Saturday, January 1, 2011

Holiday Stories: On Dragon Wings

 ~Story by Sia McKye~

Padrig banked left gliding ever lower to the harbor of lights. Below him were boats of all sizes decked out in fanciful holiday lights. He took care to stay above the bright lights of the harbor itself but close enough for Rowan to have a clear view of the beauty.

Nothing in this world could compare to the beauty of the woman straddling his broad back. She was a courageous and daring warrior on the battlefield. Tender yet bold in their bed. She could set his loins on fire with just a look. Without Rowan, there was no beauty in the world for him.

Rowan’s infectious laughter warmed his heart as she viewed huge gossamer butterfly wings of light on the boat below. He’d come too close to losing his mate.

“Isn’t it beautiful Padrig? Oh look there’s one over there that looks like Santa and his sleigh taking off. Can we get closer?”

“Aye, m’lady. Hang on.” His mighty wings caught the air as he rose to circle around the harbor. He used the shadows of the night to bring her lower to the water and a closer view of the ship that caught her eye. He hovered; the downdraft of his wings caused the water below him to dance and shimmy as they watched Santa sail by. Behind it floated a Charlie Brown barge with trees and lights arranged to look like falling snow. He caught the wisp of thought from her of how she missed seeing snow fall. He smiled knowing he would show her falling snow this night.

“Oh my gods would you look over there at the floating Graceland? They even have a rocking Elvis impersonator. A rather drunk Elvis a little too far aft in his blue suede shoes and if he were to fall he’d be in danger of the propellers.”

Elvis was lifting his glass as they flew over. His eyes widened as he caught sight of Rowan and Padrig, his glass crashed to the deck as he stepped back. Arms wind milling to catch his balance as he fell against the railing and went overboard.

“Aw hell, stupid man.” Rowan’s blue light shot out and caught him mid-fall. The magic gently lifted Elvis back to the deck while Padrig provided extra sparkles of light to make it appear part of the show. Applause and whistles filled the air.

“Very nicely done, Padrig. Those sparkles were almost better than the rest of the light show.”

“Tis something he will no doubt remember for many a year.”

“I’m thinking it’s the sight of a dragon and rider flying over him he won’t be forgetting. I’d love to hear how he tells the boys he was saved by a magical black dragon.” Rowan’s laughter rang out.

Padrig rose in the night sky banking gently so as not to jar his lady and headed north. His heart was full of thankfulness she was healing. He took such delight in her fascination with the light displays for the holidays. Padrig once glimpsed a holiday light parade through their link while still trapped in solid stone. The marvels of the modern world still baffled him but he appreciated the freedom to explore them.

He wanted tonight to be very special and had mapped out each stop with care to give her the gift of wonder and beauty of the world around them. The simple joys still present even with great evil loose in the world. He wanted her to see more than the battles of life and death they had been engaged in the past few months. Battles that had almost taken her from him.

He again felt the anguish and terror that besieged him when she nearly had been butchered by an Annuvin demon.

Her voice, full of warmth and love, interrupted his gruesome memories. “Padrig, my love, it’s over. Your anguish is breaking my heart. Please.”

“Tá brón orm, Rowan. I had thought I was doing so well with blocking my thoughts of that day from you.”

“Not possible with something you feel so strong. We both are alive and well, Padrig. We will kick Annuvin ass later. Tonight is ours. Let’s celebrate.”

“Your wish is my command, a ghrá mo chroí.”

Rowan snorted. “Yeah, until my wish interferes with your recent belief I’m made of spun glass.”

“Ah, but a dragon knight is always right, m’lady.”

“Póg ma thoin!”

Padrig chuckled as he circled the pier in San Francisco. “Who has been teaching you to swear in Gaelic, m’lady Sass?”

“Didn’t I say it right? I was telling you to kiss my ass, Sir Macho.”

“Tis close enough. Look below, m’lady.” He felt her indrawn breath as she looked at the city below.

“Oh, it’s so beautiful at night and especially during the Christmas season. Look at the tree on the Pier and they’ve made the whole area a winter wonderland.”

He circled once again before heading further north. “Hold on Rowan, we are going up and over the Golden Gate Bridge.” The strong winds buffeted them as they flew over the bridge and up over the Marin Headlands. He climbed higher still circling the top of Mount Tamalpais and to the east peak dropping through the fog and into the snow falling gently around them. Padrig smiled at Rowans shout of glee. He glided downward finding a place to land. The hush of falling snow was beautiful. The wet snow coated the surrounding redwoods and added to the three or so inches that had already fallen.

He closely monitored Rowan who was trying to catch snowflakes on her tongue and laughing. She stretched her legs out in front of her, ankles crossed, on his neck as she lay back near his wings watching the snowfall. Her off key rendition of Let It Snow made him rumble with laughter. Padrig could feel her exhaustion. It was time to fly to their final destination. Still, she managed to protest leaving.

