Mistletoe (A Benicity one-shot) This is for all of my readers and reviewers that I hold so dear, and a break from the serious drama, which I have to return to this weekend, but its for all of you. from what i have learned, a one-shot is just a one-entry, short piece that contains no chapters or anything more unless the author decides to turn it into a story. On other words, what you read is all there is of it. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did writing it! Merry Christmas to all of you, y'all guys are awesome!
December 10th, 1776
Eleven-year old Felicity Merriman had always enjoyed making Christmas decorations. They made her happy, and when her younger sister Nan and even younger brother William joined her they always had such a good time laughing and being merry. She was proud of how she had done most of the work with the pine and holly garlands draped along the banister and over the windows. She herself had arranged the fruit topiary on the dining room table. Felicity wanted everything to look perfect for when the Coles came over for Mother's party. The Coles had been invited, the Wythes, who were the Merriman's friends, some of the men Father did business with and their wives, Miss Manderly and her friend , and a couple of other friends of Felicity's family. She wanted them all to be impressed with how festive the house looked.
Mother and the Merrimans' black servant Rose had done a lot of cooking the past few days. There would be ham, gravy, green beans, cakes of all sorts, tarts, pudding, cider, ale, syllabub and more. The house smelled of delicious food, pine, and bayberry candles. It would be a splendid party!
And so it was. The Coles arrived first, with Elizabeth eager to see Felicity's work on the decorations, Mr. and Mrs. Cole greeting Mother and Father as if they had been friends for years, and Annabelle Cole, natuarally, on the lookout for Ben, Father's apprentice at the store. Felicity felt sad when she thought of Ben lately. He would be turning eighteen in just nine days, and then he would be joining the Patriot Army in the fight for the colonies' independence. That meant he could be killed in the fighting and never get to celebrate another Christmas. Felicity tried not to think about it, but the closer it got to Ben's birthday, the more she could not help it
She had been thinking about him more than she realized until now. Truth be told, Felicity Merriman did not want him to go- if there was a way she could stop him, she would have done it. But he was a boy, soon to be a man, and men had to do what they thought was best no matter how much it affected the women who cared about them.
Whoosh! She cared about him, she realized, more and more all of the time! Sure he was one of the best friends she'd ever had, but...now she was having feelings that she could not explain. Warm, giddy, happy feelings that made her miss him when he wasn't around and thrilled when he was. Ben was so busy being antsy about his birthday and its significance that he probably didn't notice her shy smiles and pink cheeks- but then if he did, it would make her feel like she was revealing something she wasn't ready to and wasn't even certain about to begin with!
The Merriman parlor and dining room were both full of friends, drinking and conversing, laughing and enjoying each other's company. Nan and William had been allowed to sit at the top of the stairs and watch the guests come in, if they promised to be quiet, for they were too young to participate and would most likely get caught underfoot. Baby Polly was asleep, so they had to be quiet whether they wanted to or not.
Felicity was wearing a lovely blue dress, not one as fancy as the dress she had worn to the dancing lessons at the Governor's Palace, but it was still a perfectly pretty dress. Her usually untamable red hair was done up very lady-like under a lacy white pinner cap. She wore her coral necklace and recieved complements for it from the other adults. They made her feel rather grown up herself. She and Elizabeth curtsied perfectly and recieved complements for their fine manners, which was an excellent reflection on Ms. Manderly's abilities as a gentlewoman's instructor.
Elizabeth was wearing a fine light green dress with a lace shawl about her shoulders, which she confided to Felicity once they were in the privacy of the Merriman's mini-kitchen made her neck itch.
" 'Tis not all bad," she told Felicity with a shrug, "but I do wish the lace was softer, so that I would not have fits of scratching."
"Ah yes," Felicity agreed with a grin. " 'Tis ungentlewomanly to scratch!' The girls giggled delightedly, then Felicity inquired, "I must ask you, Elizabeth, why has Annabelle been looking up at the top of our doors this evening? I could swear she is looking for something."
"That's because she is." Elizabeth crinkled her mouth. "She is looking for mistletoe."
"Oh really?" Felicity rolled her eyes, actually unsurprised at the antics of her best friend's older sister. "Truth be known, Father did put up mistletoe yesterday. He and Mother are quite playful. But 'twould seem that it has all disappeared. I assume Annabelle-Bananabelle was hoping to catch Ben under it."
"That is exactly it. I assume that is why Ben has made himself scarce."
