Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays, my dears.  Here is a little Christmas story I wrote for you.  It takes place about five months before the events in Naked.  There’s a little surprise in there too.  *grins*

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London, 24 December, 2011

The street was remarkably sparse considering it was Christmas Eve.  Probably because it was so damn freezing cold outside people were smart enough to stay in.  I know it’s totally cliché to be shopping for a gift at this late minute, but here I went pushing my way through the doors of Harrod’s in hopes of something really perfect for my aunt Marie.  I better get my ass in gear too, because I would be spending the day with her tomorrow and had nothing to show up with.

harrods_christmas_world_0810bMarie was hard to buy for because she was so unique and unconventional it was ridiculously difficult to top her lifestyle.  She also had money enough to get anything she desired.  She reminded me of Auntie Mame from the movie in a lot of ways.  From the exotic travels, to the rich, dead husbands, to the fantastic dresses in her wardrobe.

After three quarters of an hour I gave up and headed outside.  I stopped for a mocha coffee in the food court first.  I needed the caffeine and the warmth.

I strolled and I sipped and looked into shop windows from the street for anything of interest.  The bite from the cold air was going to put some color in my cheeks I was sure.  Well, at least I had hot coffee, and the Christmas carols piping out from somewhere sounded nice.  Very Christmas Carol-ish.  I’m sure Dickens would have been surprised to know that 250 years later, some of the same songs were still playing.  I loved history and it made me smile to see that some traditions hadn’t changed hardly at all in those long years.  Change isn’t always a good thing.  It spoke to strength of character when something withstood the tests of time.

I wish I could be more like that.

Some days I wondered how long I would last.  Despite my determination to be on my own in London, I missed my parents.  The decorating, and the baking, and the parties…

Well, maybe not the parties.  Parties were not really my thing anymore.   And I seriously wondered if I’d ever step foot in San Francisco again.  There was a good chance not.

Move on and change the subject–that one’s pretty worn out.

I came up to a shop window that looked intriguing.  Like a flea market or secondhand shop.  The name on the door was etched, Tucked Away.  And it certainly was.  There were tons of these small shops in London and some of them were beautifully arranged.  This was one of them.  I stepped inside and heard a bell jingle from a catch on the top of the door.

“Happy Christmas,” a cheerful voice called out.

“Happy Christmas,” I returned, to the smiling face of an older gentleman, in Brit uniform of sweater vest and tweed jacket.

The shop smelled good.  Like cinnamon.  I would bake at Aunt Marie’s tomorrow and I looked forward to that.  I loved to cook, but it lost something when there was nobody to cook for.  I felt a sigh coming and suppressed it.

scarf - hand knitted womens scarf with fringe  in alpaca wool whimsical purple blue olive green-f31382I gravitated toward a section of soft knits.  These were obviously consignment of some sort.  Not antiques.  Scarf and hat combos in so many colors.  I pulled out a dark purple set and fingered the scarf.  It felt like cashmere, it was that soft.  Probably lambs wool though.  I checked the price and raised a brow.   I wanted it.  Hell, I needed it on a day like today.  I looked at the price again and decided it was okay to splurge on myself.  It was Christmas after all.

Who in the hell are you kidding, foolish woman?  You still have nothing for Marie.

I think I was starting to panic a bit.  I sighed and kept looking.

I drifted around the shop, found nothing and eventually decided it was time to leave.  I stepped up to the counter to pay for my hat and scarf and caught the display of costume jewelry under the glass.  Now we’re talkin’.  It was very pretty stuff for one thing—vintage Bohemian fit Marie’s personality like a leather glove.  Score!

One piece stood out clearly to me and it was perfect.  A dove pin.  Silver with seed pearls on the wing and tail, a black crystal eye and a tiny heart charm dangling from its beak with a blue crystal in the middle.  A dove symbolized peace and God knows the world could certainly use some of that.  The best part was that I could picture my aunt wearing this pin.  I knew she’d love it.

I paid in a rush, almost giddy to have struck gold in my labors of gift-buying-angst.  Checking my watch, I knew I should get going and realized I still had a bit of a walk to my Tube station.

It was cold.

Frickin frigid.

Cold enough that I pulled on the new hat and wrapped the scarf around my neck right then and there on the street.  I checked my face real quick in the window of a parked car just to make sure there wasn’t something stupid looking in my appearance, not that I cared too much when it was so freezing.

I walked another couple blocks until I couldn’t stand the cold another second.  I pushed into the first place that had a door with a ‘We’re Open sign.  Fountaine’s Aquarium.  I was in a pet store.  Or more correctly, a tropical fish shop.  Worked for me.  It was warm and quite dim inside, the earthy smells of humidity from so much water made the air a pleasant change from where I’d just been.  I unwound my scarf and wandered around, stopping by each tank to observe and read the names of the fish.

