Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers! Today, to start off my blog’s Christmas celebration, I’m announcing the winner of my blog’s giveaway for the recent Holiday Gifts of Love Blog Hop.
I’ve already sent you an email and hope to hear soon which of my books you’d like to have.
And today in lieu of Sweet Saturday Sample, I’m putting up part of what is probably my favorite Christmas story from my collection All Wrapped Up. And that’s strange because it’s not an historical. It’s the contemporary short story “The Present.” Part of my Christmas present to you. I’ll continue it on Six Sentence Sunday tomorrow, give an excerpt on Christmas Eve, and finish it up on Christmas Day.
So, enjoy the season with this little bit of cheer!
by Jenna Jaxon
“I won’t do it, Janice. You can do your own dirty work.” Tessa Avery turned the vacuum cleaner back on and returned to cleaning the carpet in her sister’s living room. She stared at the noisy thing as she pushed it back and forth so violently she almost took out a small end table. Don’t look her in the eye. It’s all over if you make eye contact.
Sudden silence descended as the vacuum stopped dead. Tessa whirled around to find Janice holding the disconnected plug. “You will do it or I won’t pay you for the month.”
It was a threat Tessa had to respect. Unemployed for six months, she counted heavily on the money she got from cleaning her sister’s apartment. But this was going too far. “It’s not in the job description, Jan.”
“It is now.”
“Look, just call and tell him you don’t want to see him any more.”
“I can’t do that. He’s flying back from California and won’t be in touch until after seven o’clock tonight. At which time I will be dancing with that hunky Kevin at the office Christmas party. He said he especially wanted to dance with me and rumor has it he’s in line for vice president next month. Who knows where it could lead? So I don’t plan to be home before one o’clock.” Her eyes glittered like cold stars. “If I’m really lucky, I won’t be home at all. So when Hal shows up, you can just tell him I decided we weren’t right for each other.”
“This is low even for you, Jan.”
Her sister stared at her, beady-eyed, as she waggled the cord back and forth. “Up to you, Tess. Stay here, let Hal down for me, and there’ll be a nice bonus in your envelope. Leave and….” Janice’s smile could have wilted the poinsettias. “Well, I can always find another cleaning lady. It’s two days before Christmas. If you want it to be a merry one, I suggest you stay.”
She bent and plugged the vacuum back in, so the sudden noise masked the “Bitch!” that slipped out of Tessa’s mouth. Janice headed to the bedroom, leaving Tess to contemplate the merits of sororicide and starvation. At least they feed you in prison.
* * * *
Tessa sat, curled up on the couch, flipping back and forth between the classic It’s A Wonderful Life and the equally classic Miracle on 34th Street. She frowned. I need some “bah-humbug.” One hundred and three channels later she determined no one was into the darker aspects of Christmas that night. Well, Hal certainly would be when she dropped Janice’s little bombshell on him.
She was used to doing Janice’s dirty work—it came with the territory of having a beautiful blonde older sister who always got what she wanted by any means possible. So Tess wouldn’t have minded delivering the bad news so much if the guy had been a perv, or too geeky for words. Hell, even geeks deserved better than a second-hand brush off. She tossed the remote onto the coffee table and went to the kitchen in search of solace.
Tess poured herself a stiff rum and coke and stirred her drink, watching idly as the coke foamed over the rim. Hal was a decent guy. He might not be the most handsome man around, but he’d treated her sister well in the six months they dated. Tessa had met him several times; they talked at Janice’s birthday party last month and she liked his offbeat sense of humor.
She shook her head and took a gulp. Hal was too good for Janice. Half a glass later, she was convinced this rejection was for Hal’s own good, though he wouldn’t see it that way. He had given Janice a diamond necklace for her birthday. Crap! I hope he’s not giving her a ring for Christmas!
Tess drained her glass.
Meandering back into the living room, she plopped down on the sofa and peered dizzily at the wall clock. Ten o’clock. Maybe his flight had been delayed. Or better yet, maybe he was too jet-lagged to come over tonight. No need to rush over here, right from the airport—
A knock thundered on the door and Tessa jumped, then groaned and cursed her sister once more. She sighed, shook her head and dragged her feet all the way to the door. The cold air that rushed in made her shiver as much as the figure in the doorway.
“Tessa? Hi. What are you doing here?” The kind, low-pitched voice made Tess feel even worse. She would have to figure out some way to put Janice through this much hell some day.
That’s installment #1. I hope I’ve whetted your appetite! Installment #2 will be posted here for SSS tonight at midnight. Happy Holidays!