I have posted this before but I still like it and it’s the only Christmas story I have, so I’m re-posting it. I wrote it for a 1k Challenge on the Harlequin boards. The challenge was to write a Christmas story without using the word “Christmas” and to do it in 1,000 words or less. Mine came in a exactly 1k. Oh, and it won the challenge. Thanks for reading!
Wish Upon A Star 1,000 words
“Tell Tina I’m only enduring this for her.” Lieutenant Rick Davenport slid out of the booth he’d just claimed.
His partner, Dave Tracy, laughed on the other end of the phone. “Careful. You might get into the spirit of things. I’ll owe you one.”
Rick shook his head at the cute blond waitress headed his way. Humbug. He’d finally worked up the nerve to ask her out. He hated to admit his reluctance to ask her for a date, but his divorce had left him gun shy. “I still say you need to name that baby after me.”
Dave snorted. “I may love you like a brother but no way I’m naming my kid Dick Tracy. Uh-oh, there’s a nurse here handing me scrubs to wear. I guess it’s show time.”
“Go get ‘em, daddy.” Rick swiped his thumb across the screen. The blond waitress was now taking someone’s order. Sighing, he pocketed his phone.
He pushed open the glass door and zipped his jacket against the December chill. He hadn’t always been a Grinch but the hoopla reminded how alone he’d been since the split. Rick glanced back. The pretty blond was laughing with a customer. Bah-humbug.
Soon after Rick parked at the strip mall, a yellow bus with a Shop with a Cop banner on the side drove in. Hunching his shoulders against the wind, he trudged across the parking lot. Eager kids piled out, followed by enthusiastic uniformed officers.
One of them grinned and waved Rick over to a tiny blond pixie clutching the hand of a morose sandy-haired boy. Rick huffed out a mirthless laugh. The boy’s mood matched his own. The little girl, however, danced with anticipation.
Rick reached out to shake hands, noting the boy’s surprised reaction. “Hi, I’m Lieutenant Rick Davenport. Looks like I’m your escort for today’s shopping trip.”
The boy straightened from his slouch. “I’m Jonah and this is my sister, Samantha.”
Samantha looked at Rick with solemn blue eyes. “Jonah didn’t want to come. He says this stuff is for babies.”
Figures he’d get the one kid who didn’t want to participate. Rick herded them into the store to grab a shopping cart. “Why does he think this is for babies?”
“Jonah says that about everything since Daddy went to war and got dead.”
Oh, this kept getting better and better. “Sorry about your dad.”
Jonah shrugged and averted his gaze.
“Thank you,” Samantha replied, her tone prim. “Mommy told us to say that.”
Jonah tugged his sister’s hand. “You’re such a baby. You’re not supposed to—oomff!”
Samantha jabbed an elbow into her brother’s ribs. Rick bit the inside of his cheek to keep from grinning.
“Am not a baby! I go to pre-school and everything. Besides, Mommy said to behave today.” She stamped her foot and scowled.
“Means you, too,” Jonah muttered, glancing sideways at Rick.
Rick sighed. Oh yeah, out of his depth with these two. That’s why he hadn’t volunteered. “Let’s go look at the toys, shall we? You’re allowed to pick out toys plus clothing.”
“No thank you.”
They answered in perfect unison. Now what? Rick raised his eyebrows.
Jonah kept a tight grip on Samantha’s hand and met Rick’s gaze head-on. “We’re only buying for our mom. Otherwise she won’t have presents.”
Samantha pushed her lips out and nodded.
Rick scratched his chin. How the heck was he supposed to shop for a woman he didn’t know? He’d invariably bought the wrong stuff for Karen and he’d been married to her, for crying out loud. “Well…”
Samantha tugged on his jacket. “Mister Loo-TEN-ant? Jonah made a list. He’s only eight but he’s got high Q’s and looked at stuff online in the liberry then added up the money the lady said we could spend.”
Jonah’s ears turned red. Not wanting to embarrass the boy any further, Rick shrugged. “Lead the way.”
The blond sprite was right. They knew exactly what they wanted from clothes to kitchen supplies to body lotions.
Rick mentally tallied up the items. The kid’s math was good.
Jonah watched his sister and as soon as she was distracted, he sidled closer, surreptitiously passing Rick a note.
What now? Unfolding the paper, Rick read the neat block lettering. Jonah had written he knew there was enough money left to buy a Disney Princess doll for Samantha. The kid had listed the price and underlined it’s a surprise. Rick nodded once, winked, then shoved the paper in his pocket.
With the help of a fellow officer, they bought Samantha’s toy without spoiling Jonah’s surprise.
On their way out, curiosity nagged Rick. “What are you interested in, Jonah?”
Jonah shrugged and glanced away, but Samantha piped up, “He loves looking at the stars. Daddy gave him a telescope before he got dead but Jonah says it’s a baby one now.”
Samantha gave Rick an impulsive hug before boarding the bus. “Thank you, Mister Loo-TEN-ant, this is gonna be the best—”
“C’mon, Sam, you’re holding everyone up.” Jonah dragged her up the steps but glanced back and nodded once at Rick.
That evening, Rick parked in front of a modest duplex. He double-checked the address he’d scribbled earlier. Walking up the cracked sidewalk, he hummed a seasonal tune from the radio. He rang the bell, straightened the evergreen wreath on the door, and waited.
The door swung open and Samantha peeked out. “It’s Mister Loo-TEN-ant!”
“Mom said to wait for her.” Jonah scolded then narrowed his eyes at Rick. “Something wrong?”
“Nope. I came to invite you to the Wilder Observatory at Amherst College. Do you know it?”
The feigned boredom melted away making Jonah look like a little boy again. “Boy, do I ever! It’s got the largest refracting telescope in…like, uh, the world.”
“Well, my partner, Dave, knows the director. And—”
“What’s going on?”A woman appeared behind the children.
Rick glanced up, his breath caught in his throat, he grinned.
It was the pretty waitress from the diner.