Today I shared the first chapter of A Very Merry Mistake in my newsletter.
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Anywho, now that we've gotten the business out of the way, let's get a move on. It's time for Chapter One of A Very Merry Mistake!
CHAPTER 1 - CLAIRE
*This is currently in edits
“No, please, no!” I mutter as I press the gas pedal of the gigantic truck to the floorboard, hoping it will pick up speed. Instead, it sputters before losing momentum. When the steering wheel locks, it takes all my strength to guide the behemoth onto the shoulder before it shudders to a stop.
The engine is no longer running.
I’m officially stranded.
Renting something nearly the size of a bus—that I practically need a ladder for—wasn’t my idea. It’s the only option the rental company had, so it was more of a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Against my better judgment, I signed the agreement and continued on my merry way to the Christmas town in the middle of nowhere Texas as an arctic cold front moved across the state.
I told myself that I’d at least fit in with the Southerners, even if I’d never be able to park it. Call it stubbornness, but I refused to allow one mishap to deter me from visiting Merryville.
But this? This shit is next level.
I push the button to see if the engine will start again, and I’m reminded why I avoid driving. Something like this always happens when I get behind the wheel. It’s why I enjoy New York and Paris, where walking is common. More proof that this secret trip is out of my comfort zone.
As I lean against the smooth leather headrest, I notice the temperature displayed on the dashboard—forty-two degrees.
I can’t say I’ve ever visited Texas in December or that I ever want to again.
A weather warning plays on the radio, and I turn it up to listen. Deadly, freezing temperatures. Ice on roads. Do not travel. Stay indoors.
Waiting here, hoping someone will pass me, could be dangerous. I haven’t seen another car on the road in hours. Right now, I need to take action and schedule a tow truck.
I reach for my oversized Louis Vuitton on the passenger seat and dig around in the bottom. The thing dies as soon as I unlock it. And, of course, there is no built-in GPS in this stupid truck, so I’m not sure where I am. A tiny screen shows the radio station and time.
When the weather warnings repeat, I turn it off. I’ve never been stranded before. I hope this isn’t a sign of what’s to come.
For the next five weeks, I must learn everything about Merryville, though I’ve memorized the critical facts about the town.
The infamous Texas town that celebrates Christmas 365 days out of the year.
It’s a tourist attraction that influencers visit for their Christmas-in-July photos.
Merryville also celebrates other holidays, but Santa is always in attendance.
A strong wind rocks the truck, returning me to my shitty reality.
I search for my charger, dumping everything onto the seat—just a pack of gum, several pairs of designer sunglasses, and my wallet. No cord.
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have none.
That’s been my entire year, though. Why would it be any different in December? At this point, it’s expected.
I squeeze my eyes tight. My only idea is to walk to the inn, where I have a reservation for the next five weeks. I’m hesitant because my boots are more fashionable than practical. I might have book smarts, but I have zero street smarts. However, I’m trying.
I’ve seen no one on this country road while contemplating my next move. It’s almost as if I’m heading to a ghost town with zero people going in or out.
The straight road seems to go on forever. In front of me is the same. When a few drops of rain thump against the hood, I become the main character in a living nightmare. I try to push the intruding thoughts away so I don’t spook myself into riding this storm in the driver’s seat.
It’s an arctic cold front that’s supposed to carry an awful combination of rain, sleet, ice, and potential snow. In some places, possible flooding. I did my research before I flew out this morning, but I thought I’d beat it here.
As the minutes keep ticking, I pump myself up to trek to Merryville, but I’m unsure how far away it is. The last sign I saw stated fifteen miles, but that felt like fifteen miles ago. So I have to be close. The sun is setting soon, and I have no choice.
Is my father correct? Maybe I don’t have what it takes.
I groan, knowing I grabbed that damn charger before leaving my penthouse this morning. Things don’t just disappear. I turn on my flashers and get out of the truck. The wind nearly knocks me over as I search for the release of the tailgate. When I find a handle, I lift it, then climb into the bed.
A shiver runs over my body, and it takes all my strength to drag my suitcase to the edge and unzip it. I search in my perfectly organized packing cubes. No charger is there, either.
I curse under my breath at my current situation. If I’m walking, I need to leave now. So I grab my shit and let the burning anger inside push me forward. The road is slick from rain and will be covered in ice as it grows colder.
As I wheel my suitcase behind me, I think about my past, present, and future. I’ve spent the last thirty-five years trying to prove my place in this world, and I don’t want to spend the next thirty doing the same. I want to be successful and respected for what I’ve accomplished. Not for who I am.
Merryville is supposed to be my escape during the holidays.
Extensive open skies and land that goes on for as far as the eye can see surround me. It’s rugged—the kind where someone goes to disappear.
The quiet is disorienting, considering I’m used to the hustle and bustle of large cities, and if it weren’t for the loose gravel of the road crunching beneath my feet, my ears would be buzzing. Picking up my pace is pointless when pulling plastic wheels against worn concrete.
An overwhelming surge of panic bubbles and it causes my heart to race. I can’t do this right now. Not here. So, I try to pull my mind away.
I think about some useless facts I’ve picked up over the years. When I was a little girl, I’d get panic attacks in public places. Anytime I spiraled, my mom would hold me in her arms and tell me random things to calm my mind.
Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn.
The voice artists who played Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse married in real life.
Australia is wider than the moon.
Before the invention of toilet paper, Americans used corn cobs.
The wind gusts make me wish I’d packed a pair of gloves. I keep my head down and hear the roar of an engine behind me. A spark of hope erupts inside me until I see the faded red paint and smoke coming from the tailpipe of an old truck.
As if this is what I want to do, I keep my gaze forward. I find it difficult to ask for help from anyone and have learned to problem-solve alone. I don’t want to owe anyone anything or seem helpless.
When the antique on wheels passes me, I almost wish I’d stuck out my thumb, but I’m too proud. It might be one of my fatal flaws.
I watch the tail lights nearly fade into the distance, and I’m unsure how I should feel, but I’m numb and frustrated.
As I come to terms with that potentially being the last human I see on this road, the vehicle slows and makes a U-turn. Headlights point directly at me. When the truck nears, it slows to a crawl, and the engine sputters, then backfires.
I pretend not to notice, keeping my focus forward as the fogged window of the driver’s side lowers.
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