Do you handle change well?
I don’t. Which means that right now, I’m struggling. You see, I worked part-time from home for the past five years while I stayed home with my kids. In August of this year, my youngest went to Kindergarten, and this mom rejoined the full-time workforce.
Talk about change. While the job I got is a blessing, the transition has been brutal. I am always busy, tired, or both. That means I have little time to write, and the story I was supposed to be writing didn’t want to be written. It got to the point that writing—or the lack thereof—was giving me intense anxiety.
After some prayer, I decided last week to put that book on pause for the time being and write something purely for the joy of it. I’m in a Christmas mood, so why not write a Christmas story and see what happens? Then I remembered that I began one last year on a whim. So I’m going to share the opening scene with you to help me decide if this is the story for this season of change in my life. (This is only lightly edited by me, so please be gracious!)
[Title to be determined]
“I have two hours to get this done, right?” Merilee braced a hand on her back. The boxes she had just lugged from her car were heavy.
“Two and a half. Don’t mind the musician setting up on stage. He promised to stay out of your way.”
Merilee was already busy unraveling lights, her eyes trained on her task as she spoke to the mayor. “I thought Randy had the flu.”
Their small town only had one resident band, and the lead singer had been down for the last three days, if the rumor mill was accurate. Not that Merilee had time for rumors. Working three jobs was a juggling act she wouldn’t wish on anyone.
“Oh, he does. He has it bad. But Chet Davison is in town and agreed to an unplanned performance.”
Chet Davison? A flurry of emotions rushed through Merilee at the name, but before she could process each one individually, a deep, masculine voice spoke from behind.
“Merilee Walsh? Is that you?”
She swung around to face her childhood crush. The boy next door. The one who’d always been out of reach. “Chet Davison.” She couldn’t stop the smile that lifted her cheeks at what had been her favorite site for more years than she could count. “You came home.”
He shrugged, his eyes taking her in. “It was time.”
Past time, if anyone asked her. He’d been gone six years and in that time gone from a tall boy with taller dreams to a professional singer with three concert tours to his name.
“I thought maybe River’s Landing was too small for you now.” Merilee scooped up a wad of garland and carted it to the back of the stage. Chet or no Chet, there was no time to waste. The annual Christmas tree lighting was due to begin at 6 p.m. sharp. Mayor Nixon was never late. So the stage décor couldn’t be, either.
“I’m actually home to stay.” He followed her and grabbed the end of the pine-green garland. “Let me give you a hand.”
Home to stay? What had happened to his big city dreams? “Don’t you have to set up for yourself?”
“I have time. I keep things simple.”
“All right. I appreciate the help. I have some…height problems.”
When she checked, he was grinning. “You always did. I don’t know how many times you asked for my help reaching things in your kitchen growing up.”
Merilee willed her cheeks not to redden. That had been because of her raging crush on him more than her short stature.
“Chill. I know you had the hots for me.”
Merilee jerked around, dropping the garland in a heap. Why did Chet have to look so smug?
“That was a long time ago,” she said, desperate to save face. If she’d found him attractive as a teen, she didn’t know what to think now. He’d leveled up, a feat she hadn’t imagined possible. Of course, she knew this from watching televised performances of him across the nation. But in the flesh, he was even better. He was real.
They worked in silence for a few minutes. Merilee tacked bright red bows to the garland, and Chet anticipated her move by handing her a new bow at each interval.
“Thanks,” she said when they reached the end. “Are you really moving back?”
“What about your career?”
He grimaced. “I’ll still sing. I have an album coming out in the spring. But I’m done touring. It’s exhausting. I need to be here. My mom…she has cancer.”
“I know,” Merilee said softly. His mom had been like a second mother growing up. Before everything fell apart. Before Chet’s dad ran off with Merilee’s mom. Chet had skipped town the day after high school graduation. When Merilee’s father passed of a heart attack two weeks later, her plans came to a screeching halt. College dreams, out the window. Four younger siblings looking at her for provision. She counted it a blessing that the state had allowed her to raise them—but it hadn’t been easy. Still wasn’t.
“I better set up,” Chet said after a beat of silence. “Let’s catch up later, okay?”
Merilee offered a noncommittal head-bob and picked up the pace with the lights she was twining around the garland. “Sure.”
Catching up with Chet Davison sounded dangerous. She didn’t do dangerous. She did safe and steady. Whatever it took to keep food on the table and clothes on her siblings. She’d always done what she had to. She couldn’t change that now.
What do you think? Cast your vote in the comments. Shall I continue writing this story to help me through my season of change? Or do you think I should keep brainstorming for something else? (Feel free to share tropes you’d like to see or any other plot devices!)