WFOL 2024 Challenge

Winterfest Guests


by JRo


Russell stood near his mother, chatting with those who came over to see them.  Sebastian leaned closer.  

“How is Alice doing?”  

Russell sighed.  He’d had this conversation dozens of times this evening already.  “I’m afraid this might be her last Winterfest.  Since my dad passed, she’s deteriorated quickly.  We’re not going to stay much longer.”   

Sebastian reached out to grasp Russell’s hand in sympathy.  “May I ask her to dance?”

“Yes, but I don’t know how she will react.”

Sebastian nodded.  He turned to the elderly woman sitting in a soft chair.  Her white hair was neatly pulled back in a bun.  Her deep blue dress was slightly faded and decades out of fashion, but still as beautiful on her now, as it had been years ago.  He watched for a minute as she started blankly ahead, seeming not to notice the party that was happening in front of her.  

He took a deep breath and stepped up in front of her.  With a flourish, he greeted her and offered her a rose. When she didn’t respond, he gently placed it in her hand and held it up to her nose.  

“My beautiful Alice, would you do me the honor of a dance?”

She still remained passive, but Russell helped her to stand. Sebastian led her a few feet away from the chair and made a motion to the musicians.  They began a familiar waltz that had been played at every Winterfest and other celebration Below.  Slowly, he began to sway with her and to hum along.  After a few moments, he was relieved to hear her begin to hum along with him. They swayed together to the music, and the musicians began the song again.  


She spoke quietly, still not quite seeing him, but becoming more aware.    

“Yes Alice, I’m here. You look beautiful tonight.”


“Charlie’s not here, but you’ll see him soon.  Tell him I said hello.”

They finished their dance. Sebastian wished they could keep going, but he could feel her strength fading.  He motioned to Russell, and they helped her back to her chair. When the familiar song stopped, her attention did as well.

Sebastian bent down and kissed her on the cheek.  “‘Til we meet again, sweet Alice.”

When he stood, Russell held out his hand.  “Thank you. I can’t tell you how much that meant to her and to me. She loved Dad, but she always cherished your friendship. I wanted to bring her here one last time. I hoped that it would help to be somewhere familiar.”

With tears glistening in his eyes, Sebastian nodded. “It has, my boy. Take good care of her, and make sure you come back next year, for yourself.”

Russell nodded, his own eyes filling with tears.  A call to Sebastian from one of the children came from across the hall.  After a final, loving glance at his childhood friend, Sebastian quickly wiped his face and cleared his throat before pulling a balloon out of his pocket and starting a balloon animal as he crossed the hall. 


  1. Oh, what a bittersweet moment for all involved, but I love that she got to reconnect with and remember Sebastien, even if only for a moment. And the part at the end where he asks Russell to remember to come back the next year, “for yourself”… So poignant, acknowledging that even if his mother isn’t around, that Russell is still welcome and wanted.

  2. yes, the beautiful thing about this story is how important each person is, this love, understanding, sensitivity move me to the depths….

  3. This shows such love and care of old friends and cherishing those that won’t be there for long. Winterfest for young and old alike. Beautiful.

  4. JRo, this one really touched my heart, and it’s a story I’ll read again and again. Thank you very much for writing it.


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CABB logo: crystal and rose




CABB logo: crystal and rose







by AM

“Local temperature is 89 degrees with a heat index of 102. Stay inside if you can. Drink plenty of water and remember, don’t overdo it. It’s a scorcher out there today, folks”.

Catherine cursed the weatherman as she wiped the sweat off her forehead.  “Great. What a perfect time for the air to go out.”

The thought of going outside made her cringe. It was Sunday, so her office would be locked.

“I need to get out of this heat. I’ve got it!” Catherine giggled as she had a wonderful idea.

She went through recycling looking for something she could use.

“Nothing,” she said, frustrated.

She hurriedly changed into a comfortable t-shirt and jeans and hurried to the nearest store. She would’ve run if it hadn’t been so hot.

She sighed with relief when she stepped foot into the cool store.

She picked up some water guns.

No, too violent, and would be frowned upon, she thought as she put the guns down.

She went searching for safer things.

Balloons? No, leaves a mess to clean up.

Her eyes lit up when she saw them. “Spray bottles!!! Perfect!! Hmmm. There’s 50. That should be plenty.”

She grabbed up all the bottles and headed to pay.

It seemed like forever before she headed back to her apartment with her treasures. Instead of going directly to her apartment, she headed to the tunnels. It wasn’t long before she ran into Eric.

“What’s in the bags?” he asked

“It’s a surprise, and I need you to do me a favor. Could you gather all the kids and bring them here?”


“Oh, and Eric?”

Eric turned to look at her.

“Bring as many buckets of water as you can.” She winked at him.

He returned in record time with all the tunnel kids, each carrying two buckets full of water. Catherine passed out the spray bottles and helped fill them up. Once all the bottles were filled, boundary lines were drawn, and safe places declared, they were ready.

“On your mark, get set, GO!” Catherine yelled.

The fight began in full force. Laughter, shrieks, and happy screams echoed through the tunnels as the children chased and sprayed each other. Catherine found herself in the crossfire several times, but laughed as hard as the children. When bottles emptied they were quickly refilled, and the fun continued. Soon adults came to find out where the happy noises were coming from. Some smiled, shook their heads and went back to their previous activity. Some helped by refilling empty buckets. Others just couldn’t help joining in the fun. Catherine noticed Vincent walking towards them.

“I need to borrow that,” she said to Kipper.

He smiled and handed her his full bottle. She placed the bottle behind her back, walked calmly up to Vincent, and sprayed him in the face.

His look of shock made Catherine laugh. Vincent calmly watched the children play for a few minutes before casually picking up a bucket that was a quarter full. He turned to Catherine.

“Vincent, you wouldn’t dare.”

“Perhaps, but then how would I return the favor?”

With that, he dumped the bucket over her head. The children erupted with laughter to see Catherine soaked.

A tapping on the pipes made them all stop. Dinner.

Groans quickly spread among the children. They reluctantly started handing the bottles to Catherine.

“Vincent, why don’t you keep them for the next time?”

The children’s eyes danced with glee. Vincent put the bottles in the buckets and handed them to the children to carry.

“Would you join us, Catherine?” Vincent asked.

“I would love to.”

Vincent took her hand and they followed the children to dinner.