Take a Right at the Mistletoe (an excerpt)

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As a rule, I ignored the tourists. It wasn't hard to do because they ignored me, too. I was nothing to them, just the average 23-year-old girl with average brown hair and eyes, and they never thought that maybe I spoke perfect English and German, too. It was great this way. They got their Viennese Christmas market experience. I didn't have to talk if I didn't want to, and I could daydream about attending culinary school once I applied. But this season, the market was quieter than usual.

I'd basically grown up in this booth, working alongside my moms, during the Christmas season, and the bakery the rest of the year. Our market was unique because it ran the length of a street rather than sitting in the center of a plaza. Twinkle lights hung like an iridescent canopy over the pedestrian thoroughfare, and the wooden booths stuck out from the building architecture and permanent shops. Soft Christmas music wafted from the nearby shops, and a light dusting of snow flecked the air and street. Tonight, just a few tourists and locals wandered down our winding market, and that was how it had been since it had opened a day or so ago.

I grabbed a pastry bag and began to frost petit fours to display. If I was going to be a professional baker, I needed to be able to create the smallest of details. Glancing up through my eyelashes, I scanned the people meandering through the street. One man in a green parka and red hat stopped with his mouth slightly open and spun slowly in the center of the lamplight. His reaction was cute.

Nearby, a little girl followed a woman across the uneven cobblestone, both with arms brimming with purchases, and the little girl stumbled. Just as she started to fall, the man in the green parka steadied her, and his voice carried, "I know what it's like to fall. Keep your head up. Happy Holidays!"

The little girl smiled up at him and then hurried after the woman again, and my heart trembled at that small moment of kindness I had witnessed between two strangers.

"HAL-looo!"

I jumped, inadvertently squeezing the frosting bag in my hand a little extra hard. "Sweet Apollo!"

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