It might only be August, but there's a reason Christmas has come early....
Fifteen HarperCollins authors have all been given the same opening paragraph and challenged to write a 'Christmas by the Fire' short story. That brilliant first paragraph was written by competition winner Georgia Beyers. To join in the fun follow the hop, read excerpts from all the stories and enter the giveaway and be in with a chance to win lots of books and a 70$ Amazon Gift Card!
To read the stories in full, look out for the Christmas e-book anthology which will be published later in the year. So, here's the opening paragraph, followed by a snippet from my story...
Charlotte sat at the bus stop wondering whether she would make the naughty or nice list this year. Last year she had rescued a stray kitten and therefore considered herself most definitely ‘nice’. This year she had broken Daniel’s heart into a million tiny pieces, so ‘naughty’ seemed to be the only answer. There’d be no Santa Claus coming down her chimney anytime soon. - Georgia Beyers
Charlotte sat at the bus stop wondering whether she would make the naughty or nice list this year. Last year she had rescued a stray kitten and therefore considered herself most definitely ‘nice’. This year she had broken Daniel’s heart into a million tiny pieces, so ‘naughty’ seemed to be the only answer. There’d be no Santa Claus coming down her chimney anytime soon.
Seriously though, naughty or nice, she seemed to be hurtling headlong towards the obligatory three bits of bad luck. Why did it have to come in threes? And why now, when she really could do with a bit of festive encouragement?
Actually, thinking about it, luck was a bit like buses, all or nothing, and right now her bad luck was piling up like a road block and the buses, well… there was a distinct lack of anything big, red and warm.
She glanced down at her watch, for the umpteenth time, if one didn’t come soon she’d be shattering (well shattering might be a bit on the strong side, severely denting more like) more than one little heart, and she’d actually BE blue, not just feeling it.
Although not as blue as Daniel. Poor, poor Daniel. No festive cheer for him. He was the first bit of bad luck, if you could call it that, some might call it clever engineering. And talking of engineering (or should that be mechanics?) black cloud two on her horizon was her car.
For the first time in like ever, their whole entire relationship, it had spluttered as though it had swallowed something down the wrong way, and then given up the ghost altogether. Which did just about sum up her past relationships (the human, not mechanical ones). The one with her car had probably been as good as it got.
Maybe it was enough that her car had broken down just when she needed it most, leaving her waiting for a bus in the freezing cold. Maybe Santa could strike the Daniel thing off the list and call it quits – which left her in the good camp didn’t it? Well evens, because apparently the kitten wasn’t actually a stray. Long story, but hey she’d tried. And didn’t they say it was the trying that mattered? And it had been attempted rescue, she had climbed up the tree even if she’d missed the fact that the darn thing had decided a suicidal scramble down the other side was a better bet than being saved by her.
Okay, so that left it about evens. Clean slate, hello Santa. Or maybe the third bit of bad luck would be no bus, and a lot of un-festive bad temper and maybe even tears.
And the whole Daniel thing wasn’t really her fault anyway. Oh, why wasn’t life ever simple?
“Have you got any idea what you look like dressed like that?”
Charlotte instinctively jumped back as the car pulled in at the kerb, determined not to get her tights sprayed by yet another wave of slushy snow, then thoughts of Daniel, ungrateful kittens and naughty lists took a hike as she registered who it was.
“Like Santa’s little helper I was hoping.” She grinned at the girl inside the car, who had wound the window down and seemed to find the whole thing quite entertaining. Amy.
“And there was I just thinking green tights were the in thing this Christmas. Come on, get in, I’m freezing my bits off here.”
Charlotte pulled opened the car door and stepped as carefully as she could in, studying her by now drooping boots. Well, the perky points were drooping. Getting changed before setting off had been a good idea when she’d thought she had a car. Not so good when you have to trudge the streets.
“Crumbs it’s hot in here.” The tips of her fingers were already tingling seconds after she’d shut the door.
