Christmas Delivery

Jace wandered into the family room where his twin sister, Jasmine, sat with her newest best friend, Lia. He collapsed into the recliner and slumped over his phone watching a video. He ignored the girls so they shrugged and continued their plans.

“You are going to bake chocolate chip cookies and I’m doing snickerdoodles. Too bad we can’t do the peanut butter ones with the kisses, I love those,” Jasmine said, making notes in a llama notebook.

Jace glanced sideways at the girls as Lia spoke. Her sleek, red hair framed her big eyes and sharp chin and Jace thought she was a little bit hot. His sister was a total stick-in-the-mud loser and so were most of her friends, but this new girl was different. She had a great laugh, for one thing.

“Allergies, though, right? Kid at my last school about died from peanut allergies. It was not great.” Lia flipped her hair back and leaned forward to study Jasmine’s notes.

“So we agree, no killing anyone. Sounds like a plan,” Jasmine laughed and pulled out her phone. “I can get mine baked tonight and be ready for Friday, how about you?”

“Sure, I’ll be ready. Do you have the addresses?”

“Yep, they have the church directory online now.”

Jasmine scrolled through her phone and Jace lost interest. If they were planning a church activity, count him out; he had better things to do. He was absorbed in Forged by Fire when he realized Jasmine was asking him something. He paused the video and pulled out an earbud.

“Yeah?” he asked and Jasmine repeated her question.

“Want to come with us Friday night? We’re taking Christmas cookies to families from church. We’re going to be like cookie bandits, dropping the cookies, ringing the doorbell, and running. You’d be useful seeing you’re so sneaky and fast and all,” Jasmine gave him a pleading look but Jace was already shrugging.

“Nah, can’t,” he started to say, but Jasmine cut him off.

“C’mon, Jace, you have a license already so you can drive us and we won’t have to get Mom to do it.”

“Yeah, well, you’d have one, too, if you’d learn to parallel park,” Jace said.

Lia interrupted before the twins could start arguing. “We did this back in my old neighborhood, it’s kind of fun.”

Jace lost himself in that smile for a moment then found himself nodding, “I guess, why not?”

“I’ll make the cookies for both of us,” Jasmine said, “since we don’t want to kill anyone.”

“Whatever,” Jace said and returned to his video.

Friday night Jace came out to the car wearing his black jeans and black winter coat with a black knit hat, keys jangling in his hand. He eyed the girls, dressed in festive colors of red and green and white and juggling plates of cookies, decorated with ribbon.

“Way to be stealthy,” he grunted as he slid behind the wheel, although he thought Lia looked cute in her white ski jacket and red skinny jeans.

“This isn’t a CIA mission, Jace, we’re delivering cookies. Besides, don’t you think black is going to show up in the snow?” Jasmine shot back, sliding into shotgun position next to him.

“Yeah, well, I’m just driving, doesn’t matter what I wear.” Jace had been hoping Lia would sit up front, next to him, but he didn’t say anything. If Jasmine figured out he liked her friend, she’d make a big deal out of it.

“Oh, that’s not fair,” Lia said as she leaned forward from the back seat. “You’re going to miss out on most of the fun.”

“Getaway driver, remember?” Jace inhaled Lia’s perfume and forgot what he was saying for an instant.

“We’ll see,” Jasmine said, then pulled up her list on her phone. “First stop, the Jensens.” She showed Jace the address and they set off.

The first delivery was a bust, there was no car in the driveway and the lights were out except for a lit Christmas tree in the front window. Jasmine still played the part of clandestine elf and sidled up to the porch, carefully placed the cookies in the middle of the doormat, rang the doorbell and ran back to the car. Jace pulled away while the girls looked back to see if someone had been home after all. There wasn’t.

“Bummer,” said Lia. “Oh, well, maybe someone will be home at the next house. Where to next?”

“The Rodriguez family is closest, so that’s next. It’s just around the corner and it’s Lia’s turn.”

She gave Jace the directions and she was right, it was literally around the corner. This time there was an SUV in the driveway and they could see the flickering of a TV in the front room. The house was decorated with white icicle lights which left the porch and walkway leading up to the house brightly lit.

