Copyright 2016, Magdalena Scott
WARNING: All rights reserved. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work, in whole or in part, in any form, is illegal and forbidden without the written permission of the author, Magdalena Scott. This is a work of fiction. Characters, settings, names, and occurrences are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, places, settings or occurrences are purely coincidental.
A Short Story Sequel
Christmas Wedding–Serendipity, Indiana, Book Three
A few days after the storm, all the county roads were, if not clear, at least passable, due to plenty of overtime put in by the county workers, and farmers who got out to assist, with front end loaders and other equipment.
Jim, Matthew, and I went to the grocery in Jim’s four-wheel drive truck. Riding along on the slithery roads may have been as exciting for me as it was for Matthew. We had lived in northern Indiana enough that driving in wintry weather was nothing new to me, but in Fort Wayne the commute had been all city streets–a big difference to sliding on a back road where you could easily land in a ditch full of snow, up against a barbed wire fence.
The nearer we got to the city limits, the more vehicles we met. Plenty of young drivers were testing their abilities on the uncertain road conditions. Three boys with open jackets and determined faces zipped across at an intersection, standing on the pedals of their low-slung bicycles.
Matthew exclaimed as the majestic courthouse came into view. “Look! It’s just like in a story book!”
His six-year-old enthusiasm was, as usual, a joy to me. He was right, too. Serendipity’s town square looked like a perfect fairyland–the castle-like courthouse stood tall and proud in the center, surrounded by trees and bushes heavily laden by white snow, sparkling brilliantly in the sun.
Beyond the courtyard, though, the magical look was tarnished by the dirty gray piles all along the roundabout street. Crews had shoveled parking spaces around the courtyard, and in front of the businesses on the outside of the square. A sprinkling of cars and trucks were there, and several people made their way along the sidewalks.
The Christmas Eve storm had changed everyone’s plans, but we all had places to go and things to do, didn’t we? Today’s excitement was a grocery run, and Jim needed to spend some time in his law office, while I started packing up my big house on Main Street, in preparation for the move to Jim’s cabin.
“What’s wrong, Mel?” Jim asked, glancing back to the street as he drove.
He shrugged, a grin on his face. “Giant sigh. I thought it might indicate something was on your mind.”
I hadn’t realized I had sighed. “Oh. Well, I was just thinking how peaceful everything was, how simple life felt, when we were all snowbound.”
Matthew nodded enthusiastically. “It was great. All day, eating and playing games together with the whole family. And your wedding was the best.” He looked up at me. “You’re not sad about that, are you, Mommy?”
I took his little hand in mine, remembering the day that had been so different than what I had planned. “No, not sad at all. I loved the wedding.”
“You didn’t go on your trip, though,” he pointed out. “You guys were gonna take a trip after, remember?”
I shot a look to Jim, whose eyebrows rose. He sighed now. The honeymoon had been postponed indefinitely.
Matthew patted my hand. “But the roads are pretty good now. You could go on your trip. I’m gonna stay with Miss Lillian, and with Emily, right?”
Jim chuckled. “You were looking forward to that, weren’t you, pardner?”
Matthew nodded. “Miss Lillian said maybe sometimes we can have cookies for breakfast. And maybe Daisy could sleep in the bed with me, if she wants.”
The gentle, black Lab had adored Matthew the first time they met. Jim’s mother, Lillian, would love to have Matthew to herself for some extended time. Emily, Jim’s sister-in-law, and mine too, now, had been Matthew’s babysitter, and living on the family Christmas tree farm, was handy to step in at any time Lillian needed a break.
But Christmas was over, our honeymoon reservation had been canceled because of impassable roads and the busyness that follows a few days out of the office. We were back to everyday life. I wasn’t sad–couldn’t be sad, because in this version of day-to-day life, I was married to the man I’d always loved, and Matthew had the father he deserved. I had nothing to complain about.
Only a teensy part of me was disappointed that we hadn’t been able to leave town for a honeymoon.
Matthew frowned. “I think you should do the honeymoon, guys. I’m serious.”
I stifled a chuckle at his tone. “We have work, Sweetie. Maybe the three of us can take a trip over spring break.”
Jim didn’t comment. He found a parking space at the grocery, and we spent over an hour inside, receiving lots of well wishes from folks who had been invited to the wedding and been unable to attend.
The checkout girl handed me the receipt. “Be sure to post some wedding pictures, okay? Are you guys going on a honeymoon?”
I shook my head, but Jim said, “Yes. Yes, we are. You have a great day, all right?”
We had acquired a pickup truck load of empty boxes at the grocery, and Matthew and I spent a busy morning working toward filling them. A little over two years ago I had bought my dream house and moved back to my hometown. Now I was surprised at how many extra things had accumulated in that time. Some of the cardboard cartons would go to the homeless shelter. Jim and I would have to decide which furniture we would use at the cabin, and which needed to be re-homed. Our wedding had been planned in such a short space of time, and, except for finally deciding to live in the cabin on the Christmas tree farm instead of this house, specifics had been left for later.
