Holiday Short Story Contest: Christmas Angel

Christmas Angel

I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel as I waited for the green light. When it came, I let out an exasperated sigh as the ancient car in front of me proceeded to the next light at a snail’s pace. Sheesh! Why did I always get behind drivers that had no clue what an accelerator was for? 
Now, as I waited for the second light to turn green, I inched my SUV closer to the car in front of me, hoping to intimidate the person into moving a little faster once the light turned. No such luck. The light turned green. They sat.  
I gave a blast of my horn as I opened my window. I barely noticed the frigid air hitting my face. “It’s green! Come on! Some of us have places to be!”
The driver glanced in the rear view mirror. I felt a tiny pang of guilt. It wasn’t that I was a miserable, mean woman, but I really did have an important place to be. That, and the fact that tonight was Christmas Eve and I was spending it alone. Not to mention that I would be spending tomorrow alone without a tree or decorations, which didn’t exactly have me singing hallelujah.  All my friends thought I had plans, since that’s what I told them. I didn’t want them to take me in out of pity.
I rolled my eyes as we approached another light that had, of course, immediately turned red.  Suddenly, a blue truck rolled up next to me in the right turn lane. Where had that come from? There had been no one around a second ago. The man driving rolled down his window then indicated I should do the same.  What now? I gave him what I hoped was a thoroughly annoyed face, but he just waited. I rolled down my window, shivering  as cold air filled my car.
“Why did you yell at her?” he asked.   
I blinked. His voice was deep, and sounded like hot, melted dark chocolate.  My mouth opened, but nothing came out. First, because the sexy voice belonged to a hot guy whose looks screamed romance novel cover.  Second, what business was if of his? But for the life of me I couldn’t manage to ask him that very question. I was too mesmerized by a pair of dark blue eyes staring at me.  
“She’s holding me up,” I managed to finally sputter. I didn’t understand why I was even answering this guy, or why I felt so small.
He nodded once. “Maybe her husband recently died of cancer and she feels lost.” He raised an eyebrow at me as he rolled up his window.
 How did he know that? Was it even true? The light was still red, but I no longer cared. I watched as he turned right, then turned left. I frowned as I quickly closed my window. I maneuvered into the right turn lane, turned, then drove slowly by the street  mystery man had turned down. It was a dead-end alley, just as I thought. Not only that, but there was no sign of him anywhere. How weird was that?
By the time I had arrived at my destination, I had forgotten all about the slower-than-molasses driver, and the guy in the truck. I was thinking about the man I was about to meet. The man who wanted to buy The Cat’s Meow, my 1870 brick Italianate bed and breakfast. I rented out six of the bedrooms, and slept in the seventh. Not that I wanted to sell it, but it seemed I had no choice.
I had always dreamed of having a bed and breakfast, and five years ago I was able to buy one at an unbelievable price. Until this year, I had been doing quite well. But lately, the spare bedrooms stayed empty. My cats, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne had no one to entertain, and I was having problems making the mortgage payments, even with my full-time job as a librarian. On top of all that, my fiancé decided to elope with his cousin’s wife (don’t ask). So you can see why I might have been a little out of sorts.
I hated saying good-bye to The Cat’s Meow. Christmas at my cozy little bed and breakfast was my favorite time. I went all out with decorations, found the biggest tree I could find, and made Christmas as special as I could for my boarders. My parents lived three-thousand miles away in California and my brother and his wife lived in Alaska, so my boarders were often my family at Christmas time. I smiled to myself thinking of the eighty-year old newlyweds I had with me at Christmas last year, and the Do Not Disturb sign that hung on their door knob for most of their visit. 
I pulled into the office building where I was to meet Jackson Holloway, the lawyer who wanted to buy The Cat’s Meow. I realized that I would have to find a small apartment to live in very soon. 
“Victoria.” He strode out of his office to greet me after I had announced myself to his receptionist.
 “Mr. Holloway,” I responded shaking his hand.
“None of that now. It’s Jackson.” He put an arm around my shoulder in a way I found, well, off-putting to say the least, and guided me into his office.
I sat, eager to get down to business.  “I was hoping to wrap the sale up this week.”
Mr. Holloway leaned back in his chair, lacing his fingers behind his head. “There’s a problem.”
I groaned inside.  “What is it?”
He let out a long sigh and sat up, leaning toward me. “I’m not going to be able to buy your establishment after all.”
“What?” I squeaked.  Even though I didn’t want to sell The Cat’s Meow, I wasn’t sure I could make the mortgage payment that was due next week. “Why not?”
