Chapter Sixteen

As the night went on and we sang carols around the piano, got a little tipsy on Tewksbury’s eggnog, and enjoyed Nora’s lavish Christmas dinner, I’d never been happier.

I wasn’t in love with anyone. I didn’t have a man in my life for probably the first time ever, but that was okay. I was still able to find a depth of happiness that made everything in life shine brighter.

There was a miracle!

I laughed at myself.

As the night wound to an end, most of the paparazzi had indeed left my front lawn. It made me happy.

“Okay, everyone!” I gathered them because I had gifts and I wanted to share them last, so I waited until now.

I stood by the tree in the spot where I died four years and a few months earlier. I still had stark memories of the night. Of Jack trying to catch me as I collapsed, of him trying to keep Rafe away from me.

I looked over at Jack now, with his wife sitting on his lap, and I prayed for his happiness.

I watched Gwil tease Charlotte with a small duck tree ornament and I was grateful for how much I’d seen both of them grow, and for how much they’d grown without me.

Then there was Nora, she was fussing over dessert, and I made myself a promise that she wouldn’t be leaving here anytime soon.

Looking at all of them, all I felt was love and there wasn’t need for anything else. “Okay, I gave this as much thought as one could in about twelve hours because, until yesterday, I wasn’t really planning on celebrating Christmas.” I confessed. “I was going to go through the motions for you all, but then

~ 1 ~

something happened. And so, while these gifts may be a bit rushed, they are heartfelt with as much love as I could push into them.”

I pressed my lips together to stave emotion and drew a deep breath. Beneath the tree, where I’d placed them atop where I… was a small pile of gifts, only a few things, but they were everything I had to give.

I turned to Jack first and handed him a thin box that I’d wrapped in silver Christmas tree wrapping paper and topped with a big red bow.

“This is actually for you and Gwil.” I smiled at Gwil to show he was included in what I was about to say. “I hated you both yesterday for forcing me into that awful, awful place.”

I scolded them for being so hateful.

“And to be clear—” Jack stood up and announced to the small crowd gathered round. “—that awful place was Disney World.”

He shook his head, rolled his eyes, and sat back down.

I mock punched him in the arm.

“I so didn’t want to like it. I didn’t want to have any fun. In fact, I wanted my crap attitude to infect the place so it would shrivel up and die as much as I had on the inside.”

I grew serious and tried to keep from tearing up again.

“But you were both right and it was exactly what I needed, and because of you both, I feel alive again. And while I still can’t say I’m ever going to be as big a fan of the place as you are, Jack—” I handed him the box. “—I hope this will be taken in the spirit in which it is given, with a grateful heart, an open mind, and a willingness to start a new tradition with you both.”

Jack opened the box and grinned from ear to ear. Because what was inside the box wasn’t really for him as much as it was for me, but I knew he’d approve.

He stood and waved the paper from inside over his head.

“She bought an annual pass! The good one!” He laughed and hugged me, lifting me slightly off the ground.

~ 2 ~

Everyone cheered and clapped.

I felt ridiculous, but happy, too.

“So can you guys make room for one more on Mondays?” I had my arm around Jack, but I was looking at Gwil.

He came in to hug me, too, before proclaiming, “Of course!”

“I’m so stupid happy right now!” I hugged them both but then pushed them away. I had more gifts to give.

“Okay, okay, Charlotte’s turn.”

I reached under the tree again, this time for a large Manila folder that I’d wrapped in shiny green paper and handed it to Charlotte.

“Charlotte, I don’t know how you and I ever actually became friends, given how we met. I think this friendship is yet another miracle. One I am profoundly grateful for. You are one of the best things Rafe ever gave me and I hope this gift will show you how much faith I have in you.” Voodoo dolls notwithstanding.

I nudged her to open it, but it would also need some explaining, so I started in. “This morning, I pulled in favors… I called my mother.”

I awaited the appropriate mock gasps from the crowd and I was not disappointed.

“Damn woman, and you survived?” Jack taunted me.

I flipped him off and stuck out my tongue, then turned back to Charlotte as everyone laughed.

“I read your books, Charlotte, and they’re really good. Your characters are well drawn out, the mystery unfolds naturally, keeps your reader hooked and ends with a satisfying twist. You’re really good at this and while I don’t mean to disparage your self-publishing results, or the fan awards you’ve won, I got you an appointment with one of the best agents in Los Angeles, and that is a round trip ticket and your hotel reservation.”

“What?” Charlotte started pulling papers from the envelope.

~ 3 ~

“And because I know your anxiety would ruin the trip if I forced you to go alone…” I hoped she would take this part the right way. “I’m going with you.”

She screamed and rushed towards me with her arms wide open.

“Oh Sabrina, I’ve missed you so!” She hugged me so hard, she nearly knocked us both over.

