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‘Natalie’s Christmas’ is my entry for the Winter Holidays Contest 2017. As per contest rules, this was written to be a standalone story. That said, chronologically, Valentine’s come before Christmas Cards. Just sayin’. Just putting that out there, ya know? Got it? Good!
Sometimes the greatest gift, is acceptance.
All characters engaging in sexual relationships or activities are 18 years old or older.
There are some people who say, at least once in their life, everyone should experience Christmas in New York City to see it done right.
There are others who say you have to get away from the commercialism, glitter and flash of such a large city and travel to the snowy, small rural towns to witness a simpler celebration of the true traditional values of Christmas.
For Natalie Renaud, who ‘survived’ growing up in a small rural town and ‘escaped’ to New York City, she knew which one she preferred. Especially now that she had someone to appreciate the Big Apple’s Christmas blitz with!
Not only was the twenty five year old blessed with living in the biggest city in the country, she had an awesome job working as the chief Web Designer and Graphic Designer for one of the country’s boldest and strongest voices in the fashion industry, Audacious! She loved her job!
With her 5′ 1″ height and curvy-but-slightly-top-heavy figure, she couldn’t exactly compete with the svelte models who hung out at the office for shoots and public relations events. Not that she wasn’t pretty. She’d been told she was but her own opinion ranked her at ‘cute’ in a girl-next-door kind of way. She had thick auburn hair which fell in waves to her shoulders. Her naturally long lashes and pale green eyes were hidden behind serious but attractive dark framed glasses perched on a nose with a slight upturn at the end. Cute… maybe pretty but not gorgeous like someone very special to her.
In her role as designer, she worked very closely with the company’s president, Sonja Hellström, a 5′ 10″ former runway model turned business entrepreneur. Now, she gave the models in the office a run for their money. She had toned and trim muscles, startlingly blue and intense eyes, fine symmetrical features, and short cropped, tousled white blonde hair. Early on in her modelling career she quickly grew dissatisfied with just wearing the latest trends, so she started her own publication and now set them.
Her undeniable will was a force to be reckoned with! She’d crushed those foolish enough to underestimate her business savvy and those who judged her solely based on her intense beauty.
She ran a highly efficient and effective business and Natalie was thrilled to be on her team and to be treated as a critical component of it.
Their personal relationship began on Valentine’s Day, earlier that year. The day Sonja signed divorce papers to eject a bitter man from her life, and the day she learned how to truly love.
Natalie learned important things about herself that day as well. Most important of them was how much she loved the quiet and private Swede. Until that day she had no clue she could find love in the arms of another woman. What made it special was Sonja discovered the same for herself.
They didn’t flaunt their relationship at work. There, they maintained their professionalism as both loved their work and could easily get lost in it. They actually worked to help each other find a better work / life balance. Everyone could see their respect and admiration for each other but they refrained from any overt displays of over familiarity.
Resisting her need to touch the woman she loved took more effort for Natalie as she was far more physically demonstrative than Sonja, who was by nature more reserved. The other staff had taken to calling her the ‘Ice Queen’.
Behind her back, of course.
At home, which was now Sonja’s Manhattan condo, they freely expressed their love for each other in many ways, frequently. In public, they linked arms or held hands when they went for walks in the park or when shopping. They fed each other bites from their meals at restaurants and used other subtle ways of being affectionate.
Sonja was in no way ashamed of her relationship with Natalie. Quite the opposite in fact. It was just that she hadn’t grown up in an environment where kissing, hugging, and other physical displays of affection were done freely or in public. Natalie thought that was sad but for Sonja it just was what it was.
The news that they were in a relationship eventually surfaced at work. While New York City is very large, the staff of Audacious! frequented the same shopping districts, parks, and theaters that Sonja and Natalie went to. Evidence of sightings was traded in the office halls and at the water coolers until the pool of information formed an unmistakable conclusion they were with each other almost constantly. In fact, the time while they worked their separate tasks at the casino siteleri office appeared to be the only time they spent apart.
Linda, Natalie’s friend and one of the office receptionist confronted her with the news when she heard. The equally petite, raven haired woman was upset that Natalie hadn’t taken her into her confidence. She was also upset that Natalie hadn’t looked to her as a partner. This surprised Natalie as she’d heard Linda’s stories of conquests and none of them had been female. Linda confessed ‘Bobby’, ‘Daryl’, and ‘Charlie’ had been women. She was only somewhat mollified when Natalie confessed she hadn’t known she was interested in women until Sonja. Linda finally admitted that she’d been trying to work up the nerve to cross the friendship boundary with her and now it was too late.
A week later Natalie learned that Linda had left the company. She felt blue about that for some time.
The most significant event where their relationship came into play at the office was an unfortunate incident during an executive meeting. The VP in charge of Infrastructure announced he wanted to replace a series of content servers with a new virtualized server rack from a major tech provider.
Natalie asked him some pointed questions on the virtualized system’s performance under loads and the man admitted there could be some lag. Natalie explained that the website’s performance had been tuned and optimized to the existing servers and it met and exceeded their current needs.
The man wasn’t happy that a mere web designer was dictating the direction of the technology in the company. He muttered who he had to fuck to get to run his department his way considering the lesbians running the show.
The room went silent and less than thirty minutes later security escorted the man from the building with a box of his personal items.
The following day Sonja called another exec meeting and started with a request for a show of hands, without fear of retribution, of anyone who had any concerns, no matter how small, that her relationship with Natalie might negatively affect how the company was run.
When no one raised their hands she proceeded to point out each exec for their area of expertise. She indicated that she relied on each and every member of the exec team to manage their areas. She then mentioned that every exec was also expected to speak up if decisions in another department affected theirs in a negative way. Which was what happened the day before. The tech solution presented would have had a detrimental impact on the customer experience on the site. An established corporate mandate clearly indicated that maintaining a positive customer experience was a priority.
She faced the silent group as that sank in. She then concluded that her company had always had a clear and stated policy against the negative and intolerant behavior they’d witnessed the day before. She said they’d all now seen it enacted and enforced at the executive level. She asked that they pass that message to all staff.
Since that day, Natalie was unaware of any other situations where her relationship with the president became an issue for the others. Granted, she wasn’t part of the crowd that shared gossip. She’d always found it distasteful to speculate on the relationships and struggles others were going through.
So she resigned herself to remaining somewhat isolated from the others as the benefits she was drawing from being in love with Sonja far outweighed the minor stiffness she occasionally encountered in the others. Once she realized that Sonja received the same deference only stronger, she found hers easier to accept.
She was so looking forward to their first Christmas together as a couple!
As the holidays began on a Monday this year, Audacious! would be operating with only a skeleton staff over the two weeks which included the Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day statutory holidays. Those who worked the non-stats would get a bonus for manning the fort.
Sonja promised Natalie that she was going to plan something unique and special for both of them. The brunette was practically tingling with anticipation. Only two more work days before this surprise would happen!
Natalie was making breakfast as she looked out the condo’s floor to ceiling windows at the falling snow. This was so much nicer than her dumpy little apartment had been. She’d only packed her clothes and personal items when she moved in as she had nothing that would have improved the condo in any way.
She hummed to herself with a sweet smile on her lips as she thought of Sonja who would be getting up any minute.
She began to hear music, faint at first, and was surprised to realize it was the song she was humming. It became louder and she looked up to see Sonja walking quickly towards her holding up Natalie’s cell phone. Her eyes widened in surprise as she moved the frying pan from the burner. She took the phone and saw it said ‘Mom’ on the screen. Immediately canlı casino concerned, she answered.
“Oh good, I reached you!” the woman’s voice said in relief. “Did I wake you?”
“No, I was making breakfast. What’s wrong?” she asked nervously. She’d picked up the tension in her mom’s voice. Sonja watched her with concern on her face as well.
There was a pause then a sigh. “It’s Grandma Jane. She’s in the hospital. It came on very suddenly and we’re told she doesn’t have long. She’s asking for you. I know you’re busy with your career and all but can you get some time off to come see her off?” The way her mother said ‘career’ made her disapproval clear.