Instead of feeling stress or loss when I looked at furniture and other large items that might not make the cut, I had a sense of peace. Jim, Matthew, and I were together. I was a part of the Standish family, a group of people I’d known and loved all my life. These inanimate objects meant nothing compared to that.
Jim texted that he was done at the office, and driving over. The three of us loaded the boxes we would take with us, plus Matthew’s disassembled truck-shaped bed, and the mattress. Matthew wasn’t quite ready to part with it, though he would outgrow it soon enough.
“You’ve made some progress here, Mel.”
I chuckled, loving the view from here–my two men standing together, Jim’s hand on Matthew’s shoulder.
“We worked hard,” Matthew said.
“And we certainly weren’t interrupted by people wanting to look at real estate.” An important item on my to-do list was finding the new location for my real estate office. Until then, the office in a front room of this house would remain untouched, and my mobile office–cell and laptop–kept me in touch.
Back at the Christmas tree farm, Jim parked in the lot by Lillian’s house. On the other side of the gravel parking area was the Christmas shop. Dark and silent now, it would remain that way except for a couple of hours each morning, when Lillian served breakfast to the guests staying in the tiny cabins.
The tiny cabin B&B was busier than I had expected for this time of year. The whole family had pitched in yesterday, to convert the interior of the Christmas shop back to its off-season setup. During tree season, the shop was full of accessories, decorations, and food items for purchase by those who came to cut their own Christmas trees. That meant B&B customers had breakfast in Lillian’s dining room.
We all agreed it was better for Lillian to have her own space, and use the Christmas shop as the gathering area for the B&B folks most of the year.
We clambered up Lillian’s front steps, each carrying a sack of items Lillian had needed from the grocery. Jim knocked twice, and opened the door. It was no surprise to be greeted by the smell of home-baked cookies.
“Oh boy.” Matthew smiled, anticipating Lillian’s famous baked goods.
Lillian was wearing the colorful apron that Jim’s sister, Carla, had given her for Christmas. Good thing she had made it earlier in the year. She’d been so busy during the month of December, I don’t think she could have managed to create even one apron in addition to everything else. Carla had designed and made my wedding gown, her bridesmaid dress, and provided patterns for her sister Francie and our friend Alice to have their own bridesmaid dresses made.
Lillian nodded to Matthew, who made a bee-line to the kitchen. “How did the first trip to the house go? Will this be difficult for you, Melissa? I think I know how much that house means to you.” She remembered the history–bad, then good.
Jim looked at me, letting me answer.
“Fine. No problems at all. Jim had to work at his office, but Matthew and I made some headway.” I wouldn’t say anything about how much work would be involved for me to dismantle that home and move in with Jim. Matthew and I had been settled at the Main Street house, so of course it would take a while to sort, pitch, sell, give away, and finally make that place available to a new owner. When I had spent a couple of minutes in my lovely home office, the idea of finding a new space for my business felt overwhelming. Did I know of any appropriate spots in town? I’d need to have at least a couple of parking spaces for clients, and a ground-floor location. Although many of the buildings on the square were two or three-story, few had elevators.
We all went into the kitchen and emptied the grocery sacks onto the table.
Lillian spoke softly, standing near me. “Have you had any time to look for a new office, Melissa?”
Maybe the worry was plain on my face, not hidden as I had intended. “Not yet. I need to make that a priority. I haven’t thought of any locations that would suit my needs.”
Matthew finished a cookie and looked to Lillian for permission to grab a second. This time, though, she shook her head. “Have you had lunch?”
“Nope. Mommy and me worked through lunch.”
“We can’t have that. Let me heat you some vegetable soup.”
A while later, the three of us piled back into the truck, drove to the cabin, and unloaded boxes.
Matthew stood back, appraising his room. “My bed looks good in my new room. I kind of outgrew the pictures on the wall of my old one.”
His statement hurt me just a little, but it seemed every day of being a mother brought another step in the letting go process. Matthew was six, but if I blinked too long, he would be in middle school.
Carla, Francie, Alice, and I had painted trucks on the walls of his room, since Matthew loved them so much. Just as well, though, as it seemed out of place to do a painting project like that here in the cabin. Carla’s idea of doing one of his walls in chalkboard paint sounded good. I’d need to talk to Jim first, though, before seeing if Matthew was interested.
After he went to bed, Jim and I sat by the fire, snuggling and talking softly.
“I’ll put out some feelers to help you find a new office, Mel. Something will work out.”
In Serendipity, things often work out in ways none of us expect.
