Comfort and Joy: Part V

During this festive week, I am running short fiction inspired by the holidays. This is the last installment of a short series which began my literary celebration of the season. Inspired by of all things, my own Christmas decorations, Comfort and Joy introduces you to the lonely nutcracker and the grieving angel and all the cohort of angels, Nativity characters and snow people around them. It’s sweet as a Christmas cookie but written with love.

Here’s the whole gang–the decorations that inspired this story.

PART V: A KISS UNDER THE MISTLETOE

As the first glimmer of daylight shone through the window, we began to take our leave, promising to sing again the next night and every night until the Christmas decorations were taken down and put away for another year.

“Clara?” Joy called to me. “Your friend Pyotr has been very worried about you.”

“Did he tell you?” I started to say but she put her hand out to stop me.

“No, but his friend Ernst has been talking non-stop.”

I had to laugh. He’d been so non-communicative while we shared space on the shelf.

Joy went on. “Ernst whispered to me you were missing your dear friend. And he told me that the nutcracker named Pyotr wants to offer you his friendship and some comfort.”

She held out her little posy. “He asked if I might give you my flowers.”

“Oh no.” I had to object. “I couldn’t take your flowers.”

“Oh please. I’m quite tired of holding them. They were placed in my hands more than thirty years ago. It’s time they gave someone else some joy.”

I took them tentatively, happy to have something to hold. My fellow angels have musical instruments but I have always stood with my hands at my side.

I sniffed their sweet fragrance as Pyotr approached me. “Joy tells me this was your idea.”

“No, it was Ernst’s. But I wish I’d thought of it.” He blushed and turned to Joy. “Thank you for your generosity.”

She shrugged her delicate shoulders and ruffled her feathery wings. “It’s a perfect thing to do at Christmas.”

Pyotr took my hand and we walked slowly back to our shelf to witness the family’s holiday. At the dining room doorway, he stopped and looked up.

“Do you know what that is?” he asked.

All I could see was a sprig of greenery with a red bow. “Holly? Ivy?”

“No, it’s mistletoe.”

That didn’t mean anything to me but I could tell from the pink in his cheeks it meant something to Pyotr. “It’s traditional to kiss under the mistletoe. That is, if you’d like to.”

I’d never been kissed anywhere so I nodded, my heart thumping at this new experience. He leaned in and lightly pressed my cheek with his soft, warm lips. I gasped and touched the place with my fingers. “Now, do I kiss you?”

“If you would like to.”

His cheek was soft and round and pinker than I’d ever seen it. “Merry Christmas, Pyotr. And thank you.”

“The pleasure is all mine.” He squeezed my hand. “But we better get moving. I think I hear the family stirring upstairs.”

We rushed to the shelf and scrambled up where I took a new place beside Pyotr. After all that singing I was a little tired but so exhilarated.

Pyotr looked confused. “Shouldn’t you be with the other angels?” 

I shook my head. “No, I’m happy here.”

Even if I wanted to move there was no time. The family raced into the family room on their way to the presents waiting for them under the Christmas tree.

The youngest child, a girl named Merry, stopped and stared at our shelf. “Mama, I think the angel moved. And she has flowers now.” 

Merry, when she was about six, liked to carry me around so I know she was quite sure what she was talking about. 

“And the nutcracker has a funny new expression.” She looked from Pyotr to me and back to Pyotr. 

“I think you’re right, dear. I wonder how that happened.” Her mother put her arm around her daughter as they walked away. “I guess it’s a Christmas miracle.”

I took a sniff of my basket of blossoms. It was indeed.

TOMORROW: Jacky’s first Christmas, a ghost story inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s House.

(C) MARY K. TILGHMAN

Inn By the Lake, my sweet modern love story set at Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland, is available for pre-order.

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