Second Place

Mistletoe Cookies and Christmas Dreams

by Jami Baumann

 

 

Clifford sat staring out the enormous picture windows of his hilltop cabin. Giant snowflakes fell from the sky like cotton balls. It reminded him of his favorite Christmas many years ago. It was the Christmas he met Elanor Tutton.

A small bundle leaped into his lap making him grunt. A reminder that his focus was present and not the past. However, life had a funny way of combining the two.

“Pop-pop?” the timid bundle asked from his lap.

With a hearty chuckle he fluffed his only granddaughter’s ebony curls. “Yes, my lil cookie?”

“Tell me a story. A Christmas one?” She asked while bouncing on his lap trying to get more comfortable. She was all snug and ready for bed in her fluffy pink PJs. “Please.” She whispered as an afterthought.

He gave a gruff chuckle, they all knew he would not say no. “What kind of story? Snowmen and ballerinas? Or maybe candy castles and gumdrop princesses?” She shook her head no at every smiled suggestion.

“Tell me how you met Nana?” she asked in a quiet voice.

He glanced up stunned to look at his son across the room. Travis gave him a sad smile and a pleading look. “Please Pop? You two told it every year while we were growing up. I miss hearing it”

“I’ve never heard it. Please Pop-pop?” the fluffy bundle pleaded.

Cliff gave a sigh. He knew when he was beat. He could feel a sad smile form under his fluffy white mustache. He cleared his throat and said in a grumbly tone, “Well if you want to hear it throw another log on the fire. It’s a doozy and I don’t want myself getting cold half way through.”

Travis gave his wife Claire a triumphant smile as he did as his father asked. Once the fire was built up and Travis was snuggled next to his very pregnant wife Clifford began.

“We met on a very snowy Christmas Eve.”

“Like this one?” his granddaughter interrupted.

“No. It was much worse. You see by the time I got done with my shift at the station it was already a foot deep and, on the drive, back here I swear it was two.”

“Wow…” came the whisper from his granddaughter.

“Well back then I was a bachelor. I had come back from the war and became a cop. I thought a gruff and worldly man like me was better off alone. I didn’t think I needed anyone in my life. So, I had planned my Christmas Eve to be the same as many before. I was going to hunker down in my old cabin and eat baloney sandwiches and listen to the radio. I clambered in to my ancient hunk a junk truck and went rattling down the road towards my home.”

“I was about five minutes away from my dirt lane when I saw an Oldsmobile down in a ditch. It had slid off the road and gotten stuck. As a cop I was supposed to help people.  I slowed down to check and make sure everyone in the car was alright.”

“Were they?”

“Fine as Christmas Candy, as Nana always said.” Cliff stared out the window as if he could see the scene all over again. “As I got closer, I saw this angel step out of the car. She was all wrapped up in a fluffy grey fur. Her emerald dress glowed in my headlights. I was stricken with her beauty. Her hair was black as the night and had tumbled down her back from whatever fancy hairdo it’d been. It wasn’t until I got out of the car, and noticed her hazel eyes, that I felt like a goner.”

“Who was it?” Ellie whispered afraid she would be breaking the magic of the story.

“Why it was your Nana Elanor. She told me that she had been on her way to her families Christmas party in West Shornburg. That’s a town about an hour away from the spot we were at. She said a deer had jumped in front of her car and she’d swerved to miss it and got stuck. She wasn’t hurt mind you just cold and eager to get back to her family.”

“I told her I couldn’t get her to her party, but I was a cop and had a house right down the next lane where she would be safe and warm until I could dig her car out. I even showed her my badge, so she knew I wasn’t telling lies.”

“Did she go with you?” Claire asked sipping her tea.

“Of course, she did. She would of froze to death in that car.” Cliff shook his head. Young people and their crazy notions.

Ellie looked from her mom to her grandfather. “But pop-pop you say to never go off with strangers.”

“You are right I do say that. Back then though the world was less crazy then it is now. Besides your grandma was one tough cookie. She looked me straight in the eye and said cop or not I try anything, and she’d knock my block off and roast me in a pie.”

Ellie chuckled. “Good.”

“Dang right good. She was classy and gentle, but I tell you what she had a temper like no other. She’d of cleaned my clock without breaking a sweat. So, I told her yes mam and got out of the truck. I loaded her suitcase into the cab when she informed me that we could not leave all the sweets she’d made for the party. She told me they’d be ruined if not eaten soon. You know me, I was not about to turn away sweets.” He rubbed his little plump belly as proof. The other three all giggled with him.

“Back then this cabin wasn’t like it was now. It wasn’t even close to fancy. It had one bedroom a bath and the rest were all smooshed into the great room. It wasn’t much to look at, but I had plans to make it nice one day.”

“I like it better now.” Came Claire’s voice from behind her mug.

“Me too.” Piped up Ellie.

“That’s thanks to your daddy and his brothers. Once they were grown, they helped me make this nice and fancy. Just like Nana wanted.” Cliff gave a wink to his son.

“What happened next?” Claire asked shyly.

