Friday, December 25, 2020

Let it Snow, Chapter I


Willow. 

        “But I called last week!” 

Carl is having none of it. I’m tempted to pull a Karen here — make my best impression of aunt Tilly, raise hell on the large man behind the counter for daring disrupting my nonexistent plans, but when I fill my lungs, ready to unleash my inner beast, I can’t bring myself to do it.

But I could bribe him.

“It’s the holidays, m’am.” He shrugs, like he knows that calling me m’am will piss me off. I’m not m’am, my mom is! “I don’t have any cars available.”

I set down my high heeled foot like a spoiled 9 year old, hands splayed on the wooden counter. “But you said you did!”

“A week ago, I did.” Carl chuckles, unaffected. He’s finding this real funny, isn’t he?

But it’s not. Because this is the only car rental nearby, and unless I’m planning on riding a donkey to my hometown, I’m staying here. I’m spending the holidays with Carl and his family — supposing he has one, considering his cold, hardened heart.

“What about those?” I point beyond the glass windows at the cars parked along the lot, all very clearly available. “I’ll pay you more. I won’t even care if the seats aren’t leather.”

I won’t!

“They’re all booked,” he doesn’t even flinch.

I sigh, gripping the luggage handle that reaches my waist and probably weighs more than me, steering it closer. That poor donkey would have a hard time carrying me, that much I know. Maybe I would have it carry my bags and just pull the reins, looking for a place to stay the night until I must seek shelter in some good soul’s barn and have an immaculate conception — this could be a modern Jesus story, except that there’s no Joseph and certainly no pregnancy either. 

I don’t even know if we have donkeys around here.

I could cry. Not real tears, because I haven’t cried in years, but carefully planned, girl tears from the bottom of my frozen heart. Most sensible men can’t handle that — certainly not Carl from CARL RENTALS

I sniff, dabbing my nose with the sleeve of my Burberry coat — another proof that I’m not actually crying, because I wouldn’t risk getting snot all over it. But Carl doesn’t know that. With the corner of my eyes, I see him shooting me a curious look, but not much beyond that. 

Grab that phone, man! Call one of those people and say there was an issue with their rental car, I’m sure they can handle it! They’re not here, carrying bags their weight, wearing Louboutins, risking freezing to death in a lonely barn somewhere. They’re not desperate.

This brings a lump to my throat and it occurs to me that, like most real unfortunate events in my life, it’s all Isaac’s fault. He was the one who said we should only have one car —- we live in the city, babe, why do we need another one? What about the planet?

Well, if Isaac really cared about the planet, then he wouldn’t have left me because I couldn’t give him a baby. Jerk.

As I think of alternatives that sound just as unrealistic and painful as donkey riding, like calling dad and being stuck in a car for two hours having to talk about my love life, before the entirely fake tears streaming down my face touches Carl’s heart with the Christmas Spirit, the bell hanging above the door rings with a new customer.

This is my chance. Carl’s heart may be hardened, frozen, like the main character in an old Dickensian tale, but this person might not. I could bribe them instead.

I turn around on my heels, fully prepared to shoot the stranger my sob story, and–

And honestly, the whole donkey thing sounds a lot better. In fact, I feel the urge to hide behind my mountain of luggage and never ever get out. 

"Hey, Carl-" Nick greets the man behind the counter like they're old acquaintances before his eyes widen and lock on me, like a deer caught in headlights. "Will."

"Parker." I say lacking any warmth, turning away so that he doesn't notice the totally fake tears in my eyes. 

He gets to the counter, right next to me, talking to Carl like I’m not standing right here with clearly bigger issues. Wait in line, asshole. But I feel like somehow the owner of this humble store wouldn’t side with me on that. I look for my dad's new phone number as the engines turn my head and I try to look as unaffected as possible.

"Let me guess." Nick slides something over the counter, looking at me. "You didn't make a reservation."

Between gritted teeth, I almost bark. "I called."

Nick smiles that smug smile, like he knows better and I don't. It's annoying. Stop that.

"But you didn't make a reservation, did you?" 

I shrug. He's not getting it out of me.

"She didn't." Carl unhelpfully confirms his suspicion.

