♫On the tenth day of Bookmas, the book blogger gave to me, a Christmas short story, a year overview, a review for the reading, a bit of Hide & Seek, some festive reads, a post about films, reading recipes, comic book thoughts, a list of writing tips and a book rec for a mystery♫
It is so close to Christmas now, I can really feel it! I hope you are all getting into the Christmas spirit and eating lots of delicious food, singing carols and getting excited for presents! Today I have a little present for you guys. This is actually the first time I've ever done this, so I'm a little nervous!
What I am giving you today is a fully completed Christmas-themed short story written by me. Yep, and entire 3,500 word short story filled with cutesy Christmas feels, unlucky characters and hilarity. I have been working on this since I started planning Bookmas, and I'm so so so excited to share it with you. The story is about possibly one of the worst scenarios you can get yourself into at Christmas: getting locked in a shopping centre bathroom.
Without further ado, here is the story! I really hope you all enjoy it :)
Perhaps if I hadn’t decided that last minute Christmas shopping was a fantastic idea, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Perhaps if I hadn’t spent weeks putting it off and off. Perhaps if I hadn’t been playing Angry Birds on my phone for hours whilst I waited in the catastrophic pre-Christmas lines. Or perhaps if all my professors had laid off the homework in the last week before Christmas break, too. If I’d had more time.
But there’s really no use complaining now. Especially considering I’m trapped in a shopping centre toilet stall on Christmas Eve, when I should be at home with my family. I wonder where they think I am. Do they think I’d blow off family dinner? I hope not.
There’s going to be no nice way to recount this story. It’s the type of story they’ll either die laughing over or die crying over. When you get yourself into a situation like this, there’s really no living it down.
And it began earlier yesterday, when I realized it was almost Christmas Eve, and I’d bought neither presents nor the groceries required to make the dish I’d said I would for family dinner. It’s not completely out of character for me to be this unorganized, let me tell you. Let anyone tell you. But, it being my first Christmas after having moved out of home and into a dingy little studio apartment close to my university, I figured my family would cut me some slack.
The plan was to hit the shops ASAP, and be home with time to spare to whip up a delicious potato salad. I was going to conquer Christmas shopping this year. Today was going to be combat shopping — not for the faint of heart.
But this, of course, never came about. After a long sleep in and a few hours of trying (and failing… multiple times) to make French toast as a special Christmas Eve breakfast, it was suddenly the afternoon. What can I say, I never was very good at time management. And then, once I finally realized the time and raced out of my apartment, my Great Aunt Hilda, a notorious talker with a penchant for tall tales, decided it was time for our yearly Christmas phone call.
And lo and behold, it wasn’t until late afternoon before I made it even into the shopping centre. Which I suppose began the start of the calamitous afternoon I’d had.
Now, as I sit in a toilet stall, bags of gifts around me, it pains me to think of where I should be. And how my own stupidity got me here.
I’d rushed into the bathroom just as the centre was closing (you’d think most shopping centres would be open late on Christmas Eve. Nope, not ours. Typical). The security guards had just done their sweep of the bathrooms, and one who took pity on me let me in and said, “Be quick.”
But the security guards never came back. Well, they never heard my cries for help, at least. Because the stall I entered, bundling in with all my various shopping bags, just so happened to be the stall that jammed. Jammed beyond the point of my brute force.
I remember the feeling of the panic setting in, as I threw my body weight against the door and it still wouldn’t budge. I screamed and screamed before I realized — my phone. Of course. I called my mum first, because I thought I better explain why I wasn’t at family dinner. No answer. Typical. I’m stranded in a closed shopping centre toilet, and my mother still cannot answer her phone.
I go to call the emergency services, wondering if they even work on Christmas Eve (no, but they’d have to, right? Danger doesn’t take a break for Christmas. I think?), but my phone blanks. Battery. I’ve never been so unfortunate on one single day in my life. Perhaps I get some good karma for this. Perhaps this is bad karma for everything I’ve done this year (maybe once I get out of here, I’ll apologise to my professor for that one time I fell asleep in his lecture…).
My throat hurts from screaming. I try to listen for noises outside the toilet. Maybe there’s a security guard who’s doing circles around the centre, looking for burglars or stray shoppers or Santa Claus. Maybe I’ll get lucky.
I’ve eaten through my sister’s chocolate Christmas house I was planning to give her tonight. Not now, I think, as I nibble one of the last bits. It doesn’t nearly fill me up. The thought of Christmas ham and potatoes and green beans makes me feel lightheaded. Why, oh why, do I have to be stuck here and not at Christmas dinner?
Then, I hear a shuffling outside the door. My heart starts racing. “Hello!” I yell. “Hey! Please help! I’m stuck in here!”
