Sunday, December 9, 2012

How's the view?

I survived and thrived through NaNoWriMo - a 66,000+ winner - and took a break from my novel to enter into Mysti Parker's wonderful Christmas Flash Fiction Contest.  Mysti always runs great contests and she's posted several Christmas gems already.  Thanks for the gift of your blog, Mysti and to anyone else, check her great Tallenmere books!

Click here to read my entry!

My submission got me thinking about Point of View.  Sometimes it seems that only one character's voice can tell the story.  But more often, I prefer to entertain multiple viewpoints.  It a great way to build drama and conflict for the reader, and helps the writer free all the voices in their head.

So while Mysti posts the flash fiction I sent her from the Robert point of view, I'm sharing a peek into Ljuba's head.


A Good Story (Take 2) (c) 2012

“Night, Looby-loo.  Sure you don’t want to come with? You shouldn’t be alone on Christmas Eve.”  Jeanette gave Ljuba the puppy eyes treatment.

Ljuba airkissed Jeanette and waved to Jeanette’s husband, Daniel, who was already half-way to the door.  “Hello, ham dinner?  Jew?  Thanks sweetie, but I’ve got Kung Pao Chicken to prep and cozy flannel sheets to snuggle in.  Now scoot home to that wonderful family.”

Ljuba sighed with relief as Jeanette weaved through the remaining stalwarts still enjoying the office Christmas party.  Technically it was a Holiday party – cue the air quotes - but the company held it on Christmas Eve each year, never one of the eight nights of Hanukah.

Which was fine.  Holding it on Hanukah would mean Ljuba would be asked ad nauseum to explain the holiday.  And some idiot would make a joke about bacon or being cheap and she’d want to punch them - which wasn’t in keeping with the holiday spirit.  Besides, she liked Christmas Carols.  There were only so many times you could hear ‘Dreidel, Dreidel’ and not go mad.

The bar emptied.  That’s when she saw him.  Elevator guy.  He always got on the elevator smiling, with his Yankees travel mug and a friendly good morning to the other riders.  She liked that.  Most people just avoided eye contact.

He was so her type.  Despite his friendliness, he seemed a bit shy, blondish hair flopping over his forehead to hide his eyes.  He was yummily tall. His suits fit him like he was an athlete, his muscles showing off the cut, rather than fabric hiding some flab.

She watched him watch the TV, seemingly mesmerized by that silly Santa GPS thing they aired every year.  The bartender spoke to him for a few moments, then walked to the bottles in front of her, the ones filled with manly drinks, like bourbon or scotch. 

“Hey, is that for him?” Ljuba inclined her head towards Elevator Guy.

“Yeah.  You want one?”  The bartender poured the drink, giving her a quick grin.

Ljuba fished out a ten as she wrinkled her nose.  “Ugh.  No.  But tell him that one’s compliments of me.”

The man winked as he made change.  “No problem.”

Ljuba watched the delivery as nerves danced a cha-cha in her stomach.

Elevator guy raised his glass to her.  She lifted the martini glass holding the remnants of the Cosmo she'd nursed all evening.  After a moment, he strolled over, that killer smile on his face.  She kicked out the closest stool.

He extended his hand.  “Thank you. I’m Robert.”

“I’m Looba.  L-j-u-b-a.  You’re welcome.  We’re elevator buddies.”  She shook his hand, enjoying his firm grip before letting go.  He was even taller up close, his shoulders broad.  She felt like a munchkin.  Or maybe an elf, ha-ha.  

He smiled with his eyes. “So we are. So, Ljuba, no Christmas Eve plans?”  He frowned, but it didn’t seem directed at her. 

“I’m Jewish.  Hanukah’s over - got my eight gifts, plus a dollop of guilt served with latkes.”  Ljuba wet her mouth with an icy sip of Cosmo.

“All that’s left is the Chinese take-out, right?” Robert’s eyes went all deer in the headlights the instant the words left his mouth.   

His panic charmed her, the comment more gauche than offensive.  A snort of laughter escaped her nose.  “Chinese food’s tomorrow.  I had a few invites tonight, but -”

He grinned, his relief obvious as he finished her sentence.  “- you’re not interested in being the party orphan.”

Ljuba smirked.  “Exactly.  What about you? No plans?”

Robert shrugged.  “Mom’s with Sis, in Seattle.  Grandkids trump a single son.  Plus, I’m working the 26th.”

