I’ll have a blue Christmas without you…
Marley Matthews shook her fist at the driver of a sleek, gray Jaguar. “You splashed my coat!” she yelled. As expected, the driver never even bothered to acknowledge her presence.
She sighed, pulled her coat more tightly around her, and shook her big umbrella in hopes of dislodging the ice pellets freezing on every metal rib. What a dreadful day. If Michael hadn't insisted they meet for lunch, she would've stayed home and kept warm. She still had some Christmas shopping to do, but it was too cold and icy to care.
She smiled as thoughts of Michael warmed her. He had asked her to marry him six months ago, and in that time, she had discovered what true happiness felt like.
Barton’s loomed up ahead through the rain and fog. Located in a building with the date 1889 set in stone way up high next to the roof, it had been vacant for a long time before Tim Barton bought the place and opened his restaurant there.
Through the window, she saw a huge Christmas tree standing near the grand fireplace for which Barton’s had become locally famous. Colorful lights outlined the top of the building, and a huge green wreath covered the entire upper half of the door.
The sound of sweet carols greeted her when she entered the restaurant. Where was he? There. The table in the window. The one where the dark‑haired, muscular god was sitting. She waved and almost floated across the floor to meet him, buoyed by a wave of happiness so intense it almost hurt.
“Hey, there,”she called, even before she reached the table. “Seeing you makes up for the lousy weather.” She smiled as she took her seat and busied herself with removing her wet coat.
Michael, who wore the wheat‑colored sweater she’d bought him last month, stared out the window as if he saw something far more fascinating than rain and fog. He hadn’t met her eyes once, and he didn’t have the hint of a smile on his face. “Hello, Marley.”
The waiter, a guy whose name tag identified him as Robert, approached to take their order. “What’ll it be?” he asked with a smile. “Hot chocolate? Coffee? Or do you need something stronger to warm you up?”
Robert offered them a menu, but Michael waved it away. "I'm not having lunch.”
Marley’ eyebrows shot up. As the waiter left the table, she said, “ I thought you wanted to have lunch.”
“No, I said I wanted to talk to you.”
“Okay, talk.” Marley reached for his hand, but he drew it away and put it in his lap.
“Uh…Marley…I have something to tell you.” He cleared his throat, and this time he stared at some point right behind her left shoulder.
Marley’s heart thumped. “What is it, Michael? What’s wrong?” Was he ill? Had he lost his job?
He stared at a burned spot on the rustic table as if it had come to life and tried to bite him. "I’ve met someone.”
Marley cocked her head. “Who did you meet?”
He’d pitched his voice so low she had a hard time hearing him. “Her name is Heather.”
Everything clicked. He wouldn’t hold hands with her. He wouldn’t look at her. Cold more intense than that outside settled into her veins and almost took her breath away, but she clung to the hope that she was wrong. “I don’t understand.”
His eyes met hers briefly before they slid away. “Yes, you do. I’m sorry, Marley, but I can’t marry you after all.”