All the hallmarks

One week until The Big Day!

I am such a huge Christmas fan, and although I haven’t had chance to watch many this year, last year I massively over-indulged in Christmas romances. Yes, they do tend to have slight similarities, plot-wise, and of course the ending is signalled within 30 seconds of the film starting, but really, who cares? Isn’t Christmas the perfect season for second-chances, love-at-first-sight, and realising-you-were-wrong-about-somebody?

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I was preparing for a Christmas reading a friend was organising, and decided I wanted to have a go at bringing as many romance clichés as I could into a single short story. Of course I couldn’t get them all in, but I like where it ended up anyway. Sadly, it was far too long to read at the event in the end, but I thought I could share it here instead.

With that in mind – Happy Christmas Romance! And if you like this, you might just enjoy my Christmas friends-to-lovers romance, Twelve Dates ‘Till Christmas

She wished they would just shut up. Yes, she was going back to her childhood hometown for Christmas. Yes, her parents’ business wasn’t doing that well, thanks to that big chain that had moved into the next town along. Yes, she might try and help them out – after all, she’s already leading the accounts department of Danton’s in the city; she’s fairly sure she can turn around the fate of Brodie’s Bakers in Angel Falls.

But no, Caitlyn is NOT going to find herself tempted to stay there. Home for the holidays, help out where she can, then straight back to her small flat, and her big salary. Caitlyn is no longer a small-town girl. Let her friends laugh and joke. She’d show them.

Of course, the train’s late. Why wouldn’t it be. So naturally, she missed the bus out to the far end of town, and with heels like hers, and the size of her suitcase, there’s no way Caitlyn could walk it.

“Caitlyn Brodie?”

The voice jolted into her thoughts, just as she was wondering whether Angel Falls even had a taxi service these days.


“Oh, come on CC, it’s Dan and you know it. You heading to your folks?”

Daniel Singer. What were the chances? Caitlyn kicked herself at the old nickname, and the spark it caused to rush through her. No. This was not a trip for remembering stupid old crushes.

She nodded.

“I could drive you? Still got the old classic…” He gestured behind her, and there it was. The car she’d been driven to her first date in. The car she’d had her first kiss in. The car whose door she had slammed in Dan’s face three months later, when she saw a note from another girl tucked into his wallet. Still, if he could get her and her luggage across town in one piece, what was the harm?

Sighing, she pulled her case into the trunk, and got into the passenger seat, deliberately not catching Dan’s eye as he threw his arm around the back of her seat to reverse out the parking spot. This was not a route Caitlyn would let herself go down.

Instead, she focused on the view as they drove along the High Street, feeling like she’d stepped out of Beauty and the Beast, checking off familiar characters and haunts. The sweet old couple who ran the café and sweet shop, the library where she’d spent hours doing homework under the librarian’s strict gaze, the gift shop now run by her best friend. Happy days.

Brodie’s Bakers was as Christmassy as possible. Tinsel, lights, glitter everywhere, and Caitlyn’s parents decked out in fur-lined red velvet outfits. If her father’s name was Nick, rather than Bobby, then she might even start to wonder…

“I’ll see you around CC?” Dan called as he headed out the door, and straight into the gift shop, greeting Sarah with a shout.

Caitlyn didn’t even have chance to answer, but no she certainly would not see him around. There was no reason to.

And so, time passed in Angel Falls, everything playing out exactly as Caitlyn had expected. Sort of. She spent time working on her parents’ accounts, looking for savings, and doing her best to keep their heads above water as Christmas began to loom ever nearer. It was a little decadent, she knew, taking the whole of December off, but then, she’d been so busy at work, there’d not been any time for more than an occasional day off here or there. There had been talk of a promotion for one of the team after Christmas, but however much Caitlyn had wanted the job, she knew her parents needed her. Besides, she’d worked so hard all year; surely that had to count for something, just as much as physically being in the office during decision-making time? That was how real companies made their choices, wasn’t it?

In between helping her parents in the shop, Caitlyn actually found time to reconnect with the people she’d lost touch with over the years. A few texts here and there with Sarah were never enough; now, there was time for hot chocolate as they strolled through the snow-covered park, mulled wine sat by the huge Christmas tree as they watched children decorate it, and perfect pancakes in the café as they gossiped about their mis-spent youth. Naturally, Dan was around more than she’d like him to be. He wouldn’t tell Caitlyn what his job was, and every time she asked Sarah, the woman just clammed up and changed the subject. Something had to be going on, but what? With such an air of Christmas about the town, half of Caitlyn didn’t even want to think about it. Yes, her ex-boyfriend was as handsome and charming as ever, and yes, he did sort of save her when she was up the ladder in her parent’s bakery, making sure their angel tree-topper was straight, and the ladder wobbled precariously. But no, she absolutely was not falling for him. Not even when they shared the most chaste of kisses underneath the mistletoe in Sarah’s café. Not even when her heart raced every time she saw him. Not when he was very obviously keeping a secret of some sort from her.

Then it struck her. Maybe he was married. After all, he was indeed handsome and charming, clearly had plenty of disposable income, and was still one of the most popular guys in town – if he wasn’t married, then what was wrong with him? Perhaps there was a child somewhere, that he’d never told anyone about? There had to be something.

