SUCH A SUNNY CHRISTMAS
“Deck the Halls” played over the speakers in my sister Victoria’s New York apartment as she sang along, quite off-key, throwing together French toast in the kitchen. Coming up behind her, I saw that the concoction wasn’t coming together, so I decided to lend a hand. “Do you want me to stir that?”
“Oh, good morning, Mikaela.” Victoria, two years older than me and a successful lawyer, had never quite paid attention when Mom was teaching us how to cook. She always had her nose in a book. “Sure, that would be great.”
I took over, knowing if I allowed my sister to continue cooking breakfast, we’d all end up sick to our stomachs. “I can’t believe this is our last day,” I muttered, giving the batter another stir to make sure the eggs were broken up.
“I know. It’s really sad that you and Jordan have to leave so soon. Although maybe when you’re gone, I’ll have a chance to clean up my apartment,” Victoria joked, carrying a stack of dirty dishes into the kitchen from dinner last night. We’d gotten distracted telling stories and had forgotten to clean up.
“Are you trying to kick us out already?” Jordan asked as she came into the kitchen from the hallway where the one bathroom was. Even though Victoria made a pretty good living as a lawyer, it sure was obvious that the almighty dollar didn’t quite stretch as far in New York as it did back in Idaho, where we were from. Our parents owned and operated a ski lodge, one that had been in our family for many generations, and while they weren’t wealthy by any means, they had enough room for guests to spread out. Their house was five times bigger than this apartment.
“No, I’m definitely not trying to kick you out,” Victoria said, stopping her dishwasher loading to look at Jordan. “I’m just realizing I don’t exactly live in a mansion, that’s all.”
“Not yet,” I reminded her. “But you’re starting to climb the ladder in your practice, right? Someday, you’ll be partner, and then you can get a bigger place.”
“I don’t know,” Victoria replied as Jordan went over to help her load the dishwasher. “I mean, I’m doing pretty well, but I just need one case to really set me apart, you know? To show them that I can do this.”
“I’m sure it’ll happen soon,” Jordan assured her. The music changed, and soon enough, we were all singing about figgy pudding in silly voices while we set the table for our last breakfast together.
At the tiny table near the window across from the kitchen, I set the platter of French toast down, and we all dug in. “I am going to miss you guys,” Victoria said. “I was just starting to get used to having my sisters around.”
“We’ll all be back at the lodge for Christmas in just twenty-three days,” Jordan reminded her, putting a slab of butter on her toast before dousing it with syrup. “Today is December first.”
“I know. How could I forget? God, Mom’s gotta be so busy getting all the Christmas trees out,” Victoria noted.
I shook my head. “Mom’s not doing any of that this year. Betty is in charge of all the decorations, and I’ll be overseeing it.”
“You’re going to be doing that while you’re trying to find an investor?” Jordan asked me. “God, you’re going to be so fricking busy.”
“Yeah, well, both are important. Last year, I promised Mom and Dad they wouldn’t have to do so much, and I’m following through. Besides, I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I found an investor. He’s supposed to come and see the place tomorrow.”
“Shut up!” Victoria’s fork clattered on her plate. “Why didn’t you mention this before?”
“I just got his email earlier today. He’s in Canada, so maybe he’s in a different time zone?” I said, not really sure but excited nonetheless to have heard back from the man Dad and I had reached out to.
“I hope it works out,” Victoria said. “Mom and Dad love that lodge so much. I told them I’d see if I could find an investor from one of our clients at the firm, but they didn’t want me to get my work tangled up with my personal life.”
“I can see that,” Jordan said with a nod. “They told me Mikaela was handling it.” She patted me on the back. “I trust our baby sister.”
“Thanks,” I said, taking a deep breath. I didn’t want to let any of them down.
“Well, now that we’ve stuffed ourselves on French toast, I suggest we get to the mall.” Victoria stood and collected our plates, and Jordan and I helped clear the rest of the dishes, scraping them off and loading them into the dishwasher before Victoria turned it on. “Do you guys want me to drive?”
“In that deathtrap of a car Mom and Dad got you when you started college?” I asked, mortified. “No, and please stop offering.”
“We are certainly not taking a hansom cab, not after your outburst in Central Park,” Jordan said, smirking at me.
“Hey, that jerk tried to rip us off.” Maybe it hadn’t been worth causing a scene over, but people needed to be called out when they did something underhanded.
“I think I should drive because you guys will need to get to the airport quickly, and that way you can leave your bags in my car and grab them before you go. I hate that I can’t take you.” Victoria shook her head.
“We’re leaving from two different airports at practically the same time. We wouldn’t want you to choose,” Jordan reminded her with a shrug. Then she added, “Although we all know you would choose me,” and winked.
I threw an elbow at her. “I’ll go grab my stuff.”
