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A Christmas RomCom

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When Emilia told me she won an all inclusive trip to Christmasland, I laughed. Outloud.

Surely a place like that didn't exist.

Boy, was I wrong.

Now I'm stuck on holiday repeat where everywhere I turn there's Christmas carols, sledding, cookie decorating, and holiday cheer. All of which, I'm told, is part of the "experience" of Christmasland. But I can't believe that. A whole town dedicated to recreating a Christmas movie for all of its guests? You've got to be joking.

Until I start checking off the list of events.

Rescued by a Handsome Stranger who's Back Home from the Big City ✓
A Overzealous Town Busybody who seems Determined to Change my Grinchy Spirit ✓
A Baking Competition I Couldn't Possibly Win ✓
A Montage of Feel Good Christmas Events ✓
An Interrupted First Kiss... ✓

Now I don't know what is real and what is fake. I know I have feelings for the grumpy Hero, but I can't tell if he returns them.

In a place that peddles in fake realities, this is the first experience I wish was real.

I want to believe in a Christmas miracle, but my holiday history has told me, Christmas comes with nothing but disappointment.

I've never gotten a happily ever after and I doubt that will change now.

Chapter One Look Inside


“Merry Christmas!” the street vendor yelled into my face just as I walked past him. 

He shoved a snow globe in my direction, and I stepped back right into a puddle of melted snow mixed with the runoff of New York City streets. I yelped and leapt forward, nearly taking out a group of women who were perusing the exact item that could have nearly killed me. 

I gave them a sheepish smile, but they just glared at me. They returned to whispering and moving the snow globes around in their hands as if by rubbing the glass hard enough, they’d be transported to the clean and crisp depictions of a Christmas town. 

I snorted. The only place such a town existed was in Christmas decorations and your imagination. 

“Well?” the vendor asked as he waved the snow globe under my nose. 

I studied him. Was he serious? Did he really think that I was going to buy something from him when my foot was soaked and freezing? I was pretty sure I was halfway to either getting a foot fungus or frostbite. 

“I’m good,” I said as I lifted up my mittened hands and began to back away. 

“Your loss,” he shouted after me as I hurried away from him. 

“Yeah, right,” I said as I spotted the Java Bean and veered toward it. This was the last time I was going to let Em pick our coffee spot for the week. Next time, we were going to Buzzed. It was a block down from my apartment and wasn’t surrounded by all of this Christmas cheer. 

I wasn’t exactly what you would call a grinch, but there was only so much tinsel, cinnamon, and Santa a girl could take. My holly-jolly meter was pretty much full, and it was only the first week of December. 

I reached the front door of Java Bean and had to wait as a group of sufficiently buzzed patrons exited. They were laughing and talking. From what I could tell, they were talking about their Christmas plans. I held the door open for them, using the polite gesture to eavesdrop. 

As a writer, I got my ideas from everywhere. So what if I used my goodwill to my advantage? They got the door opened for them, and I got material to use for the next chapter of my book. 

That was what I called a win-win. 

Once inside, I slipped off my pink beanie and shoved it into my jacket pocket. I attempted to smooth down my curly brown hair, but, with the mixture of static and my wiry hair, the effort was in vain. I ended up looking like Einstein’s granddaughter. 

I heard Em’s easy laugh and spotted her red hair in the corner of the shop. After placing my very boring order of black coffee with two sugars, I made my way over and plopped down across from her. 

She’d just finished taking a drink of something very Christmassy and very frothy. When she lowered her mug, there was a line of whipped cream above her lip. She saw me and smiled but didn’t move to wipe away the remnants of her drink. 

“Em,” I said as my OCD went into hyperdrive. I grabbed a nearby napkin and reached over to wipe off the froth. 

“I got it. I got it.” She giggled as she took the napkin from my hand and wiped her mouth. “I’m so glad to have you as my mother.”

I snorted as I sat back down in my chair and glanced around. Although I knew Em was joking, there was always a sadness that rose up inside of me at the mention of parents. I was one of the lucky products of the foster care system. Even though I was grateful that I had foster parents who cared about me, this time of year only made my loneliness more poignant. 

Not wanting to be the downer at the table, I changed the subject. “Why did you drag me down here?” I motioned toward my water-stained suede boots and darkened pant leg. 

Em laughed. “What happened to you?”

I glared at her. “It’s not funny. I was basically assaulted by a man selling snow globes. In order to avoid his clutches, I had to jump back into a lovely puddle of melted snow and gunk.” 

