A story a day until there’s a sleigh! This holiday season, I’m sharing a new flash fiction piece inspired by a holiday song every day of December until Christmas. Today’s story is inspired by A Holly Jolly Christmas.
Holly Jolly was tired of waiting. She’d spent nearly an hour underneath the giant faux mistletoe hanging in the foyer of the Forest Park Mall Macy’s expecting her so-called secret admirer.
Max the plain clothes security guard whose mustache couldn’t hide the fact that he was a retired cop had already passed her twice on his rounds and was now approaching for a third time.
“If you’re so desperate for a kiss, sweetheart, all you gotta do is ask,” he said, puckering his lips at her.
“I told you I’m waiting for someone,” Holly shot back.
“Yeah?” Max said. “What’s his name?”
That was the thing. Holly didn’t know.
“I’m waiting for none,” she said instead.
“You’re waiting for a nun?”
“I’m waiting for none of your business!”
Max clasped his hand to his chest like he’d been wounded. “For a girl named Holly Jolly, you sure are mean.”
“Get out of here, Max,” Holly said.
The last thing she needed right now was for some wise guy to tell her she wasn’t jolly enough. It was bad enough being named Holly during the holiday season, but the expectations for a Holly Jolly were too much for any one woman to bear, especially for this fifty-something divorcee who couldn’t remember the last holiday season she didn’t want to gouge her brains out by time the calendar rolled around to the 25th of the month. It didn’t help she worked in retail.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Todd Pendleton, a frequent customer in the home goods section where she worked, approaching. He wore a gray wool coat which matched his close cropped hair. Holly thought him handsome, and more than once, she’d taken longer than strictly necessary to ring up his purchases in an attempt to string out their conversation. Could he be her secret admirer?
“Can you help me…uh…Holly,” he said, obviously looking down at her name tag. “I can’t seem to find the perfume section.”
False alarm. Holly pointed him in the right direction and then returned to her waiting. Whoever this secret admirer of hers was, he sure had some nerve not showing up on time. Her shift had ended over an hour ago, and she was due back at six in the morning for a double on the much dreaded Saturday before Christmas.
The notes from the secret admirer had first started coming in late October. Holly had found the first one on the keyboard in her check out station early one morning. It was addressed to Ms. Holly Jolly and asked if she was looking for a partner for “cuffing season.” Emma, a college student who worked part time at the Macy’s, assured Holly that this wasn’t a threat but rather a sexual overture.
The missives from her secret admire came infrequently at first, and Holly thought it best to ignore them in case they were, as Emma had described it, “an elaborate catfishing scheme.” But the past twelve days the notes had come every day, and each day, they included a drawing.
The first day it was a pear tree with a man sitting in it who closely resembled David Cassidy (a.k.a Keith Partridge from The Partridge Family). The second day the picture was two doves whose wings came out from under turtle shells. On the third day, Holly found three hens in berets, one holding a baguette and another smoking a cigarette. Today she’d received a picture of twelve drummers drumming, all wearing Ringo Starr glasses. The note had said to meet her admirer here after her shift right under the giant mistletoe.
Another man, a stranger, approached, causing Holly’s heart to stir, but like Todd Pendleton, he too was looking for the perfume department. Holly silently judged him for his lack of originality while telling him where he needed to go.
Holly’s feet were aching from the long day of work. Waiting around like this was ridiculous. She started walking toward the escalator but heard a voice call her name out behind her.
There standing under the mistletoe was Greg from Men’s Suits. He was easily twenty years her junior, and Holly had never considered herself the cougar type, but she walked back under the mistletoe anyway.
Greg leaned toward her and pecked her on the cheek.
“You’re my secret admirer?” Holly asked.
“What? God no!” Greg said, taking a step back from her. “I mean, no I don’t know what you’re talking about, but Max, he told me I should come give you a kiss on the cheek.”
At the mention of Max’s name, Holly blew up. Of course this was an elaborate catfishing scheme. Max and his security buddies were probably up in the office with all the security screens laughing their stupid heads off at her expense.
Holly stormed off toward the escalators again and took the one going down. As she descended, she caught site of Max at the base of the escalator.
“You have some nerve, buddy!” she yelled, attracting the attention of the Macy’s shoppers riding the escalator: a mother with two young sons and a group of teenage girls.
“Holly Jolly, listen to me,” Max said as she stepped off the escalator.
“You played me for a fool. It isn’t funny.”
“I swear, I didn’t,” Max said. “Here look.”
From the pocket of his khaki pants, he pulled out a piece of white paper folded into fourths and handed it to Holly.
She unfolded it and saw a picture of the giant mistletoe with her and Max underneath it embracing with their lips nearly touching. He was her secret admirer.
“Look, I know I talk a big game,” Max said. “But I’m a shy guy, Holly Jolly. I wanted to do this big gesture, but then I chickened out. I’m sorry I made you wait.”
“I was up there for an hour,” Holly said. “You kept coming by.”
“Yeah, but you don’t take me seriously,” Max said. “You kept looking for some other guy. Anyway, I won’t bother you with this stuff anymore, okay?”
Max tried to pull the paper from her hand, but Holly Jolly kept hold of it.
“How about we go get a Cinnabon?” she asked.
“Yeah, sure,” Max replied. “I love cinnamon rolls.”
“Me too,” Holly said.
Maybe this would be a holly jolly Christmas, after all.