(advent) Saturday, December 8

“Good morning, Molly!”

“Good morning, Gideon!” Molly said, smiling down at him. “You’re here bright and early!”

“Mom said she had stuff to do,” he said seriously. “And I said I’d be happy to sit with Schrodinger and read while we waited for the others. Is that okay, Molly?”

Molly nodded, and Kiaya looked relieved. “You know you’re always welcome,” Molly continued. “Would you like something hot to drink?”

He considered it as he shed his coat, then shook his head. “Not yet,” Gideon said. “Maybe later.”

“Well, you know where I am,” Molly said, watching him go back out to the tea room. Then she turned to Kiaya. “Tea for the road?”

“Bless you,” Kiaya said. “I need to run some errands today, and I couldn’t very well shop for Gideon with him there. And Zeke’s busy all day.”

Molly had pulled out one of the travel mugs she kept for friends, and was filling it with hot water. “It’s no trouble at all,” she said, handing the cup to Kiaya. “I adore having him, and maybe he can help bring Schrodinger out of his funk.”

“Is he okay?” Kiaya asked, as Molly handed her one of the peppermint tea bags she liked.

“He says he’s just grumpy, but I think if he doesn’t snap out of it soon, I’m calling Dr. O’Malley,” Molly said. “He’s acting like he’s not feeling well, but he won’t tell me what’s wrong.”

Kiaya shook her head. “I hope he feels better.”

Molly looked out the kitchen door towards the large cat bed where Schrodinger and Gideon were already curled up together, with the boy reading something to the CrossCat. “Me too,” she said. “Me too.”

She kept an eye on him as the morning went on. Lily, Kaylee and Zoey had ballet class, so she wasn’t expecting them until after lunch. Aurora and Jack arrived about mid-morning, and curled up with the two of them. He seemed to cheer up a bit with the arrival of his friends, and his appetite was fine.

Maybe I’m over-reacting, she thought. He’s just tired. Lord knows we’ve been busy.

She sat back down on a stool in the kitchen, looking over at the calendar, a mug of tea in her hands. Her eyes wandered over the house, and Molly wondered idly what it would be like to live in a house like that. The upkeep alone made her shudder – they didn’t even use all the rooms they had in the farmhouse, after all. Although that’s changing…

Molly shook her head and looked down at the pages in front of her. Sue had kept the gingerbread house orders to thirty this year, something that Molly was grateful for. As much as I love doing the gingerbread, it’s getting to be a lot, especially while still running the tea room, she admitted to herself. But I can’t not do it…

Luckily this year, most of the orders were for the traditional cottage that she could do en mass. There were two orders of gingerbread men, which she would be able to do easily, and there was only two that really needed a lot of work.

One was Sarah’s, of course. Every year, the blind girl and her mother ordered a gingerbread piece for her father, one of the policemen in the Cove. This year, Sarah had requested a stone walled cottage, with a well in the front.

“Can you do that?” Sarah had asked.

“I think so,” Molly had replied. “I’m going to try!”

The other one was for the Station. Drew and his cohorts had requested a locomotive engine for Mal, the Stationmaster, who was a train aficionado. Molly was looking forward to doing that as well.

She started sketching out the houses and making a list of all her ingredients, keeping part of her attention on the tea room, in case someone needed something.

After her plans were sketched out, Molly stood up and pulled out a loaf of cranberry orange tea bread. The girls would be hungry once they got to the tea room, and Molly figured that a ham and cheese grilled sandwich on the cranberry bread would hit the spot.

“It smells so good in here!” Kaylee said as they came in. “Did you make us lunch, Molly?”

“Of course I did!” Molly said. “I remember ballet practice!”

The boys and Aurora had joined them in the kitchen as well, and now Gideon said, “Can we do the Advent calendar now, Molly?”

“Let’s eat first,” Molly said, glancing over at the calendar. “I have a feeling that you guys might be going out and about today, and you don’t want to be too hungry to have fun, do you?”

“No,” they agreed, and clustered around the island. Molly was happy to see that Schrodinger was just as engaged as the others.

I wonder if he’s lonely, she thought. He’s the only one of his kind around here, and the kids don’t always have time for him. A nibble of a thought was wending its way through her mind, but she kept it hidden. It wouldn’t do for him to catch a whiff of what she was planning.

But I bet the Librarian would be able to help me.

The hungry kids and animals made short work of the pile of sandwiches and hot beverages she had set out in front of them. Then, after thanking her, they went over to the calendar, which was once again hanging on the back of the kitchen door.

“What are we doing today, kitten?” Kaylee asked, and the little cat, who had been giving himself a lazy bath on the chaise lounge, jumped down and went into the next room. This was obviously the master bedroom, as a massive carved bed dominated the room. There were two matching carved nightstands, one on either side of the bed, with marble tops that held two small Christmas trees. The counterpane on the bed was a cheery red and white striped, and someone had placed round pillows at the head of the bed, looking for all the world like ornaments. There were two stockings on the mantel of the fireplace on the left side of the room, and garlands wound their way up the posts of the bed. The little cat went over to the right side of the bed, stood on his hind legs, and reached one paw up under the pillow. He pulled out a long stocking cap that billowed smoke out.

“Don’t be a Scrooge! It’s the Christmas parade!”

The smoke letters hung there for a full minute before they coalesced into a ball and floated out of the calendar. It wrapped around them and then went over to their coats. “Come on!” it formed. “Let’s go!”

“A parade?” Lily said. “We’ve never had a Christmas parade!”

“Well, maybe the calendar made one?” Gideon was already pulling his coat on. “Let’s go and find out!”

Before Molly could do more than blink, they were dressed and hurrying out the front door.

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