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AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is my submission for the Winter Holidays Contest. Hope you enjoy the story, and please be sure to vote! Happy Holidays!
Winter came early to the bustling town of Kirby. And with the bracing cold came the arrival of another Christmas season filled with enchantment and joy, good food and goodwill. The snow covered downtown streets were vibrant with many colored lights, garlands, and shoppers in search of the perfect gift. The frosty air brought with it hints of pine and hot chocolate, inspiring feelings of peace and comfort.
It was late afternoon, and as the already feeble December sunlight quickly waned, another light snow began to gently fall. Adeline paused to gaze past the two mannequins standing in the large shop window and sighed. The snow tumbled from the pale gray sky in huge downy flakes, coating the naked trees and slushy streets in a fresh blanket of sparkling white.
Adeline was a very pretty but ordinary young lady. When she was a senior in high school, she was hired as a sales assistant at Lundin’s Fashions and has been there ever since. Her boss, Mrs. Lundin, appreciated her industrious attitude and thoughtful personality even if she always seemed a bit awkward and shy around the customers. And as much as she hated to admit it, Adeline was full of dreams and easily distracted. The advent of the late afternoon snowfall did little to help the situation.
“Damn, just what I need…” Mrs. Lundin muttered sarcastically. She just started wrapping a customer’s purchase when she realized they were out of tape. Luckily, Mrs. Ransome told her that she had some other shopping to do so she wouldn’t be by to pick up her package until closing. “Adeline, would you mind watching things ’til I get back? I need to hop over to Hedlin’s for some tape.”
“Sure no problem.” Adeline softly replied. Her eyes were still glued to the winter wonderland outside. “Looks like the snow’s coming down pretty heavy.”
Mrs. Lundin grabbed her hat and coat from the back and in seconds, she was out the door. Adeline turned away from the window and pretended to straighten a few racks. “It’s just you and me, Ivy.” She said. “Think we can handle the late afternoon rush?”
Ivy replied with a silent conspiratorial kind of smile while Adeline burst out in a fit of girlish laughter.
Adeline couldn’t really remember a friend before Ivy came along. There were plenty of times in her 20 years of life when she’d made acquaintances at school with this girl or that, but often the beginnings of friendship were quickly snuffed out because she and her mother moved on to the next town and the next school. But all that was behind her now. Adeline’s mother died shortly after she graduated, and since then, she chose to stay in Kirby.
Ivy came to work in Mrs. Lundin’s shop to help sell the new Sutcliffe line that arrived during the summer. Ivy was brought in as temporary help, but her captivating presence and lovely smile endeared herself to the customers so Mrs. Lundin insisted on keeping her around. Besides that, Ivy seemed to keep Adeline happy and motivated so the matter was settled.
When Adeline met Ivy, she was spellbound by her appearance. She was quite slender and tall with chin length wavy hair. Adeline guessed Ivy was around the same age as her though she never asked. Mrs. Lundin had given Ivy a stunning new Sutcliffe print dress with a matching belt to wear on her first day of work. A pair of pearlescent earrings completed the new girl’s look. From that moment, Adeline knew they’d become fast friends.
Later that same afternoon, when the store was empty of customers and Mrs. Lundin had gone into the back room for a short nap, Adeline smiled in Ivy’s direction. “I see you really have a way with the customers.” She observed. “I wish I was as good at selling as you, especially with old Mrs. Victor. Her first name’s Maud—she hates it and I don’t blame her—and she’s just so…picky!”
Ivy replied with a knowing smile. Her dark eyes were soulful and distant.
Adeline patted her arm. “Still, you’re a fantastic saleswoman, you really are!” She sighed. “You’re a natural, but I wish you weren’t so shy…”
Although Ivy wasn’t much for words, the two young women made a connection right from the start. Since then, Adeline and Ivy shared all their moments during work, lunch breaks, and even after the shop closed each evening at 6. Twice last month, Adeline spent a few hours with Ivy in the back folding clothes and talking. Over time, Adeline learned a kind of liveliness she’d never experienced before. And there was such freedom in being in each other’s company, she’d never (even for an instant) hesitated to speak.
One time Adeline told Ivy all about her grandmother: “I don’t think about it anymore, but I don’t mind telling you.” She said. “Mrs. Lundin is nice and all, but you’re my real friend. My mom was a professor of Anthropology—that was why we moved around so much. She taught classes over at Clayton College for the last year and a half before she died. eryaman escort That’s how we ended up in Kirby. Anyway, my grandma was an archaeologist, and when I was little, we used to travel all over the world…”
Ivy grinned and listened while Adeline told her about the places she’d been to with her mother and grandmother. Ivy never questioned whether any of Adeline’s stories were true or not. It didn’t seem to matter much to her. She seemed perfectly happy just sharing memories of past adventures. Ivy was like a mirror where Adeline saw the reflection of her true self. Ivy kept the image steady.
