Père Noel brought the snow.
When Juliet woke to a fairytale of thick, sparkling white snow, and barely passable roads, that’s all she could think. There would be no Christmas in Canada, but neither would there be a reckoning with Stephen.
Père Noel had also brought a power outage. Making her way to the kitchen to boil water for cocoa, Juliet realized she’d left her phone unplugged all night. Much like her other appliances, it was dead. That wasn’t so bad, she could still email from her laptop.
Which was in her travel bag, also uncharged.
Hamish would assume she was already in Montreal. He didn’t know she’d decided to delay her trip to avoid time with Stephen. At least he wouldn’t be worried if she couldn’t text him.
She had just enough juice in her computer to fire off a quick note to Pépère, letting him know she was safely marooned in Vermont, but would come north for Twelfth Night. The Chens’ Epiphany party was always a hoot, capping off the Christmas season with a Shakespeare-inspired masquerade and a secret gift exchange.
With nothing beyond her cozy apartment, Juliet allowed herself the pleasure of Marian Muse’s bookshelves. There was magic in having a bookseller for a landlord. She picked up a volume of short fiction by a Vermont author, and lost herself in a world threaded together by related narratives, told in a voice like a modern-day Robert Frost.
Hours later, when the late afternoon light faded, Juliet put on her boots and coat. An almost supernatural quiet had settled over the village during the storm; even the muffled rumble of plows on Main Street couldn’t break the enchantment.
Two floors below, people were emerging from the houses on nearby Chapel Street, and a handful of brave folks in pickup trucks and four-wheel drive SUVs were making their way along the banked streets.
The frozen twilight, gilded by street lamps and frosted in the last swirling flakes of the storm, was so unlike anything Juliet had ever imagined. The homes and shops were dark, with a few generator- or candle-lit windows. She stood there in a kind of rapture, grinning like a fool with her legs going numb from the knee-to-hip deep snow just beyond the doorstep.
A truck slowed, the window rolling down. The chains on the tires left a crosshatched track in the still snowy road.
The driver was a friend of Kate’s; momentarily stunned by the marshmallow world at her feet, Juliet gawped at him.
“Do you have power yet?”
He was peering across the passenger seat of his truck cab in concern. Joss. The innkeeper’s—Nan’s—husband.
“No. Haven’t all day. How’s everything with you?”
“We’re toasty warm. Wood fire and a generator built for a nuclear bunker. I came into town to check on some folks.” Joss looked around at the dark village the back at Juliet. “We’ve got room at the inn. You’re welcome to spend Christmas with us if you’d like.”
She hesitated briefly. He was barely more than a stranger, despite Kate’s efforts. That said, he was offering her shelter—quite literally—from the storm, and if she could plug in her phone… Her greedy heart sang; she could talk to Hamish.
She wouldn’t be alone at Christmas. “I’d love to. Can you give me a minute?”
Her bags were, after all, already packed.