Age Group: Adult
Genre: Time Travel, Mystery, Romance
Release Date: October 11, 2013
While traveling home for Christmas, Jackie and Megan, two young women in their 20s, encounter a huge snowstorm. After crossing a covered bridge, they suddenly find themselves stuck in the past in a small picturesque Vermont town in 1943.
While struggling to return to their time, they fall in love with two handsome soldiers.
As Christmas approaches, Megan and Jackie are torn between their new lovers and their desire to return to their time. At the last moment, they must make the difficult decision and, because it is Christmas, a miracle happens.
The Christmas Town is a thrilling adventurous novel interspersed with humor and romance. It's a great read any time of the year, but it's an especially cozy read during the winter months around Christmas.
Jackie’s face fell into perplexity. “What’s going on here? A gallon of gas for 14 cents?”
“The whole town looks like some kind of old movie or something,” Megan said. “And there’s nobody around. This place is giving me the creeps.”
“We’ve got to find a place to stay,” Jackie said. “I am absolutely exhausted.”
“I’m so hungry,” Megan said, hearing her stomach growl. “I’d love a Katz’s Corned Beef sandwich.”
“Oh, God, they are so good, aren’t they? How much are those now?”
“It’s worth it.”
They saw Green’s Drugstore and John’s General Store, with a 6-foot Christmas tree outside. Just then, a young man about 15 or 16 stepped out of Green’s Drugstore, carrying several little brown bags. When he saw them, he froze in utter shock, his eyes bulging, mouth open. He actually did a double-take.
Jackie stopped, and Megan rolled down her window and waved at him.
“Hello there,” Megan said.
The boy was rigid. Then he trembled.
“Is there a hotel or motel or Bed & Breakfast nearby?” Megan asked.
The boy swallowed, whipped his head about, as if calculating the best route for escape, and then bolted away right. He found a narrow alley, skidded on his heels, and disappeared.
Megan turned in a slow confusion, facing Jackie. Jackie lifted a puzzled eyebrow. “What was that all about?”
Megan lowered the sun visor and examined herself in the little mirror. “I know I’m tired, but do I look that bad?”
Jackie massaged her temples. “This has been the strangest trip I have ever taken. Let’s just try to find someplace to eat and sleep and forget this crazy little excursion ever happened.”
They drove on toward the outskirts of town, passing THE GROVE movie theatre. The movie marquis displayed GIRL CRAZY, starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.
“I saw that on TCM a few months ago,” Megan said.
Jackie stared, darkly. “There is something going on, Megan. Something... weird.”
After the movie theatre, they spotted The Grove Hotel, but it was closed. Fighting fatigue and despair, they turned off Main Street onto Maple Street, a quiet tree-lined street with neat framed houses, and the occasional vintage automobile parked in the driveway or along the deserted street.
“I just can’t get over all these old cars,” Megan said. “They look like something out of those old gangster movies.”
“Will you stop it with the old cars, Megan? Please? Find us someplace to stay. If our stupid phones worked, we could have found something by now. What the hell is the matter with this place? I am going to go out of my mind if we don’t find some place to stay, and soon.”
“Okay, okay, calm down. Let’s stay positive,” Megan said.
“To hell with positive!” Jackie shouted. “I need something to eat, and something to eat now! I am going to lose it!”
“Do you want me to drive?”
“No! I do not want you to drive. I want you to find us a place to eat.”
Megan spotted something. “Jackie! Stop. Look over there.”
Jackie slammed on the brakes and they rocked forward, Megan’s hands braced against the dashboard.
Jackie followed Megan’s pointing finger to a modest two-story house, with a white fence surrounding a little yard. Above the porch, hanging by two thin chains, was a sign that said BOARDING HOUSE. It was swinging easily in the modest breeze. “The sign on the porch says boarding house,” Megan said, excited.
Jackie crouched and looked. “Are there any lights on?”
“I don’t care. Let’s try it.”
Jackie parked at the curb, killed the engine, and the two girls snatched their coats and got out. Jackie led the way, with energy and purpose. She crossed the sidewalk, released the latch on the white gate and marched up the walkway, mounting the three concrete stairs to the door, where a Christmas wreath was hanging from inside. Megan arrived, and both shaded their eyes, peering inside through the square glass that was covered by a white laced curtain.
“I see a light on in a back room,” Jackie said.
Megan noticed something hanging in the picture window. She stepped over to examine it. It was a blue star on a small red cloth banner. She shrugged and joined Jackie.
