HOPE AT CHRISTMAS by Nancy Naigle is a lovely and sweet
romance that takes place in a small town over the holidays.
The story is centered around Sydney a single mother who has
recently moved from Atlanta so that she can escape her
controlling ex-husband. When her grandparents died years
ago, they left her their farmhouse. This is the only place
she has left for her and her daughter to live. Sydney is now
back in a place where she used to spend her summers as a
child with her grandparents all while trying to get back on
her feet and start over with her ten-year-old child.
Kevin is the high school baseball coach and history teacher
at the local high school. His wife left him with their child
years ago with no explanation as to why she left. Naigle has
written a story that is heartbreaking and romantic with lots
of drama and heartache. The characters are interesting with
uniquely different pasts. They share a combination of
heartache and chemistry towards each other. Together they
face many obstacles all while trying to make things as
normal as possible for their children. While the setting is
the picture-perfect place for a lovely holiday romance that
is sure to lift your spirits this holiday season. I do feel
that this theme and storyline gets used a lot around the
Christmas season. I do love a good Christmas romance and did
enjoy reading this one. I wish that it was a little less
predictable. Overall, I did find HOPE AT CHRISTMAS to be a
lovely read that is perfect for anyone who loves a good
Christmas romance with a happy ending.
Nancy Naigle delivers a heartwarming Christmas story
that proves you can always go home again.
Sydney Ragsdale is looking for a fresh start far away from
her controlling ex-husband and the self-doubt that has
plagued her since the divorce. Returning to her childhood
home in Hopewell, North Carolina is just what her soul
needs. Praying some Christmas magic will follow her she
moves with her daughter to a farmhouse that once belonged
her grandparents. While there Sydney finds solace working
The Book Bea, her favorite bookstore.
Single dad Kevin MacAlea, Mac to his friends, is the local
high school history teacher and baseball coach. He is also
the towns best kept secret―he has been playing Santa
his son was born twelve years ago. Mac loves the
of the season and wants his son to share in his joy.
When a catastrophe forces The Book Bea to close before the
end of the year, everyone in the small town is feeling the
loss. While Sydney is already off-balance by the bad news,
her ex-husband breaks a promise to their daughter that
her running away and threatens the relationship that she
begun with Mac.
As Sydney and Mac try to figure out what their next steps
are together they will soon discover that thereâs always
hope at Christmas.
Sydney Ragsdale pulled her car along the curb in front of
the elementary school and faced her daughter with a go-
get-em-kiddo smile. âHave a wonderful day, RayAnne.â
âItâs school, Mom.â
The eye rolling was new, starting once theyâd moved here
last week, and she hoped it would leave as quickly as it
had arrived. As aggravating as that was, her daughterâs
heavy sigh tugged at Sydneyâs heart. The divorce had been
hard on them both.
Sydneyâs grandparents had left her the old Hopewell
farmhouse when they passed away. It was a place full of
happy memories, and with the move, it felt like a life
raft in a rocky sea. A fresh start for her and RayAnne.
Unfortunately, to her daughter the idea of moving from
Atlanta to tiny Hopewell, North Carolina, in November,
after the school year had already started, had been worse
than the divorce itself.
The move had been a necessary step in Sydneyâs self-
preservation. It wasnât easy rebuilding your life when
youâd been married for most of it. Sheâd prayed that
moving to Hopewell might turn into a great mother-daughter
adventure for them, but so far that hadnât been the case.
Managing a ten-year-old with an attitude was turning out
to be harder than finding a decent job. Sheâd almost given
up hope of finding a job at all when the call came from
Peabodyâs a whole three months after her interview. It had
been a long shot to begin with, but it was near the old
farmhouse so sheâd given it her best effort. The job offer
was a blessing indeed, though the timing couldnât have
been worse. School had already started, and the holidays
were upon them.
Sydney watched her daughter schlep up the walkway to
Hopewell Elementary School. Back in Atlanta, RayAnne had
been so happy that sheâd practically skipped from the car
Her gut twisting, Sydney wished her marriage to Jon hadnât
fallen apart and that the three of them were still one
big, happy family. But then that had been a big lie. Tears
puddled against the frame of Sydneyâs sunglasses, and she
was too darned tired to even sweep them away. She sucked
in a long slow breath to keep her composure.
