Hiding from Christmas
After her grandparents as forced to live apart through assisted living, and then die within nine days of each other, intrepid entrepreneur Calissa Ladd is devastated. She’s always wanted to experience the same lifelong love modeled by her grandparents, but her heart isn’t where it needs to be as she clings to the past for answers and then starts having vivid dreams of a long-ago time period.
Deferential banker Monte McQueen has loved Calissa since they were children, but he procrastinates making a commitment to her. He stands by as Calissa gets stuck in the past.
Calissa clings to the decrepit homestead that belonged to her family, searching and seeing visions into the past. Will she overcome her skewed beliefs and reclaim her relationship with the Lord as Monte pushes his love of Christmas on her? Or will she forfeit her happily-ever-after?
Read an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Hiding from Christmas
The girls blew into Calissa’s apartment from the patio entrance, where they toed off their boots.
Hadley tossed a beige envelope on the table in front of Calissa. “Card for you, auntie. Stuck in the front door.”
She’d gone through the garage yesterday upon her return from the homestead, without a glance at the front entrance. Otherwise, she might have seen the envelope herself.
“Something about love, I’ll bet.” Brittany giggled and shrugged out of her hoodie.
Calissa slid off her thimble and accepted it. The paper was damp and cold to the touch. Flimsy. But she made out Monte’s handwriting. “I’ll set it next to the floor vent so it dries off. Then, I’ll open it.”
The girls looked at one another and burst out in song. “Monte and Calissa sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”
“Kids in your generation still say that?” She waited for their giggles to die down. “I need a good three hours’ production from you two today so let’s get crackin’.”
Brittany tossed their coats on the sofa. “Something on the floor, Aunt Calissa. Looks like another card.”
“Oh, it must have slipped out of my purse. It’s also from Monte. Set it on the coffee table, please.”
“Two cards from your man?” Brittany fanned her face with the envelope. “Why don’t you set them out?”
“Because I’m working.”
Hadley took her seat at the long work table Calissa had set up in the dining area, and selected a variety of blue beads with matching thread. “I’m glad you’re getting cards. Hope they’re Christmas. Mom said you need the holiday spirit in your life.”
Calissa scowled. Was Monte pushing Christmas on her by giving cards? She jolted at Hadley’s loud voice.
“Brit, get your butt over here.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re not the boss of me, little sis.”
“Any boss we had wouldn’t treat us the way our aunt does. She gives us something new and sparkly every month to embellish our clothes.”
Calissa smiled at their banter and bent her head over her needle.
Three crystal beads secured.
The girls spoke at once.
“How come Monte sent you two cards?”
“Why aren’t you together now? Even if he is old, he always looks good.”
Out of the mouths of babes. “Girls. We’ve been through this. I can’t tell you why Monte has given me two cards, or why we aren’t engaged. We’ve been friends forever. We’re comfortable together. The romantic side of the guy appears infrequently. He’s a good man. Respected with an admirable job.”
“But you love each other,” Hadley whined. “You’re supposed to get all gooey-eyed and blush when you talk about him.”
They shared a laugh.
“You don’t have to remind us that adult relationships can be complicated.” Brittany grinned at Calissa. “I’ll bet that second card is dry now.”
To settle the subject, Calissa stuck her needle in the denim pocket and retrieved the envelope. She drew out another old-fashioned card. The cover showed a hunched youth laden with gaily-wrapped packages wishing the recipient a Christmas filled with joy. She held it toward the girls then flipped it open.
I want to shower you with Christmas wishes. Just say the word, and I’ll come over to decorate. Love, Monte
“I don’t need help to decorate.” She went to the open galley kitchen and took the cups off the mug tree. Paused. What was wrong with her that kept him from proposing? Should she come right out and ask him if they had a future together? Could the problem be on both their sides? Calissa grabbed a paper punch and strung a narrow ribbon through the hole in the card. She extracted the first one from the envelope Monte gave her at the homestead, and did the same. Now the metal branches of the mug tree were adorned with two cards…they looked lopsided and bare, but too bad. A glance at the girls made her giggle. She shrugged and sat. “I have work to do. Close your mouth, Hadley. A bug could fly in.”
Brittany sputtered and bowed her head over her emerging peacock in varied greens. Her cheeks puffed out. “You may not want to say, but I have to know. Tell us why you don’t like Christmas.”
Calissa poked her needle from the bottom up through the denim fabric before answering. “It’s not that I don’t care for it, exactly. I don’t see a reason to take time for all the hoopla.” And I hate to relive the devastating disappointment of my teen years over and over.
“Tell us about Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa and where Grandma grew up.” Brittany made her statement with her needle poised in the air.
Both girls loved hearing the stories about their grandparents. Hadley had mentioned more than once that Calissa’s stories made the pictures of various people in old family photo albums more real to them.
Calissa chose a black bead to accent the purple peacock. “Yes, my mom, your grandmother, was the youngest of a large family. Due to the wide span of ages between the siblings, the oldest was married and living in the house with his wife, when your grandmother came along. Your great-grandfather built the house and added on a couple times to accommodate everyone.”
“All of them in the same house.” Hadley tossed her hair over her shoulder. “I hope they each had their own room. I wouldn’t want to share a room with Brittany.”
“And I’d never share a room with you,” Brittany said with mock sarcasm. “Ewwww.”
“Well, Grandpa farmed, so I’ll bet the only time you’d be in your rooms would be to sleep. Everyone helped back then. Kids worked on the farm, just as adults did. There were hard years and snowed-in times, but there was always love. And enough to eat, because they grew their own food, including meat. They canned everything themselves, vegetables and fruits too.”
“Sounds like hard work all the time to me.” Hadley grimaced. “And that house is nothing special. Mom’s driven by there a couple times.”
“Mom says you love the place.” Brittany stood to reach a spool of turquoise thread.
“Yes.” Calissa exhaled. “Somehow the building and the land settle me. Knowing who lived there once breathes a sense of belonging to my soul. Our ancestors thrived between the crumbling walls of that place. They fused their lives together as they shared warmth from the fireplace and whispered dreams beneath piled-on quilts in the beds above the parlor.” Calissa’s fancy imaginings had taken her right out of her own apartment.
“It sounds like something I could write about in my journal.” Brittany grinned. “There’s always a teacher who wants to know if we discovered new adventures or did anything exciting over Christmas break.”
“Would you drive us out there, auntie?” Hadley raised her head. “Maybe we could get our Christmas essays done early.”
“I’d be glad to drive you out. The place isn’t pretty. Don’t make fun of me, though. I look through the knot holes of the aged wood and glassless windows and feel love. I don’t see the rot. I see roots.”
Those roots called to her, even in her dreams, a longing that wouldn’t let Calissa go. Today, she drove the boxes of filled orders to the post office, and then headed over the familiar country roads. Cold weather allowed only glimpses of green grass now. Naked tree branches beckoned her nearer the abandoned house.
Calissa bypassed the front room window. She approached the original entrance, and propped open the door with a rock. She scanned the rectangular room, noting doorways and faint remnants of torn, floral wallpaper. The stone fireplace against the far wall drew her closer, and she walked into the house farther than she’d ever dared.
No glowing embers came to life. No fire sparked burning logs to glow. The vision of Grandma and Grandpa didn’t repeat itself the same as on her last visit.
Carissa blinked. A chill ran up her spine. Not a dangerous, scary kind, but one of intense yearning. She glanced over her shoulder. And froze.
In the corner before a raggedy branched cedar tree decorated in gold balls and dripping icicle trim, her grandparents appeared. They laughed with open smiles. Grandma’s eyes were squinted shut, and her hands were on Grandpa’s shoulders. Even seated in the chair, he seemed tall.
Happy. Their happiness rang from the rafters.
