Thursday, December 25, 2014

John Out-the-Window: Letter the Twelfth {Merry Christmas}

To read part one, click here

To read part two, click here

To read part three, click here 

  To read part four, click here
To read part five, click here 
To read part six, click here
To read part seven, click here
To read part eight, click here 
To read part nine, click here
To read part ten, click here
To read part eleven, click here

Letter the Twelfth

From Mavis Brinkley to Antoinette Charleton
Dec. 25, ‘48
Dear Toni:
     Merry Christmas, you darling thing.
I cannot help but think of you all alone in your little apartment and feel a twinge of remorse. Are you cold? Lonely? Hungry? Depressed? Are you still curled up facing the window with your guttering candle watching John’s office? Then the twinge passes and I realize you are, in all probability, not alone as you feared. Mark my words: your new pals will make it a jolly Christmas for their Toni.
I won’t venture to guess the number of wrapped gifts you will receive this year. One? Three? But I think you’ve lucked out. After all, haven’t I given you two friends for Christmas? For if I hadn’t been the meddlesome, chuckle-headed ditz I am, you would never have met Diane Luray or John Garribault. Don’t thank me. It is in my nature to be giving. I am only glad you seem amenable to the gift.
Although I must let you know that I will not be giving Corky permission to marry me. Oh yes, he’s handsome and charming and somewhat clever but he bores me. And he is not kind. Not kind in the way of your John. I never once remember him apologizing for leaving me standing in the rain and Daddy pays him to ferry me hither and yon. A man who won’t hold the umbrella for money certainly won’t hold it for love. I’m not just speaking the speech of a bitter woman, Toni. I am perfectly serious and sensible. Corky has been awfully lax in his duties and I turned my head because he amused me. But when I look at your John or even old Ferdinand Pierce, I can see that Corcoran Macmillan isn’t half as good a man as they are, even if he holds all the handsome genes this side of the Mason-Dixon.
So for Christmas, Corky is getting the pink slip.
C’est la vie. He’ll learn. (And why will people never say that about good things? It’s always the disagreeable business that gets assigned as an essential component of Life.)
Forgive me for grinning like a Cheshire up here in Frederick. Daddy gave me emeralds and a new stole. Such tributes always put me in a good mood so now I’m blocked into my den with my robes about me thinking of you. If I am a bit of a meteorologist when it comes to the Winds of Change, at least I always predict fair weather for you, Toni. My bones (which are never wrong) tell me that this day will end in good tidings and great joy which, if they be not for all people, will be unto you and your very dear…but let it never be said that I condoned spoiling the ending.
I await tomorrow’s post with a high heart and glowing face. Please give John my love and allow me to visit you before the New Year?

Yours Very Warm in Mink,

From Antoinette Charleton to Mavis Brinkley

Christmas Day, December 25, 1948
Oh Mavis!

     In a world where so many things are so very wrong, is it any wonder Christmas comes as a somehow-familiar stranger? There is, for me, quiet confusion when the world turns soft and tender and many-colored in the glow of the December’s bustle. Does the earth masquerade the whole year to reveal her face only at Christmas? Or is Christmas the festive mask for a world gone desperately awry? I believe the latter to be true, for so few people remember the Christ-child outside of December. They forget He grew up and moved on and saved us all. How many people realize that the baby’s birth was the upswing of a conductor’s baton with the entire symphony yet to come? Too few, I think. It makes me wonder.
I am sitting quite alone at the moment, feeling reflective. We still have no snow. I gave up expecting that, for then I would have been sure you had something to do with it despite your protestations. Snow at Christmas is too perfect. I am not, however, upset or lonely. I have a stocking full of memories to run my fingers through. Every day since our misshapen twelve began, I am looking back on now. Not even a fortnight and it seems a year. I will be sad when it is over, you know. How angry I was with you, and how ecstatic and frightened and jealous when once I had met John. I am a very silly goose who somehow ended on the precious end of things with more friends in her pocket than she’s ever had before.
Diane was down by eight o’clock with that old robe wrapped twice around her waist, the sash tied in a fierce knot off the side.
“Merriest of all merry Christmases!” she said, flying at me with a gigantic kiss.
I asked her to come in and gave her my gift. She tore the paper like a three year-old and squealed.
“You wouldn’t.”
She turned the volume called Notes on People-Watching in her hands. “It’s awful of you to pretend I’m that bad.”
“Aren’t you?”
“I cannot lie: I am. Now open yours.”
Diane sprawled across the back of the sofa, crossed her arms, and rested her chin on my shoulder while I removed the paper with care. Inside was a Wedding Embassy Yearbook.
“Diane Luray. You are terrible!”
“I figure you’ll be needing advice on planning the wedding and the honeymoon. I can coordinate. I am very coordinated, though you wouldn’t think it to look at me.”
I put the book aside and tried to eye her severely. “No one said I’ll need this.”
“No one said you won’t.”
What could I say? We repaired to the kitchen to drink hot cocoa. Diane went out with friends at 10:30 and left me again to my own devices. I am sleepy now, and think I will turn in for a long winter’s nap. Wake me if John comes. Scowl down the wind from Frederick and I’ll notice. I always do.

4:45 PM

Be rational, Toni, be rational. Tell the story in full and don’t skip details, or Mavis will skin you.
Properly lecturing myself, I sit down to take my pen in hand and finish this letter. Is this how Diane feels when she’s approaching the ending of a book? All the happiness in the world has bloomed in my rib-cage and hugs the part that achingly whispers, ‘but now it will be over.
I fell asleep under a snowfall of warm blankets, to be awakened by a pinch on the end of my nose. I mewed and burrowed deeper in my blankets, which is my M.O. when it comes waking up. A hand pulled down the blanket and try as I would to retain my cocoon, daylight smacked me in the face. I squinted my bleary eyes and was able to make out John Garribault’s face quite near mine.
I swam up, then, wishing to heaven I could pretend I had not been deeply asleep. I blinked at him owl-wise and wrapped the blankets around myself in high dudgeon.
“Merry Christmas, kiddo.”
“Merry…” (a yawn tore the sentence asunder) “…Christmas yourself.”
“You look cozy.”
“I was. Was being the word here.”
“Someone grouchy?”
“Just terribly…” (another yawn) “…sleepy.”
He perched on the sofa arm and patted my head. “Well I won’t stay long if you want to continue the nap. Just wanted to pop over and wish you a merry Christmas in person.”
I didn’t want him to know how glad I was to see him. “You could have called.”
John grinned. “Funny thing. I don’t think I know your phone number.”
“Oh.” I shifted so I could see the phone, which I hadn’t used since the phone company returned service. “Guess not.”
“Did Santa Claus bring the little girl any presents?”
Blood shot to my face. “Ummm. No.”
The wedding book. I could swear he knew about the wedding book. Slowly, so as to prevent him from seeing the motion, I scooted the book under the couch with my slippered foot.
“Santa Claus doesn’t go in much for penniless tailors’ assistants,” I laughed.
John shrugged. “I didn’t get anything either.”
“Oh!” I ran over to the kitchen and grabbed his present from the counter. “I almost forgot.”
John remained seated on the sofa arm and I towered over him. His face turned up to mine looked so boyish and expectant that what little resolve I had gathered evaporated. I came to him and ruffled my fingers in his hair. In that moment, I didn’t care if he knew how I loved him.
“Merry Christmas, darling,” I said softly and handed him the gift.
John removed my hand and I suddenly felt very, very foolish and very, very young. Why had I done that? Now he knew I loved him. What if he was not ready for the knowledge? What if it repulsed him?
“Open yours first,” he murmured.
I buried my hand in my skirt and tried to forget everything. “Well?”
“It’s the twelfth day of Christmas.” His tone was regulated now, cheerful.
“I know.”
“And I finally have a good gift to represent the required ‘twelve drummers drumming.’” His smile quirked.
I looked about for a present and saw none. “Where is this drum corps of which you speak?”
He leaned in and whispered to me: “Afraid it’s a little too full to wrap.”
“Oh really?” I was hopelessly confused and hopelessly in love. “Mind if you show me, then?”
John pulled away and took my hand. His fingers spread mine as he turned my palm outward. As a shockingly clear detail, I realized my fingers were icy cold and that he warmed me, and that I always wanted to be this warm, always wanted to be in his presence.
“John?” I half-sobbed.
“Shhhh.” He shook his head with the smile he saves for me alone. “You must be very still.”
Then my beloved John Out-the-Window tucked my hand inside his jacket, pressed my palm to his chest.
Under my quivering fingers I felt it, his heart, beating with the energy of a dozen drummers. Thud, thud, thud, thud, It beat its ‘Merry Christmas’ in double-time and my own pulse raced to meet it. Thud, thud, thud, thud. Together they measured a Christmas carol older than old and joy broke over my soul.
“Well?” John whispered, and ran his free hand into my wild hair. “Will you take it, sweet girl?”
I leaned into his bulk and rested fully against the twelve drummers drumming. Thud, thud, thud, thud. Peace, grace, hope, joy.
“I’ll only take it,” I said, “if you’ll take mine.”
"It's a dear little heart." He kissed my forehead. "I think it'll fit."
"And yours suits me just fine."

