(advent) Tuesday, December 11

Tuesday, December 11

Come on, Molly! Schrodinger danced around the kitchen, anxious to be off. We’re going to be late!

Molly laughed at him as she pulled her coat on. “We can’t be late, silly,” she said. “They have to wait for us to get to anywhere else! Besides, we have everything they need to finish the surprise!”

That was true enough, Schrodinger had to admit. The special supplies they had picked up after picking out their trees yesterday were safely stowed in the back of Molly’s Jeep. But still! I can’t wait!

“Me either,” Molly agreed, following him out on to the porch. “They are going to be so surprised.”

It was a glorious bright afternoon, the kind of winter day with a sky so blue it stretched forever, and every snowflake sparkled in the bright light. A sharp wind, smelling of pine and snow and crisp cold, made the ribbons on the wreaths that Molly and Schrodinger had hung on the railings of the porch dance. He could taste the faintest bit of sea salt – even inland, you could smell the sea in Carter’s Cove. Schrodinger dashed across the yard and waited impatiently for her to reach him so she could open the front door.

Hudson was playing Christmas carols on WCOV, the radio station for Carter’s Cove, and Molly and Schrodinger sang along at the tops of their lungs as they drove into town to pick up the others. By the time they pulled into Molly’s traditional parking spot behind the bookstore, she was fully into the Christmas spirit.

Which was good, because waiting for them inside the bookstore was not what they had expected at all.

“You are not going to get away with this!”

The words hit Molly like a sledgehammer, and she very nearly reeled backwards away from the speaker: an angry man with a towering beard that bristled threateningly at Kris, who looked supremely unconcerned.

“Sure, Nelson, and what should I be getting away with?” Kris countered. “It’s not as if it affects you at all, you know.”

Nelson’s face went even redder, and he swung around, looking for another target. His gaze fell on Molly. “Do you know what this woman means to do here?” He asked, stabbing an accusing finger at Kris.

“Move into the Cove and open a shop?” Molly said, looking at Kris. “Making a living?”

“A living?” Nelson shouted. “More like a dying! And the one dying will be this town! He glared back at Kris. “I won’t let you do it! I won’t!” And then he pushed past Molly and stomped out of the store.

“What was his problem?” Molly asked Kris.

Kris shook her head, the long grey braid swinging with the movement. “He’s an unhappy man, is Nelson. His is a long, sad story, and I’ve no wish to go over it now. Not at Christmas. Some folks just can’t move on.”

Did he live in a town you lived in? Schrodinger asked, coming up to her. Is that why he doesn’t like you?

Kris leaned down and stroked Schrodinger’s ears. “We knew each other a long time ago, in a place that doesn’t exist except in our memories. And while I’ve learned to put those into the past, not everyone has. Some day, Nelson will have to own up to the fact that our village is gone, and then he will be forced to deal with the present, instead of obsessively going over the past.” She sighed. “I can only hope that it is sooner, rather than later. Perhaps this place will be good for him.”

If any place can be, it would be here! Schrodinger agreed. This is an amazing town to live in!

“Sure, and it is.” Kris smiled. “Molly, I realize it is your day off, but may I bother you for a bit about tea?”

“Of course!” Molly said, leading the way in to the kitchen. “We’re waiting for the others to get here anyways. How can I help?”

Kris followed her in, and took the seat that Molly offered. “I’m looking for a good tea to leave in a crock pot, for a party. Something that will appeal to a wide range of people, but will be okay to sit.”

Molly frowned thoughtfully. “Are you thinking of a black tea, or an herbal?”

“I don’t know.” Kris spread her hands. “I bow to your expertise.”

“Wait here.” Molly moved into the pantry, already running scenarios in her head. Not a black tea, she mused. An herbal is more forgiving to sitting, and that means that everyone can have some. Perhaps a mix on cider – there’s that spiced apple tea that would be lovely.

She chose a few tins from the shelf and brought them back into the kitchen to find her new friend examining the Advent calendar, Schrodinger at her side.

“And it brings you magical gifts?” Kris was saying.

Sometimes. Mostly it brings us things to do, and it’s loads of fun! Schrodinger said. I can’t wait to see what we’re doing today!

“You are lucky indeed to have such friends that give you such things,” Kris said admiringly. “Perhaps one day I too shall have that kind of friend.” She looked over at Molly. “What have you found for me?”

“I think this would be best, especially if you put it into an apple cider,” Molly said. “I’m going to mix a few of my herbal teas together for you, and then you can float it in the crock pot.” She pulled out a bowl, and then an empty tea tin, and got to work. It was a simple task, and soon she handed the tin to Kris. “Just use a quarter of a cup of the tea mixture to the crock pot,” she said. “It would be best if you put the herbs into a square of cheesecloth or muslin, and then tie it up. Easier than a tea ball, and you won’t get the weird metallic taste in the cider.”

“That’s perfect!” Kris beamed as she accepted the tin. “How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing,” Molly said. “Consider it a welcome to the Cove gift.”

“Then you must come to my party!” Kris said. “All of you!” She looked at the children who had just trooped in. “You will, won’t you?”

“A party? Of course!” Kaylee said. “When is it?”

“December 19 is the date I’m planning,” Kris said. “So I can open the store before Christmas.”

“Oooh,” Lily said. “That sounds awesome!” She looked at Molly. “We can go, can’t we?”

“As long as your parents say so, I don’t see why not,” Molly said. She looked at her regular calendar. “It’s a Wednesday, so I’ll be here, but I’m sure I can stop over at some point, and you guys will be out of school by then.”

“Yay!” Gideon said, and he grabbed Kaylee’s hands, the two of them whirling around in glee. “I love parties!”

“Guys, guys, come on, we need to see what the Advent calendar is having us do today!” Zoey said, giggling a little at the antics of the younger children. Then she turned to Kris. “Would you like to help us?”

“Absolutely!” Kris said. “What do we do?”

“We watch,” Lily said, and pointed to the little cat, who was sitting on the stairs, obviously waiting for them. “What are we doing today, kitten?”

He jumped to his feet and trotted down the stairs and then through the hall, stepping into a back garden that was coated with snow. There was a Christmas tree out here, decked with long strings of cranberries and popcorn. Suet balls shaped like bells and gingerbread men hung on it, along with apples, and the top of the tree had a nest, with a beautiful red cardinal perched on the edge, his beak close to the beak of his mate, who sat within the nest.

“Oh, what a pretty tree!” Zoey said. “I love how it’s for the birds and animals! Just like we planned for Indi!”

It’s like he knew! Schrodinger said. I wonder how the Snow Queen knew what we were going to do!

“She’s the Snow Queen,” Molly reminded him.

The little cat had sniffed the tree and then gone over to the big snowman that someone had built. The snowman had a jaunty red scarf tied around his neck, and a big black top hat, with a sprig of holly tucked into the hat band. A pipe was stuck into his smiling face, and his bright eyes were bricks of charcoal that sparkled with magic and mischief. As they watched, he leaned over to the cat and patted its head with one mittened hand, then looked up and out, and raised his hat politely to them. The expected smoke came out of the hat, and formed the words, “Remember that this is the season to help others. And have fun!”

“Sure, and isn’t that amazing,” Kris said, as the smoke came out of the calendar. It wrapped around each child, and as they watched, it dropped suet stars into their hands.

“Thank you, calendar!” the children chorused, and then turned to Molly.

“Do you think Indi will like it?” Lily asked.

“I do!” Molly said. “Did you guys bring your skates?”

“Mom said she’d meet us there with it,” Zoey said. “So let’s go!”

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