Beatrice Hackett’s Very Bad Christmas

House on fire

Welcome to Brighton Bits, short short stories about the people, places and things in and around the fictional village of Brighton, New Hampshire.

This short short story is about characters from Christmas by Candlelight, Love in Brighton Village Book 1.

A Very Bad Christmas

Beatrice Hackett hadn’t planned on spending the night in Brighton. She hadn’t even wanted to make the trip to Brighton in the first place. But she’d made a promise, and she always kept her promises.

Drinking bad tea with Regina Buchanan had put her behind schedule and right in the path of a nor’easter. Although she didn’t value her life anymore, she felt she didn’t deserve the grace of a quick death.

To make things worse, Regina had sent her to that horrid inn that seemed to vomit Christmas. Every room, every wall, every stick of furniture had some added Christmas decoration. But Beatrice saw this torture for what it was: her rightly deserved punishment. And that was fine; she was used to swallowing bitter pills.

She set out to wait for the storm to clear as bests as she could. But everything was wrong from the cheery yellow of the room to the pillows with no give. Not to mention all that fat- and sugar-laden food spread out on the breakfast buffet.

The people around her acted as if the inconvenience of the storm was an occasion to party, with their laugher and their squishing the tables together and their constant eating. Then, as if all that suffering wasn’t bad enough, the power went out, forcing everyone into one room to stay warm.

Beatrice sat on the lone chair by the window, feet flat on the ground, spine straight and tall, hands folded neatly on her lap.

“Do you supposed this outage will last long?” Beatrice asked, glancing at the wall of white that fell outside the window, then at her hostess.

Claire tried to hide her impatience, but Beatrice noticed the small roll of eyes. This was no way to treat paying guests.

“I’m sure the utility crews will get everything up and running again as soon as they can,” Claire said.

Which wouldn’t be soon enough. Beatrice tried to tamp down the anxiety building, tightening, twisting, but it was a losing proposal, especially with all this Christmas nightmare around her.

“I don’t want to be a bother, but do you suppose I could get a glass of water?” From her skirt pocket, she drew out a small plastic bag with her anxiety medicine. Thank God, she’d had the foresight to bring some on this fool’s errand. She could not, would not, fall apart in front of these judgmental merrymakers.

Then the worst thing possible happened. They all shared their memories about their best Christmases.

As hard as Beatrice tried to stop them, the images flooded her mind. Rhys, her husband with the big smile and the bigger laugh. Bridget, her sweet daughter who loved to spend time with Beatrice. Brie and Donovan, her grandchildren, her heart, who were always so happy to run into her arms.

She saw the house with its big Christmas tree decked out with cheery lights and the ornaments they’d collected over the decades. The pile of presents she couldn’t wait for the kids to open. The children snug in their beds, having fallen asleep waiting for a peek at Santa.

She’d gone and ruined it all with one impatient tirade. That she’d had a long, tiring week making sure everything was special for the grandkids’ Christmas wasn’t an excuse.

So, she’d gone and taken herself away. She’d planned to walk only a short distance but, as she passed the church, the lights and the music drew her in. She lost herself in the midnight service that Christmas Eve. By the closing hymn, calm filled her heart and sated her soul.

Her serenity plummeted as she turned the corner onto her street. Her entire world collapsed in one instant. Her house, her husband, her daughter and son-in-law, her grandchildren, all gone. Something wrong with the furnace, someone told her. An explosion. A fire. No one could have survived. Except she had, and she vowed right there and then, puddled on the ground in grief, that she would spend the rest of her life paying for the tragedy she’d started with one burst of anger.

If you want to read more about Brighton, pick up a copy of Christmas by Candlelight and Christmas in Brighton or the new cozy mystery, Of Books and Bones. Or sign up for my newsletter.

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