Page 22 l Kitchener Citizen - West Edition l December 5, 2013
KITCHENER CITIZEN (EAST EDITION) • DECEMBER 5, 2013 • 23
The Christmas Café The Kitchener Citizen is very grateful to receive this original Christmas short story from author Cyndi MacMillan. May you find Christmas in your own unique way. BY CYNDI MACMILLAN
s she clutched the steering wheel, Molly Tarn thought, God bless Bluetooth, and carefully pulled into a rest stop. Whiteout conditions had hit the highway, hard, and she could barely see five feet past the hood of her aging Mini Cooper. “Mom,” she said, “Everything is fine. I found a diner.” The Starlight Café and Eatery’s parking lot was fuller than one would expect, given the date. Others had obviously found a haven, too. The neon star glowing over its roof made her smile. Very First Noel-ish. If Mark had been in the passenger seat, he’d have said something fitting. But her brother had been smart, had taken the train. “Just wait out the storm, okay?” She blinked back tears. “Please, tell Dad to calm down. I can practically hear him pacing. I’ll stay here... but, really, if I’m not there, it’s just not the holidays.” Her mother sighed the way only a mother can sigh. “Christmas comes, no matter where you are. If you just let it.” “Christmas? Christmas is drinking Uncle Art’s awful punch as the cousins pick at the turkey before it’s even carved while you go all ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on anyone within range.” Her voice caught. “I need to be home.” Molly closed her eyes, could almost see that bald tree. Large vintage lights would continue to thumb their noses at LEDs. Those silly decorations she’d made as a child would still be hung proudly, as though she were four, not thirty-four. Molly promised to call back, wrapped a scarf around herself and then threw open the door. The wind tossed her towards the restaurant. Several faces turned as she entered the squat building. Several weary and worried faces. But one wide-eyed girl reminded her of her youngest niece, right down to the chestnut braids tied with red bows. Her mother was keeping her busy with crayons. A waitress greeted her with a cheery smile, waved a coffee pot. “Seat yourself, Doll,” She said. “I’ll just be a mo.” She found a booth by a window, feeling glum. Here it
was the afternoon of Christmas Eve and she was amongst strangers. The waitress approached her. Molly nodded when offered coffee, first declined a menu, then decided to order the soup de jour, to be polite. “My name’s Ang. I’ll be back with a bowl of turkey with rice in a jiff. Quite good, I’ve heard.” A silver haired couple agreed. “D’lish,” they said in unison. “I’m her echo,” the husband added with a wink. “Lucky me.” A young man approached her. “Here, Ma’am. You dropped your scarf.” She was going to tell him that her aunt was a Ma’am but she was more a Ms. Then, seeing his blush, chose to simply say thank you. A flat screen TV somehow did not jar with the retro feeling of the place. The news scrolled on, warning people to refrain from travelling. The little girl waved at her and she waved back, feeling a knot between her shoulders loosen. The chair was comfy and Ang, or the owner, had added some festive touches throughout the establishment. An hour later, she found herself happily playing a game of Go Fish with little Marissa and her mom, Kate. She’d just learned that the secret to a happy marriage is ear plugs, according to Douglas, 71, and Matilda, 69. Young Troy, blush-free, had retrieved a guitar from his pickup and was taking requests as Carlos, a cook with an angel’s voice, crooned from the kitchen. However, the next person who came through the door looked grim. The man, blinking, announced, “The highway’s closed folks. I’ve been driving a rig for twenty years, and I know squalls. This one is plum mean.” There was a moment of silence, followed by several moans. “Hey, everyone,” Ang announced. “There’s plenty of roast and your choice of desserts. How’s about dinner, on the house? Sorry about this... I know you’d all rather be somewhere else...” Molly sent her a sympathetic look. Surely, Ang had plans, also. It was Matilda’s idea to push some tables together. Carlos found some o ld tablecloths in the storage room. Everybody helped with the chairs. Molly called her mom. “Looks like I may be here all night.” “Fine. There’ll be plenty of leftovers, and the family is staying put here, too. I’m just glad you’re safe. Do you have something to read?”
“Actually, there is plenty of good company, music and food. Pure serendipity.” Her mother chuckled. “Pish posh. It’s called the Spirit of Christmas.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “I’ll leave as soon as I can. Save me some trifle? Hide it if you must. And kiss everyone for me.” She teased, “Even Mark.” Two hours later, Molly found herself chuckling with the ribald Carlos. The meal had been simple but enjoyable. She felt completely sated. And somewhere between the appetizer and the main meal, friends had been made. Ang had revealed it was her first Christmas alone. Her husband had passed away in the summer after a lengthy battle with cancer. Burt, the trucker, had lightened the mood by passing around pictures of his six children. Stories were shared as plates were refilled. Troy was going to propose to his girlfriend. He showed everyone the ring. Moments later, Douglas was counselling the young man on marriage and Matilda was contradicting his advice, affectionately shaking her head. Everyone jumped when the door suddenly opened. A police officer grinned at the scene before him as he wiped his boots off on the entry rug. “I was driving by, thought I’d pull in for some coffee and to let you all know the highway’s been reopened. But it looks downright homey, here. Shame to break it up.” Ang straightened, gave a sad grin, “Baw. All these good folk have places to go. Still, it was nice, really nice, to spend some time with them.” Eyes met around the table. Several heads nodded. Burt said. “If it’s okay with you, Ang, I’d surely like to stay for pie.” Kate added, “In fact, how about WE serve it to YOU?” Molly excused herself and went outside with her phone. “Mom?” “I just heard on the radio. The roads are clear! You’re on the way, then?” “Well, I think I’ll stay a while, longer. Disappointed?” “Dear, how could I be? So, I was right?” “Are you ever wrong?” Molly turned, saw the smiling faces in the Starlight. “Yes, it came. Christmas came.” The neon star winked from above. “And the thing is, it doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave.”
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