I lay my head on his shoulder, enjoying our closeness and the sound of his heart. “I know it’ll be fine. For now I’ll leave the office where it is, and it’s not a huge problem.”
The next day my cell rang–forwarded from the business phone.
“Hello. Melissa, right? This is Tad Osborne. Brad Carrington gave me your number.”
That was quick. Jim’s sister Francie, her husband Brad, and their son Joseph had flown out of the Louisville airport, back home to Florida, as soon as the roads were passable.
“Yes, right. Francie told me that you know Brad. How’s December in Florida?”
“Warm. And I know it makes no sense to my neighbors, nor to Brad, but I’m looking forward to a December with snow, again. I’m interested in talking to you about the house, if you still plan to sell.”
Tad had grown up in the house. It had always been called the Osborne house, and probably always would be, by the folks in town who remembered his parents.
I closed my eyes, trying not to picture the mountain of work ahead of me. “I do still plan to sell. I can send you some photos once it’s cleaned out. There’s lots to do before then.”
“No rush, I suppose, as long as you aren’t planning to put it on the market right away. I must be getting sentimental in my old age. Lots of great memories in that house.”
“Yes. Lots of memories.” Some of mine weren’t so great, but the last two years had obliterated the negative ones. Or had almost obliterated them.
“I’ll give you my phone number, email, and snail-mail address. Brad and Francie have told me the house looks wonderful. I’m sure it’s hard for you to leave it.”
“Somewhat, but if I know it will have an owner who loves it and will take care of it, that will help a lot.” Gee, for a real estate agent, I sounded like a total sap. “I know houses don’t have feelings–”
He chuckled. “Of course they don’t. They’re just dwelling places that we move into and out of at our whim. It’s okay, Melissa. Like I said, I’m getting sentimental. It means a great deal to me that you care about the house. My parents would have appreciated that.”
“They were such wonderful people.” The Osbornes had been old when I knew them, but so very kind. Tad and his siblings were already out on their own.
“I won’t take more of your time.” His voice was warm. “I’ll look forward to hearing from you. Happy New Year, Melissa.”
I had lunch with Carla and Alice, a brown bag affair in the back room of Carla’s dress shop during Alice’s lunch break from her legal secretary job.
Carla handed napkins around “Wow. It’s cool that you’ve basically got the place sold already. Francie and Brad didn’t waste any time getting in touch with Tad Osborne. You’re really lucky.”
Alice tipped her head. “Really lucky in so many ways. Word on the street is that you and Jim are going on a honeymoon. Why didn’t your best friends know that?”
A groan escaped my lips. “The good old gossip tree. Jim said that to a checkout girl at the grocery, and I don’t even know why. I don’t have time to leave town. I have a house to clean out and sell. The difference between paying that monthly mortgage installment to the bank and not having to pay it would free up some money for renting an office space. Not that I’ve found one.”
Carla pointed a potato chip at me. “You need to take a honeymoon, woman. Last month was crazy for you, being a mom and going to Matthew’s school programs, working fulltime, planning a wedding. Don’t start doing the daily trudge without making some memories, just you and Jim together.” She held up a hand. “Not that I want to know what any of those might be. He’s my brother, and the ickfactor is strong.”
Alice laughed. “Even Carla has a romantic soul. Jared Barnett will be so glad to know that.”
Carla bristled. “Stop teasing me about Jared. He’s just a nice guy. Handsome nice guy, but not my type.”
Alice and I laughed. “Carla, Carla. We know you better than that,” I said. “This time next year, I predict you and Jared will be married.”
“Or at least dating. I think both of them are slow movers,” Alice said.
Carla flicked her with a napkin. “Stop it. We’re not having Pick on Carla Day. We’re having Pick on Mel Day, remember? Mel and Jim? Honeymoon?”
Alice nodded vigorously. “Right. Yes. You need to go, Mel. Take a little time for the two of you.”
I had looked at the bride magazines. And the websites. There were so many beautiful, romantic places we could go together. But time and money weren’t on our side.
A couple more days of working at the house, filling boxes, and taking them either to Jim’s house or to the shelter. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. There were a few possible locations for my office that would suit the few requirements I had. No, it wouldn’t be a ten second walk to the office across the living room each morning, but in a town the size of Serendipity, no commute was very long. Matthew kept encouraging us to take a honeymoon, and even packed an overnight bag so he would be ready to move in with Lillian on short notice. It was cute, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him he wouldn’t need the bag. Maybe he would be satisfied to spend a night with Lillian this coming weekend. I’d need to ask and see what her schedule was.
On Friday, I made a tentative offer on an office space, and felt like a little bit of progress was being made. We ate a take-out pizza for dinner in the cozy cabin’s eat-in kitchen.
Jim pushed his chair back and quickly cleared the table. “Delicious dinner, Mel.”
