(advent) December 6

Wednesday, December 6

 

The first scent that hit them when they opened the door to the bookstore was cookies. Sweet, buttery deliciousness that welcomed all the children in, beckoning them to the haven that was Molly’s kitchen.

“Those aren’t sugar cookies!” Lily said, inhaling deeply. “What are you making, Molly?”

“Shortbread!” Molly said, beaming at them. “They’re all cooling now, and once you’ve had your snack and warmed up a bit, you can help me decorate them!” She gestured at all the trays around the room. “As you can see, I went a bit overboard, but I think they’ll sell at the bake sale on Friday.”

When was the last time you ever didn’t sell out at the bake sale? Schrodinger said. I don’t think it’s ever happened.

“There’s a first time for everything,” Molly said. “What would you guys like for snack? I took some lemon blueberry muffins out earlier.”

“That sounds lovely!” Zoey said. “I love your lemon blueberry muffins!”

Gideon looked up at Molly slyly. “Could we taste-test the shortbread, Molly?”

Molly laughed. “Of course you can! Go sit down at the tables, and I’ll bring everything out to you. I have fresh cider too – do you want it hot or cold?”

Gideon and Kaylee requested hot cider, with cinnamon sticks to stir them. Lily asked for tea instead, having tasted her aunt’s Christmas tea and fallen in love with it. Zoey asked for cold cider. Schrodinger asked for his Earl Grey, Jack for a decaf chamomile, and Aurora for water. Then they all trooped out in to the tea room.

The weather had been threatening all day – the kind of grey and glowering day that sometimes comes up in the winter, when the clouds lay low over the town and grumble to the snowbanks. The wind slinks along the streets, constantly looking over its shoulder to see if the snowflakes are following it. Ice forms on any liquid the instant it goes outside, creating treacherous roads and sidewalks. It was part of the reason Pavel had picked the kids up and brought them to the bookstore, although he hadn’t been able to stay with them.

“I’m off to the Station,” he’d said. “Picking up more dignitaries. But it was too dangerous to allow you guys to walk to the store, so I stopped in earlier and asked Molly if I could get you.”

He’d also used the drive over to talk to Schrodinger, who now pondered the full import of what the pirate had said to him. There were currently four delegations at the Snow Queen’s castle, with another two scheduled to come in that afternoon. By the time that the weekend, all ten would have arrived.

“And they’re already spatting,” Pavel had said, shaking his head. “Honestly, you’d think they were seven.” Then he’d paused. “No, I take that back. I’ve seen Kaylee and Gideon act more mature than some of them.”

Do you think the Snow Queen will be able to get them to cooperate? Schrodinger had asked.

“If she can’t, with Jack and Molly’s help, no one can.”

Which was true, Schrodinger thought now, hooking his front paws on the edge of his pet bed and laying his chin on them. He was on the side away from the wood stove, so Jack could soak up the heat. Aurora had claimed the other bed, lying on her back and letting her tongue loll out.

“That can’t be comfortable,” Molly said, coming out with a tray. “Doesn’t it hurt your back, Aurora?”

Not really, the husky replied, flipping neatly over. It gives me a new perspective on things.

After they had had their snacks, Lily and Zoey went in to help Molly bring out the trays and trays of shortbread fingers.

“What are we decorating them with?” Gideon looked at the straight shortbread cookies.

“Remember how we did the pretzels last year?” Molly said. “Dipped in the chocolate, and then in sprinkles or jimmies or buttons? I was thinking these would be good for that too, since I didn’t get any pretzels.”

“Ooh, I like that idea!” he said, nodding excitedly. “That will be fun!”

Lily looked around the room, realizing they were the only ones there. “Let’s set up an assembly line,” she suggested to the others. “We can each have a station if we do it right.”

“You guys can do whatever you want,” Molly said. “I have muffins to bake, so I’m leaving this up to you.”

“You can count on us!” Zoey said, and the others nodded. “We’ll get them done!”

In the end, they moved two of the six tables together and set up dipping stations. Zoey and Lily would dip the shortbread into either white or milk chocolate, and then hand the cookie to Gideon and Kaylee, who would roll them in one of the toppings. Molly had given them an assortment of edible glitter, little Christmas jimmies that had trees, candy canes, and stars, as well as rainbow jimmies and mini candy-coated buttons. Then the cookies went back on the trays to harden. It took them a few hours, but Molly came out to help after her muffins went into the oven, slipping the hardened cookies into bags that she shut with a festive twist tie.

“What are you doing for the main centerpiece this year, Molly?” Zoey asked, as they finished up the last tray.

“Are you bringing the skating pond again?” Kaylee asked excitedly.

“No, not this year.” Molly had done a magical skating pond entirely out of gingerbread and had brought it to the bake sale as the centerpiece for her tables for the past several years. “I think it needs a break.”

“So what is the centerpiece this year?” Gideon asked.

“I thought I’d bring a tree this year,” Molly said.

The kids looked at each other. “Just a tree?” Kaylee said. “What kind of centerpiece is that?”

Molly winked at her. “You’ll see.” And she refused to say anything more, no matter how they pestered her.

 

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