The front stairs to the two upstairs apartments at the Rabbit came out on the front deck between the door to the bar and the area Nora had created as the grill. As I descended those stairs, the smell of her Christmas dinner was enough to make a fully satiated person still drool.
It had been my heart and soul.
I found the old building and renovated it, convinced the city to rezone it so I could live above it, and then scoured the entire east coast for her furnishings and surfaces. There wasn’t anything in the Rabbit that I didn’t hand pick.
I closed my eyes as I thought about the name.
We called her The Velveteen Rabbit, because when you love something enough, it becomes real.
Rafe and I, we used to say we made each other real with our love.
Now I just felt stupid for trusting him.
From the front deck that wrapped around both sides of the building, I could see the crowd of paparazzi and media still gathered on my lawn. I should send them all bills for the new lawn I’d clearly have to seed this spring.
I ignored them and entered the Rabbit from the front door. The space was warm, my friends were already gathered, and it was hard not to stare at the tree, beautiful, tall, decorated with colored twinkling lights, but sitting pretty much in the exact spot that I fell on that damn fateful night.
For a moment, I was tempted to go back there, to breathe in the betrayal and allow the anger and frustration to boil up, but no.
~ 1 ~
I will not let myself.
Not ever again.
Tonight was about friendship and life and I will enjoy it as the gift it is.
Rafe was an ass and an idiot. Too afraid to claim true love, but I was done suffering over him and over Feffi who was… well, to put it bluntly, a manipulative bitch.
I watched her manipulate him for a full year as she lied and cried and reeled him in. I watched him make excuses for her over and over, while I made excuses for him.
Tonight, I was done with all of it.
Yeah, he took her on my trip while I laid in a coma because of his betrayal.
That tells you who he is, it’s not a sign of who I am.
I am fearless, and courageous, and full of love and joy and I will not be taken under by those two heartless, soulless, people.
I looked around the bar with all its old reclaimed wood and stained glass, the old bar that I saved from a building about to be demolished. It was a beautiful space, but it was no longer home for me. And I had to admit it wasn’t ever going to be home again.
Jack was playing the piano while a blonde sat nearby on her phone. I assumed that was Amira. Gwil was throwing darts with Charlotte, and Tewksbury was tending bar. Nora was MIA, I assumed she was busy in the kitchen. Then there were a few faces I didn’t recognize, a pair of women sitting in a booth and…
“Santa?” I turned around to see who was coming in the door behind me, but was not expecting Santa.
“Clement.” He waved at me. “Nora hired me to sit in the gazebo and wave at people passing by.”
He was a little gruff and very matter of fact, and moved on to the bar to order. The slight scent off his breath caused me to wonder if our Santa wasn’t a little tipsy.
“Sabrina, you’re here!” It was Charlotte who saw me first, but the second she announced me, everyone stopped what they were doing and came in
~ 2 ~
“Merry Christmas, everyone.” I didn’t want them to stop everything and stare at me, but I wasn’t sure how to force them back into what they’d been doing before. “Hey, who wants to fire up the jukebox?”
“Great idea!” Charlotte supported me. “Nora added a slew of Christmas classics again this year.”
Another reminder of what I’d missed, but I smiled warmly. These people had celebrated four Christmases in my bar and I had missed them all. They had memories of things I wouldn’t have… but you know what, as of right now, new memories were being made, ones that I was a part of. For that, I was grateful.
We can spend our whole lives looking back, it’s so easy to do and not even realize it. I was so blessed by the people around me who challenged me every day to do better than that.
Jingle Bell Rock began to play, and Gwil and Charlotte started to dance. It was feeling more like a party already.
“Hey, Sabrina.” I turned to see Jack and who I assumed was Amira. “This is my wife, Amira.”
I’m probably the only person who’d notice the tension in his smile.
“Amira, it’s so good to finally meet you.” I extended my hand with warmth. I had my doubts, but I was going to give her the benefit of those.
“I know, it’s too bad you couldn’t have been at the wedding. It trended on IG like for a month!” She smiled, shook my hand, kissed Jack’s cheek, then went back to the booth she’d been in and took a selfie.
My eyes were wide as saucers and I was speechless, but I tried to just smile my way out of having to make any comment.
