Bread and Promises: A Thornton Vermont Christmas Story

Previous: Part 10: Juliet

Part 11

Photo by Jill Heyer on Unsplash

The forecasters all missed the storm. No computer model revealed its true nature in advance. Hamish woke on Christmas Eve to a world of snow like he’d never seen. It drove in nearly horizontal sheets for hours, piling up in windblown dunes against the sturdy old farmhouse.

Kate bundled out to check on the chickens. Ewan made coffee and took his laptop to the window that overlooked the meadow; Hamish watched his friend’s husband’s fingers fly over the keyboard, wondering if he watching a bestseller in the works.

Writing thoughts inevitably conjured thoughts of Juliet. She’d returned from her trip to Bennington full to overflowing with good news and optimism. Though they’d studiously avoiding talk of the future, Hamish couldn’t help dreaming of a way to make it happen. 

He’d come to Vermont on a whim—hungry for an old friend’s humor and care, not to fall in love with a woman equally as untethered to hearth and kin.

The ghost of Fiona’s laugher teased him mercilessly. You’re done for now, love

Five hours in, the snow let up from a gale to a steady fall like an old Christmas movie, fat flakes tumbled to the ground.

“There’s at least three feet out there,” Kate reported on her second return from the chicken coop. “I hope it stops in time to get to the Damselfly tomorrow.”

Hamish watched the news reports for snow totals in Montreal, thinking of Juliet, cozy and safe with her grandparents’ and uncle’s family. Missing her—and sorry for himself that they wouldn’t have this one Christmas to remember when they went their separate ways.

By evening the snow stopped. He’d wrapped the gifts he’d procured for Kate and Ewan, and there were loaves of crusty bread and rows of buttery croissants proofing in Kate’s proof box. Wherever he landed next, Hamish would miss her miniature restaurant kitchen nestled in the rolling hills and farmland of the Champlain Valley. 

Hamish went out with Kate and Ewan to help with shoveling and blowing snow. Three feet felt more like five when they hit the drifts, and Kate took pictures of them standing against the bulwarks of shoveled snow that lined the driveway. Despite the deep shadows thrown by the driveway flood lamps, he saw something in his own face he knew had been missing for a long time.

A touch of joy.

After a long shower, he texted their trio of sweaty, snowy faces to Juliet. Cradling a dram of whiskey,  Hamish contemplated the endless starlit sea of snow that stretched to a horizon of fir forest. When no little bubble announced her forthcoming reply, he left the view for Kate’s squashy couch.

He woke, hours later, to a cold room and a silent mobile.

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