Mackenzie Walters stood in the center of the large ballroom, soaking in the rays streaming in from the windows that made up the better part of three walls. For several minutes, she stood, transfixed by the lush gardens surrounding the banquet hall. The resort had touted itself as an oasis in the desert and she had to agree – nowhere else in Phoenix could she be transported to the tropics. She almost forgot it hadn’t rained in fifty-three days.
“Are you okay, Mackie?”
She glanced over her shoulder and saw her best friend, Heather, lingering in the doorway. She shrugged. “Yeah, I think so.” She turned to a nearby table and tugged at one of the white napkins to give it a taller peak. A flicker of memory made her smile; something her mom would say about busy hands and idle minds.
“I’m not so sure.”
“I appreciate your concern, but this is exactly what I want to do.”
“I think you’re in shock,” Heather said. “I mean, your parents died only four weeks ago and immediately you started planning this extravaganza.” She made a sweeping motion with her left arm.
Mackenzie nodded. “Yeah, there wasn’t much time to pull it together, but I think the place looks nice.”
“It should, for what you’re paying for it.”
She closed her eyes and inhaled. “Do you smell that?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “It’s chicken piccata, pasta and fresh green beans, but it might as well be filet mignon and caviar.” She nudged a glass to line it up with the knife at another place setting. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the experience.”
Heather shook her head. “I don’t understand. You could’ve paid off your car, or gone on a nice vacation.”
“I don’t want to go anywhere, and I will pay for my car- with my own money, in my own time.” Mackenzie straightened a fork at another setting and checked her watch. “I’ve got fifteen minutes.”
“Why would you waste so much money on this?”
“It’s not wasted!” Mackenzie frowned. “Just because you would keep it to yourself doesn’t mean I’ve wasted anything.”
“Heather held her palms out in a conciliatory manner. “Okay, okay. Sorry.”
“My parents would’ve been delighted by this. They would be proud to know I shared my good fortune. I hope you can celebrate with me, but if you’d feel more comfortable leaving, I’ll understand.”
They held eye contact for several moments.
“Of course I’ll stay,” Heather whispered.
Mackenzie checked her watch again. “It’s almost time! Will you help me with the doors?”
Mackenzie took one of the double doors and propped it open, while Heather held the opposite door. Upon seeing the crowd already gathered outside, she put on her best smile.
“Welcome to my banquet. I’m glad you could come.” Mackenzie clasped the hand of the first woman in line. Instead of noting the woman’s dirty clothing layers, she peered into her eyes; a beautiful shade of green.
“I’m glad you’re here. I hope you enjoy the meal.” She hugged the stoop-shouldered man who’d been next in line.
She smiled at the group of five that approached her next- a mom, dad and three children. The oldest child appeared to be around twelve. The youngest, a toddler clung to her mom’s leg. “Thank you for coming. I’m delighted you could make it.”
For the last few weeks, Mackenzie had scoured the alleys and downtown street corners for homeless people to invite. She’d arranged transportation to pick them up at several locations since they wouldn’t likely be able to attend otherwise.
After one-hundred-twenty similar greetings, Mackenzie and Heather pulled the doors to the dining room closed. Mackenzie watched through the windows as eight servers began distributing chilled plates of mixed greens. She looked to her right and glimpsed Heather’s face, noting the moistness of her eyes. She patted her friend’s shoulder and then started toward her car.
“Wait.” Heather grasped her arm. “I understand now.” She sniffed. “These people never would’ve had a meal like this.” Tears streamed down her cheeks and she threw her arms around her friend. “Thank you for inviting me to share this with you.”
Mackenzie pulled away and grinned. “You want to help me get the presents?”
“Presents?” Heather’s jaw hung slack.
“Of course! It’s only two weeks until Christmas, so I thought it would be a great surprise to hand out gifts on a random Tuesday in December.”
“I’d love to! It’s a shame we can’t do this every year.”
“Maybe we can.” Mackenzie wriggled her eyebrows. “I didn’t spend all the money at once.”
“Maybe I can get some donations for next year,” Heather said. “I mean, if you want help.”
“We can make it a new tradition!”
Thank you, Emilio, for sharing another of your wonderful photos! (If you haven’t seen his photography, click on the photo to check out his blog. You won’t be disappointed.) The inspiration for this story was obviously Emilio’s photo 🙂
My first inclination was to make the setting a wedding, but I didn’t love that idea (too obvious). Thanksgiving was last week here in the U.S. so it’s been a time of reflection and appreciation for my blessings. In light of Thanksgiving and the nearing of Christmas, I wanted to write a story that focused on the sharing of abundance rather than the accumulation of “more.”
Thanks for reading – have a wonderful Thursday!
Wonderful story to start of the Christmas season. Great photo by Emilio.