Em wrinkled her nose for a moment before she waved off my comment. “I like it here. There is Christmas everywhere. Unlike your apartment, which looks like a hospital room.” She cupped her mug with both hands and brought the rim to her nose, taking in a deep breath. She closed her eyes as if it were the most exquisite thing in the world. 

“You are hopelessly optimistic,” I said as I sighed. Em lived and breathed Christmas. 

“Oh,” she said so loudly that it startled me. 

I clutched my hand to my chest and gave her an exasperated look. “What the heck?”

If Em heard me, she didn’t say anything. Instead, she leaned forward with her eyes sparkling from excitement. 

“Beatrice Thompson, you are not going to believe what I won this morning.”

Realizing that she hadn’t startled me for a life-threatening reason, I settled back against my chair and thanked the barista as she brought me my drink. I picked up the bottle of cream from the middle of the table and poured it in. 

I knew my hesitancy to be as excited as Em was would bother her, but I didn’t care. It was our time-honored tradition. She got excited, and I remained calm. There was no way I was going to start changing things now.

“Bea,” she whined as she dipped down to meet my gaze. 

I brought my coffee to my lips and took a sip only to have the flavor of mint coat my tongue. “Bleh.” I’d just poured some mint-flavored cream into my coffee. Great. 

No longer wanting my drink, I set it off to the side and then rested my elbows on the table and my chin in my palms. “All right, tell me.”

She smiled—a bit too bright—as she leaned in. “I won…” She paused as she glanced around as if the beanie-wearing man on our left or the group of high school girls to our right were trying their best to eavesdrop. “Two tickets to Christmasland.”

I blinked once and then twice as her words set in. “Did you just say Christmasland?”

Em pinched her lips together as she nodded. “Christmasland,” she whispered. 

I reached down and pinched my leg. My best friend had actually said Christmasland as if that were a place that actually existed. As a sharp pain shot through my leg, I realized that this was not a nightmare but real life. 

“I’m pretty sure there isn’t a place called Christmasland,” I said as I reached out and fiddled with the traitorous cream bottle. Why did everything have to be festive? Why couldn’t we just leave cream alone? Not everything had to have a holiday line. 

“It so does exist. And I can’t wait for us to go.” She leaned back in her chair as she sipped on her drink. 

“I’m sorry, we?”

Em smiled, but she must have seen my hesitation. Suddenly she was leaning in with a desperate look in her eye. “Come on, Bea. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s an all-paid trip to Vermont. We get to stay at the North Pole and participate in all of the festivities of Christmasland.”

I patted my cheeks and moved to stand. “I need to wake up,” I said. 

“Wait!” She grasped at my arm in an attempt to get me to stay. Not wanting her to knock over the table just to keep me from leaving, I sat down. 

I folded my arms as I studied her. I was ready for her to start making sense. 

She took in a deep breath as she steepled her hands in front of her. She touched her lips with her forefingers. I could tell she was taking her time to find the right words. 

“Think of it like this. It’s a four-day, five-night stay at an all-inclusive bed and breakfast. There are festivities that you can participate in” —I raised my eyebrows— “or not,” she amended. “You don’t have to participate.” Her quick change of course caused me to smile. 

At least my best friend knew me. Silence fell around our table as I started chewing on what she’d said. An all-paid anything sounded amazing. I was trying to be a writer but failing. The only thing that was keeping me off the streets was my job as a bank teller. Jonathan, my boss, had just been telling me that if I didn’t take my vacation days, they would disappear at the start of the new year. 

So maybe this could work out. 

I heard Em squeal. When I looked up at her, she covered her lips with her hand, but I could see her glee. I took in a deep breath. 

“All right,” I said slowly, “I’ll go to Christmasland with you.” 

She yelped, causing the beanie-wearing guy next to us to jump. He glared at her, and she offered him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry,” she whispered and then turned to me where she tried to stifle her giggle but was failing horribly. 

I thought about taking back my offer. I considered backing out. But Em looked so happy. Her family would be overseas this holiday season, and she was just as alone as I was—I couldn’t take away her happiness. Not when I had no good reason other than that it wasn’t really my thing. 

So I gave her a forced smile and pumped my fists in the air. She clapped her hands together and started in on everything we were going to do and how excited she was. I tried to look just as excited, but I knew that I was failing miserably. 

All I needed to do was survive, and I would be okay. That was all I needed to do. 


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