Padrig secured protection wards around her and told her to sleep for the part of the flight around St. Helena and above Clearlake. The area was peppered with hot springs. His destination was a secluded spot high in the mountainous hills. He scanned the area to be sure they were alone. It wouldn’t be wise to land as a dragon where one could be seen. There was a resort far below and several miles away. No demon activity in the area either.

“Rowan, tis time to awaken. We have to walk in from here, m’lady.”

Rowan unbuckled her harness, slid off Padrig, and leaned against him until she felt able to stand. As she stretched she looked around. She could see the soft lights of the resort below.

“Padrig, that’s more than a bit of a hike to the resort. Couldn’t you have gotten in closer?”

“Our room is up a bit further, m’lady, not down.”

“Have I mentioned I’m a bit reluctant to go caving given the past months?”

“There is no danger anywhere near.”

She shivered as she eyed the rock face in front of her. Rowan wrapped her arms around her as she scanned. “Are you sure?”


She looked over her shoulder and watched as the subtle amethyst light suffused the body of the dragon and leaving a man in its place. There was no transformation with popping and stretching just a dragon one moment and a warrior the next. He stepped forward and enfolded her in his arms. “You are quite safe, m’lady.”

A soft nimbus of light enveloped them as she looked up into the striking face of the warrior holding her. His silky black hair was pulled back leaving only two of his braids hanging loose from his temples. Mustache framing his mouth and into the small beard on his chin. She felt like a windblown mop and he looked perfectly groomed. It wasn’t fair.

“While I might not be spun glass I’m still not up to full fighting strength my lord dragon. I’ll admit I’m a bit nervous still. It’s been a beautiful night Padrig. Thank you.”

“Ah, but the best is yet to come, a ghrá. Come.” He took her hand and led her up about twenty feet until they came to a solid rock face. He moved his open hand in a half circle to reveal an opening. They stepped through and he closed it before pulling her further along the dark path. He increased the light so she could see where she stepped. They traveled about a hundred yards when they came to smaller opening. A soft blue light showed inside. As they stepped through Rowan caught her breath. The pool was a blue and green. Steam lifted off the surface and while it wasn’t a full sized swimming pool it was large enough to play in. She stripped down to her long sleeve shirt as she walked to the edge, pausing to take in the fat candles burning in several candelabras.

“Oh it’s beautiful Padrig. A bit of magic to light the way? And champagne?” She spun around laughing. “Oooh, we even have a nest of pillows to sleep in.” She sat on a cushion sitting near the pool and dropped her feet in the water. “Mmm, this is heaven. Where did all of this come from?”

“Dyfed helped with his magic to give us a safe refuge and light the pool for you. He also helped provide this.” He held up a large thermos.

“Coffee? You remembered coffee? Cream and sugar?”

Padrig grinned and nodded. He opened the thermos and poured her a cup. She could smell the rich aroma from across the cave. Her mouth watered in anticipation. “Perfect.”

Rowan crinkled her brow as she looked up at him. “Hmmm.”

“What is it, m’lady?”

“There is only one thing missing from making this a perfect moment.”

Padrig looked around in puzzlement. “Missing?”

“Oh yes. A serious thing necessary for a faultless evening.” Rowan lifted the cup to her lips as she watched him mentally go through his checklist.

“You have on entirely too many clothes, my love, and you’re too far away.”

“Really?” A wicked grin appeared. “Easily remedied m’lady.” Padrig snapped his fingers and his clothes and her shirt disappeared.

“Handy trick. I like it.” She cocked her head to the side and watched the play of light over his impressive muscles as he stalked closer. He really was magnificent dressed in only a fall of hair over his shoulders and a smile quirking his mouth. He lifted her up in his arms as if she weighed nothing and stepped into the pool. Padrig let her slid down his body until her feet touched stone. Burying his hands in her hair, he kissed her.

“You are my heart, Rowan. My soul. Without you I wouldn’t want to live.” His lips softly kissed her forehead, her cheeks, before claiming her mouth.

“Tá grá agam duit,” he whispered.

“I love you too, my dragon.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday stories: The Lord Of Misrule

~Story by Karen Wasylowski~

 “I don’t see why I must wear a costume; it’s degrading. This is my house! Certainly that should make me exempt from such foolishness. And why is Fitzwilliam Lord of Misrule this year? Again! He’s always Lord of Misrule and all he does is drink too much and give the children too much candy, then he plays terrible tricks on me, sneaks upstairs and goes to sleep while I must entertain the entire countryside in some ridiculous costume. I mean I’m in a ridiculous costume, not the entire countryside. The toes on these shoes curl up, Elizabeth! Who am I supposed to be, anyway?”

Elizabeth took a deep breath to calm her annoyance. Darcy had been bickering and complaining like a child all evening, he was worse than a child. “For the third time you are Henry II and I am Eleanor of Aquitaine. If you like give me a quill and I can jot that on parchment for you.” She turned and left the room before his mind registered the insult.

“I remembered! Don’t think I did not remember, Elizabeth! I just dislike Henry II; I should prefer to be Henry V.”