So the months leading from summer to fall and finally winter were interesting and fun. But now it was the day before Christmas Eve and the shop would be closing in an hour or so. Now Adeline began to wonder where Ivy would spend Christmas. The dark haired beauty was single; she never spoke of having any family or friends besides Adeline. But since that first day when Mrs. Lundin introduced her, Ivy seemed so poised and self-assured as if she had little need for anything besides Adeline’s company and the clothes on her back.
Adeline wanted Ivy to spend Christmas with her. She was sure her friend would agree but she struggled with just how she’d broach the topic.
“I’m going in the back for a few minutes, Ivy. Since we’re not busy right now, I might as well organize a few things ’til Mrs. Lundin gets back. Let me know if anyone comes in.”
Adeline’s cheeks suddenly felt hot. Ivy issued no reply as her friend headed to the back room. Adeline peered through the doorway and watched for a few seconds as Ivy stood near the cash wrap. Good, the lovely young woman thought as she retreated from the doorway and sat in a nearby chair to think. She’s busy watching the snowfall. Not much else to do anyway.
As she sat, Adeline focused her thoughts on Ivy, and although the dark haired beauty didn’t seem to mind the idea of spending Christmas alone, Adeline refused to entertain such a preposterous notion. Several times Mrs. Lundin told Adeline that she was welcome to have Christmas dinner with her family, but the lovely young woman politely refused. She told Mrs. Lundin she’d already planned on spending Christmas with someone special. Not wanting to pry, the older woman shrugged and told her if she changed her mind, she was always welcome.
Adeline was overwhelmed by the generosity of her boss, and she threw her arms around the woman’s shoulders. “Thanks, Mrs. Lundin, but it’s okay—really!” She said. “I have a lot planned for tomorrow after we close. Besides, I need time to wrap gifts…”
Adeline’s cheeks grew hotter at this pack of lies. She didn’t need to wrap any gifts and Mrs. Lundin knew it. Mercifully, the older woman said nothing and proceeded to greet the trio of ladies who stepped in from the cold and started browsing a rack of sweaters.
A gift: Adeline wanted to give Ivy something special for Christmas, but what? Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. She figured most of the stores in town would be picked over by now. And she wasn’t sure if she could find anything Ivy would consider special besides dinner and each other’s company.
A peal of dulcet chimes derailed Adeline’s present train of thought. A sudden blast of frigid air whipped around the clothing racks as the front door opened and closed. Mrs. Lundin was back.
“What’re you doing all alone, Ivy?” The older woman asked. “I hope Mrs. Ransome hasn’t returned before I’ve had a chance to finish wrapping her package.”
“No she hasn’t, Mrs. Lundin.” Adeline sprang from the back doorway like a jack-in-the-box. “It’s just been Ivy and me—wow…” Adeline’s eyes widened in shock at the sight of her boss.
“Good.” The older woman replied. She removed her hat and shook the generous dusting of snow from her shoulders before peeling her coat off and setting it behind the cash wrap counter alongside her hat. “Snow’s getting pretty bad out there.”
“Sure looks like it.” Adeline replied. Twilight quickly fell over the snow covered street outside. Strings of multi-colored lights twinkled hypnotically around the entrance of the five-and-dime across the street. A sudden gust of wind stirred up newly formed drifts of snow, and from this the vague figure of a well-heeled woman emerged. She trudged through the whiteout and paused at the front door of Lundin’s Fashions before coming inside.
“Good Lord, a person’s liable to be blown away out there!”
“Well, can’t say there won’t be any white Christmas this year.” Mrs. Lundin quipped as she stood behind the counter and finished wrapping Mrs. Ransome’s package. “I’ll just be a minute with your package, Mrs. Ransome, and then you can be on your way home.”
Mrs. Ransome replied with a smile. “Hello, Ivy.” She said to the smiling dark haired beauty. “Looks like you’re enjoying the snowfall…”
“Sure, she and Adeline didn’t have to go out in it.” Mrs. Lundin said with a whiff of faux irritation in her voice. “I ran out of tape just after you left to finish up elvankent escort your shopping. Had to run over to Hedlin’s and suddenly there was a blizzard!”