A squeaking sound. Footsteps. I keep yelling out.
“Who’s in there?” someone asks. It’s at this point where I wonder whether this was the best decision. This person could be a burglar. Or worse, a murderer. Or better, Santa Claus. That would almost make this worth it, just for the story. But I’m more concerned about the murderer possibility.
“Um… Hi. My name’s Noël. I’m stuck in this stall,” I say carefully. “Who are you?”
I hear a chuckle from outside. “What an icebreaker we’ve got here,” the voice says. I can gauge that the person is most likely male. And youngish (hopefully). What he’s doing in a closed shopping centre, I have no idea, but I’m pretty thankful. As long as the aforementioned murderer thing doesn’t become a reality.
“My name’s Oliver,” the voice says. I hear footsteps over to in front of my stall, and I can see his scuffed Oxfords under the door.
“As lovely as it is to be acquainted with your voice and shoes, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind helping me escape from this stall,” I ask.
Oliver laughs. “That should be fine. But you owe me the story behind how you got here once we free you,” he replies.
I roll my eyes. “Sure. Just pull on the door. I’m going to push against it. On three… two… one!” I push against the door with all my might, and I can feel it give a little.
“Hey, Noël?” Oliver says through the door. “Why didn’t you use your mobile phone to call for help? Surely you have one.”
I push hard against the door. “It died, unbelievably enough. Fun fact about me: I am the unluckiest person alive.”
“It seems so. This door really is stuck,” Oliver mutters, breathing heavily. “How does a door even get this jammed?”
“Honestly?” I huff, getting ready to push again. “I have no idea. Could only happen to me. Are you ready to go again? Three… two… one!”
After a few more minutes of intensive door unjamming, the door flies open, sending me tumbling out the front of the stall and into Oliver.
“We did it!” I exclaim, stepping away from him and doing a little victory dance. “I’m freed!”
Oliver chuckles. I retrieve my shopping bags. “How long were you in there?” he asks, looking into the stall that was previously my almost-death chamber.
“A few hours. What time is it?” I reply, washing my hands vigorously. I had previously taken for granted just how nice freedom is.
Oliver gapes. Only now do I actually take in his appearance. He’s tallish, with a mess of dark brown hair that looks like it needs a haircut, and he looks no more than a little older than me. His eyes are wide and brown, full of mischief. But I feel like I knew that from his voice. He wears nice clothes, clothes that look like they might have been expensive, but there’s something off about him that I just can’t put my finger on.
“It’s almost midnight! How did you survive in there for that long?” he asks incredulously.
I smile and hold up my shopping bags. “Thankfully I had some presents to eat.”
He grins. “You’re like the Bear Grylls of shopping. Let’s get out of here. I think we’ve both spent too much time in the ladies’ restroom for one day,” he says, grabbing some of the shopping bags from me and holding the bathroom door open.
Freedom is beautiful, I think, as I skip around the centre, twirling and giggling. The shopping centre looks so empty and dark. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
And then I realise — I’m stranded in a closed shopping centre on Christmas Eve with a strange boy I’ve only just met. Just like most things in my life, there is nothing normal about this situation. I wonder what my family are doing right now. They’d have finished dinner, and the kids would be asleep on the couches. Wrapping paper would be strewn all over the floor, and the adults would pass around eggnog and laugh at old stories.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Oliver asks, dropping my shopping bags at the base of the nearby fountain. If it were opening hours, the fountain would be bubbling, but it’s not. It’s asleep, and we should be, too.
“Nothing. I need to — I need to go,” I say, grabbing my bags and heading for the entrance. “Thank you for your help!” I call over my shoulder.
Oliver sits lazily on the edge of the fountain. “I don’t think you’ll be very successful in leaving the centre right now,” he yells after me.
The murderer thing pops back into my head. I try to flick it away. I turn back to him, but I don’t’ walk towards him. “Why?”
“The shopping centre’s closed, Noël,” he says. “The doors all lock.”
I let out a sigh, and tears start to well in my eyes. “So I’m stuck in here on Christmas Eve,” I say quietly. My words bounce around the empty centre.
I slowly walk back over to the fountain, and I sit next to Oliver. “There are worse nights to be stuck here,” he replies. “At least during Christmas there’s nice little decorations and stuff.” I wonder why he’s been stuck in a shopping centre before. I wonder why he’s stuck in one now.
“Why are you here, Oliver? Where are you supposed to be?” I say, dipping my hand into the fountain. I pull out a coin from the floor and flip it in my hands.
“What do you mean, where am I supposed to be?” Oliver says. “I’m here right now. That’s clearly where I’m supposed to be.”
“Well, I’m meant to be with my family. Having Christmas dinner. Surely you’re meant to be somewhere. And how did you get stuck in here in the first place?” I ask.
