Where does the time go? Can you believe this is the fifth year of the Eight Ladies Christmas Short Story Challenge?
Below is mine—not exactly a HEA, but something sunny to contrast with Michaeline’s dark night of the soul 😉 .
Breaking With Tradition
She knew why she’d accepted. He was her boss’s son. A brilliant scholar. Rich. Classy. Stylish. Blond, tanned, and perfectly proportioned. Out of her league. She’d been drunk on flattery and Dom Perignon. And now here they were, on her island, in a collision of cultures that had bypassed fiasco and was thundering toward disaster.
“Sorry, Mia. I’m not walking up there.” The midday sun reflected off Arthur’s mirrored shades as he stared at the sacred volcano, powerful and mysterious. “It must be five miles to the top.”
“It’s traditional,” Mia repeated. She folded her arms grimly over the knot of her bridal pilgrimage flame-print sarong.
His lower lip jutted. “I gave you my grandmother’s diamond solitaire. Isn’t that traditional enough?”
She shook her head, dislodging a few fragrant petals from her flower crown. “We have to walk to the crater and ask for Pinguis’s blessing. No islander would get married here without it. You said you were looking forward to it. You said it would be fun.”
“I was ambivalent at best.” His voice rose to a whine that made him sound like a colicky, grizzly baby. “Furthermore, when you first broached the idea I didn’t know it would be so damned hot.”
“You’d be cooler if you lost the suit and tie.”
“For the last time, Mia, a gentleman does not wear a skirt, even in the tropics.” He leaned forward slightly, eyes narrowed. “Are you naked under that wrap?”
“Of course. It’s customary.” She slanted a glance at him. “Many people find it sexy.”
“It’s embarrassing.” He smoothed out a non-existent crease in his sleeve. “Why don’t you put some proper clothes on—something that fastens. With a zipper. Or buttons. I’ll take you for lunch at the yacht club.”
Pinguis, help me. The honeymoon was over, and they weren’t even married yet.
“It’s not too late, Arthur,” she heard herself blurt.
He slid his lenses down his nose and frowned at her over the rims.
“You should go to the yacht club.” Inspiration struck and she smiled for what felt like the first time since he’d slid that rock on her finger. “Tell Angela I sent you.”
“She’s tall, blonde, and speaks five languages. Her family owns the beachfront estate next to the club. You want zippers and buttons, she’s your woman.”
And if Angela ever walked barefoot up the volcano, they’d hear the eruption back in San Francisco.
He raised his neatly groomed eyebrows. “Are you jilting me, Mia?”
She slipped the ring off and handed it to him, watching the flawless stone blaze in the brilliant sunlight. Stood on tiptoe and kissed him neutrally on the cheek.
“Be happy, Arthur.”
The wedding was off, but the party was not. And on the beach under the stars, in the benevolent shadow of the volcano, with the sand in her toes and love in her heart, who knew what the new year might bring?