Bonus story for A Green Valley Christmoose Disaster: Joyous Tidings

 

This story occurs during the opening scene of A Green Valley Christmoose Disaster, and is best read after Broken Lynx and Keeping Secrets.

Are you new to this series? Book 1 of the Green Valley Shifters, Dancing Bearfoot, is free until February 17!

Joyous Tidings

by Zoe Chant

The worst part of it all was that Clara knew she was overreacting.

I don’t WANT to be Mary!” she cried, stomping her foot. Being Mary was the tiniest part of the horrible feeling in her chest, but it was the only one she could talk about. “I want to be an ANGEL and have wings and bring JOYOUS TIDINGS.”

Victoria was fussing, not quite crying, but definitely sensitive to the atmosphere, so Miss Mama Patricia was bouncing the little girl in her arms, trying to forestall a fit. “Mary is the most important role in the play,” she said patiently. “We needed someone who was up to the part.”

Clara recognized that she was being flattered, but she was too upset to feel good about it. “It’s not FAIR!”

If Miss Mama’s arms had not been full of squirming baby, Clara suspected that she would have gotten a big hug, and that might have made her feel better, but nothing was working out the way it was supposed to.

Not everything is fair,” Miss Mama reminded her warmly. “We just have to make the best of it and not let everyone down.”

She was always having to not let people down and make the best of things, Clara thought sourly, but when Miss Mama offered a half a hug and suggested they go back to the rehearsal, she accepted it as better than nothing. Victoria crowed and tried to grab her hair. Babies were such a pain.

When Miss Mama sent her off with Trevor and Aaron to practice her lines, Clara still felt all prickly and unhappy inside. The boys were more ridiculous than ever. Aaron, who was Joseph, protested dramatically that he didn’t want to marry Clara and Trevor teasing him mercilessly.

What’s wrong, Clara?” Trevor finally asked, when they had gone twice through the script, Clara reading her parts in a whisper because she didn’t want to sound like she was going to cry. “You know you don’t actually have to marry Aaron.”

She’s mad because she wanted to be an angel,” Aaron said sagely.

But that wasn’t it. That wasn’t it at all.

They went through a rehearsal on the stage, Trevor reading as the narrator, Aaron acting as Clara’s patient husband. Gabriel was played by a kid from a private school who looked like he wanted to be anyone and anywhere else. Clara didn’t blame him.

Finally, Miss Mama released them to practice their lines behind the bleachers while the angels and shepherds, all the little kids from the preschool, practiced their ragged procession.

Aaron teased Clara for being too sensitive. “I’m too good to be Mary,” he mimicked. “I’m an angel!”

I bring joyous TIDINGS,” Trevor mocked.

Look at my wings!”

Look at my sparkly halo!”

Clara knew they were trying, in their own cloddish way, to cheer her up, but she only felt sadder and more prickly than ever. She twisted the decoder ring on her finger and slumped down on the bleachers. Gabriel was sitting a little further away, memorizing his script by himself.

Trevor, who was wearing a matching ring, sat down beside her, dropping his angel act.

Is this because we were teasing about getting married? Look, I’ll marry you if you want,” Trevor said at her shoulder, slinging an arm around her.

I’m Joseph,” Aaron protested vehemently, plopping down on her other side. “I get to marry her!”

Twenty minutes earlier they’d been arguing about not wanting to marry her. Clara burst into tears and the boys started to fight about who had made her cry.

It’s not that,” she sobbed. “It’s not that at all! We’re all going to move.”

That silenced both of them.

I’m only going to Madison,” Aaron said quietly. “We’re coming back some weekends and all summer. We’ll still get to be friends.”

We’re going to New York,” Clara said in wild despair. “Miss Mama and Papa and Victoria and I are going really far away forever and we’re never going to see each other again.”

It was the worst news in the world that she could ever even imagine, and Clara had been holding it inside her chest like a horrible, heavy weight ever since she’d overheard her parents talking a few days earlier. She’d been carrying the secret around, snapping at everyone, desperate to tell someone and not sure how to. “I wanted to bring joyous tidings,” she said miserably. Instead, she was ruining Christmas.

She loved Green Valley. She didn’t really remember living anywhere else. All of her friends were here, Trevor and Aaron especially, and she didn’t want to move away to a new house and try to make new friends.

She should have kept the news to herself and continued the terrible secret.

Trevor’s arm tightened around her and Aaron flung himself against her from the other side, so that she was in a warm friend sandwich as she cried and they tried to comfort her.

We’ll keep in touch,” Trevor promised.

You have a phone,” Aaron reminded her. A phone was a big privilege for a nine-year-old, Clara knew, because her Papa was very firm on the topic.

We’ll always be best friends,” Trevor said firmly. “I know we will.”

I’ll always wear my decoder ring,” Aaron added. “We can mail each other secret messages.”

Every day,” Trevor promised. “I’ll ask for stamps for Christmas.”

Clara cried herself out in their embrace until her misery finally eased. She still didn’t want to move and dreaded everything about it, but it somehow helped that they knew now. She would come back to Green Valley someday and they would all be friends again.

I’m sorry I’m such a ninny,” Clara said in chagrin as she finally shook them off and wiped her face. She had read ninny in a book once and Miss Mama said it wasn’t a bad word, even though it wasn’t nice.

You’re not a ninny,” Aaron was swift to tell her. He lowered his voice. “I cried when I found out we were moving to Madison.”

I’m going to miss you guys,” Trevor said, sounding like he might cry, too.

From across the gym, Andrea called, “Trevor! Aaron! Shelley needs to see you in your costumes!”

Each of them gave her one last squeeze and ran to try on their robes.

Clara wiped her face before she followed them and tried to draw herself together again. She looked up to find Gabriel staring at her. He couldn’t have helped but overhear everything, but where she expected to see pity or disgust, she caught envy.

You’re lucky,” he said quietly.

Clara paused in smoothing her skirt. “Lucky?”

You have really good friends,” he pointed out. “People who care about you and want to make you feel better. I wish I had friends like that.”

Clara blinked. “I have to move away,” she reminded him.

Gabriel nodded sympathetically. “Yeah, that sucks. But at least you have them now.” He shrugged and got to his feet, leaving her to examine her own confused feelings.

He wandered back across the gym, muttering, “I bring you joyous tidings. JOYous tidings. Joyous TIDINGS.”

Maybe joyous tidings didn’t have to be good news. Maybe joyous tidings could be reminding people of the wonderful things they already had, and remembering to appreciate them.

Clara stood up and smoothed her hair back. The last thing she wanted to do was make her final Christmas in Green Valley a horrible memory that lingered forever. It was going to be her last holiday here, and she didn’t want her last months with Aaron and Trevor to be of her being crabby and self-centered.

No, she was going to make this a Christmas to remember, the happiest ever, and she was going to be the very best Mary that had ever been on that gym stage. This was going to be the most amazing multi-denominational Christmas pageant and winter festival holiday celebration ever.