Welcome to the third part of my exclusive #WurdyChristmas treat short story. Yesterday, I asked you whether Lucy should choose the engraved silver box or the starry velvet bag…
The vote was so close! Right up until I began writing today’s episode the lead kept changing. Read on to find out what she chooses!
Don’t forget to vote at the end to choose what happens tomorrow. Happy reading, lovelies!
SILVER BELLS AT TONY & FRANK’S – PART THREE
©Miranda Dickinson 2016
Lucy’s fingers hovered over the silver box and the velvet bag.
Which one should she choose?
The purple-inked note addressed to her said whatever she chose would change her life.
Change my life? How?
Both gifts were beautiful, both would be wonderful to own, but who had left them here? And who knew she would be alone in her manager’s office tonight? Was someone watching her? Was she really alone here?
What if I make the wrong decision?
Her mum always said decisions should come from the heart. ‘You deliberate and agonise, but I think you always know the right choice, deep down. Your heart decides long before your head.’
Lucy didn’t trust her heart tonight. Not after being so wrong about Aaron. Her heart had assured her Aaron was The One – a phrase she’d laughed at when others had used it, before he arrived in her life. How could she have been so blinkered about him? Her heart had soothed her fears that he was too good to be true, that she was falling dangerously hard for someone who wouldn’t even hold her hand in public…
A fresh wave of injustice hit her as she sat in Sophie’s chair in the cramped office. The signs had been there all along, hadn’t they? His insistence that displays of affection were confined to when they were alone. His unwillingness to introduce her to his parents, or hang out with his friends. As she began to unpick the relationship she’d believed to be perfect, it all became suddenly, horribly clear.
I made excuses for him all the time. I never asked why.
How had she become such a doormat? She was a bright, intelligent woman with ambition and dreams and an intrinsic belief in better times and silver linings. Wasn’t she? Given the almighty mess she now found herself in, maybe the biggest injustice had been that she had allowed someone else to dictate her happiness.
Silver Bells, Silver Bells…
She was suddenly aware of the song again, although she was pretty certain it had been playing all the time since she entered Sophie’s office. It was the same song, Bing Crosby’s familiar croon and Carol Richard’s bright replies. But this time, it was different.
It was almost as if someone were whispering the words close to her ear…
She stood, grabbing the engraved silver box with its tiny diamond-hearted stars – reassured by its considerable weight in her hand – ready to defend herself. Was there an intruder? Had someone followed her inside? She couldn’t remember whether she had locked the front door behind her when she’d come back to Tony & Frank’s. What if someone had been watching her and saw an opportunity?
‘Who’s there?’ she called, every nerve in her body on high alert.
Is that what you did in a situation like this? She didn’t know – but in every thriller she’d ever watched it was the first thing people said. Too late, she remembered that most characters in films who did this usually lived (or didn’t live) to regret it…
The whisper came again, this time by her right ear. She spun around, holding the box aloft, ready to throw it or strike out in the darkness. Could she get away if she hit her invisible assailant? Would there be time to escape?
And then, the silver box in her hand began to glow…
For a moment, Lucy forgot her fear. The sight transfixed her. All over the box, the tiny diamond stars dazzled as if dancing in sunbeams. The silver itself emitted an ice-blue glow that bathed Lucy’s hand in light. And the strangest part was that where the glow rested felt warm against her skin…
‘Good choice, kid,’ said a voice.
‘See, I knew she’d go for that one,’ said another. ‘I mean, the bag’s a beaut but check the sparklers on that box!’
Shaking, Lucy looked up – and saw two men leaning against the steel shelving unit where Sophie kept boxes of menus, kids’ activity packs and the staff manuals. Except that when she dared look closer, the shorter of the two appeared to be sitting on the middle shelf.
Hang on – how was that even possible?
‘Who are you? How did you get in here?’
The taller man smiled. He was dressed in an evening suit, black tie hanging loose from the open collar of his dress shirt. In better light, he might have had more than a passing resemblance to Dean Martin in his Rat Pack years. ‘Kid, relax. We didn’t get in here. We are this place.’
‘Look at her, boss. The poor thing’s scared to death.’ The shorter man waved from his impossible perch. He too was dressed in evening attire, but the open black jacket and blue silk cummerbund across his ample waist looked as if they had seen better days. His balding brow wrinkled into a frown as he sent Lucy a tentative wave. ‘Hey, lady. Don’t worry. We ain’t stealin’.’
Lucy increased her grip on the silver box, even though its warmth was comforting, inviting her to forget everything and cradle it. ‘Get out! Both of you. Or I’ll…’
The tall man shrugged. ‘Or you’ll what? Throw that gift at us that we picked out for you?’
‘I think she might. She looks mad, Frankie.’
Lucy blinked. ‘Frankie?’
‘Sure. You mean to tell me you don’t know who we are?’
Since their sudden arrival in the office, Lucy had battled the strangest feeling that she somehow knew the intruders – but until the tall man uttered his companion’s name she hadn’t been able to place them.
‘I think she’s gettin’ it, Tony.’
‘You don’t exist! You’re the made up founders of a chain restaurant – there are busts of you over the kitchen hatch…’
‘Babblin’. She’s babblin’, Tony.’
‘I know, Frankie. Give the kid some air.’
‘You are kidding me…’ Lucy felt the room undulate around her. What on earth was happening? She couldn’t – absolutely couldn’t be – talking to Tony & Frank. They didn’t exist. The whole thing was a story created to sell the theme – two brothers from Napoli who arrived in 1920s New York on a boat of immigrants and set up a restaurant in the back streets of Brooklyn. Except that it never happened. The restaurant chain wasn’t even American. The headquarters were in Slough, for crying out loud!
‘Kid, put that box down. We aren’t here to terrorise you.’ Tony held his hands out and Lucy felt her knees buckle as she saw the faint outline of the office through them…
‘Uh boss, I think we’re losing her…’ Frank’s voice began to drift away as Lucy closed her eyes and gave in to the ice-blue, soothing warmth of the glowing silver box.
‘Lucy, Lucy Smith, come back.’ From far away, almost as far as the song had sounded, Lucy was aware of Tony’s voice.
‘Go… away…’ she heard herself murmur.
‘You chose the box, kid. That means you chose us.’
‘I didn’t… I didn’t…’ Words danced around Lucy’s head like the white diamond stars dancing across the silver box lid.
‘You called us here, Lucy Smith. Because you wanted something better. Because you wanted a miracle.’
‘Lucy, come back.’
This time, Lucy felt the pull of reality gently bringing her back to the darkened office. When she dared to open her eyes, Tony and Frank were still there – both standing now, closer to her than they had been before.
‘Look over there,’ Tony said, pointing a semi-transparent finger to the back wall of the office, where two doors had appeared. Each was painted red, its edges decked out in metallic trim – one gold, one green. ‘We’re here to help you, Lucy Smith. But you have decide what happens here. So pick a door.’
‘Trust us, kid. Pick a door. The rest will become clear. So, what’ll it be?’
Lucy stared at the doors. Apart from the trim they seemed identical. And what remained of her logic told her that there couldn’t be anything behind either door, apart from a small gap to the back wall. But so much had happened already that defied reason. And she wanted things to change in her life.
But which door should she choose?
TO BE CONTINUED… ©Miranda Dickinson 2016
What do YOU think? Should Lucy choose the gold door or the green door? Vote NOW in the poll below – and come back tomorrow to find out what happens next!