It didn’t take me long to pack. I found myself waiting a few minutes on Jordan. She might be the oldest, but she wasn’t the quickest. In fact, Victoria had to shout at her to hurry it up.
Eventually, we were all ready to go. I said a silent goodbye to Victoria’s apartment and wheeled my bag to the elevator. We made our way to her old jalopy and threw our bags in the back, hoping no one would think there was anything in the car worth stealing.
As usual, I sat in the back, knowing my older sister would want shotgun. That was just how it was in our family.
It didn’t take too long for us to get to the mall. I’d left some extra room in my bag for a few items I planned to buy for Mom and Dad for Christmas. A light snow was falling as we pulled into the parking garage. Thankfully, Victoria was able to find a spot near one of our favorite stores.
Shopping with my sisters was always chaotic. Victoria tended to linger, not really looking at anything and saying she couldn’t afford anything while Jordan looked at everything, not really caring about price tags because she usually talked herself out of one item and into the next, finally choosing just one thing to buy. I was on a mission, though. I wanted to find the perfect gifts for Mom and Dad. Seeing a Christmas tree display, I went over. Mom loved Christmas ornaments, and Dad was a sucker for anything that played music and danced.
I picked out a couple of things I thought they’d like that would fit into my luggage and then caught back up with my sisters. Jordan was holding a stunning red velvet dress up against her frame. “That’s gorgeous,” I told her. “You should get it.”
“Thanks, but where the hell would I wear this?” she asked, hanging it back up. “It’s not like Christmas at the lodge is a formal event.”
“It could be—if one of you ends up bringing a man this year.” Victoria had a sly smile on her face as she spoke.
Immediately, I felt my cheeks flame. “Nope, not happening,” I told them. “I’m way too busy working to even think about dating. And there are zero guys in Sun Valley that aren’t either married or so old they’re widowed.”
“What about your investment guy?” Jordan teased.
I shook my head. “He’s probably older than dad. He has an old-sounding name.”
“What’s his name?” Victoria probed. Knowing her, she’d probably Google him.
“Uh, William something. I don’t remember. Bane? Banecroft? I’m not sure.” That was a lie. I knew his name was Liam Bancroft, but I hadn’t had a chance to look him up, and I wasn’t planning on doing so either. I liked to be surprised.
“All right, well, Mikaela, since you seem so certain you will not have a dude with you at Christmas, would you care to put some money on that?” Jordan asked, still flashing a crooked smile.
I felt pretty confident that I would win this bet. “Of course,” I said. “How much are you willing to put on it?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I have a good feeling about you this year,” Jordan said, sizing me up. “I think I’m willing to bet whatever the price of this dress is.”
I looked down at the gown and remembered what store we were in. “That’s probably a five-hundred-dollar dress, Jordan.”
“Nah, it’s on sale,” Victoria told me, looking at the tag. “Ninety-eight dollars. Shall we make it an even one hundred?”
“You’re each willing to bet a hundred bucks that I’ll have a guy with me at Christmas? This Christmas?” I shook my head. “This’ll be the easiest money I’ve ever won.” I stuck my hand out to Jordan first and then Victoria. “Deal.”
“All right then. Guess we’ll see.” Victoria grinned at Jordan, and I almost felt like there was something they knew that I didn’t.
But no, that wouldn’t be possible because I was too busy to date and was super focused on making sure the investment went through.
“Well, I guess I’ll go pay for these gifts for Mom and Dad since I’m gonna have a windfall coming in shortly,” I said, grinning at them.
I headed over to the counter, glad that my sisters came along. Soon enough, I’d be telling them goodbye and heading to the airport in an Uber. As much as I loved Sun Valley Lodge, I hated that my sisters weren’t there anymore. This trip had been great, and not just for the shopping either. We had gotten the chance to reconnect again, and I felt like I truly knew my sisters again. I hadn’t felt that way in years.
I made my purchases and spent a bit of time walking around while the two of them went from store to store, trying to find the perfect items. Just being with them was enough for me.
Spying Victoria’s favorite coffee place, I suggested, “Let’s take a break and get a drink. Want to?”
I didn’t have to say it twice. Arm in arm, the three of us headed to the coffee shop, humming along to the Christmas music playing over the speaker. I didn’t want this day to end, but I knew it had to.
“Thank goodness we’ll all be together for Christmas,” I told them as we slid into a booth, drinks in hand.
“Thank goodness,” Victoria agreed. “I can’t wait to meet Mikaela’s new man.” She winked at me, and I shook my head, but I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe she’d be right. Finding love would definitely be worth losing the bet and paying my sisters two hundred dollars.
Even if I didn’t currently have twenty dollars to my name, let alone the full amount of the bet, I’d find a way to make it up to them—just like I was about to find a way to pay off the debt and save Sun Valley Lodge.
Sure, it would be difficult but nothing was impossible at Christmas.