Was moving to Hopewell a mistake?
Had it been a necessary step to regain her independence,
or was it just a disguise for running away?
A car honked behind her. She waved an apology as she moved
forward in the drop-off lane.
As she pulled out of the parking lot, her mind clicked
through happy mother-and-daughter moments sheâd pictured
in this quiet little town. Laughs. Love. Lasting memories.
She eased out onto the street and glanced in her rearview
mirror, barely recognizing herself in the reflection.
Fluffing her bangs, she tugged the rubber band from her
hair to release the messy bun. âWhy am I letting Jon get
to me like this?â she said aloud. She stared at herself.
The answer was simple. Divorce hurts. She was broken.
Wounded. His infidelity had torn her in a way she wasnât
sure would ever heal. And some days this was the best she
She drove up to the next block and swerved into the
parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly, declaring, âIâm better
than this.â She shut down the car and shuffled through the
console for a piece of paper and a pen.
âThis has to stop.â So did talking to herself, but right
now that was about all she had. Tomorrow. Sheâd stop
talking to herself tomorrow.
Rather than go back to the house and feel sorry for
herself, sheâd make a plan. Itâs what sheâd always done to
make sure she and Jon met his goals. Why was she treating
her life any differently?
She tapped the pen against the steering wheel, then leaned
forward and started writing.
Step One: Get a job. Check.
Step Two: Get out of Dodge. Fine. So she made it out of
It never hurt to start a plan with a few easy, achievable,
or already done tasks to get things rolling. Itâs why she
usually had âmake the bedâ at the top of her chore list.
Step Three: Get involved locally to meet some people.
Step Four: Regain my confidence.
Step Five: Get into the holiday spirit.
And the Finale: Get this divorce from Jon finalized and
behind me, and never put all my eggs in one manâs basket
After months of Jon still controlling her through his
purse strings even though they had separated, the generous
job offer from Peabodyâs had enabled her to move to
Hopewell and stand on her own two feet. Free of Jonâs
Uprooting RayAnne had been such a hard decision, but she
needed to set an example for her daughter, to show her
that even when dealt a cruddy hand in life, one can
respond with grace, strength, and independence.
Determined to make this a day that would change her path,
she made the short drive to Main Street and parked.
She got out of the car and breathed in the fresh air. It
was quiet as she walked down Main Street. The retail area
was only two short blocks, unless you counted the mansion
that sat across the way. Well, it hadnât been a residence
for as far back as she could remember. Back then it had
been a bookstore called The Book Bea. Her very favorite
place in town when she was a little girl.
She smiled at a memory of The Book Bea. For the longest
time sheâd thought the word bee had been misspelled on the
sign in front of the bookstore. It wasnât until sheâd told
her grandmother she wanted to help fix the sign that sheâd
learned that it was a play on words. The bookstore had
been named after its owner, Bea Marion.
Sydney looked both ways, which was barely necessary with
the light traffic, then crossed the street.
The thick wooden sign had been sandblasted, similar to
those signs on fancy beach houses on the Outer Banks. The
background of the perfect oval was bright cobalt blue,
just the way she remembered it. The shop name, THE BOOK
BEA, stood out in 3D next to a stack of colorful books
with little yellow-and-black bumblebees circling above
them, looking as cheerful today as it had twenty years
She took a picture of the sign with her phone. An OPEN
sign hung in the window of the front door.
Itâs still here! she thought excitedly.
She tucked her phone back into her purse as she walked
between the perfectly shaped box hedges that flanked the
sidewalk leading to The Book Beaâs front door, giving it a
dignified air. Winter was beginning to fade the landscape,
but the grass on the other side was still thick and green,
making her want to kick off her clogs and walk barefoot
through it on the unseasonably warm day.
She was tempted to buy a paperback and lie in the grass
and read the day away, only she needed to be frugal until
her job started after the first of the year. Couldnât hurt
to browse, though.