“She’s not always like that.” Jack made an excuse.
~ 3 ~
It reminded me of all the excuses I made for Rafe.
“I’m sure she’s wonderful.” I forced lightness into my tone.
I did not want to start an argument with Jack on Christmas day.
“You never like women who date men you’ve been with.” He accused me gently.
I shot him a look with raised brow and oh-no-you-didn’t eyes.
“Not fair. I’d be hard on a man dating Nora or Charlotte who acted like that, or a woman… if they were lesbians… and dated women. Not that it’s just women that… I mean, men can be… I mean look at Rafe!” I stomped my foot.
“Yeah, but it’s Feffi you hate, not Rafe. Not really.” He nudged me with his shoulder then turned to go sit with his wife.
He wasn’t wrong, but he was deflecting and I think that’s more important than my possible mistrust of all women.
I moved over to the bar where a dear man with cheeks as rosy as Santa himself was mixing a drink.
“Tewksbury, what are you doing here?” I’d been meaning to ask him that for weeks, but I’d been too busy sulking.
“I’m always where I’m needed.” He answered simply as he put a straw in a tall curved glass and set it on the bar in front of me. “Bacardi and raspberry, blended with ice, served over raspberry puree just the way you love it.”
“Awwww, you remembered when I didn’t even remember.” I took the frozen drink and sipped it. “Wow! I’d forgotten how good these are.”
“Well, remember that two is your limit or else you won’t like yourself in the morning.” He chided me gently.
I placed my hand on his and gave it a squeeze.
“Thank you.” I teared up a little.
~ 4 ~
“It’s just a drink, my dear.” He winked at me.
“It’s never just a drink, Tewksie.” I smirked as he blustered.
“Would you stop calling me that.” He demanded as he came around the bar and drew me into a warm hug before he whispered, “Don’t you ever scare me like that again.”
His voice was thick with emotion, but, as was his way, by the time he stood and I could see his face, he was all level professionalism.
“I love you, too.” I tipped my glass at him and walked away.
I stared out the window at the crowded lawn. It was Christmas day for Chrissake, why weren’t they home with their families? My story wasn’t all that interesting, or even unique. People woke up from long term comas often enough.
I wished they’d just leave.
They compromised my life more than they knew because I was just waiting for any one of them to figure out my secret, and then that small crowd on my lawn would multiply exponentially overnight and I’d never get rid of them.
“What are you thinking?” Charlotte snuck up behind me and put her arms around my shoulders.
I leaned my head against hers.
“I’m thinking how lucky I am to have such amazing friends.” I turned to look at her and saw she wasn’t alone.
Beside her stood a woman, small in stature, white hair pulled in a bun to the side of her head. She wore a purple dress with a loud print, had more beads around her neck than anyone needed, and a ring on nearly every finger… yet somehow, it all seemed to fit.
“This is Elizabeth Valentino.” Charlotte presented.
I hid my smile and did not say, oh your voodoo doll partner in crime, although I really, really wanted to. “It’s nice to meet you. Charlotte’s told me a lot about you.” I was as graceful as I’d been taught to be, but in truth,
~ 5 ~
Charlotte hadn’t told me anything other than the woman was Romany and took her to get a voodoo doll.
Oh dear God, I was doing it again! Judging a woman who was friends with one of my friends.
Maybe Jack was right.
Maybe this was a problem.
“It’s wonderful to finally meet you. I’m here with my granddaughter, Vadoma. I’d love to introduce you at some point.” She took my hand and looked into my eyes in a way that should have been unnerving, but wasn’t.
This woman was seeing more about me than I probably knew myself, and I knew this, because she looked exactly how I felt when I met new people. I always had the gift to know more than people would tell me. It came in flashes, or simple sensations. It was more of a pain in the ass than it had ever been worth, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen anyone else do it … until now.
“I’d like that.” I kept conversation simple, not wanting to tell her any more than I had to.
She seemed like a perfectly nice woman, but she definitely raised my awareness and made me want to keep my cards close to the vest.
“We have time. In the new year, perhaps. I’ll let you get back to your celebration, I’m delighted to be here and very glad to have finally met you.” She squeezed my hand in both of hers and looked at me pointedly.
I had no idea what her story was, but I guessed this would not be the last time I saw her.