“But I want to be Eleanor!” She spoke with the finality of hostess of Pemberley then closed the door on him. Of course he had to give in to her; house parties were far removed from his area of expertise. He just wanted to hunt and play football.

Just then there was a banging on their dressing room doors. “Open up for the Lord of Misrule.”

“Go away you big ox.”

“Darcy, quit pouting, it’s unmanly. You’re behaving badly because I am Lord of Misrule again and you’re not.” Fitzwilliam could not keep the taunting tone from his voice. Truth was, he did not try overly hard.

Darcy opened the door and starred at his cousin’s ridiculous outfit. He was wearing a long brown woolen sackcloth robe with green garland around his neck and a wreath of holly about his head. “Gad, you look like a fat spruce. You better be wearing something under that hideous cloak.”

“Oh be quiet. You’re still not Lord of Misrule and I am. Besides I’m older than you, it is my right.” Fitzwilliam stuck out his foot to show his raggedy stockings.

“Put that away. You have eight children and I have only three, that’s why you are chosen each year, and the only reason. You breed like a stoat and then bribe your offspring in a most disgraceful manner to vote for you. You bribe your own children, Fitzwilliam. Have you no shame?” Darcy shook his head in disgust, making a tsking sound as he did so.

“No, what’s your point?”

Darcy groaned. “Well, what have you planned for this evening?”

“Nothing too strenuous for you, brat. Love the crown by the way. Who are you supposed to be this evening, Catherine of Aragon? Honest mistake – sorry. No need to get into a snit. All right, tonight we shall eat and dance and drink and dance, the usual Saturnalia celebration. Then at midnight I will sacrifice my body and take my good wife up to bed but you must remain and entertain your neighbors and town officials until they drop over. That is my decree.”

“That cannot be all, surely. No inappropriately bawdy play this year? No feats of strength? No embarrassing solo singing?”

“Darcy, my dear friend, I find it’s not as much fun to taunt you as it was when we were younger, strange as that may sound. I have mellowed in my old age, brat. I find it amazing but the older we are becoming the more I admire you Darcy – tremendously really, and have no need any longer for childish behavior.”

They stared quietly at each other for several moments.

“Your wife has forbidden you to humiliate me this year, hasn’t she?”

“Stopped all my plans cold, let go the men I hired to dress up as women and kiss you and removed the nails I had placed on your chair.”

“I grow to love that woman more and more each year.”

“As do I.” Grabbing a handful of cookies from a tray, Fitzwilliam resettled his crown of ivy. “Feeling better, cousin?”

“Infinitely. Merry Christmas, Fitz.”

“Merry Christmas yourself, Darcy. Now I’ve stolen some pepper from cook - let’s go down and have a go at Bingley’s hot wassail.”

Karen will be a guest Over Coffee on February 4, 2011 with her debut book and excerpts.


Karen Wasylowski is a retired CPA. She and her husband spend their free time volunteering with charitable organizations that assist the poor. They also are actively involved with Project Light of Manatee, providing literacy instruction to immigrants and to members of the community. Karen and her husband live in Bradenton, Florida. Her debut, Darcy And Fitzwilliam, will be released February 1, 2011 by Sourcebooks.

You can find out more about Karen and her writing on her website.

Available 2/2011

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Stories: Christmas Cookies and Holiday Joy

~Story by Beth Hill~

Sarah inhaled the fragrances of cinnamon and sugar and the chocolate chips melting into gooey deliciousness in the oven. Homey smells. Christmas smells.

She wanted to sit, relax, to inhale more than smells. She wanted the peace of the season to wash over her, still her racing mind and ease her fractured soul. But if she stopped moving, sorrow would overwhelm. She knew it. Had given in last Christmas. And again on his birthday. She’d been unable to resist the lure of peace on those two days.

But peace had eluded her. And instead grief had stolen into her home, into her mind and heart. And she’d cried out her anger and sorrow and loss, collapsing on her kitchen floor in a tangle of oven mitts and tears and memories. And standing again, facing life again, had been nearly impossible.

She reached for the oven door just before the timer buzzed, and pulled out the tray of perfect cookies. His favorite. She baked them every year. He couldn’t get enough. And she’d watch as he devoured one after another, following every third bite or so with a gulp of cold milk. And he’d grin, crumbs clinging to his lips, knowing she got a kick out of his passion for home-baked cookies made just for him.

She scoured the kitchen; focusing on making perfect and whole those things she had control over. And pushed far from her mind the events she couldn’t influence or change. But she left the cookies mounded on wax paper since Mac liked them that way. Liked reaching across the counter and plucking one or two or five whenever he wanted them.

The reflection from the tree beckoned her to the living room and the large glass windows that framed it. She’d stop for only a moment, her heart promised her head. Just a brief passage of time to watch the snowfall, to admire the twinkling lights as they pushed against the darkness both inside and out. Just a moment . . .