Fond memories of trips with her grandparents to the
bookstore rushed back. Hours spent scouring the shelves,
getting lost in those stories, and trying to make a
decision on which book to buy had been both agonizing and
She climbed the stairs to the huge old turn-of-the-century
house. The wide front porch was painted a playful basil
green against the glossy white wooden railing, giving it a
soft southern air. Rockers in various colors popped like
wildflowers swaying in a gentle breeze, making it hard to
believe Christmas was just around the corner.
Sheâd so hoped that sheâd be able to share a white
Christmas with RayAnne this year. It would have been her
daughterâs first, but it didnât look too likely. Sydney
left her snow dreams behind as she pushed open the screen
door and was met with a blast of cool air conditioning as
she walked inside.
Her footsteps echoed against the age-old wooden floors as
she headed for the bookshelves. Sheâd found comfort here
as a young girl. Books had always rescued her, and sheâd
never stopped trusting a good book to bring her joy, erase
her fears, and give her strength. That same excitement
swirled inside her. The place even still smelled of warm
cookies. Like nothing had changed.
âGood morning,â a shaky voice carried across the room.
Sydney swiveled to her right. The tall wooden counter
still stood in front of the bay window. A bony hand waved
in the air, looking almost detached from its body, like
some leftover Halloween prop.
Could Miss Bea still be working here? Sydney marveled.
Sheâd always sat behind that counter, where you could
barely see her unless you were really looking.
âHi.â Sydney walked toward the counter to satisfy her
curiosity. âHow are you today?â
âFabulous, Darling. Always fabulous. The only way to be.â
Sydneyâs cheeks tugged as she smiled. Miss Bea had always
The woman stood and stepped around the counter.
There was no mistaking the tall red-haired woman. Yes, she
was older, and much thinner than Sydney recalled, but the
signature hair and artistic attire were one hundred
percent Miss Bea. Bright lime-green reading glasses hung
from a colorful strand of beads around her neck. Her long
black jacket, like a duster a cowboy might have worn back
in the day, swung gracefully from her shoulders to her
âWelcome, dear. Are you looking for something special
Memories? A safe place to get my footing back? she
But Sydney could hardly answer Beaâs question with either
of those responses. âI need a good book to take me away
for a little while.â
âAh, then youâve come to the right place. The Book Bea has
been doing that for years. I have all the best sellers,
and some of the best-kept secrets, too.â Bea raised her
glasses and put them on, giving Sydney the once-over. âI
was going to ask if you were passing through, but you look
Sydney laughed. âPeople have always said that I favor my
grandmother. Iâm Carmen and Bret Rockfordâs
âYes. Thatâs it.â Bea snapped her fingers and then pulled
her hands to her hips. âI remember you. Braids and bruised
âI was so clumsy back then. I grew out of that.â
âThank goodness. Used to think we should maybe bubble-wrap
Sydney remembered Miss Bea saying that the summer Sydney
had fallen off her bike and skinned both knees.
âBless her soul,â Bea said, studying Sydneyâs face. âYou
do favor Carmen. Such a lovely woman. Your grandparents
really are missed around here.â
âSydney Ragsdale now.â She reached to shake Beaâs hand. âI
moved into their old place over on Green Needles Lane.â
âIâd heard that someone was moving in there. So happy to
hear that itâs you. That house has been empty too long.â
âI know. I had great intentions of using it as a vacation
getaway after they passed, but my husband never seemed to
know how to take a break.â
âWell, thatâs not good for anyone. What changed his mind?â
âThere was no changing his mind.â
âHeâs out of the picture now, I take it.â Bea tsked,
peering over her glasses, then letting them fall to her
âYes, maâam. Totally out of the picture.â
âWell, then weâll file that history on one of the
bookshelves in the back,â Bea teased.
âWeâd have to find a spot in the childrenâs section for
him based on the age of his new love interest.â
âOuch. Donât know what gets into men sometimes. I swear
they just go crazy.â Bea swept a hand in the air. âGood
Sydney wished it were that easy.
âTake a look around. Let me know if I can help you find
anything.â Bea walked back around the counter and sat in a
plush green armchair. âAnd stay out of the childrenâs
section, nothing good there for you anymore. If you know
what I mean.â
She meant Jon, Sydney realized. Funny.
