want to do with their family. Her suspicions were proven right when she heard Travis’ voice inquiring behind her.
She turned with a smile on her face. Grace and her not so subtle attempts at matchmaking. She wasn’t angry per sesay it was just that the possibility of anything happening between her and Travis were unlikely and frankly frightening to even think about.
“I’m here with Grace. She wanted a tree.”
He nodded and his gaze found the other girl. He gave her a wave and wanted to know if they would like to join them. Grace was quick to say yes and Maggie just looked at her friend, not all that surprised. If Grace wasn’t so nice, her pushy nature could make her a little unlikable. .
Travis’ mom was nice and Maggie could see the resemblance; to say that she was pretty was an understatement. Both mother and son shared the same dark hair and eyes. After spending almost a half hour with them she left with a smile on her face and an invitation to their house for dinner the following day.
She had agreed politely but had considered changing her mind nearly fifty times during the night, but she decided that she had been overthinking things. It wasn’t more than what it seemed, which was just a dinner invitation.
* * * *
“I should warn you before we go in there that my family can be a little loud,” he sounded nervous and her smile widened. He was standing with his body angled towards her, his hand on the doorknob.
“I can handle loud Travis. I work in a busy cafe.”
“Right. Right,” he cleared his throat and pushed open the door and sure enough, a loud scream punctuated his earlier confession of his family being loud.
“You stole my cookie,” cried a little boy no older than maybe four. “I’m telling mom.”
He then proceeded to run out the room with another boy maybe older by two or three years following behind him into what she assumed was the kitchen where she heard him start with. “Mom before you say anything just listen…”
Travis guided her over to where an elderly woman sat in an armchair humming a melody and playing Candy Crush on a phone.
“Hey Nana,” Travis bent and kissed the older woman’s cheek “this is my friend Maggie.”
The older woman studied her and she shifted uncomfortably, She wanted his family to like her.
“Just a friend?” the older woman asked. Travis blushed and Maggie followed. She smacked his shoulder. “Why would you go and put yourself in the friend-zone with a pretty girl like that for.”
“The friend-zone Nana, really?”
She grinned like a child. “What just because I’m old doesn’t mean that I don’t understand whatit when you kids are talking about.”
The colour drained from Travis’ face and an uncomfortable look took over his features. “That is a scary thought.”
It was loud. They were a rambunctious bunch but she enjoyed their company. She missed this she realized. She had managed to convince herself that she was happy with the way that things were, but she had just forgotten. Forgotten what it was like to have this kind of love.
Travis bumped his shoulder into hers. “Are you okay?”
She smiled up at him, his warm brown eyes softened. She knew for sure that she liked the way that he looked at her. His gaze was focused on just her making it seem like she was the most important person atin that moment.
* * * *
The tree lightinglightning was a happy occasion, at least so she had heard, frequently, from Grace who since she had drunkdrank a hot chocolate fifteen minutes ago hadn’t shut up. She looked around at the crowd of people looking for one in particular. She was uneasy about how much she had grown accustomed to him in such a short period of time.
She didn’t like it, but at the same time she felt like she needed the connection she had with him. It was a comfortable feeling that made her smile. She didn’t think that she needed it, but rather she wanted the feeling that she got when she was with him.
“Hey,” he greeted bumping his shoulder with hers, giving a small two-finger salute to Grace.
“Hi,” she smiled , her entire body warming at the sight of him. “Where’s your family?”
“Mom and my aunt took the terrors closer and the rest of them are somewhere around.” The terrors she had learned were his little cousins who just loved to fight with each other. She heard the fondness in his voice and it made her just a little jealous. “Come take a walk with me?”
Maggie turned to Grace to ask if that was okay. She did come here with her after all but she was given an all clear before she even asked.
“It’s really pretty tonight,” she commented after a while, but Travis wasn’t even listening to her. She stopped and turned to him. “Is everything ok?”
“No,” he replied bluntly. Maggie was taken aback by his answer, but before she could ask why he caught her face between his hands and kissed her.
He kissed her!
His lips were warm and soft and he tasted like marshmallows. She wasn’t sure why but that combination made her cling to him. There was warmth exploding in her chest along with so many emotions she thought it would burst through her chest and shower him in a rainbow of her feelings.
