By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
EDITOR’S NOTE: Daily Journal writers have flexed their fiction muscles to create a six-part Christmas story. The final chapter will run on Christmas Eve.
“How about an Egg Bowl truce?”
Sam Lane looked toward the voice to find a cream cheese danish and steaming cup of hot chocolate in his face. Behind the cup and paper-wrapped danish was the smiling face of his friend, Cindy Burnet, her black hair shining against her yellow Ole Miss hoodie.
Sam laughed as she handed him the treats.
“Nothing can wash away the bitter taste of defeat like hot chocolate,” he said before taking a long drink.
Cindy plopped down beside him in the alley behind his mom’s hardware store and unwrapped a cinnamon roll.
“I guess I shouldn’t be feeding the enemy,” she said, popping a piece of warm bread into her mouth.
“The enemy?” Sam asked through a mouthful of danish.
“Well, yeah,” Cindy said. “Our parents fighting about this United Way campaign, both trying to be the grand marshal. You’re a Bulldog; I’m a Rebel. Clearly we are arch-nemeses.”
“Well, what do I know? Maybe this hot chocolate is poisoned.”
“Hey, y’all are the ones who sell deadly chemicals,” Cindy said, giggling.
The pair sat quietly for a moment in the cool morning air. Gumtree wasn’t busy and bustling just yet, so the only sounds were a few birds, the occasional car passing by and the rustle of leaves that had piled up in the yard at the First United Methodist Church.
His danish devoured, Sam sighed and leaned his head against the brick building.
“Can I trust the enemy to keep a secret?” he asked.
“Of course,” she said quickly, stowing the balled-up wrappers in the pocket of her hoodie.
“I’m kind of tired of this campaign. I thought when I came home for Christmas break, I could help out at the store, relax, have a good Christmas,” he said, sighing. “And I’m all about raising money for the campaign, but this grand marshal thing is making my mom go nuts. Even Dean is sick of it, and he usually loves Christmastime.”
“Preaching to the choir, Sam,” Cindy said. “All my Dad talks about is how much money he’s raised, how much your mom has raised, that we all need to be in the parade together as a family. I think it’s because he’s so competitive. I guess I would be too, if I had to go through culinary school with the last name Burnet.”
“The other students asked him if his middle name was Will. Get it? Stanley Will Burnet?”
Sam laughed, brushing the crumbs from the danish away from his MSU windbreaker.
“He’s always felt like he needed to prove himself,” Cindy said with a shrug. “He always wants to win. I just wish he’d be more into the Christmas spirit. Usually he takes me and Shelby to go look at lights, but he hasn’t done that this year. Not even once.”
Sam picked up the hex bolt he’d been spinning in his hand before Cindy had joined him, and began spinning it again.
“Wish there was a way to make them both happy, and so we could both have a good Christmas,” Sam said.
“Maybe there is,” Cindy said, a big smile beginning to light up her face.
She jumped up from the concrete so fast, the pouch in her hoodie emptied all of its contents: the empty cinnamon roll and danish wrappers and a beaten-up paperback novel.
As she scrambled after the paper, Sam picked up the book and eyed its black and red cover featuring a brooding vampire and a beautiful red-headed woman, with a blood-red rose in between them.
“You read these things?” he asked.
“Obviously,” Cindy said, pointing at the frayed cover. “I know the Artimus vampire series is cheesy and everybody reads them, but they’re a good escape. S.A. Jones is an amazing writer.”
Sam hopped to his feet and handed her the book.
“Can my arch-nemesis keep another secret? I really loved that first Artimus movie. Matt Bomer was an awesome vampire, and Emma Stone is hot.”
“Your secret dies with me,” Cindy said in a bad accent as she pretended to stake her own heart. “I’ll Facebook you about my plan. You’ll see, we’ll save Christmas after all.”
Cindy headed toward Sweet Lips, and Sam went back inside Nuts & Bolts.
Coming Sunday: Chapter 5: Scarlett’s secret gets out.