Jake and Marta’s home was covered from one end to the other in tinsel, garland, candles, and snacks of various sweet and savory varieties. A fire was blazing in the fireplace, radiating warmth throughout the large living room as their friends made their way in from the cold, some in twos and some, like Cordi, alone.
When Cordi entered the front door, she took in the scents of cinnamon and warm pastries, taking in a deep breath to let the comforting aromas fill her. She shrugged out of her coat and winter scarf, handing them to Jake as she greeted him with a nod and a smile, which he returned.
She loved this time of year. It had a sort of sweet sadness to it. She was surrounded by friends and family and all the beauty that Christmas held. But still, she couldn’t shake that all-too-familiar feeling of being alone. She found that with each passing year, her hope was waning. She never thought she would be that girl who, at thirty-two, was still single. No husband or companion to kiss beneath the mistletoe. No laughter of children to spread the Christmas cheer with.
She walked around the party, maneuvering between the other guests who stood conversing, holding their flutes of champagne. She found Marta, and shimmied up to her as Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree played softly in the background.
“Your party is beautiful, Marta. I love what you’ve done with the place,” Cordi said to her friend as she smiled and they hugged.
“You made it! When did you get here?” Marta squealed in excitement before handing Cordi her own bubbly glass.
“Just now. Don’t act so surprised! I told you I would come, didn’t I?” Cordi said as she took the glass and brought it to her lips for a sip.
“Yes, but I had my doubts.” Marta said with a raised brow. She shook her head and waved the thought away to segue into a new topic. “I have a surprise for you!”
“What? What kind of surprise?” Cordi asked, feeling guilty that she hadn’t brought a gift for Marta, as well, if Marta had gotten her something.
“Keep an open mind, okay? It’s a guy.” Marta took Cordi by the elbow and pulled her around to face the crowd that had accumulated in her living room and throughout her home. She looked around, checking to see if Graham had arrived yet.
“A guy? Haven’t you already tried to set me up once this week? We both know how that turned out,” Marta said, the skepticism evident in her voice.
“I know, I know, but just give it a chance. I talked to Graham a couple of nights ago, and he said he felt like a jerk for standing you up and wanted a do-over.”
Cordi didn’t utter a word, but gave her friend an unamused glare.
“I know what you’re thinking, but trust me. I wouldn’t have went to all this trouble to set you two up in the first place if I didn’t think you two would really like each other,” Marta explained in defense.
Cordi took another sip from her glass. She gave a slow shake of her head. “I can’t believe I let you drag me into these things,” she said, half-joking and half-serious.
Marta laughed and squealed enthusiastically. “You’ll thank me someday,” she said.
A couple approached and greeted Marta, so she introduced them to Cordi before telling Cordi to mingle around a bit while she made the rounds with her other guests, so that she wouldn’t seem rude. Cordi took the opportunity to walk around, taking it all in.
Even though Cordi felt slighted that Graham had stood her up that few nights ago, her curiosity ended up getting the best of her, and she found herself looking around to see if she could spot him, realizing she still didn’t actually know what he looked like. Maybe he hadn’t arrived yet. Or maybe he wouldn’t show up at all, essentially standing her up again. Wouldn’t that be just about par for the course?
The background music switched to an old, familiar song by Dan Fogelberg, Same Old Lang Syne, and the slower melody brought on a wistful feeling that Cordi was trying hard to shake. She couldn’t help but feel even more alone at that moment, and she thought about bundling back up into her coat and just heading back home.
When she felt a chill of cold, night air blow across her skin, goosebumps raised her flesh, and she turned to see who had come in the front door.
She couldn’t believe her eyes, and she blinked in shock.