Short Stories 366:324 — “Driving Home for Christmas,” by Annabelle Jacobs

This story has a solid set-up from the get-go, and doesn’t waste time with getting underway. We meet a fellow who spoke up at the wrong time with his on-again, off-again boyfriend who is not great. He proves just how not-great by dumping him at a service station and driving off without him, leaving the fellow stranded with twenty quid and no real ideas for how he’s going to get home. Which is when his former best mate—who he hasn’t spoken with for months—gets to show up at said worst time ever and offer him the ride home he needs (but really doesn’t want).

In the car, we get the backstory: they had a fumbling kiss, the best-mate sent a pretty cold text the next morning, and that’s why it’s been four months of nothing, but we also learn there’s more to it than that by quite a bit. Add in sudden snow, only one room at the Inn (and, of course, a variation of “only one bed”), a snowball fight ending in a tussle, and stir, and you’ve got yourself a cute, quick, romantic little holiday story.

Jacobs adds just enough charm to this one, and just enough of a snarl of miscommunication in their past to make the pacing work. Better, once the two start talking, the revelations happen pretty quickly. Nothing is dragged out, is what I’m saying, and as a short story the end result is just what you’d expect from the label on the tin, and sweet because of it.

By the time I closed Gifts for the Season, I found a quartet of stories I enjoyed, and I want to take a moment to point out that it’s a charity anthology and a good cause, so I don’t regret the purchase, but if there’s a singular flaw in this anthology it’s that most of the stories aren’t stories, exactly, but brief revisits with characters from previously published novels, and my experience reading them was mostly feeling disconnected with not enough of an idea of who the characters were, as the authors assumed readership would come into the tale pre-loaded with that knowledge. So, I can’t really recommend the anthology in and of itself as a whole on its own merit, but as a charity donation, the four stories I’ll be mentioning felt worthwhile.

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