Welcome to the fourth part of my exclusive #WurdyChristmas treat short story. Yesterday, I asked you to choose which door Lucy should walk through – gold-trimmed or green-trimmed. The lead swung between the two for a while, but you made a good choice!
Do the doors lead anywhere? Are Tony & Frank real or figments of Lucy’s imagination? And does she trust them enough to put her life in their slightly transparent hands? Find out below – and don’t forget to vote in the poll at the bottom to decide what I’ll write for the last part of the story tomorrow! Happy reading, lovelies!
SILVER BELLS AT TONY & FRANK’S ©Miranda Dickinson 2o16
Gold or green? Gold or green?
Lucy stared at the two red doors that had materialised on the back wall of her manager’s office.
‘Time’s marching on, kid,’ Tony said, appearing by her side. ‘What’s it gonna be?’
Lucy glanced at the clock above the jumble of shelves, boxes and not-so-mythical Founders. It still read one minute to midnight. If time was marching on, it was doing it at a glacial pace.
Tony sighed. ‘Don’t think. Act. Follow your heart.’
Lucy turned from the doors to stare at him. ‘Why? Why is it so important that I choose?’
‘Because you want something to change.’
‘So tell me what’s behind each door so I can see if it’s the change I’m looking for.’
‘Nuh-uh. Can’t do. This has to be your decision. Ask your heart…’
‘Logic works better for me.’
Tony’s surprise registered immediately. ‘It does? That’s not the Lucy Smith I know.’
This was way past a joke now. ‘You don’t know me! I’m stuck in my workplace because my stupid boyfriend – ex-boyfriend – dumped me instead of proposing. I have no transport. I haven’t a hope of a taxi because it’s Christmas Eve. I’m hearing that song over and over again, I’m being asked to make decisions when I don’t even trust my own mind any more because I’m talking to someone who doesn’t exist and… and…’
‘…And you want something to change?’
‘So pick a door.’
It was impossible. Everything that had happened since she’d returned to Tony & Frank’s was impossible. And now she couldn’t even win an argument with a figment of her imagination.
But he was right, wasn’t he? Ever since Aaron had driven away instead of asking her to marry him, the only thing Lucy Smith had wanted was for things to be different. She might be staring at two doors that couldn’t possibly be there, invited to do so by a suave Italian-American restaurant owner who absolutely couldn’t be there either, but she did have a choice.
Gold. Or green.
‘How do I choose?’ She whispered, tears stealing her voice.
‘Just go through the one that feels right, kid. There’s no wrong answer.’
‘There aren’t any –’ Lucy could hardly believe she was about to ask this, ‘– monsters through there, are there?’
‘Not unless you want them to be. So go already.’
Lucy Smith closed her eyes and wished with all her heart. Then she walked towards the back wall of the office and pushed open the red door with the gold metal trim…
* * * *
Intense, blinding white light immediately burst into her vision and Lucy had to shield her eyes against it. She was also aware of an intensely cold air – as if she had stepped into a refrigerator. A flurry of soft, cold pinpricks batted against her face. It felt like – no, that was impossible. There was no way she could believe it was snowing inside Tony & Frank’s… Pulling her coat tightly around her body she blinked until faint outlines began to appear through the all-white light. What met her eyes stole her breath faster than the freezing atmosphere.
A vast, gently undulating snowscape stretched out before her. Rolling hills dotted with wind-bent trees and hardy dry-stone walls were visible from the left, while to the right snow-covered cliffs fell dramatically to a midnight blue, half-frozen sea. Between hills and ocean a tiny village huddled, its lights studding the view like a host of sparkling stars. And not very far from the natural snowdrift that now half-claimed her shoes stood a bandstand.
It was beautiful – like a perfect scene from a Christmas card – and Lucy turned back to look at Tony and Frank. But the Founders were nowhere to be seen, along with the red and gold door that had brought her here.
And just like that, Lucy Smith was alone.
She tried to rationalise it but could find no explanation that worked. This couldn’t be the car park on the out-of-town retail park where Tony & Frank’s stood alongside a cinema and other chain restaurants. There it was midnight, or thereabouts; here the midday sun reflected by the snow was dazzling. So where was she? And how on earth could she get back?
Silver Bells, Silver Bells…
That song again! But this time it sounded incredibly close and was playing at the right speed. As Lucy looked a couple appeared on the wooden platform of the bandstand, dancing together to the music. They looked happy and in love. Lucy was instantly drawn to them. She began to walk towards the bandstand, her shoes crunching and squeaking in the freshly fallen snow. Tiny lights began to appear along the white-painted cast iron sides of the bandstand, one at a time, like stars bursting into life in a marshmallow-white sky, until the whole structure was ablaze with twinkling light.
