OCFW Christmas serial story
this chapter by Lacy Williams
Copyright © OKC Christian Fiction Writers
The woman was crazy. Tad was almost one hundred percent sure of it.
He squinted, but it didn’t help. His visibility was zilch. The headlights of Mr. Clark’s Cadillac illuminated about a foot of swirling snow. Which made it really hard to read the street-signs or gauge the distance to the crosswalk or see oncoming traffic.
And Ellie was out in this.
“Are we almost there, Uncle Tad?”
He spared a quick glance in the rearview to make sure the two tow-headed boys were still bent over their video games. They were. He thought it was Eric that had asked the question, but it could have been Ian.
“Yes, I think so. You guys still belted in?”
“Yep.” “Uh huh.”
“Why is it taking so long?” That was definitely Eric. He was just like his uncle Robbie had been at age ten—always running instead of walking, always impatient.
Man, he missed his friend. Tad blinked away the sad thoughts. He needed to concentrate or he was likely to get them in an accident. And he was not going to wreck Robert Sr.’s car. He could just imagine how that conversation with the stoic salt-and-pepper man would go. Tad shuddered.
“Uncle Tad? Are we there yet?” Eric’s questions reminded Tad he hadn’t answered the first time.
“I think so. We have to drive slow because of the snow. I don’t want to wreck your granddad’s car.”
“Yeah, that would be bad,” Ian agreed, voice grave. “Pops loves this car.”
“I know.” Which was why Tad had been surprised when the older man offered his car. Guess he loved his daughter more. Tad had always been jealous of the Clarks’ close family relationships. Still was. He hadn’t spoken to his mom since Easter.
Finally spotting the sign to the workout place Ellie’s mom had directed him to, Tad breathed a sigh of relief and pulled in to the parking lot, pulled right up to the front doors. Light shone out of the glass storefront, but glazing nearly up to the top of the windows blocked him from seeing inside. He prayed that Ellie hadn’t left yet.
And then she walked out of the door, bundled up in a parka, scarf and woolen cap. He had to smile; she looked like a little kid all wrapped up like that. He honked, and she jumped, then made her way over to the passenger window, so she didn’t have to step off the curb.
Smart girl. There were probably drifts of several inches of slush or icy snow next to the curb.
Ellie bent to peer into the window, but Tad wasn’t going to roll it down and let the snow in. He stretched over and pushed open the door, ordering her to, “Get in.”
“Tad! What are you doing here?”
She didn’t exactly sound happy to see him. Ellie leaned her head and shoulders down so she could see him across the car’s interior, but made no move to get in.
“Aunt Eleanor, you’re letting too much cold air in.”
“Eric? Ian? What—”
Tad didn’t wait for her to make up her mind. He reached over and grabbed her arm to pull her inside.
Eleanor tumbled into the passenger seat of her father’s car with an undignified, “Eep!” Landing with her hat askew and covering one eye, she pushed Tad’s arm out of the way and closed the car door herself.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded, blowing hair out of her mouth and ripping off her fogged glasses so she could glare at her childhood crush. Her Look lost a little of its affect when she could only make out a fuzzy outline of his face, couldn’t tell if he looked repentant or not.
“Hi, Aunt Eleanor.” “We came to rescue you.” Her nephews—Janice’s boys—spoke over each other from the backseat.
Eleanor shoved her glasses back on her face. “Well, that’s really nice,” she shot another Look at Tad so he would know she meant it was anything but, “but I didn’t need you to come get me. I’m perfectly capable of getting home on my own.”
The car started to roll forward.
“Tad, stop,” she exclaimed. “I’m not going with you.”
“Ellie, the weather’s gotten worse. Let me and the boys drive you back to your parents’ house.”
She flinched at the hated nickname, reached for the door handle. “For one thing, I’m not leaving my car, and also, I still have to go to the mall to finish my shopping.”
Tad placed a hand on her knee and she froze with her fingers on the passenger door. How could one touch discombobulate her so?
“You don’t need to be out in this.” Tad’s continued insistence that she return home was getting irritating.
“If the weather is really getting worse, then it makes sense for me to go to the mall now.” She was being reasonable, she knew she was.
The boys were uncharacteristically silent in the back. Probably waiting to see what their favorite “uncle” would do next.
Tad sighed. “Why don’t you let Eric, Ian and I escort you? The mall’s only another mile up the road. It’s not going to take long, is it?”
Knowing how stubborn Tad was, this would probably the best offer she was likely to get. She’d be wise to take it. “Fine.” But that didn’t mean she had to like it.
Tad eased the car out of the parking lot and back onto the road. “You boys ready for an adventure?”
A chorus of “yeah!”s was the answer. Men. Of course they would band together.
Tad shot a quick glance over at her. “You need me to stop somewhere and get you something to eat? There’s a couple of fast food joints just ahead.”
“No thanks. I had some fruit and a protein bar after my workout.”
She could see his forehead wrinkle in the dim light from the dash.
“You should eat more than that.”
“I don’t need more than that.”
Tad’s lips firmed into a frown, with little lines bracketing his mouth. Irritated, she realized she was watching him. Eleanor forced her attention out her window, but with the flurrying snow all she saw was a reflection of her own face. Goodness, she hadn’t even run a brush through her hair, she’d just stuffed her cap on and put her coat on over her workout clothes. She’d had no idea what—or who—would be waiting for her.
She couldn’t help asking. “Why aren’t you busy with… you know, business stuff? I saw all your papers spread out in the living room. In fact, I’m surprised you got away from the company at all.” She really was. It was the first time he’d come for Christmas that she could remember since she’d gotten her master’s degree.
He smiled, but it came across fairly grim. “Even workaholics can take time off at the holidays.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing. It’s just unusual.”
A quick glance over her shoulder revealed the twins engrossed in video games. Totally unconcerned with the weather. Eleanor turned back to the front.
Just in time for the tires to lock. The car started to skid.
Enjoy your weekend. The next chapter will be posted first thing Monday morning.