“Oh, this one is going to be tough,” Lia said, leaning forward from the back seat. “Can you pull up past the house so the garage will be between them and your car?”

Jace did, and Lia got out of the car with a plate of cookies in her hand. She ran across the corner of the neighbor’s yard and paused at the side of the garage before easing herself into the space between the garage door and the car. They lost sight of her for a minute as she turned the corner of the garage and onto the porch. Suddenly, she came pelting back around the corner and across the yard, into the back seat.

“Go, go!” she yelled, thumping on the back of Jace’s car seat. He threw the car into gear and took off as Lia and Jasmine laughed and whooped.

“I think someone saw me,” Lia gasped finally. “I saw the curtains move just as I rang the doorbell.”

“Good thing you’re new at church, they won’t know who you are.” Jasmine practically bounced in her seat. My turn next.

They delivered three more plates of cookies and only had one left.

“I think Jace should do this last one,” Lia suggested as they neared the house. “We can park around the corner or down the street and he can run to the car. If we park a few doors down they won’t see the car or be able to identify him before we get away.”

Jace started to argue, but not too hard. He had actually been having fun tonight, but it looked like the girls were having even more fun. Finally he agreed.

“Sure, I guess,” he said as they rolled past the Lassiter’s home. This was a modest ranch house with a green wreath on the door well-lit by the porch light. He parked on the opposite side of the street, a couple of doors down, in the shadow of a tree. He took the plate of cookies from Jasmine and hurried across the street. He found himself running hunched over, as if he were still eight years old and playing at spies with Donny from down the street.

He forced himself to straighten up and eyed the house as he drew near. Not only was the porch light on, but the house sat right under a street light, leaving the snowy lawn as bright as daytime. His black clothes weren’t going to blend in well at all, Jasmine had been right about that. His footsteps crunching in the snow sounded so loud that he had to fight the urge to go on tiptoe. The front drapes were open and he could see the family sitting around the living room, watching TV. All they would have to do was turn their heads and they would see him.

Jace walked past the house as casually as he could manage, hiding the cookies on the side away from the house, just in case. Then he copied Lia’s approach at the Rodriguez house and ducked through the neighbor’s yard and passed between the front of the car and the garage door.

However, when he did, a motion sensor went off and a spotlight suddenly lit up the scene. He froze, almost blinded by the bright light, then switched into high gear.

He ran toward the porch and practically threw the cookies on the doormat, mashed the bell two or three times, banged on the door, and took off down the driveway. He was running so fast that he slipped and slid, turning onto the sidewalk and almost fell. He was halfway to the car before he heard the door open behind him and he glanced back to see a small figure outlined in the doorway with a tall man coming up behind him. He turned back and kept going, arms pumping, heart beating, and laughter bubbling up.

Jace threw himself into the car, slammed the door and peeled away from the curb. He drove a block or two before his heart began to slow and he remembered to put on his seatbelt. Lia and Jasmine were laughing and chattering and he couldn’t help joining in, telling them how it felt when that spotlight came on. They dropped Lia off at home and she gave him a hug through the car window, thanking him for all of his help.

The next Sunday at church, Jace overheard Penny Lassiter chattering away to a friend about the bandit who dropped a plate of cookies at their house on Friday.

“I was scared when they banged on the door,” she said, “but the cookies were good and it was funny when Mark opened the door and Dad yelled at him. I wonder who it was.”

“I don’t know, I heard that lots of people got cookies,” her friend said. “I wish they had come to our house.”

“Maybe they’ll do it again,” Penny said. “You could be next.”

That afternoon, Jasmine stopped by the couch where Jace was playing a video game. “Hey, I’m going to do more cookie deliveries Friday, do you want to drive again?”

“Sure, I guess,” he said, eyes never leaving the screen. He wouldn’t mind another night spent with the bouncy Lia and her sweet perfume and hugs.

“Lia can’t help this time, though,” Jasmine said, as if she knew what he was thinking, “Tina’s going to do it. Lia has to go to her brother’s piano recital.”

Jace played his game for another minute or two. “Oh well, I guess I can go; it wasn’t the worst way to spend a Friday night. Maybe this time we can make fudge, too.”

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