My Christmas Star


But Victoria?

She had never paid my brother any attention. Well, no more so than any woman seeing what was a prime example of a young Floridian male. Tyler was gifted with more of our father's heritage than I had been granted in the DNA lottery. He tanned to a darkness that I would have needed bronzing oil to achieve. His hair would bleach out a honey blond, while mine persisted in turning a baby shit brown.

Slipping the electric outboard onto the motor mount of fully-inflated runabout, I clamped it down then eased the inflatable boat off the back of the Star and tied it across the transom by the ladder. A hard jab in my spine caused me to turn.

"Here." She thrust the basket at me.


"De'nada," she answered.

Sitting the basket in the U-shaped front section, I walked over to the control panel and took the ring of keys. Clipping it to my belt, I had to ponder just how many time I had done that. Not often. Living in the marina there had always been an "I'll watch out for you" kind of attitude among us live-aboard boat owners. Out here, in the Grand Bahamas, I can't say I have anywhere near the level of trust in my fellow boaters. The possibility of watching my home sail off into the distance was one that I had always felt needed to be watched out for whenever we took the sailboat out to an island and left it at anchor.

Extending a hand to Victoria, I balanced her as she stepped down off the metal ladder and into the runabout. Ducking back into the Star's cabin, I grabbed a beach blanket and a few large towels. Locking up the cabin door --another thing I don't do often -- I scampered off the back of the Caribbean Star and then stopped in mid-action and crawled back aboard to get the battery pack off the charger. Climbing back aboard, I plugged it into the electric motor, tested it, and then untied us from the Star. Pushing off the back of the sailboat, hand pushing just under the nameplate, I turned us towards shore and raced the hidden reef-born waves into the sandy beach.

Below us, the water was so clear as too the breath away. We felt and looked like we were flying over emerald blue air. The fish swimming under us appeared to be hovering and they, at the sound of the prop, shot off like silvery rockets.

"It's beautiful here," she said with a delightful child-like wonder in her voice.

"Was a lot prettier before Hurricane Erma kissed it." I pointed to trees that were broken and some tatters of some type of debris still hanging from another. "Luckily this little island isn't as settled as the rest of the Grand Bahamas. Mother Nature can take a harder hit than anything that man can ever build. Plus this place was blessed compared to Puerto Rico."

"I've seen the news. Terrible."

As we bumped our way over breakers and slipped up onto the sand I jumped out and pulled us in closer. The water about my bare lower legs was warmer here than that in the marina I normally swam in. The sand seemed whiter. The water bluer. And the woman next to me more beautiful than I had ever seen her appear before.

I held out my hand and helped her step onto shore. But then I didn't turn it loose. For a moment she paused as if awkwardly unsure of what I was doing, then she smiled, and there was a hesitant blush. A low chuckle, a shake of her head that sent red hair flying.

"We'll hold hands later, I'm hungry." With a grin, Victoria slipped her fingers free of mine. "Heating up all that food got my mouth to watering. Everything smelled so wonderful!"

"Nana and my sisters outdid themselves. She was trying to teach them the family recipes and they took it to excess." I chuckled and grabbed the beach blanket and wicker basket out the boat. "I only grabbed some of the best of the best. Let's just say there were a few things that ... needed a few more tries ... or were possibly never good, to begin with."

Laughing, Victoria pointed to a place where a cluster of trees was shading a small half-circle. "That looks good. What you think?"

Nodding, I walked with her through the thick sand. There were a few places where I could see stuff had been washed ashore and then been half-buried by the wind and waves. I had to wonder if what I saw was part of someone's home. How many lives had been torn apart in this last year like mine had been? In a way I envied them. You can clean up after a hurricane and still live where you always lived. These peoples lives had been fucked up, true, but there wasn't a mega-hotel going up where they had lived.

Well, not yet anyway.

Spreading out the old heavy blanket, I parked the food basket and dropped down next to one of the trees, resting my back against the knobby wood. Victoria knelt down next to me and began to serve us both. The moment she started opening containers my saliva production doubled.

She had to comment. "This is not what I meant when I said I wanted you to have dinner with me."