“My accountant advised me not to.” He looked away from me.  “I’ve had a better offer to invest my money elsewhere. I’m sorry, missy.”
Missy? I stood up. “I see. Well, I’m disappointed, but thank you for your time.”
He got up and rushed to his office door, blocking my exit. “No hard feelings. How about dinner tonight, Victoria?”
I managed to squeeze around him and grab the door handle. I yanked it open. I smiled sweetly. “Sorry, I’ve got a better offer.”
When I got home it was almost dark. I made myself some tea, watched Jeopardy, and somehow ate a whole pound cake. I pulled my pink and green afghan around me.  Tears pricked my eyes as I looked at the Christmas tree-less living room. The cats stared at me. “I know, I know. I could’ve gotten a tree, but why?”             
               I bolted up, my heart racing. The VCR read 11:45 p.m. Alex Trebek was long gone, but something had startled me awake.
               “Maybe she’s not home,” a feminine voice said.
               Was someone at the door? A loud series of knocks—make that banging—on the front door answered my question.  My heart thumped even harder. Who on earth was it?
               “She’s home,” assured a masculine voice.
               I grabbed my cell phone from the end table. Should I call 9-1-1?
               “Victoria? Are you in there?” the feminine voice said again.
               I went to the door, wrapping the afghan more tightly around myself.  “Who is it?  My husband will be down in a minute. With his gun.”
              A male voice, that now sounded familiar, laughed. “You don’t have a husband. Or a gun. Come on, it’s freezing out here. We need to put up your tree.”
               Throwing caution aside, I tore open the door.  I stared. It was the truck guy and an old woman who looked a lot like Aunt Bea from the old Andy Griffith Show.  The truck guy was trying to balance the biggest Christmas tree I’d ever seen, and she was holding a big box. 
               “How did you know my name?” I demanded.
               She looked at the truck guy. “Caleb told me.”
               I nodded as if that made all the sense in the world.  So that was his name. Caleb.
               “May we come in, dear? I’d like to help you get this tree up, then go to bed. It’s way past my bed time, you know,” the woman said.
               I stepped aside, still confused. Truck guy…um…Caleb, dragged the tree in. Where was I going to put that monster, and more importantly, who were these people?
“Who are you people?”
               “Got some more stuff in the truck. Be right back, then I’ll answer your questions,” Caleb said.
               I nodded, then turned to his companion. “How did he know my name?”
               “He’s your Christmas angel. And the father of your children.”
               My brows shot up. “He’s my who and what?”
               “Let’s start from the beginning.” She wandered into the living room.  “My name is Beatrice.  You were behind me today. Caleb told me.”
               “You were the woman driving so slo… I mean, driving in front of me?”
               “Yes, that was me, dear. Caleb was right.  My husband, Bernie, died of cancer a month ago.” She sniffled. “Sometimes it’s hard.”
               I reached out and touched her arm. “I’m sorry about Bernie.”
               Beatrice nodded as she pulled a tissue out of her sleeve and dabbed at her eyes. “It’s okay.”
               The door opened again. Caleb had two boxes in his arms. He winked at me and my heart warmed. “Come on, girls. Let’s get going.”
               I watched in wonder as Caleb strung the trees with multicolored lights. He glanced at me a couple of times and grinned. I felt all mushy inside.
               “We brought some decorations,” said Beatrice, “but not enough for this big tree, I’m afraid. You have some decorations?”
               “Of course. This is the first year I haven’t put up a tree. They’re all in the basement.”
               “I’ll help you,” offered Caleb.
               He followed me to the basement. I realized I was excited about the tree, and totally at peace with my visitors. I pointed out the boxes with my Christmas decorations in them. “Wait. Who are you?”
               Caleb brushed a finger down my check. I shivered. “I’m your Christmas angel.”
               “Christmas angel? That’s what Beatrice said.” I tried to stop thinking about his lips on mine.
               “Yeah. I’ve been given a second chance at life. All I had to do was bring love to three people. See, in my previous life, three people were very hurt because of me. I’ve been stuck between here and happily ever after as an angel. Tonight was my deadline to bring love to three people.”
            I hung onto his every word. “And did you?”
He looked at me for a long time, then stepped toward me. Suddenly, I was melting against his hard body. His hands cradled my face and his lips came down on mine.  My hands traveled up his muscled back, and I felt his big white wings flutter.  I deepened our kiss.  He was, after all, going to be the father of my children.
