To the joys of the season indeed. Christmas was a good time for Ryan, and even for him it was difficult not to be affected by the excited buzz that sprung up everywhere in Mariet. And the party atmosphere which came around meant good business for Ryan, and his pocket's always felt that little bit heavier as Christmas and the New Year rolled on. The pluses almost outweighed the cons of winter - the cold weather made it almost unbearable to sleep in his trailer home, and there was alcohol everywhere making his Dad's usual drunken state ten times worse. Ryan stayed out as much as possible, usually whiling away the hours at night in 24 hour cafes.
But tonight he had a job. Just the bog standard meet, hand over the goods, get paid, get out. Ryan didn't like to drag things out longer than he had to, keep it short and sweet. His customer wasn't a local, which was good because it kept things distant, unfamiliar, but meant finding a place to trade was more difficult. So Ryan had suggested the Lights on the edge of town, near the woodland. There was a large Christmas tree, all decorated and fancy at the entrance, and the path trailed around the edge of the woodland to end in a little Santa;s grotto which chimed music for the kids. It was about 6 in the evening, and already dark, the air bitter cold and you could feel the frost laying down on the ground thick already, the cover of darkness perfect for his needs tonight. He waited at the start of the lit up path, still able to see the lights of his Dad's trailer as a spot in the distance, and zipped his jacket up tighter as groups and couples and families strolled past. Some might think it was risky, going about business this way, but sometimes a crowd was a good cover. No one really paid you much attention, too wrapped up in their own lives. And what would they see anyway? Two guys trading gifts. Hardlys suspicious behaviour at this time of year.
So there Ryan stood, hands shoved deep in the pockets of his sports jacket, his toes turning numb in his trainers as he watched the world go by from beside the giant Christmas tree. His dog Bouncer sat at his feet, a lead curling its way up to Ryan's wrist. Bouncer was a softy, and Ryan had never trained him like he'd trained some of the others...but Bouncer still looked relatively intimidating from a distance - rottweilers often did - till you got up close and saw that he was just interested in getting his tummy rubbed. Ryan glanced around and pulled his phone out, checking the time and noting that the guy was already late, and had just about decided he wasn't going to wait any longer when Bouncer sat upright and gave a short, sharp bark at a smart young businessman headed their way. Ryan's shoulders tensed and he stood up a bit straighter as the man approached, giving him a curt nod. The two exchanged packages, completely unnoticed by passers by, and then the man was off, back to his car and back to wherever he came from. Ryan tore the christmas paper wrapping from around the wad of money, flicked through it, before shoving it deep into a back pocket and pulling out a cigarette instead, sparking up and taking a long drag. Bouncer gave a little whine, looking up at Ryan expectedly, making him roll his eyes. Come on then he said with a pacified tone, starting forward to walk his dog, everyone else completely unaware of the deal which had just taken place.
Tabby had wanted to come to the Celebration of Lights, even if it was all alone. She loved the holidays, and couldn't wait for an opportunity to get all bundled up in her favorite winter coat, hat, and scarf, her pale, freckled nose pink from the cold as she ventured outside. She was on her holiday break now, from school, so she had a lot more free time on her hands, even with having taken up some extra shifts at Sweetie Pie.
It was a little lonely this time of year, especially if you didn't have a significant other. Strolling through the lanes were crowds of couples, hand in hand, sharing kisses under the mistletoe and chattering in excited voices. It made something inside Tabby's chest ache, but she put on a brave smile, trying to enjoy the snow and the pretty, twinkling lights anyway.
She'd made a few friends over the course of the term, but none of them really seemed to be around. Perhaps they had other plans, spending the holidays out of town with loved ones. But Tabby was one to make the best of things, no matter where that took her.
Walking along the snow-covered lane with her cold hands shoved deeply i into her pockets, Tabby's ears perked up as she heard the whine of a dog. Tabby was, of course, more of a cat person, but she loved all animals, and her head turned towards the sound, a smile breaking out over her face when she saw who was standing there, holding the leash.
"Rorky?" she asked with a giggle, unable to say that name without laughing a little bit. It still sounded like some kind of cartoon dinosaur to Tabby, which kind of took the edge off of the intimidating-looking guy she'd met back at the bakery a week or two ago. "It's Tabby...from Sweetie Pie's?" she said as she approached cautiously, in case he didn't remember her. Tabby always had this worry that people would forget her.