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Rated: 13+ · Book · Drama · #2283856
Ongoing story/book about Melinda Fairfax.
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#1042935 added January 10, 2023 at 5:25pm
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Chapter 2 - Breakfast and Baking
It was the oddest sensation.

Slowly, through a haze of cozy warmth and delicious smells, Melinda pulled away from her dreams and made her arrival in the waking world. She felt a sense of rejuvenation that she hadn’t felt in quite some time, yet there was a heavy dose of confusion, as well.

Where was she?

Opening her eyes, it took a few sleepy moments to process her surroundings. Early morning light filtered through the curtains, dappling the ceiling and wall with smatterings of dancing motes.

Her nose was being tickled by a lovely comforter that certainly was not her own. The comforter on her bed was the deep forest green of pine trees, this one was soothing sky blue and snowy white squares.

Willow Springs. She was here!

Excitement speared through her belly and lit a bright smile on her face. Sitting up in bed, she snuggled back against the mound of pillows and hugged the comforter tight. An annoying little worm of worry tried to wiggle its way into her happy outlook, but she firmly shoved it away.

Today, she would find her aunt. There was every chance that it might not go well, but there was every chance that it would, too. Melinda chose to pool her energy into the best possible outcome.

Breathing deep, she heard and felt her stomach rumble. Coffee, bacon and eggs were waiting downstairs, if she wasn’t mistaken. When it came to food, she hardly ever was. After Dee’s delicious soup last night, her mouth was already watering for breakfast.

She slipped out of bed, glad for the thick rugs to keep her feet from the chill of the wood floor and made her way to the bathroom. Her morning routine went quickly and soon she was dressed to go downstairs. At the door she paused, hearing giggling and shrieking coming from outside.

Stepping over to look out, Melinda laughed at the sight across the street. Two kids were chasing each other in the lawn across the way. The taller was a boy with a bright blue toboggan on his head. The younger was a little girl in shiny pink snow boots.

They were making good use of last night’s fresh blanket across their yard. Snowballs hurled this way and that, more of the little one’s hitting the older kid. As she ran by, he grabbed her and twirled her around before setting her down safely so she could take off again.

A pang of longing struck her. She took a deep breath and swallowed hard against the lump in her throat. They were so adorable. Blinking, she refused to let any tears fall. A tissue grabbed from the container on the dresser soaked up any before they could touch her cheeks.

She turned with a squeak of her sneakers and resumed her trek downstairs.

“Good morning, Milly!”

“Good morning, Dee,” Melinda called out from the steps. Last night, Dee had told her she was the only person staying at the Nook for the next week. After that, there were two couples arriving for the holidays. They had family in town but preferred to stay on their own.

“Bacon, eggs and decaf ready to go.” Dee waved towards the platters on the island as she retrieved a bottle of creamer from the fridge. “There’s also a short stack of griddles if you wish. If there’s snow on the ground, there’s griddles on my plate.”

Melinda grinned at Dee’s term for pancakes. She did take her up on it and forked a couple onto her plate. It was comfortable chaos for a few minutes as they each made their plates and mugs of coffee. Maneuvering over to the little table in the nook, they sat down with appreciative sighs.

The companionable silence as they dug into their food was unbelievably precious to Melinda. She hadn’t felt this at ease with anyone since her mom. It was funny. On the outside, Delilah Smythe and Eleanor Fairfax were complete opposites. But in every other way, they held so many similarities.

“What has set your mind to pondering this morning?”

“I was just thinking how much you remind me of mom.”

“Well,” Dee put her fork down, “I don’t know that I could receive a kinder compliment. Thank you, dear.” Her cheeks flushed pink. “Though, I definitely don’t have that willowy figure she had. Oh, how I’ve always wished for longer legs!” She gave her leg a pat and chuckled.

“If she could, mom would have shared some of her height with you,” Melinda confessed. “She once told me that I got the best of my ancestors, auburn hair and medium height. She refused to wear high heels because she was usually already the tallest in the room.”

“I remember that from school,” Dee mused, taking a sip from her mug. “When your father came to town, she set her sights upon him simply because he was taller than her!” They both laughed. “Of course, Ellie couldn’t have found a better man than your dad. He was as kind-hearted as he was tall.”

Melinda nodded with quiet pride. “They were quite the couple, I think.”

“You think right, Milly.” Dee nodded agreement and stood to gather plates.

“Let me help you with that,” Melinda dropped her napkin and stood.

