Today I am so pleased to welcome Mere Rain to Joyfully Jay. Mere has come to talk to us about her latest release, Stealing Gifts. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
This is my fourth winter holiday story – but the first that’s about Christmas.
Christmas wasn’t a big deal in my family. We weren’t religious, none of our relatives lived nearby, and we didn’t have money to spend on extras. We kids would decorate the long-suffering potted plant in the front window and buy each other inexpensive small toys and candy. Boxes of cordial cherries or thin mints usually went on sale for 99 cents. The gift exchange took about twenty minutes and then we went back to our bunk-beds to read our new books and eat too much candy.
Sometimes I missed having the kind of Christmas we saw on television: the big gathering of relatives I rarely saw, the cookie-decorating, the stockings hung by the fire with… well, we actually lived in an apartment, so I guess stockings by the fire were out, anyway. And I’d never even seen snow!
As an adult I’m a bit nostalgic for those low-key, low-budget holidays. No scheduling nightmares, no long drives, no worries about coming up with money for the exactly right gifts, no judgment.
If you read my new release, Stealing Gifts, you may notice a lot about books and food and very little about presents and decorations. Despite the title, there’s also very little theft. In fact, Edmond would argue that nothing was stolen because he wanted to share the things he cared about with Jarrell. His books, his dinners and then breakfasts. His heart.
But even being loved can feel like a crime when we feel as if we don’t deserve what’s being offered to us. Ultimately, this isn’t a story about thievery, or gifts, or even Christmas. It’s a story about letting go of the old griefs, and doubts, and disappointments that hold us back from being our best and most loving and loved selves.
Out with the old, in with the new.
After Christmas comes New Year, and maybe this year will be a good one.
I hope so.
Edmond made breakfast like a mom on an old tv show: orange juice in little crystal glasses, coffee in small white cups with saucers. Sausages, cheese omelet, English muffins with butter or marmalade or strawberry jam with visible strawberries in it.
“Do you cook like this every morning?” He couldn’t, he wouldn’t be so thin.
“Usually I have tea and toast. But I remembered my parents having more breakfast when there was company. Anyway, I didn’t know what you liked.”
“I like pretty much everything you do,” Jarrell told him and watched the pink spread like sunrise across his fair skin.
“Do you have any free evenings later this week?” It came out in a rush, as if Edmond had to get it out in one breath. He drained his orange juice like someone taking a shot for courage.
“My evenings are pretty much all free.” Loser. “I mean, sometimes I pick up work, and sometimes I go out to hear music or something, but nothing is, um, scheduled. At the moment.”
“Then, would you like to come over for dinner on Christmas Eve? If you wanted you could spend—I mean, there are extra bedrooms, if you want to stay and not—I mean the invitation isn’t conditional on… on anything.” He was flushed to the tips of his ears.
“You’re not going where you went for Thanksgiving?”
“My godfather’s. No. That’s only once a year.” Edmond fiddled with his fork. “To be honest, I think he’d rather not see me then, either.”
“Why do you think that?” I want to see you all the damn time.
Edmond sighed. “He was my father’s best friend. His business partner, too. My father died when I was twenty-one, a couple weeks before Thanksgiving. He knew I was alone here and made me come to his family dinner. It turned into an annual invitation. But I think it just brings back sad memories for him. I know it does for me.”
“I’m sorry about your father.”
“Thank you. It wasn’t that we were close, really. It was just a shock. He had always decided everything – been in charge of everything – and all I did was go to college and read books in my room. Suddenly I had all these things I was responsible for, people asking me to make decisions, and I didn’t have the slightest clue.”
Jarrell realized he hadn’t answered Edmond’s question. “I would like to come for Christmas. If that’s okay.”
“More than okay,” Edmond said to the tabletop.
“And I don’t need another bed than the one you’re in. Unless that’s what you prefer.”
“No. I wouldn’t.” Edmond picked an invisibly small crumb off the table.
“Did you mean it last night about giving me a tour, or were you just seducing me?” Jarrell smiled to show that he was fine with either answer.
“You can have a tour if you like.”
“Good. To be honest, I didn’t even see your room when we were it.”
Edmond lowered his eyes but smiled. “We better not start there, or we won’t get any further,” he murmured.
That was fine; Jarrell was confident now that they’d end up there sooner or later.
Jarrell isn’t happy about being a thief, but sometimes it’s the only way he can make ends meet. Broke and alone at Thanksgiving, he breaks into an apartment in a wealthy neighborhood. He’s only looking for cash, but when he spots an unfamiliar book by his favorite author, he impulsively takes the book as well. Reading it, he finds a letter used as a bookmark and realizes the recipient hasn’t finished the book. He decides to return it and accidentally wakes the owner.
Edmond is a shy editor with no family. He’s more excited to have someone to talk to about his favorite author than he is upset about being robbed. He has many more out-of-print books and is willing to lend them in exchange for company. Over a series of late-night discussions Jarrell and Edmond realize they have more in common than their shared love of obscure fantasy novels, including old griefs that they’re both ready to let go of now that they have someone to lean on.
Mere Rain is an international nonentity of mystery whose library resides in California.
Mere likes travel, food, art, and of course, reading. As well as romance, Mere enjoys fairy tales, fantasy, mythology, and mysteries.
Mere Rain has published with Mischief Corner Books, The Mad Scientist Journal, Dreamspinner, and the Mythical Girls anthology (coming June 2020).