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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Christmas Romance — The Blue Christmas Tree

I usually write for children, but I've also written several short stories for adults. This light Christmas story was inspired by a conversation I had many years ago with a senior writer at the magazine I worked for in New York City. 

It was Christmastime and he was telling me about a glamorous Christmas Eve party he once attended in a fancy New York apartment.  He described soft lighting, candles, elegant people, city lights shining through the large windows, and the center of everyone's attention, a beautiful blue Christmas tree.  I nodded and smiled, but inside I flinched.  Blue? I thought, blue ??  And the seeds of this story were planted. 

"The Blue Christmas Tree" was published by an on-line site in the U.K called Alfie Dog Fiction  — www.alfiedog.com.  I was delighted when they asked if they could include it in A Wish for Christmas, an anthology of Christmas stories also available as a paperback book.  Here is the story.  I hope you enjoy it.



THE BLUE CHRISTMAS TREE

Lisa felt the fresh, clean snowflakes fall gently on her cheeks.  Snow at last!  It finally felt like Christmas.  Even the grimy city streets glowed like the town square at home.
Home . . . she could picture Mr. MacDougal locking restaurant and Mrs. Carroll turning the sign on her gift shop to “Closed.”  In a few hours, the bell of the old stone church would call everyone to the Christmas Eve service.  And for the first time in her life, she wouldn’t be there.
A blast of homesickness hit her like wind whipping down the mountain.  She swallowed the lump in her throat and said fiercely to herself, “You will not think about home.  You will think about Ben.”
Ben was the reason she wasn’t home right now.  Ben, whose soft brown eyes and easy laugh had warmed her like the summer sun ever since their first date, just three weeks ago.  Ben, who had invited her to a Christmas Eve party.
“Why don’t you bring him home with you instead?” her father had asked.
“I can’t.  He’s so . . . so . . .”  Lisa had groped for the right word.  “He’s so big city.”  She thought of Ben’s crisp suits at the bank where they both worked.  “Somehow, I can’t picture him wearing a plaid shirt, chopping wood.”
When Ben arrived at her apartment that night, Lisa knew her instincts were right.  He looked as polished as a GQ ad in his navy blazer.  She was glad she had spent a week’s salary on a new dress.
A few snowflakes still danced in the air as they walked the five blocks to the party, gloved hands locked together.  When Lisa slipped on a patch of ice, Ben put his arm around her waist to steady her and kept it there . She could feel his warmth through her coat and dress.
Lisa glanced at their reflections in the darkened shop windows.  They looked successful and . . . elegant, even.  She had come a long way since last Christmas Eve.  She remembered sitting in jeans on a cluttered floor helping her sister and brother-in-law assemble tricycles for Emily and Tommy, their three-year-old twins.  And tonight she was on her way to a penthouse party. 
“I’m glad you could come tonight,” Ben murmured, pulling her closer.  “This is the first year I haven’t been able to get home for Christmas.  I didn’t want to spend it alone.”
“I’m glad you asked me,” Lisa replied, enjoying his closeness.  She looked up.  The clouds were thinning and a few stars sparkled over the busy city streets.  Lisa took a deep breath and made a wish—that tonight would be truly magical.
Once at the party, Lisa couldn’t believe the luxury—high ceilings, deep carpets, and huge, plush couches, all done in soft shades of blue and silver.  About a dozen well-dressed couples scattered throughout the room.  And Ben and I are part of the scene, she thought.  We belong here, too.
Then she saw the Christmas tree.  It was large, perfectly shaped—and blue.  A soft, pale baby blue with silver ornaments and white blinking lights.  Even the packages were blue, tied with silver ribbons.  Before she could stop it, the image of another tree sprang to Lisa’s mind—the one at home.  It would be fresh pine with paper chains, mismatched ornaments, and a slightly worn, but familiar angel on top.  Nothing elegant about it at all.
        But it's real, a little voice said, and it's put together with love.  
This is real, too, she answered, squashing the voice, and how do you know there's no love in it?  Because, the voice answered, it looks perfect and cold and . . .
She pushed the voice away as Ben took her hand.  Together they joined the party.
“And so I told him I’d buy the condo if . . .”
“The Giants’ll go all the way to the Super Bowl this year . . .”
  “They say it’s the greatest musical since. . .”
“We’re flying down to . . .”
Pieces of sentences floated around Lisa like snowflakes she couldn’t quite grasp.  But her eyes kept going to the blue Christmas tree.  She wondered if the blue packages held any gifts or if they were just for show.  She thought of Emily and Tommy and the bright packages they would tear into in the morning.  She wondered if they’d miss their Aunt “Lisie.”
Suddenly, she knew that she was missing them.  And her parents.  And the mountains.  She also knew she didn’t care who bought what condo.  Or what the Giants did.  She cared about getting home.  If she left right now, she’d be just in time for the midnight service.
Only the thought of Ben kept her from heading straight to the door.  His warm hand felt so right in hers.  But she realized now that wasn’t enough.  She’d never fit into his world of blue Christmas trees.  
“Ben,” she said, “I have to talk to you.”
They walked to the windows and gazed at the city lights below.  Lisa took a deep breath.  “It’s that Christmas tree.  It made me see . . . well, look at it . . . it’s just . . .”
“Awful?”  Ben finished her sentence.
“Right, it’s awful.  That color . . .” She stopped when she realized what Ben had said. “You think so too?  But I thought Connie and Josh were your friends.”
“They are.  They helped me settle in here.  But that doesn’t mean we think alike.”  He put his hands on Lisa’s shoulders and looked into her eyes.  “Do you know why I asked you out the first time?  Because of the picture on your desk—two little kids in front of a big old farmhouse.  I figured I’d like the person with that picture.”
“That’s my niece and nephew,” Lisa said absently, her mind racing.  All this time, she had thought Ben wanted city sophistication.  But she was wrong.  Maybe she was wrong about his chopping wood, too.
“Ben,” she blurted out, “are you game for a three-hour car ride?”
He started to loosen his tie.  “Only if we’re going to that farmhouse.”
Lisa nodded.  “Right after midnight services at the village church.”
It was a few minutes after midnight when they arrived at Lisa’s church.  The congregation was already singing “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful.”  Lisa started up the steps, but Ben gently pulled her back.  He put his gloved hands on her cheeks.  
“Thank you for a wonderful Christmas present,” he said before kissing her.  Lisa returned his kiss as the strains of another carol filled the air.
They clasped hands again and entered the church, then looked at each other and grinned.  Two brightly decorated Christmas trees stood on the altar.  Neither of them was blue.

