The Ad­vent Cow­boy

En­joy a lit­tle com­mu­nity spirit in this uplift­ing short story by Jac­qui Cooper.

The People's Friend Special - - PUZZLES 41 -

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.

“Hello?”

“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.

Katie laughed.

“You? Pres­sure? Never!”

Cole was an im­por­tant player this year. Would he let Gemma down?

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