**Challenge director issued a Christmas challenge, with a star, a donkey, and marshmallows. I hope you enjoy!**
“The donkey is out again.”
I stared at my boyfriend in disbelief, but when I realized he wasn’t joking, I threw the clipboard with more vehemence than was necessary. “What. The. Fuck? Why can’t that fucker stay where he’s fucking supposed to?”
Colin sucked in a fast breath, his gaze darting around the narthex where we were standing. When his attention landed on me, his expression was stern. Okay, so swearing in a church probably wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had, but that fucking donkey was going to be the end of me.
When Colin talked me in to helping him organize the living nativity, I agreed because I thought it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. And also because of his eyes. Colin could work the puppy dog eyes with the best of them. I was a sucker for his big blue eyes any day of the week. But when they turned wide and pleading, I couldn’t deny him anything.
Properly chastised, I headed outside so that I could corral the wayward donkey. The cow stayed where she was put, happily munching on hay. Even the two fluffy sheep were happy to hang out in the corral we’d built around the patch of grass that served as the church’s front lawn. But that damn donkey was a wily little fucker, and he kept escaping.
I found him ten feet down the road, plodding along like he didn’t have a care in the world. Considering he was a donkey, he probably didn’t. I grabbed the trailing lead rope that was attached to his halter. Thankfully, the donkey was just as happy to change directions and head back toward the church.
Once I had him safely in the pen—again—I tied the rope to the post on the crèche and hoped this time he would stay put. Other volunteers milled around, putting the final touches on the scene. The sun would be going down soon, and with the lights strategically placed to illuminate the actors, anyone who chose to drive or walk by was in for a real treat.
I wasn’t a religious man, and I certainly didn’t attend church. But I didn’t begrudge Colin the peace that he found in worshipping or being a part of the community. He was my reason for everything, so he was the reason I was here organizing and corralling humans and animals alike. Besides, Christmas was a week away, and even a curmudgeon like me could get into the holiday spirit. Especially when I had a blue eyed angel asking me to.
I futzed around with the last of the décor, wanting it to look good so that my man’s efforts were noticed and recognized. Colin was a flurry of activity, scrambling to get everyone and everything in their places. It looked fantastic to me, and I actually grinned as the actors started to file into the area. Shepherds, the Wise Men, Mary and Joseph, even a real baby to stand in for Jesus; everyone looked fantastic.
The sound of my name in my boyfriend’s tenor voice never failed to instantly grab my attention. I looked at him where he was standing at the side of the manger, and then dropped my gaze to what he had in his hand. I quirked an eyebrow in question, and he gave me a beautiful smile.
“Care to do the honors?”
I nodded, touched that he was giving me this gift. I glanced at the donkey one more time to make sure he was where he was supposed to be before I crossed the grass to where Colin stood. I kissed his cheek, loving the soft sigh he gave at the affection, and then took the switch from his hand. A few more seconds, and darkness fell in earnest. With a grin, I pressed the switch, watching in awe as the huge star I’d rigged above the manger lit up. For just a second, it actually took my breath away. It was some of my best work. An electrician by trade, and a glassblower by hobby, I’d made the eight pointed star a couple of weeks ago. After painstakingly sculpting the blue and white glass until it was perfectly proportioned, I then wired it so it would sparkle with the perfect amount of light.
There was a collective gasp from the gathered onlookers, and then a round of applause. I bowed and grinned cheekily, incredibly proud of myself. As the actors took their places, Colin took my hand and led me twenty feet away to the side of the church where a table had been set up with hot beverages and donut holes. I grinned as he fixed us both cups of hot cocoa, and then reached into the bag of mini-marshmallows and added two handfuls to my mug. I took the cup with a grateful smile, and placed a kiss on his cheek.
“Thank you,” he said softly after a couple of minutes. The entire area was quiet, except for the occasional animal noises. Everyone was reverent in honor of the manager scene. I appreciated the respect, and the silence in the crisp, cold night was rejuvenating.
“I know this isn’t your thing,” Colin continued, leaning heavily against my side. I lifted an arm and pulled him in close, sharing my body heat. “I appreciate all your help. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“You could have,” I disagreed. “But any time you need me, all you have to do is ask and I’ll do whatever I can to help you.”
His grin was breathtaking, and just a little bit teary. “I know.”
I returned the smile, took a drink from my mug, and then leaned down to place a quick, chaste kiss on his lips. “Merry Christmas, baby.”
Colin’s grin, if possible, grew wider. “Merry Christmas.”