A complete short story for your enjoyment. Published in A Holiday Anthology Volume One Exquisite Quills, on Smashwords. The book contains fifteen holiday stories by fifteen different authors. The book is a free gift to our readers and our way of saying thank you. Below is my short story contained in that book. Enjoy!
This book is available at Barnes & Noble.
The Kissing Ball
by E. Ayers
Michelle walked into the kitchen and looked over her sister Dianna’s shoulder at the array of nuts, pinecones, and art supplies scattered across what was once their grandmother’s kitchen table. “What are you making?”
“A Kissing Ball. They’re supposed to be good luck.” Using a glue gun, Dianna squeezed a clear glob onto an exposed bit of foam ball, then pressed a small filbert nut into that tight space between several small pinecones. “That was the last nut.” She held the ball up and checked it carefully. “Want to help me make bows with the ribbon?”
“Me? I’m lucky that I learned to tie my shoes. You’re the crafty one.” Michelle shook her head and pulled out a chair. She sat across from her little sister at the old oak table watching Dianna make and pin several tiny red-ribbon bows on the ball.
Memories of Christmases past flooded Michelle’s mind. In those old holiday photos with less than two years between them, they looked almost like twins with straight dark-brown hair that had been pulled into pigtails, and green eyes, but they were as different as two sisters could be. The first thing Michelle had done when she went to college was cut her hair. Now she wore it in a long bob. Her sister preferred a short pixie cut. But they still looked very much alike.
Michelle propped her elbow on the table and put her chin into her palm. “Where did you get the idea for this? And what are you going to do with it?”
Dianna laughed. “I saw one in a store. It cost a fortune.” She created a hanging loop then added a series of small bows around the base of the loop. Holding it over her head, she looked at the very bottom. “There.” She stuck her finger against it. Without moving her finger, she returned the ball to the table. “Hand me that piece of artificial mistletoe.”
Michelle found the little cellophane-sealed package partially hidden under the bag of mixed nuts. She opened the package and passed the silk sprig to her sister. “Where are you going to put it?”
“The mistletoe or the ball?” Dianna added a drop of hot glue to the spot that her finger had occupied.
“I figured I’d hang it in the foyer.” With one hand, she stuck a pin into the piece of greenery, then pushed the pin through the glue dot and into the ball.
“Aren’t you supposed to use real mistletoe?”
Dianna shrugged her shoulders. “The real stuff has poisonous berries.”
Michelle began to pick up the tidbits off the table that needed to be trashed. “What’s Aaron doing this Christmas?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t care.”
She raised her eyebrows as she looked at Dianna. “You two have a falling out?”
“No. I’m just disappointed.” Dianna collected her supplies of glue sticks, floral pins, and satin ribbon, and shoved them into a large zip bag.
“He took me to Stewart’s Restaurant for dinner last night.”
“Stewart’s? You went to Stewart’s? What was it like?”
Dianna’s eyes lit up. “Totally awesome. Candles on the tables, more silverware than anyone could possibly use in a week, and the food was out of this world.” She chomped on her lower lip for a moment and then grinned. “The mayor and his wife were at a table beside us.”
“Omigosh! The mayor?”
Dianna nodded. “Aaron told me three weeks ago that he’d made reservations for the evening and I was to wear something very special. It was the anniversary of our first date.” She unplugged the glue gun. “I’m sitting there the whole time thinking this is it, he’s going to ask me to marry him.”
“That’s just it. Nothing.” Dianna squinted her eyes and pressed her lips together. “Butterflies had taken over my stomach. I mean…you know…fancy restaurant. I’m all dressed up and Aaron is looking fantastic in his good black suit.” She rolled her eyes. “I was so nervous. I kept waiting for him to ask me. It was all I could do to keep my hands from shaking.”
“So instead of enjoying the evening, you panicked?”
Dianna nodded. “Will you sweep the floor while I wipe the table?”
“Stick me with the lousy job. I’ll wipe and you sweep.”
Dianna stuck her tongue out. “Bully!”
“It’s your mess.” Michelle grabbed the bottle of spray cleaner and a few paper towels.
“So what’s wrong? He took you out for a fabulous dinner. You’re going to break up with him because you wanted him to ask you to marry him? Are you crazy?”
Dianna began singing Crazy as she swept the kitchen floor.
Michelle shook her head. She could remember her grandmother listening to Patsy Cline sing that song.
Dianna stood in one spot singing with one hand over her heart and the other stretched out to her side.
“You are crazy.” Michelle took the electric broom from her sister. “Go get the ladder. I want to watch you hang this thing.”
