As we stroll down fourth avenue, with a light breeze to our backs and the smell of oncoming snow. We arrive at a neatly decorated storefront picture window, with white twinkling lights, silver garland and a sprig of mistletoe. The wooden sled propped up in the corner, with a knitted hat and scarf draped over it reads Flexible Flyer. A ceramic Christmas tree painted forest green with hints of white is lit by a single bulb in its base, it illuminates the multi colored bulbs scattered along it’s bows. A simple little nightstand holds a collection of classic tales, A Christmas Carol, Little Women, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Wind in the Willows. A small wooden rocking chair is adorned with a Raggedy Ann doll, her red mop hair, blue dress and white apron looking crisp. On the glass painted in ornate lettering is ‘Russell’s Family Thrift Store ~ Find Your Hidden Treasure’
Natalie had worked for the small family owned thrift store for two years and on this Christmas Eve she was selling her heart out, pushing the jewelry boxes and other little trinkets that the thrift store had an abundance.
“I need something simple, for my wife.” the man said, as he glanced over the jewelry counter.
“ How about a jewelry box that plays music, this one plays Shostakovich – Waltz No. 2.” Natalie said as she opened the top to demonstrate.
The man listened for a moment and then asked.
“Do you have anything to put in it?”
“Let’s see, here, how about this one?” Natalie pulled out a silver necklace with a snowflake pendant.
“Hey, that’s not bad, what are the blue stones on it?”
“Those are sapphires, so will this be all then?”
“Yes.” he said giving her a smile as she rang him up.
“How’s it going out there?” Richard asked as Natalie entered the backroom to get more gift bags.
“It’s steady, although people don’t seem to be spending as much this year.” she answered grabbing the bags and heading back out to the front.
Richard had been managing the thrift store for the last three years, ever since Mr. Russell had had his heart attack and decided to hand over the daily reigns.
At five past nine Natalie showed the last customer out and turned the lock on the front door. She flipped the main lights off, closed her till and headed into the backroom.
“All closed up?” Richard asked sitting at the desk going over some paperwork.
“Yeah.” she answered as she put the till down on the desk.
“Ok, then have a good night.” he said not looking up from the papers.
“Night.” Natalie said leaving the backroom.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
At 1am on Christmas morning Ann Thompson put the red leather leash on her aging irish setter Maggie and set out on her nightly stroll through downtown. Ann doesn’t sleep much anymore since her Lawrence passed away five years ago. She fills her days watching the Hallmark channel, reading mystery novels and taking Maggie out for walks. As the snow began falling in light soft flakes, Ann took notice of two figures dressed in black quickly leaving by the back entrance of Russell’s Family Thrift Store.
~ ~ ~ ~
“Morning.” James said as he wrapped his arms around Stella, as she scrambled the eggs on the stove.
“Morning.” She answered leaning her head back, kissing him.
From the kitchen table Daniel spoke up.
“Since we’re all here, I have something to say.” He got up from his seat and stood in front of Holly, taking her hand in his.
“Daniel.” Holly said trying not to laugh.
He smiled at her.
“Holly, I want to ask you to be my wife.” Daniel took out a little black box from his bathrobe pocket and held it out to her.
“Did you know about this?” James whispered to Stella. She shook her head.
“Nope, total surprise.”
Holly took the box and opened it, she glanced at the emerald cut diamond engagement ring, and then at Daniel who had dropped to his knees in front of her.
He leaned in and kissed her, as she wrapped her arms around him. There was a quick movement against them.
“I guess that’s also a yes.” Daniel said holding his hand against Holly’s expanding belly.
“I guess so.” She said putting her hand over his as it rested on her.
“Congratulations.” Stella said heading over to the table and hugging the couple.
After a celebratory breakfast James returned to the bedroom stood in front of the dresser and pulled out a little blue box from his bathrobe pocket. He let out a sigh and placed it back into the top drawer where it had been living for the last three months.
Maybe for New Years.
~ ~ ~ ~
Natalie’s hands shook as she drove, she reached over picking up the Christmas card envelope that was on the passenger seat. She glanced at the return address confirming that she had entered it into the GPS correctly. Light snowflakes began to fall as she drove further out of town, she flipped on the wipers as the day’s occurrences played over in her mind like a broken record. They had pulled it off, Richard meet her back at her apartment after closing up Russell’s Family Thrift Store and taking all the cash from the safe. A nice little sum of ten thousand dollars, Richard hadn’t made a deposit for the store in two weeks. The plan being to leave town on Christmas day before anyone noticed.
“I’ve been thinking maybe we need to stick around and play dumb, report the robbery the day after Christmas.” Richard announced while grabbing himself a beer from Natalie’s fridge.
“Why? We have the cash we got away with it, we need to leave tonight,”
“Look, I need to keep my name clean, maybe disappear after the New Year,” he said taking a long drink.
Natalie stood looking Richard over, he was calm and determined. He had changed the plan and made up his mind.
“Is this because of HER?”
