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That Fateful Christmas (for the Christmas Song Writing Competition)

by LZPianoGirl


It has been five years since I celebrated Christmas, which people find weird because my parents are the King and Queen of Christmas. Our house would be filled with holly, mistletoe, reefs, and music. You couldn’t go a second in our house without hearing a Christmas song. It was insane. We use to hold parties, which the whole town would come to. Once, the mayor even came! Granted, that was back when I lived in the-middle-of-nowhere South Dakota. Now, I live in New York City.

People always ask, “Sydney, what caused you to stop celebrating?”. It’s a hard question to answer, mostly because I don’t want to tell them the reason. You see, 2014 was a hard year for me. My sister died in a car wreck, my brother joined the army, my best friend’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. Those weren’t the main reasons. That was the year I moved to the Big Apple. I was twenty, broke, and as depressed as you could be. I don’t know why I moved. I think I needed a change of scenery, South Dakota really sucks. When I left my hometown, I was leaving my boyfriend of seven years. I had never dated someone else, it was always Henry. Henry and Sydney. I guess leaving Henry wasn’t as hard as losing my sister or seeing my brother deployed, but it impacted me more.

Every Christmas since we were sixteen, Henry and I would go somewhere. One year, we went to the town center to ice skate, the next we went to Pierre, and then other places. It was a huge thing and I looked forward to it every year. Once I moved to New York, I realised that we wouldn’t be together. I felt as if I had lost a part of me, a part that I desperately needed. But, I couldn’t have it. I had signed a two year contract on a studio apartment that I couldn’t cancel. Once those two years passed, with hardly any talk with Henry, I decided to lease the studio for another three years. I assumed he had moved on, probably with someone else.

This brings me to present day, Christmas Eve 2019. I am sitting on a bench, outside of the Bryant Park ice skating rink. My ice skates are on, tied, and I’m ready to skate, but I can’t. I don’t feel like it. My friends are already on the ice, but I chose to stay off. I sit there, watching the others. One kid is begging his father to be happier. The father looks like he just finalized a divorced. A wife or mother-figure is nowhere in site, so I assume this is true. There are people dancing to some songs near the Christmas tree. Mostly older couples, maybe one or two young ones. The ice is dominated by young couples who never seem to be able to skate well. I’m the only one sitting alone. I have only dated one person since the move, this asshole named Jerry. I broke up with him after a couple of months, when I realized I could do better than him.

I start bobbing my head to the song playing in the background, Rocking Around The Christmas Tree. This used to be Henry and I’s song. At least, people called it that because it was our favorite. I spot my friend stepping off the ice.

“Why are you so down?” Jill says.

“I’m not.” I reply.

“That’s a lie.”

“Maybe it is.”

“Tell me, Sydney.”

“I’m alone, no boyfriend, no nothing.” I say.

“You have me!” She shouts.

“Your boyfriends waiting for you.” I say, pointing to the ice, where Jill’s crappy boyfriend is waiting for her.

“Fine, you got me. Just don’t be so down.” Jill says, then walks back to her partner.

“I’m coming, I promise. I’ll be there in a minute.” I yell after her.

I wait a little, until the song ends. I remember the first year Henry and I’s tradition started, we went to the town center. There was music and activities, but all we did was dance. They played Rocking Around The Christmas Tree, on our request, about every two songs. It drove people mad. I remember them yelling at the DJ and us slipping him some cash to keep going. It was magical.

I eventually stand up and step onto the ice. It’s very choppy, so I struggle to skate.

“You suck.” Jill’s boyfriend comments.

“And you're a crappy boyfriend.” I retort.

“Sydney!” Jill yells.

“Fine, I won’t be honest. And I’m leaving.” I say. I do a lap of skating then get off the ice. I put back my skates and grab my purse. I walk over to the street and call an Uber. I sit down on the curb, checking Twitter. Someone sits next to me.

“You’ve had enough to?” He says.

“Yeah..” I say, not bothering to look up.

“I just moved here, have any tips as I struggle to survive the concrete jungle?” He asks.

I chuckle, his voice sounds so familiar, “Well, never use the bathroom in a bodega. Never listen to Rocking Around The Christmas Tree when you’re missing someone? Where are you from, anyway?”

“That’s my favorite Christmas song! I could listen to it anytime. I’m from South Dakota. The names Henry… and you’re my girlfriend.” He says.

I nearly drop my phone I’m so shocked. I hug him so tight, I swear he could hardly breathe, but he didn’t say anything. He gives me some flowers and we take the Uber home together. That was the first year, in five years, that I had celebrated Christmas.