The saltwater section reminded me of the trip to Maui when I was fourteen.  I’d gotten to snorkel and see some the same fish that were in these tanks.  I didn’t  know it at the time, but that vacation had been the last one for me with both of my parents together.  My mom and dad separated soon after, and there would never be another trip for all of us as a family unit.  Sad.   They had to fight to be civil to each other now.  Well, isn’t that the perfect oxymoron… ‘fighting to be civil.’

I stopped at one particularly interesting fellow.  It was a lionfish.  They are something else up close.  All those spiky fins hardly look real.  This guy seemed curious and came right up to the edge and fluttered at me as if he wanted to have a conversation.  He was cute.  I knew they were poisonous to touch, but still captivating to watch.  I bet that a saltwater aquarium was a great deal of work to maintain.

Simba looking“Hey Handsome,” I whispered to the fish.

“Can I help you with anything?”  a male voice asked behind me.

“Just admiring.  He’s really a beautiful fish,” I told the store clerk.

“Yeah, he’s been sold actually.  The owner is coming to pick him up today and take him home.”

“Ahhh, well I hope you’re happy at your new home then, Handsome.”  I spoke to the fish.  “Hopefully it’s someone who’ll spoil you with treats.”

The clerk agreed with me and chuckled.

I turned away from the tank, deciding it was time to brave the outside cold yet again and head home to my flat.  I still needed to wrap Marie’s gift and I had plans to bake tonight—some sugar cookies that I would take over there tomorrow.  It was a little tradition that we’d started and it was really fun piping on the frosting and sprinkles as we decorated the shapes.  My favorites were the snowflake ones.

I headed for the door to leave, adjusting my hat and re-wrapping the scarf halfway up my face, when someone entered the shop.  I stepped aside to let him pass and was impressed with an image of a tall person and a nice coat, but I didn’t look up at him.  My eyes were focused on what lay beyond the open door of the shop.

Snowflakes.London snow

It was snowing on Christmas Eve in London!

“It’s snowing?”  I muttered in amazement.

“Yeah…it is,” he said.

I stepped out into the white and caught the most appealing scent on him as we passed by each other.  Like some exotic spice mixed with an indulgent combination of soap or cologne.  It was nice when a man smelled so good, I thought.  Lucky girl…whoever she was getting to smell that all the time.

I went up to the window of a black Range Rover parked on the street and checked my hat in the window’s reflection like I’d done before when I’d started out.  It wasn’t really my vanity, but more that I didn’t want to look like a dork walking down the street.

The snow was falling heavier now, and I could see some flakes beginning to settle on my new purple hat, even with just the reflection in the glass.  I smiled at myself as I turned to go.

I was cold on my walk home.  Cold…but strangely content.  Snow for Christmas, for a California girl, all on her own in London at the holidays.   Something I never expected.  But I realized another thing as I made my way.  The small things in life are sometimes the most precious gifts we are given, and when you recognize them as they arrive, then you are truly blessed.

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Comments

  1. Awe! She met the lion fish and walked right past Ethan!!! *sigh* Sometimes we never know what’s right in front if us I guess huh!?! 🙂

  2. Eeek!! Thanks 🙂
    Merry Christmas!!

  3. just perfect!! ::sigh::

  4. Merry Christmas. 🙂 Thank you for this little story.

  5. Love it!!! Thanks!

  6. Wonderful, thank you and Happy Holidays!

  7. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!!! OMG I am soooooo ready for some more Ethan!! I miss him lots!!!!!!!!!

  8. Awww that was AWESOME!!!!!

  9. Terry Miller says:

    Thanks so much. Loved it. Fate is amazing, isn’t it.

  10. Oh, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. Just a little bit of London and my two favorite characters. That was all I wanted and needed for Christmas – and a clown fish! Who can want more? Thanks again!

  11. I NEED BOOK THREE…this is such a teaser!

  12. Thank you for that little Christmas present Raine!

  13. Thank you for the Christmas present Raine!! I’ll take any little tidbit I can get 🙂 Happy Christmas to you and yours

  14. love it

  15. This was a really cute Christmas story. Thank you Raine
    So anxiously waiting for book 3.

  16. Very nice, i love the lion fish.. can’t wait for more!!! Merry christmas everyone!

  17. exclusiverob says:

    Thank you. This is a really cute Christmas story. Ethan was there and she did not even know it. Yikes!. I am so ready for more Brynne and Ethan, so I anxiously wait for book 3. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  18. Beautiful !

  19. Love it! Thanks Raine! Merry Christmas!

  20. Ahhh so Ethan and her had crossed paths before? Excellent I can’t wait to read book 3.

  21. Awe so she met Ethan before and didn’t even know it. How wonderful fate is. I cannot wait for book 3. It’s going to be so good.

