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 Under the Tree - A Christmas Challenge Short (1600 words) aka The Gift.

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Cal

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Join date : 2016-10-21

PostSubject: Under the Tree - A Christmas Challenge Short (1600 words) aka The Gift.   Sat Feb 18, 2017 12:16 pm

---oooOOOooo---

Under the Tree
by Cal

---oooOOOooo---

She sat with her back to the tree.  She allowed herself a small tight smile.  She’d beaten him to it.  She was late herself, seemed he was later.  He did have the limp and the stick.  That didn’t help him get around too quick, she supposed.  She’d forgive him.  Who was she kidding, she’d forgive him anything. 

She sighed out her anxiety.  So much humanity in one place was unnerving.  How did this many people even exist, let alone descend on this city square on a cold December evening.  All around her people hustled.  They hustled so much, their bustle could barely keep up.  They had broad optimistic smiles on their faces, and looked like they were rushing to launch themselves into the next century, like they couldn’t wait for this one to be over.  She wanted to hang on to every second given to her.  Savour every passing heartbeat. 

She’d never been so happy.

Behind her, the tree was lit and dressed with every bright confection that could be crammed onto its branches.  It soared into the indigo sky, topped by a beatific angel.  The angel smiled at the crowds below. It glowed a little brighter at the sight of a tall, limping Adonis, apologising his way through the crowd, with a touch to his hat for every passing lady.

She looked at the boxes of delight piled at her feet.  Her feet.  She wriggled her toes in the tight shoes, and dreamed of stretching them into warm earth.  Bliss.  Would he understand the gift?  It had been expensive and probably had cost them the price of a meal or two.  He valued food.  Would he think her foolish? She glanced into the bag and the gift smiled back at her.  

No, he’d see it.

The crowd parted just a little, and he got a glance of her.  His heart leapt and tears sprang to his eyes.  He blinked hard and smiled, touching his hat as he ‘Merry Christmas-ed’ the nearest passing family.  His hurt and his emotions were too close to the surface still.  If he took his eye off them for a second, they would flood forward and drown him.  

He swallowed them down.

He filled his heart with the sight of her.  He felt guilty to be this happy, but joy too, was welling deep within him.  The combination of secret grief and present joy, was a cocktail for confusion.  He let himself only exist in the moment.  The turn of the century, the beginning of a new era, the cusp of a great future, these things were nothing to him.  She was everything now.

She looked up and there he was.

“You’re late.” 

He stood in front of her and smiled, drinking her in.

“What?”

A small adorable crease appeared above her nose.

“Oh …just lookin’.  Don’t get to see an angel …under the tree too often …I can look, can’t I?”

He folded himself onto the bench at her side and looked back at the crowds.  Neither of them were crowd people, but there was a reassuring anonymity in crowds for him.  The mass of humanity lent him cover, space and time to heal up, his body at least, but what did she get from this sea of humanity he’d dragged her to.  This must be overwhelming for her, frightening.  He wrapped a protective arm over her shoulder.

“You find everything you wanted?” he asked.

She nodded.

“You were late.”

“Well I had a little shopping to do myself” he smiled.  “What‘d you get?”

She reached into the nearest package, brought out his gift and placed it in his hands.

“Ohhh…” he chuckled, returning the ursine smile. 

He let his hands explore the long articulated limbs of the bear, fingers running through its silky, dark fur.  He held the smiling glass eyed face close to his own, and said hello, letting his thumb and trigger finger play with the silver stud button in the bears ear.  

He laughed again.

“You don’t think it’s stupid, do you? I mean I could take it back….”

“No … its perfect. It's perfect... Just like you...”

They sat together in quiet thought, her head resting on his shoulder, the bear cradled in his arms.

The bear. 

The bear had a story all of its own.

---oooOOOooo---

He’d crawled into that cabin, leaking blood fast, despite the cold.  He didn’t remember much about that black day.  The ambush. Heyes. The bullets.  The blood.  The pain. The flight.  All one terrible tangle of heart stopping emotion. No clarity. No true memories, just images and smells, screaming and gun fire, horses galloping, first two, then one, then…. No… he couldn’t face that yet.