He pulled away and Maggie looked up at him through wide eyes. This wasn’t supposed to happen, she thought.
“Why did you do that?” She wondered, touching her lips.
“What?” He was confused. “I thought that we were both–”
“No, this thing between us–it’s not–we’re just friends.”
She turned and walked away leaving him looking stunned behind her. He had ruined absolutely everything. Why would he do something like that? Sure even she had thought about what it would be like to be more than just friends with him, but that didn’t mean that she was going to do anything about it. Right? Given the opportunity, she wouldn’t have ruined things between them.
She felt even more confused now and she blamed him for it. It was his fault that she was thinking all this craziness.
* * * *
“Hi,” greeted Travis as he stood outside her door and her heart clenched.
She shouldn’t like the guy so much already. She hadn’t spoken to him in two days? and since today was Christmas she didn’t think that he would have that much time to be making house visits. She had completely ignored all his attempts at contacting her, and after a while she had begun thinking that most of her feelings were brought on by Christmas, but now with him standing in frontfornt of her, she knew it was a lie.
“I know you probably don’t want to talk to me right now, but I got you something.” She would have thought that it was the other way around actually. She freaked out when he kissed her, completely ghosted him and acted like a child with her feelings.
“You didn’t have to do that.”
“I know, I did it anyway. I guess I just wanted you to know I figured it out.”
Now she was confused. “Figured what out?”
“Why. Why I was doing all of this.”
“And what was the answer?”
“It’s because I like you, because I like your smile and your eyes and the way I feel when I’m with you.”
He stepped closer and pressed his lips to her cheek. It was a chaste kiss that made her eyes burn. He really was too sweet for his own good. “Merry Christmas Maggie.”
Closing the door she carefully peeled away the wrapping to open the box where he’d placed her letter and a beautiful gold necklace. She couldn’t stop her tears then and she remained there sitting on the couch crying because she was sad and hurt and disappointed in herself. That was where she remained until her father found her.
His concerned eyes scanned her looking for signs that she was hurt.
“Mags is everything alright?”
She raised her eyes to meet him. “Do you miss mom?”
Her father sat down beside her and his warm scent enveloped her in warmth that she felt like crying all over again. “Of course I do sweetheart. I miss her every single day.”
“Why don’t we ever talk about her? Christmas was her favourite time and since she died.”
He took her in his arms and the tears that she had been holding back.
“I know. I thought you didn’t want to because you were so young and I guess I never brought it up because it hurt so much.”
He took her face in his hands and looked into her eyes promising her. “From now on we’ll make sure and celebrate everything the way your mom would have ok.”
* * * *
She needed to fix things with Travis. She liked him enough that she needed him to know that nothing he did made her run away like that. She blamed him because it was easier than actually facing that she liked him as more than just a friend.
So now here she was standing outside of his house waiting for someone to answer the door while she had an internal meltdown. He was smiling when he opened the door, but that evaporated as soon as he saw her.
“Hi,” she started nervously. What was she even doing here?. She didn’t think that she had the right to even talk to him. Not with the way that she had treated him before.
“What are you doing here Maggie?”
“I just wanted to come by and say thank you. For the necklace it’s beautiful,” her fingers found the item hanging around her neck. “And for keeping my letter. My dad and I had a real conversation because of it. And I figured out why I freaked out when you kissed me at the tree lighting. I guess you could say I like you too and that was very scary for me to even think about let alone admit.”
“You had quite some revelations.”
She nodded, but he still hadn’t said anything and figured that was his way of telling her thanks but no thanks. She took a step back but he grabbed her hand. Maggie looked at him as he pulled her closer to him and kissed her again, this time she sank into the delicious taste of him, her body melting into his touch.
“Well, are you going to invite the girl inside or let her freeze to death outside?.”
Maggie laughed as Travis pulled away, his face showing surprise and embarrassment. Nana really was a riot and that just endeared her more to him. And for the first time in a very long time, she didn’t hate the idea of Christmas.
So maybe there was magic in the season and your life could change in the matter of a few days if the right kind of magic found you. The magic of love and the sweetness of the memories that you cherished when you were a child.; if only you let yourself hold onto that feeling of wonder and never lose what the true meaning of Christmas really is–the happiness of family.
I hope you enjoyed this tale. Thank you for reading.
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