December 3

December 3

“Are we ready?” Molly asked, surveying the table in front of her. Around her, the barely-contained chaos of the annual Carter’s Cove Craft Fair swirled and buzzed as craftspeople set up their own tables, laden with the fruits of their labor. This year, she’d managed to snag tables next to Kiaya Fable, who was doing her first fair as the owner of The Home For Wayward Crafts, which was (as she said) “a thrift store for artists, crafters, and people who like crafty stuff.” It was an amazing place, and Molly loved to browse in it.

“Ready for this? You might be, but I think I’m more ready to crawl back into bed,” Kiaya said, shaking her head. “Why did I think this was a good idea again?”

“Because it is,” Molly told her, going around to the back of her own tables and opening the cooler she’d brought with her. She poured Kiaya a mug of steaming black tea, and then poured another for herself. “Trust me, once the customers start coming in, you’ll be fine. Besides, our help should be here soon.”

As if her words had conjured them, the four children rushed through the bustling people, along with Schrodinger and with Donna Allard bringing up the rear. “Molly, Molly, guess who we found!” Lily shouted, pulling along the familiar figure of Cookie.

“Miss Molly!” Cookie pulled off his knitted cap and bowed, his curls bouncing around his face. “And Miss Kiaya! How good to see you!”

Cookie manned the galley on board the Heart’s Desire, and his cooking was a bit of a legend around the Cove. He and Molly had been trading recipes since she’d first met the pirate crew, and she always looked forward to when the ship came into port. Now, she grinned at him.

“Looks like you’ve been captured by enemy forces, Cookie,” she said. “Is there a ransom demand I should bring to your captain?”

“I came willingly,” he admitted, grinning back at her. “He’ll have to find someone else to make his morning tea.”

“Oh, he’ll love that,” Kiaya said. Her nervousness seemed to have evaporated when the genial pirate chef came up. “Molly, you can be the one to tell him.”

“Oh no, I’ll let the children do it,” Molly said. “They’re less likely to be harmed.”

Schrodinger snorted. As if Pavel would harm any of you, he said dryly.

Donna came around to the back of the table and dropped her coat on one of the chairs. “I’m sorry, we had a bit of a delay. My sister called, and I couldn’t not take it.”

“No worries,” Molly told her, and then looked at the kids and Schrodinger. “You all ready to work?”

“Yes’m!” they all chorused, eyes bright. Lily added, “What are we doing today, Molly?”

“Taste testing, of course!” Molly brought out the specially made trays that she’d had commissioned a few years earlier. Gideon and Kaylee took one, and Lily and Zoey took the other. Once they had them set around their necks, Molly piled them high with pieces of gingerbread, sugar cookies, and peppermint stick cookies. Then she looked at them. “Why don’t you go take a look around before the bell rings? I’m sure some of the other crafters would love a cookie.”

The kids, with Schrodinger once again in tow, took off, and Cookie took advantage of the relative calm to look at Molly. “Any news?” he said.

“Not yet,” she said, sighing.

He shook his head. “All in good time.” Then he brightened. “Oh, I found something for you!”

Out of his pocket he pulled a small box. Molly opened it and breathed in the smell of rich cardamom and cloves. “This is lovely!” she said. “Where did you find it?”

“We stopped at a bakery, and the lady there made her own chai,” he said. “I thought you’d like it.”

Molly carefully closed the small box up and stowed it carefully in the cooler. “I’ve never made my own chai,” she admitted. “I might have to try it with those.”

Cookie nodded, and said, “Well, since I managed to sneak in early, I’m going to look around before the bell rings. I’ll be back for my gingerbread order.”

As if on cue, the bells overhead rang out, and Molly, Kiaya, and Donna were soon swamped with customers eager to order cookies, buy craft supplies, and in general look around. The pile of mystery boxes of cookies was swiftly demolished, and Molly was glad she’d thought to pack enough to refill the display several times.

During one of the rare lulls, she got a chance to talk to Donna, who was trying very hard to keep the worry from her eyes. “Are you okay?” Molly asked her quietly.

Donna sighed. “I’m trying. I just – this year is hard.”

“Because your family is coming?” Molly handed her a cup of tea.

“Because my family is broken,” Donna said, almost without thinking. Then she sighed again. “It’s nothing. We’ll figure it out.”

Molly laid a hand on her arm. “And we’ll help. That’s what friends are for. Don’t forget that.”

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