The deep desire for lasting love and a sense of belonging created an ache within, strong enough to stun Calissa. She swiped a gloved hand over her eyes, positive time travel was an incorrect assumption. They obviously couldn’t see her. The cedar scent of the Christmas tree filled the December air. The great love between the handsome man and joyful woman washed through Calissa’s heart. Her senses were more alive than they’d ever been.
The fairy-tale scene faded.
Monte would never believe her. Why did she think of him? Deep down, she wanted to be happy with him the same way she remembered the love of her grandparents. Did he balk at commitment due to his parents?
Calissa pivoted. Her toe struck a loose hearth stone. She bent to fix it back in place but it wouldn’t resettle. Hefting it for a better angle, she eyed a rusty tin rather than finely ground mortar. Trembling with anticipation, she shook the box to loosen the dirt, and withdrew it.
The lid was rusted shut.
Back in her apartment, Calissa ignored the cards from Monte. She cleared a collection of glass bottles from an antique gate leg table near the patio door and spread newspapers. Over it, and then positioned the tin on the pages. Using a hammer and screwdriver to loosen rust along the edges, she pried off the lid.
Christmas came at her from all sides. She put away her tools, brushed the powdered rust debris and dirt into the trash, and lifted out a vintage card. More lay beneath. Though holiday themed, the whimsical pictures and clever words drew a smile. Predominantly red and green on tan or white backgrounds, a Santa on one card, and a pretty girl with golden curls adorned the other. The models smiled their greetings of love and joy and goodwill. Why had the cards been stored under a loose hearth stone at the homestead?
As much as she longed to explore them one by one, orders awaited. She headed for the work table, but Monte’s cards caught her eye. She reached for her phone to text a thank-you.
The phone rang.
“Hi, Monte. I’ll put you on speaker and pick up my needle.”
“That’s fine. I’m looking at the empty lobby. How are you this sunny December day?”
“I hope you aren’t upset about this, but I’ve been back to the homestead twice since our picnic.”
“You’re too smart to go inside, I hope. That house isn’t safe, Calissa.”
“I was careful. And as weird as this sounds, I’ve had some sort of visions or something unexplainable.” She relayed both to him.
Monte went silent. She wanted to see his face.
“I know that it’s a little girl’s dream to imagine them dying together.” She drew in a quivery breath. “True love is so hard to find these days.”
“Marriages don’t last. If they do, one tolerates the other. Love becomes a figment of the other’s imagination.”
She hated the bitterness that colored Monte’s tone. “I’m sorry you have such a jaded attitude toward marriage.”
“We’ve talked about it enough over the years.”
Calissa pictured Monte running his hand down his tie.
“I’ve seen my share of financial messes between divorced couples,” he ground out.
“I get that. Let’s talk about this later. We both have work to do. And I want to show you what I found at the house.” If she didn’t have a needle in her hand, she’d slap her forehead. “Thanks for calling. And thanks for the cards.”
“Will the girls be there to work tonight, or can I bring food so we can talk?”
“They have a church youth gathering tonight so supper sounds good. If you make that a Reuben sandwich, we can dig into my discovery together.”
“I hope you’re about done going out there. It isn’t healthy for you, or safe, at the homestead, especially after dark. And it certainly doesn’t do you any good to continually dwell on your grandparents as much as you do. High school was over ten years ago.”
“It’s not unhealthy to search for the meaning of love.”
“You’ll find it if you renew your relationship with God and change your attitude toward Christmas.”
He repeated that topic as much as she talked about Grandma and Grandpa.
Christian romance author LoRee Peery writes to feel alive, as a way of contributing, and to pass forward the hope of rescue from sin. She writes of redeeming grace with a sense of place. LoRee clings to 1 John 5:4 and prays her family sees that faith. She has authored the Frivolities Series and other e-books. Her desire for readers, the same as for her characters, is to discover where they fit in this life journey to best work out the Lord’s life plan. She is who she is by the grace of God: Christian, country girl, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, and author. She’s been a reader since before kindergarten. Connect with LoRee through these links:
Find her publications at Pelican Book Group And Amazon