Winter- Chapter 1

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Marissa ran into the downtown Toronto Hudson's Bay department store. Anyone who saw her would have noticed the look of fierce determination on her face, though everyone there was focused on their own needs.

"Excuse me," she asked an older woman working in the men's department near the entrance. "Where are your seasonal decor items?"

"Second floor towards the left," was the reply. "Would you like to apply for one of our credit cards and save 20%..." the woman called after her, but she didn't hear a word of it because she was still moving.

She took the escalator up a floor and turned left. She soon spotted all the Christmas stuff, which was picked over at this point. Christmas bedding, dishes, knick knacks, candles. She moved through the department until she saw snow globes. She looked at the three tiered shelf trying to find the one she needed.

It was not there.

Feeling defeated, she turned to leave. Her eye caught a misplaced item. On the opposite shelf, mixed in with a bunch of statues of snowmen and reindeer and the like, was her snow globe.

She read the label to confirm it.

2017 Hudson's Bay
Collectible Snow Globe

She almost burst into sweet tears of relief. She'd checked online and it said one was left in stock in the whole region. Here it was waiting for her.

She picked it up and headed back the way she came in, down the escalator, towards the register bay near the door she'd come in. She was no longer in the hurry she'd been in before. Slowly, her heart rate returned to a normal cadence.

She got to the register and was sixth in line. It was Christmas Eve, so it was packed. So many last minute shoppers. Of course she was one of them, but this was different. She'd been done with Christmas shopping weeks ago. This was an item she hadn't even realized she had to buy until she woke up this morning and thought of it.

The general mood of the customers in line was less than festive. The workers were doing their best to be full of cheer, though most of them looked tired. Marissa worked retail for years in high school, so she knew how rough this season was. She now worked in the campus library. As she stood in the line, she realized how great it was to have a low stress job.

She felt her phone buzz against her hip. She went to transfer the snow globe from her right to left hand so that she could reach in her purse to see who had texted her. While the globe was changing hands, the person behind her jostled her. His arms were full of Christmas gifts, and as he tried to adjust the load, they collided with her back, causing her to lurch forward ever so slightly.

With a crash, the snow globe fell to the floor.

Marissa just stared at it for a second. She watched the shattered glass, liquid, and glittery snow flakes spread out on the hardwood floor.

Once it registered, her heart sunk into her stomach.

"Oh shit. I am so sorry," the man behind her said.

He moved so that he was standing next to her, also staring at the broken globe. She looked at him with a blank expression, stunned by what had happened.

"Let me set this stuff down and go get you another," he said. "Which floor?"

She snapped back to reality. "That was the last one," she whispered.

"Really? No. I bet they have more in back," he said.

"I checked the inventory online. It was the last in the whole area. Even Montreal and Quebec were sold out."

"Can you get a different one? It's on me. Get several! Seriously, I'm so sorry. Please let me help."

Marissa looked up at his kind golden brown eyes. It really wasn't his fault. It was a stupid accident.

"I had to have this one," she said. "Thanks for offering, though."

The man got the attention of a store employee. Marissa listened as he showed the guy the mess, explained what he had done, and asked if they could find another. The employee got on his phone and called for clean-up and then checked the inventory. Once he gave the verdict, he went to help behind the register.

Just as Marissa had said, they were sold out. Everywhere.

"Fuck," the guy muttered under his breath.

Unable to keep it together anymore, Marissa burst into tears.

He looked at her with concern. "Oh god, honey, please don't cry."

The handsome brown-eyed guy's kindness only made her cry harder.

He shifted his armful of gifts aside and turned her by the elbow, away from the staring people in line. They'd actually drawn a small crowd, which upset her even more.

"Can I buy you a hot cocoa in the café?" he asked.

"I'll be fine, and you need to check out."

"I'm next in line. After I check out? It's the least I can do."

Although it went against her instincts to spend time with a stranger, she nodded. Something about his sweet nature made her feel safe with him.

He completed his transaction and walked over to where she was standing a few feet away, several shopping bags in his hands.

"Let's get you that cocoa," he said.

They took the escalator down to the basement level and approached the counter at the small café. He ordered them each a large hot cocoa and two beautifully decorated Christmas cookies. They found a small table in the corner and sat after taking off their coats, waiting for their order. She found it a bit odd that he kept his wool beanie on even though it was uncomfortably warm in the cafe.

"My name is Shawn," the guy said and then gave her a beautiful smile.

"Marissa."

Shawn hopped up to grab their treats when the barista called his name and then handed hers to her before sitting back down.

"Thank you," she said quietly.

"I hate to pry, but can you tell me why that snow globe was so important?" he asked. He then took a sip of his hot cocoa.

Marissa broke off a corner of her Christmas tree cookie and ate it before answering. She really wasn't sure if she should unload her sob story on this stranger. She'd already cried in front of him, though. Maybe he deserved to know why.

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