Entry for the Holiday Short Story Contest
“You’re not hurt are you?” Dark brown eyes and an auburn ponytail poked out from behind the store’s opening door. “Oh look at your shoes. You’d better come in.”
“New snowshoes. My first Christmas gift of the season.” Robert stomped his packed feet where winter clung moist and heavy. Flakes fell aging them both with eyebrows and hair as white as Santa’s. “Well. for a moment. I’ll never get home in this if I tarry.”
“Take your shoes off. Here. Let me brush you off.” At her touch, winter melted away.
“Smells good.” He nudged his shoes close to the wall heater. In his stocking feet, she came almost eye level.
“Cinnamon soaked pine cones. Let me blow out my candles. It’s closing time. You’ll be the last customer, I’m sure.” She pinched each one strategically placed near open bottles of herbs and spices. Their aroma mingled together weaving the textures of exotic lands.
“What about out there?” Robert pointed to the snow pile outside the door.
“Oh, It’s taken care of. I’m sorry it almost hit you.” She stepped back. “You look dry except for your shoes.”
“Some snowball.” He nodded, looking around her shop. “You make a living selling just this?” Robert stumbled over the last words realizing he had made a gaffe.
It didn’t bother her. “You’d be surprised. I do all right, especially online.”
His arched, questioning eyebrows, now hazelnut brown, got answered. “Medical benefits combined with yummy recipes. Everything in here offers both.”
“Even that?” With an awkward chuckle, he pointed to the mistletoe above their heads.
“I’m Sugar, by the way.” She moved to stand under it with him, a hand reaching up to tenderly caress it. “Yes. I told you, you’d be surprised. There are an incredible amount of health benefits of mistletoe, including its ability to treat cancer in a number of ways, prevent diabetes, soothe respiratory distress, calm the nervous system, lower blood pressure, promote good sleep, eliminate inflammation, increase immune system activity, reduce snoring, and…” She sounded like she was quoting something memorized.
It took him off guard when she finished by leaning in to brush a kiss against his cheek. “This tradition dates back to Norse culture. That’s for not making a fuss about what happened outside.”
Robert was taken aback. “Sweet. You’re not from around here, are you?”
Sugar reached up to pull a berry off the mistletoe. “Why do you say that?”
“Well, different customs, I guess. I mean, we just met.” He didn’t know what he had expected.
“Just met? You pass by here to and from work every day. You are a librarian in charge of the county library system and have published three books. You’re single and..”
“Stop.” Robert blushed, looked towards his shoes facing the wall in a puddle. “Time out. This is going a little fast for me.”
“Oops.” Sugar laughed. Another avalanche tumbled off the store roof with a muted roar. It made them jump. “There’s a back door if you want to escape.”
Sugar talked on as she walked with him. “Your sister, Julie, shops here. She was going to line us up if you were interested.”
“Julie?” Robert said lamely. Sugar unlocked the back and pushed. “Oh no. You try it.”
Robert gave it a manly shove.The door shivered and stopped. “Stuck.”
“Do you want to call someone?” Sugar said just as the power went out. Laughing, she turned to light the candles. Robert fumbled for his cell phone. “Uh. I left my phone at work. You?”
“I think fate is calling us. You, sir, are in for a little sugar and spice for the holidays.
They met underneath the mistletoe. "In the eighteenth century, each time couples kissed under this, they took a berry off to reduce the attraction. Think that still works?”
"There's another benefit. It'll keep us warm." Robert smiled in the candlelight, sighed softly and gave in to a kiss.