It occurred to Felicity that Ben had disappeared; he didn't seem to be anywhere downstairs that she had seen lately, and if he had gone upstairs, surely Annabelle would have seen him and would have tried to think of a reason to ask to go upstairs, too. That annoyed Felicity in a way that Annabelle's antics never had before. As far as she knew, Ben did not care much for Annabelle at all. He would not want to get caught under a sprig of mistletoe with the elder Cole sister, especially in public. Ben Davidson was just not that sort of young man.
Suddenly Felicity felt it very important that she find Ben. Another bowl of hot apple cider was about to be brought out, and Ben liked hot cider. Elizabeth interrupted her thoughts by saying, "Do you suppose he snuck out to the barn to check on the guests' horses and carriages?"
"It would my very next guess, Elizabeth! Mr. Wythe has been talking about horses all evening, and I know Ben would want to get on the conversation, too. Father was looking for him to join them. Perhaps no one would miss me if I ran out to the barn to see if he was there."
"Good idea," agreed Elizabeth with a grin. "If he is out there, you can tell him I will help keep Annabelle at bay."
Felicity laughed, delighting in the way ordinary words sounded so smart in Elizabeth's English accent. "If anyone asks for me, tell them I went to find Ben, will you?"
Elizabeth went to join her parents and Felicity took her winter cloak off its peg near the back door. She flung it on, opened the door, and upon stepping just outside stopped short, for Ben was standing out on the back porch! He, too, had his winter cloak on, Hands in coat pockets, gazing up at the sky. The lantern dangling from under the porch roof had been lit. When Felicity had opened the door so fast, he had jumped, clearly not expecting anyone to be coming outside.
"Ben! There you are!" exclaimed Felicity. "Father and I were wondering where you'd got to!"
"I just...needed to step out for awhile. It's rather warm in there with all those people and the fireplaces going.."
"And...?" Felicity encouraged, grinning.
Ben chuckled a little. "Elizabeth's strange sister seems to be following me around. It is quite unnerving."
"Ah, so you noticed," Felicity giggled, stepping over to stand beside him. "Father has noticed that all of the mistletoe he had hung up has disappeared."
He blushed deeply, shifted his weight, and said, "Oh. I'm sorry about that. I didn't mean any disrespect to him or your mother, I just didn't want to...you know." Even in the lantern-light Felicity coudl tell he was red-faced.
"Get caught under a doorway with Annabelle Cole?"
Not wanting Ben to feel embarassed, she merely nooded. After a moment's quiet, she asked, "Are you thinking about your birthday, Ben? About leaving?"
"Yes. I"m excited about it."
That made Felicity feel a little melancholy. She just couldn't keep herself from saying, "Things will not be the same here when you're gone."
The sadness in her voice made him turn towards her, his brown eyes sympathetic. "I will miss you, too, Felicity. All of you." He looked away again. "But especially you."
"Will you write to me?" There was hope in her voice.
"When I can." He smiled warmly.
"Oh you certainly must! You must tell me everything about where you go and the people you meet!"
Ben laughed al little. "I knew you would love to hear about all of that. I can't promise I will be able to write all of the time, but as long as I'm ali-" He stopped, for he realized his words were just going to depress her, and the evening was going very well for her and her family. "I'll try, Lissie, I really will."
But it was too late; she knew what he had been about to say. Yet she didn't let it get to her. "I know you will, Ben. But you must come back to us alive."
"Yes, I know. I have a promise to keep." He smiled when he said it, referring to his promise to Mr. Merriman to return and finish out his apprenticeship.
"Well, 'tis not just that, Ben." Her voice became soft and concerned. "I don't want you to die. I want you to come back so that..." She trailed off, not sure how she wanted to finish what she was saying. There were some very grown-up things she was feeling these days that were all so new to her that she couldn't speak of them without sounding awkward or silly, so she opted not to go further than that.
"So that what?" Ben wanted to know, looking at her curiously. "What is on your mind, Lissie? I know you too well. I know when something is weighing on your mind."
"Yes, you do. I just..well, like you just said, you know me too well. You also only know me as an awkward, gangly bit-of-a-girl. I will not always be just a bit-of-a-girl." She inhaled deeply, figuring she had nothing to lose in saying this much. "I would like for you to know me as a grown up!"
He grinned, a twinkle sppearing in his brown eyes that made Felicity's heart suddenly race with excitement. "As a gentlewoman? You, Miss I'd-Rather-Be-Riding-Horses Felicity Merriman?"
"Benjamin Davidson, are you poking fun at me?" Felicity scowled, taking offence.
"Oh no, not at all!. Forgive me if I sounded like I was." His voice, too, turned gentle and thoughtful. "I know you'll grow up fast, Lissie. I hope that I can get to know you as the young lady I know you'll be, gentlewoman or not. I hope you will always prefer to be out riding horses rather than serving tea."
