Chasing Christmas

by Alex Winters

Chasing Christmas by Alex Winters

Shay Witherspoon is tired of being the third wheel. For as long as she can remember, she’s been on the outside looking in as her best friend, Cara Kinkaid, shares the perfect relationship with Shay’s longtime crush, Benjy Baltimore. But, two years after graduation, Cara has finally headed off to college for the fall semester, leaving Shay and Benjy behind to toil in daily shifts together at Pig Out, the local BBQ chain. When Shay catches Cara in a compromising position during their weekly FaceTime call, she troubles over whether to tell Benjy or not. All the while, the two grow closer and closer until they inevitably succumb to temptation and share an incredible night of forbidden passion together.

Shay hopes that her entirely made up new holiday, Treesgiving—otherwise known as the day after Thanksgiving when she will put the tree up and eat only Christmas related treats—will take her mind off Cara’s inevitable trip home for Thanksgiving, to say nothing about how her suddenly rocky relationship with Benjy will shake loose, or hold together, in the fray. But when the dust settles and she and Benjy’s dirty little secret finally comes to light, Shay must deal with the fallout like a big girl...and just in time for Christmas!

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Release Date: November 7, 2023

Genre: Contemporary Holiday Romance

~ A Pink Satin Romance ~


Chapter One

“Treesgiving?” Benjy makes a face. His soft brown eyes are dubious in the shadow of his faded red ball cap.

I make one back. “What? You’ve never heard of it?”

“Of course, I haven’t.” He looks at me over the rim of his plastic Pig-Out cup. The logo is a pig with wings. A pig with wings wearing a cap very much like the ones on our young, tired heads. Meta much? His long fingers grip the cup lazily, like they always do. “Because it doesn’t exist.”

I jut out my chin. “Does too.”

He chuckles. A soft, crooked smile. Bashful and boastful at the same time. “Then how come I’m just hearing about it now, huh?”

“Cuz you’re lame and don’t ever listen to a word I say?”

“Accurate.” He still looks clueless, though.

I cluck my tongue. “I mean, I’ve only been talking about it since Halloween.”

He sighs impatiently. Nudges my foot under the patio table. I shiver, not unpleasantly, at the touch. Wither under the curious gaze from his gentle eyes. Enjoy the flattering shadows that drift across his light-skinned face under the string of exposed bulbs gently waving in the soft breeze above us. Drink in his long, gangly body, so enticing and smooth even in just his workaday uniform and wish, for about the millionth time, I could be happy just staying in The Friend Zone. “Just tell me what it is already, Shay.”

“It’s just a little party I throw every year on the day after Thanksgiving.” He looks unimpressed so I keep spinning, really selling it the way I would the dinner special to an unsuspecting party of five. “It’s all very super cool like. We put up the tree, string the lights, hang the ornaments, drink hot cocoa spiked with peppermint schnapps, eat Christmas cookies by the dozen and—”

He’s totally not having it. Yawns and stretches and gives me all the body language at the same time. “I so call bullshit on this whole thing.”

“What? You can’t call bullshit. You weren’t even listening to what I was saying.”

“Was too!”

“Was not! I could see your eyes glaze over five words in.”

His face is vaguely apologetic before he shrugs. “Cuz you were being super-duper extra, that’s why.”

“I was, wasn’t I? I felt as if I leaned in a little too hard, but I’m just really very excited about it so… no apologies here.”

Big frowny face. “No one’s ever been that excited about anything, Shay.”

I pout, vaguely hurt. Why is nobody, literally, nobody, excited about this frickin’ brand-new holiday I invented? Not my manager, not my neighbor, not my coworkers, not even Cash, the creepy dude in the dish pit who typically hangs on every word I say, can seem to muster up any enthusiasm for this thrill-a-minute holiday of mine. I mean, everybody I tell about it, when they stop running away from me long enough to actually listen to me, that is, kind of gives the same “meh” reaction. “Well, I am. I’m extremely excited.”

“Well, can you explain it without all the fireworks and hand waving and no crazy eyes this time, please? You’re making me hate it already before I even understand it.”

“No, Benjy, I can’t, actually. A holiday this special deserves fireworks and hand waving, even crazy eyes for that matter.”

He chuckles and takes a long, luxurious sip of his shift drink. Cheap well vodka and cranberry, like always. I forgot I even had one and do the same. Life is so much different since we both turned 21 last year, opening up a whole new world of shift drinks, lazy times after work, cheap vodka buzzes and the lingering, simmering temptation of sitting across from Benjy with a belly full of booze.