Then he’d crawled to the cabin.  

When had she found him? Was she there at the beginning?  Or was it really at the end? 

She was there when that melt bear came calling, looking for food, needing to feed her young.  She was there.  She was waving a fiery torch at the window.  She was Smoking the door to fright the bear.  She was stood with his rifle at her shoulder, defying the terrible howling and the scraping of claws at the oak planking.  

She’d laid that mess of wilderness, in a twist of twigs on his chest, and started that chant of life and hope, that had filled her with the courage to face down that grisly.

She was there.  Like some miracle sent from heaven.  

When the raging had stopped and the snow had fallen so deep, she’d stayed, and they’d found some consolation in each other’s arms. 

Death and life.  

The raw stuff that you only see at the edges.  

They’d seen that together and here they were on Christmas eve…

---oooOOOooo---

He reached into his jacket pocket and took out a small tooled leather box, coloured in light blue.  He opened it and showed her the chip of ancient crystal, cut and shaped to a multi-faceted gemstone, supported on a band of gold, sat on a deep blue velvet cushion.

“A gift?”

“Yeah …It means I never want to let you go …It means you’re gonna have to get used to having me around…”

She looked at the gift, and back to the bear.  She wasn’t entirely sure, but guessed that he’d spent quite a bit more than she had.  He couldn’t complain if they didn’t have enough to buy food for a while.  She smiled up at him.

“I like it.”

“Good …I’m glad… And … I like …erm …her” he said, trying to poke the bear back down into one of the bags.

She laughed, pulling the bear back into his arms.  

“I knew you’d understand” she smiled into his slightly embarrassed face. “After all, your son will be named for the bear …that was there at his beginning.”

She smiled enigmatically, her dark eyes twinkling above her dimpled cheeks, as she watched the penny fall in the blue sapphires she come to call home.

“You mean you’re…?”

He looked at her belly and opened those azure pools in wonder.

“You’re…?”

“Yes. It is a wonderful gift we have been given this Christmas, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is… It is…”

He pulled her into his arms, squashing the bear between their bellies.

“It’s the best gift I ever had…” he squeaked at the top of her head, tears flowing unchecked down his cheeks.

---oooOOOooo----

“Awww … I knew you’d like it” beamed Heyes.  “And, you’re welcome partner…”

“Huh??????” 

Kid stared at his partner sat on the other end of the bench.  Heyes was in his trail gear, but the shabby be-concho-ed hat, the blue grey winter coat, the tan pants, the heeled riding boots, even the spurs… all had a white glow about them, and there was no tied down gun. 

Heyes sat cross-legged, looking at Kid from behind the girl, beaming with angelic smugness. 

“You liked my first Heaven-side Hannibal Heyes plan then, did you? I always knew you had faith in me Kid … You didn’t think the bear was too much?  I had to get you two together somehow …and quickly …if little Hannibal…ooops....”

Heyes held a gloved hand to his lips with glee.

“The bear? That was you???”

Kids face contorted into a mass of confusion.

“You really like it, don't you?” questioned the girl.

“Erm …. yes, yes …of course I do….” reassured Kid, cuddling the girl to his chest. “Little Hannibal????” he whispered to his beaming partner over her head.

“Mmmmm?” she sighed, breathing in her man and cuddling in.

“Erm … Kid. You may want to keep it down a bit.” 

Heyes pointed to the crowd around them.  He raised his eyebrows and pursed up his lips.

“Oh …They can’t see me …” 

Heyes waved in the face of a passing lady, that had stopped to share a disapproving look for the lovers on the bench under the Christmas tree.

“Can't see … or hear me… CAN YOU!” laughed Heyes, shouting at the lady. 

The lady jumped a little as if she'd been goosed. Heyes smiled in wonder and shrugged at Kid.

“Well ...None of them has up to now. Only you Kid …only you…”

He folded his arms and nodded his head towards Kid’s fiancée.  Kid had gone slightly rigid.

“You may want to give her a bit more air Kid.  Pregnant ladies need to breath…”

---oooOOOooo---
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