the accidental christmas

Five years ago, I took my son to the Christmas tree lot and told him he could pick out whatever tree he wanted (while crossing my fingers he wouldn’t pick a six or seven footer because our ceilings just don’t go that high). He was five then, precocious as always, and very excited to see Santa and tell him what he wanted for Christmas.

It was a treat to watch him hop between the rows of trees, his little boots crunching the needles that covered the ground as he imagined himself tromping about in the forest with his little ax in search for the perfect tree to chop down and bring home. I held my breath when he announced from around the corner that he’d found the perfect tree.

Please, I prayed, let it not be a six-footer.

It wasn’t. It was just under four feet tall and he told me it was the perfect height – for him.

That evening, with the tree decked out to the max with all the ornaments and lights, I wrote a short story called The Accidental Christmas. It’s a reunion romance of sorts and it features a single mother and her son in search of a tree on Christmas Eve.

I’ve cleaned up the story since I first wrote it five years ago, expanded it and all that. But the essence is still there, inspired by a trip to the tree lot with my LilDude who, five years later, may not so little anymore but is still as precocious.

I hope you enjoy it.

And Merry Christmas!

Liz/MorrighansMuse

By the way, because I can’t seem to do the Read More tag and split this post into separate pages per chapter, it’s a long one. You can also download the ebook and read it on your mobile device.

THE ACCIDENTAL CHRISTMAS

CAMERON

She was afraid they’d arrived too late but from the looks of it, she barely made it. The attendant was just about to hang a Closed sign on the gate when a Land Rover stopped right in front of him and a well-dressed couple jumped out. 

“Got a Noble Fir?” the man asked. “We need a six-footer.” 

The attendant set down the Closed sign on a rickety table next to him and dusted his hands against his parka. “Sure do. They’re in the back and there are a few beauties left.” 

“Well, we want one,” the man said as Cameron slipped into the lot behind the couple now following the attendant. 

As Cameron slowed her pace toward a row of shorter trees, a group of friends walked past the tree lot talking about the ugly sweater party they were attending despite the forecast of a snowstorm. Their laughter brought back memories of the. years when Cameron used to attend similar parties but she pushed the thought away. No use in dwelling on the past, she told herself. Tonight, she needed to find a tree.

She tightened her grip on her son’s hand and approached the attendant before he could follow the couple to the back of the lot. 

“Excuse me, how much for that tree over there?” She pointed to a four-foot tree standing close to the counter, two of its branches hanging limply to one side. Sitting too close to the corner where an old-fashioned cash register was set up next to a credit card machine, it must have borne the brunt of many of the day’s customers.  

“Forty bucks,” the attendant replied absently, pulling his knit cap over his head as he watched the couple browse through the row of trees behind him. When Cameron didn’t answer, he rubbed his gloved hands together and continued, “I ain’t got all day, lady. You want it or not?” 

“Will you take twenty for it? It’s all I got and a few of its branches are already broken.” Cameron figured she could turn the side with the broken branches toward the wall. The rest of the tree was still good.

The man thought for a moment, exhaled and nodded as the couple indicated they found what they wanted. Cameron guessed it probably cost close to hundred dollars, certainly way more than the broken little tree she’d bargained for twenty dollars. But it was all she had. 

“Twenty then. But, look, I can’t help you take it to your car until I help those other guys first,” he said. “But if you don’t mind waiting right here, I’ll come back and help you.”

But I want a big tree, like last Christmas, Jeremy signed to her and pointed to one of the bigger trees at the back lot.

We agreed that we’re getting one your size this year, remember? She signed back before handing a twenty-dollar bill to the attendant. “My son and I will take it to the car ourselves. Thanks.”

The man glanced at Jeremy. Seven-years-old and small for his age, he looked too slight to help her but Cameron couldn’t blame the attendant for needing to take care of a bigger sale first. She’d carry the tree to the car herself if she had to. She wasn’t as fragile as she looked. 

“On second thought, lady, it’s free. That’s why it’s over on the corner anyway. Too many broken branches as it is but you can point that side to the wall.” He pushed away her money and smiled. “I’ll be back to help you when I’m done with–”

“No, no, go ahead and help those other people. My son and I will manage.” Cameron tucked the money back in her coat pocket. She should insist that he take the money but she’d learned in the past year to accept such small acts of kindness—or pity—with grace. Besides, she needed the money to buy their food for the week. She wouldn’t get paid for another week. “Thank you so much, sir.”

“Merry Christmas, Miss… and you, too, young man.” His face cracked a broad smile. “Stay warm.” 