He sets down his pig-covered cup and narrows his chocolate brown eyes at me, a winning complement to his smooth bronze skin and lazy, crooked smile. “I’ve known you for how long and I’ve never heard of this faux holiday before. That’s why I’m calling bullshit.”

“Well, I mean, it’s my first year in the new apartment, so...”

He lights another cigarette. Expresses his dissatisfaction by exhaling soft, warm smoke all over me. “So, you just... made it up?”

I glance down at the lighter stacked on top of his crumpled pack of cheap cigarettes. It’s got a picture of a hula girl on it. Perfect. “Sort of, yeah.”

“So, what are you sitting there making me feel like an ass for if no one else in the world but you knows about it, either?”

“I dunno? It’s pretty easy, though.”

He sputters out a cough-laugh, staccato cigarette smoke scattering across the littered tabletop like tiny smoke signals. Glances toward the French doors leading out to the side deck. Sits up a little. “Let’s suppose I do come to your fake holiday.”

I feel a little gurgle of anticipation. This is it. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. This…this could actually, possibly, maybe be happening. I bluff just the same. “There’s no supposing. You are coming. That’s a fact. Get used to it.”

“Fine, but how you gonna fix both of us having the day off after Thanksgiving?”

I shrug casually, like I haven’t been pulling the strings on this covert operation for literal days at this point. “Glenda always says whoever works Thanksgiving is off on Black Friday, or vice versa. in?”

“I’m down with working Thanksgiving, I guess.” He shrugs back, mulling it over. “You gonna put the ‘day off’ request in for us?”

I nudge his foot back under the table. The cheap vodka and cran are gently kicking in and I let my toes linger there a smidge longer than I usually would. He doesn’t notice or, if he does, doesn’t seem to care. “Would you be mad if I already did?”

He beams at me from under his weathered Pig-Out ball cap, that simple smile making all the hard work I’ve put into this totally worth it. “Frankly, Shay, I’d be disappointed if you hadn’t.”

We chuckle lazily. Familiarly. Overhead the country music oozes softly from carefully angled speakers hidden in the rustic wooden rafters above us. Over the years, we’ve learned to ignore it almost completely. The clang and twang are at such distinct odds with the generally breezy, reggae style, salty vibe of our otherwise tropical little seaside Florida town.

We sit in comfortable silence for a few moments. Gaze past each other at the vacant patio attached to the main restaurant. Hardwood tables are a little small for four but just right for two. Black wire mesh chairs that are especially comfortable after another long shift. A few rows of exposed bulbs swaying gently overhead. Sip the last of our free shift drinks. Jiggle the ice at the bottom of our red plastic pig-cups to get the last of the slushy vodka and cranberry goodness. Speak over each other at the same time:

“Anyway, I think it should be a good time...”

“You ready, Shay?”

I stand abruptly, as if summoned. The chair makes an awkward sound as it stumbles out with me. Try to hide my disappointment at his abrupt signoff. I could have stayed like that, chill and swoony, buzzed and blushing with my toes inches from Benjy’s, for another hour at least.

Maybe even two. Who am I kidding? Definitely two, girl. Come on now.

I don’t know why I still get so surprised when he does that. Benjy’s always ready to go before I am. Whether we’re at the movies or just grabbing sushi after work, when he’s done that’s it. Up and at ‘em and out the door. I wonder, idly, if he’s like that in bed, too. Cara’s never said. Thank God for small miracles, I suppose. “Yeah, just lemme get my backpack first.”

He unfolds himself from the deck chair, all gawky limbs, and sharp angles. Quickly. Like he’s been ready to go forever. Grabs his own backpack, ancient and tattered and covered in concert pins for bands he was all hot on once upon a time but probably hasn’t listened to in ages. Wags it at me as I tidy up a bit. “Told you to get it when we came out here. Why don’t you ever listen to me?”

I wave a hand. “Yeah, yeah...”

He watches me reach for the door. Bites his lower lip. “Meet you at the bike rack?” He sounds uncertain. Like maybe I won’t. Like I’ll actually skip it this time. For, like, the first time ever.

I give him a reassuring grin instead. Linger as our eyes meet, full of all kinds of things we’ve never had the guts to explore. “Duh.”


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