In the midst of a worldwide pandemic I decided that my friends on Facebook needed to have some fun! I could no longer host a big Christmas party in my home but I could host one online!
I chose to host a party on Facebook and called it my "Hallmark Christmas Movie Party." The goal? I would give a short prompt with the beginning of the story and my friends would write the rest of it. We started at 9pm and ended right before 11pm. My "writing team" consisted of friends I see every day of my life as well as people I hadn't heard from in years. One of the highlights for me was that two of my aunts joined in on the fun! By the end of the party we had over 300 comments to that one post and my writer, Jacey, had enough information to create our first Hallmark movie.
We all know that life isn't like a Hallmark Christmas movie. However, we can take a cue from most of the leading ladies who star in them - and we can choose to sit in our disapointment or "seize the day!" My friends and I decided to stop thinking about 2020 and for a few hours we wrote a classic that I think Hallmark would be proud of! I hope you enjoy the finished product. Thanks to my writing team - I had so much fun! Merry Christmas!
Crabbily Ever After
“In 500 feet, turn left on Crabby Ct, and your destination is on your right. Sandy Cane Island.” Liz almost missed the turn as she thought about all she’d left behind, yet marveled at all that was ahead of her. She hadn’t been here since her kids were three, seven, and nine. Before her first love sailed away with his love and showed her he wouldn’t be her last love…when she left she swore she’d never return. Especially not alone.
Those painful memories now seemed as trivial as the sting in your eye when the ocean takes you under unexpectedly. In comparison to the tsunami of embarrassment, regret, and rejection that chased her out of the city and away from the person she’d considered home for the past two years.
Before she even reached the ocean, wave after wave of emotion flooded the car. As she looked over at the only thing she packed, Liz completely forgot Christmas was five days away. Merry, her mini Aussiedoodle, hadn’t forgotten. She barked as soon as she saw Mistletoe Beach, lit up in anticipation for its favorite time of the year. The saltiness of the air was decorated with boughs of holly, Holly’s coffee, and of course, the sacred scent of the sanctuary...the crab sanctuary. Mistletoe Beach soaked up every second to celebrate Christmas and crabs. Liz, mostly trying to convince herself, muttered to Merry, “Everything looks the same, doesn’t it, girl?” Where used to be the oceanfront park she and her children played in growing up- now hung a huge “Coming Soon” construction sign. “What in the world is happening? It looks like Lorenzo has thrown his net out here too.” She quickly quieted the thought. “No, I’m overthinking, right Merry? All of Lorenzo’s projects are in the city. He doesn’t care about little Mistletoe. Or me.” But something was different. This historic beach town and its charm was infiltrated with new construction. “Something smells really fishy, and it’s not the crab shack,” Liz amused herself as she had grown accustomed to doing.
“It’s December. Almost Christmas. Why is Holly’s Cafe empty?” Liz couldn’t pass by Holly’s Cafe without thinking of her mom. She walked in, half wondering if anyone would remember her, half hoping they wouldn’t. “Ah, that same sweet smell,” she muttered to herself. A familiar voice spoke up, “Ho Ho Ho hot chocolate for our little Liz?” “You remember,” her cheeks flushed. “Honey, how could I forget? I named this place after your mom. We miss her, and we sure miss you.” Sarah filled Liz in on all the recent happenings of the town, but when it was Liz’s turn to talk about her life, she instead thanked Sarah for the drink, and hurried on to the next store.
Seaside Treasures was a regular Saturday excursion for Liz when she was little, a tradition she had intended to keep with her family, but wasn’t able to.