When the clocked chimed nine, Sarah jumped. Then smiled. Silly to feel guilty over losing herself in memories of her husband. She wouldn’t break down this Christmas. She’d learned that lesson. Plus, the news had been better this year. The better news being they’d actually heard news. The first reliable report since her captain had gone missing sixteen months earlier.

Chaplain Anderson had called in October. One of the Resolute Seven—prisoners held for over four months in a no-name cave in Afghanistan—had mentioned Mac—someone who sounded like Mac, please God—in his briefing. So this year she’d added hope to her arsenal of determination and faith and prayers. This year she wouldn’t give in to despair.

She pressed her fingers against the cold glass. Closed her eyes and lowered her head.

“Keep him warm tonight. Please. Hold him in Your arms since he doesn’t have mine. Fill his heart with Your love, with my devotion. And give Him your peace.”

Sarah leaned against her hand and stared into the night. So quiet. So pure.

So lonely.

“And please hold me. Because I’m afraid I can’t hold on any longer.”

She returned to the kitchen. In the near dark she pulled milk from the fridge and poured a tall glass. She piled cookies on a plate and arranged plate and milk on the reindeer placemat at the head of the table. She fussed with a linen napkin, flattening it again and again until she realized what she was doing and yanked her hands away. Enough of that. She still had presents to wrap, gifts for her brother’s family. She turned. And blinked.

The front door was opening, three men stepping through.

Chaplain Anderson, removing his hat. Colonel Ryan, Mac’s CO, holding the arm of another man. That other man dangling a key from his fingers.

The third man lifted his head at her gasp. Then grinned. And then he was rushing to her and squeezing her and kissing her face.

“Sarah. My God, Sarah.”

And then Sarah was on her knees, holding Mac, holding a dream, and kissing him back. Touching him everywhere. Crying and laughing and shaking so much she thought she’d finally snapped and lost her mind.

But when Mac pulled back and grasped her face between his hands, when she could see his eyes and into his soul, she knew he was not imagined but real and in their home.

In her arms.

She stared in wonder for a timeless instant, then sobs burst from her chest and she burrowed into Mac, clutching him, trying to breathe, trying to think. Trying not to feel because the emotions were stretching her beyond her limits and shattering her mind.

“I smell cookies.” That was the colonel.

Mac laughed. He laughed. Sarah gripped him even tighter.

“Sir, those are my cookies. All mine. I’ve been dreaming of them for days. And I’m sorry to say, you won’t get a single taste.”

Sarah wiped her face against Mac’s coat. Trust her man to get to the heart of any matter.

“Sarah? You ready to stand now? I wanna get this coat off and hold you properly.”

“Major, I believe this is where Chaplain Anderson and I bid you goodnight. And Merry Christmas.”

Sarah scrambled to her feet, pulling at Mac, searching his face. Thin. Lined. Hers. “How? When?” She squeezed her eyes shut and drew in an uneven breath. He was still there when she opened her eyes. “Major?” She twisted to look at Colonel Ryan, but turned immediately back to Mac. “I was just asking God to hold you, since I couldn’t. And now you’re here. You’re here.”

Mac saluted the other men as they eased out the door, but didn’t turn from Sarah. “He held me, baby. Every day I felt His protection and your love entwined, binding me in strength and hope.” He stepped close to her and again wrapped her face in his palms. His hands were shaking. “Tonight we hold each other.”

She lifted her hands to his where they framed her cheeks. His gaze was locked on her face. “Why didn’t you call? Have you seen a doctor? What happened? Mac . . . What happened?”

He leaned his forehead against hers, still unwilling to relax his hold. “I needed to be with you before the news broke, baby. I need you at my side to get through the rest of this. To he—” His voice broke and he hauled her against his chest.

“I’m here always. Forever.”

“I know,” he whispered against her neck. “And that’s what saw me through.” His entire body shook, vibrating against hers. “I didn’t break, Sarah. Not once. Not until a couple of Special Forces guys hauled me out. And then I cried like a baby.”

“Mac . . . ”

“My Sarah.” His lips feathered over hers. “Merry Christmas, wife.”

She slid her arms inside his coat and dug her fingers into his back. “Merry Christmas, major. I love you.” She closed her eyes. Thank You. For holding him. For bringing him home. For returning my heart.

My pleasure, Sarah. My very great pleasure. Merry Christmas to you and peace to this home.

Beth is an editor and a fiction writer (contemporary romance and medieval adventure).  Her undergraduate degree is in psychology, her MBA in human resources.  Beth trained as a flight attendant; worked in dinner theatre; managed a dance studio, a framing store, and multitudes of volunteers as a church administrator.  These experiences, as well as many others, have given her a broad base for both her editing and her own writing.

Beth Hill writes fiction and loves words. She thinks that being a writer is the most satisfying and best job, hobby, career, and/or addiction one can pursue.

Beth loves the joys of Christmas.


You can reach Beth at her website, A Novel Edit or her blog, The Editor's Blog


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday stories: ABSENCE OF HOLLY

~Story by Simon Garte~

This is a sequel to the story Under The Holly, by Ken Coffman, which ran December 20th on Over Coffee.

