Author’s content note: My 2020 Christmas short story here is a gentle romance mostly rated G for all, with some dramatic moments. I will serialize my story with a few chapter postings today here and on my Wattpad site to get us started. So check back on my website again this evening for Ch. 2. Then I’ll continue with new chapters following about every other day through New Year’s Eve. I hope that you enjoy my new story.
Illustrations: I cast my stories as I write them, with Richard Armitage as Luke, Erin Krakow as Diana, and others as noted in the references.
“Of Magic & Mistletoe”: Prologue/Wattpad Description
Christmas is a time of year that everyone who celebrates it looks forward to. Yet, when you have lost a loved one or are facing health or financial difficulties Christmas can be a challenging time of year. Two years ago in 2008, the then 32 year old Diana Groves lost her husband to a tragic accident at work in a manufacturing plant when a machine arm came loose and bashed him in his head and killed him instantly. Diana was grateful that her husband Benjamin didn’t suffer, but that blessing is still cold comfort now two years later as she raises their now four year old son Benjy as a single parent. But Diana and Benjy will receive the gift of Christmas love and compassion this year, if Diana can set aside her sorrow to build a new future for her and for her son Benjy. So love and loss, and love again will need a bit of magic & mistletoe to bring joy and happiness to Diana and her son Benjy again this year.
Ch. 01: Needing a little Christmas Magic
In the last two years since her husband Benjamin died, the 34 years old Diana Groves [(2) below] has learned to be pragmatic, resourceful, and resilient. She has had to be for their now four year old son Benjy, named after his late father.
And though Ben was killed on the job at the manufacturing plant, the owners argued that his own actions of stepping into a well marked hazardous area contributed to his death. That Ben was actually running to assist a coworker having a heart attack while working at one of the machines at the time, did not hold sway with anyone. As the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished, and the good die young.
So her late husband’s former employer only agreed to pay out to her and their son Benjy a lump sum of $20,000 via Ben’s death and dismemberment insurance policy rider, and a widow’s pension benefit of $1,000 per month for life. So coupled with Ben’s social security stipend of $500 per month, Diana is barely getting by. She can’t afford daycare for Benjy so that she could work outside their home—which is now a small one bedroom studio apartment in a section 8 housing apartment complex, due to their reduced circumstances.
But the ever hopeful Diana is trying to bloom where she is planted, for her son Benjy’s sake. So with her noticing that her apartment complex residents are nearly half elderly–and her finding a part-time apartment complex care giver needed job notice on their communal laundry room cork bulletin board—Diana has become a part time elderly care giver as she works two hours in the mornings and afternoons for different care receivers—then she is paid two additional hours in the afternoon writing up her reports each day, while Benjy takes an afternoon nap.
And Diana’s elderly Care Receivers don’t have to pay for her Care Giving—with Diana helping them measure out their medicines, helping with food preparations, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. Her Care Giver wage costs are covered by their state’s Department of Aging and coordinated through the local YWCA.
And she is allowed to take her son Benjy with her on her trips to and for her elderly lady clients. Truth be told, the grandmotherly ladies love little Benjy to bits! And Benjy loves the extra attention. And Diana has found and made supportive and caring friends with her care receivers. So it’s a win-win situation all around.
But with Diana working for pay only 6 hours a day times 5 days per week at the current minimum wage of $8.25 per hour nets her only an extra $990 per month, before taxes and such are taken out. So her take home pay is around $700 per month—or $350 every two weeks. And after she pays for rent, utilities, health insurance, and food, there is little leftover for extras. Thank goodness their mid sized city has a good bus system so they can get to the grocery store, doctor’s office, library, etc., and back. Once Benjy goes to all day public school in one or two years, Diana will be able to work more hours as a Care Giver, or find a new job that will pay her more so she can support her son Benjy.
And Diana has been valiantly making her small $1,000 per month widow’s pension and her Care Giver pay stretch as far as she can by rarely but regretfully dipping into the $20,000 death payout once in a while. But she is trying to save that money for Benjy’s future schooling needs—such as a computer and printer, paper and ink supplies, textbooks, etc—and hopefully later, his community college tuition. She also hopes that Benjy will have these technical resources to help him get good grades in high school, so that he might also be able to apply for several college scholarships.
Needless to say, Diana’s whole world is her little son Benjy. He is such a livewire of a little boy with brown hair, chocolate brown eyes, and an impish grin—and he is energetic, curious, mischievous, and loving. And she loves him to bits! Diana pushes down here sorrow about Benjy’s father’s death, for Benjy’s sake—showing him all the love and support that she can give him.
Yet, there is still something–or rather, someone– missing from Benjy’s life, a father figure. So she hopes that she will someday meet a good and kind man who will be willing to take on a widow and small child, to give Benjy a strong male role model—even as she keeps her late husband Ben’s memory alive for Benjy through stories and a picture scrapbook that she had kept during their marriage.
