(All rights reserved; An original story copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2020) [(1) cover story]
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 here and on my Wattpad site. Then I’ll continue with publishing new chapters almost every 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 Wharton, Erin Krakow as Diana Groves, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Benjy Groves, Helen Hayes as Martha Lesley, Anna Knyazeva as Heidi Wharton, and others as noted in the references.
“Of Magic & Mistletoe”, Ch. 03: A snowy night with mistletoe
While spending an hour at the indoor mall’s Christmas Village Tree barn shopping area Monday afternoon, December 20th, 2010, Martha finds the perfect small table top artificial tree and trimmings—her not spending more than twenty five dollars on it all, with Luke’s help in finding the tree trimmings bargains that are marked down due to small flaws in shape, coloration, and broken bits. To Martha, these flaws merely betoken the wear and tear that any holiday trimmings bauble would be subjected to over time. Thus her new decorative purchases have the feeling of long treasured family mementos.
And for his part, 4 year old Benjy enjoys sharing his Mommy Diana with Luke’s 4 year old daughter Heidi while making Christmas Tree ornaments from the fir tree scraps, loose beads, glitter glue, and ribbon. The children seem to get on well together, and the children steal glances back and forth with their parents—giving them a little wave.
And Diana and Luke look upon their children making ornaments together as a sweet Christmas tableau—while also stealing glances at each other. Martha just smiles through it all. There are possibilities between the two of them–Diana and Luke. And Martha thinks that they make a handsome couple.
And poignantly, Heidi asks Diana if she may use one of the ornament ribbons to fix her hair that has come undone when she took her knit cap off. So Diana gamely helps the little girl by first using a comb from her purse to untangle Heidi’s hair, then pulling the top half of her hair back to the crown of her head, then braids it to hold it together, with a rubber band and some pretty ribbon for decoration. Another idea Diana has is to use some of the festive ribbon to wrap around a thin child sized head band for Heidi—Diana simply lacks a head band at the moment.
Then Diana walks the children back over to where Martha and Luke are.
Luke: Embracing his daughter Heidi, Luke compliments her new hair braid. “You look pretty, Heidi Sweetheart!”
Heidi: “Thanks, Daddy! Benjy’s Mommy fixed it for me.” Heidi smiles and touches her hair cutely.
Luke: “Thank you, Diana!” He smiles warmly at her. “With Heidi’s hair grown so long as a four year old, I need ideas on how to fix it for her.” He smiles wryly as man who never thought to learn how to style girl’s hair—but he will learn for his daughter.
Diana: “My pleasure. Heidi is a sweet little girl.”
Benjy: “What about me, Mommy?” Benjy asks impishly.
Diana: “And you’re my sweet little boy.” She smiles and hugs her son. “How is your tree and trimmings purchase coming, Martha? We should probably get back home before the snow gets worse.”
Martha: “All done and on budget thanks to Luke. But let’s not jinx ourselves talking about bad weather. Ha ha ha!”
Diana: “Ha ha ha! True! We wouldn’t want to get stuck here overnight.”
Luke: “Not to worry, ladies. The mall has a generator that will keep the lights on and the heat flowing–should the power go out. It just lacks a cozy homey ambiance.” He grins sheepishly, while looking at the Christmas Tree barn’s decorative hay bales.
Diana: “Double jinx!” Diana humorously points to Luke and Martha.
And the fates are with them, or, maybe not, as someone comes over the mall public address (PA) system.
Mall security on PA: “Folks, this is Officer Bob Meyer of Mall security. I’ve been asked to warn you that the snowy weather is worsening outside—the blowing snow making visibility dicey and the snow drifted roads more treacherous. So anyone who lives nearby might want to head home now, while there is still some light outside. And if anyone is concerned about driving home this afternoon, you are welcome to stay at the mall. Our generator will keep us all nice and toasty. We are also a local shelter for the area during winter storms. And we have food and blankets on supply for just such occasions.” And, of course, the various Mall retailers pitch in to help, too.
Diana: Diana looks over at Luke in concern. “I really need to get Martha back to our apartment complex tonight. She has medicines that she has to take yet tonight. We just live a few blocks over at the Hampton Heights apartments.” Diana winces, because now Luke will know that she and Benjy live in low income housing. Yet she doesn’t see any reaction from Luke about where she lives, and she is glad about that.
Luke: “I’ll follow you in my big truck, to make sure you get there safely. It is about time for Heidi and I to head home anyway. Let’s make sure your car starts, first. And if not, I can drive you there.”
Martha: “Oh, we don’t want to impose, Luke.” Though Martha says this sincerely, she does think that a little weather induced snow bound sheltering together between Diana and Luke and their children might be a very good thing to help jumpstart their relationship.
Luke: “It’s not an imposition at all. Though I was hoping to stop at the Aldi’s next door on our way home to pick up some milk and donuts, if that slight detour won’t be problematic for you.” He blanches. “10 minutes tops, I promise.”
Diana: “Thank you, Luke. That will be perfect! I had also planned to stop at the store on our way home. I need to grab a dozen eggs, milk, and some chicken and noodles for Benjy and I– for our dinners and breakfasts.” She winces. She calculates that she can get eggs for 69 cents, a real jar of jelly for about $1.50 and a medium sized chicken for about $4 that will last them—leaving her about $12 left from her twenty dollar bill to see if the store has a seasonal kid gift that she can afford for her son Benjy.
Martha: “And I could use some apple juice, sliced ham, and bread. So I guess that makes our trip to the grocery store on the way home official.” She smiles.
So the intrepid wintery fivesome of Diana, Benjy & Martha, and Luke & Heidi bundle up their overcoats, hats, and mittens as they head toward the outside doors leading to the mall’s parking lot. But they stop at the doors before heading outside, surveying the windy snowy realm before them. Benjy & Heidi have their noses plastered against the wall of glass next to the door, them thinking of snow playing fun with sleds and making snow men, snow ball fights, etc. Whereas their parents Diana and Luke are worried about the snowy road conditions [(2) below].
Luke: “Don’t worry, Diana & Martha, I have one of those bigger sedan type trucks with back seats and chains on my tires—it can get through any road conditions. So even if your car can’t start, I’ll get you home.” He assures them, and they nod their thanks.
Benjy sees another man and woman heading out of the mall, but stopping first to kiss under the door’s well placed mistletoe over their heads. And he points to the couple.
Benjy: “Mommy? Are they trying to warm up their lips before going outside?” It seems logical to 4 year old Benjy, since the other couple seemed to kiss for several moments.
Diana: “Ha ha ha! Uh, no, Benjy Dear. It’s just the mistletoe over the door is there to encourage kissing. Uh, it’s an old Christmas tradition.” She sheepishly shrugs her shoulders and her face blushes.
Heidi: “I think it’s nice, Daddy. Will you kiss me under the missltoe/mistletoe? The also 4 year old Heidi holds up her arms to her Daddy.
Luke: “Of course, Heidi Sweetheart.” Then he lifts Heidi up in the air and swings her about, before kissing her cheek.
Benjy: “Mommy?” Now Benjy holds his arms up and his Mommy Diana complies—though Benjy is a bit heavy for the much shorter than Luke Diana. Yet, she gamely makes a half turn and kisses her son’s cheek.
Heidi: “Daddy? Why don’t you kiss like they did?” Heidi points to the kissing couple and pats her mouth. And Luke squirms, not knowing quite how to answer her. With her question, he feels like his little daughter is 4 years old going on 14 years old.
Martha: Coming to Luke’s aid, Martha suggests. “Children, kissing with lips is for adults—like your Mommy and Daddy.” She adds mischievously. Martha found the first mistletoe at hand and she hopes to help Diana and Luke use it.
