Monday 18 December 2017

Coming Home for Christmas - A Christmas Short Story

Coming Home for Christmas 

‘I’ll be there.’
‘Are you sure? I don’t want…’
‘Shush, I said I will be there. See you soon. I love you.’

Maxi placed her phone in her bag and looked out of the window. It was Christmas Eve, the sun was setting and the sky had assumed a beautiful pink tinge, looking serene. Her eyes traced a couple of flakes of snow as they settled on the sill in front of her. It was going to be a long journey and the forecast was not looking good. Still, she had promised. At the last minute she tossed a cosy blanket into the boot of her car and picked up the flask of coffee that was waiting on the side. She pulled her faux fur lined boots over her tights and zipped her padded coat all the way up to her chin. As she locked her front door her neighbour was pulling into their drive and gave a cheery wave. Maxi smiled and returned the wave before slipping into her car, shutting the door behind her.

Twenty minutes later she was happily trundling along in her little car, the roads were slowly getting quieter as people were reaching their destination, but the snow was appearing to get heavier and cars were driving slower, in keeping with the weather conditions. Within what felt like seconds, Maxi hit a blizzard, how quickly the weather had changed. She just needed to make it up the steep hill but the cars in front had come to a standstill and nothing appeared to be coming in the opposite direction. In frustration, she struck her steering wheel. 
‘Come on!’
She checked the time on the car’s display, she had just fifteen minutes to get to the station, park her car and make it onto the platform. Becoming aware of some movement at the top of the hill, she watched as a car inched its way down, she looked on as the face in the window was one of sheer terror, she could see tears falling down the face as the woman struggled to keep control of her car. Maxi watched helplessly as the car disappeared down the hill, she crossed her fingers tightly, hoping the woman made it safely to her destination. Finally the cars were on the move, the one immediately in front, however, remained rooted to the spot, its wheels spinning furiously. Maxi pondered what to do, she had to keep moving. Could she attempt to drive around the car? She had no choice but to at least try. She steered slowly and pressed down on the pedal but now her wheels were spinning too, damn the car in front. If only she hadn’t attempted to go around.

Maxi tried again and again but each time her wheels just spun, incapable of gripping the road surface. After a few times a nasty odour permeated her car, she wondered what damage she had done to her clutch. She gave the pedal one final push and to her delight and surprise a miracle occurred, her wheels stuck to the road allowing her to overtake the car blocking her path. She was back on her way, it was going to be tight but she could do this. She drove slowly and steadily. Thankfully the rest of the route was on flat ground and things were at least moving. As she passed the bus station, she could see that the buses were stacked up, neither able to leave or enter the station.
‘Oh no please, I am so close!’ Maxi willed the bus in front to turn in, leaving her way clear, it didn’t, instead it pulled in to the bus stop to the side allowing her to overtake.
‘Okay, I am almost there,’ she muttered to no one in particular as she grabbed the first available parking space.
 Grateful for her super sensible, warm, snow boots, she confidently made her way across the carpark. Smiling to herself she pulled along her overnight bag behind her and climbed the stairs. Listening carefully as she went to the announcement that was being made.
‘We regret to inform you that all trains at this station have been cancelled until further notice. We apologise for the inconvenience.’
‘What? No. This can’t be happening.’ 
Maxi ran down the steps back to the ticket hall. A staff member was fielding enquiries but he seemed to have no answers, as far as he was informed no trains were running in the near vicinity. The weather to blame. 

There was only one thing for it, she would have to make the journey by car. As she retraced her steps across the carpark, the icy, arctic like wind bit the tip of her nose, her fingers fast draining of feeling. The snow was coming down thick and fast now, she would have to hurry before the roads got clogged. Maxi wiped off the snow that had already left a thick layer on her windscreen and repeated the exercise on her windows. As she was about to turn on the engine, she heard a tap on her window. Jumping up in surprise she saw a friendly face peering through the window at her. It was Tom, her neighbour.
‘You won’t be going anywhere in this. Can I offer you a lift anywhere?’
 ‘Tom, what are you doing here?’
‘Happens every time, the snow comes down catching people by surprise. Trains are always cancelled, delayed, whatever. Seeing as I have got the truck, I came down here to see if I could lend a helping hand.’
 ‘A knight in shining armour, huh?’
He grinned and for the first time Maxi noticed his perfect, white teeth. 
‘Something like that. So where are you off to?’
‘Oh no, it’s fine. I am going away for a few days. I just need to find another train to get.’ Maxi started tapping into her search engine optimistically. ‘Why don’t you go and see if anyone else needs some help?’
 ‘The way things are out there, you won’t be going very far. Trust me. Where do you need to get to? Let me help. Please?’
Maxi frowned as she looked at her phone, Tom was right. Her plan to head to another train station was thwarted. There really were no trains listed. She sighed, admitting defeat.
‘Well, I really need to get to BlinkstonVillage, but I guess you won’t want to drive there.’
 ‘Ooh it’s nice down there. Really nice. But what’s the urgency? Why don’t you wait until tomorrow when things have cleared?’
Maxi was feeling a bit annoyed by Tom’s constant questioning. What was it to him?
‘Look don’t worry. I’ll find a way.’ 
She turned the key. It might take her all night, but she would make it. But her car refused to start, its pathetic moans and groans complaining of the cold. 
‘Hey, little miss mysterious. I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it.’ He opened her car door, offering his hand.‘Come on, let’s get going. And if the weather improves I can always drop you off at a station. How does that sound?’
Maxi noticed that the snow had already covered her windscreen again, she didn’t really have any other option, Tom was being exceptionally kind under the circumstances.
‘Okay,’ she relented.
 Making herself comfortable in Tom’s SUV, Maxi had to admit it was a much better option than struggling through the snow in her small, old heap of a car. They seemed to ease through the roads with very little effort. He switched the radio on and to her delight it was a station playing Country music. She was itching to sing along but feeling embarrassed she tapped her thigh instead. Tom glanced at her, he had noticed she seemed to like this music. He wondered if she liked it as much as him.
‘You like Country and Western?’
 Maxi nodded. ‘Mmm yes very much so.’
‘You should come see my band. We play Thursday nights at OutbackWest.'
'I didn't know you were in a band?' 
Tom smiled.
 'Guess there is a lot you don't know about me.' 
Maxi returned the smile before turning and looking straight in the direction they were heading. She didn't want to appear rude so felt she owed an explanation.
'I get terribly carsick as a passenger.'  
 Maxi was a little alarmed at the sights as they made their way out of the town and onto the motorway. She had never seen so many abandoned cars, admittedly, she would normally refuse to drive if the weather was too bad, but it was still quite a shock.