Tommy twelve years later...

No tree. No presents. No bells, no holly. The house was dark when Tommy got home. It was Christmas eve, but there was no sign of that in the house. Just another stupid day, as his father always said. That’s how it had been for the past 12 years, a silent night indeed, a silent and dark night, without lights. If carolers had come by (they hadn’t for years) they would have gotten yelled at and told to scram. No one left casseroles or presents for Tommy at the door anymore.

His Dad wasn’t home. Tommy went to the refrigerator, took out a carton of milk and drank for a while. The he rummaged around, found some donuts, a hunk of cheese, a half bag of Doritos, some sliced ham, two bananas, a leftover chicken leg, and some gummy bears. Dinner.

Tommy went to his room and fired up his computer, checked out some face book pages, and then saw a chat request from Bonnie. He answered and went live with the web cam. There was Bonnie, sitting on her bed, with April next to her.

“Hi Tommy”, they said in unison.


“Is your Dad home?”

“Nah, he's working late tonight. He always takes the late shift on Christmas eve”.

April said “Your Dad is such a scrooge. Why does he hate Christmas so much?”

Bonnie gave her a dirty look, but didn’t say anything

“I don’t know. I guess its cause of my Mom.”

“Oh my God, that was so long ago”

“Yeah, well, whatever.”

Bonnie asked him “Are you all alone there, Tommy?”

“Yup. Why, you wanna come over?” He was joking but he realized they might not get that. In fact Bonnie whispered to April who giggled.

“I’m kidding” he said, and Bonnie looked down for a minute and then smiled and said, “I know, no company allowed on Christmas.”

His cell phone rang, it was his Dad. “I gotta go”, he told the girls. “Bye Tommy”, said Bonnie, “Bye Tommy” said April. He didn’t respond, because he was talking to his Dad.


“Hey kiddo, are you home?”


“Did you get something to eat?”


“What did you eat?”


“Hmm. So how was your day? Did you get to meet Patrick?”


“Good. Look, Tommy, I’m going to be pretty late tonight. I know school is closed tomorrow, so you can stay up late. But not too late, OK?”


Tommy went into the living room, switched on the TV, turned the volume down a bit, plugged in his ipod earphones, and started surfing around the internet. Everything he saw was about Christmas. He was used to that. His Dad always left plenty of non Christmassy DVDs around. War movies, TV series, gangster films, stuff like that. He was checking out some You Tube videos that he and Patrick had made a week ago when his cell buzzed again.

He looked at it. The screen said “Bonnie”. He opened it, said “hello”.

“Hi Tommy. Look, my Mom sent me out to get some stuff from the store and I’m right around the corner. How about if I stop over for a second. You know just say hello. I won’t even come in, and your Dad won’t even know.”

“I guess it’s OK. He’s working late tonight so… yeah. OK”.

The knock on the front door came within 5 minutes.

Tommy saw Bonnie standing on the stoop wearing her red coat, and saw her car parked at the curb. There was no one in it. Tommy held the door open and Bonnie walked in. She took off her coat. She sat down on the sofa. Tommy didn’t know what to say. “Where’s April?” He asked. That wasn’t the right thing to say apparently, since he saw Bonnie’s chin move in a way that seemed a tad defensive

“Why, would you rather that she came?”

“No, no, not at all. Just you know, you were with her before and I don’t know, I just wondered…” He stopped.

Bonnie patted the space next to her. “I won’t bite you, come on and sit down.” He did. Then he jumped up again. “Do you want anything?”

“No, thanks” she said in a voice that sounded odd, almost dreamy. “I’m fine.” Tommy sat back down, and then they were kissing. He didn’t know how that happened. Her lips were soft and delicate, and he reached up with his hand and touched her hair. It was smooth and silky. He didn’t know how to stop kissing her, but she did. She smiled and pulled away a little.

“Do you like me Tommy?”. He couldn’t answer her, his throat wasn’t working. So he nodded his head. She smiled at him and took something from somewhere. It was a red and green wrapped box. “I brought you a gift” . Tommy shook his head. “No gifts on Christmas, I promised my Dad.”

“I won’t tell him if you don’t.” she laughed with that silver laugh she had. Tommy took the present and started carefully unwrapping the paper.

Bonnie laughed again. “No silly, just rip it off”. Tommy gulped, thinking about something else, but then did as she suggested. He opened the white box. Inside was a red and blue scarf. Tommy stared at it. He looked up at Bonnie, and saw tears in her eyes. “Merry Christmas Tommy”, she said. He couldn’t speak.

And then he heard the steps on the door and his Dad’s throat being cleared.

“Oh no”, he whispered urgently to Bonnie, “you better hide, I’ll…” but she smiled and put her finger to his lips. “Its OK Tommy, your Dad knows I’m here.”

What?? He was confused and then his Dad was standing in the living room. Smiling.

“Hi Tommy, hi Bonnie”.

