This is for the Vocal+Assist December prompt, hope you enjoy, I did! If you'd like to check it out for yourself, here is the link!
"Never be too busy to take time out of your day for those that matter most."
That was the headline of the Christmas card Charlie's mom sent him, a mini guilt trip, no doubt. He had stated firmly that he had no intention of going home this year. He had just started his own construction company and he didn't see the ability to leave his responsibilities behind when he had so much to do.
In fact he had his mind made up that he absolutely was not going, that is, until later that same night when his mother called to see if he got the card. She happened to casually mention that Emily would be coming to town, and had asked if he would be coming.
"Did she really ask that?" He wondered curiously.
But he knew his mother well, she was a smart woman, so this could easily be just another ploy to get him home.
Emily, his high school love, his prom queen. She had never officially won the title, but to him, she was a queen. Sadly, things went bad right after high school when Emily ended up pregnant. Charlie was about to leave for college and had no interest in being a father. So Emily reluctanly agreed abortion was the best option. That decision tore the two apart though, Emily wanted the baby, she wanted a family. But she realized Charlie was on a different path in life, and could no longer see a future with him, so she decided to move on from everything, alone. They hadn't spoken since. It was no secret though, that despite the passing years, he still cared for her and thought about her often.
"I'll think about it." He nonchalantly responded.
His mind was made up though, he was going home.
It was a 7 hour drive from his city flat to that little town with three stoplights. About half way there he had to stop due to the level of snow filling the sky, and sheets of black ice covering the road. He did not miss this weather. He decided to stop at a small shop where he thought he might find a gift for Emily, he couldn't just show up to see her empty handed on Christmas after all these years.
It was a small local boutique, not the best selection. He skimmed through the shelves and down the aisles, seeing all sorts of christmas themed gifts, blankets covered in snowmen and different styles of santa clause, pepermint scented bodywash sets, and pine scented candles. None of it felt quite right, so he decided to try his luck at another store. But just as he was walking to the door something caught his eye, a little glass case, with random trinkets marked "Antique."
And in this case was a small glass jewelery box with a single blue rose painted on it. His memories flashed back to the last time he saw Emily, they were in her room, and she was crying uncontrollably in frustration.
"I just can't do this anymore!" She screamed, grabbing her favorite jewelry box, small and porcelain, with hand painted pink roses, and smashing it into the wall.
That memory has haunted him. Was this the right gift? Or would it trigger something too painful for her? He decided to take the risk, and try and make up for the old destroyed box, which was his fault, undoubtedly.
He knew how much Emily loved that jewelery box, her middle name was Rose, so of course she favored anything with roses on it. But this particular item, originally belonged to her grandmother who she loved dearly. It was given to her after her grandmother unfortunately passed. He never forgot the look on her face after she realized she had smashed it into pieces...crushed. Yes, this was the right gift for sure. He felt confident with his purchase as he watched the cashier carefully wrap it up and place it neatly in a box fit for christmas, he was even kind enough to wrap it in a pretty foil wrapping, red and gold striped.
After a couple hours the storm cleared up and he continued on his journey. Upon arriving at his parents house, a sudden nostalgia rose up in him as he stood on the porch, for on the other side of the door he smelled his mother's famous hot cider. More than candy canes or chocolate santas, even more than his aunt's strawberry pie, every year as long as he could remember... his momma's cider always filled him with the most joy and comfort.
Before knocking he decided to take a peek in the window, hoping to see if Emily was there. He didn't want to risk looking through the front and being spotted, Just in case he got cold feet at the last second, so he went to step off the porch and continue to the side of the house. He made it two steps before the ice on the steps got the better of him and he was on his back. It made a loud enough commotion that the front door popped open rather abruptly.
"Charlie?" A concerned voice said.
Not just any voice though, her voice. He'd recognize it anywhere. He was completely embarassed and couldn't manage to muster up even a simple 'Hello'.
"Are you okay...?" She asked, leaning down to help him up.
"Lets get you inside." She pulled him to his feet, and led him into the warm home.
It looked the same as it did since he was a kid, a silver and gold wreath with an angel and harp adorned the door, while christmas lights lined every room. Their nativity set placed carefully above the fireplace where... wow, where his old stocking sat, hanging as if it had never left that spot. He noticed the tree was decorated with all the ornaments he made his parents through his years growing up, an old picture frame made of colorful popsicle sticks and string, holding his second grade picture. He noted how terrible of a haircut his mother had given him. A smile crossed his lips, and for the first time since he started the trip, he was grateful he came.
"Charlie!!!" His mother screamed with excitment. "You came!"
"Couldn't miss your cider." He said wrapping her in a deep hug.