Olive fiddles with a loose thread on his shirt. “Let’s play a game,” he says. I stare at him. “I get to ask you a question, and if you answer it, you get to ask me one. If you forfeit, I keep asking questions until you answer one. And then we swap.”
I nod slowly. “Okay then.”
“I’ll start easy. How old are you?” he asks.
“Eighteen. And you?”
He smiles. “Nineteen. My turn again. Why were you shopping right before your family dinner?”
I scoff. “Because I’m not very good with time management. Are you a murderer?”
This time, he actually laughs. Laughs at me. I would feel embarrassed, but can he really blame me for asking? Then again, if he were a murderer, would he actually tell me? Now I’m regretting asking.
“Yes, Noël. I am. However, it’s Christmas so I’m taking a break from my normal murder schedule. Evil’s gotta celebrate the birth of Christ too, you know,” he says, amused. “Why do you think I might be a murderer?”
I shrug. “Because you’re in a closed shopping centre helping young girls escape from jammed bathroom stalls. Now, why are you in a closed shopping centre?” I ask. I’m still not convinced that he’s not a murderer. I am not an expert in teenage boys, but I would imagine that most of them would be required to, if not wanting to, spend Christmas with their families.
“Ahhh, now there’s a question I’d like to forfeit. But considering you think I’m a murderer I should probably fill in that blank for you,” he says, pausing. I wonder what would make him end up here, of all places. “Well, Christmas in my family isn’t your normal, happy-family, let’s-sit-around-the-hearth-and-laugh-at-good-old-times Christmas. Lots of yelling. Throwing things. And you could say that my parents aren’t especially fond of me.”
I suddenly feel incredibly sympathetic for this boy, who is hiding in a shopping centre on Christmas to avoid his family. It’s kind of devastating. “I’m sorry, Oliver,” I say, but it doesn’t come close to expressing how I feel. I now understand why his outfit looked a little off. He’s clearly been wearing it for a few days.
He shakes his head. “Don’t be. I’ve come here to hide out a lot over the years. It’s not that hard to sneak into here. And it’s quite peaceful. I’m surprised more runaways don’t crash here.”
There’s a pause. It’s funny that we’ve known each other for only half an hour, but we’re both stuck here, on one of the biggest holidays of the year, alone, and so we’ve forged an odd bond. Also, there’s the fact he saved me from death in a toilet stall. Always a good trust building exercise.
“Okay, my turn. What would you be doing right now, if you hadn’t been locked in a toilet stall?” he asks.
I think for a minute. “Well, it’s almost midnight, so most of my extended family would be leaving. My aunties and cousins and such. My parents and grandparents and I would probably stay up watching Home Alone or something, and my siblings would go to bed. I’d make tea and eggnog and we’d stay up and laugh and set up presents for the next day,” I say. The whole thing makes my chest ache. “This is the first Christmas I will have missed.”
“Don’t you think your parents would have called the police or gone looking for you or something?” Oliver asks.
I smile. “Not your turn, Oliver. But yeah, I think they might’ve. They wouldn’t think to check here,” I sigh. “Anyways. My turn. Do you know anywhere I can get food in here?”
In response, Oliver grins cheekily and stands up. He holds out his hand. “I’m so glad you asked that,” he says. “Come with me, Noël.”
I slowly raise my hand to his, and he leads me through the empty, echoing corridors. Christmas lights glitter from where they hang on the ceiling. It’s a bit spooky, but it’s also strangely beautiful.
“Where are you taking me? I seriously hope you aren’t going to murder me,” I say.
“Nope, no murder tonight. Just dinner,” he replies. Then, we stop abruptly. “Welcome to my personal restaurant.”
He gestures to a wall full of vending machines. I’ve never been down this end of the shopping centre before, with all the children’s play areas and fitness clubs. Seems strange to put the vending machines here, but I’ll take any food at the moment.
“What do you normally have for Christmas dinner, Noël?” he says. I like the way he says my name. Maybe it’s Christmas looming, but it seems more magical. Noël. Like it is its own little carol.
I smile. “Ham, and turkey. Roast beef. The best potatoes in the world,” I reply.
He pulls out loose coins from his pocket. “Potatoes, that I can do,” he says, sliding a coin into one of the machines and punching the numbers in. Out comes a few packs of potato chips. “And perhaps some dessert?”
He turns to the next machine and retrieves some chocolate bars. “I’d say we’ve got a Christmas Eve dinner fit for royalty.” He grins, bundling up the food in his long arms. I keep thinking he’s going to drop something, but he doesn’t.
“And I know exactly where to eat it.”
