Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: STEAM (12/03/15)
TITLE: Noelle In Real Life
By Leola Ogle
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Thinking of Christmas made steam come out her ears. Or maybe it was steam from her coffee wafting into her face as she sat in the breakroom. She grimaced. Her break was over. Time to smile and wish customers a Merry Christmas. Bah-humbug!
“Noelle, when are you going to give in and go out with me?” Joel, in electronics, flashed her that adorable lopsided grin.
Joel was handsome. And sweet. But twice in her twenty-five years, guys broke up with her during Christmas. “Joel, I’ve told you we’d make a lousy couple. Our names sound too much alike. Joel and Noelle. It’s too syrupy.”
“You could pronounce my name as one syllable and not Jo-el, but never mind. Hey, I have an idea. Go with me to my church’s Christmas program. Then we won’t call it a date. How about it? Please.”
“No, Joel. I don’t….well, I don’t celebrate anything Christmasy.”
“Why not? Is it a religious thing?”
“Not at all. Christmas hasn’t been good to me. Ever. Just let it go at that.”
Joel did a mock pout. “I’m not giving up on you, Noelle,” he said as he walked away.
When Noelle got to the cosmetic counter, she told Sarah about Joel’s offer. “Girl, you are definitely nuts. Any female under fifty would give anything to go out with Joel. He’s handsome, sweet, and funny. I don’t even care that he’s a Christian. I’ll go with him to his church program if you won’t.”
Noelle sighed as she arranged the display of cologne. She didn’t need another man to leave her at Christmas. Her dad left at Christmas when she five years old. Kyle broke up with her before their senior Christmas prom and took stuck-up Diana instead. When she was twenty-one, Seth called off their engagement the first week in December.
Then there was the time she had the lead role in her junior high Christmas play. The night of the performance, she froze, forgot all her lines, and fled the stage in tears. She thought she’d never recover from the humiliation. And when she was ten-years-old, she wanted that video game for Christmas. She kept hinting to her mother. Her mother’s eyes would twinkle, and she’d say, “We’ll see.” But did she get it? No!
The worst thing: Her mother was killed in a car accident two years ago while out Christmas shopping.
Thoughts of past Christmas hurts and disappointments tumbled through Noelle’s mind as she left the department store that evening. Fog was rolling in like a steam engine. Tears splashed down her cheeks. It was easier to feel angry about Christmas, but sadness washed over her in waves.
She swiped at her eyes as she climbed into her car. Tonight she dreaded going to her empty apartment. Joel’s face flashed before her. Maybe she would go with him to his church program.
She brightened at the thought just as a car pulled in front of her. She slammed on her brakes. Her car skidded across the icy street into oncoming traffic. Her last thought before the crash was, “Of course. What did I expect? It’s Christmas.”
Her next awareness was of twinkling lights, sounds of Christmas carols, and a warm hand holding hers. And pain. Lots of pain. Oh, great! Like a sappy movie where I’ll wake up after an accident in an alternate life with a husband and children. At Christmas.
Groaning, she sank back into darkness. When she awoke, a nurse was hovering over her. And a small Christmas tree with twinkling lights was in the corner. “Good morning,” the nurse said. “Joel went to get breakfast. He hasn’t left your side for three days. You’re a lucky girl.”
“He’s my husband in an alternate life. How many children do we have?” Noelle pointed at the tree. “In my real life, I hate Christmas.”
The nurse laughed. “Alternate life? Must be the drugs. Joel says he’s just a friend. But I think he’s in love with you. He brought the tree, and had carolers sing for you.”
“Hm.” Joel grinned as he walked in the room.
Could it be? Was that love in Joel’s eyes? At Christmas? When he took her hand and kissed it, warmth and hope filled her heart.
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