Lifting out a condensation-covered bottle of Coke, I took a sip of my soda and pointed to the Star riding on her anchor. "The view here is much better than from your apartment."

"How would you know, you've not been in my apartment?" She looked out at my boat and, after a moment, slowly nodded. "Yeah, that is a nice view. You really love that old sailboat, don't you?"

"My grandfather bought it and her sister, the Midnight Star, back when he got back from Korea. He and Dad wandered the whole world, for most of the seventies, in them together." I nodded to my ship with my chin. "She's been to Ireland, Spain, Italy, Greece ... hell, all over the Mediterranean." Taking a second sip, I capped the bottle and took my plate from her. Our fingers touched under the foam plate for a second and that suddenly seemed important. "Tyler's boat is on its third trip across the Pacific. Maybe even its first around the world the world. Grandpa was in Japan with her when Vietnam escalated. He crossed back over the Pacific not knowing if we would be at war with Russia or China before he reached home." I looked over at the redheaded lady next to me. "Yeah, I really love that old boat out there."

Glancing down at the plate in my hands, I pondered this cheap compressed foam being loaded with such delicious food.

"So much of this world feels like this to me now." I held up the plate to show here what I was talking about. "Even when the stuff on top is wonderful, what's holding it up is cheap and designed to be thrown away." I looked at her and saw Victoria understand what I was talking about. "That is what has me so mad at our little town. There was no reason to change what had always worked. We threw out the good china, and switched to paper plates simply because someone rich told us it was the smart decision."

"Randal, I don't want to talk about the hotel. Not here. Not today. That's literally out of sight and hours away." She gave me a tight smile. "Let's just say that we agree to disagree about it, and have a wonderful day together. Otherwise, this whole kidnapping isn't worth a thing."

Shaking my head, I grinned at her. "You're going to hang onto this whole 'kidnapping' thing, huh?"

"Oh, yes. I have been abducted. Taken against my will, carried off to a foreign land, forced to slave in a galley kitchen for his pleasure, and then... " She looked around. " ...from the looks of it, I might be going to be marooned." Reaching over, she stole a deviled egg off my plate. "Hell, I may even have to worry about my virtue the way things are going."

Popping my stolen food into her mouth, Victoria gave me a smirk.

"I've kissed your daughter."

Slowly her eyebrow rose. "Okay, so?"

"If -- after knowing I had to deal with a beta-tested lunatic like Jennifer -- you think that I'll allow someone to get away with stealing deviled eggs from me, without her losing her virtue, on this beach, in the middle of nowhere ... well, do it again and see what happens."

"Ooh, I'm so scared," she simpered.

"Steal an egg. Come on, steal an egg." I even held my plate out to her. "Come on. I'll have you on your back, my face between your thighs, so fast your eyeballs will pop."

For a moment she sat there, then a puzzled look crossed her pretty face. "That's not really a deterrent, Randal."

Slowly a smile began to grow on my face. "I know. Please, steal another egg."

Victoria began to laugh.

Digging into my food I made a point of leaving an egg till the very last bite. I even held the plate closer to her for a moment before eating it. At the smiling shake of her head, I popped the last bite away and placed the empty plate in the basket. Leaning back on my elbows, I looked out across the beach at the rolling waves.

"I've always wished I could live in a place like this. Just some small island somewhere, with the whole world a distant place over the horizon." Looking over at her, I shrugged. "I guess that sounds childish to you."

"No, not really. But at the same time, it does sound unhealthy. You need to interact with people, even when you don't want to. Actually, it's best to do it, especially when you don't want to. The more you try to run from the world the harder it will chase you. It's twisted that way." Placing her plate atop mine, she crossed her nice silky-looking legs under her and gave me a lingering look. "I always liked people, in general. The world can be what you make of it, but you have to put forth the effort to really make it something. Otherwise, it will take you, and make you into what it wants."

She opened another soda and, like me landed her back against a tree.

Victoria pursed her lips. "I could deal with a place like this, yeah it would be nice. But, after a few weeks, I would want to go to a restaurant and eat something other than my own cooking. Or maybe go see a movie. If you live alone on an island you're alone with your own thoughts for far too much of the time. And the sad thing is the more time you spend trapped in your own mind the more it tends to turn you in circles of depression."

Hesitantly, Victoria reached her hand over to me. Unsure why she wanted to do it but willing to hold her hand, I interlaced my fingers with hers.

"That's why I told you I want you to think about your future. The life of a vagabond, sailing around from harbor to harbor, might seem like a great idea till you find yourself stuck in a rut you can't get out of. I hate to see that happen to you. You're such a nice boy, you don't need to waste your life drinking and sailing. You could do so much, you're passionate about our little coastal town. So much so you hate to see something happening to it that you don't agree with. You need to harness that passion in some way. Hell, if you were older, I would say run for mayor in the next election. Something like that."

"I don't want to do anything like that. I don't want to be in charge of anyone else."

"But you want to have people seeing things from your point of view, yes?" She smiled. "Well, that takes putting yourself in front of the crowd and leading them by the hand to where you want them to go. You don't like what the town did when it accepted the hotel's offer? Well, your dad thought that all he needed to do was protest it. To tell everyone at a council meeting that it was a bad idea. Well, what would have happened if your dad had instead run for mayor, or tried to take a seat from one of the city council? He could have placed himself in a position to have stopped the land purchase. Right? Now, you. Well, you could move to another place, yeah sure. But why? If you really care about our town, as you say that you do, you should stay and try to mitigate what you see as the hotel's doing damage to the local area."

I had to be honest. "I never thought of that."

"No kidding. You've wanted to simply wallow in an abused kind of self-pity about how everything is unfair. That is the one thing I've spent years trying to get across to Jennifer without it ever sinking in. She seems to think the world owes her a living and a future. And, let me tell you, the more I tell her it's going to take work to get what she needs ... the more she listens to people telling her she needs to do something stupid." For a moment she looked at me with a distressed look. "Damn it. What is with anyone under thirty these days? I promised your mother to look out for you and all you want to do is what Tyler did. Vanish off into the wild blue yonder. How can I keep a promise to a woman, I cared about like she was my sister when I can't even get you to stay around?"

"I thought you didn't want to talk about this today?"

"I don't! I want to talk about your future." She squeezed my fingers. "I want you to see that your future could be around here."

I looked down at our joined hands. "What are you saying?"

She seemed to see what I was implying and pulled her fingers free. "That's not what I meant."

For a moment I let my hand stay where it had been held so sweetly. "Why not?" I asked suddenly, not sure why, but really wanting the answer.


"Why not? You and I, why not?"

"Ah, the whole I'm old enough to be your mother thing, for a start. Then there is the fact you were my daughter's boyfriend."

"So what? That doesn't mean I'm some sort of plague carrier simply because I kissed Jennifer a few times."

She shook her head. "Now look, Randal, I'll admit flirting you with you has been fun today, but there is no way that you and I could ever have any kind of a relationship together."

"Why not?" I asked.

She humphed. "I told you why not. You're no older than my daughter. You dated my daughter. You're the son of one of my best friends."

I grinned. "You're just listing the negatives. How about the fact I'm half your age and eighteen can go into forty a lot of times." I chuckled at her look. "What? You think I wouldn't want to have sex with a woman your age? Hell, I would love to do that. I've only been half-joking when I've been flirting with you. You're a gorgeous woman, Vicky."

"Maybe you need to go back to calling me, Ms. Elliot."

"Not a chance in hell."

"Please take me back to town." She got up and began to walk toward the runabout.

"Vicky? Victoria, stop!"

When I caught up to her, I merely touched her elbow, but she whipped around. Her eyes were as ablaze as her fiery hair and she, for a second, looked like she was about to hit me. At the surprise in my eyes, Victoria paused and took a deep breath.

"I'm not forty," she said in a rush.


She gave a knowing smirk. "I'm not forty. I've not been forty for the better part of a decade"

I shrugged. "Sorry, I didn't know. I just guessed."

"Yes, and that's half the problem." She angrily brushed her blowing red hair out of her eyes. "You guessed forty because -- to you -- forty sounded old. To me, I would give my left nipple to be forty again! Don't you laugh, I'll hit you."

Instantly I stifled the smile that was trying to form. I must have looked ridiculous, because, for several moments, she eyed my face with a greedy lust to strike. I'm sure a cobra has a similar look in its eyes, or maybe a shark.

She turned and looked away from me.

"Randal, I've enjoyed today ... in spite of the way it started. I've even enjoyed the flirting. It's been fun. Made me feel like a young girl again." She looked down at my half-bare chest. "You're a handsome young man. I wish I was your aged again. If I was, I would show my daughter what a fool she was to let you get away from her. As is--"

"So why don't you?" I asked.

"Why don't I what?" she asked looking back over her shoulder.

"Show Jennifer. Here. Now." I held out my arms to highlight the location where we stood. "There is no reason for you to have to be my age for you to show her that. Hell, you're being the woman you are and, well, being able to attract a man my age, that is one hell of a way to snub her."

Turning back to face me, Victoria chuckled. "Sorry to burst your testosterone bubble, but I won't sleep with you just to snub my daughter."

"How about to simply have fun?" I rolled my eyes. "Would you for a minute fucking forget that you're Jennifer's mom? This isn't about her, anyway. I was happy she dumped me. Every word out of her mouth, for the last weeks we were together, showed me that she and I had nothing in common. We got together because we were all but pushed together. You and my mom seemed to think us the perfect couple but, in truth, we never saw eye to eye on much. Half the time Jennifer seemed to only be together with me because it was expected. She talked down to me ... whenever she didn't want something from me."

I paused realizing I was spilling out things I had never told anyone, least of all the mother of the girl I was talking about.

"I did love her, hell, I still do in some ways, but I can't be anything but happy that she's not making me feel like I'm beneath her to date. What?"

Victoria's eyes had dropped and for a second I was sure I had seen a flash of old pain cross her face.

"I did to my daughter what my mother did to me. Fuck my life."

Pausing, seeing a tear appear and slid down her cheek, I held my questions. Staying as quiet as I could, unsure what to do or say, I watched her again turn away from me. Slowly she sat down in the sand, looking out to sea. I eased myself down next to her.

"Gary... Jennifer's dad ... and I grew up across the street from each other." She absently picked up a battered shell from beside her and tossed it back into the oncoming waves. "Our parents made us date. There was never any question who we were going to take to the prom. Who we were going to the movies with. Or who we were going to marry." She looked over at me. "We stayed together because of Jennifer as much as anything, but we hated each other by the end. I swore I wouldn't do that to my daughter and, I'll be damned if I didn't turn right around and do it."

A second seashell followed the first. Then a third.

"She and I never slept together," I confessed.

Victoria looked over at me quickly, then looked away with a shrug. "That wasn't my business, so long as you didn't make me a grandmother too early. What my daughter does or doesn't do with her own body stopped being my business when she hit eighteen."

"We ... well, we always felt like we were doing things without really wanting to. Even kissing seemed off. Like kissing your sister I guess."

Victorian gave a sad laugh. "Oh, believe me, I know that feeling. Gary and I were the same. Sex was like dancing. Nervous dancing, not Patrick Swayze dancing. God, what I wouldn't have given for some Patrick Swayze style sex back then!" She smiled at my raised eyebrow. "I had such a star crush on that man. I hate to say it, but wanted to be Jennifer Grey so badly I named my daughter after her."

Chuckling, I nodded. "I can understand that kind of thing. I've had a few crushes too. None I would name a child over, but a few that still keep me wishing."

"Who?" She held up a hand before I could speak. "And if you tell me you crushed on me, I'll pop the back of your head like Jethro Gibbs."

Ignoring the threat, I didn't, however, mention that she had been a crush ... if by crush you mean someone you've lusted after while you masturbated. Instead, I mentioned my two favorite famous women to fantasize about.

"Lena Heady and Eva Green."

Victoria gave me a snarky look. "Skinny brunettes, that get naked on screen often, huh?"

I shook my head then shrugged. "Well, that doesn't hurt ... but they are both a bit dark and mysterious. They play powerful characters. I like that."

"You like strong women? That's unusual in a man." She gave me an appraising look. "Most seem intimidated by that."

"I'm not." I looked around for a second. "Can I recommend we move back over to the blanket? We're going to get sand fleas up our asses if we keep sitting here."

After a moment she nodded.

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