Oliver leads me across the entire centre and up several flights of stairs, but it’s worth it when we arrive. We’re on the roof, a little balcony lookout that belongs to the rooftop café (turns out cafés aren’t that hard to break into when closed. Oliver even nicks a few muffins from the windows). And the view of the city is incredible. Not only are the glowing lights an art form in their own right, but accompanied by the rainbow assortment of Christmas lights glittering all over, it’s positively enchanting. It takes my breath away.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Oliver says, passing me some chips. “I come up here sometimes, when I want to be alone. But it’s quite incredible during Christmastime.”
“Alone?” I ask.
He shrugs. “I’m not normally with anyone. You’re the first — the first person I’ve ever really hung out with here, after hours.”
I smile. I can see him watching me out of the corner of my eye, but I can’t move my gaze from the lights. “Then I suppose it isn’t all bad that I’m stuck here, then.”
I finally look back to him, and he’s smiling, too. His face is lit softly by all the shining lights. We’re silent for a while as we eat and watch the silent city. It’s true, strangely enough, what they say about the night before Christmas. It’s quieter than I’ve ever seen it. Very few cars, no people wandering the streets. It’s incredibly peaceful.
“It’s after midnight, Noël,” he whispers. We’re really quite close now, and I move closer to hear him well. “Merry Christmas.”
I lean my head against his shoulder. “Merry Christmas, Oliver.”
And with the quietness of the world, and Oliver as my pillow, I fall asleep.
“Noël! Noël! Wake up!” I hear. As I slowly open my eyes, I can see Oliver gently shoving me awake.
I groan. “What? What is it?” I murmur.
Oliver pulls me up. Discarded chip bags fly around the balcony with the wind. “I just thought of something! We’re going to get you out of here. Your Christmas is not yet ruined!”
I rub my eyes as Oliver leads me off the balcony and back through the centre. “Oliver! What is it? How are we getting out?”
He grins. “The payphone! I only just thought about it. If they don’t bother switching off the vending machines, perhaps they don’t bother switching the payphone off, either!”
I’m suddenly very awake. “You’re a genius! I’m going to get home for Christmas!”
Oliver laughs. “Yes, you are!”
We practically skip the rest of the way there, back past the fountain and my discarded shopping bags, and past the bathroom I was stuck in hours earlier.
Oliver jams some of his leftover coins into the phone and I punch in my parent’s home number. It rings three times before my mum answers. “Hello?” I hear her ask. She sounds tired.
“Mum! It’s me,” I say. “It’s Noël.”
I can hear her start to cry through the phone. “Noël, we thought you’d gone missing. Where are you? Are you okay?”
I smile, tears starting to trail down my cheeks. “I’m fine. You’re going to laugh so hard when I tell you where I’ve been. But for now, I’m stuck in the shopping centre. It’s completely locked up and I’m here with —” I stop, noticing Oliver’s wide-eyed expression and vigorous head-shaking. “Never mind. Can you call someone to help me?”
My mother exhales with relief. “Of course. I’ll get right on —” the phone cuts out. Once again, typical.
“It’s over,” I sigh, smiling. I notice Oliver watching me, with an odd expression. “What are you going to do?”
He shrugs. “Probably stay here. The centre’s closed tomorrow as well, so I’ll have free reign all day.”
I frown. “I can’t let you stay here during Christmas alone. Or any time of the year, really,” I say.
He shakes his head. “Don’t worry about me, I’ve got my vending machines and turned-off fountains to keep me company,” he says with a half-hearted grin. “You’ve got to go home with your family.”
My face falls. I grab his hand. “Come home with us. There’ll be left over dinner and you can stay in the spare room,” I say forcefully.
He gives me a pained expression. “I really can’t do that, Noël. I’m not a Christmas-crasher,” he says softly.
“I’m inviting you. Please. You have to meet my family,” I gush. I know that I positively cannot leave this boy here. “Listen. You rescued me from dying in a toilet alone on Christmas Eve. Now I’m going to rescue you from dying in a shopping centre alone on Christmas Day.”
He smiles. “You are my Christmas miracle, Noël,” he says.
And so we sit on the fountain talking about everything and nothing as we wait for our rescue crew. And I keep thinking that although I was locked in a toilet panicking for a good portion of my Christmas Eve, although I missed Christmas dinner, although I haven’t ever had to eat vending machine food for a Christmas feast before, this might just have been the most magical Christmas I will ever have. Maybe I’m not so unlucky, after all.
Thanks for reading my story! I hope you loved it and that it filled you with some Christmas cheer <3. Let me know what you thought down in the comments below or via any of my socials. If you would like to contact me for business, feedback or to chat, my email (email@example.com) is always open :)
Merry Christmas everyone, and I will see you back here soon with my Christmas Eve post!