Liz walked in with purpose, she knew exactly which aisle she was going for. “Ahhh the starfish section!” She couldn’t help but get excited. And that excitement quickly spread to Merry, as she started barking at another dog. Liz turned around just in time to not be completely tackled by a spastic GoldenDoodle with a sweet face. “OUCH!” a deep voice that she didn’t recognize exclaimed. Liz quickly realized that in an effort to miss the dog, she’d run into a very tall, very handsome guy with sad, yet kind eyes, who was also now wearing her hot chocolate. “Oh! I’m so so sorry! Some owner must have lost control of their dog, and I was trying to get out of the way! People really need to train their dogs better,” she laughed nervously, trying to make light of the situation. “Yeah, uh, I’ll get right on that. Chris! Get back here!” he beckoned to his dog. “Hmm, two strikes against me I guess...uh, have a good day, again I’m really sorry.” Liz tried to drown the embarrassment by giving Chris some attention, and continued on to look at the starfish. As she was browsing, she found a one-of-a kind collector’s starfish that she knew she had to have—it reminded her of how simple life used to be, and how she hoped to get back to that. But accidentally touching hands before their eyes met, Liz said to the man, “ Ha ha looks like we both have good taste... but yeah that’s.. umm... I was I was just about to get that… well, buy it... so, sorry..” and she clenched onto it tighter.
“Listen, you spilled your drink on me and called me a bad dog dad. I believe this starfish should be mine.”
Her face quickly began to match the red ribbon hanging around the store’s Christmas tree. For the first time in a while, they both laughed. They insisted the other take the starfish, but ultimately he took it. “What’s your name? You from around here? I don’t think I’ve seen you before,” the man asked, as he looked up at Liz while kneeling down to pet Merry. “Uh Liz, and sort of. I grew up here, my parents were from here. This was home for a long time, but I moved to the city about 15 years ago and haven’t been back since. What about you?”
“Nick,” he suddenly became very professional, “I moved here about five years ago. It’s a good little town. Have a good one.” He glanced at his watch, then walked quickly to the register, starfish in hand, and left.
Liz left the store without buying anything, and ambled through the town as she headed toward the beach. “Saint Realty, I don’t remember this being here,” she grabbed some flyers of their listings and looked as she was walking. One in particular immediately stopped her in her tracks. “That’s my house!” she muttered to absolutely no one. This was the first house she ever lived in. Her favorite house. She and her parents moved to a bigger house a couple blocks away when she was twelve, but this one was always her favorite.
Liz drove down here in such a hurry, she hadn’t really made any plans. She didn’t know why she was coming to Mistletoe Beach after all these years, but as she drove, it was like the wind blew her this way. And as she looked at this flyer, she knew. She had to find a way to make this her home. Liz pulled out her phone and sent an email to the Realty office requesting a tour for the next day.
Merry was a bright dog, and as they walked, she noticed that her human was walking differently than she’d ever walked before. She was walking with hope. The further into town they walked, the more banners and signs she saw. “Ah! The festival!” She grabbed a flyer and read, “Forever Crabby Christmas Festival...I do not remember it being called that,” she laughed. “December 31st, because why should Christmas end on the 25th,” the flyer continued. “Merry, I don’t think we’re in the city anymore.”
Liz’s feet touched the shore just in time to watch the sunset, and the view of the cool water calmed her. As the various shades of yellow, gold, pink, and orange scintillated in the sky, and reflected in the water, she thought about the past two years. After her divorce she didn’t think she’d ever open herself up to another relationship, and for years she vehemently protected her heart. But Lorenzo came along and changed that. He swept her off her feet, and brushed away any need to close herself off to love. She played catch with Merry, and was reminded of the back and forth she’d gone through with him. Instead of letting her go completely, he said enough to keep her around, but not enough to commit. Liz was so excited to give Lorenzo his Christmas gift, an engraved pocket knife, that she gave to him early. He didn’t give her a gift, but instead severed their ties and ended the relationship. Liz had never been more heartbroken. Not even after the divorce.
After leaving the beach, Liz stopped by the general store to pick up some clothes for herself and food for Merry, and then headed to their hotel. Prices were way down. She recognized that it was usually difficult to even find an available room during Christmas in Mistletoe. Lying in bed, Liz thought of her dream house until she fell asleep.
With all the anticipation, it took forever for 2 o’clock to arrive, and once it did, the realtor was late. When ten minutes had passed she became quite frustrated. She checked her email, just to make sure they were confirmed for 2, and then started walking around the outside of the house, and peeping in the windows. When 2:30 rolled around she was about to leave with the assumption the realtor was not coming. Then she saw that same spastic dog running towards her.
“Hey there, sorry I’m late! I had an accident with my dog. He’s friendly!” Nick shouted, before he even realized who was in front of him.
“You? You’re the realtor? And you brought your dog to the showing?” Liz didn’t know if she was annoyed or excited. Or annoyed that she was excited.
“Well, I see you brought yours too. So I guess I’m in good company. The house has a fenced in yard, we can let them run while we look at the house. Deciding to stick around are ya?”
“I grew up here. I can’t believe this house is on the market—And right as I come into town after 15 years. I thought of this house all night, and dreamed of all I could do with it. This is a big house, and it’s just Merry and me. I worked at a hotel in the city, but always wished it were more personal. This could be a safe haven for me, and for others. A place to rest. A bed and breakfast.”
“All that and I haven’t even unlocked the door?” They both laughed. “I know the bones of that house. When you know, you know.” Just as Nick opened the door his phone started ringing. He told Liz to go on in and take a look around, and he’d catch up with her in a minute. Everything she saw confirmed everything she already knew. All the memories came rushing in—she was flooded with emotion and excitement. Nick walked through the door, this time his eyes were just sad. Before he could say anything, Liz announced, “Safe Haven Bed and Breakfast. That’s what I’ll call it.” She was proud. Nick paused for a while, “Liz, I just got a call from the listing agent. They’ve accepted another offer. This house is no longer available. I’m really sorry. There are other houses that I can show you.”
“No, what do you mean? This is the house. It has to be. Can’t I just offer them more money?”
“I don’t think so, Liz. This house is listed at 300,000. What were you planning on offering? You’ll need at least a 9,000 dollar down payment. But that’s only if for some reason this other buyer backs out. I want to be honest here, it’s a long shot.”
“We have to find a way to make this happen, Nick. What can I do?”
“I’ll call the other agent and see if there’s anything we can do.”
“What about the person that put an offer in? Maybe I could talk to them. Tell them my dreams for this house? The history I have here?
“Some big developer guy. Stories and history won’t matter to him. Just look at the rest of the town. They’re buying it all up. He’ll probably build some high rise hotel and serve bad crab. Tourists will eat it up but the locals will suffer.”
The next day Liz received a call from a number she didn’t recognize. “Hello?” “Hey Liz, it’s Nick. I finally got in touch with the agent. The owner cares about the history too, and would want to see it preserved. They’re gonna give you until the Crabby Festival to put in a high enough bid. What do you think?”
Everything that seemed so far away, now seemed like it was rolling in with the tide. “How much do I need?”
“10,000 up front. We will worry about the rest later.” “Okay. Thank you. I’ve gotta go make this happen.”
Liz didn’t know where to start. She didn’t have a job, but she did have a town that she loved and that loved her in return. Hand in leash with Merry, the two made their way to Holly’s. Sarah would know where to start.
“Oh your mama would be so happy if she could hear the words coming out of your mouth. Tell you what. 50% of every single drink I sell this week goes towards your house.” Liz needed the generosity, but hadn’t expected it to be so freely given. “What? Sarah! That’s crazy. I know things haven’t been as busy as they used to be.” “Well, the way I see it, you’re family, and two, if this big developer buys it, business will go down even more. I’d call this a good investment.” “Thank you, Sarah. This means everything.” “Oh of course, but you need to get busy. There’s a bunch of other stores that might consider you a good investment too. Here’s your coffee, get on with it now girl.”
Liz stopped at every shop in the historic district.
Merry led the way into the pet store, and the owner said, “This dog needs to be in a fashion show. I wish there was an occasion for one.” “Hmm, well…” Liz began to tell her story and her hopes, and pretty soon every business owner, and even some locals, were on board to help. The first person she thought to call surprised her, he was her realtor, so that made sense, but she wasn’t calling him as such. “Nick! Guess what!” “I already heard. You’re making quite the buzz around town. I don’t think they’ll let you leave even if you tried. This poor developer has no idea what’s coming. I was about to take Chris out for a walk, you and Merry want to join?”
Before she could find a reason to say no, she blurted, “yes! see you soon.”
They walked and walked the beach. Time seemed to stand still for them, until the sun started to set again. Nick looked at Liz as the sleepy sun colored her face. “Thank you for everything, Nick. I know we’re not there yet, but I just know it’s going to happen. Somehow it’s going to work out.” Nick couldn’t help but lean in to kiss her, when Chris ran up with crabs in his furry coat. “Not again, Chris!!” “Again?” Laughed Liz. “If you’re wondering why I was late to show you the house, this is the accident I mentioned.” “You mean it’s because of Chris that the developer had time to out bid me?!” She teased Nick and pushed his arm. He couldn’t think of a better day he’d had in a while.
Christmas celebrations made way for more Christmas celebrations, and pretty soon it was New Years Eve. The festival was coming together. It was the Forever Crabby Christmas Festival, but it felt like everyone was there for her. Liz had never felt more supported in her whole life. And now all the people that cared for her were here at this festival enjoying and celebrating with their families.
“Hey, look at all these people here for you. We haven’t had a festival this big since I moved here. It’s really started to be about the developers and the tourists. This one feels like it’s for our people. Thank you for making all this happen.” Liz listened to Nick as she looked on to see everyone—Holly’s had a coffee stand at the festival, Merry was strutting her stuff at the pet fashion show, everyone was walking around with a bag of crab shaped cookies that the bakery had donated, Carlos, the caterer who was going to give all of the proceeds to Liz, was spending time with his family and his parents. “Carlos told me he hadn’t spent a New Years Eve with his family in ten years. He was always doing stuff for the festival, but there was always so much pressure. This year he can just be with them.”
Sophie, a single mom she’d met at the bakery, was now walking towards Liz and Nick. “Hey Liz, I saw how hard you worked putting all of this together. It’s amazing. I don’t own a business or have any special skill, but I believe in the dream you have for this place. I picked up a second job at the hotel the developers built here a couple years ago. And now I’m going to give that money to you, to fight the developers from building anymore. Thank you for giving us all something to hope for.” As Sophie walked away, Liz and Nick were completely floored. All he could think to do was ask her to dance. They made their way to the gazebo. Just as they started to sway, she looked over Nick’s shoulder and saw Lorenzo. She froze. It all clicked. Lorenzo was the developer.
He’d knocked down every dream in her heart, built up walls it would take forever to tear down, but clearly couldn’t stop there. She couldn’t rise to his heights, so he built his higher. Liz pulled away from Nick, “I’m sorry. I have to..” Lorenzo interrupted the dance. Nick excused himself, completely misreading the situation, and thought that her big city guy had come to take her back. Before he headed home, he stopped in at the money booth, and learned that Liz was 3,000 dollars short of what she needed.
Lorenzo learned that it was Liz raising all this money to go against them. “Liz what are you doing in this crazy crabby little town? I figured after our conversation you’d stay cooped up in your room for a while, but I didn’t think you’d come to a place like this.” “A place like this? Our conversation?! Lorenzo this is my home town. I’ve only told you that, I don’t know a million times in the past two years. And begged you to come here with me for the holidays. And suddenly you’re here, trying to change everything the way you tried to change me. I let you do it to me, but in the past week I’ve broken free of all of that, and I won’t let you do the same to this town. This is home, and you don’t belong here.” She shoved past him and tried to regulate her breathing, she’d never been so bold. And she’d never been so proud of herself. Until she got to the money booth and realized she was 3,000 short and the festival was over.