“Boy, I sure could go for a hot toddy…” Mrs. Ransome mused as she stared out the window.
“All set, Mrs. Ransome.” Mrs. Lundin presented her customer with a large bag containing her package. “I figure the bag will keep things nice and dry on the way to your car.”
Mrs. Ransome thanked Mrs. Lundin and wished them all a Merry Christmas. In seconds, the woman stepped outside and disappeared into the snowstorm. Ivy continued to quietly gaze at the steadily falling snow and Adeline joined her.
“It’s going to be rough driving through all that even if the roads aren’t very busy.”
Adeline heard a sort of wistful sigh beside her. Ivy’s gaze seemed distant, and the falling snow reflected sparkles in her eyes. Mrs. Lundin emerged from behind the cash wrap. She went to the door and switched the ‘open’ sign to ‘closed,’ before locking it.
“You know I think we might as well close a little early today.” The older woman said. “You and Ivy can keep staring at the snow if you like, but I’m heading home!”
It took nearly an hour to drive home through the snow and ice-slickened streets. Adeline lived in an apartment over Coit’s Foodland, a grocery store on the other side of town. The apartment was small with one bedroom, but it came already furnished. The walls were a little dingy and the couch was threadbare. Adeline meant to buy a few things to spruce the place up when she first moved in, but somehow she never got around to it. Since her mother’s death, she decided it was best to stay busy working. And since Ivy started working in Mrs. Lundin’s shop, she’d forgotten how bleak her apartment looked.
Adeline took a hot shower before slipping on a nightgown and robe and then she sat down to a light supper. As she finished the last of her soup, a sudden burst of inspiration struck. The lovely young woman went to the bedroom and searched through her dresser drawers. The stores may be picked over by now, but Adeline knew just what she wanted to give to her beautiful friend and colleague. Like Ivy, the gift was perfect and one-of-a-kind. Tucked safely in a box in the bottom drawer was a necklace given to Adeline many years ago. It was a gift from her grandmother.
Adeline carefully opened the aged wood box with ivory inlay. The necklace consisted of a delicate gold chain strung with blue sea glass and Egyptian faience. She wasn’t sure of its age (her grandmother never told her), but she knew that it was found near the ancient city of Herculaneum and it was likely thousands of years old.
Adeline gazed for a minute or so at the small glass beads and tried to picture the original owner as she shed her robe. Perhaps it belonged to an Etruscan beauty or a young Roman noblewoman like the ones she saw depicted in an old mosaic panel when she was a kid. She held the dainty piece of jewelry aloft for a second before putting it on. The necklace, though simple, looked stunning!
Adeline was a classic beauty, innocent and disarming. The necklace stood out against her flawless fair skin. Her soft shoulder length hair fell in dark lustrous waves, and her eyes were equally dark and penetrating. She was the spitting image of her mother, and to this day, she was sometimes mistaken for her. A lone tear glimmered in the corner of the young woman’s eye. She blinked as she felt its familiar sting. Then with some reluctance she took the necklace off and placed it back in its box.
“She’ll love it!” Adeline muttered softly.
On Christmas Eve, the eerie sound of Old Man Winter was loud and clear. Adeline arrived early to work. Ivy was already there and Mrs. Lundin brought hot cocoa and mincemeat pie. For the customers, there was an assortment of Christmas cookies and homemade fudge, but so far only a few braved the weather to browse the shop.
Adeline stared past the mannequins in the front window at the raging blizzard outside. The snowfall seemed heavier and more brutal than yesterday. The lovely young woman watched the sidewalks and streets disappear while many colored lights twinkled hypnotically in the silvery swirling vortex.
“Gracious I’ve never seen so much snow in my life, Adeline, have you?”
“No. But then mom and I never stayed in one place long enough to tell. Two years was the longest I think.”
Mrs. Lundin seemed to ignore Adeline’s reply. “Sure seems like Kirby’s gonna make it into the world records for snow this year!”
An hour or so later it seemed Mrs. Lundin had enough. “I’ve only seen a few people across the street and we haven’t had a single customer in the last few hours. People staying inside for Christmas Eve, I can’t blame them. Maybe we ought to just close…”
“Why don’t you go on home, Mrs. Lundin?” Adeline suggested. “I’ve got a few things to straighten up in back and then I’ll lock up.”
“You sure you’ll be okay?” The older woman asked, emek escort and then she saw Ivy standing there behind Adeline. She was smiling as usual. Mrs. Lundin rolled her eyes and sighed. “Well okay. If you two think you got everything…”
“Of course we do.” Adeline assured her boss. Mrs. Lundin reluctantly put on her hat and coat and headed for the back door. “Don’t worry about a thing! Have a Merry Christmas!”
