December 22nd, 6:52 AM: It’s unusual to be on assignment just three days before Christmas, but when the Senior Editor asks you to cover a small town ice dancing competition four states away, you do it—no questions asked. I kiss my wife and twin girls goodbye and promise my little angels that there’s absolutely, positively nothing in this world that could stop Daddy from coming home on Christmas.

December 22nd, 7:15 PM: Looks like Daddy won’t be making it home for Christmas. A winter storm has the town of Hallmark in its icy grip and all roads in and out have been snowed in. Typically I’d ride it out at a Westin, but my Editor put me up at the Sleighbell Inn—a cash strapped bed & breakfast with charm to spare, but conspicuously lacking in WiFi, booze and people of color.

December 23rd, 8:04 AM: Ouuuuuch! I bump heads with a doe-eyed brunette at the Inn’s all-you-can-eat cookie bar. I apologize, she giggles and our shared weakness for Snickerdoodles suggests we will fall madly in love by Christmas. Her name is Lacey Sherbert. Chabert? She’s left behind the big city to live in her uncle’s small-town Inn and follow her dream of competitive ice dancing. What are the chances? I was once a champion ice dancer myself… but that was before I accidentally slashed my brother’s throat while skating in the City of Brotherly Love Brother-Brother Ice Dancing Championships. I fear I’ve shared too much.

December 23rd, 11:14 AM: Sitting on the edge of the bed, I finger the pair of worn, leather skates that I take with me on every work trip. A knock on the door. It’s Lacey. Her partner for the Hallmark Christmas Ice Dancing Competition is snowed out and now she’ll never be able to win the $5,000 prize she planned on using to save the Sleighbell Inn. Would I want to go for a skate? I… I can’t. Lacey takes my hand into hers and assures me that my dead brother would want me to ice dance again. We just met three hours ago, but I trust her more than anyone in this world. Let’s go skating.

December 23rd, 7:00 PM: A twelve-year hiatus has left me rusty, but after six minutes we’ve mastered a highly technical ice dancing routine to Baby, It’s Cold Outside. As we attempt the triple lutz finale, Lacey stumbles into my arms. I look down at the moon’s reflection in her beautiful brown eyes. Our lips inch closer, and closer when … RRRRRRING. Goddamn, motherfucking wife is calling. She asks why I’ve been sending her calls to voicemail all day. I want to tell her it’s because I may have just met the love of my life—but it probably wouldn’t register in that breath mint-sized brain of hers. As we part ways Lacey asks if I would like to be her partner in the ice dancing competition. Of course I would… it’s our destiny.

December 23rd, 11:25 PM: My God, these Snickerdoodles are delicious. I’ve eaten about eighty-four since checking in. You know what? The Sleighbell Inn is really starting to grow on me.

December 24th, 9:12 AM: Big day! Just waiting for Lacey to iron out some of the fine points of the routine… but what’s this? The wife and kids just strolled past the front desk. “Daddy! Daddy!” they scream as I desperately try to sleeper-hold them into submission. That resourceful fishwife of mine drove nineteen hours and somehow convinced the highway patrol to let her into town. Lacey spots me from across the room and skips over to plant a soft kiss on my cheek. I introduce her to my sister and my two lovely nieces, but my wife quickly intercedes with the truth. Lacey storms out heartbroken. I give chase, but it’s too late… my wife ruined everything.

December 24th, 12:34 PM: I instruct my family to stay in the room while I spend the day frantically searching for Lacey. When nearly all hope is lost, I miraculously find her at Dark Night of Seoul—a Korean-fusion food truck that is hopelessly out of place in this lily-white town. I come clean about my family… can she ever forgive me? Of course she can. Lacey accepts me, faults and all, unlike the pitiless stick-in-the-mud I’m married to.

December 24th, 9:18 PM: The car door slams and I wave goodbye to my wife and kids for the final time. Christmas Eve is a tough time to say goodbye, but it’s not fair to Lacey to keep around a reminder of my past life.

December 25, 1:00 PM: Christmas Day is here! Wind is howling. Snow is falling. The crowd is electric. We’ll need to ice dance our hearts out to beat the high score… and… we… NAIL IT! A perfect 10.0! We did it! We really did it! From high above my head, I lower Lacey down towards my lips. “I love you,” she whispers softly into my ear. “I love you to,” I confess as two lips melt together into one. The crowd chants, “We want more! We want more!” but we know this Hallmark crowd has gotten its perfect ending.

December 30, 10:53 AM: Fuckedy fuck, fuck, fucktown. I’m out of a job, my wife won’t answer my calls and if I see one more Snickerdoodle I’m going to slit somebody’s throat. And Lacey… for fuck’s sake, she just won’t shut up about the ice dancing. I get it, you love ice dancing but FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IT’S ENOUGH ALREADY. And you wanna know about the sex? Oh right, there is none. It was cute for a while, but that high-pitched baby voice makes my dick shrivel like a salt-covered slug. I served in Iraq, but this is worse. Much worse. Hallmark is Hell and I’m living in it.