(advent) December 1st! It’s here!

`Welcome back to Carter’s Cove!  It wouldn’t be Christmas without a trip there, would it?  I wonder what’s happening this year…

 

“I smell bacon.”

Molly Barrett lifted her head off the pillow and sniffed the air, then reached out beside her. As expected, all she encountered was fur, and she poked it gently.

A large sigh issued from deep within the furry pile, and after a moment, one large green eye opened to look at her. It’s too early.

“Too early for bacon?” Molly teased, ruffling the CrossCat’s silky spotted fur. “Are you feeling okay?”

Schrodinger raised his head and yawned widely. I’m fine, I’m just tired, and it’s ear— His mental voice stopped suddenly, and his nostrils flared. Is that bacon?

“That’s what it smells like to me.”

The bed shuddered as he leaped from his nest and thundered out the door. “Don’t forget the stairs!” Molly called, and laughed as she heard him trying to control his speed. “And don’t eat it all!”

I promise nothing! came his fading thought. She laughed again and pulled herself out of bed.

Pausing long enough to pull her robe around her and run her fingers through her brown hair, smoothing the worst of the tangles out, Molly followed Schrodinger down the front stairs, the wooden floors warm beneath her feet, enjoying the feel of the oak railing under her fingertips. The lack of street noise was still a bit disconcerting to her – after years of living in the heart of Carter’s Cove, the stillness of the farm took a bit to get used to.

But it’s ours. That thought brought a rush of joy that carried her down the hall into the large kitchen, where the two men in her life were putting the finishing touches on a breakfast that looked like it was for six people. There was a literal pile of bacon on the island, mounded on paper towels and moved far away from Schrodinger’s inquisitive nose. Drew McIntyre was standing at the stove, stirring eggs in one of their cast iron skillets, and there was a tea kettle just starting to whistle gently on the back burner.

“What’s the occasion?” she asked him, slipping her arms around him (careful not to interrupt his stirring – scrambled eggs could be finicky) and kissing his cheek. Fresh blond stubble rubbed against her skin, and Molly giggled.

“I need an occasion to make breakfast?” Drew said, mock-affronted. “Since when?”

Molly turned and looked at the massive pile of bacon. “You need two pounds of bacon for a simple breakfast?”

“It’s only one pound, and I thought we’d do BLTs for dinner,” he told her. “One of the farmers came through and had some really nice lettuce, and Connie had fresh tomatoes when I stopped in the store.”

“I’ll make bread at the cafe, then.” Molly pulled three large latte mugs from one of the cabinets. “Any requests for tea?”

“Something non-caffeinated.” Drew portioned out the eggs into the bowls he had on the counter next to him. One of the things Molly adored about the new house was the amount of counters in the kitchen – it had been a working farm, not so long ago, and there was enough working space to prep food for a small army. It was so exhilarating after her apartment kitchen. “After I see you off, I’m going to bed.”

She felt a pang of sympathy as she reached for the chamomile tea. Drew had accepted a promotion to Gate Engineer two months ago, when one of the older Engineers had retired, and since then, he’d been working pretty much nonstop. But it had meant they could buy the farmhouse, knowing they’d be staying in the Cove.

The diamond ring on her left hand winked in the light of the kitchen lights, distracting her even now, even after almost a year. Molly looked at it, realizing that she might have left the Cove. Still would, if Drew asked her to.

“You going to pour the tea, or just look at the empty mugs?” Drew teased, pulling her out of her reverie.

“Sorry, still a little asleep.” She took the kettle and poured hot water into the mugs, then brought them over to the island, joining Schrodinger and Drew. “You still have tomorrow off, right?”

Drew nodded, accepting the mug of tea and handing her a bowl of fluffy eggs strung with cheese. “Mal said he didn’t want to see my quote ‘ugly mug’ until Wednesday. So we are good to decorate tomorrow.”

“I can’t believe it’s already December,” Molly said, taking a bite of bacon. “It doesn’t feel like it.”

No, it doesn’t, Schrodinger agreed, dipping his muzzle into his cup of Earl Grey. I think it’s because it’s not really cold this year.

“Maybe,” Molly said. “I’m sure it will get colder soon.”

“We’ll see.” Drew’s face darkened a bit. “It’s weird, though. It’s like there’s this big warm spot right over the Cove. Storms keep missing us.” He shook his head. “But we’ll see. It’s not like I can change it. That’s not my gift, after all.”

“Nor mine.”

They finished the meal in companionable silence, and then Molly headed back upstairs to shower before she and Schrodinger went into the Cove. Drew was asleep by the time she came out of the bathroom.

It was still odd to be driving into work. Molly did miss the walking in the early morning, but she had to admit that it was nice not to have to lug a cooler along the mile from her old apartment to CrossWinds Books. One thing that hadn’t changed: it was still dark as they drove in from the farm. Molly had bought her first car just two weeks ago: a sturdy Jeep that crunched down the gravel lane, and that Drew had assured her would be great in the snow. When the snow came. It was odd – Molly couldn’t remember a wetter November, especially when it hadn’t snowed. This November had been one of miserable spitting rain and fog, but no snow.

