The Advent Cowboy
Enjoy a little community spirit in this uplifting short story by Jacqui Cooper.
GEMMA was just a tiny bit obsessed with the American who had moved into the village. His Stetson, cowboy boots and polite manner were causing quite a stir.
“Waiting for a call?”
Katie, her colleague, asked. “What? No. Yes. Why?” Katie pointed.
“You don’t usually have your mobile on your desk.”
Guiltily Gemma slipped the phone into her drawer. Everyone at work knew that she did a lot of volunteering in her spare time, but she didn’t normally allow it to intrude on her working day.
“Sorry. It’s about the advent calendar,” she explained. “I had someone lined up for Christmas Eve, but he’s taken a job in France and didn’t bother letting me know. Luckily the guy who’s sub-letting his house has agreed to take over.”
The cowboy. She wanted to shriek and run round the office waving her arms in the air. It’s the cowboy!
“I don’t know why you do that calendar every year,” Katie declared. “It gives you nothing but grief.”
Gemma didn’t argue. For the past five years the village had created a living advent calendar every Christmas. From the first to the twenty-fourth of December, a householder with a window that faced on to the street would festively decorate the window and light it up at six o’clock on their appointed day.
Competition was fierce for a place and names were drawn out of a hat at the annual summer barbecue – also organised by Gemma.
Christmas Eve was the most coveted spot. It was hard work, but the calendar was a great community activity and very popular.
Her mobile rang and she snatched it out of the drawer.
“Hi. It’s Cole,” an American voice replied.
Cole. Even his name sent little shivers through her.
With Katie listening in, she played it cool.
“Thanks for getting back to me. Do you have any ideas?”
“Plenty.” She could hear the smile in his voice.
“About the window!” Gemma added hurriedly.
“I sure do. Why don’t we have a drink and we can discuss it?”
Gemma’s heart skipped, but something held her back. This was a small village and Cole attracted a lot of attention.
Now that the gossip about her and Kevin had finally died down, did she really want to set tongues wagging again?
However, it was only a drink. And they needed to talk about the window . . .
He named a date while she was still dithering.
Disappointment shot through her, bringing her back down to earth.
“Sorry, I’m busy that night.”
It was true, but it sounded like an excuse. Especially when she couldn’t do the next night he suggested, either.
Now she regretted trying so hard to keep loneliness at bay in the holiday season by volunteering for so many activities.
“Suppose you just tell me your idea for the window?”
Sadly for her ego, he took the rejection in his stride.
“I’m thinking about a really fancy Christmas tree,” he said with a hint of drama.
A tree? That was his great idea?
“There’s pretty much a tree in the window of every house at the moment,” she pointed out.
“This wouldn’t be a real tree, but a picture of one. A poster.”
She didn’t know quite what to say.
“I can’t actually see a poster of a tree being any better than a real one. Actually, I don’t think any kind of tree is suitable.
“The Christmas Eve window has to really stand out. Practically the whole village turns out for it.”
After agreeing he should give it more thought, they ended the call.
Cole’s idea was beyond rubbish, but Gemma couldn’t hide her grin. He had asked her out!
“Who was that?”
“There’s this American guy working at the IT place by the river. He wears a cowboy hat and boots and has this great accent.” “Cole?”
“You know him?” “Everyone knows him,” Katie replied dreamily. “Wait. Don’t tell me you talked him into doing one of your windows?
“He’s some kind of bigshot. An executive or something. How on earth did you manage that?”
Gemma hadn’t known any of that.
“I might have applied a teensy bit of pressure,” she admitted.
“You? Pressure? Never!”
Cole was an important player this year. Would he let Gemma down?