The rest of this town seemed smaller than she remembered,
but The Book Bea still felt as big and magical as ever.
The big antique cash register that had looked old when she
was ten still lorded over the ornate counter and was every
bit as awe-inspiring today. The intricate brass casing had
to be from the early 1900s but was still polished to a
glimmering shine. The glossy circular buttons on the
metal-keyed arms, like an old typewriter, probably took
full force to press down. But the heft of the old machine
looked so sturdy and strong. Secure. And there was beauty
The smell of books, knowledge, and old ink may have been
in her imagination, but it all worked like some kind of
happiness pheromone. Suddenly, being replaced by a young
model didnât feel like an insult as much as plain idiocy
on Jonâs part. The next time she had a pity party over
that, sheâd try to remember how amazing all these aged
things still were. She could be special and unique, and
age with a purpose too. Thirty-something wasnât that old,
but heâd made her regret it.
She wandered back toward the bookcases. Thick carpets lay
in the high-traffic areas, plush beneath her feet in some
places and worn to the hardwood flooring below in others
from years of customers.
âIâm just going to look around a bit, if thatâs okay,â
âHelp yourself. No hurries in The Book Bea.â
After meandering through the stacks Sydney couldnât resist
picking up a few books. Finally, she headed toward the
cash register, setting her selections in a neat stack
there. âI remember coming to town with Gram. It took hours
to run errands, but she always made time to let me pick
out a book. It was the best part of the day.â
âSuch a nice memory.â
âIt is.â Feeling a little dizzy from the trip down memory
lane, she leaned against the counter to steady herself.
âSheâd hold my hand as we walked down the street. Back
then Hopewell seemed like a big bustling place to me. Gram
parked in the same spot right in front of Luckyâs Diner. I
noticed itâs not there any longer.â
âThat old diner has been gone for years. Lucky died and
seems he took his luck with him, because nothing else
thatâs gone into that space has made a nickel.â
âToo bad. I remember his fried green tomato sandwiches.â
âThey were delicious, but there are still good eats around
here. That hasnât changed.â
Sydney could use one of those yummy sandwiches about now,
too. âI remembered Hopewell seeming so much bigger. Now, I
think I could walk the whole town twice and still be done
before lunch time.â
âHopewell is pretty much the same unless you count the new
gas station and fast-food restaurant at the interstate
exit. Then again, what were you? Ten or twelve years old?â
âI guess everything seems bigger when youâre ten years
âProbably, but if it makes you feel any better, Hopewell
does seem bigger in the summertime, when people are back
outside and the sidewalks are busy.â She smiled and with a
tilt of her head, she said, âBut you hold on to those
âI will. Theyâre great ones.â The Nancy Drew hardbacks
with the yellow-gold spines were still lined up on the
long shelf in her old room. She could almost feel the
excitement that used to swirl inside her when Gram and Pop
would bring her here to buy a new bookâsometimes twoâand
the way sheâd clung to her precious purchase on the ride
home, hardly able to resist the urge to read in the car
even if that always made her car sick.
âSo, what besides that rat of a husband helped you land
back here in Hopewell?â
âI need to make my own life, and since I had the house
here it just made sense. Jon was still controlling me
while he built a whole new life for himself. It was time
for that to stop.â Saying it out loud was a bit
empowering. âI just hope my ten-year-old daughter
âShe will. You loved this town at that age. Sheâll see
whatâs special about it, too. And sheâll make friends.â
âSure hope so. Sheâs not very happy with me right now.â
âYouâll have to bring her in. We have a childrenâs book
club on Saturday mornings. If sheâs half the reader you
were, sheâll enjoy that.â
âRayAnne loves to read. Thanks, Miss Bea. Iâll do that,â
she said, sliding her books across the counter.
âYou can just call me Bea, dear.â She rang up the
purchase. âIf thereâs anything I can do to help you settle
in, just ask. I know everyone in this town.â
Sydney rested her elbows on the tall counter. âI need to
keep myself busy until I start my job after the first of
âWell,â Sydney faltered for words. âAll Iâve ever been is
a mom and a wife, but I have a business degree. I did
graphic arts for my ex, but that was all freelance stuff.
