December 2

Molly stood in the middle of her kitchen, surveying the various boxes spread out over the normally immaculate island. The day before the annual Craft Fair at Daughter of Stars Middle School was always busy, and it never seemed to get easier, she mused.

Maybe if you didn’t try to top yourself every year, it would get easier, Schrodinger suggested, from where he sat in the kitchen doorway.

“Probably, but what’s the fun in that?” Molly said, grinning in spite of herself. “Besides, I have a reputation to maintain.”

Let’s be honest. You could show up with just boxes of cookies and sell the boxes unopened and unseen, and everyone would buy them, the CrossCat said dryly. Your reputation speaks for itself.

Molly considered that. “You know, that’s not a bad idea, cat,” she said finally. “I’ve been wondering what to make my centerpiece, and now I think I know.”

Schrodinger tilted his head. What?

Instead of answering, she went into the pantry. “The kids will be here soon,” she called back. “Why don’t you go wait for them?”

That was as clear a dismissal as she’d ever given Schrodinger, and he took himself back to his cat bed beside the wood stove, giving her a bit a breathing room. Once she’d heard him settle down and sigh (he always sighed when getting into the big bed alone), Molly paused and pulled out her cell phone.

*Any news?* she texted, and waited for the reply.

It took a few minutes, during which she located the sleigh she’d ostensibly come into the pantry to find. When her phone beeped, she glanced over.

*None yet. We’re still looking. Keep an eye on them.*

As if we ever stopped, Molly thought to herself, and brought the sleigh out to the island.


“I wonder what we’ll do today!” Gideon said excitedly, as the four friends made their way to the bookstore.

“I bet we’re helping Molly again,” Kaylee said. “After all, the craft fair is tomorrow! And she’s been baking a storm.”

“I just hope we don’t have to package all those cookies we decorated,” Lily said, glancing at Zoey, who had been quiet most of the way. “That’s the worst.” When Zoey didn’t answer, Lily slowed and said “Hang on, Zoey, I’ve got to retie my shoe. Kaylee, Gideon, we’ll meet you there.”

Once the two younger kids had run off, Lily looked at her best friend. “More bad news?” she said gently.

Zoey sighed. “No, just not looking forward to the fifteenth. Mom was talking about it this morning, and how she hopes the magic of the Cove works for Chuck, and I’m just like, I don’t want to think about it.” She shook her head and gave Lily a crooked grin. “That’s all. Come on, let’s go catch up and see what fun we’ll have today! I’d rather think about that!”

When they got to the store, they found the others waiting impatiently for them, minus Jack and Aurora, who had stayed home today. Molly brought out the chest, and they all dove in, looking for the 2.

“I see it!” Kaylee’s finger brushed against an elegant curlicue where the number “2” floated in silver ink. There was a click, and another key fell out. She inserted it into the lock, which clicked promptly and opened. “What the heck?”

Inside the chest were scissors, tape, sheets of wrapping paper, and ribbon, along with brown paper tags. She looked at her companions. “Are we wrapping things today?”

Molly grinned. “I see the Advent calendar reads minds. We are! Schrodinger gave me a great idea for the centerpiece for tomorrow.” She brought out the boxes of cookies that she’d packaged up last night, along with some plain white boxes, the kind you’d get socks or clothing in, and explained.

“Do you remember when Aunt Margie and Lai did the Blind Date with a Book a few weeks ago?” she said, and they nodded. “I thought it would be fun to have that be for cookies! So instead of putting all of them out, we’re going to make some blind date boxes! On the card, we can put the ingredients, so that no one gets sick by accident, and then they’ll all go into the sleigh for the middle of the table. What do you think?”

“I think that’s great!” Zoey said, and the others nodded. “Let’s start!”

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