The next year, Henry and Sydney got engaged and were married. Sydney’s brother was honorably discharged and returned from Iraq. As of 2032, they now live together in a quaint little apartment near Central Park, with their dog and son. The two soulmates have never not missed a Christmas since that fateful night, in 2019. 


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Sat Jan 11, 2020 5:48 am
alliyah wrote a review...



This was a really sweet little story LZ! It seemed a little bit like a halmark movie where everything wraps up at the end, but honestly I think that's just what a lot of people want to read during the holidays is something a little peppy and joyful - so I appreciated it!

I think I needed a change of scenery, South Dakota really sucks.

as someone who has lived in SD at one point in my life, I couldn't disagree more! Maybe you're thinking of ND?

I think all the negative things she was going through in life might have been a little heavy handed, like the mom's friend's cancer, the brother etc. you definitely portray her life being a disaster, but it didn't seem very realistic and almost like an overload - I think picking a couple of the problems and really highlighting the feelings for those particular problems would be the strongest option - so that it's not all the conflict all at once.

You set up a nice conflict right at the beginning though, and hook the readers in.

The father looks like he just finalized a divorced. A wife or mother-figure is nowhere in site, so I assume this is true.
I felt like this was sort of a quick generalization, I think you've got to show why the speaker thinks that.

I thought the interactions with Jill were pretty funny, and I just loved how they sort of badgered back and forth - that was a good scene!

The ending starts moving really really quick when she runs into Henry - I know that the word-limit might have been a factor, but if you do decide to extend it, this would be a really important area to expand - I'm left with so many questions - like how'd Henry end up in NY? And did he still even love her? How did they like reunite, what conversation went down? What did their first Christmas together look like?

I think if you set fewer conflicts at the beginning, it'd be easier to wrap it up too without it feeling rushed at the end.

I do like that you gave us a happy ending though, and the detail about the song connection from the rink was incredibly sweet and creative too.

This is a lovely story, and my main critique is I just wanted to hear more of the details -

all the best,

alliyah




LZPianoGirl says...


Thanks, alliyah! I agree, I did try to cram too much into this!



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Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:57 pm
Elinor wrote a review...



Hey LZPlanoGirl!

Thanks for taking the time to write a story for the Holiday writing competition. I enjoyed reading your entry and I hope you enjoyed writing it. Here is your review, as promised. What I like about your story is that it does a good job of capturing the spirit of the song. Rockin' around the Christmas Tree is such an upbeat song that personally always makes me want to dance.

I know the word limit makes things tricky, but I feel like you tried to fit in too much in here. You tell us a lot rather than show. Sydney's from South Dakota and now lives in New York. What was that change like for her? You tell us Rockin' around the Christmas Tree is her and Henry's song. Why is it their song? What kind of memories does the song stir?

I'd even love to see it start when she's already at the ice rink. How does she react when she sees Henry? Make us feel like we're in the moment. New York City can be a very evocative place, with specific sights and sounds and smells. Make us, as the reader, feel like we're there.




LZPianoGirl says...


Thanks for the review! I appreciate it!



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Tue Dec 10, 2019 9:10 pm
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Nike wrote a review...



Hello and welcome to YWS. I can see you just joined. I have been on here for like ten years (I'm old lol). I don't get on very often if at all with my busy life, but since I'm here today let's help you with a review.
I won't be crazy with editing and pointers because, as I can see, you're still very young and I'm assuming just jumping into seriously writing? At your age I started to write and it was... not very good. It takes practise to get to where you want to. Honestly, you're doing fairly well compared to how bad mine was. Just keep writing, spread your creative thoughts onto paper. You're doing real well.


Spoiler! :
It has been five years since I celebrated Christmas, which people find weird because my parents are the King and Queen of Christmas. Our house would be filled with holly, mistletoe, reefs, and music. You couldn’t go a second in our house without hearing a Christmas song. It was insane. We use to hold parties, which the whole town would come to. Once, the mayor even came! Granted, that was back when I lived in the-middle-of-nowhere South Dakota. Now, I live in New York City.


Your whole beginning paragraphs introducing us to your story is a little too fast paced. I'm not really getting to know much about the character and her life's story, it's like being shoved all the details in the beginning of a movie and then we start. For short stories you don't need a whole lot of back story or history really, just essential points. And if you bring in history make it like a story, maybe a flashback scene? Or try to write out the history in a more appealing way. Not just point after point, but flowing like a story. I hope you can grasp what I mean. Other than that, I liked her backstory, It really explained why she wasn't down for Christmas.

