We’re just a week away from the release of my latest novel, Yesterday’s Christmas! My team and I have worked so hard this past year to bring you books 1 and 2 of A Season Passed so close together. I hope you’re as excited about this as I am!
Originally, If Only It Were Yesterday was meant to be a standalone novel. But I was aching to write another Christmas short story and had been on the search for the perfect idea. I was collecting virtual teapots for Betty’s character in If Only It Were Yesterday when I came across a picture of Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast. The very second I saw that image, inspiration struck. BETTY could be Belle in a Christmas version of Beauty and the Beast! It was perfect! I simultaneously crafted 2 plots: a young woman being stranded with a man and his family during Christmas AND a married couple being stranded together during Christmas. BOTH plots pulled at me, and I struggled to pick just one. … Until I realized that I could choose both. And thus, Yesterday’s Christmas was born.
It is both a story of falling in love for the first time and recommitment. Yesterday’s Christmas isn’t quite a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but I think you’ll find the moments of inspiration easily enough as you read the novel. It’ll be a fun little treasure hunt. Until you can get your hands on the full novel, please enjoy the first full chapter of Yesterday’s Christmas …
The wise woman builds her house, but with her
own hands the foolish one tears hers down.
~ Proverbs 14:1
Christmas Eve, 1985
I shouldn’t have been on any twisted backroad in the middle of a snowstorm, but I most certainly shouldn’t be on this road. I turned on my lights and whispered another prayer.
Why had I been so persistent in leaving the safety of my daughter’s house when I could have very well stayed put?
Because I’m miserable, that’s why.
Because as much as I tried to pretend nothing was wrong, all I wanted was to be home alone to wallow in my self-pity in any way that I deemed appropriate. This was to be my first Christmas without Glenn.
Pretending there was nothing wrong between us had slowly taken its toll on me until I couldn’t bear it another moment. Living apart these last three months hadn’t been easy, but, at least with our separation, I finally knew where I stood. A woman likes to be told that she is still beautiful in her man’s eyes. That she is still an important part of his happiness. Especially once she is past her prime. But whatever Glenn felt, he kept to himself … or kept for another. I had stood under a cloud of doubt for so long concerning his affections for me that I could barely stand up under it. He always claimed he’d never cheated on me, and I never found proof otherwise, but if the man wasn’t passionate about me anymore, whom was he passionate about? After spending countless years feeling like he had one foot out the door, I had finally snapped and pushed him the rest of the way out.
Self-preservation required distance, and it seemed to have been working. And, yet, there I was on the verge of tears with a darkening sky and snow so thick I could hardly see in front of my car.
I shouldn’t have been there. In fact, none of this should have been happening. If only Glenn had deemed our family more important. Deemed me more important. Those endless hours at work and distant hours at home had only succeeded in killing our marriage.
It didn’t do any good to blame Glenn, even if he was at fault. I had learned over the months that hating him for it didn’t change anything. It just made it harder for me to cope. Ignoring him, ignoring the memories, was my best option right now.
I popped the tape out of the cassette player on the dashboard, putting an end to Kenny Rogers’ and Dolly Parton’s Christmas tunes.
I gripped the steering wheel a little tighter, my knuckles as white as the powder gathering outside of my window. Leaning closer, I paid more attention to the upcoming curves in the road. I knew them by heart, but the snow distorted things until I was no longer confident of anything.
Lord, please see me home safely. I was such a fool, but, Lord, have mercy on this fool.
I rounded one bend, but there were more just up ahead. My stomach flipped. I hated this curve. I hated that house just around the curve. I hated this road.
This road was a shortcut, and, at the time, it had seemed important. In the heavy snowfall, it certainly was important; however, this was no place to be in the middle of a snowstorm.
But it was more than just slick roads. It was the Tanner house just around the corner. Just up ahead sat Glenn’s family home. Just up ahead, my estranged husband was probably sitting inside the house.
My nerves twisted and jumped like that of a school girl out on her first date. Glenn certainly wouldn’t see me as I drove by. He wouldn’t be looking out the window, and, yet, I couldn’t help but feel as if thousands of pairs of eyes were watching me as I inched around one curve and got closer and closer to the next.
A flash of brown shot out in front of my car. I sucked in a screech and slammed on my brakes. The brown, which I now recognized as a deer, jolted from his momentary stupor and finished his leap across the road. My tires spun, first locking up and then turning to one side. I gripped the wheel and yanked it in one direction, but it only turned my car in the other. I yanked it back, and again, it spun harder–too hard–in the other direction until my car suddenly stopped, its nose dipping down into the ditch.
I sat there in the ditch on the side of the road, first stunned and then angry.
No. No. No! This cannot be happening. How could You let this happen, Lord? Why now? Why here? Somehow my prayers of protection had turned into me being delivered into the ditch in front of Glenn’s house. With more frustration than pain, I opened the door, the blistering wind and a mixture of snow and ice drilling my face. I sucked in an involuntary gasp and tightened the scarf around my neck.
I bent over and grabbed my purse out of the passenger seat–no, make that the floorboard, where it now sat.
I checked my car again. There was no one around, and my car was safely tucked far enough into the ditch that no one should hit it if they were to venture down this treacherous road. Not that anyone else was foolish enough to bother. Folks in Tennessee knew to stay indoors when it snowed, so I had no excuse for being out in the weather.
I slammed the car door closed with more force than necessary, but it didn’t release any of my pent-up steam. I knew what to do. There’d be no choice in it. Looking left and then right only confirmed what I knew was true. There wasn’t another house on this road for quite a ways. Why did the Tanners have to build their house on the other side of this curve?
I hiked up the long gravel driveway. The hollow sound of crunching snow under my leather-fringed boots filled my ears, but I didn’t delight in any of it. Nearly three inches of snow had already fallen. The snowfall was a rare beauty, but I wasn’t taking the time to admire it.
I bypassed the front door and walked straight to the back. It had been the entrance most commonly used when his mother was alive. I knocked on the door and waited, but I didn’t hear any movement inside. I knocked a little harder, and then the door was snatched out from underneath my hand.
“Betty?” Glenn said in a question, blinking back his surprise. “Wh-what are you doing here?”
I gave a shrug and an ill-humored grin. “Just thought I’d pop in,” I answered sarcastically.
His brow, a dark brown dusted with gray, lowered over his right eye–a look I had long ago memorized. He stood before me in sweats and knee-high socks. I knew they were knee-high with the red stripes around the top because I remembered buying them. They looked in need of a wash, but what did I expect since I wasn’t here to do his laundry? I fought back the urge to roll my eyes. I’d hate to see his hamper. It was probably empty while his clothes lay all on the floor around it, because he never could put his clothes inside the hamper. The man could shoot basketball like a pro, but socks in a hamper? Humph, forget about it.
I tamped down all of these ill feelings. I wasn’t here to complain about his housekeeping. I had done enough of that over the last thirty years of marriage. Nope, as much as I hated to admit it, he would be my savior this hour, and there was nothing I could do except thank him.
He still hadn’t caught on to the reason for my visit, but, again, I wasn’t shocked. He seemed to notice so little concerning me unless I spelled it out for him. A new dress, a new hairstyle. Nope. Didn’t matter.
He scratched his shoulder, revealing a slight tear in the sleeve of his t-shirt. “Umm,” he started, looking over my shoulder at the covered carport behind me. “Where’s your car?”
I gave him another one of my mirthless smirks. “I parked it out front.”
His eyebrows shot up, clear to his hairline. But now, at last, he seemed to understand the nature of my visit. Glenn stepped down the concrete steps and onto the carport, peeking around the side of the house.
I just watched and waited for it.
Silently, a hand slapped across his mouth as he viewed my crafty parking job. Glenn slid his hand down his face. He turned to me, his lips pinched and his brows still high. He didn’t say anything, his chest filling with air, deflating, and filling again. He gave a slow shake of his head. “Well, Betty, I didn’t think it was possible for lightning to strike twice, but you proved ’em wrong.” He looked down at his watch, as if it might tell him more than the time. “And on Christmas Eve, too?”
I snorted, a short bubble of laughter rising and dying on my lips. “Do you mind?” I asked, knowing that he wouldn’t. I was the mother of his children, after all. Laura and Peter wouldn’t be here without me, nor would the countless father-of-the-year coffee mugs that he had collected since the kids had been born.
He welcomed me into the house with a tilt of his head and a wave of his hand toward the door. Glenn was right about one thing: lightning had struck twice.
There was once a very rich merchant …
~ Beauty and the Beast
Thirty-one years earlier: Christmas Eve, 1954 …
During a snowstorm, Betty Tanner finds herself stuck with her estranged husband. Spending Christmas with Glenn wasn’t what she had in mind, and her thoughts reluctantly travel back three decades to their first Christmas together, when another snowstorm caused her to wreck her car outside the Tanner home …
1954: Stranded with the Tanners over Christmas, Betty is forced into the company of Glenn, who has spurned her for years. But as the snow falls outside, the walls between Betty and Glenn begin to melt, revealing a side of him she never knew existed. A side she longs to know better.
Pride and bitterness can make a beast out of anyone. And the hardships they face in their relationship are of their own making. But can following Christ’s ways lead Betty and Glenn to the reconciliation they long for?
A.M. Heath invites you to spend Christmas with the Tanners in a dual-timeline novel loosely inspired by Beauty and the Beast. You’re sure to fall in love again and again.