“Thanks,” I said, amused by his behavior.
When he had stowed away trash and put everything else into the dishwasher, Jim said, “Let’s go for a drive, family.”
“Cool!” Matthew was always in the mood to ride in the truck.
Jim ruffled our son’s hair. “Bring your bag, pardner. We’re dropping you at Miss Lillian’s.” Jim and I expected Matthew would want to call her Grandma soon, but didn’t want to rush it.
“Awesome!” He was up the stairs, and back again with his bag. He put on his coat and I helped him get it zipped and snapped. Then Jim was helping me into my wool car coat.
“What’s this about?” I asked him.
Jim just winked, refusing to answer directly. He went into our bedroom and returned in a moment, with a packed duffel bag. I started to ask another question, but he just kissed me lightly. “You’ll see,” he said.
Jim put our bags behind the truck seats. There was a cardboard carton back there, too. Had I left one of my moving boxes in here? I started to reach for it, but he stopped me, motioning me to sit back and buckle up.
Once we said good night to Matthew and Lillian, who wasn’t at all surprised by our appearance on her porch, Jim drove us away from the Christmas tree farm. I decided to let him have his fun. I’d had the idea of an overnight for Matthew at Lillian’s, and even a drive alone with Jim was a treat. But it wasn’t just a drive, was it? The duffel bag must have clothes in it. And the cardboard box–?
When we got into town, Jim cleared his throat. “Okay, I’ve made our honeymoon reservation at a beautiful place where we won’t be disturbed. You and me, Mel, alone at last for two days and nights. I’m sorry it couldn’t be longer, but at least we have the weekend.”
Dollar signs flitted across my mind, but I shut them down. Weekend rates at a fancy hotel? Ouch. From childhood, I had been cautious with money, so the idea rankled a little. But this was different. Surely, it would be okay to overspend just this once. I wouldn’t let finances stand in the way of our happiness.
“I’m surprised we’re leaving town so late,” I said. “This surprise place must not be too far away.”
“We’re leaving late to increase the mystery factor. You’ll understand soon.”
We turned north at the traffic light, and as always I looked left as we approached the old Osborne place. It looked sad and lonely, with the blinds and drapes pulled. Jim flicked on his left turn signal and we were in the driveway. Then he pulled out a remote and opened the garage door.
When he shut off the engine and truck lights, Jim took my hand and kissed the palm. “What do you think, Mel? We leave the truck in here and have our honeymoon in the house where I lost you for so long. It feels right to me, and I thought you’d love the idea. I know it’s been a struggle for you to leave it.”
I was speechless. It was a sweet thought, but the days of packing had left the house in disarray.
Honeymoon elves had been in the house. Fat, fake candles flickered in the dining room as we entered the side door, and when we went into the kitchen to stash the food supplies Jim had brought along, we discovered a lush, Christmassy floral arrangement on the bar. It smelled heavenly, of roses and eucalyptus.
I put my arms around Jim’s waist, stood on tiptoe to kiss him. “I’m guessing you told Carla your plans for the honeymoon?”
He nearly blushed. “I told her where and when, but definitely not all my plans. She got hold of Francie, Alice, and Emily. I think Mom might have made a contribution, too, to be honest.”
The fridge contained a breakfast casserole, milk, orange juice, a homemade lasagna, roast and vegetables. Bottles of our favorite wine waited on the counter, next to a sealed container of Lillian’s cookies, and another of homemade yeast rolls.
Upstairs, there were even more surprises. A shallow, white box, wrapped in silver ribbon, waited on the foot of the bed. Since we didn’t have time to do a proper shower, the card said, in Carla’s handwriting. Inside was a long, filmy gown and matching robe.
The sheets I hadn’t had time to strip had been washed and replaced. More candles flickered in the bedroom and master bath. Another floral arrangement scented the master suite from the dresser in my bedroom. For tonight–for our honeymoon, it was our bedroom.
Jim and I said good-bye to the house for two days and nights, ate and drank, and even considered uncovering the backyard pool for a midnight skinny dip. Yes, it was the right way to say good-bye to the house, and good-bye forever to the remnants of sadness from our youthful memories of it.
It was perfect, inexpensive, and romantic beyond my dreams. I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas honeymoon.
Author’s Note: Early in 2016, I received an email from a reader who had finished CHRISTMAS WEDDING. She asked me where Jim and Melissa went on their honeymoon. (I love this, as it shows the characters were at least somewhat real to her, as they are to me.) I told the reader that I would write a short story about the honeymoon, and make it available to newsletter subscribers. In December 2016 I did just that, and in September 2017, I published it here on the website.
If you enjoyed the short story, perhaps you’ll want to read what led up to it–Mel and Jim’s CHRISTMAS WEDDING!
You can find Christmas Wedding here: