This was written for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas, a winter anthology sponsored by Laura, Missy and Nick.
Title: "Christmas Magic"
Genre: Holiday Paranormal Romance
Author: Nicole Zoltack
Dedicated to all who love the Christmas season.
Opal stared at the flickering flame, shadows dancing on the walls. She smoothed the cover beneath Ryan’s chin, her fingers brushing against his deathly cold chin. ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and her love was dying. No magician or healer could save him. The last doctor had just left, had stolen the last shreds of her hope with him.
She brushed his soft brown hair back. “We were to be married tomorrow. We were to have lots of children and tend to the fields and sell our crops. There would have been lean years, but there would have been strong ones too. Maybe if we had a son, we could have scrapped enough coin for him to be trained as a knight. We were supposed to have more time together. More time.”
A tear trickled down her nose and dripped onto his cheek. She kissed it away and gripped his hand, wishing she was warm herself to lend him some, but she wore a threadbare dress, and the candle did not warm the room. A bitter wind howled outside, and the thin walls did not bar it.
“Remember how we first met?” One of the doctors had suggested Ryan could still hear her, and ever since, she could not stop talking to him. His eyes remained closed, his lips a thin blue line. Only his chest raised and lowered as he labored through each breath. No one knew what illness had stricken him two weeks ago, but even to her untrained eye, she could see he neared the end.
“You had come to market, wearing a blue tunic. It matched your eyes and I could not look away. I was supposed to trade some corn for beans, and I dropped the corn. I fell to my knees to gather it, and when I stood, I couldn’t see you anymore. When I finally reached the bean seller, she had already traded you the last. You overheard me talking to her and gave me some without a word. And then you left before my tongue could vocalize my thanks. I feared I would never see you again.”
Fear gripped her heart now, and she struggled to bury it. Ryan did not need to hear her sorrow. She had to be strong for him, in this, his last hours. A strong gust of wind blew into the house, easing into the cracks of the window and extinguishing the flame. Opal had no choice but to stop touching Ryan to relight the candle. Then she rubbed his frozen cheek, his stubble tickling her palm.
“Each day after, I snuck back to the market, hoping to see you. One month. I was almost ready to give up. But then you were there, and I managed a grunt.” She giggled. “A grunt! You laughed, and I laughed, and then we started talking and meeting every day. I think I might have loved the idea of you at first, during that month before we actually spoke, but then I learned you truly were a good and kind and wonderful person, and I could not help but truly love you.”
And she always would. But saying that out loud would feel too much like goodbye, and she wasn’t ready for that, would never be.
“Ryan…” Her voice broke, and she cleared her throat. Her mouth was dry. Perhaps Ryan’s was as well. It had been some time since she had tried to coax him to drink.
Carefully, she lifted his head and held a clay cup to his lips. The water merely trickled down his chin. A towel sopped up the liquid, and she swallowed the rest of the cup’s contents.
“Christmas two years ago, we said ‘I love you’ for the first time. Last year, you asked me to marry you. We should have gotten married on that day instead of waiting. Tomorrow…”
She couldn’t finish and hung her head. Another wind blew against the house, and Opal climbed into bed beside Ryan, beneath the covers. “I am so sorry you’re sick. I wish it were me instead! I would do anything for you. I love you, Ryan.”
What she needed was a Christmas miracle.
Her hand pressed against his chest. Her hand hardly moved up and down.
Love wasn’t enough. Perhaps he couldn’t be saved, but Opal was willing to try anything, even forbidden magic. Telling Ryan she had a distant relative who was a witch hadn’t broken his love for her. Witches and warlocks were banned from using magic, as they were far too powerful. Magicians only used magic to spread joy and happiness. Healers, obviously, healed the sick through magical means, when physicians’ medicines and tonics failed.
From within her boot, Opal produced a dagger. The blade easily cut through his shirt to reveal his chest. The sharp tip drew a line against her palm. She did not flinch or hiss despite the pain. An identical line she traced on his palm. After mixing their blood together, she touched their wounded hands above his heart.
“Love of my life, the light in my eye, the song that I sing, you are my everything. On this night, Christmas Eve, do not leave me. Take my blood, take my strength, take my heart, but do not leave me.”
Two tears, one from each eye, trickled down Opal’s eyes. Their hands were not moving. Ryan breathed no more.
She had failed. Her Christmas miracle hadn’t come.
Opal closed her eyes. With a sigh, she pressed her lips to his one last time. Then she laid her head on his chest. The pain in her heart radiated throughout her body, the cut in her palm agonizing. A whimper escaped her lips. “Goodbye, Ryan,” she murmured, her voice breaking.
Her head rose, but she hadn’t moved.
“I love you, Opal.”
She slowly sat up. Ryan’s blue eyes were staring at her, full of love, vigor, and life.
Her Christmas miracle had come true.
“I love—” Opal kissed him several times before pulling back and tugging on his hand. “Come. We’re going to find the priest and get married immediately.”
Ryan laughed, the sound strong and hearty. “Whatever you wish, my love, the air I breathe.”
And so they got married in the first minutes of Christmas Day.