He was led to the dinning room where he was expecting to see the rest of his extended family, as per what was normal every year. But only one person sat at the table, his dad. He figured everyone else must still be on there way.
"You're just in time for dinner." Said his mother while pulling out a chair for him. Dinner was definitely ready, all his favorites, honey spiraled ham, deviled eggs, green been casserole, and more.
"Where is everone else?" He asked confused.
"We decided to have a smaller get together this year." Said his father.
"Exactly." His mother chimed in, pushing his chair in for him and kissing the top of his head. "This year is just gonna be the 5 of us."
"5?" Charlie questioned, seeing only the four of them in the room.
That's when Emily sat down next to him and placed her hand on his leg. "I want you to meet someone, Charlie."
She looked worried. A pit began to form in his stomach.
"What is going on?" He asked with a bewildered look.
"Sammy honey, come on down!"
Charlie turned back towards the staircase, and down came a little girl, holding onto the tinsle wrapped railing as not to fall. She looked to be about 5 years of age, long brown hair, with deep brown eyes. He knew those eyes, they were the same ones he just saw hanging in that frame on the tree from when he was a boy.
"What is this?" He asked, rising to his feet.
"I wanted to respect your choice." Said Emily. "But I also needed to respect my own."
"This is why I was invited here? As a trap??" Charlie started to become visibly angry and defensive. His mother tried to approach him to calm him down but that just angered him more. "I'm leaving." He stated, grabbing his jacket and heading for the door. His parents asked him to sit down but he refused.
That's when, in a desperate voice, Emily cried out. "I'm dying, Charlie."
He stopped dead in his tracks. The words punching a hole through his heart and straight into his gut. He didn't respond, just stood there silently for a moment. His parents thought it a good idea to take the little girl back upstairs and let them talk.
She asked him to come sit with her, hesitantly he obliged.
She explained to him how she could not go through with the abortion, but that she wanted to respect his choice, so that's why she ended the relationship, she was still pregnant and planned on keeping it that way. She told him how she never intended to get him involved, but that she was diagnosed with Leukemia, and the treatments were unsuccessful. She was going to die, and aside from her daughter, she was alone.
She told him she contacted his parents a few months before, and for the first time, they met up and got to meet their grandaughter, Samantha Rose.
"Your parents are willing to take care of her, after I am unable. They are willing to adopt her. But she is about to lose her mother, I really think she needs her father..."
This wasn't Charlie's night for words because again, any sign of his voice escaped him. His mind was racing though, too much... this was too much.
"I gotta go." He said, standing up and walking out the door.
Emily sighed in defeat and a tear rolled down her cheek.
Charlie's mind was all over the place on the drive back, how could she do that? Just lay two huge things like that on him, and they expected him to do what? Just accept it with the joy of christmas spirit?? He couldn't take on a kid, he just started his business. He had a life, and he was very clear years before, he did not want a child. It's not his fault she chose to keep the thing. His parents were way more equipped to deal with that responsibility, they had already done it with him, and he turned out fine. So she would be fine there too.
Just as that thought finished, a deer darted out in front of his car. He swerved to miss it, and just barely clipped it. It was the oddest thing though, the deer just stopped and stared right at him. Those big black eyes, almost haunting, seemed to be trying to convey something. He stared back for a moment, almost as if being hypnotized, he couldn't look away. Then the deer looked away, and gracefully walked into the woods. A sinking feeling hit his gut, and he began to sob. It finally sunk in, the only girl he ever loved was about to die, and he was completely helpless to the fact. And worst of all, he just abandoned her when she was reaching out for help. Is this who he had become?
After several long moments of weeping he glanced on the passenger floor, there sat the nicely wrapped box, with a little Golden bow. He never gave it to her.
He weighed it in his hand for a long moment.
"Samantha Rose." He said, running his finger along the silky paper.
About an hour had passed when Emily heard a knock on the door. She was surprised to see Charlie standing there, red and puffy eyed. He said nothing yet again. Although, this time he didn't have to, for his eyes said it all... He was truly, deeply, so very sorry. And he loved her.
She embraced him in a hug and they cried together, right there on the porch, until from inside the house, popped out a little head.
"Hello Sammy, my name is Charlie." He said while reaching down and handing her the box. "Merry Christmas." He said gently.
They all went inside, where Emily was able to spend her last Christmas, with the ones she loved most.
Now every year, hanging on the tree next to Charlie's, is a little picture frame made out of macaroni noodles and yarn. The picture? The smiling faces of Charlie, Emily, and Samantha Rose.
About the Creator
On a serious self-discovering, soul-searching journey. Breaking myself out of a stagnant shell and reaching out for my dream of being a writer. Small steps but this is my start! Please help me by commenting your feedback, I'd be grateful!
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented