The Tiptoeing of Candle Stones (a Jo & Carly Christmas miracle)

By Woodsy

Sure now that she had collected enough of the candle stones, Jo set the canvas bag down beside her and curled up in a small alcove, watching the tide roll in, spanking the mixed-shell shingle with wild, fluid fingers.

Although she had pretty much filled the bag, there were still plenty more candle stones strewn over the rocks, glistening all manner of colours as the sunset painted its reflected flame into their glowing facets.

She had no idea what kind of mineral this was. In fact, it scarcely looked like stone at all – perhaps more like the shell of some phosphorescent sea creature, dredged up by the winter winds and washed ashore in time for Christmas. 

But for all their mystical appearance, they felt no more than pebbles in her palm.  Not even warm, for all their fire-like flickering. 

It was hard not to see them as a gift of some kind, a token of oceanic benevolence.  They were, after all, so perfectly suited for what she needed to do.   

The tide was strong, like the steady flapping of some massive heron wing, melting its rippling feathers out across the horizon, and Jo pulled the thick, visceral rhythm deep into her chest – held it there, stoking her courage with its textures.

And here on the beach, the crunch of shingle being spanked.

The thought of it should have been unbearable.  But somehow, she couldn’t  let it in. Not yet.  She didn’t even feel particularly naughty, despite having made an appalling show of herself at the pub, only a couple of nights earlier.

She checked the time on her phone.

If she started now, she would likely make it to the pub just before Carly finished her shift at the bar.

She drew in one final lungful of night air and sea spray at the thought of her beloved.

Please let this work, she prayed, in that intense, foetal voice she used whenever prayer became a necessary option.

When Jo prayed, she was praying to something both vast and tiny – something that had reached out and held her through countless tears on countless beaches…

something that had squeezed her wrist with the last strength in her mother’s ragged, fragile fingers, during their final days together. Something that haunted her in the smallest of moments and gestures.

Something that held her when nothing else did.

Something that had taken hold of her when she was wounded and lost… and steered her to Tide Haven, where Carly was waiting.

The past couple of years had changed her more deeply than she could ever have imagined – and all because of Carly.  Jo’s bottom tingled fiercely at the thought of those precious torch hands – at her desperate need to feel their fire and dissolve in it.

But just as she thought the feeling would overwhelm her, it ebbed again.

She looked down at the candle stone burning in her hand, watched the shadows playing on her palm, and closed her fist.

Time to go.

As she wandered up from the beach, Jo stopped at every door to knock.  When the door opened, she gave her apologies for the Christmas gala at the village pub.

As their resident performance poet, she’d been hosting the evening.  She knew it was an important time for the village, especially as it had been a difficult year for everyone.  But instead of pouring out some good cheer, she’d unleashed a catalogue of grievances on a community that had only ever treated her with kindness.

She knew, first hand, what it was like for some people at the bottom of the pile, people who were struggling, and she knew things had not got any better for these people.  If anything, they had got worse.  

So, spurred on by a recent community forum in a neighbouring village, where all her concerns were casually argued away, she let loose all her frustrations in a massive poetic rant, spewing out her anger at the hopelessness she knew would come knocking on far too many doors this Christmas. 

It felt wrong, even as she was saying it.  The one thing she hated with a passion was self-righteousness… yet suddenly, there was a fiery righteous anger in her belly, refusing to let go… desperate for an audience.

So now, here she was, going door to door, handing out candle stones, apologising to her neighbours for spoiling what ought to have been a very special evening for Tide Haven. 

What shocked her was how much good grace she received in return, how much understanding.  

Sure, some of those she called on chose to lecture or scold her on their doorstep. A couple even suggested she needed a good swift kick in the pants (which, given the truth of her relationship with Carly, made her smile inside).  

But most were deeply touched by the otherworldly candle stones she gave them.  Most were forgiving, even kind.

She had expected to be torn off a strip in every doorway – instead of which, she found a depth of understanding that was close to unbearable in the light of those stones.  Instead of hating her for spoiling their evening, these people valued her for the depth of her heart.

When Jo finally reached the pub, her nerve began to falter again.  She found herself walking round in circles in an attempt to rekindle her courage, orbiting a streetlight, taking a few deep breaths as the sound of spanked shingle slowly came back to her.

Eventually, she grabbed the door handle and launched herself into the pub.

Table to table she went, handing out more candle stones and apologies, deeply, shamefacedly aware of the looks she was getting.  

But again, very few were judgemental.  Most were looks of concern, of understanding. She was the village’s adopted daughter, and they loved her. They loved her pain, her scars and her passions, however poorly she might sometimes express them. 

As she worked her way along the bar, making peace with the work colleagues she had left exasperated only a couple of nights earlier, and a boss who by rights ought to have sacked her on the spot, Jo suddenly froze at the sight of Carly, standing in front of her.

Amazingly, there was one candle stone left.  

She felt her eyes well up as she handed it to Carly. Even more heartbreaking was Carly’s reaction, as she turned the glowing crystal around in her hand.

“What on earth…” she stuttered, her own eyes welling up now. “Oh, Jo… only you could find something this poetic. It’s like… well, I  do believe it’s a Christmas miracle of sorts.”

This time, the gentle kindness was just too much.

Before she even knew what was happening,  Jo had collapsed into Carly’s embrace.

“Oh, please, Carly… please forgive me! I know I have been unbearable the past few days! I know that! But please… without you…”

Then the sobs came, and the lights went out.

She woke up on the couch, back at the flat, with Carly staring down at her.

“You were exhausted,” she was told. “Not surprising, given that you haven’t slept properly in two days.”

“Please forgive me…” Jo began to well up again at the sight of those wonderful, compassionate eyes.  

Hey… hey...” Carly cupped her brat’s face in her gentle fingers, kissed each of the tear tracks on her cheek, savouring heartache and salt alike.

“Don’t you know how much I love you?” she asked.  “I hear you’ve been walking clear up from the beach with those magic stones.  So surely you know by now how much this village adores you – and surely you must know that, whatever this village feels about you, I feel a hundred times over.  You must know that, Jo. You simply must!”

“But… after the other night… you wouldn’t talk to me… you wouldn’t…”

Jo’s bottom was aching furiously now.

“You wouldn’t  even spank me! Even though I deserved it…”

Carly quietened her with a slow stroke of her fingertip.

“I couldn’t spank you,” she smiled. “You were too far away… You do that sometimes, my precious. You drift off someplace… some place cold and horribly, horribly distant… like a thing that’s been far too hurt… far too hurt and far too lost for far too long…

“But you always find the magic” –

Carly showed Jo the candle stone –

“and you always find your way back home to me.”

She teased Jo carefully up from the couch, led her over to the special chair.  

“Now, then…” She sat down, bent Jo across her lap and lifted the thick woollen skirt away from her bottom. 

Despite the fact that the winter chill had a bitter edge to it, and the relative shortness of the skirt, Carly noticed Jo was not wearing the stockings she had bought her.  

“You could have caught a chill,” she said, patting the seat of Jo’s pants provocatively.   “That’s going to earn you extra.”

Jo’s face was soaked wet and sticky with tears by this point.  But as the pats slowly turned to smacks, and the familiar sting began to light its fierce little bonfires across her bottom, a smile dawned across her face.


Candle stones were all very well…


Winter-painted tides were undoubtedly spectacular…


But no Christmas miracle would ever compare to the ones Carly conjured over her knee.

11 Responses to The Tiptoeing of Candle Stones (a Jo & Carly Christmas miracle)

  1. Nicky says:

    So sweet. I absolutely love it.

  2. Peachie says:

    So poetic and skillfully written! Thank you for such an awesome contribution. Happy holidays.

  3. Alyx says:

    Woodsy, your lyrical way with words enchants as always. I loved the thought of candle stones and went to Google to see if they were actually a thing. Not surprising to find they’ve come from your creative imagination. Most touching is the relationship between Jo and Carly, where magic always happens. Thanks for sharing, and Merry Xmas! 😊🎄

  4. Wookie says:

    Woodsy this is a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s