It doesn’t feel like Christmas yet, Schrodinger said, peering out at the fog. Maybe because the snow isn’t here.

“Maybe.” Molly reached over and flipped on the radio. As always on December first, Carter’s Cove radio station WCOV switched to all Christmas carols, and the beautiful sound of bells filled the morning. “Does that help?”

A little. Schrodinger settled into his seat, putting his chin on his crossed front paws. I still wish it would snow.

His wish was echoed by Aunt Margie when she came into the kitchen an hour later, just before the freshly-decorated bookstore opened. “You know, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I really wish it would snow,” she said, sinking onto one of the kitchen stools and accepting a cup of tea from her niece. “I hate shoveling the stuff, but this rain is just depressing. At least the snow is clean.”

“It will snow,” Molly said, sipping her own cup of tea. “It always snows. It’s just late this year, that’s all.”

“I hope so,” Aunt Margie said, shaking her grey curls, and Molly didn’t like the worry in her voice. “If not, this might be a crappy Christmas season for the store, and we can’t afford that.”

“People will still come to the Cove, and here, even if it doesn’t snow.”

“Maybe.” Aunt Margie got up, taking her tea with her. “But rain and mud aren’t the Currier and Ives experience people want.” Then she smiled at her niece. “Then again, your talent doesn’t depend on the weather. If nothing else, we can always count on your treats.”

Molly curtsied. “I’ll do my best!” But after Aunt Margie laughed and exited the kitchen, Molly frowned. What WAS going on? Why was it so warm on the Maine coast?

She turned to her refrigerator, cradling her tea mug in her hands as she contemplated what she could do to help. As Aunt Margie had said, her talent wasn’t weather-dependent, but it did depend on what she had on hand. Molly sipped the Christmas tea that was her favorite as she looked over the jars of jam that Lisa had dropped off the day before: jewel-toned glass containers of blueberry, cherry, fig and orange marmalade that glittered in the kitchen’s light, next to a large block of creamy butter. Molly pulled the butter out and set it on the island, set her tea down, and then went into her pantry.

Soon, the entire store smelled of sugar, spice and butter as Molly baked. Despite her worry, she began to relax and hum along to the carols on the radio. It would be okay. The snow would come.

Schrodinger wandered in as she was putting spoonfuls of jam into the depressions on the cookies. Those smell good, he said, jumping up onto a stool. Like Christmas.

“Christmas smells like sugar cookies?” Molly said, putting the spoon in the dishwasher and putting the cookies aside to let the jam set a bit.

Sometimes. Schrodinger nodded when she held up his tea cup. Sometimes it smells different.

“Like what?” She filled his mug and hers from the copper kettle on the back burner of the big stove, and eyed the wall clock. Lunch would be starting soon, but she had time for a little bit of a break.

It depends. Sometimes it smells like peppermint and pine, sometimes more like cinnamon and warmth. Sometimes like apples and fire. The CrossCat cocked his head at her. Do you think the weather might be because Old Man Winter hasn’t been around?

Molly blinked. “I hadn’t even considered that.” Two years ago, the spirit of Winter had spent a lot of time in the Cove, and it had been a hard, cold winter. “I guess it could be something like that.”

So maybe all we need to do is ask him to come back. Schrodinger said hopefully. He could come back and bring the snow!

“We could ask him,” Molly said, thinking it over. “I bet if we bring a basket of goodies, he might be more favorable.”

And Lily and Zoey?

“Lily and Zoey have school this week,” Molly said. “And somehow, I doubt either Corrine or Donna would want us to take them out to go to see Old Man Winter.”

Even to save the season?

“Christmas isn’t just snow,” Molly told him. “Christmas is going to be fine, even if it doesn’t snow.” Schrodinger looked skeptical, and she said, “After all, they still have Christmas in places like Aruba, and it doesn’t snow there.” She reached over and touched Schrodinger’s furry chest, right above his heart. “Christmas is family, remember? It’s here. Not in the snow, or anything like that. Here.”

I know, but I still think we should talk to Old Man Winter, Schrodinger said stubbornly.

“Okay, we’ll go,” Molly said. “How about Thursday?”

Why not tomorrow?

“Because Drew has tomorrow off, and we need to do our own decorating, remember?”

That perked the CrossCat up. Decorating? What are we going to do?

“You’ll see,” Molly told him. She’d gone out and bought the supplies without him, wanting to surprise him. “I think you’ll like it!”

4 Responses to “(advent) December 1st! It’s here!”

  1. Michell Plested

    Very nice start, Val. Looking forward to what you have up your sleeve this year. 🙂

  2. Val

    I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

  3. connie cockrell

    Yay! *rubbing hands together* A new Advent story!

  4. Val

    I hope you liked it!

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