All I Want for Christmas – Chapter 3
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This short Love & Found Story is a gift to YOU, my beloved reader. It hasn’t yet been formally edited yet, so please excuse any typos or errors. Happy reading and Happy Holidays, my friend!
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“Well, what do you think?” Tatiana Lopez asked as she closed and locked the apartment behind her, then turned to give me a dazzling smile.
I licked my lips and took a deep breath. The apartment wasn’t bad, a little small but within the budget I’d set for myself. I didn’t have much furniture anyway, so size wasn’t an issue. Nothing was an issue, really, except the fact that I was apartment shopping by myself.
“It’s nice. Yeah, I think this one might work,” I nodded.
“Great!” Tatiana exclaimed. “Let’s go on over to the leasing office and we can start the paperwork…”
“I think it might work,” I interrupted, holding my purse in front of me like I carried a bag of priceless jewels inside it or something. No jewels. Just a checkbook with all the paltry savings I’d worked hard to amass for the last few years. Savings that would pay the deposit, first month’s rent and then a little left over for Christmas shopping, “But I want to double-check a few things before signing a lease.”
Tatiana’s grin didn’t falter. She inclined her head in understanding, “Absolutely. You need to be sure its right for you. Like we discussed, they are offering a six-month lease instead of one year. But there are only two apartments of this size available at this complex and we can’t hold one for you, so be sure you let me know as soon as you’re sure.”
“I will. I’ll let you know by tomorrow afternoon at the latest.”
“Perfect. We’ll go on down and grab some paperwork and information about this one so that you can go over that when you’re making your decision. M’kay?”
A few minutes later I tossed the folder of documents onto the passenger seat of my little car then dropped my forehead onto the steering wheel. I’d imagined what being here would be like for weeks as I waited to get word about the job that would allow me to move here closer to Luke. But this certainly wasn’t what I’d thought it would be. I expected him to shop for apartments with me as we worked towards the next step in our relationship.
I told myself it was just my imagination that Luke wasn’t exactly ecstatic about my arrival. Maybe it was what his Aunt Betty had joked, that he just didn’t like surprises. But I couldn’t help but worry it was something more.
I’d been here for three days, and I’d only seen him in the evenings, sometimes so late that I was already in bed at the little cabin Aunt Betty was renting to me. He said that it was a busy time of year for him, but Betty was just as annoyed by his constant absence as I was becoming.
Refusing to give in to despondency, I turned on the ignition and headed for the mall to get a bite to eat and do a little holiday shopping. While I drove I decided to mentally go over the apartment selections I’d seen the last two days.
The final place was clearly the best. It was clean, new and had a decent monthly rent. Plus, I could lease for half a year instead of a full twelve months. Luke had suggested that, saying that I shouldn’t tie myself into a long term unless I was sure.
I had to confess that bothered me as much as anything. Maybe he didn’t want me to be here close to him. Maybe a long-distance relationship was good for him, the kind where he didn’t feel pinned down. He hadn’t ever said that, in fact always seemed to hate to see me leave. But maybe that was just an act for my sake.
“Stop being stupid,” I told myself as I rolled the dial to find something to listen to on the radio. I was stuck choosing between Last Christmas and Feliz Navidad since Christmas music was hard to avoid with just three days to go before the big holiday.
A holiday I was beginning to feel glum about. Shaking my head as I pulled into the parking lot, I rolled my shoulders back to force some confidence. I still needed to get my mom something for Christmas. My brother was flying her to Florida for a few days so we wouldn’t celebrate as a family until the weekend after Christmas, so I had plenty of time, but I preferred to finish off my shopping list now so I could get out of the rush.
The rush, however, was already in full swing. It was hard to find a parking spot in the crowded mall lot and when I finally did I had to walk a good distance to the nearest entrance.
Everyone was in a hurry, pushing and shoving past one another, each person focused on their own personal mission to find the best gift, the newest toy, the cleverest gadget. Still, my mom had taught me a smile and politeness was the best way to spread the holiday spirit so I turned up my lips and murmured Merry Christmas to anyone passing close enough to hear.
My attitude started to brighten a bit as I made my way towards the electronics store where I thought I might find something for my technology-minded brother.
“Happy holi…” I started to say to a little old man heading the opposite direction as me, but familiar laughter caught my attention behind me.
When I’d asked Luke to come with me this afternoon to look at the last set of apartments, he’d insisted he was too busy at work and would be on his current job all day if he had any hope of making it to the beach Christmas party that night.
But there he was, standing outside a crowded mall store, a huge grin on his face and blue eyes sparkling… laughing at something a very beautiful red-head was saying. I halted in my tracks, eyes open wide as I watched them. I was too far away to hear the conversation, but the way the girl reached over and placed her hand on Luke’s arm in an incredibly intimate gesture sent a stabbing pain right through my chest.
Suddenly it all became clear. I now knew exactly why Luke hadn’t been around to spend time with me and why he seemed so stunned by my announcement that I was moving to Port Arthur. He didn’t want to be tied down to me because he’d found someone else.I choked down the tears threatening to spill, turning on my heel and heading for the exit as quickly as I could get through the crowd. My dignity was all I had at that moment and I wasn’t going to break down into a blubbering mess in front of God and everyone. No, I’d hold my tears until I was back at my cabin in Simoneaux Bayou, so that I could pack up my things to leave.
Are you enjoying this Love & Found Christmas short-short? Stay tuned, the next chapter will appear in your inbox in just a few weeks.