The Christmas Sparkle Test by Alicia Street

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Happy young guy and girl celebrating xmas or New Year together

Standing in the sunny yellow-and-blue-tiled kitchen where at age ten she’d learned to make French toast just the way her dad liked it, Heidi Abbott Graden blinked back tears, reminding herself she came back to Peconic Bend to get her head on straight, not to indulge in regrets. But with the knickknacks on the shelves and the little plaques and photos on every wall, this house buzzed with memories of a time when she still believed in happily-ever-afters.

“Wow, Dad, some of these things go way back to when we were kids. Haven’t you ever thrown out anything?”

“I value things that represent the past.” Hank Abbott took a sip from the mug he was using and lifted it up. “Like this.”

She peered at the logo of a math tournament she’d won when she was twelve. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“It was one of my proudest moments. Watching you achieve. Seeing you excel beyond the rest. Winning.”

Heidi rolled her eyes. “I’m glad that made you happy,” she said. “On the other hand, winning isn’t everything.”

“Close.”

Ignoring the snort coming from Bailey, her older sister who sat at the other end of the round oak kitchen table, her father said, “Heidi, you of all people know what I mean. Why else has it taken you ten years to come spend any time back here in our little insignificant town?”

“Don’t say that, Dad. I love this town.” Peconic Bend sat among farms and fishing villages on the North Fork at the tip of New York’s Long Island, a narrow strip of land that stretched into the Atlantic with Long Island Sound on one side and the Peconic Bay on the other.

“But you and Lance had big goals and drove yourselves hard to achieve them,” Hank said. “And judging by that palatial Silicon Valley spread you two call home, I’d say you won big-time.”

Bailey glared at Heidi, silently pushing her to spill the truth, but Heidi couldn’t do it. She couldn’t disappoint her dad by telling him her marriage had gone from brainy-business-buddies to bad-mistake.

Her chest tight, Heidi turned away and rinsed some dishes in the sink, hiding her face and bracing for the question she knew was coming.

“By the way, when is your husband arriving?” Hank asked her.

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