The Christmas Room ~ Chapter One
Here's a new little writing project I've been working on. Hope you enjoy Ellie's adventures in this new holiday novella, "The Christmas Room.
Perhaps the greatest fault of clutter is its insistence upon collecting dust. Ellie swept the shelf-full of knickknacks, toys, dolls, colorful stacking boxes, and mangy-haired dolls into a dingy cardboard box she’d brought from the office, while holding in a sneeze. These items would be packed up and stored in the garage. These items do not sell a house. Clean-cut lines, shiny place settings, crisp drapes and flooring, and fresh paint would sell a house, and Ellie knew it. Her job at Grand Market Real Estate was to make sure their listings booked it off the market. Toys did not sell homes; toys did not bring in buyers. Ellie brought in buyers.
“Pam, I’m going to need a new chair for this room,” Ellie called to the brunette in the next room, setting down the box in the corner next to the door. She wiped her hands against each other, feeling the nit and grit grinding upon her palms. “And a tube of cleaning wipes.”
“Make that two chairs,” Pam replied, holding up her list, “Because I hear the rules of feng shui have updated to include even numbers.”
“I think you’re wrong about that.” Ellie’s smile lit up a laugh in her jingling voice. “How about you look up ‘revised ancient rules of organization from Japanese culture,’ on the interwebs and see what you find.”
“Tsk!” Pam chided. “I saw it in an article yesterday.”
“On what blog?”
“It was in the Current.”
“You know the Current is not current.”
“Well then you tell me this room doesn’t need a matching chair.”
“Fine,” Ellie gave in. “In the name of matching’s sake.”
“And my obsessive compulsion.”
Pam’s white linen pants swished as she emerged from the second bedroom, her brown leather purse bumping against her leg. “I’m assessing the bathrooms next. You want the Master or the third bedroom?”
“The bedroom.” Ellie leaned over the marble slab counter, gazing at the sketch before her. The white-blonde side French braid swept over her shoulder, its curled edges tickling her cheek. “My kitchen is about ready.”
Ellie’s phone buzzed just as Pam’s curly hair bobbed around her nodding confirmation, and Ellie flipped over the black device as it went to voicemail. Ellie sighed, letting the breath whisk out of her mouth as a round, “O,” as if to complain, “Oh, why is he calling now?”
“Hey, Kiddo, it’s Dad. Wanted to check in with you to see if everything is alright with you. Look, hon, I hate to call early in the morning; I know you’re at work. I’d rather talk to you in person. Your mom’s dad isn’t doing so well. When we went to visit him last night, the—well, hon—the doctor doesn’t think he has much longer. Please call me back when you get a chance. I hope you’re having a good time with those houses. We’re both proud of you. Um. Hope you can call soon, hon. Talk to you then.”
Back at the office, Ellie plucked at the various keys on her laptop keyboard, setting up the inventory request forms like usual. Her desk towered with massive piles of folders, papers, wallpaper sample books, paint chip samples, three to-go cups of coffee, a large open-lidded box of pens, and one solar-paneled bobbling Hawaiian doll dancing an endless hula. Aunt Kay sent one every holiday and Ellie kept the latest on her desk, the others filling the kitchen windowsill. She allowed herself one cluttered space at home, because the dancing figurines reminded her of the sun’s warmth, even when she couldn’t see past the clouds. But just the one. Her office was another story. The room needed all the sunshine it could get, as the dreary October days seemed to settle layer by layer over the small town, one gray sheet of clouds at a time, until the light and warmth squelched out under everyone’s plastic rain boots.
“Ellie, have you seen the order from Sherlin’s Paint?” Greg stuck his head around the corner in the hall.
“Nope. No deliveries from Sherlin’s yet this week.”
“Keep an eye out.”
Because her desk sat in the front room of their converted house/real estate office, Ellie often shared the receptionist’s tasks. Ellie knew she stood a mere step above Marla on the ladder, because she’d started off doing the exact same thing, and had only worked into her new position after bartering personal office space for a pay raise. Greg gave few handouts, unless a prospective client needed a pen, and even then he’d add a supply fee in the final round of paperwork. But Greg knew good when he saw it, and Ellie exuded results. He even provided the desk for her.
“Ellie, you’ve got a call on line two,” Marla stated, pressing a button on the body of the phone and replacing the receiver. “Said it’s Walt.”
“Okay,” Ellie murmured, closing her eyes. Dad never called. And absolutely never twice in one day. Heaving in a breath, she prepared for news. Grabbing her handset, she fixed a smile on her lips. The listener can hear it, after all. “Hey, Dad.”
“Sorry I hadn’t called back yet. It’s been so crazy today.”
“I’m sure. I didn’t want to bug you, either, but I needed to get hold of you.”
“That’s why I’m calling, Ellie. He’s not doing well. He wants to see you, asked specifically for you.”
“I’ll try to get up there after I get off work this afternoon.”
“Dad.” Ellie lowered her voice, glancing over at Marla, and then buried her face against her shoulder. “I am on a tight deadline right now. The office needs me and I cannot spare a moment before we close.”
“Ellie, I’m afraid you’re going to regret waiting. Life doesn’t wait for your work schedule.”
“It has to today. I’m sorry.”
Walt held his breath, absorbing the news, before clearing his throat. “Good, then. I’ll tell your mom you’ll be here as soon as you possibly can. We appreciate it. See you soon, hon.” He tapped the ‘end’ button, finalizing the phone call, just as the heart monitor inside the room behind him flat-lined. A stout, searing wail of an alert rang from the bedside device and several nurses rushed in.
Walt grimaced, his forehead furrowing, and he took the few steps to stand in the doorway. Meryl sat next to her father, holding his hand, her eyes fixed on his blank stare facing the ceiling. Meryl’s head lowered and Walt strode over to her, placing his warm, weathered hands on her shoulders. His hands squeezed, offering whatever hope or peace they could, knowing the lives of his family would change forever. If only he knew how much.
**** Stay tuned for Chapter 2! ****
Feel free to share with a friend who needs a happy holiday story. Have yourself a merry little Christmas, friends.
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