Adeline waited for several minutes after she was sure Mrs. Lundin was gone. She led Ivy into the back room and then returned to the front of the shop to lock the front door and turn out the lights. At long last the two of them were alone!
Next to the tiny washroom stood a table where Mrs. Lundin left the rest of the cocoa and mincemeat pie. “Want a piece?” Adeline offered her friend as she cut a piece for herself. “Guess you’re trying to watch your figure…”
Ivy had no need to worry about calories. The statuesque young woman was quite svelte. Adeline bit into a forkful of pie and paused. Their eyes met, and for a moment or two, the world stopped turning. In an instant Adeline’s heart was pounding furiously in her ears.
Ivy looked stunning in her simple cashmere sweater. It was an ethereal shade of blue, evocative of winter, with short sleeves. A gorgeous A-line skirt with crisp petticoat and natty heels completed her ensemble. But something was missing. Adeline quickly finished eating and retrieved her coat.
“Maybe when the snow lets up we could drive over to my place.” From the side pocket, Adeline produced a slender wood box with intricate ivory inlay. She held it out to her friend who smiled brightly. “But first I want to give you this. I saw it last night and I thought it would look perfect on you. My grandmother gave it to me, but it doesn’t really go with anything I wear.”
A wide grin lit up the lovely features of Ivy’s face as she watched her friend carefully revealing the contents of the box. “Isn’t it beautiful?” Adeline remarked as she held the necklace up to the light. “The blue goes so well with your sweater!”
Adeline fastened the delicate piece of jewelry around Ivy’s slender neck and brought her friend to the mirror that was above the washroom sink. From Adeline’s perspective, no woman could have looked as beguiling or as beautiful as Ivy did in that moment. For a second or two, one could almost hear a pin drop somewhere in the jumbles of boxes and empty clothing racks as Adeline watched her friend hesitantly touching the small blue beads.
The necklace, that quixotic gift from Adeline’s grandmother moved Ivy to speak: “Th—thank you…Adeline…” She stammered. The young woman’s voice was haunting, with a soft lilt. She seemed to have difficulty forming her next words. “I—want…” She started and then sighed in apparent frustration. “I too…have—a gift…”
Adeline retreated back a few steps as Ivy turned to face her. “Well I thought that later on we’d go to my place for dinner or something, but…I wasn’t really expecting you to get me anything…”
There, in the far dark corner near an old display case was a bed, more empty racks, and a small side table. Mrs. Lundin often came back here for short naps whenever the urge struck her. Ivy nudged her friend in this general direction.
“I—I want to…just us…” She stammered; her voice was low and sultry. A sudden rush of heat bloomed in Adeline’s cheeks when she realized what Ivy was suggesting.
“Ivy, maybe we should just go to my place to…I’ve—I’ve never done anything like this before…”
Adeline shuddered as her gaze locked with Ivy’s, and seconds later, reality was upon them as their lips slowly met. The lovely young woman suddenly tensed up, and they broke their kiss.
“It—It’s okay, Adeline,” Ivy softly whispered. “We shall go—go slow…okay?”
Adeline replied with a silent nod, and with a tender caress, Ivy backed away and began to undress her friend. Adeline was completely stunned. She stood completely still, as though she was afraid to move while the dark haired beauty fumbled with the front of her dress. Before she knew what was happening, Adeline’s dress fell in a crumpled pool on the floor around her feet. Slowly, she slipped her stockings and shoes off and stood before Ivy in nothing but her panties and bra. The young woman shivered noticeably.
“You…okay?” Ivy whispered in her ear. Adeline barely nodded, issuing no reply. She stared down at the tops of her bare feet. “You want…to stop?” Ivy stammered.
Ivy expelled a loud sigh of relief, and then she began to struggle, not very gracefully, to pull off first her sweater and then her skirt and petticoat which she discarded in gossamer heap next to the rest of her clothes. Adeline’s eyes widened at the sight of her friend’s breasts. They were perky and plump with delicate pink areolas. The rosy tips of her nipples were already quite stiff, although it could’ve been due to the temperature.
Ivy drew Adeline into her embrace once more and they kissed, but this time she felt Ivy’s fingertips gliding across her bare skin. It was like nothing she’d ever felt before in her life! Ivy’s fingers stopped on the clasp of Adeline’s bra. In seconds, the undergarment loosened, and Adeline shrugged the thing off so that her bare breasts were pressing against her lover’s.
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