Runaways, a short short story

Girl wearing a winter coat

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.

Let’s Run Away

Now that school was out for Christmas break, nine-year-old Claire Chandler had the run of the Candlelight Inn. Her parents loved her, she knew that, but they were always so busy taking care of the guests that she might as well be invisible.

What Claire liked best was playing in the woods, hoping to come across some animal to study. But this Christmas season saw a rare kind of guest: children. Twin boys just a few years older than her. And she loved showing off her woods to them.

As she headed outside after lunch, they spotted her right away and flanked her one on each side.

“Where are we going today?” Hunter asked, eager for adventure.

“Wherever the wind takes us.”

The boys both smiled, a stereo of pleasure. They all ran up the trail, laughing, until they reached the outcropping where the view of Brighton spread out before them.

Thorin watched, mesmerized, then said, “Let’s run away.”

The idea made perfect sense to Claire. The boys hated their lives. Nobody would miss her anyway.

“Let’s,” she said, the idea burning bright in her.

“Mission impossible!” Thorin yelled.

“Exactly,” she said. “First, we need a plan.” Crouching in the snow, she laid out their mission.

Back at the inn, the boys sneaked into their room and put on layers. Claire tiptoed into the kitchen while Aunt Emma was laying out tea things. She wrapped six turkey sandwiches and cinnamon chip scones. She escaped through one kitchen door as Emma came in the other. Claire took the long way to the dining room and filled a thermos with hot chocolate.

They all met on the far side of the cabin where Claire and her parents lived. Before they headed into the woods, she gave each of the boys a sleeping bag to carry.

Not long into their trek to freedom, the sun lowered on the horizon, dimming the light. “We need to find a place to sleep tonight.”

Claire knew just the spot. She’d seen this rock condo made of granite slabs many times on her hikes. “Here,” she said, then with a crooked smile teased the boys. “Doesn’t look as if the bobcat is home.”

“Bobcat?” Thorin said, eyes going wild.

“She’s pulling your leg,” Hunter said and grinned at her, showing off his one dimple.

She liked that he could really see her, something that was rare.

Warm and snug between the two sleeping bags and the two boys in the small cavern, Claire broke out the sandwiches. Fat snowflakes drifted by the cave’s entrance, creating a cozy world just for them.

“Where do you want to go?” Claire asked the boys.

“Everywhere,” Hunter said. “I want to see what it’s like in other places. You?”

Oh, how that echoed the longing in her heart. “Same.”

“Come with me then.”

Her heart went all sorts of funny and warmth spread all the way to her toes. “Yes!”

She turned to Thorin. “You?”

He reached for a second sandwich and took a greedy bite. “I want to find a place that’s mine, just mine. I want to have a diner where all my friends can come every day and be happy because they love me and my food and my place.”

Thorin went on to talk about all the food he’d make, all the friends he’d have, all the fun he’d have. Claire’s head leaned against Hunter’s shoulder and his head leaned against hers. She sighed. Everything was just right.

She’d just fallen asleep when a noise outside woke her up. Light filled the cave, blinding her.

“Here,” George Fisher, part of the search-and-rescue team, said. “You’re safe now. We found you.”

And just like that, the dream shattered. With every ounce of bitterness she could find, Claire said, “We aren’t lost!”

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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