The Twelve Days of Christmas:
A Christmastide Tale in Twelve Instalments. With Elves.
The Sixth Day of Christmas
I woke up the next morning with a start. What on earth had I been thinking? It was as if that gorgeous man in Engelhard’s had literally driven Tom from my mind! I snatched up my phone from my bedside table and tried to turn it on. All I got was a blank screen. With a groan I realized I’d forgotten to charge it.
A couple of hours later I was at Mary-Lou’s. “And even once it was charged there was nothing,” I said to her. “I’ve gone and filed that missing persons report with the police. They said they’d let me know right away if anything turns up.”
“Then that’s what they’ll do,” Mary-Lou said. “But I’m sure Tom is fine; he usually is.” She picked up a bucket of kitchen scraps by the back door. “Here, Mac, come out to the barn; there’s something you’ve got to see.” She led the way out into the yard and through a side door into her poultry barn. “It’s been a weird day, I can tell you that much! Careful, stay back a bit—they can be nasty.”
“My Chinese geese,” she replied, pointing at a flock of large white birds on the other side of the barn. “Would you believe it—all six of them were laying this morning! I’m not sure what’s gotten into them—usually they don’t lay at all this time of year, but today, the whole gaggle!”
The big white birds waddled towards us, the orange hump over top of their bills making them look just a bit menacing as they honked at us. I took a picture of them anyway.
“Oh shoo!” Mary-Lou said to the geese. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, you silly things.” She put the scraps into the feeding trough the birds all shared, and while they were busy rooting through their treats, she ran her hand under some straw in the corner of the room. “Gotcha!” She drew out a large egg, almost as big as her hand. “There, that was the last one; I think I’ve got them all now. I don’t want the ducks sitting on them yet; it’s far too cold for raising goslings this time of year.”
As we walked back to Mary-Lou’s house, I absentmindedly thumbed through the photos on my phone. The geese—all six of them. The five rings at Engelhard’s. Four birds at Lilian’s feeder, calling to each other. Mary-Lou’s three French hens. Lilian’s two mourning doves, which she called turtle doves. And there, in my parents’ backyard, the partridge in the pear tree.
“Mary-Lou…” I held out the phone to her.
“What?” She took the phone and looked at it. “You already showed me that; it’s the text from Tom that we can’t figure out.”
I snatched back the phone. “Wait—no, that’s not what I meant to show you, my finger must have slipped. But…” I stared down at the text. “Twelve Days of Christmas? The whole thing? Mary-Lou—he means the song. There’s something about that song. And I’ve seen it—every single day since Christmas Day. One item every day. So where is he? What the heck is going on?”
To be continued…