Short Stories 366:358 — “The Christmas Elf,” by Jae

By the time you get to the third of the three stories in Love Beneath the Christmas Tree, you’ve watched Rachel the mall security guard go from being a Christmas Grump to a smitten girlfriend of a mother of a little boy, and wanting to cement her place in their lives. So this, their third Christmas, brings it all home and wraps it in a bow as Rachel decides a second job—as a mall elf, no less—is worth the hit to her dignity if it means she’ll be able to afford the ring she wants to wrap up for Rachel for the holidays this year. Thus, “The Christmas Elf” brings us back to the mall one more time to close out this adorable trio with a lighthearted (and funny) turn with Grump-as-elf for all the right reasons.

My favourite part of Rachel’s plan is how quickly it all goes sideways, how every time she changes direction or reconsiders her approach, something else seems to tip off-kilter, and how, ultimately, her surprise attempted declaration and proposal doesn’t happen anything like she’d planned, and yet it’s all perfect for this couple anyway. Her scene with Lillian’s son especially, asking his permission, was adorable, and then the fallout of that question made me laugh out loud when it came due. Again, adorable.

This trio of stories tales a wonderful snap-shot of three years with a Rachel, Lillian, and Lillian’s son through the lens of Christmas, and given that I wrote a novella with the same idea of “glimpse once a year” I suppose it’s not surprising how much I enjoyed the sum of the whole of these three parts. Even better, the happy-ever-after ties back so beautifully with the first two stories, as does Rachel’s choice of ring, which was so perfect for a gift from Rachel to Lillian with which to end my visit with them. All in all, my Santa hat is off to Jae, for a Christmas trio of tales I’m sure I’ll revisit.

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