Surveying her nearly empty food pantry cupboards in her one bedroom studio apartment in their section 8 housing complex, a pragmatic Diana Groves bemoans their lonely state with but two cans of soup, a small jar of peanut butter, a half eaten loaf of bread and some fruit drink mix packets. Coupled with her small refrigerator’s meager stash of almost a quart of milk, two sticks of butter, some applesauce, and various ancient condiment packets from drive through restaurants last month, Diana calculates her food will last only for a day or two.
She will get paid on Friday, December 24th, 2010–Christmas Eve. But today is Monday, December 20th—and her young son Benjy is hungry now. So she will have to dip into the money she is trying to keep set aside for Benjy’s future schooling needs—a small amount of which she keeps in her sock drawer for emergencies. So she adds a twenty dollar bill to her wallet, glad that she at least has that little bit of a stop gap measure for purchasing eggs and such for breakfasts this week.
And she realizes that she will still have to visit the food pantry when it opens for food pickups on Wednesday to get them through the week and for Christmas. Her pride wishes that she did not need the local food pantry food, but her little son Benjy’s welfare and nutrition are worth more to her than her pride.
Benjy: Licking his lips, Benjy leans in around his Mama’s legs and pokes his head into the pantry. “May I have steak for lunch, Mommy?” He asks with a silly smile on his face.
It is their food wishing game. Diana began this game last Summer, to redirect her little son from focusing on their meager but nutritious food offerings.
Diana: “Of course!” Diana smiles to her exuberant four year old as she picks up the vegetable beef soup can. Though the small can says it holds 2.5 servings, she will add extra water and stretch it to four servings for them—two meals each for she and for Benjy. “And it comes with your vegetables you need to grow big and strong.” She smiles again, hoping that he will actually eat more of the vegetables this time.
Benjy: “Awww! Do I hafta eat the vegetables, too, Mommy?” Benjy scrunches up his cute button nose in his usual way. He is testing her, as little boys do.
Ignoring her son’s charming mischievous smile, Diana removes a quarter of the soup can contents into a small glass bowl, she adds water and swishes the contents so the soup gravy dissolves into a less heavy sauce. Then she pops the bowl into their small microwave for 1 minute. And she starts to make Benjy’s PB&J sandwich.
Diana: “Now now, we have to get you fed before we visit Martha this afternoon for her two hour help session.” Diana smiles cheerfully as she slathers peanut butter on one side of his sandwich, after Benjy had picked out a grape jelly condiment package for his PB&J sandwich.
Benjy: “Martha is really nice, Mommy! I wish she were my real grandmother!” He smiles sweetly, since several of the elderly ladies have asked him to call them Granny. The feeling is mutual for Martha.
Diana: “I know, Benjy Dear. Martha is a real sweetheart, and a very good friend.” She smiles at her son, but inside she misses her own parents and her late husband’s parents who had passed before they married. Diana places Benjy’s small glass of milk next to his soup & sandwich. A hungry Benjy devours it all–even the vegetables in the soup. Progress, thinks Diana.
After cleaning up Benjy’s meal crumbs on the table and Benjy’s face and hands, Diana and Benjy walk down the hall to Martha’s apartment for her care receiving session with Diana this afternoon. Benjy knocks on Martha’s door, per usual, and patiently waits for Martha to answer the door. And when she does, Benjy is engulfed in Martha’s grandmotherly hug—which he returns with eager affection.
Martha: “Hello, My Dears. Please come in.” She also hugs Diana.
Benjy: “Hi Mrs. Martha! We’re here!” Benjy greets her cheerfully.
Martha: “I see that.” Her eyes twinkle with amusement at Benjy’s announcing themselves so cutely.
Diana: “Ha ha ha!” Diana is grateful for Martha’s positive response to her son Benjy’s four year old exuberance.
Diana and Benjy walk into Martha’s small 1 bedroom studio apartment that has a layout that is the mirror image layout of their own apartment. And when they first started visiting Martha, the flipped layout of her apartment—from their own apartment’s layout—confused Benjy. He would turn left upon entering Martha’s apartment and find the tiny entrance hall closet—whereas in their apartment, turning left after entering their apartment has him entering their small alley kitchen. But now after several months of visiting Martha, Benjy has adapted and knows where to find Martha’s sofa and coffee table in the small sitting room off of the small dining room. And there Benjy plops himself down to color in his coloring books with crayons.
In the meantime, Benjy’s Mommy Diana begins her Care Giver session with Martha.
Diana: “So, Martha, how are you feeling today?” That is Diana’s standard greeting, her hoping to elicit Martha sharing if she is having any health concerns or living difficulties that Diana can help her with. It is a gentle nudge on Diana’s part. For as Diana can well attest in her own case as a young woman with a child, the will to be independent and resilient is also found in all of her elderly Care Receiver ladies.
Martha is older and in her early eighties. So she isn’t as spry as she used to be. But then, she always blames her arthritis in her knees and back for her playing so much tennis at the public courts earlier in her life.
Martha: “I’m well, Diana Dear. But, if you could help me load up my pill case sections for the week as usual, that will be helpful.” You see, Martha’s hands and fingers are rather arthritic—curling inward, slightly, making it hard to grasp things. And the sometimes smaller heart medicine pills that she takes—and other small pills—are hard for her to grasp or pour out of her pill bottles.
They talk at the dining table as Martha lays out her pill bottles, and then the plastic weekdays pill holder for morning, midday, and evening pills to be placed into. Diana pulls out her purse size packet of sterile gloves for handling Martha’s pills. Though Diana is not a medical professional, her Care Giver training also involved basic first aid and such.
Diana: “You’re looking well, Martha. Are there any household chores I can assist you with today? Purchasing food, doing laundry, and such?”
Martha: “Thank you, Diana Dear. Oh I’m fine for food. The Meals on Wheels drivers drop off my lunches every weekday, and I have plenty of other food for breakfast and dinner.” Martha smiles. Though, Martha doesn’t cook anymore—the microwave is safer and less of a bother for her to use. And Diana will discreetly check Martha’s cupboards and fridge before she leaves to ensure that Martha does have enough food and fluids on hand. With preventing dehydration an important concern for her elderly patients who might not drink enough water daily.
Diana: “Benjy Dear.” Diana calls over to her son in the adjacent sitting room. “What are you coloring in today?” She keeps a watchful eye on her son, since he is four years old and still needs some gentle supervision—so he doesn’t color anything not in his coloring book, like the sofa. And she loves the ways his tongue moves around his lips as he concentrates on coloring in his coloring book.
Benjy: “It’s a Christmas tree, Mommy!” He smiles and holds up his book for his Mommy Diana and for Martha to see.
Martha: “Very nice, Benjy Dear. Oh! That’s what I need, Diana.” Martha taps her index finger to her cheek. “I’m so forgetful these days.”
Diana: “Now, now. Some forgetfulness is common as we age. I’m only 34 and I forget things all the time. Ha ha ha!”
Martha: “Well, I would like to go to the Christmas Village today to see if there is a small table top size tree that I can put on my dining table for the holidays, and then we can look at the other gift items they have. Will you be able to drive my car and take us there this afternoon?” Martha winces, because she has not pre-arranged this trip and they might not have enough time.
Diana: “Yes.” Though she no longer owns a car, herself, Diana has maintained her driver’s license—and Martha has car insurance, which will cover Diana as her driver. Besides, the Christmas Village outing should be fun—even if she can’t afford to buy anything there, it’s fun to look. “We should have about an hour and a half left to do that. Does your car have plenty of gas in it, or will we need to stop for that?” She asks knowingly.
Martha: “I’m not sure. But I have plenty of money in my purse for a small tree, a few decorations, and gas, if we need it.” She opens her purse and pulls out a wad of twenties and fives.
Diana: “Ooh, Martha! Maybe you shouldn’t carry around so much money with you. You don’t want to lose it—in case someone tries to steal your purse, especially during the holiday season.”
Martha: “I know, I just haven’t figured out where to hide my extra money in my apartment. And I’m likely to forget where I hide it if I do put it somewhere.” Martha looks around her dining room, seeing the various ceramic and glass knick knack mementos that she had brought with her when she had to give up her own home and move in here.
Diana: Thinking for a moment, she comes up with an idea. “Why don’t you put your money in plastic baggies in a few places in your apartment—such as in your freezer, in one of your china cabinet drawers in the dining room, and inside the roll of an unused roll of toilet paper under your bathroom sink? And if you forget where they are, I’ll remind you.”
Martha nods and Diana helps her do that, putting $50 in each of three baggies—while keeping $50 in Marth’s purse for their Christmas Village outing today.
So everyone gets pottied, then bundled up for heading over to Christmas Village.
To be continued with Chapter 2
References for the Prologue and Ch. 01 of “Of Magic & Mistletoe”, December 21, 2016 by Gratiana Lovelace
1) “Of Magic & Mistletoe” story logo cover that I/Gratiana Lovelace created, is comprised of several elements:
a) Luke—at full height, is Richard Armitage smiling at the 2019 Sundance Festival wearing red & black plaid overshirt_Dec21-2020 viaPinterest-Grati; image edit; original image is found at https://i.pinimg.com/474x/61/da/41/61da418236dba7895c883c32074e0e12.jpg
b) Mistletoe image and history found at https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.tillamookheadlightherald.com%2Fcommunity%2Fthe-history-of-holly-and-mistletoe%2Farticle_6d7751e2-9aab-11e5-ac05-cfbfafc221da.html&psig=AOvVaw0pTsPU6tMlqIj1Mh8qHTco&ust=1608640745445000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=2ahUKEwis-PLyi9_tAhVnhXIEHSmEDVAQjhx6BAgAEBI
c) A textured red background that I/Grati created.
2) The lovely Erin Krakow is cast as our heroine, Diana; original image found via her twitter feed at https://pbs.twimg.com/media/ECgzCXuU0AATcQc.jpg
The link for the Prologue & Ch. 01 on my Wattpad site, will be found at: