Julia Spencer-Fleming's Reader Space

discuss novels of faith and murder for readers of literary suspense

A Christmas Present for You: Love Came Down at Christmas

Instead of my usual Work-in-progress Wednesday excerpt, I'm putting up the first of six short vignettes about Russ and Clare at Christmas time. Each piece takes place after or within the events of the novels. I'll be posting these little stocking stuffers between now and Epiphany. Today's story occurs immediately after the end of In the Bleak Midwinter.

          Russ turned away from her and took his parka off her battered loveseat. She caught one glimpse of his face; white, set, before he vanished down the hall.

          Clare's legs gave way. She sat with a thud in the World War II admiral's chair. I didn't know. How could I have fallen in love and not known?

          It had been instinct, sheer self-preservation that had made her shove his chest. He probably thought she was rejecting him. She shook her head, as dumb as any animal witnessing a miracle. Not you. Me. She had been pushing herself away. Lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from evil. It didn't feel like evil, though. It felt like... she looked around at her office, half-lit by the setting sun and smelling of balsam. It felt like a birth. Like something new and fine had come into the world.

          She was on her feet again and out the door before she could second guess herself. She had to catch him. She had to make him understand... whatever it was that had just happened. She wasn't sure what she'd say, but she'd figure that out when she reached him. What if he walks out of the church and keeps on going? She broke into a trot. She might never see him again. Oh, God. The thought was like an icicle tracing up her spine.

          She burst through the door into the church and collided with a canvas-aproned woman. Clare caught her parishioner before the older woman could hit the stone floor. Boxwood and red satin bows went everywhere.

          “Oh, my heavens. I'm so sorry--” the name came to her, thank God, “Delia. Are you all right?”

          Delia Hall laughed shakily. “Well, that's one way to green the church.”

          Over her shoulder, Clare could see Russ's back as he disappeared into the nave. She could still stop him – if she ran. If she abandoned her duties and let someone else pick up the mess she'd made. The realization hit her like a cold wave; her first instinct had been the right one. Saying no. Pushing him away. Sending him home to his wife.

          “Reverend Fergusson? Are you okay?” Delia Hall peered at Clare. “You look a little peaked.”

          Clare stooped to pick up a boxwood cutting. “I'm fine.” By the time she stood up, she had a smile on her face. “Were you putting these on the candle holders? Let me help you.”

Views: 2499

Comment by Joan Emerson on December 14, 2011 at 5:31am

And so begins the "I'm going to get over it . . . we're just friends" dance that will come to define their relationship for the next little while.  Sometimes you can fool yourself for a bit, but the truth always comes out in the end.

I really enjoyed this glimpse into Clare's panic and her struggle to control her feelings and "do the right thing."

Comment by Barbara Beaton on December 14, 2011 at 10:58am

Thanks for this! It's always a pleasure to get to spend a little time (or even better, a LOT of time!) with Clare and Russ.

Comment by Carol A Perry-Stringham on December 14, 2011 at 11:18am

Loved it!! Thank you, JSF!

Comment by Gail Pace on December 14, 2011 at 11:29am

Thank you for this 'Christmas Present!' Wednesdays have become my favorite day of the week!

Comment by Nan Denson on December 14, 2011 at 12:14pm

I love Wednesdays!  Thanks for a great Christmas present, and more to look forward to.

Comment by Anne Richards on December 14, 2011 at 12:16pm

What a great story--I am anxiously awaiting the next one.  I love their love story!

Comment by Sue Ericsson on December 14, 2011 at 4:46pm
Wow, what an awesome find on a Wednesday afternoon before the prep for midweek service. More, more!
Comment by Mary Pat Luley on December 14, 2011 at 8:23pm

This is SO cool - what a great gift!

Comment by Reca M. Panian on December 14, 2011 at 9:56pm

Thank you - and a Merry Christmas to you!

Comment by Sammie Van Winkle on December 14, 2011 at 10:37pm

Thank you for the thoughtful present.  It was nice to go back to that first Christmas with Russ and Clare as heart wrenching as it was. 


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