“Ha-hang on a sec.” She held the phone against her chest to look into Sonja’s worried eyes. “My grandma is in the hospital. She’s asking for me. She’s dying. I- I need to go to her.”
Sonja just nodded and touched her hand. Natalie almost lost control over her emotions but she took a deep breath and gave Sonja a shaky smile. She brought the phone back to her ear.
“Ok, I’ve arranged to get time off. I’ll be there as quickly as I can. I’ll leave first thing.” she said into the phone.
There was another pause. “Who were you talking to?” her mother asked sharply. “Are- are you sleeping with your boss!” she hissed.
Shaken by the news of her Grandma and the surprising accuracy of her mother’s deduction, Natalie wasn’t prepared to talk about it. She held the phone out to stare at it then pressed the End button, cutting her mother off mid-screech.
“Are you ok?” Sonja asked gently.
Now the tears began.
Natalie sat back against the cushioned seat in first class as her eyes took in… everything. Flying was a new experience for her and she was being spoiled for her first time. She still couldn’t get over how quickly they’d managed to book flights, pack, and get to the airport and onto a plane! Her head was spinning with how quickly they moved but this was life in the world of Sonja Hellström!
She turned her head to smile nervously at the beauty who was enjoying her reactions. The CEO was a veteran traveler so seeing it through fresh eyes was, based on her amused smile, quite entertaining.
“Sorry for acting like such a bumpkin but I’ve never done this before!” Natalie gushed quietly.
“No need to apologize! I’ve become so jaded to air travel, it’s nice to see you appreciate what I now take for granted.” Sonja said as she patted her hand.
The plane moved and Natalie gripped Sonja’s hand in hers.
“A little looser please,” Sonja asked and Natalie released her Kung Fu grip.
“Sorry!” Natalie squeaked as the plane was pushed back from the gate.
Sonja looked at the younger woman and saw the whites of her eyes were showing. She sighed with a gentle smile. “Tell me about Grandma Jane.”
Natalie immediately smiled warmly as the image of her grandmother came to her mind. “She’s my Dad’s mom. My grandparent’s on my Mom’s side passed away when I was little as did Grandpa Joe.” Natalie ran her thumb over the back of Sonja’s hand. “She’s a lot like you in that she has a strong will and a sharp mind. Even at a hundred years old she’s incredibly sharp.” A twinge of sadness crossed her face as she realized she wouldn’t have her in her life much longer. “She sends me long letters and they’re full of her opinions on current issues and how she’d fix them. She has the ethics of someone born at the end of world war one but she acknowledges she may be a little out of date.” A smile flashed across her lips. “She was the one who pushed me to take courses in web design and graphic design when I showed interest in them. She paid for my first computer and the courses. She pushed me to follow my dreams and to move to New York City. In return, I set her up with a tablet and taught her how to use it so she could keep current with what’s happening in the world. I gave her an email account so she could get my emails but she refused to send them. She loves to write letters.”
Natalie’s eyes widened as a big hand pressed on her chest and the plane began to rumble and shake. She looked over to the window and saw the ground racing by. Then after it seemed like they were just going to keep accelerating along the ground the nose tipped upwards and the hand pressed her down in her seat. The ground dropped away and they were flying. She looked back at Sonja who was smiling happily at her. “We’re in the air!” she gasped quietly. The blonde nodded with a grin. She leaned closer.
“I was born and grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. It’s a large city and very beautiful. I visited many cities during my time as a model and ended up in New York. I have no experience with living in a small town. This will be the first time I’ve spent any time in one.”
Natalie remembered how worried she was when Sonja announced she was joining her on the trip. That concern flared again. The town she grew up in wasn’t… progressive in their thinking. They expected people and things kaçak casino to match preconceived notions and weren’t tolerant of change or difference. In addition to this, no one there was as good looking as Sonja! She was going to shine like a diamond on a pile of coal. She gave her lover a worried look but got the raised eyebrow and steely stare of defiance in return so she held her tongue.
“Is there anyone you want to meet up with when you’re there?” Sonja asked. “Friends? Old flames?”