“Well I helped her unload and we made up a fire. The two of us sat up all night eating baloney sandwiches and her sweets. We sat there talking like old friends while we listened to Christmas carols on the radio. We didn’t even head off to sleep until the early hours of the morning. For your information, young lady, I slept on the couch. She had the nice cozy bedroom with the door that locked.”

“That was very nice of you.” Ella said gently patting him on the shoulder.

“It was terribly nice considering how uncomfortable that sofa was. Makes my back ache all over again.” He grumbled.

“A gentleman always puts a lady first.” Travis said nuzzling his wife. She gave a small giggle and snuggled deeper in to the couch with him.

“Exactly. See there,” he nudged Ella, “I raised your daddy up right.”

She gave a small head nod and a yawn in response.

“Now when the both of us finally got up the next day we realized we were snowed in. We were trapped here until New Year’s when it finally started to melt. We made do with what supplies I had. All we had for company besides each other was the radio. She made some wonderful meals out of my bachelor canned goods. We ate every treat she had made. It wasn’t until that final night together I found a cookie shaped like mistletoe. I held it above our heads and she kissed me right and proper. Rung my bell and stole my heart. The pipes had frozen by then, so I melted snow on the stove to give her a nice hot bath to relax in. I had to take care of her since she was taking such sweet care of me. She said that a bath of steamy snow was her favorite.” He chuckled to himself. “Once she married me, I always made her bath water with the first big winter snow to remind her of that night.”

“Oh, Pop that’s so romantic.” Claire sighed as she gently thumped Travis on the arm. “Where are my romantic traditions?” she asked him pointedly.

Travis gave her a slow shrug, “Must skip a generation.”

“Well anyhow the next day the snow had melted enough to retrieve her car. I knew I was head over heels for that woman. I had a feeling she felt the same way. Only a woman in love could kiss you to the point your toes curled. As I watched her drive away my heart felt heavy. I had just let the most wonderful woman in the world drive off without even asking for a proper date. So, I swore right then and there I would win her heart, so I never had to watch her drive away again.” Ella was softly snoring in his lap at this point. “Well I tuckered someone out I should put her to bed.”

“Finish the story first please pop.” Travis asked.

“Oh yes please.” Claire echoed.

“Y’all are a bunch of mushy romantics,” he chuckled enjoying the telling of this story for the first time since his wife passed, “Well her bakery was in the same town as my patrol. So, every day I went to her bakery and bought some coffee and a cookie. We’d chat and flirt. I’d even bring her flowers or little presents from other shops on my patrol. I was so scared she’d turn me down flat and break my heart if I asked her out too quick. I just couldn’t help dragging my feet. Even us big guys are afraid of a broken heart. Come Valentine’s day she looked at me and said, ‘Are you going to ask me out or just get fat on my cookies?’ I laughed and took her to dinner. Christmas Eve the next year we were married. I spent every Christmas Eve with her by my side until that last one. She went to sleep on my shoulder like she had done for over forty years and didn’t wake up. Haven’t slept right since.” Cliff finished his story. His eyes were swimming with tears that he wouldn’t shed. Afraid he couldn’t stop. Elanor Tutton had changed his life for the better that Christmas Eve. She’d blessed him with four strapping sons and two gorgeous daughters. All of which would be there in the morning to celebrate as a family.

Travis and Claire were both crying softly at this point. “Oh, Pop we didn’t know.” Claire’s hand wiped away a tear from her cheek, “I can’t believe it’s been three years.”

Clifford sighed and edged out of his recliner still holding his granddaughter tight in his arms. “That woman was the best Christmas gift I ever received.” He told them as he carried Ella down the hall to her bed.

Cliff placed little Ella softly down and covered her up. Gave her a quick kiss goodnight and went back to his room. The room his wife had slept in that first Christmas alone. He sank down on to the king-sized sleigh bed. The bed they snuggled together for forty-four wonderfully happy Christmases. He looked at his hands and wept into them. He missed her more with each passing day, but Christmas was the hardest. With a soft sob he laid down alone in his bed to have Christmas dreams of his wife.

He awoke some time later to a chilly room and a soft glow lighting up his room. He sat up and stared at the woman he had loved and lost.

“Elanor?” he gasped.

“Oh, Cliff how I missed you.” She said in a soft voice.

“Ellie honey you’re dead. Am I dead?”

She gave a hearty chuckle, “You old fool. I’m dead, yes, but you aren’t.”

“Am I going to die?”

“Not for a long time.” She shook her head and sat down beside him. “The powers that be heard your wish. They sent me back for a few hours. They know I needed another Christmas night in your arms.”

“It’s a miracle.” He said tears flowing down his cheeks. “A genuine Christmas miracle.”

“Yes.” With that she gave him a kiss to curl his toes and snuggled her head into his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her radiant form and slept soundly for the first time since she died. He would spend this Christmas knowing that there was an eternity waiting for him and it would be spent with the love of his life.

 

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Jami Baumann is a breast cancer survivor that lives in Ohio. She lives with her four kids and three dogs. She has been a storyteller and actress from a young age. She has just recently started writing stories for submissions and publication. This story will be her first publication.