Part 3 of a 3 part short story written by Jennifer Nicole
The Final Chapter: The Real Meaning of Christmas
As Evelyn stared out the window cupping her hot coco in her cold hands, she was lost for words. The cursor on her computer screen was flashing non-stop. I have nothing but a title on a blank page. Evelyn thought.
“You finished yet? We need that report, Miss Oaks”. Evelyn rolled her eyes with disgust at the sight of Mr Conners. He was the definition of cutthroat if it had a nerdy brother and doesn’t bully but belittles at every chance he gets.
“It’s keeping my hands warm Joel. Besides you have no place or business asking me for a report that has nothing to do with your department for that matter”. Evelyn exclaimed. Evelyn knew that standing up to this man was a risk, more so now than the holiday bonus was coming up but someone had to do it.
“Ahh miss Oaks, I’m glad I’ve caught you. Your piece about Christmas fashions over the years is something I’d like to merge with Joel’s idea on the spirit of Christmas. Oh, and instead of Fashion, how about inspirational stories or what inspires people to celebrate Christmas. That sort of thing”. Collin Roberts said as he stood there with a hot cup of Joe.
“WHAT!” Evelyn Yelled.
“Oh, splendid sir, thank you so much. I’m always looking for new people to collaborate with”. Joel continued.
“I’m so glad you enjoyed my Christmas spirit piece. I promise you; you won’t regret it and we’ll work around the clock if we must.” Joel replied.
If he smiled any harder, he’ll be the brand ambassador for the Cheshire Cat. Evelyn wondered.
“The hell we will” Evelyn mumbled.
“Collin come on, there isn’t any way, I’m working around the clock on this. It’s the holidays”. Evelyn responded standing there crossing her arms like a 5-year-old brat that’s just been told no for the first time in her precious life.
“Besides, Evelyn said. Everyone knows I work best on my own anyway”.
“And that’s the problem Evelyn, you’re a lone wolf with no people skills”. Colin replied
“Excuse me” Evelyn said sarcastically. Colin looked like Evelyn as if he was expecting a different reaction.
“If someone gets too close, you immediately cut them off with no warning. Collin yelled.
Time stood still, almost frozen in that moment. Shock of horror and fear filled Evelyn and her co-workers’ faces. It was obvious to Evelyn that he was referring to last Summer.
“Look Evelyn. You got to learn how to work with people. Nobody goes through life alone. We all have someone there to help us or guide us in one direction or another”. Collin threw his coat over his arms and walked away. Though for Evelyn, it was more like he was sprinting to avoid her spicy hot backchat at 10 in the morning. Though to be fair to him, Evelyn knew the delivery of her words would feel like fire and thunder wrapped up in one.
“Collin don’t walk away from this. We’re not done yet.” Evelyn shouted.
As Collin stood in the hallway, he opened his office door and responded with only three Evelyn thought she’d never hear.
“Yes, we are!” Collin said.
Evelyn stood there stunned. She felt her entire world collapsing with her in it. She could have sent in a shit show of a draft, and he still wouldn’t care. “Right then!” Joel said as he rubbed his hands together with glee. “Where shall we start Miss Oaks? I got a few ideas”. Joel asked.
He grabbed Evelyn’s chair and sat down. Evelyn looked at him in a way that questioned his whole entire decisions in life. “Er excuse you? Evelyn asked, that’s MY chair!” Ignoring Evelyn, Joel continued. “See with you research…I presume you did some research”.
“Are you really questioning me?” Evelyn asked? “What kind of Editor-in-Chief do you think I am Joel?”
Evelyn walked out and right there in that moment she knew she had made the biggest mistake. But Evelyn wasn’t one to back down.
As Evelyn arrived at her front door, she thought about Collin’s words. Still ringing from the day before. Collin was Evelyn’s rival at everything, never mind him being her boss. To Evelyn, he was the worst person that could she lay her eyes on.
Evelyn entered and sat by the fire. She pulled out her notepad and pen from the mini desk drawer besides her and began tapping on it like it was a musical number. Her Pomeranian dog strolled in carrying a Door wreath in its mouth and dropped it by Evelyn’s feet.
“Not today, Terrance, Mama’s got a new assignment to do. Looks like, we’re going old school.” Evelyn said sweetly as she stroked her dog.
“What is Christmas? No. Too cliché.” Evelyn tore the page, crushed it up and threw it at the trashcan.
“Write from the heart”. A voice in the hallway replied softly.
“Hello? Who’s there?” Evelyn asked. She got up from her comfy armchair and began looking around the living room. Anyone who knows Evelyn personally would see that she’s always been a curious soul. She’ll even walk right into danger if she could, just to see what’s going on.
A ghostly presence appeared by Evelyn’s barely anything there Christmas Tree. Terrance saw the ghost and began wagging his tail furiously and his barking became increasingly loud.
“Terrance…Terrance what is it boy? There’s nothing there” Evelyn said.
“Hello dear”. The voice of a woman was starting to sound familiar to Evelyn.
“Aunt Rose?” Evelyn asked. Suddenly, the ghostly presence revealed a pale woman with Copper Auburn hair wearing a white gown. Aunt Rose was always an angel in Evelyn’s eyes and whenever she was down or needed her the most, Aunt Rose would just show up out the blue like a Christmas Miracle.
“Hey Baby, I heard your heart cry.” Aunt Rose said with her sweet Tennessee tones.
“So, what are you working on Evie?” Aunt Rose asked grabbing Evelyn’s notepad.
“None of ya business. God your so nosey!” Evelyn replied as she snatched her notepad from Aunt rose’s hand.
Just then, the doorbell rang.
“Expecting company?” Aunt Rose asked.
Evelyn gave Aunt Rose the dreaded eye roll knowing full well that she was not a person to be messed with, let alone give her any kind of attitude.
Evelyn opened the door to see but the level of shock written on Evelyn’s face was unbearable. Even for Aunt Rose.
“Hey. You erm. Left this back at the office”. Joel said “I figured, you might need it to jot down any ideas or drawings for this article.
“My iPad. Thanks a lot” Evelyn answered.
“Don’t just stand there love. Let him in.” Aunt Rose replied
As Evelyn let Joel in, he couldn’t help but notice the homely feel and of the place.
“Smells just like my grandmama’s house. Is that candy canes?” Joel shrieked in excitement as he ran towards Evelyn’s Christmas tree. “Gosh, I haven’t had one of these since I was 8”.
“Tastes just like home.”
“Why don’t you tell me about that. Christmas at your grandma’s place.” Said Evelyn.
“Well… It was nice”. Joel smiled. It beamed so bright that you could use his smile as a Christmas light.
“There was lots of food. Mac and Cheese, Truffle and garlic butter potatoes and mash, and oh the honey roast parsnips and honey BBQ turkey”. “It was warm and plenty of laughs. I miss that” Joel said. His sad face was not for the faint hearted
“Evelyn dear, sit next to him, get to know him better…Work with him”. Aunt Rose yelled.
Though she was still a ghostly presence unknown to Joel, her words continued to ring loud and clear in Evelyn’s ear. For Evelyn figured she could use this time to see why his so bitter and cold. Not to mention a Calculating backstabbing you know what.
Evelyn began jotting notes on her iPad, she wasn’t very traditional with the pen and paper anyway.
Warm, Family, Love? Evelyn wrote. The words flowing on the page like a godly river. Evelyn noticed Joel shedding a tear as he stared into the abyss which at first glance looked as if he was staring at either the Christmas tree or her Aunt Rose. By this point, Evelyn just couldn’t tell what was real anymore.
“Well, the assignment is…”
“… The real meaning of Christmas and the inspirations behind it”. Joel said finishing Evelyn’s sentence. “So, it’s only fair Evelyn, to know… since I shared my experience what’s yours?” Joel asked.
Fear took over and so did the time. Both escaping her, one breath at a time.
“Which one do you want to spill first? Aunt Rose questioned Evelyn as if she was on trial. “The breakup or my death?”.
“Christmas is a complicated subject”. Evelyn replied.
“Complicated?” Aunt rose scoffed “More like sore. That break up with Darren was a lot more painful than my periods and to be frank, I like Michael buble’ just like everyone else. But hunny, you play him enough times and he starts to irritate me”.
“The fact is Joel, I hate Christmas. It’s fast approaching, and it sucks”. Evelyn yelled. She didn’t feel like celebrating this year. Why should she? Evelyn thought. She turned to her Aunt Rose for the desperate advice she clearly needed.
“There’s no use looking at me kid. I died on Thanksgiving, and it was a wonderful way to go. I was happy and there was so much love in the room”. Aunt Rose said joyfully.
“You got to let me go Eve, you’ll be a lot happier and not to mention free. Don’t you want to be happy?” Aunt Rose asked.
Evelyn knew what she had to do, for the assignment was about inspiration and for her, Aunt Rose was just that. Not just for her but for the community. She kept going despite hard times and despite the grief and the troubles and the turmoil. She never gave up. Christmas was always a constant reminder to Evelyn to keep going in life and to always run never walk towards her dreams.
To everyone’s surprise, Evelyn’s favourite Pomeranian dog Dodger runs into the living room with a Christmas wreath in its mouth. He drops the wreath at Joel’s feet.
The room has an unspoken bond between Joel and Dodger, leaving Evelyn feeling slightly uneasy.
“Dodger not now! Can’t you see I’m working”. Evelyn yells. His puppy dog eyes fills the room with emotions so raw.
“It’s okay, I think his just curious. I was once curious when I was young”. Joel said with such enthusiasm.
“Aren’t you curious always? You seem to be in everybody’s business at work. Roaming the hallways with your opinions. Well…Newsflash Joel! Nobody cares about your opinions. You just need to stop being so damn nosey all the time”. Evelyn continued. “I hate to break it to you Joel, but people don’t like you! Your too cutthroat in this industry and you always have something to say. Yet no-one’s seen your work. Where’s your work Joel? Why don’t you show us your work once in a while so we can give you a taste of your own medicine and offer up some of our own opinions and see how you like it”. Evelyn shouted.
Seeing Joel cry gave Evelyn a whole new perspective on this man. It was scary but at the same time, kind of awkward to watch. Some may even say painful to watch a grown man like Joel cry like a blubbering 5-year-old. But in the midst of it all deep down, it was beautiful to watch. Not because the guy had it coming, but because as her therapist would say, he was finally breaking through those barriers, and he was healing.
Evelyn ran to the kitchen to take deep breaths. She had just made her bosses favourite employee cry. She took the entire napkins from the cupboard and uttered the words she hated the most. “I’m sorry!” She said.
“I know you probably don’t like me Evelyn, I get it. I’ve been mean to you ever since you started. Trying to undermine you and your ideas at every turn but I just want you to know that you inspire me. You always have, right from your first article”. Joel responded.
He proceeded to continue. “You were in the beauty department and when you wrote that article about finding the inner you, it was so good, so in depth and so meaningful that I couldn’t put it down…Everyone loved you and I couldn’t understand why”.
“I mean your piece was good but a little cliché. But I guess you were the new girl, the one bringing the fresh ideas. Claire thought you’d get that senior position, a seat at the big boys club”. Joel said as he shuffled in his seat.
The level of shock on Aunt Rose’s face could never match that of Evelyn’s.
“Well, I never”. Aunt Rose proclaimed.
Dodger had a way of breaking tension in any room, just ask Aunt Rose what happened in the year of 1996. He might have been a pup back then, but he sure was mighty.
Dodger nudged Evelyn’s leg and barked at her like he was demanding for attention. As if his cuteness didn’t get him enough of that already.
“What is it Dodger? Stop that!” Evelyn yelled at dodger like she was a second-hand banshee in Prada.
“Don’t look at me like that Dodger or you Joel, What’s the point of Christmas now that my Family is stuck in New Zealand and my boyfriend dumped me on last year on Christmas Eve. And don’t even get me started using Zoom on Christmas day”. Evelyn shouted.
Her words echoed through to Aunt Rose and Joel’s mind. Each hunched over like they had something to be sorry for. It was getting too much for Evelyn and she knew what she had to do. Run like the wind.
She slammed her door so hard the room shook, and a framed photo fell from the dresser. Smashed glass all over the floor. After picking up the pieces, all that remained was a broken wooden picture frame and a black and white photo lying on the cold hard laminate floor.
“God, I miss you Aunt Rose…I look at your photo every day, wishing you was really here”. Evelyn said crying into the picture. “But I am here kid, I’m here right now. Can’t you see”. Aunt Rose replied as she stood by the doorway.
“Not like this Aunt Rose. Not as a ghost but as a real human presence”. Evelyn yelled.
“Now you wait a minute, young lady. First of all, I’m not a ghost, but an Angel and second I’m as a real as it gets”. Aunt Rose screamed.
Evelyn smiled and a chuckle found its way into her heart. “Now, go downstairs and apologise to that nice young man and work together on this project. Hurry before he eats all of my candy on that tree”. Aunt Rose responded with the only way she knew how. With assertiveness and humour.
Working her way towards Joel, Evelyn thought that she didn’t have the courage to apologise, but after seeing a glimpse of Aunt Rose’s angry face. She knew she never wanted to double cross her, and she just had to do it.
“Apologies are often hard, so I get it”. Joel mumbled. If it wasn’t for my Aunt Rose, his arrogance would have placed Joel outside my house and on the blocked list for future events and interactions. Evelyn thought to herself.
She smiled and for the first time in a long time, it seemed Evelyn found an ally, a friend if you will in Joel to talk to and discuss her love of Christmas and her hates. And for a while, Evelyn felt free. Like the weight on her shoulders had been lifted for someone else to carry the heavy burdens of life.
Days went by and the deadline was finally approaching. Evelyn and Joel discovered a mutual interest in the joys of Christmas and the inspirations behind them. From inspirations in gift giving or people inspiring others from their actions or their positive beliefs and values. It dawned on Evelyn that collaborating with Joel meant she had a chance to get to know him better. Away from a work setting and into personal waters with him.
“I hope you two are ready for the presentation, the client is waiting inside”. Colin remarked.
“This is it! Everything we’ve been working so hard for. Remember Evelyn you, being just yourself, is what will push this deal forward. I doubt their going to be interested in the numbers side of things. But I’m sure a personal relationship, a personal touch will certainly get us there”. Joel expressed an excitement that Evelyn hadn’t seen before. It was almost as if this was a new person and she helped to get him there.
Walking into the boardroom felt scary, Evelyn had been through done these many times, but this time was different. The atmosphere was a lot more serious, and the tone was cold and isolating. For Evelyn feared walking into the unknown and this was no exception.
“Right then Miss Oaks and Mr Conners, please when you’re ready. Please tell us why the article of The real meaning of Christmas and the inspirations behind it would be great to feature in our magazine”. The client asked.
“Certainly”. Joel declared. He was strangely calm and content. For a busy body who is nosey with nothing better to do, this was unsettling to Evelyn.
Joel continued. “We found that this year is a difficult time for everyone, I’m sure we all hate this Coronavirus as much as that annoying colleague over there”. Everyone laughed and nodded heads. Was this normal? Am I dreaming? Evelyn questioned this interaction with uncertainty. It felt like high school over again. Is this too much, are we going into this way too heavy? she wondered.
