(advent) Thursday, December 6

When are they getting here? Schrodinger demanded, looking out the kitchen window again.

“They just got out of school ten minutes ago,” Molly said, chuckling a little at his impatience. “Kiaya said they’d be here by 4 pm. You can wait a bit longer.”

But I want to know what we’re doing with the calendar! He looked over his shoulder at her. I can’t believe you didn’t call out to me before you went into it!

Molly had told him and Drew what had happened to her the day before, and he’d been chagrined to realize that he’d napped through the whole thing.

“I didn’t have time,” she said. “It just sort of happened.”

Who do you think Basilissa is?

“I don’t know, but they’re powerful.”

Don’t you mean she?

“No,” Molly said, after a long moment’s thought. “I don’t think they have a gender. It doesn’t really seem to matter to them.”

Could it have been an Eidolon?

Molly had been wondering the same thing. “I don’t know,” she said honestly. “Maybe? I’ve never really met one before that wasn’t in someone else, after all.”

The more she considered it, the more she thought Schrodinger might be right. “Maybe I should talk to Jade,” she said finally, going back to the frosting she was scooping into decorating bags. “Although I’m not sure what she can do about an Eidolon.”

We don’t know that it’s a bad Eidolon, Schrodinger said. She’s always said there must be good Eidolons too.

“That’s true,” Molly said, laying the filled bag next to the others, and picking up the last bag. She looked at the filled bags. “Do you think we’ll have enough to cover the entire time frame for the bake sale tomorrow?”

No, Schrodinger said, finally getting down from the window frame and coming over to join her. I don’t think you ever will. We always sell out.

That was certainly true. Molly thought every year that it would be the year she’d come home with leftovers, that something wouldn’t sell, and it never happened. In fact, she usually came home with a clipboard full of custom orders, and if Sue and/or Drew weren’t with her, she’d take even more.

That reminds me, I have to confirm with Sue that she’s coming tomorrow, Molly thought, adding another thing to her mental checklist. Drew has to work, after all.

Her best friend Sue Elder ran the museum in town, a museum dedicated to the history of Carter’s Cove and the man who had founded it when he’d sailed into the harbor and discovered not one, but two Gates. Carter’s Cove not only had the Gate Station where Drew worked, but a Sea Gate that ships sailed in and out of on a daily basis. It was part of what made the Cove so unique. Sea Gates were a lot rarer than land Gates, because unlike the land Gates, there was no actual Gate structure. It was pure magic, and the ships that used it had a Gate navigator that aligned the Sea Gates for each ship.

I wonder if that’s why the Eidolons seem drawn here, she mused. Because we’re basically saturated in magic. It’s the logical place to live if you are a magical being that doesn’t want to set up your own Realm. Or maybe that’s it. Are we just too attractive, since we don’t technically have a ruler? She didn’t think the Snow Queen counted, since she didn’t really rule the Cove. And the president is not really a threat to anyone magical.

What are you thinking about? Schrodinger said, bringing her back to herself. Molly found that she was standing with the half-filled frosting bag in one hand, the spatula in the other, and the CrossCat staring curiously at her.

“I’m sorry,” she said, shaking her head. “I got distracted. What were you saying?”

He gave her a searching look. I said, talking to Jade about what happened was a good idea. When were you planning on seeing her?

“She mentioned she might come into the store on Sunday, to listen to the concert,” Molly said, finishing up the last frosting bag, and putting the dirty bowl in the dishwasher. Then she turned back to the table. “I think we’re ready for them!”

Just as she said it, they both heard the sounds of a car turning into the front yard. “And that would be everyone else!”

The house didn’t have a front entrance per se; the wide front porch opened into the kitchen, rather than a hall, which was something that both Molly and Drew had fallen in love with when they’d first seen the property. The family that had built it had obviously lived as much in the kitchen as Molly seemed to. Now, as she listened to her visitors come up the stairs to the porch, shouting greetings, Molly knew that this had been the right place for them.

“Molly, Molly, we brought you a present!” Kaylee shouted as she blew through the door, her eyes bright with anticipation.

“A present?” Molly said, grinning at her. “But it’s not Christmas yet!”

