This month, in honor of the Christmas season, we did something new for our Free Short Story -- A Round Robin written by YOU our readers! It was great fun, and thanks to everyone who participated.
Part One (by Judy Thomas):
Noelle Henderson placed the last Christmas tree cookie on the baking sheet and sighed. She still couldn’t believe she had promised her neighbor twelve dozen Christmas cookies for her civic club’s annual bake sale. She must have been out of her mind. Either that or the eggnog Mrs. Chambers had served her that day had gone straight to her head.
As far as Noelle was concerned, if this Christmas season were to disappear overnight she wouldn’t miss it at all. What kind of Christmas would it be anyway? Her parents had decided now that the kids were grown they would take themselves a cruise. Her brothers and sisters were all spending Christmas at their respective in-laws. Sure, they had invited her to go along, but who wanted to be an extra at a family gathering? So, she’d made up a story about going skiing with friends from college.
The obligatory present shopping was done and sent out. The Christmas cards sat dutifully on the desk, stamped and waiting to be taken to the post office. But Noelle’s heart…for the first time in her life she was not looking forward to Christmas.
The timer beeped and Noelle turned to switch the cookie sheets. Too late she realized that in her preoccupation she had forgotten to pick up the oven mitt. Tears came to her eyes and a yelp from her voice as the heat from the metal pan penetrated her skin.
Her heart raced as she watched the skin bubble almost instantly. Being a hand model may not be making her rich, but it sure paid the bills. Thank God the new walk-in clinic had opened just down the street.
Part Two (submitted by Dru):
Hand wrapped in bloody gauze, Noelle rushed to the clinic and told the receptionist what happened. The receptionist directed her to a seat in the waiting room. Noelle sighed and prayed her hand wasn’t permanently damaged. She didn't know what she would do if she couldn't be a hand model.
Her hand wasn’t hurting so badly that she didn’t notice when a nice looking man walked into the ER. Her gaze went up and down his body. He glanced her way, and her face heated at his grin. She hurriedly averted her gaze, but sneaked another peek a moment later. He raised one eyebrow while he scanned the crowd in the waiting room. He talked briefly with the receptionist and was immediately sent to the back. He must be someone important, she thought. Too bad he hadn't needed to wait. The only open set in the waiting room was near her.
Finally, the nurse called Noelle to the back, too her blood pressure and then told her the doctor would be in soon. Noelle was still fantasizing about the man she had seen in the waiting room when the doctor entered the cubicle. Noelle’s eyes all but popped out of her head when she saw he was the man she'd just been thinking of. She grinned and couldn’t coax a word out of her mouth to tell him why she was there.
“Hi, Noelle, I’m Doctor Chris Jenkins; let's see what you did.”
“I, I, burnt my hand baking Christmas cookies”, she stuttered.
Dr Jenkins grinned, took her hand and gently administered first aid care. After giving her a prescription, he told her to call the clinic if the pain didn’t get better in a reasonable amount of time.
Noelle stepped outside, started walking and then stopped with a grin. She dug out the prescription form the doctor had given her, dialed the number on top and asked to speak to Dr Jenkins.
Part Three (submitted by Sarita Leone)
"Hello. Mayville Clinic, Dr. Jenkins speaking. How may I help you?" The voice was as smooth and warm as butter melting over a hot biscuit. Noelle shivered, her nipples tightening beneath her bulky sweater, as snow began to fall. Cradling her bandaged hand to her chest, she considered hanging up. Her finger hovered over the disconnect button but just as she was about to bring it down he spoke again. "Hello? May I help you? Are you unable to speak?"
Damn. What had possessed her to do this? Why wasn't she slow and steady like her sister? Why did she have to be the impulsive one?
"Um, h-hello." Brilliant, Noelle thought. Had she possessed a third hand she would have used it to smack herself in the head.
"Oh, good. You can communicate. What can I do for you?"
Noelle snorted, smiling. What can you do for me, doc? So many things...let me count the ways I could find to fill your days--and nights.
"Hello? Who is this?"
Noelle shook the snowflakes from her hair and took the plunge. "It's um, me, Doctor. Noelle Henderson. You just bandaged my hand, remember?"
The chuckle, deep and throaty, brought a new round of tingling to Noelle's body. She nearly forgot the throbbing in her hand as she listened to the handsome doctor's words. "Of course I remember you. You just left my clinic, didn't you?"
"Right, I did. I, um, didn't expect you to answer the phone personally."
"You were hoping to speak to Gladys, then? She left right after you did but I'm pretty sure she's still in the back parking lot. I can try and catch her if you want--"
"No!" Noelle clutched the cell against her ear, blowing away a snowflake tickling her nose. "I don't want Gladys. I wanted..."
He chuckled a second time. "You wanted?..."
Noelle took a deep breath. "I wanted...you. I, um, well...you see I find I'm in possession of a large batch of freshly baked cookies and I'm sort of...well, sort of short-handed right now. You said to call if I need anything. Um, would you be interested in coffee and cookies, and maybe helping me package up the cookies for the bake sale?"
Part Four by Laura Shaheed:
Noelle couldn't believe she'd just blurted that out.
My God, she thought. He must think I'm a blithering idiot!
But to her amazement, he said, "Hmmm, that's an interesting offer. Since I opened this clinic with my partner, we've been alternating holidays. As luck would have it. I'm on for Christmas and wrapping cookies doesn't sound like such an awful task."
Still in shock, Noelle made arrangements with Dr. Jenkins, who was now Jonathan. Since the clinic closed early tonight, he was going to stop by her house around six o'clock and they could start packaging the Christmas cookies.
Noelle practically floated down the sidewalk. The throbbing in her hand was soon replaced by the throbbing in her heart. She thought how her mother would have fainted at the thought of her daughter being so forward!
She raced home to put the finishing touches on her preparations. She completed the final batch of cookies and then sped through the house to tidy it up for her special guest. The house had the sweet aroma and warmth that comes from the smell of fresh baked cookies.
Jonathan arrived promptly at six, fresh from a full day at the clinic. He may have been tired, but to Noelle he was the most breathtaking vision she could imagine.
He came in and handed her his coat and hat. "So, where do we begin?"
For some reason she blushed; was it what he said, or the way he looked at her when he said it?
Noelle led him into the kitchen and showed him the cookies she had laid out on the counter along with trays and cellophane wrap and ribbons. They stood side-by-side on a short assembly line getting every thing packaged.
Noelle was thrilled at how well the chatted with each other, no hesitation, just a smooth, seamless flow of conversation. She felt as if she'd know him for years and he seemed to feel the same. But of course there was the unanswered question. Was he seeing anyone? He wore no ring so she had assumed he wasn't married, but there could be other involvements.
As if he read her mind, he said, "I hope you're not seeing anyone, because I'd like to see you again, without any manual labor involved."
Noelle could not believe her ears. This man who was not only gorgeous, but a really nice down to earth person, was asking her out. Of course, she had taken the first step, but who cared?
Not knowing exactly how to respond, Noelle smiled and said, "I wasn't before, but I am now!" Jonathan swept Noelle into his arms. "Thank God for alternating holidays!"