“Hi”, said Bonnie, “Merry Christmas”. Tom flinched a bit and muttered something, but then he smiled again. “What you got there son?”

Tommy held out the scarf without a word. He was trying to figure out how to explain it without admitting it was a gift.

His Dad came over and took it from him. “Very nice,” he said, his voice a bit choked. “Nice job Bonnie.” Tommy was even more confused, especially since now Bonnie had tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Do you remember, Tommy?” his Dad asked him.

He nodded. The last Christmas present he ever got was also a scarf. A lot smaller, but the same colors, red and blue. He had been a little kid, and he had thought it had come from his Mom. And then there were no more Christmasses.

Tommy looked at Bonnie and then at his Dad, and he asked

“Dad, did you know Bonnie was here?. Did you tell her about the scarf?”

Tom cleared his throat again, and started talking

“I don’t care for Christmas very much. All that fake joy and commercialism. And to celebrate what? A myth, a legend. And all those pagan rituals like the tree. Everyone pretends that everything is just fine. It’s a requirement to be happy, even if you don’t feel like it. No I really do not like Christmas at all.”

He seemed tired and he sank into a chair.

“But I do remember what your mother told me once, about Christmas, Tommy. I didn’t care for it much when she was alive either. And she told me that Christmas is not about religion or shopping or shiny lights. Its about love.” He stopped and put his hand over his face for a moment.

“Yeah, I told Bonnie she could come over tonight, and I mentioned the scarf to her. I love you kid. Merry Christmas”.

Simon Garte is a New Yorker currently living DC with a two feisty females, one of which is a cat with an attitude. He has numerous non-fiction publication credits and also writes fiction. He is a marvelous storyteller. This is the second year he has graciously offered a holiday short story for Over Coffee. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Stories: The Second Noël

~Story By Sharon Lathan~
This snippet is from In The Arms of Mr. Darcy, my fourth novel in the Darcy Saga continuing series telling the life of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy. Taken from the chapter titled “The Second Noël,” this excerpt covering a portion of the activity on their second Christmas together has been edited slightly from what is in the novel.

Traditions prevailed in both breakfast foods as well as Christmas activities, meaning that in many ways this Christmas was indistinguishable from last year and all the ones that would follow. Mrs. Langton and her staff had prepared a stupendous breakfast heartily enjoyed by everyone in the elaborately bedecked dining room. Everyone wore his or her finest garments, Mr. Bennet dashing in the new suit purchased for his trip to visit Lizzy in London the previous spring. Marguerite and Samuel’s consulting was now an expected arrangement, Lizzy and Darcy therefore dressing in nearly identical shades of blue with silver threads and trim.

Reverend Bertram preached a flawlessly constructed if unsurprising sermon on the birth of Christ. This year the youngsters gathered in the chancel dressed in choir robes, accompanied by the organist as they lifted their childish voices in a number of seasonal hymns. The finale was the older children singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” while the tiniest held up corresponding signs with painted pictures of the vocalized gifts. Naturally there were mishaps, especially as the singers inevitably sped up the rhythm as the lengthy song progressed, but the resulting mistakes added to the fun.

Opening of the presents would take the greater bulk of the afternoon to complete due to the massive quantity of gifts and frequent interruptions. The cacophony of voices and laughter was overwhelming at times. Any attempt at order was ludicrous. Lord Matlock trapped Mr. Bennet, Mr. Gardiner, and Dr. Darcy, the older gentlemen retreating to a far corner for relatively sedate conversation. Mr. Hurst made a beeline to the liquor cabinet and rarely wandered more than a few feet from it throughout the entire afternoon. Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst sat apart, gazing down their noses at the rowdy Bennets and Gardiners, feeling superior and unaware that Lady Annabella Montgomery was wrinkling her nose at them.

Lizzy handed the baby to Darcy when Mr. Taylor announced the arrival of the Bingleys, Darcy then happily encumbered in a chair away from the fray. Alexander was awake in Darcy’s lap, his chubby body erupting with newborn wiggles at the silly faces created by his father and the tickles delivered.

“My goodness he has grown!”

“Welcome to Pemberley, Charles,” Darcy spoke with a laugh. “I would rise and bow properly, but I am otherwise engaged. Pull up a chair and say hello to my son.”

This he did, Colonel Fitzwilliam standing beside Darcy with a broad grin. Alexander’s gaze moved from face to face, intently studying. “He looks so like you, Darcy. It is uncanny! Rather disconcerting actually, to have an infant piercing me with your blue eyes.”

Darcy smiled with pride. “I will consider that a compliment, Bingley. He is intelligent and it shows. Is that not the way of it my precious, wise little boy?” The picture of infantile acumen abruptly lost as Darcy attacked his son’s soft neck with nibbling kisses, fistfuls of his hair seized painfully.

“Ouch! Help please!” Darcy pleaded from the depths of Alexander’s neck. Richard laughingly untangled the amazingly tough fingers from Darcy’s locks.

“You need a haircut, Cousin.”

