Description Christmas Eve Promise: Time Travel Novel
by Elyse Douglas
The Christmas Eve Promise
In the early afternoon, Patrick sat alone on a park bench in Riverside Park, not far from their apartment. The morning sun had fled, and the sky had turned overcast, with a chilly wind and a scattering of snow flurries.
Patrick tilted back his head and watched two squirrels in a game of chase, skittering along the branches of tall trees, leaping, clinging like acrobats. One false step and they’d plunge to the ground. But they didn’t fall. They were skilled, fast, and daring.
He turned his collar up against the blowing wind, noticing that he was the only person in sight, sitting on a park bench as if it were a beautiful spring day.
A dog walker came into view, a tall woman, wearing a long winter coat, boots and a red ski hat. Her pet was one of those little waddling dogs, with fluffy white hair, a panting tongue and a springy step. To Patrick, he looked like a wobbling snowball.
As she was passing him, she glanced over. “Merry Christmas.”
Patrick nodded. “Yes… Merry Christmas.”
The woman paused, her dog sniffing at the air. Patrick thought she looked about his own age, somewhere in her thirties, and she was attractive, with a friendly face. She looked him over.
“So, are you escaping from the family for a while? I am.”
Patrick lowered his eyes. “No…”
She lifted a hand, catching snowflakes. “We’re getting a white Christmas. How nice. I can’t remember the last time.”
Patrick thought he should say something, so he nodded. “Yes, can’t remember.”
“You’re sitting on my grandfather’s bench.”
Patrick sat up, gently startled. “Pardon me?”
“No… It’s okay. It’s just that we dedicated that bench to my grandfather. See the little bronze plaque on the back?”
Patrick stood up, turning to face the bench. Sure enough, there was a small plaque screwed into the upper back rail, and he stooped to read it.
The woman said, “It says, To Amos Lewis, a Lover of Parks.”
Patrick straightened and looked at her. “Yes, I’ve seen these inscriptions. Very nice.”
“He used to sit there and smoke a cigar. Smoking is prohibited in the park, but he did it anyway. He was old school.”
Patrick nodded wistfully. “Old school. I can appreciate that. The plaque is a good way to remember someone.”
“Are you Irish?” she asked, taking a step closer.
“No, not really. I was born in New York. My father was from Limerick; my mother from a village in County Clare,” Patrick said, again turning toward the plaque. “How did you arrange to get the plaque?” he asked.
“You can go online, to the Riverside Park website.”
He nodded. “Well, that’s a lovely thing, isn’t it?”
“Please sit down,” the woman said. “I’m sorry if I interrupted you. I often pass by and look at the bench.”
Patrick kept his eyes on the plaque.
“Is there someone…” The woman said, then hesitated. “Are you thinking of someone you’d like to dedicate a plaque to?”
Patrick turned, folding his arms across his chest. “Perhaps.”
The woman didn’t move, but her dog was itching to go. He looked up at her and whined.
Patrick didn’t meet the woman’s eyes. “I guess he has squirrels to chase,” he said.
The woman lowered her chin. “Yes. Well, yes, I should go. Enjoy the bench. By the way, do you smoke cigars?”
“Not in a while… I used to, but that was a long time ago. Centuries ago.”
She smiled sweetly. “Perhaps you should have one someday while you join my grandfather on the bench.”
“Perhaps… Yes. Perhaps I will.”
And then she started off. “Merry Christmas.”
Patrick gave her a little head bow. “And Merry Christmas to you and to your family.”
He eased back down on the bench, his low mood falling deeper into darkness.
Why had he put off the inevitable? Why had he refused to enter Eve’s bedroom closet, kneel by the safe, open it and remove the lantern? Yesterday, in a drunken stupor, he’d almost summoned the courage, but he’d stopped in the doorway, stopped cold.