“I missed you, too.” And while technically I couldn’t have missed anyone when I was asleep, I’d been awake long enough to know that I did.

“Oh my God, you girls are going to have an amazing time!” Nora spoke up and I prayed to God she wouldn’t feel left out. “I’ll probably be home by then, too, so we can all hang out in my backyard for a change.”

I turned to her.

“Actually, your gift is next.”

I saved it for last, because it was the hardest one to give, but it was the right thing to do.

I reached beneath the tree one last time and got the best gift of all. It was a small gold box with a big green bow. I carefully handed it to her, exhaled, and smiled.

I was doing the right thing, but it was hard and scary.

“You are as close to me as a sister. We don’t always see eye to eye, we’ve butted heads more than once. I remember a vicious falling out that lasted two weeks in junior high.”

“I believe that was over that boy, Kevin Limpkin.” Tewksbury spoke up from behind the bar.

We both looked at him in unison and shushed him.

“Oh, so that’s who holds the secrets!” Jack joked, but I turned on him with my perfected death glare.

He put both his palms up in mock surrender. “Anyway. If I could get back to my gift giving.” I turned the conversation around. “Nora, people keep

~ 4 ~

calling my waking up a miracle and I keep arguing. You and I meeting in the first grade, that was a miracle. You being willing to drop your whole life and come care for a sick friend, fighting to keep them from pulling life support…”

I got choked up thinking about the stories I’d been told about what a bear my friend had been in fighting for my care and in protecting me. I ran my hands down her arms until I could wrap my one hand around hers, and the other around the wrist of her hand that held the gift.

“I literally don’t think I’d be here today if not for you, that is a miracle and there is no way to repay it.”

“You never owe me…”

“Shhhh. Let me finish.” I smiled at her to keep us both from crying. “You said to me this morning you planned to go back to L.A. I really hope you’ll reconsider because I’m gifting you the Rabbit and she needs you.”

I couldn’t hold back my tears any longer. I picked up her hand that held the box and pushed it towards her.

“What?” Nora’s strangled cry turned quickly to tears. “Why? You love this place!”

She opened the box and what she found inside was a small rabbit key chain that I attached to the keys she already had.

“Because, despite how I feel now, I can’t look at this place the same. The memories haunt me, but you love her. I’ve seen you. And I want her to be loved. Please take her. I don’t want to sell her to someone who won’t care, but I can’t keep her.”

“Sabrina…” She looked at the keys and she looked at me.

Tears were freely flowing down both our faces then. She had to agree because it wasn’t a gift as much as it was a favor, one that came with a lot of risk and expense. I was probably the worst friend in the world to burden her with it, but I honestly couldn’t bear to see the Rabbit go to a stranger.

“But you’ll keep living here, right?” She asked, as she looked back at the keys.

I bit my lip and twisted my fingers into strange shapes, not sure how to answer.

~ 5 ~

“Well… I… uh…”

“Sabrina, no.” Nora looked at me like I’d broken her heart.

“I don’t really know. I’m just, I don’t want to wake up in that bed every morning, to look at those walls, to come down here and see that spot on the floor. I’m not strong enough.”

I hadn’t thought it any further than that, but I knew when I woke up that morning, that I needed a clean slate somewhere. The last time I felt like that Jack talked me into moving across the country. This time I wasn’t up for that big of a life shake-up. My friends were here and I had been enjoying Florida before this all happened. I wanted to stay and continue to build my life.

I just didn’t know where yet.

“You could come live with us.” Jack spoke up.

I turned to look at him, and the look on Amira’s face spoke volumes, putting me in a strange and awkward position.

“Jack, don’t be insane. You have a full house.” Given that Gwil already lived there, I wasn’t kidding.

“No, I know, but the guest house is empty.” He looked at me with a particular look that used to get me into all kinds of trouble when we were dating. “It needs some renovation, too, so you could do whatever you wanted to it. It’s actually the original house on the property. I lived in it when I was having the main house built. It’s a cottage and I know how you love those.”

He tried tempting me, but at the same time, I could feel both Nora and Amira willing me to say no.

I looked at Nora, begging her with my eyes to make it be okay.

I thought it over in my mind. I didn’t want to be completely alone, but this solved that, plus, I was a woman who longed for a project and he had me at renovations.

But Nora.

I refused to break her heart again.

“I won’t go if you don’t say it’s okay. I know it’s dreadfully unfair, but…”

~ 6 ~

“Of course, you should go. I’ve seen the place, it’s actually totally your style.” Nora smiled, albeit a bit sad. “Seriously, Sabrina, you’ve given us all so much this Christmas, do this for you. But I’ll be by regularly with pancakes!”