He slowly ended the kiss and pulled away. “Oh, yeah. I certainly did bring love to three people.”
I swallowed. I didn’t even remember what we were doing down in the basement. “What would have happened if you hadn’t?”
               “I’d lose my wings and go to...Well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be very comfortable there.”
               “Who did you bring love to?”
               He didn’t answer. Instead he picked up a box. “Let’s get the decorations upstairs. Beatrice probably wonders what happened to us.”
               With our hands full, we trudged back upstairs. But his kiss lingered on my lips, and certain other parts of my body were all a-stir.
               “Well, for corn’s sake,” huffed Beatrice as we came into the living room. “What took you so long?”  She was on the couch surrounded by three purring cats. She looked right at home. “I took a little tour of your bed and breakfast here. I’d like the purple room, if that’s okay. I always was partial to purple.”
               I smiled at her. “I think that’s fine. You’re staying the night?”  
               “Well, yes. Didn’t Caleb explain anything when you were downstairs? Or maybe you were otherwise occupied,” she tittered.
               I blushed. “No, he didn’t explain anything.” The only thing I knew was Caleb was the best kisser I’d ever come across. I couldn’t help but wonder what other talents he had.
               “Decorating first,” said Caleb, trying to look stern. “We can talk later.”
               The three of us worked in silence for an hour decorating the huge tree. When we stepped back, I had to admit it was the most beautiful tree I’d ever seen.
               Beatrice plopped down on the couch, yawning. “Okay, it’s decorated, Caleb. How about you tell Victoria the rest of your story?”
               I settled on the couch next to Beatrice. “Yes, you never told me who the three people were that you brought love to.”
               Caleb smiled down at us. “I’d been assigned to find Beatrice a new man. Or, so I thought. I was following her that day I ran into you. I finally caught up with her at the Blue Bird diner. I told her I was an angel, and I’d been sent to find her a new man. That was supposed to be my first good deed.”
               Beatrice rolled her eyes. “But he got his wires crossed, or whatever it is that gets crossed when you’re an angel. You’re the one he was supposed to find a new man for.”
               Caleb cleared his throat. “Can I finish my own story?”
               “By all means,” replied Beatrice, her hand waving in a theatrical gesture.
               “As Beatrice said, I got my wires crossed until Elvis straightened me out.”
               My jaw dropped. “Elvis? As in Elvis?”
               “No, not that Elvis. Elvis is next in command to the Big Guy.” He looked heaven-ward. “You know. The Big Guy up there. Elvis pointed out that you were the woman I was supposed to find a new man for.”
               I was sitting on the edge of the couch now. “Then what happened?”
               “Elvis let me know that you were heading west on Eighth Avenue. That’s where I found you,” he frowned, “yelling out your window. I recognized Beatrice in front of you. That’s when I rolled down my window. Since I knew her story, I felt sorry for her. I didn’t want you yelling at her like that. But when  I took a look at you, I realized I’d found the perfect man for you.”
               “Who?” I whispered.
               “Me,” he replied in a husky voice.
               I wanted Caleb to kiss me in the worst way, but first, I had an apology to make. “I’m sorry, Beatrice. Really sorry. I wish I could make it up to you.”
               Beatrice grinned. “Oh, you are. I’m going to move in and pay half your mortgage.”
               “You’re what?”
               Beatrice jumped up. “It’s a perfect arrangement. I’ve got tons of money. I’m alone. You need help. Don’t worry. I’ll be gone by the time you and Caleb get married. I know newlyweds need their privacy.” She winked at him. “He’s got one of his friends working on a man for me.”
               “So,” interjected Caleb, “the three people are you, Beatrice and me. I’ve found love for all of us. You and Beatrice will be helping each other and grow to love each other as friends. You and I are about to fall in love as lovers do.”
               I was speechless. Tears filled my eyes.
Beatrice pulled a tissue from her sleeve and handed it to me. “No need to cry. It’s Christmas for corn’s sake.” She glanced at the time. “Oh, Lordy, it’s almost one-thirty in the morning. I need my beauty sleep.” She waddled away, throwing her hand up in a wave.
               “Goodnight, Beatrice,” Caleb and I chorused.
               I turned to Caleb. He enveloped me in his arms. “You’re really going to be the father of my children?”
               “All six of them.”
               I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. I was busy pulling his head down for another one of his kisses. My hands skimmed past his waist and his back. I noticed the wings were gone.
               He pulled away from me and smiled. “I’m fully human again. No more Christmas angel.”
               “You’ll always be my Christmas angel,” I whispered against his lips.