December 22, 2016 – 9:26 PM, Eastern Standard Time
I met someone today. It was the first day of the annual three-night Hallmark Holiday Movie series at the local theater, so I decided to close down my gluten-free, non-GMO, organic bakery a few hours early and go. It’s my favorite Christmastime tradition in North Pine Lake Townville.
I sat near the back, a warm cup of peppermint cocoa in my hand and a forced smile on my face. I put my coat on the seat next to me since I was alone this year. In years past, Tommy would be my other half, but since he left me for the doctor who nursed him back to health after his tragic Zamboni accident at the local hockey rink, I was all by myself. I wasn’t expecting anyone to sit next to me.
But then someone did. He cautiously stepped up, that way people do when they’re unsure about someone or something, and asked, “Is this seat taken?” He was so handsome that I didn’t even hear the question so I said, “What?” and he said, “I asked if this seat was taken,” and again I wasn’t really listening so I just grinned and chuckled a little bit, but then he kinda narrowed his handsome eyes at me and asked, “So is that a yes or a no?” and he glanced at my coat and I was like, “Oh, you can totally sit here. Definitely, yeah, of course,” and I picked up my coat and hugged it to my lap and he sat down with his handsome hair and said, “Thanks.”
I blubbered, “No problem.”
He looked up at the screen as he unwrapped his scarf, revealing his handsome neck, and said, “I wonder which one they’ll play first. I hope it’s the one where the big city real estate agent and the small town veterinarian stop the construction of the incoming ski resort and fall in love.” And I nodded and said, “Or the one about the prince who has to keep his royal identity a secret from the ordinary tax specialist until he realizes through the spirit of Christmas that their love is more important than his royal blood.”
And then he grinned a handsome grin and said, “Yeah, that one’s really good. My name’s Ben.”
“Alice,” I replied. We grinned at each other some more, our smiles sparkling until the movie began, and we were both wrong because they played Zero Gravity Christmas, the one about the ornament maker who helps the retired astronaut rekindle his love for space, and then they spend the holiday amongst the stars in his rocketship.
When the movie was over, Ben and I exchanged numbers and went our separate ways, vowing to meet up again for the next movie tomorrow. Maybe this is just me overthinking things, but I think we’re beginning a brand new Christmas tradition. There’s certainly some holiday magic between us—I can feel it.
December 23, 2016 – 10:43 PM, Eastern Standard Time
So as it turns out, Ben is a Christmas tree farmer. He invited me to his handsome homestead before the movie this evening, and so I closed up early again to go. Business at the bakery hasn’t really been doing well, but I think our love eclipses that. And yes, I said, “our love”. We’re officially together now. Take that, Tommy.
We played a game of Roasted Chestnuts amongst the trees, which is like Marco Polo except instead of in a swimming pool you play it on land at a Christmas tree farm and instead of saying, “Marco! Polo!” you say, “Roasted! Chestnuts!” and you have to be careful not to run into any customers. I ran into a few of them and I stepped on one person’s thumb-toe, but no one was seriously injured.
We finished off our time at the farm with some eggnog and cookies, and as we made our way to the town theater, we debated which Hallmark Holiday Movie they’d play next. I thought it’d be the one where the mall cop and the mall Santa switch places for a day and then fall in love after experiencing each other’s career hardships, but Ben thought it’d be the one about the zookeeper who falls in love with a holiday swimsuit model and discovers that she’s actually just three monkeys wearing a meat suit.
“They get married at the end anyway,” he’d said as we drove in his handsome car to the theater. “If that’s not a Christmas miracle worthy of this film series, I don’t know what is.”
We filed into the theater with the rest of the crowd and took the same two seats from the day before. We snuggled close to each other, so close I could smell the scent of pine on his handsome sweater. The lights dimmed down, the crowd went quiet, and we were both wrong again, because they played A Christmas Surprise, the one about the rich old socialite and the twenty-something pool boy who fall in love, but when they discover that the pool boy is actually the socialite’s long-lost son that she didn’t even know she had, they move to a remote mistletoe farm in North Dakota to live out their forbidden love and spend the holiday together. In the end they both perish, though, because they’re mauled by a polar bear in a Santa cap.
“That one was so predictable,” I said once the movie was over. Ben agreed.
We went out for cocoa afterward. It was magical. I got the peppermint cocoa and he got a cup of white chocolate cocoa and when he sipped it, a thin white line of a cocoa mustache was left on his handsome lips and I kissed him. He gave me a white chocolate mustache, too, and that’s when we decided to be together. Together forever, probably. That’s how blooming relationships work at Christmas time: there’s so much Christmas magic in the air that you stay together for all of eternity until you both die. Together for-Christmas-ever.
December 24, 2016 – 11:54 PM, Eastern Standard Time
Ben and I are not together for-Christmas-ever! I’m so sad. We’re over, and it’s all my fault. I don’t know if Ben will ever love me again.