"Typical Willow."

I have no idea what he means by that, and I must assume it's bad. In the decades we've known each other, from our shared childhood in our shared lawn, Nicholas Parker, my oldest nemesis, has never complimented me. Not once. So I try to not give him the satisfaction of asking. 

With the phone pressed to my ear, ringing and ringing as dad probably does retired-old-man stuff and ignores me, I watch the interaction between both men as Carl slides two sets of keys in Nick's direction.

"Hey— why does he get to choose?" I protest, furiously ending the call. 

Carl raises an eyebrow, then nods at Nick. "Unless you can drive hand controls, sweetheart…"

Hand controls. Because Nicholas is sitting in a wheelchair and obviously can’t press any pedals with his feet, because as far as I know, they’re completely dead on that footplate. 

"I can drive a manual," I say.

Nick snickers into his fist. "Not the same thing." 

"I know it's not the same thing—" I glare at him before returning my pleading eyes to the other man. Do they think I'm stupid? "But how hard can it be? It's barely driving without your feet involved. I’m sure I could do it."

They’re both staring at me like I’ve lost my mind. 

M’am–”

Nicholas grabs one of the keys off the counter and moves his wheels so that he spins around.

"Yeah, Carl, let her do it." He narrows his eyes in challenge, an evil gleam behind his lashes. "It's barely driving, after all."

The bell rings again when he leaves. 

It's just me and Carl. Carlito. The man who could save Christmas.

He shakes his head and shrugs.

I storm out.

I hoist my gigantic luggage into the trunk. I could use some help, but Nick is inside already and he makes no motion to help me. I don’t know if he can, but if he could, he wouldn’t. Not me. That’s just Nick.

Typical Nick.

When I catch a glimpse of his face on the side mirror, he’s grinning. Like my misery is amusing. Like he's so much smarter than me for bringing a single duffle bag.

Thump!

He startles when I loudly shut down the trunk. Carl would give me grief over it, but I hold no sympathy for the man as walk to the passenger side and slide into the seat. Nick’s wheelchair is broken down into pieces in the backseat, and he didn’t ask me for help with that.

“Did you manage to fit everything back there?” He asks me.

I stare at him. “No, I’m leaving Carl my underwear bag as a thank-you-for-nothing gift.”

“See, this isn’t as funny as you think, because you’re the kind of person who would have a underwear bag.”

He isn’t wrong.

“I don’t use underwear, Nick. I don’t wear anything.”

I don’t look at him to make sure he’s looking flushed and uncomfortable, just because I wanna keep the illusion that he is, instead of chuckling at my expense.

“I’m rescuing you, not driving you to the slaughterhouse.” He starts the car, blissfully unaware that it’s exactly what he’s doing; imagine being single during family christmas time. I’ll be dinner. Nick pulls a lever next to the steering wheel — I could totally do that. “It’s so–”

Typical Willow?” I roll my eyes, facing him.

Nick smiles and nods.

“The most spiteful person I know.”

And this is so Typical Nick, thinking he knows me better than I do, saying it like it’s unreasonable for me to hate his guts.

“I’m not spiteful. I’m vindictive,” I tell him. “After all, you killed my dog.”


14 comments:

  1. Yeeeeeessss---enemies to lovers is super satisfying. What a delightful christmas gift! Can't wait for Nick to turn into Saint Nick. <3

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    1. I'm a sucker for the trope as well!!! I hope it lives up to the expectations. Thank you!

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  2. Ahhh Caterina, thank you for sharing. Love this! Kudos!

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  3. Thanks, Caterina, what a nice surprise!! You made me happy. Can't wait to read more.

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    1. This story makes me happy too haha I'll hopefully be posting the chapters every couple of days.

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  4. Oooooh I'm so happy and already turned on !
    Thx for sharing this new chapter with us, cannot wait to read the next one ( very soon I hope ? )

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  5. A great start, thank you very much! Can't wait for more!

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  6. Love the first chapter. Looking forward to more!

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  7. Thank you for this, loved it!

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  8. Que maravilhoso. Eu já tava morrendo de saudades de vc !!
    Mal posso esperar por mais..

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