This is Written Fireside: Christmas By The Fire.
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And here is my short story with Georgia Beyers' winning first paragraph...
And here is my short story with Georgia Beyers' winning first paragraph...
Naughty But Nice by Teresa F Morgan
Charlotte sat at the bus stop wondering whether she would make the naughty or nice list this year. Last year she had rescued a stray kitten and therefore considered herself most definitely ‘nice’. This year she had broken Daniel’s heart into a million tiny pieces, so ‘naughty’ seemed to be the only answer. There’d be no Santa Claus coming down her chimney anytime soon.
Well, she had a few more days to fix things before Christmas Eve.
Not with Daniel, of course. He so wasn’t right for her.
He can’t have been that devastated either. Molly reported seeing him hanging out with Daisy a week later.
Pfft. Daisy and Daniel.
That’ll never last. Their names together sound so mushy.
Now who’s getting nasty? Santa doesn’t condone nastiness. He’ll tolerate naughty... And jealousy was never your style, Charlotte Templeton. Good luck to Daisy and Daniel.
See, she could do nice.
Maybe sensitive, meek, Daisy will endure Daniel’s sulks.
There you go again, getting nasty.
Maybe he was just that way with her. Charlotte had grown tired of the selfish tantrums if he didn’t get his way, to the point they had started to make her miserable. A relationship was supposed to come easily, happiness was not meant to be a challenge. They were two different species. Compared to the happy, spritely Charlotte, Daniel carried the traits of a demon.
Charlotte tugged up her scarf to cover her nose, then stuffing her gloved hands into the pockets of her wool coat, convinced herself, not for the first time, that she’d made the right decision. Daniel may well have said he loved her, he may have acted really hurt, but he’d never truly shown her his feelings. It had only been words. Charlotte wanted the little gestures; creeping up and giving cuddles from behind, soft kisses on her neck, all those little surprises. He’d not once bought her a bouquet of flowers. You’d have thought she’d been asking for all the toys at Christmas. It had been three months of Charlotte making the effort before she realised she’d been the one working the hardest toward the relationship. As fast as it started, it was over.
“You’re better off on your own,” she mumbled aloud to herself. “Now where is this damn bus?” Probably Santa’s way of punishing her.
She didn’t really want to go to the party. There was a good chance Daniel and Daisy would be there. Molly promised it would be fun, and she should come. She’d thought about driving, but the weather had been atrocious lately, and due to get icy later, plus she could do with some mulled wine to warm her heart. Because apparently, according to Daniel, it was cold.
She fumbled for her phone in her small handbag which was just about big enough to carry the evening’s essentials, pulling the glove off her right hand with her teeth, and dialled the taxi rank’s number – again. It still had an engaged tone. This time of year they were ultra busy. She hoped she’d manage on the bus okay as she was wearing her favourite shoes. Not designed for practicality but for stun factor. They shimmered like stars and added four inches to her average height.
The distinct rumble of a bus coming along the road made Charlotte end the call with the taxi rank and put her phone away, while other hand waved to get the bus to stop.
As the bus halted, lowering to the curb, Charlotte got her purse ready.
“To town, please,” she said, the heat inside the bus hitting her cold face.
“No, a single, please.” Single like me, she nearly added. “The time I’m planning to come home the buses won’t be running.” She chuckled nervously. How bad did that sound? Definitely staying on the naughty list at this rate. “I don’t mean it like that.” Charlotte blushed.
“I know what you mean, twinkle.” The bus driver – old enough to be her dad – winked as he took her money. “Eleven is way too early to come home on a Saturday night, especially this time of year.”
Charlotte settled into her seat as the bus pulled away. And so she didn’t have to make eye contact with any of the passengers, conscious she was over dressed for a bus ride, she text Molly to confirm she was on her way. She was having a hard time breaking her habit of tucking the curled tendrils behind her ear, not used to her auburn hair up in a chignon. Later she wouldn’t care what her hair looked like but, for now, it needed to look its best – at least upon entrance to the party.
“Wow, did you just get off a bus outside the club?” Molly said, thrusting a glass in Charlotte’s hand as soon as she came through the door. Steam rose from the light brown liquid and smelled of spice.
“As if by magic, the driver took one look at my shoes and took pity on me. He insisted the club was en-route, so he’d let me get off outside.” Charlotte sipped the drink and frowned. “What’s this?” It wasn’t mulled wine that Charlotte craved, but it was warm.