My work won him a couple of his biggest contracts, so I
think I have something to offer there.â
âBeing a mother and a wife is underrated. Budgets,
schedules, creativity, project planning, and patience. Iâd
say any good CEO should have all of that.â Beaâs
expression was sincere.
Sydney worried that even with more than ten years in that
role, raising RayAnne through all of this change and
working full-time was going to be more than she was ready
for, but she couldnât slip into that worrisome dark place
âIt takes all kinds of skills to accomplish the demands on
a mother. So, you must be the new hire over at Peabodyâs.â
âI am. How did you know?â
Beaâs soft grin turned up on the corners in a bit of a
smirk. âNice thing about owning The Book Bea is I get all
of the scoops. The folks who own Peabodyâs shop here. Nice
family. I heard they are doing the marketing for a new
movie studio, and a boot company. Things are going really
well for them. Thatâs big news in a town like this.
Theyâre good people. Youâre going to love working with
âThank you. Now if I can stay busy through the holidays
without going crazy until I start working, then Iâll be
fine. My daughter is leaving as soon as school gets out to
spend Christmas with her dad. Itâs going to be really
quiet without her around.â
âYou knowâŠâ Bea pressed a finger to her lips. âI could use
a little help around here.â
Sydney knew that her face probably lit up like a jack-o-
lantern. Hopefully not a totally goofy one, but a
pleasant, smiling one.
âDonât get too excited. The pay is lousy, and the job is a
little of this and that, and only through the holidays. I
can add the bonus of free books, though. If youâre
âReally?â Sydney could really use some extra cash. She
wasnât on a super-tight budget, but she needed to be
careful. No matter what, there was no way sheâd ask Jon
for money, even if they had to resort to eating cereal for
breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
âYes. It would be a huge help.â
âIâll do it,â Sydney said. âOf course I will.â
She felt like dancing a jig. Heck, swinging Bea in a do-
si-do seemed appropriate, but she held her feet firmly to
the ground. âThank you so much. I wonât let you down.â
The rows and rows of bookcases held a feeling of order
that was welcoming in the chaos of her life these days.
And how those bookshelves seemed orderly amid the varying
sizes, thicknesses, and colors of the spines was
interesting. Yes, this place might just be the ticket to
getting a little order in her own house.
âWhen can you start?â Bea asked.
âHow about now? I donât have to pick up RayAnne until
school lets out at three.â
âExcellent.â Bea pointed to the left side of the checkout
counter. There was a stack of boxes labeled CHRISTMAS
piled next to an artificial tree that had dust clinging to
its limbs. âIâve got to start decorating the store, but
the arthritis has really been giving me a holy terror
lately. Maybe we could start there.â
âI can definitely do that,â Sydney said, and then a
sinking feeling settled over her as she recalled that
sheâd never hung a single Christmas light in her life. Not
because she couldnât, but because as a kid her daddy had
had that honor, and once sheâd married Jon heâd always
handled it. Oh well, time to step up.
Bea leaned forward and whispered. âAt least I was smart
enough to leave all the outside lights up at the end of
the season last year. One flip of the switch and folks
passing by will think weâve been busy as bees in here.â
Bea gave Sydney a playful wink. âBees. Bea. Get it?â
âYes. I get it.â Sydney laughed. A little too hearty as it
conjured up a very unladylike snort, but it was freeing to
laugh over something silly.
Yes, working here, even for just a few weeks, would be a
good thing. Plus, she hadnât planned to decorate, since
RayAnne would be leaving soon to stay the whole Christmas
vacation with her dad.