As the man walked away, Cameron led Jeremy to the four-foot tall tree that was really a three-footer up close. But it would still work since she didn’t really have the room for anything bigger anyway, the converted garage they called home barely big enough to fit both of them. With Jeremy taking over the bedroom, Cameron slept on the futon in the living room, which served as the couch during the day. They didn’t have much, but for now it was home. But just because it was small, it didn’t mean they couldn’t get a tree for Christmas. 

Beggars can’t be choosers, Cameron, and this is what charity is, she told herself as she watched the man walk away. Maybe he recognized her, maybe he didn’t. But then, why wouldn’t he? 

She was Cameron Thomas, after all, ex-wife of former city treasurer Edwin Thomas who fled the country after embezzling millions of dollars from the city coffers. Forget that he’d done it while the city was going through a tough time after a giant computer company who’d provided so many jobs moved their corporate offices to another state with better incentives to benefit their bottom line. 

Worse, Edwin left her and Jeremy alone to face the Feds with their evidence, the District Attorney with the charges leveled against him and his assistant, and the condemnation from the public who believed that surely, being Edwin’s wife, she should have known what her husband was up to. 

Complicit. 

But she hadn’t known a thing, not when theirs had been a marriage of convenience—a marriage between two families that now turned their backs on her, refusing to be associated with someone whom they believed should have known what her own husband had been up to. But they couldn’t be any more wrong, Cameron thought. Her only crime was agreeing to the wedding in the first place, forgoing all reason and most of all, her heart. 

Yet through it all, Cameron had kept it together for her son’s sake, even when the news reporters followed her as she picked up Jeremy from day care, leaving her alone only when she had her son with her. At least they granted her that, even though they still took pictures anyway, blurring Jeremy’s face for the final copy they’d plaster all over newspapers and social media. 

The whole ordeal was made tougher when she discovered too late who her real friends were and that just because one was considered ‘family’ didn’t mean they’d stand by her side at all. Who knew Cameron’s own mother would value her reputation more than her relationship with her daughter and her grandson? But she did and Cameron was left alone to weather the scandal. 

But like everything, there was a silver lining. At least, Cameron grew stronger through it all. She stopped relying on others for help because there were no more ‘others’ to turn to. From the personal assistants who fled in droves to the servants who ran straight to the tabloids to report things they’d suspected about the marriage of the handsome Edwin Thomas and his stunning wife Cameron Blake. There were things that were strange, they said. Although the couple appeared so put together and perfect in public occasions, they slept in separate rooms. 

Cameron could have countered each allegation of their sham marriage to save face. That’s what her mother had begged her to do, but she didn’t. What would it accomplish? Nothing that would help Cameron and Jeremy move on, that’s for sure. And so she left everything behind, from the fair weather friends to the old family connections that once granted her automatic access to the many parties she and Edwin had to attend for appearances’ sake, the handsome city treasurer and his shy and beautiful heiress of a wife even if there was nothing financial for her to inherit. The only things left of the Blake furniture empire were the pedigree and the political connections, the very things that Edwin needed to advance his own career. 

And so with Jeremy by her side, she traveled by train all the way to the East Coast, to a small town where once she’d spent the happiest summer of her life. No longer having assistants to rely on, Cameron learned to do everything herself. She got Jeremy enrolled in school and got a job as a temporary caregiver to the elderly. She attended PTA meetings even when she knew that before long, the other parents would start to ask among themselves, wait, isn’t she the wife of…? 

Cameron pushed the thoughts aside and letting go of Jeremy’s hand, she grabbed a roll of twine from the table. 

Jeremy, can you help me with this please? she signed to him. You can push up the branches on one side while I tie the twine around it.

But this tree is too small, he signed back, lowering his chin before adding, why can’t we get a big tree like Daddy got last year?

Because Daddy bought it with stolen money, that’s why, she almost said out loud but Cameron bit her lip, her hands paused in mid-air.

Because it won’t fit in our house, love, she signed instead, sighing when she saw his expression grow sadder. It tugged at her heart but there was nothing she could do. Beggars can’t be choosers.

She tapped his shoulder, getting his attention again, before adjusting the hood of his jacket and his scarf. Remember when we talked about getting you a tree your size this year? You said you wanted a Charlie Brown tree.

Jeremy didn’t answer but he did as he asked her, lifting the nearest branches with his thin arms. Some days he understood what she was going through and other days, he was simply too young to understand any of it. And why should he? He was just a child, an innocent victim to Edwin’s greed and her naiveté.