“Mulled cider. I decided to have a change this year. Plus if you spill this down your dress it won’t stain so bad.” Molly patted her gently, and all too knowingly.
“That wasn’t me last year. Some witch barged past me and made me drop my glass.”
“Now, now. We’re all his little helpers.”
Charlotte took a sip and nodded her appreciation. “Okay, this is as good, actually. I’m impressed.”
“Good. Now ditch your coat in the cloakroom and get mingling.”
“Molly, I’m early, there’s hardly anyone here.”
“I want you to help meet and greet – I can’t do it all. But remember, you and I have a date with the dance floor later.”
Molly’s birthday was unfortunately Christmas Day, and so, ever since Charlotte had known her, Molly had always liked to celebrate her birthday earlier. And because she was chief party organiser for the factory, she tended to tie the two in together. It usually worked out to be a great party, although this year Charlotte wasn’t so sure, as she spied Daniel and Daisy entering together, all laughing and loved up. Shame Daisy’s hair made her look like she’d been dragged through a Christmas tree backwards.
Nice, Charlotte. Be nice. It is rather windy outside.
All the same, she’d let Molly say hello to them. Leaning against the bar, Charlotte knocked back the last of her drink. She turned to get the attention of the barman, and elbowed a man already standing at the bar.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said.
“It’s okay, I was hoping to bump into you tonight.”
“Well, technically, I bumped you.”
“True. Can I buy you a drink?” He had a smooth, deep voice that sent warmth to her bones. Or was that the mulled cider? Charlotte stared, examining his dark brown eyes, the shape of his handsome face. He cheekily smiled, breaking the spell. “I saw you standing all on your lonesome and thought I couldn’t have that. Your shoes are quite a distraction.”
“Just my shoes?”
He chuckled, shaking his head. “Okay, not just the shoes. They caught my attention, and I liked who was wearing them. My name’s Lewis by the way.”
She grinned, and blushed. “I’m Charlotte. And yes, you can buy me a drink. I would like that very much.” Even in her sparkly heels, she still had to look up to study his gorgeous face. “I don’t recognise you, where do you work?”
“I work in the electronics department.”
Charlotte shot a glance at his clasped hands where he leaned against the bar. He had large, strong looking hands, and she wondered how he managed to work on the intricate details of electronics... all that fiddly stuff... then imagined what they could do to her. She swallowed. “Lots of people work in your department though, it’s no wonder I haven’t spotted you. It’s such a growing department.”
“I notice you every day.”
“You do?” Charlotte’s belly filled with butterflies. “But I’m not always wearing these shoes.” She giggled nervously. Usually she wore her favourite black, flat, and very comfortable shoes – nothing noticeable about them. “And I’m way down the office, in the dolls department. Sadly, our department is shrinking.”
“Yeah, kids today, hey?” Lewis gave another cheeky grin.
“They’re growing up too fast, these days wanting electrical gadgets. Gone are the days of wooden trains and plastic dolls with real tears.”
“There’s still a need for them,” Lewis said.
“Yes, but not for long. Children seem to grow out of these toys quicker.” She sighed. At least children under six still wanted toys.
Totally forgetting her duties to help Molly with the socialising, Charlotte got lost in conversation with Lewis, and they slowly got to know one another. Every now and then she’d have to ask him to repeat what he said, because she’d been too busy looking at his delectable mouth, and not really concentrating on what he was saying. As the venue got busier, they were pushed closer together. She could smell the scent of his cologne; feel his breath on her neck as he talked close to her ear, sending goose bumps over her shoulders and down her arms. Every time he touched her, it wasn’t only her shoes that sparkled. How had she not noticed this stunning man before?
“Shall we move to somewhere quieter?” Lewis asked, picking up both their glasses off the bar. “There’s a table free over there.”
A tall table stood close to the dance floor. He put the glasses down, and pulled round a solitary high stool for Charlotte to sit at. She gratefully took the seat, resting her feet on the foot bar. Her shoes maybe good to look at but there was only so long she could stand in them.
“Oh, look, we’re under the mistletoe,” Lewis said with a devious smile. He leaned in and kissed her, gently at first, then, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, their mouths opened, deepening the kiss.
Charlotte wasn’t getting off Santa’s naughty list at this rate, but by Lapland, it was nice.
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