âIâm so excited to help you out over the holidays,â Sydney
Beaâs smile spread wide, little lipstick lines dancing in
the wrinkles around her lips. She clapped her hands, and
then held them to her heart. âThank you, dear. You already
know the layout of the store, itâs never changed since I
opened it. There is a washroom and storage area just under
the staircase. And a small office back there.â She reached
into the register and pulled out a key on a keychain with
a metal enamel bee on it. âHereâs a key in case you need
it. This is going to be a really good way to end the
Sydney set her purse on the counter. Step five on Sydneyâs
list was to get into the holiday spirit, and this seemed
to be the perfect way to begin. âI should be able to make
some good progress before I have to pick up RayAnne. Shall
we get started?â
Bea came around the counter and pulled her into a hug. âI
had a feeling today was going to be extra special. So good
to see you again, Sydney.â
Her mood lifted, and the tight worry was replaced with
peaceful relief from her accomplishments today. And Beaâs
hug helped more than sheâd ever know. The old woman
smelled of peppermint Life Savers and sugar cookies, and
her hug held the kindness that Sydney hadnât felt since
the last time sheâd seen Gram. âIâm glad we crossed paths
today. I needed this,â she said to Bea.
Bea stepped back and took Sydneyâs hand into hers. âI
think we may have needed each other today.â She led Sydney
toward the front of the store. âI usually decorate this
window for the holiday, but I canât crawl around like I
used to. Could you come up with a display for it? The town
folks kind of count on our decorations as part of the
âThe caroling tour?â
âOh yes. Each of the merchants sponsors a song. Itâs quite
popular. Even folks from neighboring counties join in. The
carolers start in front of any shop. Each storefront gives
away a different song page, and we provide the music on a
loop. By the end of the night each participant has a whole
Christmas songbook as a keepsake.â
âThat sounds like fun.â
âHow do you pick a song?â
âWe donât pick them out ourselves. The mayor assigns them
randomly the day after Thanksgiving. The town makes the
song sheets up for us. Theyâll deliver them to us closer
to the event. Mine is âO Christmas Treeâ this year.â
Sydney tried to maintain a pleasant smile, but that dusty
old Christmas tree sheâd seen next to the counter wasnât
going to cut it. Certainly not as the main feature of the
window to represent the song. She was going to have to
think fast. She hoped the smile she pasted over her
grimace looked confident. âIâll come up with something
innovative and eye-catching for the window to go with that
Beaâs smile softened. âWeâll have to use what weâve got
here. Iâm afraid I donât have a budget for decorations
âDonât you worry about that. I have just the thing.â She
glanced around the room with absolutely no idea what she
could do, but she wasnât about to admit defeat on hour one
of her new job. âAnd I believe we have everything we need
right here. With one exception.â
âIâll bring RayAnne over after school to give me a hand.â
âHave her pick out a couple of books for helping.â
âSheâll love that. Thank you.â
A set of wind chimes sent a rich, muted sound through the
room. Sydney followed the sound to a set of brass tubes
hanging from a wooden dragonfly sculpture above the cash
register. Thin fishing line ran from the chimes just below
the coffered ceiling all the way to the doorway. Clever.
And way more pleasant than those door alarms so many
people used in their shops.
The UPS man wheeled in a cart with two boxes on it. âGood
morning, Miss Bea. Got two for you. Itâs been a while.
Thought maybe you were cheating on me with another
Bea giggled like a flirty teenager. âYou know that would
never happen. Just havenât been ordering much, but canât
get through the holidays without one last shipment of
âYou know Iâll be back to pick up the missus a couple of
those Christmas novels. She counts on those in her
âAnd Iâve got the wrapping paper and ribbon just waiting
on you.â She gave him a playful wink.
He dropped the boxes next to the counter. âYou have a good
Sydney reached for the pair of scissors on the counter.
âHow about I go ahead and unpack these and put them on
display so the customers can have at them? Iâll work on
the decorations after hours. Less clutter for your
âYou donât mind?â
âNot at all. And the decorations will be a fun mother-
daughter project.â Sydney unpacked the boxes, stacking the
books along the edge of the counter. A small table holding
ink pens and other impulse-buy items caught her eye. Those
things could fit on the counter right near the register.
It didnât take long to create a nice little arrangement at
the checkout, and then she got right down to work on the
Christmas book display. The shiny foil covers looked
pretty enough without additional decoration, but maybe she
could come up with something festive once she and RayAnne
figured out what theyâd do for the window display.
