She had pretty much given up on Christmas. Sure, she liked all the trappings that came with the season – the trees, the ornaments, the lights. But it was all too...commercial, too fake. No one really meant any of the things they said when they wished you a Merry Christmas. It was just like someone saying hello or goodbye. It didn’t mean anything.
Andrea had felt this way since she could remember. Since her father had gone away and left her and her brother to fend for themselves. That had been the worse year in memory, and she often over did during the Christmas season just so she would be too tired to remember it. This year was going to be even better. [Better than what?]
Tonight her work was throwing a company party. ["work" is a verb. Her company was throwing a Christmas party.] Being the Friday before Christmas, it made things cramped for time, but she’d already packed most of what she’d need. She looked forward to the party – lots of noise, music, food and the yearly bonus the boss handed out.
She needed the bonus to finish paying for her trip, booked for Christmas Eve. Her brother was going to be out of town, and she didn’t want to spend it with any of her married-with-children friends who’s [whose] happy holidays brought nagging memories. This year she was going to be gone on a cruise ship known for it’s partying atmosphere. Despite having saved all year for it, her bank account was still on the red side – needing that bonus money to cover stuff till payday. It was her present to herself.
Looking around the apartment, satisfied with it’s clean condition, [tell us what she saw; what was the "proof" of its clean condition?] she glanced again at her own appearance before picking up her wrap, purse and keys. Her red satin dress with the slit up the side, her high heels and fake stole were all stunning; her hair had been worth the cost, laying in wild dark curls around her shoulders. Satisfied, she stepped out and locked the door, passing the apartment next door with a twinge of guilt that she firmly pushed aside. Everyone at work would be bringing a friend – but she hadn’t invited anyone. Jared was the only one she talked to with any regularity, but she wasn’t sure he was someone she wanted to take to a social function, he always seemed so laid back. What if he didn’t have a suit? [Who is Jared? Need more here.]
The clouds were heavy and hung low in the sky, a sure sigh snow was on it’s way. She flagged down a taxi and told him the address where the party was being held. This was going to be the kick off night – she could hardly wait.
Packages were mis-delivered to his apartment all the time. Jared was used to telling people that he had their stuff. In fact, the postman regularly left them with him now, figuring it was sure to get to the right people that way. When the package came for his neighbor, his heart skipped a beat.
Not one to push his company on anyone, he hadn’t seen her very much, exchanging even fewer words. But he thought she was gorgeous, and he definitely wanted to get to know her. He day dreamed about her all the time – having her over for dinner, showing her his collection of Victorian Christmas cards... [use real punctuation]
But he hardly ever saw her, and they had been neighbors for almost 5 years now. Perhaps now...now she would have to see him, and he wondered if it would make any difference.
[We need some stronger indication that he's thinking of Andrea. Give us a description.]
It wasn’t until two in the morning that Andrea stumbled up the stairs, so tired she couldn’t see straight as she tried to find her door key. The party had been even better than last year, the bonus had been exactly as expected, and she could hardly wait for Christmas Eve. Stopping in front of her door, she focused on a post-it note stuck there, and frowned. A package?
Squinting at the note, she shrugged. It would have to wait till tomorrow – there was no way she was going to knock on someone’s door this time of night.
[Need a break here, not below.]
The sound of someone knocking worked it’s way through her sleep numbed brain, and Andrea pried one eye open to focus on the clock by her bed. 11:30 am...most normal people would be up. What in the world?
Jared stood outside her door, nervous and excited at the same time. When she answered, disheveled and wrapped in a robe, he became embarrassed.
“Yes?” she mumbled, eyeing him warily.
“Um, you got this package,” he said, feeling like a fool. What was he thinking? She wasn’t even going to remember him later.
“Oh yeah.” She stared at it and him blankly, before opening the door. “Come on in.”
He gulped and entered, afraid she would change her mind. “Uh, did you get the note?”
“Yeah, but I got in real late,” she said, sitting down on her couch with her feet tucked under. [under what? her? the couch? a pillow?]
She didn’t seem eager to take the package, which puzzled him and he placed it on the low coffee table.
“Does it say who it’s from?” she asked, looking at him tiredly.
Surprised, he looked at the return address. “It says Morgan Waterson, LA.” [Who is Morgan Waterson?]
“Oh.” She reached out and picked it up, suddenly interested in the contents. In no time she had cut open the tape with scissors and pulled out a thin felt stocking, the kind kids used to hang for Christmas years ago.
There was no sound – she stared at it with her mouth hanging open as she held it from her fingertips as if afraid to hold it tightly.
“That’s...um, that’s cool,” Jared said, feeling awkward. “Is it yours?”
She nodded, her eyes looking suspiciously moist. “I - I didn’t know it was still around.” There was a small note tucked in the top, and she pulled it out, wiping at her face. “Mom found these before she died,” she read out loud. “I forgot to send it on to you. Merry Christmas, Morgan.”
Sighing, it seemed as if she deflated with the air leaving her body, the stocking falling to her lap with her limp hand. She looked so forlorn, Jared wanted to pull her into his arms.
“I haven’t seen this stocking since I was a girl,” she told him, absently stroking the faded felt. “Not since my dad left us.” As she rubbed her fingers over the fabric, there was a crinkle of paper, and she felt inside to discover an envelope, yellowed a little with time, her name written on it.
“What in the world...” she slipped a finger under the flap and ripped it open to read it through before looking up at Jared, her face draining of color. “It’s – my dad – I,”
Jared reached over and gently pulled the paper from her fingers, since she wasn’t going to be able to say it out loud and read it for himself.
“Dear Andrea: Never doubt that I love you. Leaving you this Christmas was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’m going away to battle, and it’s likely I won’t come home, so I didn’t want you to have to deal with that. Its probably the coward way out, but I wanted you to remember me here, and not think of me wounded or dying half the world away. Take care of your mother, she needs you, and remember your brother loves you too. You will always be my little sprite, Love, Dad.”
Tears were running down her cheeks when he looked back up, feeling a catch in his throat and an ache in his heart. “I –,”
She shook her head, wiping now at the tears. “I know, you don’t even know me, but you see, I thought he’d just left us. Mom never explained, only that he was gone. We never knew...or at least I didn’t.” She took the letter back and pressed it with shaking fingers. “I always hoped he come walking back someday.”
Jared wished now that he’d never come. What a terrible thing to have during the Christmas season! It was like getting a telegram from the past that someone had died.
“I’m glad you’re here, Jared,” she said softly, still looking down at the paper and touching it softly. “You understand.” [we need more clues earlier in the story that they are close friends.]
He stared at her in surprise. “What?”
She smiled through her tears, as if her heart wasn’t breaking. “You have always understood – you see – you know everything that goes on.” She tilted her head to one side as she regarded him. “Why haven’t you ever asked me out?”
He gulped, feeling his palms start to sweat. “I – I was afraid you would say no.”
Her giggle surprised him and she looked up, her face still wet with tears, her eyes sparkling with a light that captivated him. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to ask you. How do you feel about cruising?”
Watch your grammar, sentence structure, spelling. There are a couple of places where you use two words when it should be one word or hyphenated. Use words to create scene breaks, not ***. Ellipses almost never work. Use real punctuation.
Show us more, don’t tell. Give us some inner dialogue, more description of setting, physical appearance. Identify your characters better. You throw out names and the connection is not always clear. Unless it's a mystery, the reader wants to know the connections right off.
The relationship moves a little too fast to be believable and the characters need to be developed more. The biggest problem you'll have to deal with is that I don’t believe for one second that her mother never told her about her dad. It doesn't make sense—unless her mother is long dead or mentally ill.
What I liked best: Your description of the main character in paragraph 5.
Magazine ready? No. This is not really short story material. You've got the beginnings of a holiday romance story. It would take some work, but I could see you expanding this into a novel or a Lifetime Christmas movie.