Home > A Christmas Rescue

A Christmas Rescue
Author: Diane Michaels

CHAPTER 1

 

 

The icy tingle from a snowflake landing on my nose makes today perfect. Who cares that I’m standing in the Kroger’s parking lot at nine-fifteen on Thanksgiving morning? Life is perfect. The gentle snow flurry puts the cherry on the sundae, the star on the Christmas tree. It’s the beginning of the holiday season, and I’m spending it at home with my family.

“What is this, a re-enactment of the song, Christmas Wrapping?” My best friend Jojo wheels a shopping cart toward me. “Did you forget cranberries, too?”

See? I knew today was perfect!

I squeal, engulfing her in a tight hug. “I love running into you at the supermarket! Yes, we were apart for less than a year and I’ve been home for over four months, but having bonus visits is still such a treat. Have I told you how happy I am to be back in Frankenmuth?”

“Um, pretty much every day since you came home in July. But I’m not tired of hearing it yet. Or having bonus visits with you when I’m running errands. What’s on your shopping list?”

“We didn’t buy enough sweet potatoes. I’m sure I’ll receive no fewer than three texts from my mom with additional items while I’m in the store, though. It’s part of the family tradition. My cart may be as full as yours before I make it to the register.”

Jojo spreads her hands across the three bulging bags in her cart. “I came here only for seltzer if you can believe it.”

“Your mom texted you last-minute suggestions?”

“She asked me to pick up an extra hunk of cheese. I may have experienced a moment or two of inspiration while walking through the aisles.” Her sheepish grin is just for show. Something would be seriously wrong if she were to follow a shopping list.

Ever since kindergarten, Jojo and I have stuck to each other like macaroni and glitter glued to a paper plate, literally and figuratively. There was a glitter incident during crafts. But how could my neatness-obsessed, five-year-old self not fall in love with a girl covered head-to-toe in green glitter? She resembled one of Santa’s elves.

She shakes my shoulders, her eyes widening. “Are you nervous?”

Twenty-three years of friendship allows us to talk in shorthand and to change topics on a dime without giving the other a case of whiplash. As we proved last year, we can communicate without words even when we’re in different states. “Kind of. Brett has celebrated holidays at my parents’ house before. But we’re both back in Michigan, and since rekindling our relationship in January, things are great between us. I believe a proposal could come at any time.”

“After eight years together, definitely. So what if you took a couple of them off? Getting back together at this point in your lives could only mean you are finally prepared to take things the distance.”

I nod. “And if he’s going to propose, I need to be ready—but not ready ready. I still want him to surprise me.”

“He should propose at the Candlewalk tomorrow. I have the perfect plan. He could hand you a candle, but instead of lighting it for you, he can slide a ring around it.”

I cock my head, a swoony smile plastered across my cheeks. “With everyone singing O Tannenbaum in the background!” I stamp my foot. “No. I’ve promised myself I won’t imagine the specific details.”

She nods. “You’ll be more surprised if you don’t. Has he found an apartment?”

“Not yet, but he talked about apartment hunting over the weekend. We can’t take the next step with both of us living with our parents, can we?” My phone buzzes. “Probably my mother. I’d better keep moving. Do you want to meet at the Candlewalk? If I don’t already have a sparkly piece of new jewelry to flaunt to you, perhaps you’ll witness the proposal.”

It’s her turn to squeal. “Count me in! I’ll have my phone poised to capture it. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!”

“The same to you and yours!”

I check my phone en route to the grocery store to see what else my mom wants me to buy. The text isn't from her.

 

 

Brett: I have a lead on an apartment. I’ll fill you in later. And oh, I won’t make it to dinner today. Sorry. Have to eat with the folks.

 

 

❅ ❅ ❅

 

 

I refuse to allow Brett’s cancellation to infect the festive spirit in my home. Besides, I’d be the most selfish person in Michigan if I were to hog him all for myself three weeks after he moved home following a six-year stint in New York City. His parents have missed him, too.

My parents welcomed me home like a conquering hero a few months ago, so I understand. Not that I deserved their welcome after a single year of teaching high school German in a suburb of Cincinnati defeated me. But despite wanting to raise independent children, my family secretly hoped none of the flock would stray too far from home.

Our house is two blocks away from my mother’s brother’s home, which is next door to their parents. We are in each other’s faces daily. Yet when the entire Stein clan gathers at our house every Thanksgiving, we greet each other like we’ve been apart for decades. And we’ll do the same on Sunday at the annual family Christmas tree decorating party at my grandparents’.

“Hannah, is that you?” my mother calls from the kitchen.

“Yup! Armed with sweet potatoes and a box of Ritz Crackers.”

She wipes the back of her wrist against her brow. “I can’t believe I forgot the crackers. You can’t make a mock apple pie without them.”

“I couldn’t believe you forgot them, either. Glad you caught me while I was still at the store.”

“Your dad wouldn’t forgive me for forgetting to make his favorite pie.”

“Can’t have that.”

“No, indeed. I remember the first Thanksgiving we celebrated together.”

Since my father is from Australia, he regarded our foods and traditions with a sense of wonder at first. But when my mother served the mock apple pie, his sense of humor took over. If eating a pie with apples in its name but not in its filling wasn’t enough for him, he took the word mock to heart and absolutely berated the poor pie, laughing with each insult he hurled at it. He has since turned pie mocking into a Thanksgiving ritual.

“I can’t wait to hear what he has to say to your dessert this year. Speaking of which, what’s the schedule for today?”

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