“Now, I appreciate the offer, but there’s no need for that, dear.” Dee gave her a curious look, as she headed to the sink. “I imagine you want to be off looking at the town, arranging to see your aunt?”

Melinda caught her top lip between her teeth and worried it a little. Standing next to the table, she gazed outside at what had seemed like a world of possibility just thirty minutes ago. Now, it looked daunting and strange. “Yeah, I guess I should go.”

Dee glanced over her shoulder. Standing there in her kitchen, Melinda looked like a forlorn little girl instead of a young woman on a quest. She felt her heart catch. “You know, I could use a little help this morning, if you have a few minutes to spare?”

Relief flooded through Melinda and eased the tension in her face. She collected mugs and silverware, taking them over to the counter next to the sink. Placing everything carefully, she glanced sideways at Dee who was filling the stainless-steel basin with hot water and suds. “Thanks. I know I’m delaying.”

Delilah met the hushed admission with a soft smile. “Time will tell you when you’re ready. It’s good like that,” she winked. “Until then, how about baking some cookies?”

Unable to help it, Melinda acted impulsively and hugged Dee. “I would love that so much. Sorry, I’m so emotional these days.” She swiped her sleeve against sudden tears.

“There’s no need for apologies, dear.” Dee assured her, swallowing back tears of her own. She grabbed a towel, dried her hands, and gave Milly a quick, hard hug. “Now, let’s get that oven heating.”

A couple hours later, they sat at the island decorating sugar cookie snowmen, Santa hats, and snowflakes. Melinda dusted powdered sugar over a blue iced snowflake, while Dee used frosting to attach mini marshmallows to the ends of the Santa hats.

“So, mom seriously punched a girl?”

Dee chuckled. “Absolutely. Not without good cause, mind you.” She used the frosting bag tip to point at Milly, “Janet Clark deserved that bop to her nose. Always was a troublemaker.” She shook her head.

“When Lena won the race, Janet walked right up, grabbed Lena’s ponytail, and yanked her backwards. If it wasn’t for your mom stepping in, Janet would have pounced on Lena.” Dee grumbled under her breath a bit and then sighed. “Some things don’t change. She’s Janet Bowers now, but still a troublemaker.”

“Well, some things do change though,” Melinda’s brow was wrinkled. “Mom and Lena hadn’t talked in over thirty years. Her journal said I was three the last time we came back to visit. What caused them to never speak to one another again?” Her frustration spilled over into the task before her and suddenly she had frosting spurting all over a cookie.

“Well, now,” Dee calmly remarked, “Looks like you’ve too much oomph for that pastry bag.”

“I’m sorry. I’ve made a mess.” Melinda sat very still, frowning at the bag, irritated with herself.

“There’s that forbidden word again.” Dee looked at the snowman buried under the mountain of red icing. “Only one thing for it.” She reached over, picked up the cookie and split it in two. Setting one half in front of Milly, she grinned and ate her half in a single bite.

Melinda managed a sheepish smile, taking a big bite out of her section.

“I don’t know what happened with your mom and Lena,” Dee said after she was done chewing. Reaching over, she picked up Milly’s pastry bag and gave it another scoop of red frosting. “Small towns usually grow rumors like bushes grow berries, but in this case, it was a mystery.”

Melinda finished off the snowman and nodded, staring glumly at the island top. It was covered with holiday cheer, but her mood was falling like the temperature outside. “If only I was Nancy Drew.”

Delilah knew when a hug was needed. She also knew when a nudge out the door could help.

“I hate to ask a favor, but do you think you could deliver a plate of these down to the café?” Delilah had already plucked a large container from her cabinet and was filling it with cookies.

“Oh, yeah, of course.” Melinda went to wash her hands, then upstairs to grab her coat and purse.

Delilah was waiting by the door with the container. She gave it to Melinda with a smile and a pat on the shoulder. “Just down the street, hang a left and you can’t miss it.”

A cold blast of air stole the breath from Melinda’s lungs as she stepped out onto the porch. She huddled down further into the downy lining of her jacket, making a quick trip down the salted steps and walkway to her car. Inside, she set the heat high and connected her phone, skimming the local news back home and checking the weather for Willow Springs.

News was depressing, so she quickly closed out of that app. The forecast was cold, cold and more cold with snow flurries likely for the next several days. Come on, Melinda, she lectured herself. Quit delaying and go check out the diner. The plastic box of cookies looked up at her from the passenger seat.

Cookies are great icebreakers, right? Of course, they could also be used as bribes for information, too.

She might not be Nancy Drew, but she had frosted holiday goodies on her side.
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