As these things tend to do, everything came crashing down all at once, when on a single day:

  1. Caitlyn’s manager phoned to let her know that if she truly wanted to be considered for a pay-rise and promotion, she really ought to be in the office on Christmas Eve.
  2. The heaviest snow fall the town had ever experienced began to fall, almost certainly about to close the roads by Christmas Eve.
  3. Sarah sent Caitlyn a text inviting her to the Angel Falls Annual Christmas Party, celebrating all the effort the town’s businesses put into delivering the best Christmas possible, every year.
  4. Caitlyn’s parents received a letter from the chain bakery, offering them a crazy price if they took on the chain’s branding, and some of their core products.

This last point was made even worse when Caitlyn saw who delivered the offer. Because of course Dan worked for her parents’ rivals; how had she not seen THAT coming?

“CC! Hey, come on, please?”

They were stood at the shop’s entrance, the offer still in Caitlyn’s hands.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” That silenced him. “You haven’t changed one bit, Dan, still the same lying, cheating, good-for-nothing…” Sighing, Caitlyn ran out of steam, simply shaking her head as he stood, silent, in front of her. She began to turn away, then changed her mind. “And by the way, it’s Caitlyn. It stopped being ‘CC’ to you the day I found you with another girl’s love-letter in your wallet. Just get out Dan, and don’t let me see you again before I leave.”

Spinning on her heel before Dan could say another word, Caitlyn missed the look of confusion which settled on his face.

Despite Caitlyn’s best efforts to cry off, Sarah insisted on them attending the Christmas Party, especially since Caitlyn had declared she would be on the first train out the next morning, the 23rd. The snow was still falling, but didn’t seem as heavy as the news had threatened. She would be fine. Pulling her coat around the slinky party dress she had brought ‘just in case’, but never expected to wear, Caitlyn made her way to the town hall.

“Caitlyn! I’m so glad you came!” Sarah shrieked as Caitlyn walked into the ballroom. “You have to talk to Dan.”

“What? No, I really don’t. We have nothing to say to each other.”

“You have everything to say to each other. Back then, on your date? The note in his wallet? It was from me.”

Caitlyn instinctively stepped back, her eyes darting around the room, trying to see Dan, find any reason why her friend would be telling her such a thing now. “What?” She still couldn’t see Dan, and found herself unable to look Sarah in the eye. Instead, she focused on the angel at the top of the tree which dominated the room. Something came to mind about looking up stopping you from crying, she couldn’t recall where she’d heard it. To her side, Caitlyn sensed Sarah about to speak, but she didn’t want to hear it. As humiliation flooded through her, all Caitlyn wanted was to be away. Away from best friends and cheating boyfriends, away from crumbling businesses, and most of all, away from Angel Falls. She should never have come back.

Dashing through the snow to the station, not caring that she was still in her heels and dress, Caitlyn prayed she hadn’t missed the last train. And she wouldn’t have. If they had been running to timetable. Or running at all. The snow might not have seemed so bad in Angel Falls, but had been thicker further down the valley, stopping anything getting through. Not to be deterred, Caitlyn smiled, thinking back to the perfect vehicle she’d spotted in the carpark, and the perfect revenge it would give her. Dan should never have taught her to hot-wire.

Dan should never have taught her to hot-wire. Unfortunately, Caitlyn realised this far too late, as his car sat, or rather hung, half in a ditch, wheels spinning helplessly in the air. She might not have been physically hurt, but her pride was a write-off, as she called the local garage, hoping somebody would be able to get to her.

The joy which filled her as the truck came into view evaporated when she saw who jumped down from the cab.

“What the hell, CC? Not enough to steal my baby, but you have to go and crash her in a ditch too?”

There was real anger in Dan’s voice, and Caitlyn knew she couldn’t blame him.

“You could have been killed. What were you even thinking? Sarah just said you’d raced out.”

“I know you’re seeing Sarah.” The accusation was blurted out before Caitlyn could stop herself.

“I’m doing what now?”

“The note, back then. I know it was from her. And I’ve seen you, you’re always together. And I know it’s ridiculous, because it’s been years, and I should be happy for you. I am happy for you. I just, I really liked you, and I thought you felt the same, and, well it hurt.” The cold was starting to get to her now. “And I know it’s not your fault who you work for. But I am sorry about your car. I’d say I’ll pay for the repairs, but I suspect I won’t have a job when I finally get home.” Caitlyn stared at her feet, and so when the hug came, she wasn’t prepared.

“You’re an idiot,” Dan mumbled into her hair. “One, I’m not seeing Sarah. She’s not my type, nor am I hers. It’d feel slightly incestuous, frankly. Two, she wrote that note to make me look more popular, so you’d stay interested. I’d been worried you weren’t really that into me.”

Caitlyn tried to pull away, only to find herself held even closer.

“And I don’t work for that dumb chain; I just got paid to do some special deliveries because my car has better tyres than their stupid fleet. They couldn’t get through in the snow.” Finally, Dan loosened his grip on her, but only slightly.

“You wanted to seem more popular? That’s ridiculous.”

Dan shrugged. “You were about to head off to the city, I was trying to give you a reason to stay. Oh, and my actual job? It’s not much, but I co-own the local garage, do a few carpentry jobs, and co-own the hardware store. I didn’t want you to think I was a nobody, when I saw you again.”

Caitlyn glanced at her watch. Well past midnight into the 23rd now, with no chance of safely getting out of Angel Falls. Suddenly, standing in the snowfall with Dan, she realised, she wasn’t upset. Let the promotion go to somebody who valued work over family. Let the chain try and destroy her parents’ bakery, now they would have her working with them. And let her friends laugh when they find out she’s not coming back.

This was showing all the hallmarks of a happy ending, and she wasn’t going to let that slip through her fingers twice.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s