What kind of a wife are you not to know what Edwin was doing all along? Her mother had asked the moment the news broke all over the big networks. This from the same woman who years earlier shut down Cameron’s first love so she could steer her only daughter to the wealthier, more dashing Edwin Thomas before turning her back on her daughter when things went south. Cameron had barely been able to get out of the house with Jeremy’s clothes and his favorite Legos before the Feds came in to lock the house up.

State evidence, ma’am, she remembered them saying. Is there any place you can go? Friends or relatives? Social services can also help you.

“Cameron?”

Cameron froze, her arms wrapped around the upturned branches of the tree. The voice was familiar, deep and warm, yet she knew it couldn’t possibly be true, not after eight years. 

You can download the full ebook here.
Continue reading “the accidental christmas”

sunday mornings

how i love sunday mornings
when you pull me ever so close
under the covers, kissing, teasing
little moments i love the most

like when you growl playfully in my ear
and call me, baby girl
your touch sends tingles from my head to my toes
and those butterflies, how their wings unfurl

i love the pauses between your kisses
when you look up at me and laugh
a mischievous sound with the power to undo me
you are my love, my life, my other half

let’s stay in bed for the rest of the day
let’s lose ourselves in each others’ arms
crave me, make love to me…
you’re the only one who can calm my storms

listen to the audio

strife

there are days when you just have to know 
where you stand in this game called life 
where family values still amount to something
if you only take the time to set down that knife
you're too busy using to cut off what matters
your own eyes 
your heart 
     your soul
are in tatters 
and you've forgotten respect and integrity
too blinded in your own lies to see
that you're nothing but a hollow spineless coward
and you'll never be the man you were meant to be
until you stop, 
     take a breath, 
and look beyond the hatred you've sown
but i doubt you'd do that, your ear pressed too deep
against the field of lies you've grown all this time
plotting 
     plotting
against your own

It’s Okay to be Different

Did you know it’s okay to be different?
my son said to me today
when I told him he needed to fit in,
that way things will be okay.

I like being myself, he said,
I like being me.
And in his eyes, I saw my fear
for a world that he cannot yet see

A world that may have lost kindness
and understanding so long ago
a world that won’t have any patience
for things they no longer have time to know

that not everyone is going to fit in
some people just like being the way they are
unique and smart, beautiful and kind
different like every shining star

but if there’s one thing i know
as we journey together through all this
i’ll raise him to be strong for himself and others
and to always stand up for those easily dismissed


woman

she lived her life the best she could
amongst the wealthy, the arrogant,
the poorest of heart,
the ones who didn’t care
for the likes of her,
who delighted
in tearing her apart

but she rose high above the ashes
though they left her covered
in unseen scars,
believing she was too soft, too weak,
too simple-minded,
yet she made it
through the wars

it gave her depth and substance
making her the strong woman
that you see now
though kindness radiates
from her weary eyes
don’t ever discount the sweat
that lines her brow

for she’s tougher than you think
more courageous
than you or me
and when the time comes
when our mettle is tested
she’ll be the only one left standing,
just wait and see

how could i not know?

facebook told me it’s your birthday today
and so i quickly typed out a post to wish you
a fantastic day
but something told me to check your page first
where i found out you died fourteen months ago
and my bubble burst
how could i not know that you’ve been gone all this time
all while planning to see you again and say hello
just like the good old days…
how could i not know?

you were only forty-five, brin, way too young to go
i can still remember you telling me to stop driving
that little car while i was pregnant
oh the things you knew that i did not know
yet you trusted me all those years, too
how we laughed at the stories we both told
as we spent those afternoons believing
life had so much to offer us
as we’d both grow old
with our vices and our sins…
how could i not know?

birthday

i missed your birthday four days ago
even though I’d made a mental note the day before
to remember it and say a prayer for you
but that day came and went, just like the year before

I still have the travel clock you brought home one day
it still ticks and tocks all through the night
i used to know what time it was wherever you were
until the day you died, alone and contrite

that clock is all i have of you now
it’s the only thing  you left behind
along with the secret life you lived the entire time
the truth your children deserved, denied

so i’ll let your birthday come and go
maybe i’ll light a candle if i remember
i still think of you with every tick tock of that clock
did you ever think of us or were we simply a bother?

speak softly to me

speak softly to me
let me hear your voice in my dreams
as you crawl under the covers tonight
let’s lose ourselves in starlight and moonbeams

speak softly to me
slip your strong arms around my waist
let me cradle my head on your shoulder
feel me melt in your protective embrace

speak softly to me
and tell me you’ll never let me go
hold me tight and breathe me in
whisper those lies i’ve come to know