As she walked away, my mind drifted back to the paparazzi, and before I could think better of it, or anyone could stop me, I was headed to confront them.
As I had regained much of my strength, I strode down the front walk with purpose. It was a walk paved with white washed bricks and lined with flowers, most of which had been trampled despite the presence of Nora’s new security team she’d been forced to hire.
I didn’t know if what I was about to do would help or hurt, but I wasn’t going to hide in my bar for another day.
~ 6 ~
“Hey everyone.” They were all just staring at me, running cameras, taking photos. I’d apparently found myself smack dab in the center of the spotlight I’d spent my entire life running from, but I was going to make peace with it.
“I just…” I shook my head.
Don’t be small.
I straightened my shoulders and raised my gaze from those bricks to the centerline of the crowd.
“I wanted to say thank you for all the love, hope, and support you’re sending me. You all don’t know me. I’m just some girl who woke up at Christmastime after everyone thought I was long gone. And I guess in these days and times we all need something to hold on to, we want the miracles, we want proof there’s still a God.
“But I promise you, I’m not that proof… we all are.”
I waited, trying to make out faces so this was more personal.
“Every time you hold someone’s hand, every time you chase a dream, every time you put your phone down and really listen to your kid… that’s love… that’s God. I assure you, he exists, but it’s not in the act of waking from a coma. That’s random. It’s in what I do with every day of my life from here on forward that proves there’s a God.
“You see, I’m a dreamer. Always have been. No one could knock it out of me and I’ve made a lot of my dreams come true, and then this, death. The doctors said I was dead. Was I, though? I don’t know, it didn’t feel any different than sleep, but it stopped me cold. Then I woke up and even with my eyes wide open I was only going through the motions of a life. You all called that a miracle, but the true miracle happened yesterday, at Disney World of all places, because though I’ve been conscious for weeks now, I haven’t been alive.”
And that was my truth.
I’d been walking through my life like a zombie trying to manage overwhelming emotions, but not anymore.
~ 7 ~
“Yesterday, in a second, it was as if the ice around my heart melted and I became real again. I don’t know any of you, but if you aren’t in your happiness, if you aren’t alive, living your dreams, so blessed by the friends around you, oh I beg of you to change that.
“Because yeah, y’all can call me a Christmas miracle, but that doesn’t change a thing in this messed up world. What matters is the heart in each person going through their day, making life just a little better, if only because they’re truly happy in their own lives. It really is that simple. Happiness begets happiness, and when we’re happy, we trust more, we love more, we change the world.”
I wiped a tear off my cheek and needed to wrap this up, but I hoped someone would understand me. I hoped my words would at least touch one heart and bring change to that life.
“So take your photos, then go home to your families and love them. Hug your kids, call your friends, sell this video for as much money as you can get… but don’t live half a life. This place called Earth is the true miracle and what I know for sure to the bottom of my soul, is that every day we are awake, we can create miracles. And I thank God that even crazy dreams come true.”
I drew a breath, gave them a real smile, one of the very few I’d had since waking. When I turned to go back inside, all my friends were standing behind me. They started to applaud and I lost it. We stood there on the path to the Rabbit, hugging, sobbing, and giving the world a great show, but it didn’t matter, because each person has to make their own choices and I couldn’t change anyone, not any one of those reporters, not my friends, not even Rafe, no matter how much I loved him.
That was reality.
The only person I controlled was me, and from that moment, I would do whatever I could to be the best person I knew how to be, for my friends, but most of all, for me. Because I deserved to be that person.
~ 8 ~
Additional chapters can be found below.
The Memory of Magic ~ Samantha Lucas
Monologues are a tough sell in fiction, but I felt Sabrina’s speech to the media was needed. I felt she needed it. So you got to share in it. For me, writing a story is mostly about discovering characters, learning them, torturing them, watching them figure their stuff out. It makes you completely psycho, but I’m so grateful to be a writer.
One more chapter to go! Come with me on a year long journey with Sabrina and her friends as they reevaluate the meaning of life, discover true friendship, and soul deep love.
This story is my gift to the world, to remind us all of hope and love and that even crazy dreams come true… if we have the courage to pursue them.
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Wishing you joyous times this holiday season and always. ~ Samantha