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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: It’s Christmas Day (in the present or living memory) (11/27/08)

TITLE: I Wish I Were with You
By Catrina Bradley



Everything is right…but everything is wrong.

Mother's got her poinsettias precisely placed in their designated positions; this year’s Christmas Tree creation is standing sentinel in its rightful post at the front windows. Christmas never changes here.

But this year it’s surreal somehow.

Because I’ve changed. And he’s helping me.

My need for him starts like an irritating itch. A bug bite. Just a passing annoyance.

But I scratch it. I irritate it, stir it up, set it off.

I dwell on my thoughts of him.

Once scratched, the need refuses to be ignored.

I can’t sit here all prim and proper with them any longer. I’ve got to go call him. I’ve got to scratch the itch.

“Excuse me, I’ll be right back.” Our family code for ‘I’m going to the bathroom.’ We don’t make mention of our ‘business’; it’s understood.

The gold-plated doorknob is warm in my grasp. I barely hear a whispered click as the heavy door latches. They can’t hear me in here; it’s as sound proof as an isolation chamber.

I slide my cell out of my blazer pocket and hit speed dial one.

Answer. Answer. Answer! Yes!

“Merry Christmas, sweetie.

“I’m ok. I just I wish I were with you.

“They’re ok.

“I know they do, and I love them, too, but…

“You’re right. And I’m thankful I have a family to spend Christmas with.

“Yeah, and this year’s scheme is gold decorations from tip to trunk, topped with a gigantic gold bow Her gaudiest tree yet.

“No, I asked them, but mom and dad ‘didn’t have time’. It was a great service, tho. The children sang ‘Away in a Manger’ and acted out the nativity story. Thanks for talking me into going alone.

“Oh! That sounds like so much fun. I wish I were there with you.

“No, my family’s not the carol-singing type. Daddy did submit to letting me play The Carpenters Christmas cd, though.”

I muffle my phone against my chest to stifle a sob.


Oh, great! If she doesn’t quit crying, I might just cry. Man I miss this girl. If I had any doubts before, they’re gone. She’s the one.

“Did Karen sing this one, baby?

    ‘I've just one wish
    On this Christmas Day
    I wish I were with you.’

“Don’t cry baby. I don’t sing that bad.

“I know, you told me. And I think of you now whenever it comes on the radio.

“Next year, baby, I promise.

“Yeah, and every Christmas after that. No one will ever keep us apart again.

“I love you too. Now go back in there and remember why you love your family.

“No, mine aren’t better, they’re just good in different ways. Maybe if you think more on loving what you do have, you’ll stop craving what you don’t.

“Yeah, and I have you too. Forever.

“Merry Christmas, Darlin.”

I flip my phone shut and stick it in my back pocket. Gotta stop this crying. The hook on the once-white bathroom door comes free with a tug, and I shoulder the swollen door open. My sister Jan’s kid, Nathan, is out here hopping like a bunny; I had taken too long, and he had to “go bad”. He scoots around me and swings the door shut behind him.

Before I reclaim the patched easy chair, I add a log to the stove. The frosty breath on my ankles reminds me how December creeps in through the baseboards and the window frames of the old farmhouse. I poke the embers with a stick, and flames stretch and jump, chasing the chill out of the room.

I settle into my seat and take a sip of cocoa. Nathan tears across the room and climbs into my lap. The family grows still. We’re all waiting.

The fire in the woodstove and the lights on the Christmas tree spotlight Dad. He’s contemplating the flames. “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.”*

The tree in the corner is wearing a popcorn and cranberry garland and the same old hand-made ornaments as every year, winter comes in through the cracks, and the young’uns always make a racket, but I’m glad I’m here on Christmas Day.

And next year…

Next year, she’ll be here too.

*Luke 2:1 KJV

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This article has been read 961 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Leigh MacKelvey12/04/08
This was very unique. I liked the contrast between the two families and how they celebrate Christmas. but most of all, I liked the two MC's and their longing for each other . It reminded me of how I felt when I was awy from my boyfriend in college on Christmas Day.A little red ink: I had to read it a couple of times to uinderstand who was talking to who on the phone. At first I thought maybe they were coressponding conversations, but then I figured it out. Could be just my "slowness" ! Overall, a good entry and read.
Melissa Mullnix12/08/08
You can really feel the angst between the two of them. ah love.. isn't it fun? i love how you capture both characters in their own way.
Betty Castleberry12/08/08
I *really* like this piece, and I love this paragraph:

"Before I reclaim the patched easy chair, I add a log to the stove. The frosty breath on my ankles reminds me how December creeps in through the baseboards and the window frames of the old farmhouse. I poke the embers with a stick, and flames stretch and jump, chasing the chill out of the room."

It really makes me feel as if I am there. Great, homey description.

Well done.
Leah Nichols 12/09/08
It took me a minute to get the one-sided conversations figured out. But as for the rest of it, I loved it! Maybe it's cause for the first time I have a boy to think about for Christmas, though he'll probably come and spend time with my family. Nicely done!
Gregory Kane12/09/08
I'm sure we can all identify with this - the pain of being separated from the one we have just started to love because of family commitments. I think you communicated the raw emotions very well. As has already been said, I didn't work out what was going on until right near the end. So it's maybe a little to subtle at the beginning?
Jan Ackerson 12/09/08
Cat, I love this, and I wasn't at all confused...and I really love that the girl will soon be part of a family that really honors Christmas, if all goes as it seems to be going...
Sharlyn Guthrie12/09/08
I enjoyed this romantic Christmas story very much! Your excellent descriptions made it so easy to feel as though I was actuslly there.
Marijo Phelps12/09/08
Totally enjoyed the one-sided conversations and the contrast in the two families - one with material things and one with Jesus! Incredible where you felt the warmth, isn't it?
Pamela Kliewer12/09/08
Excellent! Love the contrast of the two families, and the one-sided conversations - I wasn't confused either. With them, it's like I read 'between the lines' what the other said. Good job!
Karlene Jacobsen12/09/08
Awe, too bad they couldn't share Christmas together with each family. Next year...:)
Oh to be young and in love again...:)
Carol Slider 12/10/08
It took me a minute to figure it out--but once I had, it reminded me of how my husband and I felt the Christmas before we got married. Nice job of capturing the conflicting emotions!
Beth LaBuff 12/10/08
I liked seeing into both families lives. I smiled at the "this year's Christmas Tree creation" and "Her gaudiest tree yet". :) Then your farmhouse descriptions took me back to Iowa, "December creeps in through the baseboards and the window frames". You must write a sequel. :)
Teresa Lee Rainey12/10/08
Hey, I rushed through this the other day and in my hurry, I got confused. Today, I took my time and really enjoyed the read. No confusion except that it took me one second to realize who was coming out of the bathroom - him or her. Still - it is a beautiful love story and I enjoyed every word. :)
Loren T. Lowery12/11/08
So much to like about this piece, all the way from something's changed and it was me, to find out someone else really likes and listens to the Carpenters! Their "On Top of the World" was my wife's and mine dating song : ) Thanks for the memory. But above all, you have done a wonderful job of creating atmosphere and the descriptions are absolutely masterful! Loren