She checked her watch. How had that much time already
swept by? âBea, I need to run and pick up RayAnne. Weâll
be back in a while to work on the decorations.â
âThanks, Sydney. Take your key. No need to rush. If Iâm
not here just make yourself at home.â
Sydney suddenly fought back tears. So much had shifted
since this morning. âThank you so much, Bea, for trusting
me and giving me a chance to get my feet under me before I
start my new job. This is exactly what I needed. How can I
ever thank you enough?â
âDonât be silly. You were meant to come in here today.
Trust your journey, dear. It will take you where youâre
supposed to go.â
âI sure hope so, because Iâll tell you that the journey
Iâve been on for the past year has not been a pleasant
Bea nodded. âI can tell. Thereâs trouble in your eyes.
Weâll sit and talk about it one day when youâre ready. But
Iâll say this much: Your troubles will pass and you will
see that something better is ahead of you. Someone better,
if I were to say what was really on my mind.â
And hadnât she done just that? Said what she wanted to
say? At least she hadnât spouted that âone door closes
another opensâ hogwash. Sydney didnât plan to walk through
anyoneâs door any time soon, if ever, anyway. âIâll be
glad to have the troubles pass, but Iâm not looking for
anyone. Iâve decided solo is the way to go. No heartbreak.
No lies. No problem.â
Bea just grinned. âSure, dear.â
So Bea was a hopeless romantic. She could believe what she
wanted, but what Sydney believed was that it wouldnât hurt
RayAnne one bit to see that a woman didnât need a man and
that you had to work for the things you wanted.
âTomorrow you will walk into a Christmas wonderland.â
Sydney picked up her purse and headed out the door feeling
about three inches taller. She smiled at every tree along
the path and every puffy white cloud in the sky. Wrapping
her fingers around the strap of her shoulder bag, she
waited at the stoplight to cross over.
As she walked to her car, she took a closer look at the
other shop windows along Main Street. Her competitive
nature was already shifting into high gear.
She took in a deep breath and then blew out all the
negative energy, letting it seal up like a bubble and
float away, just like sheâd read to do in one of the books
that sheâd downloaded about surviving the stress of
That deep breath was the first one that felt like it might
actually work. Thank goodness, because sheâd tried just
* * *
Sydney walked past the bike shop, cleverly named Wheelies.
The shiny bike in the window caught her eye. It would be a
splurge. Probably not a smart one in their situation, but
one shiny gift was all she could do, so she wanted it to
be a good one. Ten minutes later she walked out of
Wheelieâs as the owner hung a SOLD card from the
handlebars of RayAnneâs Christmas present. Sheâd told
RayAnne theyâd celebrate Christmas when she got back from
being with her dad. That seemed a long ways off.
Sydney wondered if the splurge would look more like a pet
rock following Jonâs fancy getaway. Expensive gifts were
Jonâs love language. Always had been, and she had no doubt
heâd go overboard more than usual this year with all that
was going on.
Next door, Cookie Doe, a bakery with its glass case filled
with all kinds of desserts, had her mouth watering. She
walked inside, and the scent of sugar and frosting and
something slightly peanutty wrapped around her. She knew
exactly what she was going to buy the instant she laid
eyes on it.
âThree peanut butter cookies, please.â
âJust took them out of the oven a little while ago.
Probably still warm,â said the man behind the counter.
The man behind the counter thrust a white wax paper bag
her way. She paid for the cookies then stepped outside,
stopping only to snap a quick picture for inspiration
before heading to her car.
On the way to the school, Sydney hoped the cookies might
allow for a momentary return of her daughterâs sweet
attitude. Her little daddyâs girl blamed her for Jon
leaving them. RayAnne was mad. And hurt. And some days
Sydney couldnât help but wonder how much of it was her own
fault. If sheâd only done âŠ
She stopped herself. Thereâd be no more of that. She had
been a good wife, doggone it. The divorce was not her
fault, which was all the more reason for her to move on.
Trying to ease the heavy burden of worry, she shoved her
hand into the bag of cookies.
At the stoplight she took a bite.
There really wasnât much a homemade peanut butter cookie
couldnât make better. At least for a minute.