The Magic of Mistletoe by Barbara Edwards
Diane rubbed at the headache building in her temples. Her Grand-dad’s birthday party was turning into the event of the year. People she hadn’t seen in years were asking to come. Food wasn’t the problem. Everyone offered to bring a dish so it was a matter of not having two or three of each one, except so many people were coming they’d need the food. Using their house was no longer an option. She needed to find a hall. Only everyone was booked solid and had been for months.
Her phone said ‘unknown caller’ a second before it rang. She answered, expecting another last minute order for her mistletoe.
“Hi Diane, “ Noah’s smooth voice rubbed over her nerves with a remembered tingle. “I wanted to give you an update. The starter is on order. I gave them a push, but with the season…”
“I understand,” she sighed. “Can you tell your parents the birthday party is no longer at our home. With so many friends wanting to come, I have to find a hall big enough. And all the local places are booked. I hate to go out of town but suspect that won’t work either.”
She dropped her head onto her hand and blinked back tears.
“Hey, don’t cry,” he coaxed. He’d always know what she was feeling even when she wanted to keep it hidden. She rubbed her arms. “I have an idea. We cleaned out the huge triple bay garage and painted the floor. It’s big enough to hold a crowd. My business won’t pick up until after the New Year. There’s even parking.”
“Are you serious?” Diane lifted her head to stare at the phone. “I don’t want to impose.”
“No problem. You can even decorate ahead of time. Don’t forget the mistletoe,” his voice warmed with laughter.
“Ah, thanks. That’s so nice.” Diane hung her head over the desk for a minute. How was she going to avoid Noah now? “I can get tables and chairs from the church.”
“How about decorations? A special chair and a banner?”
“Sounds nice,” she agreed. Being in the same room with him would remind her of all their plans. The ones he’d walked away from. She shivered. Just talking to him on the phone was painful.
Their last Christmas had soured her on celebrating.
What a piece of irony that they’d stopped under the mistletoe hung from the porch roof.
“I want to ask you something,” he said and pressed a soft kiss to her mouth.
She felt her lips tremble and swallowed to wet her suddenly dry throat. He’d been building to something all week. Something important. The only thing she could think of was a proposal. She shut her eyes, then blinked them open. She wanted to see his face when he asked. That wide smile. Her heart thudded with excitement.
“I’m leaving town and I want you to come with me,” he whispered. His hands cupped her face as he leaned closer.
She jerked free. Shock froze her insides. “Leaving? Why?”
“I need to learn more about the business I want. I can’t do that here.”
“Business?” Diane searched her memory for any hint of this business. Noah liked cars, fixing them. Was that what he meant?
“You could do that here,” she mumbled. Her mouth felt stuffed with cotton. Her heartbeat hurt her chest. “What about my Granddad? He needs me.”
His arms circled her and drew her to him. “I need you. Come with me.”
Tears flooded her eyes. “I can’t leave. He’s old and I owe him for everything. He raised me when my parents died. You know.”
“He’d tell you to go.”
“Granddad would, but I would never forgive myself for abandoning him.”
“Please think about it.” His hand trembled when he brushed her hair from her wet cheeks. “I love you, but I have to go.”
Diane’s heart broke into jagged pieces.
“And I have to stay.”