“She sure doesn’t.” They gathered their containers and put them in the trash. Nicholas sat back and patted his stomach. “I’m stuffed. Would you like to go for a walk to work off some of this dinner? Or have you walked enough today?”
Even though Anna had probably walked ten miles already, a walk after that heavy meal sounded great. “Sure, if you don’t mind waiting. I have to finish paying a couple more bills first.”
“I have all evening. So go ahead.”
Side-by-side they headed back to her office.
♥ ♥ ♥
While Anna worked at her desk, Nicholas walked over to the massive bookshelf that took up half of one office wall. The shelves were packed solid with books that ranged from cookbooks to Shakespeare to romance novels. Romance novels outnumbered even the cookbooks, which surprised him.
“There. All done.”
He turned in time to see her close her business checkbook and stand. She switched from her tennis shoes to winter boots, and Nicholas held her coat for her. As he put his warm winter jacket on, he was glad he had thought ahead just in case she said yes to a walk after dinner. His snow boots would keep his feet nice and warm this time too.
Anna shut the lights off at the door, and they headed out of the shop and into the cold night air. Snowflakes the size of dimes floated down from above like light and fluffy soap flakes, touching their faces and melting the instant they did. The streets were lit up with tons of Christmas lights, and the huge light poles were decorated with LED bells and snowmen.
Two blocks away from the shop was a huge park. With Anna’s arm looped through his, he led her toward it.
“Don’t you just love Christmas?” Anna asked as they neared the park.
Nicholas gazed down at her. Even here in the semi-darkness the sparkle in her eyes reflected just how much she loved Christmas. As if the numerous decorations in her home, yard, business, office and even the breakroom wasn’t indication enough of that fact.
“It’s the best time of the year,” she continued without waiting for his answer. “I love all the people out and about, smiling and laughing. It’s so… so festive and so full of good cheer.”
While Nicholas liked Christmas, he wasn’t a big fan of what the season had become. “Well, Christmas used to be like that before people got offended by even the very mention of the word Christmas. Now most of the time all people do is walk around with sour looks on their faces and paying outrageous prices for gifts they can’t afford and going into debt up to their ears in order for their children to have the latest new electronics or video games. A simple book or a doll are no longer acceptable. No one says Merry Christmas anymore. It’s Happy Holidays, and the smiles never quite reach their eyes.”
Anna stopped, and with one tug, she stopped him. “Wow. That’s weird. People come into my shop all the time, smiling and wishing us a Merry Christmas.”
“That’s because they know you’re a Christian, and they feel safe saying that.”
“No.” She shook her head. “Not every knows that. I think people respond to other people’s good cheer. Sure, the devil is doing his best to try and rob the Christmas spirit and the real meaning of Christmas from the world, but he’s losing. Look, I’ll show you.” She tugged him forward, and within minutes they were inside the park.
Men and women of all ages walked around stopping every now and then at the vendors spread throughout the park.
Nicholas had no idea what he was listening for but he tuned his ears anyway, listening to the sounds around him. Laughter and joy, and yes, even several Merry Christmases drifted on the night air.
“So you hear the laughter?” she asked.
He had to admit, he did, so he offered her a nod.
Anna tugged him forward. “Now, watch their faces.”
A young couple and an elderly couple strolled toward them from the opposite direction.
“Merry Christmas,” Anna sing-songed as they neared.
All four of them looked over at Anna and all four smiled. “Merry Christmas to you too,” they each said cheerfully, with smiles as bright as the Christmas light displays.
“It’s a lovely night to be out shopping and enjoying the Christmas lights.” Anna held up her hand, palm side up, and she lifted her face toward the sky. Snowflakes landed on her rosy cheeks and onto her mitten. A second and her gaze came back to them.
Again with the smiles. “It sure is,” the elderly woman said. “If you haven’t seen the Christmas tree in the center of the park yet, you should. They really outdid themselves this year.”
“Oh. Thank you.” Anna smiled at her. “We’ll do that. You folks have a great evening.”