“I’d be crushed if you didn’t.” I looked at her a moment longer to make sure she was sure, then I looked at Jack.

“It’s right behind Magic Kingdom, so fireworks every night. If you go up on to the roof, you can actually see the castle and parts of the park. It’ll be like living right there, in the shadow of the Kingdom like royalty.” He joked.

“You’re trying to move me into the Magic Kingdom. You sneaky bastard.”

“Well, maybe if you’d taken me to the castle suite…” He let his words hang.

“Oh, Jack.” I rolled my eyes.

“What castle suite?” Charlotte piped up.

I turned to see her wide-eyed with enthusiasm.

“I’ll tell you later.”

A girl could only handle so much, but I wasn’t as opposed to the idea as I was a few days ago.

“So what about the cottage?” Jack pushed.

“Jack, you’re putting her on the spot. Don’t force her to answer in front of all these people.” Amira smiled at me like she was on my side, but I caught the underlying threat if I accepted.

“I suppose it would make Mondays handier.” I hinted at my coming acceptance.

“You’re so close to Disney, it’s like the mouse cottage.” Jack continued to sell it.

“I’m not living in something called mouse cottage.” Foot down, no deal.

But I did like naming the places I lived.

“Is it really that close?” I hadn’t seen Jack’s place, he’d been in a very nice

~ 7 ~

apartment before.

“It’s across from cast member parking.” He said it the way someone would say, it’s on Rodeo drive.

“So, in a way, it would be like living in the summer cottage. You know how royalty always has a place just outside the palace to spend summers in?”

Yeah, I was a dork, but that amused me.

“What royalty?” Charlotte questioned.

“I don’t know, but there’s a castle in the foreground so I suppose someone needs to be royalty.” I laughed, liking the idea more by the minute.

Tewksbury brought over a tray of champagne flutes and presented me first choice.

“Sounds like you all have something to toast.” He smiled at me, giving me his approval for everything.

“I like it, Sabrina. The Summer Cottage, it’s all yours. What do you say?” Jack awaited my answer.

As easy as it would have been to jump on that and say yes, it wasn’t right.

Not yet.

I moved closer to Amira and looked down where she was seated.

“You’re newlyweds, I don’t want to cause friction.” I felt weird standing there, asking her permission. I didn’t really respect her. I didn’t think I would like her if I got to know her.

But it was still the right thing to do.

“Yeah, whatevs. It’s all good.” She waved at me dismissively.

I tried to gauge whether her short response was from anger or true lack of interest. That she went back to her phone a moment later made me think it was the latter.

She was beautiful, but man, she was a piece of work.

But I digress…

~ 8 ~

I looked at Nora, “I’m going to say okay.”

I waited, giving her a last chance to say no, but she didn’t.

She looked at the rabbit key chain and smiled before she pressed it to her chest.

“Go, just make sure you don’t stay away.” It was her only request.

“I could never.” I reached out and squeezed her hand, then drew her into a full hug.

My arms still wrapped around Nora, I looked over to Jack, “You’ve got a new tenant.”

He and Gwil both cheered.

Amira didn’t even look up from her phone.

It was the end of an era, I suppose. But that just meant the beginning of a new one. One of a mouse and a summer cottage… and maybe a musician, but I wasn’t ready to go there.

“I still can’t entirely believe I bought an annual pass. I may have been suffering some ill effects of the coma, after all.” I joked with them all.

“One more round of carols, people!” Jack called out then moved to the piano.

We all huddled around, singing, drinking our champagne, and being happy.

As I looked at all the faces, I knew for sure what a real miracle was.

It wasn’t waking up, it was the love of these people, and for that, I was forever grateful.

~ 9 ~

Additional chapters can be found below.

The Memory of Magic ~ Samantha Lucas

Well, there you are. Sixteen chapters written with all the love I have in my heart. I love Sabrina and her friends, because yeah, in so many ways, they’re me and my friends, but in ways they aren’t. It’s up to you to decide where that line between fantasy and reality is, but most of all, I just pray you’ve felt blessed for the journey, and that you’ll stick with me this year, because I have a lot to give you.

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.

If you love the story, please share it with your friends and give me a like on social. And before you leave, visit our Artisan and Shop’s Page to see the latest from our beloved friends and creators.

To support the story, you can drop a tip through Buy My A Coffee (that coffee cup image to the side) or you can join us there with a monthly subscription that includes free downloads of the story each month.

The next story will be out by the end of January – fingers crossed – and in the meantime, I pray you have the happiest of Christmases and the most blessed new year. All my love ~ Samantha

Samantha Lucas

Romantic and magical, Samantha lives with deep faith in the shadow of Magic Kingdom, believes destiny can never be outrun, and thanks God that even crazy dreams come true. 💜♾🕉 -11 11- 🕉♾💜

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