The song swelled and changed as Lucy neared the bandstand’s steps. It was no longer the familiar recording she had fallen in love with. It was now a tender, intimate duet between two people in love – the couple on the bandstand who hadn’t even noticed they were being watched. The man twirled his partner, momentarily breaking hold to perform a solo spin – and Lucy gasped as she recognised him.
The man stopped dancing and gave Lucy a little half-salute. ‘Hey there. Pleased to meet you, Miss–’
‘Lucy,’ said his partner. ‘Miss Lucy May Smith.’
Lucy knew that voice. It was unmistakable – a much-missed sound she still longed to hear three years since it disappeared from her life… ‘Gran?’
Gran gave a grin that was uniquely hers. ‘Hello poppet.’
‘What are doing here? You’re –’
Gran held up a hand. ‘Ooh, shh-shh, we don’t like to use the D-word around here. People get proper uppity. I had to be here, Lucybobs. I had to see you.’
‘But – what are you doing with Bing Crosby?’
Gran’s cheeks reddened like they always used to when she’d been found out. ‘Well, I assumed it was the foxtrot but it could have been the quickstep…’
‘He’s a friend,’ she beamed, mouthing, From the other side. ‘Lovely, isn’t he? We clicked right away. I think he might like me for more than my fancy footwork.’
For the last three years Lucy had dreamed of one more chance to see her grandmother. It made no sense whatsoever. So why try? ‘Oh Gran, I’ve missed you so much. I didn’t get chance to say goodbye before you…’ Lucy stopped as a horrible thought occurred. ‘Wait a minute – am I dead?’
‘Of course not, dear. But I am glad you chose our door.’
‘Me, too. So, where are we?’
‘I haven’t the foggiest, dearie. But it’s rather lovely, eh?’
‘Then why am I here?’
‘Didn’t Tony and Frank tell you?’ She rolled her eyes. ‘They really are forgetful, those two. You’re here because you want something to change. And I want that for you, too. So much.’
‘Hey, Edith, this your grandkid?’ Bing was leaning against one of the bandstand’s barriers, puffing on a tobacco-stuffed pipe.
‘It is, Bing. Isn’t she pretty?’
‘Beautiful,’ Bing replied, flashing a huge smile at Lucy. ‘So, you ready?’
Another choice? Lucy’s head hurt. How was any of this helping her, other than granting one secret wish to see her Gran again? ‘I don’t know.’
‘Edith, the kid needs some help,’ Bing said.
When Lucy looked up at him she saw a younger man standing beside the famous crooner. He had hair the colour of a clear midnight sky and winter-blue eyes that twinkled in the light from the bandstand. He smiled at her and the silver and diamond-star box she still held glowed again.
‘Lucy, this is Seth. Dance with him.’ Gran’s cheeks bloomed like roses. ‘He’s rather lovely. And he dances like a dream.’
Seth smiled – and Lucy felt the world spin a little. ‘Would you like to dance with me?’
‘Is this the choice?’ Lucy asked, thinking that it might just be the easiest one she’d faced lately. Could she dance? She’d never tried before. But even if it was her first and only attempt, dancing with the handsome stranger seemed the most perfect idea.
Seth shook his head. ‘No. But dancing helps to focus your mind.’ He held out his hand and it was warm and familiar when Lucy took it.
Soon it will be Christmas Day…
For the first time in her life, Lucy felt free. In Seth’s arms she moved effortlessly around the magically lit bandstand, the fairy lights blurring into twirling, swirling arcs of spun gold. She felt no fear, no pain from her newly broken heart. Just joy.
I could stay here forever, she thought, just as the music came to an abrupt halt. Seth gave a small bow and stepped away.
‘Time to choose, Lucybobs,’ Gran smiled, a wash of wistfulness passing across her face.
‘What’s my choice?’
‘You can stay here. Permanently. And you’d never want for anything, never feel lonely again.’ Gran looked up at the softly falling snowflakes. ‘Or you can go back. Make things different in the way you’d like them to be. It’s your choice.’
‘Would I see you? If I stay here?’
‘Maybe. Sometimes. Possibly more.’
‘And if I go home?’
Gran smiled, her eyes glistening. ‘I will always be with you.’
‘You have a beautiful heart,’ Seth said, stepping forward. Lucy felt her heart lurch. ‘I think wherever you are you’ll find happiness.’
‘Time to choose, kiddo,’ said Bing. ‘What’ll it be?’
Lucy took a breath of icy winter air and closed her eyes. It was time to ask herself the question she’d been too scared to consider.
What do I really want?
TO BE CONTINUED…©Miranda Dickinson 2016
What do YOU think? Should Lucy stay in the beautiful winter world or go back to face real life? Vote NOW in the poll below – and come back tomorrow to find out what happens next!