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Christmas Card

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Alice shuffled into her restaurant, pushing the door open with her shoulder. It was Christmas Eve, and she had a few things to take care of before she closed for the holiday.

She bent down slowly, her legs creaking, and picked up the few pieces of mail scattered on the floor.

“I always tell that postman to put them in the box, but does he listen? No!” she complained to herself, her lips mumbling over the vape pen in her mouth.

“Garbage, bills, garbage,” she muttered. “What’s this?”

A worn envelope, scuffed and crumpled, was on the bottom. Messy handwriting on the front scribbled her name.

She turned it over and saw a sticker with the post office logo on the back and a printed message: “We found this under the floor in one of our mail trucks. We don’t know how old it is. Our apologies for the late delivery.”

Intrigued, Alice hobbled to a chair and plopped herself down.

She slit open the envelope with one of her mini swords, and pulled out- was that a Christmas card? A homey scene was illustrated on the cover- a family sitting around their Christmas tree, smiling and opening their presents. The parents were hugging their children, and the children were laughing.

She opened the card. There, in a messy font she was now beginning to recognize, was the date. It was dated 10 years ago.

“Dear Alice,

I don’t know if I’ll be here next Christmas, so I wanted to tell ya how I feel. Can’t tell ya in person- too hard. … Yer always there for me, and you and Joe believe in me. You don’t tell me in words, but I know. Ya don’t judge and ya let me be, and ya look out fer me. Can’t say too much but… it means a lot. Thanks.

Merry Christmas,

Her vision became even blurrier as tears filled her eyes. She raised her hand to wipe them, but heard a brisk knock on the door. Without waiting, a tall figure strode in and headed for the back while gruffly saying, “Yo. Came to take yer garbage out.”

Alice, creaky knees and all, launched herself off the chair and at him, stopping him in his tracks. She wrapped her little arms around him, her face buried somewhere in his stomach area. Tora stiffened, confused, and through her tears, she saw him catch sight of the card still in her hand. “What the heck?”

“Came today, nitwit,” Alice retorted. “Stupid post office.”

“Oh,” Tora said dumbly.

She tightened her grip around his huge trunk. “Hug me back, ya big fool.”

She heard an intake of breath, felt another stiffening, but then an expulsion of breath as Tora relaxed, leaned down, and returned the hug.

“Never too late,” she whispered.