Spoiler! :
This brings me to present day, Christmas Eve 2019. I am sitting on a bench, outside of the Bryant Park ice skating rink. My ice skates are on, tied, and I’m ready to skate, but I can’t. I don’t feel like it. My friends are already on the ice, but I chose to stay off. I sit there, watching the others. One kid is begging his father to be happier. The father looks like he just finalized a divorced. A wife or mother-figure is nowhere in site, so I assume this is true. There are people dancing to some songs near the Christmas tree. Mostly older couples, maybe one or two young ones. The ice is dominated by young couples who never seem to be able to skate well. I’m the only one sitting alone. I have only dated one person since the move, this asshole named Jerry. I broke up with him after a couple of months, when I realized I could do better than him.


If you are describing a situation I want you to make us see it. You're merrily telling and not showing. How does the father look like he's just finalized a divorce? How do the people look dancing? How does your MC feel about it? I like the fact that there is both happy and sad happening here-- it shows the true nature of the holiday season.


Spoiler! :
“Why are you so down?” Jill says.

“I’m not.” I reply.

“That’s a lie.”

“Maybe it is.”

“Tell me, Sydney.”

“I’m alone, no boyfriend, no nothing.” I say.

“You have me!” She shouts.

“Your boyfriends waiting for you.” I say, pointing to the ice, where Jill’s crappy boyfriend is waiting for her.

“Fine, you got me. Just don’t be so down.” Jill says, then walks back to her partner.

“I’m coming, I promise. I’ll be there in a minute.” I yell after her.


Dialogue is hard, not going to lie. Sometimes when you're talking you don't notice that you do more than just talk. You have got to give your characters some more interaction. Like is Jill maybe rubbing her hands from the cold? There can't just be back and forth dialogue. And maybe just more emotion.

Spoiler! :
I wait a little, until the song ends. I remember the first year Henry and I’s tradition started, we went to the town center. There was music and activities, but all we did was dance. They played Rocking Around The Christmas Tree, on our request, about every two songs. It drove people mad. I remember them yelling at the DJ and us slipping him some cash to keep going. It was magical.


I like this flashback. But again, slow down when you're talking about something, give us more detail.

Spoiler! :
I eventually stand up and step onto the ice. It’s very choppy, so I struggle to skate.

“You suck.” Jill’s boyfriend comments.

“And you're a crappy boyfriend.” I retort.

“Sydney!” Jill yells.

“Fine, I won’t be honest. And I’m leaving.” I say. I do a lap of skating then get off the ice. I put back my skates and grab my purse. I walk over to the street and call an Uber. I sit down on the curb, checking Twitter. Someone sits next to me.

“You’ve had enough to?” He says.

“Yeah..” I say, not bothering to look up.

“I just moved here, have any tips as I struggle to survive the concrete jungle?” He asks.

I chuckle, his voice sounds so familiar, “Well, never use the bathroom in a bodega. Never listen to Rocking Around The Christmas Tree when you’re missing someone? Where are you from, anyway?”

“That’s my favorite Christmas song! I could listen to it anytime. I’m from South Dakota. The names Henry… and you’re my girlfriend.” He says.

I nearly drop my phone I’m so shocked. I hug him so tight, I swear he could hardly breathe, but he didn’t say anything. He gives me some flowers and we take the Uber home together. That was the first year, in five years, that I had celebrated Christmas.

The next year, Henry and Sydney got engaged and were married. Sydney’s brother was honorably discharged and returned from Iraq. As of 2032, they now live together in a quaint little apartment near Central Park, with their dog and son. The two soulmates have never not missed a Christmas since that fateful night, in 2019.


This was so very cute oh my God. I need more descriptions on how the characters look, how they feel, their relationships. How close are Jill and the MC? How does the character feel? Why does Sydney hate Jills BF? What does the area look like, how does the temperature affect them? I love that they end up together. I really love that they got back together, that Henry came back for Sydney. That's so sweet. And honestly pretty realistic too, that's something people like to see. Love does conquer all.

Overall, this was super cute and I'd read over and over again. I hope I could help with my review! Have a happy holidays!




LZPianoGirl says...


Thanks for the review, I really appreciate it! I am not used to writing short stories, at least not this short. This piece was for a challenge to write a 1000 word or less story! I would of written more otherwise. But thank you again, your review had a lot of good information to help me improve.




Time is not your best friend - unless you use it wisely.
— Marco Pierre White