(advent) Plots and Pianofortes

There are no pianofortes in this story, but I’ve always wanted to title something that way.  Yes, I’m odd.

There are plots, though!  Lots of them! (Well, for localized definitions of the word “lots”)

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“Hang on, Schrodinger!  You’re going too fast!”

But I don’t want to be late!  The CrossCat went careening across the slick sidewalk, nearly wiping out as he skidded on a patch of ice.  Molly (who was walking much slower and watching where she put her feet) could only watch as he tumbled headfirst into a snowbank.

“Are you okay?” she asked, making her way gingerly to him.

Yes.  His mental voice was grumpy as he wiggled out of the snow.  Molly couldn’t help giggling at the snow hanging on his face.

“I warned you,” she said, taking pity on him and picking him up.  He was big enough that she was thankful she’d thought to put her songbook and the tins of cookies she’d brought with her into a backpack.  A shoulder bag would have been a nightmare.

But we might be late!

It’s better than being in the hospital!”

A cold, icy rain had fallen the night before, and left everything a sheet of ice.  Molly had her boots on, but even with the additional traction of the YakTraks, she was afraid she might slip.  Especially since she was carrying Schrodinger.

“Besides, we have to wait for Old Man Winter,” Molly reminded Schrodinger.  “So we can’t go right in anyways.”

Do you really think he’ll show up?

“He came to the ballet.  He was even nice to Lily.”  Molly wondered, though, if the gruff old man would show up.  He hadn’t responded when she’d mentioned it to him.  As if he knows there’s something else I want to ask him, she thought privately.

They made it, eventually, to the church, where someone was already up in the bell tower, ringing the bells.   And waiting there, in front of the steps (which Father Christopher had de-iced, luckily) was Old Man Winter, in the same suit and scowl he’d worn to the ballet.

“Took you long enough,” he grunted, as Molly reached him and set Schrodinger down on the ice-free sidewalk.  “Thought you wouldn’t show.”

“Sorry,” she said.  “Not all of us can walk on ice like it’s dirt.”

“Hrmph.”  Old Man Winter watched her as she pulled the rubber and metal YakTraks off her boots.  “Even with those?”

“Even with these,” Molly said, clipping them to her backpack.  Then she looked up at him.  “Ready to go sing?”

“I don’t sing,” Old Man Winter snapped.  “I’m only here to watch.”

“Suit yourself.”  Molly shrugged and climbed the steps into the church.

St. Michael’s was an old church, full of dark polished wood, gleaming silver candlesticks and the scent of beeswax and incense.  Above the altar was a rosette glass window that sparkled in the late afternoon sun.  And there were people everywhere.

Molly wove her way through the crowd towards one side of the room, not even trying to keep up with Schrodinger, who had shot off to see some of his friends.   Her destination was the table on the far side of the church, where Christmas cookies and other goodies had already begun to pile up.

“Don’t worry,” she said lightly to Old Man Winter.  “I’ve got a tin for you and Drew too.”  And she handed it to him.

“Trying to bribe me?” he asked, but there wasn’t as much bite in his tone.

“Maybe,” Molly said, grinning.  She held out the second tin to him.  “What would this get me?”

“What’s in it?” Old Man Winter countered.

“More of the orange thyme sugar cookies, plus lemon snowdrops and some homemade chocolate fudge brownies.”  Molly had put some of Drew’s favorites in the tin.

“Sounds good,” Old Man Winter allowed, and there was a ghost of a smile on his face.  “What are you asking for it?”

Molly looked at him.  “A date out with Drew on Saturday.”

The smile vanished.  “No.”

“Please?” Molly begged.  “It’s for the wedding – my friends have been planning this for months!  And I haven’t seen him all month!  Just for a few hours?”  She held out the tin.  “Please?”

“No.”  And Old Man Winter turned and left.

Molly stood and watched him go, her lip trembling a little.  Then she straightened up, put the other tin on the table as well, and went to go find Schrodinger.

The CrossCat was sitting in one of the pews with Sarah and another CrossCat, one she didn’t recognize.  This Cat was regal and black, slim and yet larger half again as Schrodinger, and her eyes were a dark, deep green.

Molly!  Schrodinger jumped up as he caught sight of her.  Then he stopped.  Where’s…

Molly shook her head at him, and he stopped.  “He had to leave.”

Oh.  Schrodinger blinked, then shook his own head.  Too bad.  Let me introduce you to the Librarian.

This was the Librarian?  Molly sat down next to the Cat, and said, “It’s very nice to finally meet you!”

And you.  The Librarian’s voice was deep and rich, much more mellow than Schrodinger’s, and there was a feeling of great age and wisdom in her tone.  He is very fond of you, Molly.

“And I’m fond of him,” Molly said, stroking Schrodinger’s head.  “But he didn’t tell me you were coming today!”

He didn’t know.  The Librarian turned to look at the younger CrossCat.  I decided I needed to see what was going on.

Molly knew instinctively that the Cat was not referring to the carol sing.  And I just chased Old Man Winter away, she thought regretfully.  Stupid!

No, said the Librarian.  Not at all.  She put her paw on Molly’s thigh.  You miss your Drew very much.  You are young, and in love.  Old Man Winter has not been young in a very long time, and I do not know if he has ever been in love.  He does not know how much this young man means to you.  She paused a bit, then added, But I think he is going to learn.

Molly was going to ask more, but then Father Christopher stopped by.  “Molly!  I see you, and Schrodinger, but I thought…” His voice trailed away as Molly shook her head.  “Oh.  Well, in that case, maybe I should give this to you now, instead of waiting.”  He held out the small ornament: this one in blue and silver, with a series of little silver music notes hanging from the bottom edge. 

“Thank you,” she said, giving him a small smile.  “It’s lovely.  No note, though?”

“Not for this one,” Father Christopher said, and he nodded to the Librarian before moving on.

Sarah had been strangely quiet throughout the entire exchange.  Now, she reached out and touched Molly on the arm.  “May I see it?” she asked.

“Of course.”  Molly held the ornament out to her, letting her run her fingers over the beadwork, describing the colors to her.  Around them, the rest of the carollers settled into the pews.

“He’ll come back,” Sarah said, her fingers dropping back down to the Librarian’s soft fur.  “I know Drew will.”

“I hope so,” Molly said, looking down at the ornament again.  “I hope so.”

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Short one tonight, folks – sorry!  But there’s more coming, I promise!

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