"Of course I will! I promise I will not change too much. You know how much I dislike change! I hope you will not change much, either...But Father says war changes a man. What do you think will happen to you, Ben?"
"I don't know, Lissie. I wonder about it sometimes. I know it will change me." Ben took it as a sign that her silence meant she did not like what he had just said, and it made him smile a little more. She cared about him, and it meant a lot. In fact, he felt it to mean everything. "Not all change is bad, Lissie, your mother said so herself."
"What good can come of war, Ben?' She met his gaze with very adult-like worry. "What if you return to us so changed by the things that you have seen that you lose your spirit?"
He grinned again. "Then you will have to give me some of your spirit, so that I can recover!"
"Do not make light of my worry! I am serious!"
Her words stirred his heart, so he couldn't help but smile at her. "I sure will miss you, Felicity."
"Aye. As I will miss you. You don't have to go, you know. There are very important patriot-things you could do here, like Father does, that will keep you from being killed, you know."
He sighed tolerantly. "Yes, Lissie, I know. But I am determined to be a soldier. That is not going to change. I am going to help our country win its freedom. This is something that I must do, just as you felt that you had to save Penny, remember?"
He had her there. "I remember. I understand. I just don't like it, Ben. If you get killed, I'll just...I'll just die!"
"Oh no you won't!" he told her with smiling optimism, even though his heart was breaking for her inside. "You will value the freedom I died for and you will think of me often- that is, until you become so preoccupied by all of the many fine suitors knocking on your door that you no longer have time to think about me-"
"How can you say such a thing!" she interrupted, outraged. "I could never forget about you as long as I live! You're a part of this family, a part of our lives, a part of my life! You're the only boy in the world who doesn't treat me like I'm some fragile porcelean figurine that will break if you say something bold, or like I should be scolded for being willful! In fact, never once have you ever gotten cross with me for doing something un-ladylike! If you really think I could just forget about someone as different as you, then you do not know me at all! Oh, why are you laughing?"
"Calm down, all right? You are being very serious tonight!" Ben could clearly see she was getting more and more upset about his leaving soon everyday. It made him wonder... "So, you could not forget me any more than I could forget you. We are agreed upon that. I'll have you know that you were the very first friend I ever had when I came here to Williamsburg to be your father's apprentice. Because of you I learned to like it here. This place, your home, has been more of a home to me than the one I left in Yorktown. You've never ceased to amaze me, Felicity Merriman, and I doubt you ever will!"
Now she was blushing, quite redly! "Yes, well..." She cocked her head suddenly, something having gotten her attention up where the lantern was hanging on its hook. Then to Ben's surprise, she chuckled a little. "Seems like you forgot one, Ben."
" 'One' what?" Confused, he looked up at the place she was looking at and saw the sprig of mistletoe tied to the lantern's hook. He grinned shyly. "Ah, so I did."
"Do you want to take it down, too?" Felicity inquired with interest.
"No. I don't think Annabelle Cole will find me out here."
Felicity laughed with him. They stood for a moment in quiet once more, both of them contemplating the next thing to say now that the mistletoe had been brought to their attention. And as usual, it was Felicity who made the first move, or rather, the first word. "So...have you ever kissed anyone under the mistletoe?"
Feeling nervous and shy, but not so much that he felt the need to change the subject or avoid an answer (after all, 'twas Felicity he was with), he shrugged, trying to be casual. "Yes, sort of. My mother and my two aunts, when they came for visits at Christmas time. They always insisted that I give them a kiss on the cheek."
"That's nice." Secretly, Felicity was relieved that he had kissed no special girl. It would have made her...jealous. The thought of that was so new and overwhelming! Feeling mischevious, she ventured on to say, "No one has ever kissed me under any mistletoe, not even a relative. But I do enjoy watching Mother and Father, though. They seem to really enjoy it." She shrugged, too. "I suppose it just depends on who you get trapped under it with."
"Aye. I suppose so." Ben shifted his weight again. Was she going to ask him to kiss her under the mistletoe? Was she impying that he should, or that she wanted him to? Ben Davidson had never kissed a girl in his life. He was seventeen, about to turn eighteen, and all he'd ever given any serious thought to was becoming a soldier as soon as he did turn eighteen. He'd always figured he would think about courtship and marriage after he returned from fighting. Assuming he would return, that is.
"Well, since I finally located you, I will tell Father you just needed some fresh air." She had sensed his nervousness, his shyness, and didn't want to make him feel any more uncomfortable than she believed him to be. Ben could be a hot-head, passionate about his beliefs, but when it came to foolish things like mistletoe, it seemed he wasn't so eager. "I will not tell Father you took the inside-mistletoe down."
