12 Days of Christmas 2016, Flash Fiction

7 Chocolate Coins

This prompt is from Suzanne EmeraldGaze in Nano in a Nanowrimo FB group! Enjoy!

The List:

Names: Helen Baker, Tobey Tarshis
Holiday: Hanukkah
Place: Deserted road in the middle of nowhere
Object: Box of Hanukkah candles

“Tobey! Come on, we’re gonna be late!” 16-year-old Helen scowled as she scanned the ends of the aisles for any sign of her cousin. “Damn it,” she hissed, sliding out of line and pushing past the eager shoppers to maneuver through the aisles. Where had the little whirlwind gone now?

They’d been at the same store for the past three hours while Tobey debated on the perfect Hanukkah gift for his family. It was his first year earning a substantial allowance. According to his mother, he had been saving since Thanksgiving in order to give everyone “the best Hanukkah gifts any 7-year-old can afford.”

When Helen had snorted and raised a bemused brow at her aunt’s turn of phrase, Katherine had simply shrugged.

“His words, not mine.”

Of course, being seven, his mother still thought he was too young to take a taxi or the subway alone to anywhere except school and back home, and sometimes to a friend’s house with enough notice. By the time he earned enough money to by all the gifts though, it was so close to the holiday that his parents were too busy cooking and cleaning to concern themselves with shopping. Thus prompting him to assault Helen with the  biggest, most adorable puppy dog eyes he could muster when she and her family had arrived at their Brooklyn townhouse that afternoon.

At first, Helen had done everything she could to try and worm her way out of trudging all the way to middle-of-nowhere New Jersey to Aunt Katherine’s favorite candy shop, but at her mother’s insistence, begrudgingly agreed.  

A quick glance out the automatic double doors only to see half of the setting sun hovering over the shoreline made her stomach drop. “Mom’s going to kill me if we miss the menorah lighting!”

She sprinted further toward the back of the store, her eyes cutting back and forth through the aisles at her right.

“Whoa!” At the last second, she attempted to dig the heels of her shoes into the tile, but the friction of the rubber soles against the slippery linoleum gave her too much momentum, and she crashed into an older woman balancing a teetering pyramid of packages precariously in her arms.

The boxes began tumbling one by one, but the woman managed to keep a tight grip on the bottommost three.

Helen leaned forward to brace herself on the woman’s shoulders to keep from face planting. She thanked her relentless ice-hockey coach for teaching her the value of quick reflexes, as she was somehow able to keep herself upright and grab the woman’s arm when she began to teeter backwards in the same instant.

“I’m so sorry!”

The woman offered her a light smile. “It’s quite alright dear.” She shifted the three remaining packages under her right arm and bent forward. Her wrinkled hand reached out to grab the  nearest overturned one.

Heat licked at Helen’s cheeks when she realized what the woman was doing. Well? Don’t just stand there like an idiot. Help her.  

She dropped to her knees and scrambled to gather the remaining boxes. She pushed herself up from the floor, and with her free hand helped the woman resituate the packages.

“Here you go.” She handed over the smallest box, grimacing at her clumsiness. “Sorry about that… Again.”

The woman chuckled. “Where’s the fire, hon?”

Helen blinked. “What?”

“You were running awfully fast there.” She winked and nudged Helen’s shoulder with her own. “Hot date tonight?”

Helen bit her lip to keep from laughing and shook her head. “No, just some… last minute shopping.”

The woman’s eyes twinkled. “Well, thank you for helping me back there. Happy holidays!”

Helen smiled. “You too.”

She wandered every aisle of the store before, finally, her cousin’s signature red hair and freckle-peppered face peeked out from the very end of the shelves by the farthest wall. “Tobey!” Her shoulders slumped in relief as she trotted toward him. “Thank God! Where have you been?”

Tobey cocked his head to the side and gave her a strange look. “I told ya, I‘m shopping for Mom and Aunt Maggie.” He smiled and showed Helen the things he’d picked out, an array of Hanukkah candies, including the milk chocolate dreidels, her favorite.

Helen pressed her lips and raised an eyebrow. “Can you afford all that?”

Tobey frowned and stuck out his tongue. “‘Course I can; I’ve been saving for it forever!”

A smirk twitched at the edge of Helen’s lips. “Come on, squirt,” She took his arm and started leading him back toward the front of the store.  “We’re gonna miss dinner if we don’t get out of here.”

“Okay, but…” With his free hand, he held up a netted bag of gold-wrapped chocolate coins and flashed a sneaky smile. “Do you think this is enough?”


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