I didn’t even go to the bakery today. I got a final reminder letter from the landlord first thing this morning that said if I didn’t pay the rent within 24 hours, I’d be evicted. I hadn’t been paying for four months, hoping the landlord wouldn’t notice, but apparently he did. I didn’t have the money, so instead of doing something about it, I decided to ignore my problems and go spend time with Ben.
We spent the day at his Christmas tree farm again, drinking more eggnog and playing more Roasted Chestnuts and kissing more kisses. He told me how the Christmas tree farm had been in his family for generations—longer than Christmas had even been around—and how proud he was to own it. It meant the world to him. When the sun started to go down and the air started to get cold, we put on our coats and drove downtown for the last night of the annual Hallmark Holiday Movie series. As we walked arm-in-handsome-arm down the snow-covered sidewalk to the theater, I realized that I’d forgotten all about Tommy. Ben and I were so happy together that I didn’t even think about Tommy anymore.
Were being the operative word there. Because we’re over. And I’m so sad about it.
We settled into our seats for one final time. An event volunteer handed us two slips of paper and asked us to vote for which movie we wanted to see. We both checked the box next to The Ghost, the Gingerbread Twin, and the Christmas Love Triangle. Neither of us had seen it, but from what I’ve heard, it’s pretty good: it’s about a construction worker who meets a school teacher at the holiday party, but then he drinks too much eggnog and passes away and then at the funeral the schoolteacher accidentally knocks over his casket when she thinks she sees a ghost, but it’s actually just his identical twin brother who is also a gingerbread man. Then they decide to build a gingerbread house to live in and once they move in they actually do see the construction worker’s ghost and the school teacher has to decide between the ghost and the gingerbread man and it’s a really tough decision because she loves them both but in the end she chooses the ghost and they eat the gingerbread twin together because he’s so distraught over losing to his dead twin brother but he tastes delicious so it’s all okay. We really wanted to see it.
Neither of us wanted to watch the other option, Christmas with Him, but that’s what ended up winning. It was a rather graphic documentary on the birth of Jesus Christ, and it didn’t really feel like a Hallmark Holiday Movie. When it was over, the event organizers announced that it was actually a holiday special from National Geographic that had gotten mixed up in the film collection and apologized for any confusion. They said that to make up for it they’d be playing a different movie Christmas afternoon.
Ben and I still enjoyed it though.
But this was when our love, our together for-Christmas-ever love, died. We went out for some cocoa and I told him about how I was going to lose the bakery. And then his handsome face went rigid and he set his handsome cup of cocoa down on the table and he handsomely said, “I have to go.”
And without another word, he ran out of the café and the bell on the door chimed as he left and I was alone again. Alone for-Christmas-ever.
December 25, 2016 – 7:19 PM, Eastern Standard Time
It truly isn’t Christmas without a Christmas miracle, isn’t it? I certainly don’t think so.
I woke up this morning and went straight to the bakery. In the spirit of Christmas, I’d set out some milk and cookies on the counter there for the rats that liked to run around when no one’s there at night, and I figured I should probably clean up any crumbs they left before the landlord arrived for the keys.
I went into the bakery, slid on my work apron, scooped up the empty plate and saucer, and shooed away a lingering rat, who scurried off and disappeared. I put the dishes in the kitchen, and didn’t even bother to turn on the ovens—I wouldn’t be using them today.
There was a knock on the door. The landlord.
I walked out of the kitchen and headed for the front door, but as I neared, I could see through the window that it wasn’t the landlord but actually Handsome Ben in a Santa suit. I ran the rest of the way and flung open the door. On his right was a Christmas tree and on his left was a briefcase.
“Ho ho ho,” he bellowed. “Merry Christmas!”
“Ben!” I said. “What are you doing here?”
He leaned the tree against the wall and stepped inside. I wiped away some rat droppings as he set his handsome briefcase down on the counter. Its lid flew open and inside were a bunch of handsome bills.
“I sold the farm,” he told me. “So we could save your bakery.”
“I sold the farm,” he repeated. “So we could save your bakery.”
“I heard you the first time,” I stammered. “But, why?”
“Alice,” he said, gazing wantingly into my eyes, “you and your happiness means more to me than anything in this whole wide world.”
I lunged for him, gripping him in a tight, handsome hug, and we kissed a Christmas kiss. The rats began to squeak merrily, our hearts began to joyously beat as one, and snow began to fall—but we were inside and the snow was outside so it didn’t really make the moment any more romantic. But it was romantic. It was romantic because the air was filled with Christmas magic and our bodies were warm and close with comfort and I knew in that moment that we’d be together forever. Together for-Christmas-ever.
The landlord eventually came and we paid our dues and I made some gluten-free, non-GMO, organic fruitcake to celebrate and then we headed over for the extra Hallmark Holiday Movie airing at the North Pine Lake Townville theater. On our way there, we were surprisingly both in agreement on which movie we wanted to see, and it turned out to be just the one they had decided to play.
We sat in our usual seats, drank our usual cocoa, smiled our usual handsome smiles, and then the theater went dark and the crowd went quiet and we watched the Hallmark Holiday Movie where the baker falls in love with the Christmas tree farmer and it was the perfect way to end a perfect Christmas day.