Richard put the beer bottle down on the kitchen counter and moved towards Natalie. Grabbing her by the arm and pulling her into him.
“Christine is absolutely none of your business,” he said as his grip tightened around her arm.
“Fine, whatever you want to do, I’ll do,” she said moving closer to him and kissing him, he let go of her arm and she went to the fridge to grab herself a beer.
~ ~ ~ ~
The sun streaked through the lace curtains that hung on the bedroom window, awakening Natalie.
“Richard?” she asked the empty apartment.
Fuck. She mumbled getting up and finding some sweets and a t-shirt to slip into.
Natalie knocked on the door to the ranch style home that sat in the middle of a cul-de-sac.
Christine opened the door.
“Is he here?”
“Is who here?”
“Richard, is he here?”
“No, and I you have some nerve coming to the house.”
“Well you know if you unlocked your legs once in a while, he wouldn’t have to get it from somewhere else.”
Natalie turned and walked down the driveway to her car. She drove out of the cul-de-sac and headed towards the mall. She sat in the parking lot of the Riverside Mall and flipped through the stack of mail that she had grabbed along with her already packed suitcase.
She stopped at an off white envelope and opened the Christmas card.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful Holiday Season
Love, Stella and Holly
~ ~ ~ ~
The sky had cleared to a crisp blue as Natalie pulled up to Stella’s house. She took a deep breath readying herself to explain her unplanned visit. As she closed her car door and headed up to the porch the front door opened and two men in trench coats exited the house.
“Morning, can we help you?” James asked.
“Is Stella home?”
“Sure, and you are?”
“Natalie, I went to school with Stella and Holly. I was in the area and though I would come by and see how they are doing,” Natalie said standing at the foot of the stairs.
James opened the front door. “Stella you have a visitor,” he yelled into the house.
“What?” Stella asked emerging from the kitchen wiping her hands on a dish towel.
“You have a visitor,” James said showing Natalie into the house.
“Natalie? What are you doing out here?”
“It’s a long story, I hope you don’t mind me dropping in, I needed a place to get myself together,”
Stella gave James a look. James shrugged his shoulders.
“We’re going to be late,” Daniel said from the porch.
James gave Stella a kiss on the cheek and headed out.
“What was all that about?” Daniel asked as he finished his cigarette.
“I have no idea. But I’m sure we’ll hear all about it later,” James said getting into the car.
~ ~ ~ ~
Detective James Andrews and Detective Daniel Hayes entered the downtown precinct.
“How was your Holiday Sirs?” Officer Roberts asked as they signed in.
“It was fine, what’s in the cup?”
“A peppermint mocha,” Officer Roberts answered.
James scoffed as they were buzzed in.
“Have a good day officer,” Daniel said following James to his desk.
James hung up his coat and poured himself a cup of coffee with two sugars and a splash of cream. He sat at his desk sipping on his coffee and rearranging papers.
“You do know that you’re going to have to go in there and tell him,” Daniel said sitting across from him.
James let out a sigh. “I know, not sure how he’s going to take it,”
“It will be fine, just like ripping of a bandage, do it quick and it will only sting for a moment,” Daniel said giving James a smile.
“Well that’s not helpful,”
James stood in front of Lieutenant Peyton Brooks door and knocked.
James opened the door and entered the office.
“Detective what can I do for you?”
“Well Sir, I feel that it’s time to move on, so I am here to give notice,”
Lieutenant Brooks reached over and flipped a few pages over on his desk calendar, he then pulled out a form and wrote a few things on it.
“Here you go, make sure Pam in HR gets a copy for payroll,”
“Yes, Sir, is that all Sir?” James asked taking the form.
“That’s all Detective, close the door on your way out,”
James left Lieutenant Brook’s office closing the door behind him.
He wandered over to his desk and sat down.
“You Ok there?” Daniel asked.
“I think so,”
James read over the form, signing and dating the bottom. He got up taking the form with him.
“Where are you going?”
“To see Pam in HR,”
~ ~ ~ ~
“Pam?” James asked as he entered the little office that was downstairs.
“I’m supposed to give this to you,” James said holding out the form.
Pam took the form and read it over.
“So you’re leaving us, Detective Andrews,”
“Well it all looks in order, Sir, thank you,” Pam said as she went back to her typing.
James wandered back upstairs slightly lost in how matter of fact his leaving was being taken. As he came around the corner back towards his desk, he was met with a rousing rendition of ‘For he’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ being sung by everyone in the precinct.
~ ~ ~ ~
“What a day, care for a drink?” Daniel asked as they entered the house.
“Sure,” James answered hanging up his coat.
They made their way to the bar in the living room, Daniel pulled two glasses and filled them with Jack.
James picked up the glass and tipped it towards Daniel, then downed it.
Daniel poured another one.
James put down the empty glass on the bar.
“I suppose we should go see what the story is with the Natalie lady,”
“Lead the way,” Daniel said motioning towards the kitchen.
To be continued-