Once they were on the motorway, conditions were a lot better, with the traffic flowing. Every so often Maxi, battling against her car sickness, forced herself to look down at her phone, checking to see if the trains had begun to run again. But it seemed like they had called it a night as nothing was showing.
'At this rate we will make up any time lost, we will be there in no time.' Tom said brightly.
He tossed his floppy, sandy coloured hair away from his deep brown eyes in one adept flick.

Maxi felt a little pang of regret in the pit of her stomach, she was rather enjoying this little adventure with Tom. Chatting away they had already learnt so much about each other. It was true, time really did fly when you were having fun. And he was so handsome, with his well defined chin and chiselled cheekbones, how had she never noticed this before?

Maxi took a long sip of her hot coffee before offering it to Tom, who gratefully accepted. The three hour drive felt much shorter as they shared the coffee and tore open a packet of chocolate biscuits. At times she could feel herself drifting off from the warmth of the SUV and she snuggled into her blanket. A couple of times she allowed herself to succumb to sleep, other times she jerked awake, conscious she had to tell Tom the way.

As they hit Blinkston Village, the snow was still falling but melting as it landed, the roads were pretty clear with no sign of any traffic problems. Tom glanced over at Maxi, as she turned to meet his gaze, her glossy black, poker straight, fringe moved just enough to reveal stunning, crystal blue eyes. Her high cheekbones were flushed with a soft peachy pink shade as if they had just been pinched and her rosebud lips fell into a natural, pretty pout.

Tom too felt sad that he would shortly be dropping Maxi off at her destination. He had long admired her from afar but had never had the courage to say more than just a hello or goodbye. He glanced up at the sky and thanked god that the heavens had been kind to him tonight. The snow had provided him with the perfect opportunity to spend time with her and now he didn't want the evening to end.
'If you turn left, it's the first house on the right.' 
 'Are you going to tell me who you are here to see?' Tom chuckled as the car came to a stop outside a chocolate box house. 'Or is it still a secret?' 
 'It's a secret!' Maxi replied as she jumped out of the car, heading to the boot to pick up her bag. 
 Tom flew out after her and took her by the hand, making Maxi's stomach leap with butterflies.
'Maxi, I don't want this to be goodbye. Come knock for me when you get back.' He leant in and kissed her softly on the lips, before stepping back again. 
Tom's stomach was in knots too, he hoped he had read the signals correctly. Maxi pressed her lips together and breathed in deeply and smiled. She reached forward and gave him a hug, sending electricity shooting through them both.
'Thank you Tom, I really appreciate this. I hope you have a safe and quick journey home' 
'It was my pleasure. Merry Christmas Maxi.' Tom spoke softly and tenderly.
'Merry Christmas Tom.' Maxi whispered back.
She watched as he got back into the SUV before turning the key and entering the house. Before she closed the door, Maxi watched as Tom drove off into the distance, back to his home.

Maxi spotted a light at the back of the house and made her way there, a figure was sitting in a rocking chair hunched over the log fire, the sound of clicking knitting needles echoed around the room. The heart shaped, lined face turned to her, with the happiest of smiles.
'Maxi, you made it. And in this weather! I told you to stay home darling. I would have been okay.'
 'I don't break my promises Nan, and I wouldn't miss seeing you for the world. Merry Christmas!' 


*If you enjoyed this short story you may like to check out my new novel 'Without A Hitch' A modern romantic comedy about 3 brides united in their quest for the perfect wedding. It is available to buy now on Amazon as an ebook or paperback. 


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