I just finished going through my edits for A Little White Christmas Lie. I'd forgotten how much I love this story. The first fifty pages were published last year in the Authors of Main Street boxed set. I had planned on finishing it before Christmas...of 2015. And poof, just like that, we're edging in on the holidays of 2016. This story, a novella, is finally finished. I'll publish it in a few days.
The following scene is one of my favorites. My amazing editor, Susan Hughes, liked it as well. So, I thought I'd share.
An Excerpt from Chapter Three, A Little White Christmas Lie
Millie woke to find a small face peering at her. Again.
“Oh good, you’re awake. Now we can play.” This child was obviously one of the pigtail team. She had dirty blond hair, blue eyes, a mishmash of teeth crying out for braces, and a scattering of freckles across her nose. She sat just inches away from Millie and held a pair of plastic horses in her hands.
“You can have Lancelot.” She put the darker horse down beside Millie’s hand. “I get Guinevere. I don’t like him as much as I like Guinevere, because he’s a boy, but he is bigger, so there’s that. Besides, you might like boys, seeing as how you like Uncle Car and all. Not that I don’t like Uncle Car. I do. I really do. Did you know that we’re both named after Grandpa Carter?” She leaned closer, as if to whisper. “But he’s still a boy, and boys are gross.”
Millie tried to process this onslaught of conversation despite her aching head. She pushed herself onto her elbows and looked around, reminding herself of where she was and why she was here with this child.
“What’s your name?” Millie asked.
“Char. It’s really Charlotte, but no one calls me that. Last week I tried to get everyone to call me Lottie but no one ever did, even though I reminded them like a million times. But then Zach, he goes to my school, started calling me the Lottery, and then I decided Char was better after all. It’s just Lottie sounds more fun, don’t you think?” She didn’t wait for Millie to answer. “Boys are so gross, right?” She stopped herself. “Except for Uncle Car. But we already stabilized that.”
Millie wished a few other things could be stabilized.
Char bounced her horse across the blanket. “When are you and Uncle Car getting married? Do you think I could be a flower girl?”
Millie opened her mouth, but couldn’t find the right words. But her words weren’t necessary.
“Mom says it’s about time Uncle Car settled himself down with someone. She said that all he cares about is money and cars.” The horse bounded across the bed and up the pillow. “Makes sense, though. He is named Uncle Car. If Granny wanted him to be interested in babies, he would’ve had to be called Uncle Baby, and you’d get beat up with a name like that in third grade.”
“Are you in third grade?” Millie asked, her head swimming.
Char nodded. “No one ever picks on me, though, on account of Lester.”
“The monster that lives with me.”
“You have a monster?”
“I think everyone should have a monster, don’t you?”
“I have a cat,” Millie told her. “He’s not very monstrous.”
Footsteps sounded up the stairs. A woman with blond hair and blue eyes that matched her daughter’s paused in the open doorway. Millie recognized her from the hospital.
“You must be Emily, Carson’s sister,” Millie said.
The woman nodded and motioned for Char to join her. “Is she bothering you? I don’t know how she found you.”
“We’re staying in the basement.” Char emphasized the last word, making it sound comparable to a dungeon. She picked up both horses and scrambled off the bed. “Cuz Great-Granny let out all the other rooms to guests.” She tugged on the hem of her mom’s sweater. “I liked it better when Great-Granny thought we were the guests. Why does she think all these other people are more important than us?”
“Hush,” Emily said, smoothing down her daughter’s hair. “Millie doesn’t want to hear about the basement.”
“Well, no one does, do they?” Char said. “And no one wants to stay down there, either, ‘specially not me. It’s dark and smelly and the furnace roars.”
“Is that the dragon?” Millie asked, sitting up and swinging her legs over the side of the bed.
Char gave her a don’t-be-stupid look. “The dragon is the woodstove here in the carriage house. We are staying in the basement.”
“Maybe Lester prefers the basement,” Millie said.
“No.” Char shook her head. “No one, not even monsters, like the basement.”
“How do you know?” Millie asked. “Did you ask him?”
Char rolled her eyes. “Great-Granny says we’re only staying until Daddy gets his fits together, and I don’t even know what that means. Sometimes Daddy does have fits, but why does he need to get them together? I think it would be better if he didn’t have them at all, don’t you, Mommy?”
Emily flushed a pretty pink and put her hand on top of her daughter’s head and tried to steer her out of the room.
Char dug the heels of her cowboy boots into the carpet.
“Sometime when it’s quieter we should talk,” Emily said to Millie as she pushed her daughter out the door. “I really want to hear how you and Car got together.”
Millie started to say that she and Car weren’t together, but Char stuck her head back into the room and rushed in to fill in the blank space. “It’s quiet now,” Char declared, and for a few seconds it actually was. “I want to hear how you met Uncle Car, too.”
More footsteps clattered up the stairs and moments later Carson swooped in. He plucked Char up and threw her over his shoulder. Her cowboy boots kicked in the air while she screamed and used her two toy horses to pelt his back.
“Is this creature bothering you?” Carson asked Millie.
“No, she’s…” Millie paused. “Her face is turning purple!” Millie eased off the bed, as if she needed a closer look at Char. “And I do believe she’s growing polka dots!”
Char froze. “Uncle Car?” she squeaked.
He swung her over so that she could see herself in the mirror. “Why yes, Millie, I think you’re right. Green polka dots.”
“Nu-huh!” Char said. “Mom?”
Emily blinked a few times and studied Char’s face. “I don’t know, Carson, I’d say they’re pink.”
“No way!” Char said, resuming her kicking.
“I think we need to take her to the kitchen,” Emily said. “Great-Granny’s making some gingerbread cookies and they’re the best thing in the whole world for curing purple and green polka dots.”
Char stopped kicking and sniffed. “That sounds okay.”
“I don’t think you should let Granny hear you calling her cookies ‘just okay,’” Carson said as he headed out the door with Char draped over his shoulder. He set the child down at the top of the stairs and looked over his shoulder at Millie. “You coming, Millie?”
She nodded and raised a hand to her forehead. “I think I could use a gingerbread cookie myself.”
The need for a cookie became increasingly dire as soon as she stepped outside and spotted a familiar BMW in the driveway.
The cold air swirled around Millie, but instead of waking her, it made everything more surreal. She swayed on her feet, brushing Carson.
Grabbing her arm, he steadied her. “All right?” he whispered, his breath fanning her cheek. “When everyone’s together, I’ll tell them what happened.”
“It’s not that,” she replied.
“Then what’s the matter? Are you sure you’re feeling all right? You’re suddenly pale. Scary pale.”
The door of the inn opened and two figures emerged. Carson went still, his whispers fading into the cold air. Millie knew that he probably didn’t recognize the dark-haired man on the porch, but that every man on the planet, including Carson, would know Scarlet McFaye.