Author's Note: Christmas Angel is a YA holiday romance novella indie published on Amazon and Smashwords ($0.99). It will be posted here serially throughout the month of December and will be complete before Christmas Eve.
Cheshire Morgan watched miserably as the first snow flurries of the season began to fall right outside his bedroom window. He lay sprawled on the twin-sized bed, sheets tangled around his legs, the sweat on his brow from his nightmare already beginning to dry. He dragged a heavy hand across his face, rubbed his eyes, then sat up. It couldn’t be winter already…could it? The chill to the floorboards was answer enough and Chesh groaned. Where had October gone? November? Had Thanksgiving come and went? He didn’t celebrate it; he wouldn’t know.
He willed his tired body to move. He felt sixty, not seven months shy of twenty. He gathered up a fresh pair of jeans and a black Chevelle hoodie with too many holes and headed for the bathroom. He needed a hot shower. That would ward off this budding anxiety. He hated this time of year. He wished he was a bear that could hibernate the holidays away and wake up refreshed in the spring. On his way there, he stubbed his toe on the doorframe and cussed under his breath.
There was a rapping on the door. He did his best to ignore it, but they were quick, insistent knocks that made his lip curl. He cranked the shower to hot, then in just a pair of black boxers, swung the door inwards to reveal a tiny lady with red hair and green eyes that hid behind a pair of glasses. “What?”
The woman—Mrs. Scott—made a tsk’ing sound and shook her head. “Your manners are lacking, as always, Mr. Morgan,” she said. “Your rent’s a week late. Now, I understand you aren’t currently employed, but it’s nearly the holiday season and people will be hiring for Christmas.”
The words made Cheshire’s stomach coil like a snake. “I—”
“No excuses. I let you slide last month, but I just can’t afford it! I’m sorry, Mr. Morgan, but if you don’t get the money to me by Friday, I’ll have to evict you and I hate to do that so close to the holidays.”
Cheshire snorted. Like she cared. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said briskly, then—before she could reply—he slammed the door in her face and stalked back to the bathroom. Not even the thick steam, or the supposedly-relaxing peppermint bath salt at the bottom of the tub, made his mood any better. Here he was, the holidays looming, with no job, no income, and—”Shit. Just shit.” His voice echoed in the tiny bathroom, making it boom when he felt tiny inside. All he wanted to do was curl back up in bed and try not to think about the past; try not to think about what he’d had only a little while ago.
After he’d dried and dressed, he found his dead cell phone and plugged it into the wall charger. He dialed in Kerr’s number, but a robotic woman’s voice told him that he hadn’t paid his bill and that his service was cancelled. He chucked it across the room and it spun in a circle where it landed. He pulled on his shoes and headed out into the dreadful weather with a pocketful of change. He found a pay phone, one of the only ones in his small hometown, and called Kerr up. Kerr Hannigan wasn’t his friend exactly, but he’d been a friend of Rae’s and he figured the man might help him out.
“Yo,” came Kerr’s jovial voice over the line.
Cheshire barely suppressed a snort. “Hey. It’s Cheshire Morgan.” After a lapse of silence, he swallowed and continued. “I know I’m a couple years late, but I was hoping for that favor you promised me? I was thinking maybe you knew of a place that’d hire me? I’ve got rent due and…” He trailed off, feeling foolish.
Kerr hmm’ed to himself and Cheshire heard rattling papers and the clicking of keyboard strokes. “I don’t have anything permanent…”
“I do have one thing. But Chesh? You’re not gonna like it…”
And after the man explained it to him, Cheshire decided he was right. He didn’t like it at all.
He stood in front of the tiny, red and green trailer set up outside of the courthouse, strung up with Christmas lights. The sign on the door was festive enough to make Rudolph barf glitter. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”