“It’s thrown uncertainty over every life situation and cause havoc with people’s lives. But one thing we. Both Miss Oaks and I have discovered is the inspiration in this town is immeasurable. People have come together to help one another, to ensure everyone smiles not just for the day but for life. Now, especially in this year. Inspiration is no longer valid from finding and giving the best gift, it’s any finding any gift that matters even a 99 cent one. The best gift anyone can give this Christmas would be to make someone smile again”.
Joel was really selling this article like a Christmas cookie at a bakery. Evelyn thought. It was nice to see him in his element. It was nice to see him for who he is. A person with feelings who uses anger and spite as way to make himself feel better.
“And with this current situation, the inspiration to make this a Christmas to remember is everywhere. It’s on our doorstep when the mail man comes to visit, it’s in our coffee shops when people sit in silence wondering about the day, it’s also within us too. We can all be creative to help make Christmas a wonderful day to remember and to help someone smile again. It’s about family, love and the joys of it all but it’s also a time to remember those we lost too”. Evelyn said as she stood there smiling. Evelyn felt proud and for the first time in a very long time, Evelyn had a moment of peace. One she’d never experienced before, and she liked it.
“So, with our article. We can put a list of things to do in remembrance of someone they lost…”. Evelyn affirmed.
“…from lighting a candle and keeping them in our thoughts, to playing their favourite music and dancing around the house as a family, to even singing a song that makes them laugh. Mine is Under the Sea. From” Joel yelled in excitement.
“From The Little Mermaid, we get it thank you Joel”. Collin laughed.
“Looks like we got a smashing article to approve for this year’s Christmas special”. Said the Client.
“Thank you all, please wait outside while we decide”. Collin asked.
Waiting for the board of directors to approve an article felt like agony. Evelyn and Joel waited for hours, and hours and the day suddenly became night.
“Chinese or Steakhouse?” Joel asked Evelyn. “Just because we’re waiting, we still have to eat something”.
“Chinese. Can’t beat a good shrimp rice and Sweet and Sour chicken.” Evelyn replied. The two of them laughed and for those hours it seemed like time stood still endlessly.
Colin came out of the boardroom a little flustered and that bothered Evelyn. Especially since it reminded her of last summer.
“May I have a word Miss Oaks in my office?” Collin asked
“Of course,”. As soon as Collin closed the door, it seemed he couldn’t help himself but bring up the past again.
“Great piece Evelyn, I see that working with Joel did help you in the end. You two work well together”. Collin said.
“Listen, Collin continued. About last summer, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to kiss you and leave you in the wind”.
“Leave me in the wind, Evelyn shouted. You told me you love me, kissed me, and ran off. I didn’t hear from you or see you until a whole 6 months after on Christmas Eve”. Evelyn yelled as she slapped Collin’s face.
“You just left me. I waited for you for a long time. Then you texted me that you can’t do this anymore. How was I supposed to function? Evelyn said. She walked out and slammed the door. Standing there in the hallway, she took a deep breath as Joel stood up in shock.
“They’re waiting for us. They called us back in, but I said I’ll wait for you”. Joel and Evelyn walked into the boardroom with their heads held high. It seemed that the clients loved the article and for Evelyn, she knew she could be herself once again. For the journey was treacherous and dark, but with the help of her close and new friends. Evelyn saw a new beginning opening up for her and her career. One she was sure grateful for.
Holding her coffee mug, standing by the window. Evelyn saw a snowflake glisten in the sunlight and right there and then, Evelyn knew her Aunt Rose was behind her inspiration for this article. Giving Evelyn the closure she had been seeking for some time.
Feeling blissful, Evelyn stood there in awe of the blessings all around her. She finally felt accomplished and not to mention proud for everything she had worked incredibly hard for. This was Evelyn’s dream coming true right before her eyes and she was thankful.