“It’s a pre-Christmas present,” Lily said, coming in behind her sister.

“A pre-Christmas present?” Molly said. “Really?”

“More of a they couldn’t wait to give it to you and decided that it had to be given as soon as it came in present,” Corrine Barrett said, coming in behind her daughters and their friends. Schrodinger had gone out to wrangle Aurora, who was rolling in the snow enthusiastically.

Corrine handed the box she was carrying to Molly, who looked curiously at it. It was on the small side, and fairly light. “Should I open it now?”

“Yes!” the children all chorused. “You need to open it now!”

They clustered around her as she opened the box and pulled out a travel tea mug. It was glass and held a tea diffuser within it.

“And the best part is that it’s magic!” Kaylee crowed. “Watch!”

“Kaylee, no!” Corrine said, but it was too late. She’d grabbed the mug from Molly’s hand and smashed it down on the wooden floor.

Molly gasped, but in surprise, as the mug, instead of shattering, bounced and then skittered around.

“It’s unbreakable!” Lily said excitedly. “We found someone to enchant it so you can’t break it!”

“That’s amazing!” Molly said, picking up the travel mug and examining it carefully. The glass was perfectly intact, and someone had hand-painted the words “Molly’s Travel Mug” in golden paint. Silver snowflakes were sprinkled all over the surface.

“You guys, this is awesome!” she said, hugging them all. “Thank you so much!”

“Drew said you didn’t like the taste of the metal travel mugs, or the plastic ones, but you didn’t want to get a glass one because it would break,” Gideon said. “He was looking for something to get you.”

“That’s right,” Zoey said. “So Pavel found this for us.”

“Of course he did!” Molly laughed. “Pavel can find just about anything!” She set the mug in the sink and turned to them. “You guys ready to help me decorate a ton of gingerbread soldiers and snowmen today?”

“Absolutely!” Lily said. “But we have to do the Advent calendar first!” She turned and called out the front door, “Come on, guys! We’re going to do the calendar!”

The two dogs and the CrossCat came bounding in, after considerately stopping on the front porch to shake the snow from their fur. We’re ready! Jack announced. Let’s do this!

Molly had hung the Advent calendar on the pantry door, and now they all stood around it. The little cat was curled up on the fluffy bath mat in front of the sink, sleeping soundly.

“Good afternoon, kitten!” Zoey said. “Are you ready to see what we’re doing today?”

The cat woke up, yawned, and stretched lazily. Then he trotted into the next room, which was obviously a nursery. The room was large, and held two small beds. One bed was draped with what looked like white lace, shot through with snowflakes and ribbons, like a bed a princess would sleep in. The other was also draped, but with solid panels, creating a medieval tent over the bed. A sword and shield leaned against both beds, and there were toys on the shelves around the entire room. Over by the fireplace, a small table held a plate of cookies and a glass of milk, with the words “For Santa” written in childish script on a white card propped against the glass. There was a small tree in one corner, decorated with small toys and bright glass balls. A garland was hung over the mantel, and there were two stockings hanging in front of the little fire, waiting for the gifts that were sure to be put in by a certain man in a red suit.

The cat went over to the plate of cookies and sniffed eagerly.

“No, kitten, that’s for Santa!” Kaylee said. “You shouldn’t take them!”

As if it had heard her, the cat hopped back down and went over to the tree in the corner. There were a few presents already underneath it, and he pulled one out. It was a long box, hastily wrapped, by someone who didn’t wrap presents very well.

“Wow, looks like Lily and Kaylee wrapped that,” Corrine murmured to Molly, who hastily stifled a laugh.

The cat worried off the bows (there were six of them, stuck randomly over the box), and then ripped off the paper. Smoke curled from the box as he pulled the lid off, and the words “Let’s decorate some cookies!” rose up. Then it drifted out of the calendar and solidified into aprons that dropped over the children’s heads.

“Wow, a new apron!” Zoey said admiringly. The aprons were white, with a fun jingle bell print all over and pockets big enough to put cookie cutters in.

“Yay!” Lily agreed. “And these will be good for crafts later with these big pockets!”

“I’m glad you’re excited,” Molly said, leading them over to the table. “Because we have a LOT of cookies to decorate today!”

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