“So I have been informed.” He nestled Alexander against his chest, soft head tucked under his chin, and rocked gently. “How was Christmas at Hasberry, Bingley?”

“Delightful. Jane decorated so beautifully and our cook prepared an amazing breakfast feast. We attended church in Buxton and we, that is Jane and I, thought it perfect.”

Richard hid his smile, Darcy glancing toward Bingley’s sisters who sat rigid on the sofa. Caroline looked up, briefly meeting Darcy’s eyes and raking over the tiny body secured by his broad hands before glancing away with disinterest. “I gather Miss Bingley and the Hursts were not as enthused?”

“Well, you know how it is. Nothing compares to London or, surprisingly, Essex.”

“Essex?” Richard asked in surprise. “What does Essex have to offer?”

“Hanged if I know.”

“Who can understand a woman, eh, Darcy?” Richard said with a nudge to his cousin’s booted foot. “Unfathomable creatures all, but we love them nonetheless. Here’s to the fairer sex!” He lifted his glass toward Bingley and Darcy.

“Pathetic. I do pity the woman who ensnares you, dear cousin. Now, if you both will excuse me a moment, I think my son needs to be put to bed.”

The present revealing commenced. Every attempt was made to open neatly, one at a time, but enthusiasm occasionally overcame caution with ribbons and paper flying. Darcy rejoined a group in a state of moderate, lively chaos. Laughter was rampant with frequent jumping up to hug someone across the room, gifts being passed about for inspection, and exclamations of appreciation.

Darcy stood beside his wife, hand warm on her shoulder. She glanced upward, eyes sparkling as she clasped his fingers, lifting for a kiss to his knuckles. He smiled, brushing across her cheek before turning to Richard. “Colonel Fitzwilliam, the gold wrapped box to your right is addressed to Mrs. Darcy. Yes, that one. Bring it here please.”

“For you, my lady,” Richard bowed gallantly, placing the flat box onto her lap.

“Thank you, Richard. William, I thought we were done. You already gifted me three new gowns, the sardonyx cameo brooch of a mother and child that I absolutely adore, the leather bound edition of Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads, two new pairs of gloves, handkerchiefs, and what else… oh yes, the wooden table with drawers to sit beside my chair!”

“Trifles, my dear. The latter essentially because I was weary of seeing your sewing scattered all over the ground.” He grinned and squeezed her shoulder. “This, in addition to the larger box in yonder corner”—he pointed to a now visible package previously buried under the mound of presents—“is your main gift from me.”

“William, really…”

“You may as well just open it, Lizzy,” Jane interjected, smiling at her brother-in-law. “It is purchased and wrapped. I doubt if there is any chance it will be returned.”

“Absolutely none. Thank you, Mrs. Bingley, for your support. My wife has yet to comprehend the realities of being spoiled by her husband. I pray you do not torment Bingley with useless arguments and quibbling.”

“I fear she does,” Charles said with a laugh. “However, I do believe we should be thankful, Darcy. After all it was the modesty, virtue, and economy of spirit which partially drew us to the Bennet sisters, along with other stellar attributes I hasten to add.”

“Lord have mercy! We will be here until next Christmas at this rate! Open it, Elizabeth, before these two begin reciting poetry and destroy all our appetites!” George declared, Mr. Bennet laughing and nodding in agreement.

The box contained a book bound with fine calf leather dyed a deep blue with gold leaf etching along the spine. The pages inside were blank, the intent of which was unmistakably indicated by the gold emblazoned Alexander William George Bennet Darcy scrolled across the front cover.

Before Lizzy could find her voice, Darcy was kneeling with hands caressing over the exquisite binding. “It is a memory book. I saw something similar in Derby. I had this made by a bookbinding establishment in London that has restored numerous antique volumes I have purchased over the years. You can write your thoughts, facts as he grows, ink prints of his feet, memories of first words, when he walks, and anything else that comes to mind. Is it not a fabulous idea?”

“Darcy, this is marvelous!” It was Charles, face suffused with enthusiasm. “Where did you get it?” The new father and father-to-be launched into a discussion, Jane and Lizzy exchanging amused glances.

“William, thank you so much! It is a marvelous concept, keeping an itemized log, so to speak, of his transitions and growth.”

“The other gift accompanies and is the last, I promise.”

It was a trunk of cedar, approximately three feet cubed with short legs, sturdily if plainly constructed with no embellishment other than “Alexander” carved in rough block letters across the lid. The sweet aroma of cedar pervaded the air, every eye lifting from individual unwrapping to observe the scene.

“Mother kept particular artifacts in a series of boxes, some that I discovered damaged. I did not want that to happen to Alexander’s favorite toy, first shoes, blanket, or anything else we deem worthy of keeping. So I built this…”

“You built it?” Caroline interrupted in astonishment, Darcy glancing to her face with a smile.

“I am quite skillful with my hands, Miss Bingley. Unfortunately, I do not have the talent for whittling or engraving as did my grandfather, so it is unadorned, but it will withstand the test of time and any pounding by a rowdy son! I thought it would fit nicely below the window in the nursery.”