Thanks for reading, Timothy! I agree – this is another great “Emilio” photo 🙂
This is a great heart warming story, perfect for the holiday season. I love the way you write, the way you draw me in, and how engaging your characters always are. You are such a master! ♥
I appreciate you reading and for sharing your nice comment, Kathy! I haven’t been posting too much fiction here lately because I’ve been writing stories to submit to magazines (and they don’t want previously-published items.) I try to do a few stories a month here, though 🙂
Fabulous, Janna. Loved it all . . . but I wanted to watch them unwrap their presents!
Haha, well, it wouldn’t be a very short story if I wrote in the present unwrapping 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the story, Nancy. It was rattling around in my head for a couple weeks, but didn’t have a chance to actually write it!
Beautiful, Janna — Emilio’s photo and your accompanying story! You definitely nailed it with this one — the idea of sharing abundance is perfect at this time of year, and so meaningful to do so on “a random Tuesday in December.”
Thanks, Debbie! I think it would be so fun to do something like this 🙂 Even little things make a difference, though.
This is a lovely, feel-good story. Thank you for brightening my day!
And your comment brightened my day, Suzicate – thank YOU 🙂
This is a great story especially for this time of the year. This story really shows how much I take for granted. this is a great inspiration of what we can do with what we have. thanks for this story. Have a wonderful day
Thanks, Sean! It’s easy to take things for granted when all we see is good…sometimes it’s helpful to set aside time to acknowledge abundant blessings. I hope you had a wonderful day, too 🙂
I love offering photos to you because I know you’ll never disappoint and come up with a story that illuminates both life, and my little imitation of it. I offered this photo exactly because it seemed so obvious for Thanksgiving or Christmas and couldn’t wait to see what you would do with it- just as I offered last month’s “haunted house” image in time for Halloween. I have nothing obvious for New Year’s if you want to continue this monthly tradition of ours. But I promise to come up with something to hopefully “inspire” another entertaining tale. And speaking of entertaining, this was a very emotional tale for me, as it is probably for others who read it. What a reminder that this time of year is not- or should not be- about “Black Friday” and consumerism. Thank you!
Your comment made me smile, Emilio. (A really stupid, wide, grin!) I’m glad you enjoyed the story that came of your photo. I like the challenge of coming up with something that may not be readily apparent, so yeah, if you’re up for lending me a photo for January, I would love to keep up the monthly tradition of writing a story with your photos for inspiration!
As for consumerism, I’ve done a little of that this season, but am looking forward to upcoming opportunities to get to the real spirit of the season.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to find the Christmas spirit this year after the loss of my mom….but I think you just cured that. What a wonderful story, Janna. I have had a bit of the feeling since we started our 2nd annual toy drive but this story made me smile. Thank you. (And Emilio, the photo is stunning)
I’m glad you found some enjoyment from this story, Susan! I imagine this time of year must be difficult… hang in there 🙂
Loved it! I enjoyed the mystery, the unexpected turn of events and the good feeling vibe at the end 🙂 As usual your descriptions were spot on.
Thanks for reading, Melissa! I’m glad you enjoyed the story 🙂
You and Emilio make a great team 🙂
The best part of this story was the last line “we can make it a new tradition”. How wonderful!!
His photos are fun to write for, Joanne 🙂 As long as he’s willing to sacrifice each one each month, I’ll continue to do my best to write for them! That would be a fun tradition, wouldn’t it?
It would be a great tradition and I for one would look forward to each and every one!!
Another beautiful photo, and a heart-warming story to go with it. Nice work!
Thanks, Patti! I appreciate you reading it 🙂
This is so good. I love a story with a good moral.. This reminds me of a story in the books of Emil i Lönneberga where he give a party for the people of the poor house giving away all the Christmas Food they had… a wonderful idea really. Maybe a new tradition indeed.
Thanks, Bjorn. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I’m not familiar with that author, but I like his style 🙂
I enjoyed this inspiring story. The elegance of the photo highlights the pure love demonstrated by the giver in the story. Blessings to you, Janna…
Thanks, Carol Ann. It was a labor of love… and a great way to help in her grieving process as well.
Even in a short piece like this, your characters are multidimensional and authentic, Janna, imparting a lot with an economy of words and dialogue. And many, like Mackenzie, are also “good [hearted] as gold.” A sweet story that I suspect could easily be true. : ) Have an awesome week, writing and otherwise!
Aw, thanks, Leigh! I really appreciate you taking time to read it. I’m glad it felt real to you – that’s always something I like to hear 🙂 I hope you have a great week, too!
What a lovely parable for life. It reminds me a little of the Danish film Babette’s Feast.
Thanks for reading, Allen. It would be great fun to do something like this!
If only we had a few more Mackenzie’s in the world. A beautiful tale of hope and generosity.
Thanks, Sarah Ann. Sometimes it seems like the world is mostly bad. Sometimes it’s nice to do a story that indicates there are bright spots.