As much as that hurt, Anna would always be grateful that they got to spend the last few evenings together, going for strolls in the park, shopping, making gingerbread houses for his aunt, and kissing under the canopy of stars. He had even come to her Christmas party and they’d had a great time.
“Anna? Are you okay?”
Anna looked up from her office desk and over at Cailyn. Tears pooled in her eyes.
“He’s gone, isn’t he?” Cailyn walked over to Anna and put her arm around her shoulders.
Leaning her head into Cailyn’s waist, she nodded, and let the tears fall.
“I’m sorry, Anna. I really thought he was the one.”
“I did too.” Anna sniffed.
Her friend pressed a couple of tissues into her hands, and Anna used them to wipe her eyes and nose.
Cailyn squatted down beside Anna’s chair and gazed up at her. “Do you want me to stay here with you tonight?”
“No, that’s okay. You go on home. I’ll be fine.”
“You sure? I hate leaving you like this.” Cailyn’s brows curled into a concerned frown.
A shuddered breath ran through her. Determined to rise above this, Anna pushed her shoulders back and forced a smile onto her face, a smile she felt nowhere inside of her. All she felt was numb. However, for Cailyn’s sake, she would pretend all was well. Cailyn would probably see right through her facade, but it was all she could think to do. “I want you to go to church and have fun with the young adults. Give them my love okay? And don’t forget to take the batch of cookies we made with you, okay?”
Just as she had thought, Cailyn wasn’t buying Anna’s act. She stood, stared down at Anna with a worried, unhappy look, and shook her head. “I know what you’re doing, Anna. I’ll go, and I won’t forget the cookies, but you call me if you need anything or if you want to talk. I don’t care what time it is, you hear?”
With a single nod, Anna said, “I will. Thank you, Cailyn.”
“For what?” She tilted her head.
“For always being there for me when I need a friend.”
“Hey, you’ve always been there for me. That’s what friend’s do, right?”
This time, Anna’s smile was genuine. “Yes, it is.” It had taken Cailyn a long time to trust Anna and their friendship, so coming from her that meant the world to Anna.
The two of them hugged, and Anna helped Cailyn gather the cookies, and she locked the shop door behind her friend.
Leaving only the lights she normally left on after hours, Anna made her way upstairs to the apartment. She tossed the keys on the table and flopped onto the chair, exhausted not just mentally and physically but emotionally as well.
Normally the Christmas decorations and tree lights filled her heart with joy because it was the time of year she celebrated the Light of the World’s birthday. To her, Christmas lights had always represented all the Christians who were delivered from darkness into the light of God’s Son through their acceptance of Jesus Christ. She closed her eyes, praying for that peace to return to her spirit. “Thank You, God, for sending Jesus. And thank You, Jesus, for dying for me. I love You, Lord.”
She opened her eyes and a piece of shiny gold wrapping paper under the tree caught her attention. Strange. She didn’t remember that being there before. Pushing herself off of the chair, she walked over to the tree and picked up a package.
A card with her name on it was nestled under a big red, blue, green, and gold variegated bow. That was weird. How? Who? Her gaze shot to the door. Understanding settled over her. It had to have been Cailyn. “Ah, Cailyn, you didn’t have to do this,” she whispered into the empty apartment.
She took the gift from underneath the tree and went over and sat on the love seat. Crossing her legs, she removed the card and opened it.
“Dear Cindy.” Cindy? What? Anna turned the envelope over and realized that the handwriting wasn’t Cailyn’s at all. The realization of who the present was really from barreled over Anna, bringing with it a barrage of emotions. With eager eyes, she continued to read the note. “I thought of you when I saw this. When you look at it, I hope it brings a smile to your beautiful face and fond memories of the time we were blessed to spend together.
In hopes of keeping the tears of the loss from falling, Anna closed her eyes and clutched the card to her chest as if that would somehow bring Nicholas closer.
A moment later, she drew in a deep breath and opened the package. Nestled inside the cushioned box was a snowglobe with Prince Charming kneeling on one knee in front of Cinderella, holding a single glass slipper in his hand. Cinderella held her hands close to her mouth, her eyes wide with surprise.