Time for a Vann-oneshot!
I sincerely hope that you enjoy (and review!)
But mostly, enjoy.
It takes place a week and a half after frostival.
Love you, sexythangs.
Holiday logic states that Christmas Eve is an ideal shopping day for the procrastinator extraordinaire. Unfortunately for Bullfrog Goldsworthy, downtown Toronto is chockfull of the procrastinating type on this particular holiday eve.
"Five minutes until closing, shoppers. We wish you a safe and happy holiday!"
Bullfrog heard the announcement and groaned inwardly, picking up his pace as he rushed around the supermarket for last minute supplies. He nearly rammed his cart into a larger woman's hip, receiving a venomous glare in reciprocation, but was in too much of a hurry to give more than an apologetic smile. CeCe had a big Christmas dinner planned for the following day, but they had arrived home from their winter vacation a few hours later than expected, and were ill-prepared for the meal.
Flight delays and such. The Goldsworthy's were never lucky when it came to travel.
Bullfrog could recall a vacation that they took to Disneyland when Eli was seven. The theme park was crowded and Eli was extremely grumpy. He hated walking around and he hated the colors and he hated the costumed characters.
"You're obviously not the real Mickey Mouse. You're probably just a creepy old man in a costume."
The only thing that Eli really enjoyed about the trip was the food. The boy's ridiculous metabolism enabled him to devour at least three times the calories as a grown man, without putting on a single pound.
Bullfrog chuckled at the memory as he placed a bag of flour at the top of his overflowing cart. Christmas dinner was his wife's specialty, and he knew it was adamant that he collect all of the necessary pieces to the delicious puzzle. Otherwise, CeCe would send him out to the middle of nowhere, in the wee hours of the morning, to find what it was that she needed to make the perfect Christmas feast.
After piling a box of cake mix, a tub of icing, freshly made éclairs, a cheese tray and a bag of shrimp into the cart, Bullfrog made his way to the register and covered the conveyor with his endless groceries. After making small talk with the clerk about holiday plans and last minute shopping, he paid her a ridiculous sum of money for the goods and moseyed his way out of the supermarket. He couldn't help but let out another groan at the sight of large snowflakes falling rapidly all over his car and the road. Road conditions were growing worse by the second, and his home was 30 minutes away. It would take at least an hour for him to make it back, especially if the snow continued to pick up. He carefully made his way over to his car, using the cart to brace himself on the icy sidewalk.
A subtle noise caught his attention and he stopped to listen. Someone was crying in the vicinity. The wind picked up and Bullfrog wanted so badly to ignore the sound, get into his car and crank the heat.
He wanted to keep walking, to mind his own business and leave the mystery crier alone, but something in him pushed him closer to the sound, drawing him to the source of the noise. He tiptoed carefully over to the side of the store, peeking around the corner to see what was going on. He saw a girl sitting on the ground, covered from head to toe in white snow. She was visibly shaking, her knees were up and her head was buried in them, covered partially by her arms. A wool hat was plopped haphazardly on her head and a pair of thin mittens adorned her hands.
He knew that she must be freezing. It wasn't safe to be out in the cold, especially with snow like they were having. Roads would be impassable soon, and she'd be stranded. He knew that he couldn't leave the mystery girl there. He would have to take her home before enjoying his much needed rest.
Bullfrog liked helping people out, he really did, but his holiday spirit was quickly being replaced by irritation. Why was this girl outside of the supermarket anyway? Why wasn't she at home with her family? Why didn't she dress warmer?
He approached her slowly, careful not to startle her as he said, "Hey, are you okay?"
The girl stiffened at the sound of a male voice and swallowed nervous. He could see her change in demeanor and he started to doubt himself. Maybe she was just waiting for someone in the store. He probably appeared to be a nosy creep, but he didn't want to leave her alone until he was sure that she was okay.
"I didn't mean to scare ya. The snow's picking up and you look a bit… lost. Can I give you a ride somewhere?" He asked gently, eager to get going toward his destination, wherever that was.
The girl didn't look up, just shook her head and curled up tighter into a ball.
"I'm not going to leave you sitting in this blizzard. Please, let me take you home?"
"My mother kicked me out," The girl sniffled, her tears practically freezing on her face as she tried desperately to block out the cold winds, "I got into an argument with my stepfather, and he demanded that she choose between us… She told me I could come back for my things after the holidays."
Bullfrog felt a pang of sympathy in his chest for her.
"You don't have anywhere to spend Christmas?"
She shook her head again, breaking out into another fit of tears.
"Look, I know you probably think I'm just some creep trying to lure you into my car, but I promise I'm not. Would a creep by all of these groceries for himself?" Bullfrog chuckled to himself before continuing. "Let me take you to my house for the night. My wife can make you some hot chocolate and get you some dry clothes. You'll probably lose an arm if you stay out here, and I just can't live with that on my conscience, okay?"
After a moment of hesitation, the girl looked up from her huddled position and straight at Bullfrog. His heart nearly broke when he recognized the rosy-red cheeks and stormy blue eyes of Clare Edwards.
"Clare, what the Hell?" Bullfrog rushed over to her and pulled her up from the ground. Her legs were frozen and she had a hard time getting up. "Jesus, Clare, I thought I was talking to some random runaway, not my kid's girl-, er, my kid's friend."
He recalled what he'd witnessed the past week as he picked Eli up from the school carnival. He'd seen Clare and Eli talking, and the kiss that Clare had sprung onto Eli moments before he climbed into the car. Bullfrog had tried to talk to Eli about it, but all his son could do was grin and say, "Dad, don't ruin this. I'm not going to let you ruin this."
It hadn't been discussed since.
Needless to say, he was more than shocked that the frozen girl in front of him was the same bubbly, chipper girl that his son was absolutely crazy about.
"You're coming with me, Clarabelle. It's non-negotiable."
"I-It's fine, you don't have to." She could barely speak since her lips were frozen and her entire body felt numb. "I'll just stay here and take a nap." Her eyes drifted shut and she made a move to sit back down before strong arms grabbed her.
"No you don't! You can't sleep when you're this cold. Wake up!" Bullfrog tapped her face and her eyes opened back up. Bullfrog lifted her up and carried her over to his car, depositing her into the back seat before cranking the heat and loading his groceries. "Stay awake." He instructed gruffly as he began to drive them back to the Goldsworthy house.
The ride was mostly quiet, except for the moments when Bullfrog would blast the radio to keep Clare from dozing off. He tried to call CeCe several times, but was unable to get phone service in the storm. They'd been in the car from about 20 minutes when Bullfrog finally spoke up.
"You're a smart girl. Why the Hell were you out in weather like this?"
"The store manager told me to buy something or get out… I didn't have any money, so I left. It started snowing and I was afraid of getting lost on the road, so I planned on sleeping by the building tonight and then…" She stared out her window, blinking away a few tears and the beginnings of a cold-induced headache.
"I don't know. I wasn't about to show up and ruin anybody's holiday with my pathetic home life."
Bullfrog shifted uncomfortably and felt the need for a change in subject. Suddenly, a wicked idea popped into his head.
He used to love making Clare squirm. He'd say inappropriate things when she and Eli were together, and Clare would blush and flinch and ooze embarrassment. After the kind of day he had, Bullfrog felt he deserve to have a little bit of fun.
"So, you kissed my kid at the carnival… How was that?"
He glanced in the rearview mirror as Clare's face lit up like the nose of Rudolph.
Well? Do you like it so far. I'm thinking a three or four shot story.
Please review. Thanks!