Meanwhile Nick was up brainstorming all night. He didn’t like seeing Liz with Lorenzo, or anyone else for that matter. He’d felt more joy in the past couple of weeks than he’d had in years. He knew she belonged here, and they belonged together. But none of that would matter if he couldn’t help her get this house. It finally hit him, and at 8am the next morning, he called the other agent and forfeited his commission, 9,000 dollars.
He ran to the cottage afterwards hoping Liz would be there. And there she was, in the middle of preparing herself for goodbye to this home she’d envisioned for herself. “Liz!” He was almost out of breath. “Nick, hey. Sorry about last night. We were so close. That guy, he’s my ex. He’s the developer. Can you believe it? He didn’t even know this was my home town. I told him off and left, but he called me last night and said if I would go back to the city with him he would withdraw his offer. I can’t do it. I can’t go back with him, and I wish I could do something more to save this place, but I can’t do that.” All of the sudden Nick was smiling bigger than she’d ever seen him smile, “You don’t have to Liz. We figured this out. We did it. You have enough for the down payment, and 6,000 left over for start up and any renovations you may need.” “What?!? How?! I stopped at the money booth last night and we were 3,000 short. How do I have more now?!” “Someone anonymously donated 9,000 dollars. And you had raised 7,000. You’re very, very much loved. By everyone. By me,” he leaned in, and they finally kissed. They looked at each other and smiled.
Lorenzo walked up, and Merry and Chris tag teamed, pushing him into a pile of crabs. Liz tried not to chuckle, “I think he’s mildly allergic to crab. Hmm...he’ll be alright.”
Suddenly Nick felt the overwhelming urge to call after Chris by his real name, “Merry! Christmas! Come!” Merry, having always been called by name ran calmly back to her people. Christmas, having not heard his true name in many years, paused in amazement, and then ran to tackle his beloved Nick. The once spastic and chaotic dog had returned to his quiet companionship nature. And the once Scrooge, Nick, finally had a reason to believe again. Believe in love, believe in Christmas, believe in this town, and believe in crabs. “Christmas? I thought his name was Chris, we’ve been calling him that this whole time. Our dogs are named Merry Christmas, Nick,” Liz laughed until she cried. And she realized, this was the first time she cried since Lorenzo shattered her heart, and here this realtor made her cry by putting it all back together.
Lorenzo ran back to the city quicker than he came, and withdrew all of his development plans from Mistletoe Beach.
Exactly one year later, Nick and Liz were getting ready to say “I do” under the gazebo.
Merry by her side, Christmas by his.
The whole town was there to celebrate, and they’d all continued to pitch in with an annual fundraiser at the Forever Crabby Christmas Festival in order to keep raising money for Safe Haven. They even added a new crowd favorite fundraiser, the Holly Dolly Christmas fundraiser. Dolly impersonators throughout all the island came to participate and raise money. Throughout the past year many women and their children came to stay with Liz at the bed and breakfast—some of the women had even lived there. Whatever they needed, she helped give them. Whether it was just rest or hope, they found it within those walls. Now that she was getting married, she wouldn’t be able to live in her sweet cottage anymore, she was going to live with Nick. So she picked Sophie, the single mom that had helped make this dream possible, and made her the live in manager at Safe Haven Bed and Breakfast. She knew she could trust Sophie to carry the vision.
The town was thriving more than ever. Holly’s Coffee was doing better than ever. Carlos the caterer’s business was doing so well, he was able to hire someone to take over for him so he could retire.
During Nick and Liz’s first dance, Nick reached in his pocket and put something in her hand. “Here, this is for you.” “Oh my goodness it’s beautiful, thank you! Will you put it on for me?” Nick grabbed the necklace and put it around her neck. It was the one-of-a kind starfish they’d both reached for the day they first met. He had it turned into a necklace for her. The starfish was one of a kind, and so was she.