Natalie gave her a scandalized look which made the blonde chuckle. “No. I had no ‘old flames’. I wasn’t attracted to anyone there. And I doubt the few people I did occasionally hang out with are still there. We all wanted to leave.” She considered the idea and pushed it away. “No. I no longer have anything in common with them other than the past and that’s no longer relevant.”
There was a chime and Natalie looked up to see the seat belt light had been turned off. She turned a look of shock on Sonja. “You were distracting me!”
“Yes, and it worked like a charm!” Sonja smiled. “The flight to Chicago is two hours and we only have a thirty minute layover until the one hour flight to Cedar Rapids. I understand the drive to the hospital is another forty minutes so we should get there sometime between 1:30 and 2:00.”
“This is much faster than I expected it would take to get there. When I went to New York I took the bus,” Natalie confessed.
Sonja’s eyebrows rose. “And what was that like?”
“Terrible! I never want to do that again!” Natalie moaned.
Sonja snorted. “You won’t, traveling with me.”
They settled back in their seats and enjoyed a free drink when the flight attendants passed by. Natalie sighed happily.
“So much better than the bus.”
Sonja rented a four wheel drive when they arrived in Cedar Rapids as the weather looked like it was going to turn bad. The snow was beginning to fall and the winds were picking up. On top of this there was already a fair amount of snow on the ground from an early snow fall.
They pulled into the parking lot of the single story hospital and Natalie’s heart leapt into her throat. She must have made a sound as Sonja glanced over at her with a concerned look. She guided the truck into a spot and turned off the engine. Then she reached over and took Natalie’s hand in hers.
“I will be with you. Are you ready?” she asked.
Natalie sighed then nodded. She bundled herself into her coat and they pushed out into the storm. It was a short distance to the front door but she was grateful to get inside once more.
Sonja looked around and spotted the admissions desk and gently guided Natalie over to it.
A friendly woman smiled at them across the counter and became a little dazzled by Sonja’s smile, ignoring the brunette who leaned forward.
“I’m Natalie Renaud. I’m here to see my grandmother Jane Renaud? She was checked in… yesterday?”
The woman tore her eyes from Sonja and looked to Natalie. “Ah, yes. Let me see.” She looked to her screen and tapped a few keys. “Room 101. Down to the end of this hall and to the left.”
“Thank you!” Natalie chirped and immediately set off down the corridor. For some reason the closer she got the more urgent it felt to get their quickly. Sonja stayed right beside her all the way.
When she found the room she went straight in. The first face she saw was her mother’s. Older, tired, disappointed, and frustrated. She was standing at the foot of the bed, the same grey sweater she always wore around the house was wrapped around her plump body now. Black slacks. Low, faux fur trimmed winter boots.
She saw her sandy blonde hair had more streaks of grey in it than before.
“You arrived quicker than I expected. If it’s this quick, why haven’t you visited more?” she snipped.
“Hello to you too, mom. Can we not have an argument right now? Mom? Sonja Hellström. Sonja this is my mom, Janet Renaud.” Natalie said as she turned her eyes to the old woman lying back against the pillows. There was a look of pain on her features and her hands on the sheets pulled up to her chest were trembling slightly. Her eyes were closed.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here. You were the only one who could talk sense to Jane. Get her to agree to take the pain meds.” Her mother turned to Sonja. “Sonja?” She glanced at her daughter.
“I’m Natalie’s friend. We work together,” Sonja explained and Janet relaxed.
“Ah, well…” She looked back to her daughter. “I have to speak to the nurse. If Jane wakes up while I’m out, please tell her to accept the pain meds.”
With that and a final glance at Sonja’s slim body, Janet rushed from the room.
The moment she was gone Jane opened one eye and Natalie squeaked in surprise.
“Is Janet gone?” Jane said in a whispery voice. Sonja couldn’t hide her smile at the wily woman.
“Grandma Jane! I came as quickly as I could!” Natalie said with tears pooling in her lashes.
Jane’s eyes opened and her face relaxed as she looked at her granddaughter. “I know you did sweet pea and I’m very grateful you did. It hurts so much but I’m holding on by the skin of my teeth here. I just couldn’t go without saying goodbye.”
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