John held me tight as I sniffled into his sweater-vest. When I was finished, we had cocoa and sang our favorite Christmas hymns and he kissed me goodnight at the door.
Now, Mavis, I have told you everything. I hope I’ve told you enough. I hope that one day you will have a Christmas half as wonderful as that you’ve given me. It’s been a hairy dozen, Mavis Brinkley, and I thank you a million times over for it. Without you, there would have been no Diane. And without Diane, there would have been no window-people, and without window-people, there would have been no John Garribault. Thank you, dear malaprop. You are truly the best.

I Remain Your Unfathomably Grateful Friend,

P.S. John says to come for New Year’s. He’s making paper hats.

All My Love,
                    Rachel Heffington


Unknown said...

Merry Christmas, Rachel! I love this story. :D. That it all I can say without incoherently squeeing.

Julia said...

That... Was... PERFECT. *clasps hands to heart and sighs dreamily*
Thank you for the lovely gift of this story, Rachel, and I hope your Christmas is merry indeed!

Emily Chapman said...

I breathed a dozen squeals while reading this. I loved this way too much. Best 12-days-of-Christmas story I've ever read. ^.^

Hannah Joy said...

WOW! This was AMAZING! THANK YOU FOR THIS, Rachel! It was seriously beautiful. I'm sad it's over now.... Glad about the way it turned out though! <3

Merry Christmas!

Abby said...

What a nice ending! I liked this very much. Thanks for writing it! Have a lovely Christmas.

Raechel said...

Awwww, perfectly sweet ending!! I loved every bit of it.
God bless you on this day!

Blue said...

Clever ending
Thank you, Rachel
and Merry Christmas

Lady Bibliophile said...

What a perfectly satisfactory ending. *happy sigh* I love John and Toni and Pierce. Thank-you so much for sharing this story during the Christmas season, Rachel. It made for something joyous to look forward to every day. Merry Christmas to you!


Riley Pleasants said...

That was wonderful!
Every day I've looked forward to reading the latest installment and you finished it perfectly <3
Merry Christmas Rachel!
xx Riley

ghost ryter said...

*squeals happily* Thank you for this story!! This ending was perfect!! (I'm using too many exclamation points.) Merry Christmas, Rachel!!!!

Michelle Marie said...

Merry Christmas, Rachel! I must say, I'm a new regular, thanks to this dear story you penned. Everything about it was magical and heartwarming, and it couldn't possibly have ended any lovelier. :)

Abbey Stellingwerff said...

Awwww, what a great ending!
Merry Christmas!

Rachel Heffington said...

Michelle, I am so glad to have you as a regular and even more glad that you enjoyed this story. It was a joy to share with you.

Chloe M. Kookogey said...

Oh, this is a merry ending. I don't know what it is about your characters that makes them such endearing people, but John and Toni grew on me quickly. I've loved following this story for the past twelve days -- thank you, Rachel, for such a darling gift. ^.^

Rachel Heffington said...

I am so incredibly happy that you are satisfied with the ending, everyone. Merry Christmas. No sad endings here, thank you. <3

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

I loved this story so much! And the gifts you made up for each of the twelve lyrics were the cleverest things.

You know what I honestly think? You could publish this. Do it as an ebook in time for next Christmas! If you need a beta-reader, you know where to find me. :)

Rachel Heffington said...

Hearing that you approve of this story, Elisabeth, is one of the nicest bits. We will have to talk this over

Carmel Elizabeth said...

The ending is the best part (the endings are always the best part). <3 So much love for these fake-but-real people now...

Kelsey Carnes said...

This was such a beautiful story Rachel! I loved every part of it. (I found myself checking back several times a day to look for the next segment. ^_^) Thanks so much for sharing!

Lauren said...

My sister sent my this story and she's a critic of rare tastes. :) Such a fun holiday read!

Rachel Heffington said...

Lauren: I'm glad your sister enjoyed it enough to send it to you! I had such fun with the writing and I'm so glad to see people are having fun reading it. :)

myself said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your story & recommended it to all my sisters as a fun holiday read.
Thank you so much for sharing it.