"Felicity, wait!" Ben blurted, a little more desperately than he had intended to, catching hold of her closest arm. "I, um...don't go in just yet."
"Is something wrong, Ben?" She cocked her head and looked at him worriedly. Do not get excited, she thought placidly, although her heart was skipping beats. He just doesn't want to get into trouble for taking the mistletoe down, that's all.
But he hadn't let go of her arm. He was shifting about nervously again, biting his bottom lip. Felicity remained serious, not wanting to reveal how her heart had suddenly started pounding again because of his touch and the desperation in his voice. He looked like there were important things weighing heavily on his mind. Or his heart.
"No. Does something have to be wrong for me to want to talk to you?"
"Of course not, Ben," she told him encouragingly, doing her best to stay positive.
"I was just thinking...I do not know where I will be next Christmas. I don't know if I will be able to see you next Christmas. I will be thinking of you, always."
He was trying to build up to something, God love him. "I will be thinking of you, too. Always. Praying that you will come home alive and safe."
"Then, would you mind if I...um, would you be mad at me if I...wanted to kiss you, under the mistletoe?"
Felicity turned pink and hot all over! Her heart was surely going to burst with excitement and joy! She smiled sweetly, but inside she was absolutely skipping! And when she spoke, her voice was soft and calm. "You don't have to do that just because I said I had never kissed anyone under the mistletoe, Ben."
"Oh. Well, if you don't want to-"
"Oh but I do!" Blast! Her eagerness was slipping out, but actually Ben looked relieved when she said that. "That is, I just don't want you to feel like you have to, that's all. If you really want to, and I really want to, then I would not mind a bit."
He grinned shyly. "You're a very special girl, Felicity Merriman."
"Well! I say you are the most special of boys, Benjamin Davidson. Washington will be lucky to have you, for you will make the finest of soldiers. I just hope he is wiling to give you back when the war is over!"
If there was anything that got right to the heart of Ben Davidson, it was patriotic-talk. He was smiling uncontrollably, his heart having begun to race with excitement, pride...and emotion. A love-emotion. He knew it even as he cleared his throat and took Felicity by the shoulders gently: he was in love with his master's daughter.
"Shall I close my eyes?" asked Felicity curiously.
"If you want to. I've never...I mean, I don't know how..." Ben inhaled as Felicity closed her eyes, turned her impish face up toward his, and he simply took the plunge: he kissed her sweet pink mouth firmly with his warm lips...and liked it. Felicity's green eyes snapped open as his face drew back, a smile spreading across her face. She touched her lips gingerly, still feeling the pressure and the reeling sensations of warmth and tingles.
"Was that...all right?" Ben asked worriedly.
"Yes, Ben, that was nice." Seeing as how they'd just shared their first kiss, she no longer felt timid. She touched his lips with her fingers as he gazed at her with spell-bound brown eyes. "My first kiss," she murmured with a smile. "How lovely it was."
It was a relief to him that she wasn't the whooping, hollering kind of girl when she got excited. Felicity Merriman was growing up so fast and looking so pretty that he was sore tempted to kiss her again. It burned in his soul to think that many as yet unnamed, faceless suitors would feel the same way he was right at this moment, and he hated them all.
"Again?" she asked, taking him by pleasant surprise.
"Sure!" He held her arms and she placed her hands flat upon his chest. Obviously they were both feeling a lot braver now. Ben felt so moved that he held her face with his warm hands and raised her face to meet his.
At that moment, Elizabeth had followed Annabelle into the Merriman's mini-kitchen, exasperated at her older sister's audacity. "Annabelle, you simply cannot go snooping about the Merriman house like you live here! We may be friends of the family, but that does not entitle you to take liberites!"
"Nonsense!" replied brown haired, brown-eyed Annabelle, with a determined snarl as she looked about the kitchen. "I am not snooping, I am looking for Ben! He has to be around here somewhere! If he has gone out to his room in the barn loft, I shall simply have to-Oh!"
"What is the matter with you?" Elizabeth asked her, for Annabelle's mouth had dropped open in a perfect, shock-induced 'O.' She followed her older sister's gaze to the glaze-barred window pane in the Merriman's back door, which had its lovely pine green curtains pulled back with festive ribbon, revealing Ben Davidson planting his lips good and firmly upon those of his master's daughter, Felicity Merriman!
Elizabeth Cole grinned. Not only had her best friend found Ben, but Felicity and Ben seemed to have found each other! "Oh look!" said Elizabeth with exaggerated enthusiasm. "There's Ben! Seems he has been outside there with Felicity all of this time!"
"Oh!" was all Annabelle seemed able to say. Her eyes were huge with unexpected surprise. "Oh! Oh that rude little-oh! He is kissing his master's daughter!" Her shock turned to deep boiling anger and jealousy. "We must go and tell Mr. Merriman about this at once!"
Elizabeth grabbed her sister's arm firmly. "Oh no you don't, Bananabelle! And if you even dare, I shall tell that you were snooping all through his house, looking for Ben in hopes of getting him to kiss you under the mistletoe! And I will also tell Ben that you are sweet on him- not that he would care, because the only girl he cares about is Felicity, and you know it!"
Annabelle's hands balled into fists at her sides as she looked back out at Ben hugging Felicity nice and tight. Ben looked very happy. Felicity Merriman looked as equally happy. She released a helpless whimper of protest.
"Come along, Annabelle, let us leave them be." Elizabeth tugged on her sister's arm urgently. "Let us go eat cake. There will be other young men for you to latch onto, and you know I'm right about that as well."
"But I am more Ben's age, she is not! I am prettier, I am more of a gentle-!"
"Do be quiet, Annabelle. You are more of a nuisance! " Pulling her older sister toward the kitchen doorway, Elizabeth paused and grinned at the sight of Felicity with Ben. Felicity was going to have to tell her all about what went on out there later! "I think they are perfect for each other!"
Annabelle whimpered forlornly again. Elizabeth pulled her out of the mini-kitchen, leaving Felicity and Ben alone once more, not that they were aware of being watched to begin with. They had spent quite a few minutes embracing, finding both excitement and comfort within each other's warmth. Felicity turned her face into Ben's cravat at his neck and murmured, "Please come home alive, Ben. You must."
"I will try. If for no other reason than for you."
It has settled upon them that they had crossed some invisible barrier, going from mere close friends to something more. Ben knew he loved this girl, he always had, but it was now deeper than friendship, something very important and meaningful that would stay with him forever. Felicity knew she was growing up fast in that instant. She loved a boy. She loved Ben. His departure for the war would now be even sadder, but yet there was the new hope for an exciting future for the two of them.
Felicity Merriman, who before now did not give a hoot about courtship, was now eager to explore these new feelings with Ben. She was just about to ask him if he wanted to kiss again, when a motion out of the corner of her eye caught got her attention. She gasped softly. "Oh look, Ben, it's snowing!"
"Aye," he murmured at her forehead. "I saw the clouds build up today. I figured it would start either today or tomorrow."
She looked up at him with a happy light in her green eyes. "I liked that you kissed me under the mistletoe tonight. It was so lovely!"
He pressed his warm lips to her forehead and replied, "I hope you'll let me kiss you again before I go."
"Oh I will, I will!"
"My patriot girl. Felicity..." His voice had turned serious, so she looked at hims with worry. His eyes were full of emotion. "I know there is seven years between us, but it is not much when you consider how young girls begin courting. And we know each other like the very best of friends." She nodded in agreement, so he went on, "I just want to say...Well, I feel like I've always wanted to say...that I love you."
Felicity grinned brilliantly, feeling like there was a fire ignited in her soul that was making her happier than anything so far in her life ever had. "Ben, I love you too. I do! Yes, I love you. I beleive I always have."
" 'Tis not right for me to ask you to wait for me to come home from the war; your father would think that I was being selfish and unfair. But part of me wishes you could."
"But what if I wanted to wait for you? I do not want to be courted by other young men. Just you. 'Tis my decision to make. I choose to wait for you. But you have to come back, Ben. If you do not I will be so angry!"
He chuckled softly. "And I cannot bear to have you angry at me, so I guess I will come back as soon as I can!"
"That's right, you will." She smiled tartly.
Ben sighed happily. Felicity rose upon her tip-toes and pecked his mouth firmly. The both of them grinned with red faces. Bith of them felt happy and mushy and tingly inside, but that was love. New love, in fact. Ben looked up at the mistletoe as the snow flurries began to swirl fast and plentiful beyond the porch, and was quite grateful that he had forgotten to take the sprig down. Within the cirlce of his arms, Felicity hugged him hard.
"Merry Christmas, Ben," she said happily.
"Merry Christmas, my Lissie."
And before joining their friends and family inside, the two of them tarried a bit longer, holding on to one another, quietly but joyfully enjoying thoughts of the future. A future that would no doubt be filled with love and laughter, happiness and family, just the way the way the two young ones wished it would be!