With the kitchen returned to perfect order, Michelle wandered into the foyer. Asking her little sister to buy the townhouse with her had been a super idea. Combined incomes allowed them to afford something much nicer than they could have separately, and this one sat in the heart of the downtown historic district of River City. She was within walking distance of University Hospital, where she worked as a nurse. And Dianna could catch the bus to her job, saving her a frustrating commute and parking fees.
Furthermore, Dianna loved decorating. When they moved in, they pooled furniture, and Michelle let her little sis have free rein to do as she pleased. A few cans of spray paint, some decorative accessories, and an armful of fancy pillows was all it took for Dianna to create an upscale look to the newly renovated place. Then for Christmas, she had turned their townhouse into a sophisticated wonderland.
When Dianna had brought home three trash bags filled with snippets from the woods behind their parents’ home, Michelle had laughed. But she quit laughing when Dianna made a magnificent wreath for the front door. After that, she formed the garland that decorated the chandelier, the railing on the staircase, and the mantles in the living and dining rooms, along with several pretty live arrangements.
Dianna retrieved the ladder from the utility closet near the back door and set it under the chandelier in the foyer. With care, she climbed near the top, and extracted some florist wire from her pocket. “Hand me the ball.”
Michelle watched her sister hang the ball from the center of the chandelier. “It looks great there. You’ve done such a terrific job on this whole place.”
The doorbell rang. Michelle looked through the peephole, and as she opened the door, she said, “You have a visitor.”
Aaron stood there with a gift bag dangling from his arm while holding a lit candle. His other hand was cupped around the flame. Michelle smiled at her sister’s boyfriend. “Come in.”
“Merry Christmas.” Aaron stepped over the threshold, returned the smile to Michelle, then looked at Dianna who was still on the ladder. “Merry Christmas to you, too. What are you doing up there?”
Dianna laughed. “Thanks. I’m decorating.”
“Let me take your coat.” Michelle closed the door and helped him shrug out of his wool dress coat, as he juggled the lit candle between his hands.
“What do you think?” Dianna pointed to her latest creation hanging above her head.
“Let me get this ladder out of the way.”
“Is that mistletoe?” Aaron asked.
Michelle nodded as she watched her sister carry the ladder down the long hall. “And half a bag of mixed nuts.”
“She’ll have every squirrel in the neighborhood at your front door asking to come in. Next thing you know, she’ll be making wind chimes out of strings of peanuts.”
“I heard that!” Dianna called from the hallway.
Michelle laughed at the banter, but she couldn’t take her gaze from the candle that Aaron held. She knew she should leave Dianna and Aaron alone, but she couldn’t help herself. She wanted to see her little sister’s reaction to what was on the candle.
Dianna returned to the foyer, grinned, and casually stood under the kissing ball.
Aaron laughed. “Oh, no. Me first. Tonight starts the first day of Hanukkah. I thought we could celebrate together.” He passed the lit candle to Dianna. “This might be a lot to ask, but is there a possibility of us blending holidays for the next fifty years?”
Dianna gasped and almost dropped the candle, as she attempted to blow it out. There on the tapered candle sat the prettiest diamond ring.
Aaron reached into the bag and handed Michelle a menorah. “I think it’s going to look great nestled with the Christmas decorations.”
“I think you’re right.” Michelle took the candleholder and reached into the bag for the candles that went with it.
Dianna slipped the ring onto her finger. “I thought you were going to do this last night.”
“That was my original plan when I made the reservations, but then I decided this was better.”
Dianna held her hand in front of her. “It’s beautiful. How did you know my size?”
“Remember that twist tie from the barbeque at Gerald and Katie’s house?”
Dianna scrunched up her face. “Twist tie? Omigosh, that was last June! You’ve been planning this since then?”
He nodded. “I knew back then that you were the only one for me. I was waiting for you to come to the same conclusion.” He smiled brightly. “I haven’t heard you say yes.”
“I don’t think you actually asked me.”
Michelle grinned as she watched Aaron collect Dianna into his arms.
“Dianna Baker, will you marry me?”
“Yes, I will marry you. Yes. Yes. Yes!”
As Aaron kissed Dianna under the mistletoe, Michelle slipped away. She placed the beautiful brass menorah on the living room mantle and placed the candles in it. She stepped back and admired the arrangement. Nestled with the Christmas garland, the menorah looked lovely.
Happy Hanukkah, Aaron…and Dianna. As she headed to the kitchen to fix dinner, she laughed to herself. Double the fun. Double the food. Double my waistline!
Maybe she’d get lucky and find someone special this holiday season. Her mind traveled to the cute new resident doctor who had asked her to join him for the Christmas festivities and concert in Riverwalk Park. Oh, yeah! Merry Christmas to me, too. This is going to be a great holiday season. I wonder if I can find a recipe for potato pancakes?