THE END

What inspires you to write your stories?  Please send a comment and share.

8 comments:

  1. Lovely! I could feel the coldness in this story - the city streets coldness and the cool interior of the condo. But I also felt the contrasting warmth. Love how you pulled a fully plotted story off in so few words. Short story is a special skill but you nailed it. Sorry if this sounds like a critique! But great job, Liz. Congrats on getting it published several times!

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    1. Thanks, Joyce. I always loved New York City at Christmastime with the lights and beautiful Christmas windows, but to me, Christmas at home is a tree with mismatched ornaments filled with memories.

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  2. Thanks for printing this. I love this story. Good writing and good stories stand the test of time. They're always relevant. Classic. As long as we have love and romance, this story will be "spot-on." Would love to be in NYC to absorb some of the Christmas atmosphere. Hugs and have a great Christmas.

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    1. Thanks. Maybe someday we can go during the Christmas season. I have family and friends we could stay with just a short train ride from the City.
      Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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  3. An enjoyable short-short, with the message, "There's no place like home for the holidays..."

    Pinned & shared.

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    1. Glad you like it and thanks for pinning and sharing it.

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  4. A little gem of a story and colours do mean a lot. Red and green are the colours of nature in winter and when I see blue lights strung up for Christmas it sends a chill - I would hate a blue Christmas tree. So glad she got to keep her man...

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  5. So glad you enjoyed the story. I'm glad, too, that she and Ben discovered they had more in common than fancy parties.

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