Jackie gently pressed the doorbell. They heard a soft DING DONG. They waited, anxiously, taking in the silent neighborhood. There were no lights on anywhere and it was very dark.
“No action in this town,” Megan said. “It reminds me of a town in Indiana where I did summer stock a few years ago. Two months there seemed like two years.”
The front room light flickered on, not the porch light. The girls inhaled hopeful breaths. They saw an elderly woman draw back the lace curtain and peek out. The girls gave her their friendliest smiles.
A moment later, the door opened, but only a couple of inches.
“Hello,” Jackie said, brightly. “Can you help us?”
The door opened a little wider. She was a small, thin woman and a bit stooped. Her white hair was up in a bun and she wore a long gray nightgown. Peering out from the granny spectacles on the end of her nose, she looked at them slowly and carefully.
“What do you want?”
“Please...” Jackie said. “We have been traveling for hours and hours and we are so tired and hungry. Do you have room for us?” The woman hesitated, then opened the door fully. Her eyes widened as she studied them, up and down. “It’s late. Why are you out so late?”
“We got lost. We were trying to get to Portland.”
“Portland? That’s hours away. You would have run out of gas. There’s no gas anywhere. Did you get it on the black market? I don’t take people who cheat. I’ve got a grandson fighting in Italy.”
Megan and Jackie exchanged mystified glances. Both were thinking, “Is this woman nuts?”
Then Megan recalled how she’d lied about her mother and the medication so she could get the car. She had cheated. Megan gave Jackie a coy glance.
Jackie said, “No ma’am, we don’t cheat. We just want a room. Please.”
“I only have one, with one double bed. The other two rooms are occupied with regulars.”
“That’s fine,” Jackie said. “One room is fine.”
The woman was conflicted. “This is very unusual. I only take in people I know or who are referred to me. How many nights are you wanting to stay?”
“Just tonight,” Megan said, twisting her cold hands. “Please. We are so tired.”
The woman stepped aside, let them in and then closed the door.
“My name is Aunt Betty. May I know your names?”
“I’m Jackie Young and this is Megan...” Jackie looked at Megan, forgetting her last name.
“Jennings. Megan Jennings.” “Well, that’ll be a dollar each for the night and 35 cents each for breakfast. If you want something to eat tonight that’ll cost you 50 cents. I was going off to bed, but I’ll put something out for you.”
Megan stared into Jackie’s uncertain eyes.
“You mean one single dollar each?” Jackie asked.
“That’s a fair price,” Aunt Betty said, a little defensively.
“Oh, yes, that’s very fair,” Megan said, quickly. “That’s fine, Aunt Betty. And we’d love something to eat. We don’t want to put you out. Anything that’s easy.”
“You get your things then and I’ll take out some cold chicken, apple pie and bread. I hope that’ll do.”
The girls smiled, gratefully. “That sounds wonderful,” Jackie said.
After Aunt Betty padded off toward the kitchen, the girls took in the surroundings.
The living room seemed from another world. It was a simple square room, with a mantel, hearth and several seascapes set in gilded frames. The mantel held a manger scene, some holly surrounding it, and a white candle in the center. Next to that were simply framed black and white photos of what must have been family. There was a meager 3-foot Christmas tree, garlanded, with ornaments but no Christmas lights.
The room was clean enough, but both women noticed that the white paint had yellowed and the rose wallpaper was faded, with some damp spots. They saw floral Victorian antique lamps with opaque glass stems, hand-painted with roses or white and yellow flowers.
They stood on a thin, patterned floral carpet and first heard, and then saw, an old grandfather’s clock standing resolutely in the corner. Its tick tock was steady and loud in the muted silence. A solid wood console radio, with a lighted dial, seemed to dominate the room, much as a TV would, but neither Jackie nor Megan saw a TV.
The furniture was simple and heavy, the couch and chair upholstered in solid fabrics, the couch looking worn but comfortable, and the broad arm chair sunken and looking dejected.
Jackie sensed something was wrong, but she was too hungry and tired to care. Megan glanced about, feeling strangely out of place and time. There was a quality of light and energy around them that neither had ever experienced before, and it was unsettling. There was a growing, uncomfortable sensation that they had become lost—very lost.
Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse began writing poems and short stories at an early age, and graduated from Columbia University with a Master’s Degree in English Literature.
Douglas grew up in a family of musicians, astrologers and avid readers. Some of Elyse Douglas’ novels include: “The Astrologer’s Daughter,” “Wanting Rita,” “The Christmas Diary” and “The Christmas Town.” They currently reside in New York City.