Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wednesday Briefs: A Marshall and Lee Christmas, Part I

Happy Christmas Eve to everyone! It's also Hump Day, and time for some flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! Every week, we post a piece of flash fiction between 500 and 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts! This week is no exception.

Because Christmas is here, I'm interrupting my regular flash to bring you a Christmas story. But the good news is it features the same characters, Marshall and Lee! I'm posting part one today, and the next part tomorrow. What can  you expect from Marshall and Lee? A whole lot of loving! Hope you enjoy! Don't forget to see what the other Briefers are up to. Their links follow my tale!

A Marshall and Lee Christmas: Part I

Christmas in Texas wasn’t white. And it wasn’t all that cold. But it was sure as hell better than being in Fargo, freezing his ass off. Most important, Christmas in Texas was with Lee, and that made all the difference in the world to Marshall.

Christmas in Texas was warmth and love, and being loved by Lee. And it was filled with traditions begun when Marshall and Lee began their new life together in Burnham. Beginning with the cutting down of the Christmas tree.

This year’s tree, a six foot Virginia pine, stood in a corner of the living room, waiting to be decorated. They’d brought it home the night before, cut it themselves at a Christmas tree farm that was less than an hour away. The same place they went every year since Marshall had joined Lee in Burnham.

Marshall set the box of decorations beside the others on the couch. Lights and tinsel and ornaments. Everything they’d accumulated over the years. Strings of blue lights framed the windows and eaves outside, but today was all about the indoor decorating. This was something they always did together, but Lee had gone out a little while ago to help Roy, who was having car trouble. He’d be back soon. In the meantime, Marshall would get everything ready, and make sure the strands of lights weren’t tangled.

He removed the lid of one of the boxes. Inside a beautiful angel nestled, resplendent in a flowing gold dress, and delicate gold-trimmed wings. Marshall carefully lifted her from her bed of tissue paper, and smoothed down her dress, his mind going back to the first time he’d ever seen her…

Marshall was eight years old and beyond excited. As soon as he and his dad got up, they’d gone straight to the Christmas calendar and tore off the last page. That meant Christmas was tomorrow, and Marshall was more than ready to see what Santa Claus would bring. Of course, there were still things to do. Everything had to be in readiness for this night of nights. Christmas only came once a year, and there were no second chances.

“Can I make the cookies this year, Dad?” Breakfast was over, his teeth were brushed, and Marshall had gotten dressed in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt.  Homemade cookies were an essential part of the holiday tradition. Nothing was too good for Santa; store-bought just wouldn’t do.  For the past few years, he’d helped his dad make the cookies, but Marshall was confident he could handle it this year himself.

His father carefully considered the question. “We’ll see,” he said at last. “Gotta get the tree decorated first, okay?”

“Okay!” Marshall readily agreed.

“Want to get the boxes out?”

Marshall’s eyes widened. That was something he’d never gotten to do before. It meant a lot to him that his father thought he was ready to handle that job now. “Oh yes, I do.” Marshall nodded solemnly. His father gave him a smile and a thumbs up from the couch where he sat.

“Go for it,” he said.

They kept the Christmas decorations in their own place in the hall closet, near the back. Marshall almost skipped to the closet, his heart beating wildly. Carefully, he moved the pile of towels that sat in front. They’d already been to the Christmas tree lot and his dad let him pick out the prettiest tree he saw. It was just waiting to be decorated.

Marshall pulled out one of the boxes and opened it. This one contained the lights. A small box contained some of the ornaments, and tinsel lay in a third. There should have been two more boxes, though, with more ornaments, and the angel who sat on top of the tree. But he couldn’t see them.

Frantic, he moved the contents of the closet around, afraid he’d missed them somehow. But he couldn’t see them, and his previous good mood evaporated as panic set in. It was his fault, he just knew it, even if he didn’t know how or why.

He took the boxes he could find and carried them back to the living room. His dad looked up from his morning paper. “Find everything okay?”

Marshall didn’t know what to say, so he stayed silent. His father gave him a piercing look. “Something wrong, Marshall?”

Marshall felt tears gathering in his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he whispered faintly, his voice refusing to work. “I… I couldn’t find everything.”

His dad rose swiftly and took the boxes from him. Marshall watched while he set them down and looked through them, a frown creasing his forehead. Marshall just knew he was mad at him, and the knowledge hurt. He could hear his dad swearing under his breath. Marshall began to tremble.

His dad looked up and instantly the frown line disappeared, as he pulled Marshall into his arms. “What’s all this about?” he asked in surprise. Marshall burrowed his face against his father’s chest and sobbed.

“I must have lost them,” he sobbed in a stricken voice. “I’m sorry, Dad.”

“Ssh, ssh.” His dad held him close, stroking Marshall’s hair and soothing him. “It’s not your fault, not at all. You didn’t do anything. She did.”

She who? Marshall turned a surprised face up to his father, who wiped tears from Marshall’s cheeks.

“Your mother must have paid us a surprise visit. I’ll have to see what else is missing, won’t I?”

Marshall wasn’t sure what his dad meant, but he didn’t care. All he knew was that he wasn’t in trouble, and his dad wasn’t mad.

Once Marshall was calm enough, they went to the store, through the new-fallen snow, and his father let Marshall pick out a new angel. He even let Marshall place her on top of the tree himself.  And then his dad let him make Santa’s cookies.

That was their last Christmas before his mother snatched him away, the last one for five long years.

to be continued

Now see what the other Briefers are doing this fine Christmas Eve!

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