Luke: “Ohh!” Luke looks shell shocked, while his face goes beet red in embarrassment. He hasn’t kissed anyone since Heidi’s late mother, him not putting himself out there on the dating scene yet. And Diana is not much different.
Diana: “Uh, Martha? We need to get going, the snow is really coming down now.” She hopes her mistletoe kissing deflection works. Not a chance as their two littlest members start chanting and clapping their hands.
Benjy & Heidi: “Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss!”
Nearby fellow shoppers smile and clap, thinking that Diana and Luke are already husband and wife—they do look good together. Luke waves at them, then stiffens as he readies himself to kiss Diana.
Diana: “Luke, I can’t ….” She tremblingly shakes her head in mortification. And her eyes widen as Luke leans down to her. But he detours to her cheek and kisses her there, and she also kisses his cheek.
They both sigh in relief for satisfying their gleeful kids, while not forcing the intimacy of mouth kissing on each other. It is too soon in their acquaintanceship. But Martha still smiles knowingly at their chastely tender kisses.
In the end, though the trip to the grocery store was quick, the snowy weather is relentless. And Luke manages to drive them all to Diana’s and Martha’s Hampton’s apartment complex. Luke pulls Martha’s rolling walker out of his truck bed and sets it up for her trip into her apartment building. And sensing Luke’s unease about the snowy weather with his young daughter Heidi, Martha invites him to stay overnight.
Martha: “Luke, from what you said, you and Heidi live across town. I really don’t think that you should attempt returning home with it being so dark around 4pm now and the snow makes visibility uncertain. So you’re welcome to stay with me. My sofa pulls out to a bed, and we can put fresh sheets on it in a jiffy.”
Luke: “I don’t wish to impose, but I thank you, for Heidi’s sake.” He won’t risk her safety in these harsh weather conditions. “If we’re staying overnight, may I store my food purchases in your fridge?”
Martha: “Of course.” Then they all start walking toward the apartment building from the parking lot.
Luke: “Then I’ll have to call home so Mom and my sister Sharon don’t worry.”
Diana: “Oh?” Diana and Benjy had missed hearing Martha’s invitation to Luke and Heidi to spend the night, since they got out of different sides of Luke’s truck. Diana had let Martha sit up front with Luke, because it was easier for her to get into the front seat, and Diana sat in the back seat with the kids–with her Benjy and Luke’s Heidi leaning in to her.
Martha: “Diana Dear. The weather is too unsafe for Luke and his daughter to try to get back home across town. So I invited Luke and Heidi to stay overnight with me. We can pool our resources for dinner and breakfast.” Martha smiles as they enter the building and are engulfed in instant warmth. “Ahhh!”
Luke: Smiling embarrassedly, Luke smiles at Martha and then at Diana. “Thank you, Martha. Heidi and I appreciate it. Don’t we, Heidi?”
Heidi: “Yes, Daddy! It will be my first sleepover!” Heidi skips up and down alongside her Daddy and Martha as they walk to Martha’s apartment door, after she and Diana first check for their mail at the mail boxes on the first floor. Then they take the small elevator to the 2nd floor where Diana and Martha live.
Diana: “And Luke, since I had done our laundry this morning, I can loan you some clean flannel jammies of Benjy’s for Heidi to wear to sleep in.”
Luke: “Thanks, Diana. That will be great!” He smiles gratefully. Luke is out of his comfort zone in not being at home where all of his Heidi kid gear is handy. So he appreciates Diana helping him out.
Benjy: “Heidi’s Daddy?” He asks Luke. “May we play with Martha’s big cards before dinner tonight?”
Luke: “Uhh?” Luke looks quizzically over at Diana.
Diana: “Sure, Benjy.” Then by way of explanation, Diana tells Luke. “Martha has playing cards with large writing on them for easier reading. We usually play go fish or a matching cards game—a variant of Concentration.”
Luke: “A variant?” He vaguely remembers the game he played as a child.
Diana: “Yes. We pick out ten sets of matching pairs of numbered cards, then set them out face up in a random assortment—rather than face down, and having the memorization aspect of the game. So each of us will pick out two cards that match, until all of the cards are matched and picked up. Benjy is getting good at recognizing his numbers.”
Luke: “That’s nice. Heidi doesn’t go to pre-school yet—her being so young. But we’re trying to teach her her letters and numbers at home—and shapes and colors.” Then he turns to his little daughter Heidi. “Do you want to play the matching card game before dinner, Heidi?”
Heidi: “I do, Daddy!” She smiles cutely. Though Heidi doesn’t know how to play this matching game, it’s the play part is what she focuses on.
So Luke & Heidi follow Martha into her apartment to get settled. He also calls home to let his Mom and sister Sharon know that they are okay and hope to be home in the morning.
Meanwhile, Diana and Benjy walk further down the 2nd floor apartment hallway to their own small one bedroom apartment. She gets her food put away and the chicken started baking for them all. Martha will contribute bread and vegetables and Luke will contribute the milk and mashed potato flakes, sturdy paper plates, and a cookie dessert.
But first, Diana negotiates with Benjy which jammies he wants to wear tonight versus which ones he agrees to loan to Heidi—Benjy wants to wear his Spiderman pjs, and loans out his light blue snowman flannel pjs set to Heidi—and an extra travel size toothbrush and tooth paste tube that she had handy. Then Diana dashes back down the hall to Martha’s apartment and drops off the loaned pjs, socks, and toothbrushing supplies for Heidi, letting Martha know for the three of them to come back to her apartment in about an hour for dinner and games.
Though Diana’s & Benjy’s apartment is tidy, she will give it a quick once over again, and she also gives Benjy his bath and puts him into his clean spiderman pjs and clean socks. Luke will do the same for his daughter Heidi at Martha’s apartment before they head to Diana’s and Benjy’s apartment for dinner.
Diana graciously welcomes Luke & Heidi and Martha to her and Benjy’s apartment for dinner Monday night, accepting their contributions toward the meal to fill it out. Martha watches the kids in Diana’s family room area of bean bag chairs for Benjy & Heidi and a sofa and Chair for the adults. The kids happily color in Benjy’s coloring books while they wait for dinner. While Luke helps Diana in the kitchen.
Luke: “Thanks for having us to dinner, Diana.”
Diana: “Of course. We have to help each other out in survival situations like bad weather.” She responds positively.
Yet Luke is keenly conscious that both Diana and Martha are being very generous in sharing their food stuffs and homes with he and Heidi, so he resolves to make it up to them in the coming days.
Luke: “Perhaps you’ll allow Heidi and I to take you and Benjy out to breakfast or lunch on Wednesday as a thank you.” He smiles warmly at her as she makes the potato flakes into mashed potatoes on the top of the stove. The yummy smells of the chicken roasting in the oven is making everyone hungry.
Diana: “That’s not necessary. Everyone is chipping in on the meal tonight.” She smiles sincerely. Though she would dearly like to see Luke again, she doesn’t want it to be as a pay back on his part. And she wonders why Luke is waiting until Wednesday to invite them out.”
Luke: “I am not inviting you for lunch out of fulfilling an obligation, but because Heidi and I would like to see you and Benjy again.” There, he said it. He finds Diana attractive and they seem to have similar values and parenting approaches. And for any lady who comes into his life, he has to think of his daughter Heidi first. So with Diana also being widowed, he believes that she probably has similar reservations. Not about him in particular, just about dating in general. And he is astonished that he is finally contemplating dating again.
Diana: “You seem pensive all of a sudden just now, Luke. Is anything wrong?” Diana wonders if their bare bones apartment living is off putting to him.”
Luke: “Actually, I was thinking about you … and I … getting to know each other better—over lunch and such. I would like to see you tomorrow, on Tuesday, but I have to take my Mom to her regular doctor’s appointment and Heidi has … well, she has her speech therapy appointment, too. So it will be a busy day—with also going to the pharmacy and such for Mom as well.”
Diana: “Your Mom is lucky to have you looking out for her.” Diana says sincerely as she slowly stirs the mashed potatoes mixture after she turns off the burner.
Luke: “My sister Sharon helps. We all live together in our family home. Sharon’s husband is overseas with the military and not due back on leave for six more months—their four month old baby Eric should be teething and crawling by then.” He thinks back wistfully to his daughter Heidi’s baby milestones.
Diana: “That’s nice, to have family around you.”
Luke pours two small juice glasses for Benjy & Heidi. They will have milk later with their cookie desserts.
Luke: “It is. And you have Martha as a friend, that’s nice.”
Diana: “I am also her Care Giver. Martha is also one of my ten elderly Care Receiver clients at the apartment complex here whom I help with their general household needs, checking their food and pills intakes, and such, on weekday mornings and afternoons.”
Luke: “That’s wonderful. And having ten clients and a small son to take care of, you must lead a very busy life.”
Diana: “My life is busy. But I’m sure you understand what it is to be the sole parent to your child.” She stops stirring. Diana and Luke are touching upon their tender sorrows. And it has only been two years since Diana’s husband passed.
Luke: “Yes. I sometimes feel as if I’m trying to be mother and father both—and failing miserably.”
Diana: “I know what you mean. Yet, we each are blessed with well adjusted, happy, and healthy children. What more could we want than that?” Diana states stoically.
Luke: “Yet, that is what we do for the other people in our lives. My Mom is always saying that I will do my best in caring for my daughter Heidi by showing her how to live her life fully—by me beginning to live my life fully again.” Luke shyly hints at finding a new wife partner.
Diana: “Your Mom sounds like Martha. She’s also encouraging me to think about starting over, finding a father for Benjy.”
Luke: “But I hope that you will also choose someone who will love you. That is what I want again for myself and for Heidi, to find a woman to be a mother to Heidi and any future children we might have. But also, I want love again. It has been four years since Heidi’s mother died, in childbirth. I miss Melanie every day.” Luke’s voice trembles with emotion.
Diana: “I’m so sorry. My husband died 2 years ago at the manufacturing plant he worked at in an accident—as he went to help a co-worker having a heart attack.” She tears up.
They both each have sorrow etched in their hearts and on their faces.
Luke: “Perhaps, our shared sorrows might help us in understanding and helping each other—and maybe more.”
Diana: “I suppose it’s time that I … came out of my haze of grief—for Benjy, at least.”
Luke: “And me, for Heidi.”
Diana: “Well, Luke, Benjy and I will look forward to joining you and Heidi for lunch on Wednesday, December 22nd.” Diana smiles shyly up at Luke.
Luke: “As will we.” Luke gazes down into Diana’s eyes, seeing her sorrows also reflecting her understanding of his pain and grief.
Maybe it is serendipitous that they have met. And for the first time in a very long while, Luke realizes that he is open to exploring starting a relationship Diana and seeing where it might take them.
And there in Diana’s kitchen, Luke noticing the mistletoe hanging from the ceiling light fixture—he takes the first step. Luke tenderly clasps Diana’s small hand in his larger hand, brings it to his lips, and gently kisses the back of her hand. And they gaze sweetly into each others’ eyes, their possibly seeing a future together.
To be continued with Chapter 04
References for Ch. 03 of “Of Magic & Mistletoe”, December 23, 2020 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) Grati night filter and strokes edit; the original snowy road scene image was found at https://cdn.hswstatic.com/gif/10-biggest-snowstorms1.jpg
The link for Ch. 03 on my Wattpad site, will be found at:
December 23, 2020–Thanks for voting/starring Ch. 03 of my new original Christmas romance “Of Magic & Mistletoe”! I’m glad that you enjoyed it! Holiday Cheers! Grati ;->