  22. That was awesome, so excited for the next book…Thank you Raine!!! Merry Christmas everyone!!!

  23. gungirl007 says:

    Made my afternoon, Thank you Raine! Warmest wishes to you and your family for a Merry Christmas 🙂 ~Lori

  24. Marissa H. says:

    Raine, I love this Christmas story. You are an awesome writer and a sweet person. Thank you for the Christmas present. Much love to you and your family. Cannot wait until Eyes Wide Open is here!!!

  25. Loved it – cannot wait for book 3.

  26. loved this little look back! the lionfish, so they will meet again, and the yummy smelling man too! can’t wait to see them all again…

  27. reneewaring says:

    Great short story Raine and I love that she saw Ethan and the lionfish months before they actually became acquainted.

  28. Laura Hansen says:

    Love it!!! Can’t wait, sad that it’s not out sooner

  29. I absolutely loved this short story! I loved that she met the lionfish and walked right passed Ethan. I absolutely love these characters. I can’t wait for the next book.

  30. Awwww…. Thanks for the Christmas present. MERRY CHRISTMAS

  31. Thank you so much for taking the time to write the Christmas story. I know it made my day. You never cease to amaze me with your talents. May you and yours have a happy holiday.

  32. Lisa Figliolino says:

    Thank you Raine…Merry Christmas!!!

  33. nilsa santiago says:

    Ms. Miller Thank you so much for This gift! I simply loved it, It’s a beautiful story. I can’t wait for your third book in the Blackstone series! Blessing from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Happy Holidays

    Nilsa Santiago

    Sent from my iPhone

  34. What a sweet encounter…the ‘what ifs’ of our lives. But their meeting did come their way. I so happy for your success but a tad disappointed my New Year’s reading plans have changed. Waiting until spring I will be worth it for more Ethan.

  35. Marcie Bibow says:

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! GREAT TREAT!!

    Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2012 20:03:57 +0000 To: marciebibow@hotmail.com

  36. Love it!

  37. Martha Baltazar says:

    Loved this. Hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. Really looking forward to the release of book #3.

  38. thank you for that story. can’t wait for book 3. Happy Christmas!

  39. Sweet! Lots of grins. Happy Christmas to you and the fam!

  40. Lauree Sahba says:

    That’s quite a fish tale! The one that got away!!! Very enjoyable! I recall a young couple in love, who frequented a fish store of the same name way back when!

  41. That was wonderful cant wait for the next book to be out thanks so much raine

  42. Looking forward to anything you write!! I’m ur #1 fan….

  43. Thank you, Raine! What a wonderful Christmas gift! And I love the pictures. Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Hope the Mayan prediction is a bust, because I’m going to be real pissed if the world ends tomorrow and I don’t get to read book 3!!!!! LOL! 😉

  44. Omg, thanks, it was so adorable, loved it. Got me even more excited for when book 3 comes out, can’t wait!! THANKS !! Happy Holidays!!

  45. Thanks for a snippet of the past. It was so sweet to see them all “before” even Simba. I hope the Christmas season brings you all the Happiness and Joy you deserve

  46. Ginger Pennington says:

    Loved it!

  47. Christine Dakis says:

    Awwwww, how perfect! Merry Christmas Raine! I am anxiously awaiting the next book!

  48. awhh! I feel like I just received a gift in my Christmas stocking. A Happy Christmas to you and yours!

  49. I love the Christmas Eve scene just as much as I love the books! Anxiously awaiting book 3.

  50. So touched by this short story…In one WORD-SERENDIPITY!
    Thanks again Raine…Enjoy the Holidays!

  51. Angela Goodlett says:

    Thank you for the Christmas gift I enjoyed reading it and I cn’t wait for The Blackstone Affair book 3. Merry Chirstmas and Happy New Year!

  52. Gracias Raine , Felices fiestas

  53. Jen Robbins says:

    Awe, i just cant wait for the next story…….ugh:(

  54. My beautiful American girl .!!!!

  55. Love the short story!

  56. Thank You for that “pre” story. It was very sweet! Here I sit on Christmas Eve, and that felt like a wonderful gift! I too am looking forward to the 3rd book, and getting to meet you in Boston! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  57. Great Xmas Treat really looking forward to book 3 have a great Xmas. I hope you get lots of inspiration for more great books as I love your work

  58. Happy Holidays and thank you for the wonderful story 🙂

    Evelyn

    Sent from iPhone

  59. Linda Freedland says:

    great story-thanks.

    Sent from my iPad

  60. this was truly a special gift now that the holidays have finished1 Thanks!

  61. Connie lemoine says:

    I love how we get pieces of the before. How wonderful she met Simba!! Little did either of them know what the future held💜

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