“Don’t complain, if you’d stood out there much longer you would have either got picked up or arrested.”
“I wouldn’t say no to a nice policeman.”
“As in picked up, or arrested by?”
She shrugged and Amy laughed and steered her way back into the traffic. “I thought you were off men.”
“Only other peoples.” Charlotte sighed and closed her eyes for a second, although surely the fact that Amy had turned up was a good sign. A sign that she may be forgiven? “And my look not touch policy is working just fine.”
“That so wasn’t your fault. And I can’t believe he actually cried. I mean cried. Real tears.” Her best friend glanced at her briefly, with a look of mock horror then turned her concentration back to the road.
“Real man tears.” She looked glumly out at the garishly decorated shop windows that were whizzing past in glorious Technicolor. “That, apparently, was one of the things Holly liked about him. His sensitive side.”
“Until she decided to swap him for a fireman.”
“He has a big pole apparently.”
Amy giggled, then beeped the car horn angrily as a man, half hidden behind a large conifer stepped out in front of the car. Charlotte made a grab for the door handle as the car shimmied on the ice, but Amy didn’t seem to notice. She was warming up to the subject. Holly assassination. “She is such a cow though, expecting you to do the dirty for her. Sorry, but she is.”
Diversionary tactics seemed in order. Much as Charlotte didn’t like the way her sister took advantage of her good nature, she was prepared to forgive and forget. The festive season and all that. “A lucky cow, you should see the fireman. And she probably knew Dan would cry, she only does soft sides when it works for her. I mean she just wouldn’t know what to do, would she? She’s not exactly the type to hand out tissues.”
“More the type to give him the money so he can go buy a packet. I can’t believe you two are sisters. Here we go, grotty grotto time.” Amy pulled the handbrake on with a flourish and stared at the entrance door. “I suppose we should be thankful we’re not reindeers. The little horrors kept pinching Becky’s bum last year, they said they just wanted to see if her tail was real. One of them tugged it so hard she thought the elastic in her knickers was going to pop.”
“It was attached. Safety reasons. Elf and safety.” Amy giggled at her own joke.
“Very funny.” Charlotte passed Amy her elf hat. “Nor can I, believe we’re sisters I mean.” And sometimes she couldn’t. Holly was tall, slim, had perfect nails and breathtakingly outrageous dress sense. Charlotte stopped at outrageous. She was small, on the verge of a donut-too-many and generally wore the first thing that fell out of the wardrobe. Or, as in tonight, an elf costume. Holly would never be seen dead in green (despite her name), it clashed with her skin colouring apparently. And as for the curly toed shoes and the perky hat… “Hang on.” Somewhere from the depths of the elf tunic a merry Christmas tune announced an incoming text. “Oh.” She re-read the text just to be sure. “Apparently she’s moved on to the fireman’s mate now.”
“So he didn’t light her fire exactly?”
Charlotte shook her head and tried to look disapproving. “You’re on form tonight.”
“It’s my mental preparation for coping with two hundred hyper kids. Shall we go find Santa?”
“I think my boots are running.”
“The colour,” she swung her feet out of the car and watched the snow turn emerald. “It’s running. My feet are in a bit of a green puddle. Oh, shit.” Charlotte paused, half in and half out of the car. Which wasn’t a good idea as her feet nearly shot from under her on the ice. She straightened up reluctantly, which meant she couldn’t hide behind the car door any longer.
“What? Oh.” Amy walked round and stood at the side of Charlotte, and stared at Santa Claus, standing stock in the centre of the doorway. His white beard tucked under his chin. A bashful grin on his face. Amy wasn’t bothered about displaying herself in full elf costume to Santa. “Er, I mean oo.” She dropped her voice a notch, but it still seemed far too loud to Charlotte. She leant in closer, dropped to a stage whisper. “Well, I mean wow, but what is with the ‘oh shit’, girl? That is one hell of a Santa, Christmas has come early. I’m a believer.”
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