“Absolutely! It is fantastic.” Lizzy raised one hand to lightly brush his cheek. “Thank you, William, again.”


Isn’t Mr. Darcy the best? To read more of Caroline Bingley’s opinion on the gift and see what special surprise Lizzy had in store for her husband, come to my website for the next segment of the excerpt!

Sharon Lathan lives in southern California with her own Mr. Darcy (of 24 years) and is a Registered Nurse specializing in Neonatal Intensive Care. When not at the hospital or attending to the ofttimes dreary tasks of homemaking, Sharon is generally found reposing in her comfy recliner with her faithful laptop adhered to her thighs. In truth, she somehow manages to find the time to read books written by other authors, see the occasional movie, keep up on her favorite TV shows, teach preschoolers at her church, and enjoy the life gifted her. 

Sharon has a lovely website with all sorts of extra goodies aside from all her books and excerpts. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday stories: Forgiveness

~Story by, Diane Wolfe~

Sarah’s husband Matt, and his older brother Mark, have just opened gifts from their mother. Each son received a personalized book, highlighting his accomplishments through school, college, and work.

Their mother left their father when they were teens and vanished from their lives for many years. She has worked hard over the past year to rebuild their relationship. The brothers have reacted differently to the situation…

Matt flipped through the remainder of Mark’s book, smiling proudly at his brother’s accomplishments. He handed it to his father and retrieved his own book. Sarah anxiously went through Matt’s book again, taking delight in the pictures of him from childhood. Grinning at her obvious enthusiasm, Matt arose to get a drink.

He strolled into the kitchen, debating on whether he wanted to make hot chocolate or just have juice. Matt glanced through the French doors and noticed his brother outside on the deck. Mark was leaning against the railing and staring off into space. Puzzled, Matt decided to investigate.

Mark glanced warily at his brother as he joined him on the massive back deck. The air was quite chilly and grey clouds covered the sky. The wood beneath his feet felt cold even through his socks, and Matt was thankful he had on a sweatshirt. Stuffing his hands in his jean pockets, he slowly approached his brother. Mark stared at the grass beneath the deck and the distraught look on his face surprised Matt. Mark had always been more emotionally stable, his attitude occasionally bordering on detachment. At the moment, however, he did not appear so sure of himself.

Pausing a couple feet from his brother, Matt stood by the railing and waited for Mark to speak first. They stared at the landscaped backyard, both deep in thought. After a few minutes, Mark kicked at the railing with his feet.

“Why the hell did she do that?” he asked, staring at the ground. “Why’d she save all that stuff?”

“Because she loves us,” offered Matt, aware it was not the answer his brother wanted.

“Then why did she leave?” he asked angrily.

“It had nothing to do with us,” replied Matt. “But you need to hear it from her, not me.”

Mark gave him a sharp look. “She told you?”

Matt nodded solemnly. He knew his brother spoke infrequently with their mother and had never given her the chance to explain her actions. It had not been pleasant, but Matt was thankful he endured the ordeal. It had erased the last of his pain and bitterness.

“You forgave her, didn’t you?” Mark asked in an accusing tone.

“Yes, I did,” said Matt firmly.

Mark shook his head in disgust. Matt’s brother had always been able to intimidate him into changing his opinion, but not this time. Considering the efforts of his mother to heal their relationship, Matt would not permit his brother’s negative attitude to undo all she had accomplished. After so many years of turmoil and uncertainty, Matt had peace at last. He fervently wished his brother would make the effort to let go of his anger as well.

“Like I said, you were always her favorite,” Mark growled, his voice heavy.

“And you were her first!” Matt shot back, tired of the same old excuse. Mark regarded him with surprise and Matt simply shook his head.

“How you feel about her is your business,” he began, determined not to let his brother take him down the same bitter path. “But she’s still our mother and has gone out of her way to make amends. I know she loves us very much. And if that scrapbook doesn’t convince you, then nothing I say is gonna make a difference anyway.”

Matt turned to go inside, determined to enjoy Christmas Day with his family. He hesitated, his eyes on his brother.

“In fact, I’m going to call her when it’s not so darn early on the west coast and thank her for my book. If you want to talk to her, that’s great. If not,” Matt said with a shrug, “then I hope it’s something you can live with, Mark, because I sure couldn’t.”

Diane Wolfe originally hales from Oregon and presently resides in North Carolina with her husband and two cats. Diane Wolfe conducts seminars on promoting, leadership and goal setting. A member of the National Speakers Association, the author offers her seminars through community colleges, organizations and clubs.

The author’s main work is a young adult series entitled The Circle of Friends. It follows a group of sports-minded couples through relationships, college and into their early careers. Meant to inspire as well as entertain, these books have been described as “encouragement personified”.

AKA Spunk On A Stick, her mantra is, “With a positive attitude, any goal can be achieved!”

For more info about Diane or more about Circle of Friends-Book II Sarah, visit her website.