I hesitantly walk toward the TV crew. This house has been abandoned for years, as far as my parents have told me. Why now, the day before Christmas, is there a light inside and a TV crew hovering outside?
None of them see me, all too focused on unwrapping equipment and setting up shop. I recognize one van as the local television station, but the others must be surrounding counties.
I walk my way to the cobblestone path–a path I used to walk quite frequently in the summer up until I moved away after I finished college. Typically, I veer off toward the left, going around the home to the desolate garden. It was a great place to be alone. Whether doing schoolwork or catching up on my To-Be-Read pile.
“Miss! Miss!” Someone starts to shout, and shuffling happens behind me.
I straighten my posture but continue to walk up the path. I’m not ignorant enough to fall for the media’s tricks, but naive enough to walk up the path to this home. If someone has the key to get inside, they must be a decent person.
My family is good friends with Christine, the real estate agent in town. There’s no way she would sell or rent this historic home to just anyone. It’s partially the reason it’s been abandoned for so many years. Too many rich people wanted to come in, tear the place down, and build an even bigger home on the property.
The property has its perks. Acres of land on a dead-end country road. Close enough to civilization but far enough away to remain hidden from the public eye. But the grounds were historical, and that did require going through a ridiculous amount of paperwork and hoops with the building committee.
By the time I reach the front door, snow starts to fall. The storm isn’t supposed to start for another two hours or so, but I am a bit farther north than when I started my walk. It’s been a while since I’ve walked this path, nonetheless, in the winter. But I needed space. Space from my family, distance from an engagement I just turned down, and time. Most of all, time to figure out how I had royally messed things up all within twenty-four hours.
I give a hard knock on the door before ringing the doorbell almost immediately. The news crews were getting louder now, curiosity getting the best of them all.
A shadow appears in the window that’s covered by a thin piece of fabric.
“Are you part of the news crew?” A deep voice greets.
“No. I’m friends with Christine, your real estate agent? I need some help.”
The shadow disappears. For a moment, I’m confident I’ve been left outside. Really, it’s to be expected. While it’s not uncommon for us in this town to have an open-door policy, a newcomer won’t know that—particularly a newcomer who could afford this home.
I look up at the peephole and offer a smile if someone is looking. The door opens seconds later, but only a crack.
I’m greeted by dark brown eyes and thick but maintained black brows.
“You’re younger than Christine.” He speaks, squinting his eyes.
“Yes, my parents are better friends with Christine. She used to babysit me.”
The news crew gets louder, shouting, “Everett.”
“Quick, come in.” His hand swiftly reaches out, grabs my arm, and pulls me into the foyer before shutting and locking the door. “My apologies, but my publicist tells me to not make contact with them. Eventually, they’ll die out, they say.”
I smile, shaking my head. Out of all the times I’ve been in this backyard, I’ve never once been inside.
It’s like I stepped foot back into the early 1900s. Everett, I presume, cannot be any older than me, so why the decor?
“Ivy.” I hold my hand out.
His fingertips graze mine before he grips my hand and shakes it.
“Everett. Just moved to town. You from around here?” His fingers leave mine, and they gesture for me to follow.
I answer as I follow him down the hallway, past the golden arched entryway to the living room that was pitch black. “Yeah, actually just was on a walk, and well, I need a ride home.”
His footsteps halt. “I cannot give you a ride home.” Everett turns toward me, points back at the door. “Until I’m positive they are gone, I cannot leave, especially with you, considering they already saw you enter. The story about you needs to remain as minimal as possible.”
“Oh.” I swallow. Okay. Now what?
“I can, however, make you some steamed eggnog, offer you a plate of Christmas cookies, and invite you to join in on my Christmas Eve tradition?”
We enter his kitchen, which is still equipped with a black iron stove with vents to the ceiling. It does have an upgraded stainless steel fridge and dishwasher. Luckily for him, the walls were updated to plain white and seemingly freshly painted before moving in.
“Alone for Christmas?” I ask as he opens the fridge and pulls out a pitcher of what looks like eggnog.
“Family recipe.” He says, lifting the pitcher in reference. “And this year, yes.”
I pause, allowing him to continue as to why this year is alone, but he doesn’t. Instead, he pours the eggnog into a pot over the stove. I can’t press because I’m not ready to offer my own story about why I’m walking backcountry roads too close to the sun going down.
I take a seat at the kitchen table, allowing my legs a moment to rest from the burn of the hill I climbed to get here. To my right, there’s a window overlooking the side of the home. The snow is steady now, enough that the growing darkness still allows the snow to seep through.
“I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it home,” I say softly.
Everett is now whisking the eggnog on the stove. There’s a bottle of rum and two reindeer mugs on the counter next to him.
He glances out the same window, a gentle smile gracing his lips.
“It’s been a while since I’ve experienced a white Christmas.” He turns the flame off on the stove. Everett then pours some rum into each mug before slowly pouring the eggnog in. He walks over to the kitchen table with both mugs in his hands, placing one in front of me. “If it’s unsafe to drive after a movie, I have a guest room you may stay in.” Everett takes a seat across from me, wrapping both hands around the mug.
“You don’t know me.” I point out, following his actions. As I inhale, the smell of the spices calms my body, and I sink back in my chair.
“I don’t, but I do believe in Christmas miracles.” A broad smile creates dimples on his cheeks that are soon hidden by him taking a sip of his eggnog.
Maybe, I too, need to believe in the miracle of Christmas.