Phew, he was single.  “Me too. I’m glad we finally met, closing down the bar. You headed home?”  She blushed.  He was staring at her mouth, a half-smile playing across his lips. 

Robert blinked.  “Um, I was thinking about going to a service.   My Dad was a pastor.  But he died a few years ago. I haven’t gone to church since - well, I just haven’t.” 

His voice cracked, melting her insides.  She touched his hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.”

He gulped his drink, a far-off look on his face. When he didn’t respond, she said the first thing that popped in her head. “I’ve never been to a service. I love Carols.  I’d go, if you like.”

Holy Moses, did she just invite herself to church?

“Really? There’s a church nearby with an eleven o’clock candlelight service.”  His face lit up, but he bit his lip.    

“Perfect.”  Ljuba pulled out her phone.  “Do we need a cab?”

“We can walk, if you don’t mind the cold.”  Robert tossed a bill on the bar.  He helped her with her coat. 

“Merry Christmas, folks.”  The bartender waved as the cold outside air hit them.

Walking was a relief after the steamy, over-decorated bar.  Ljuba chattered about her family.  Robert didn’t say much, but he was attentive.

The church was crowded.  As they sat, a sweet-faced girl with unfortunate skin raised her trumpet.  The opening notes of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ rang out.

Robert held their book.  Ljuba almost jumped when he opened his mouth and a marvelous, deep bass issued forth. She couldn’t help but grin when he hit a low note.  She sang the alto part.  Their voices blended well.  She noticed a few folks peeking back to see who was singing.

The pastor, a woman, recited scripture: “…For the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out…”

Ljuba glanced at Robert.  He seemed enraptured.  She squeezed his hand.  He squeezed back and kept hold of hers.  She liked that.

Ljuba lost herself in the service.  She knew the basics - who didn’t - but it was different to hear it as worship, not just some trite retelling on an animated TV special.

The candle-lighting began after they took up a collection.  The flame passed through the pews.  When it reached them, Ljuba tipped her unlit wick into Robert’s candle flame.  The lights dimmed and Ljuba soaked in the quiet beauty of the softly lit faces .

The choir sang the first verse of ‘Silent Night’ in German.  The congregation joined in, as did Ljuba.  Her grandmother always flipped when Ljuba sang Carols - "those Nazi songs".  But it was beautiful, the moment so sublime even her Nonny would have sighed.

Robert’s voice faded. Ljuba looked up, her heart lurching again at the stricken look on his face. She acted on instinct, snaking her arm around him.  “Harmonize with me.”

He hesitated, then started singing.   He rushed them out ahead of the crowd.  It had started to snow at some point.  Ljuba lifted her face to let the flurries cool her skin. 

She sidestepped an icy patch of sidewalk.  “Was that hard?”

Robert tucked her arm in his.  “Yes, but…thank you.  You have a great voice.”

“You too.”  They’d reached the bar.  She’d ridden here with Jeanette.  She should probably call a taxi.

Robert exhaled a steamy breath.  “I’ll call you a cab.”

Ljuba appreciated that he didn't assume anything.  They moved out of the wind, close to the building.  Robert didn’t speak, but she didn’t mind.  It felt perfect, like the song.  A silent night.

Ljuba spied the cab, a few blocks up.  Robert cleared his throat.  “So…” 

“So… My Chinese is homemade.  My Kung Pao chicken will knock your socks off.” Ljuba peeked up, hoping he’d get the hint.

Robert grinned and tugged up his pant leg, exposing hilarious lime green socks with elves.  “You want to knock these socks off?”

Ljuba giggled.  “Definitely.  So, noon?”

The taxi pulled up.  Robert waved off the driver and opened her door. “Noon.  I’ll bring pie.” 

His hand touched her back as Ljuba got in.  She leaned out, wanting to thank him for what they’d just shared.  Wanting it not to end.  “It’s a good story, Robert.”

“What’s a good story?”  He quirked his head, all Jack Frost-like, dusted with snow.

“The Christmas story.  The baby, the stable.  The star.  It says the right things.  About love.  About being open to everyday miracles.” Ljuba flushed.  She shouldn't mention love on a first date.  Or a first whatever this was.

Robert didn't seem to mind.  His brown eyes warmed, cozier than her flannel sheets.  He leaned down.  She held her breath, tipping her face up.  His lips brushed hers, just a soft kiss, but the shiver that went through her had nothing to do with the weather. 

He smiled.  “Yeah.  It is a good story. Happy belated Hanukah, Ljuba.”

“Merry Christmas, Robert.”