She returned home to help, she also fell in love
"Ya'll have been a great audience tonight!" Belle said as the guitarist hit the final notes. "Thank you for coming tonight and happy holidays!"
Once she exited the stage, she was greeted by her manager, Beauregard. "That was great Belle but next time remember where you are, this is Bronner, aka Christmas town USA. You should have said Merry Christmas."
"Beau, you know that I come from this town," Belle tugged off her wig and shook her head. "I left to be a singer and moved to Los Angeles. Once I signed my record deal, I started dating Corey Partition, king of the rom-coms. Then he dumped me because he wanted to explore other avenues for his love life," she rolled her eyes. "It's like you don't even know my backstory."
"You forgot about taking on the Lane Maine moniker," Beau answered, putting his arm around his star client. "Anyway, Belle, have a good time seeing your grandma and her tuna farm."
"Tuna farm? Nobody has a tuna farm! Her cookie bakery is in trouble and I want to see if she'll let me help her."
"Nobody cares if I get it wrong, I was just here to help with the backstory and will show up again later to help move things along," after he said that, Beau left.
Once she walked into her dressing room, she took a deep breath. It wasn't often she got to leave her persona behind and just be Belle from Bronner.
And Belle from Bronner didn't get to have the limos that record executives sent for Lane Maine, so she jumped into her rental car and left the concert venue. She was looking forward to climbing into bed and sleeping. Performing always took a lot out of her.
Belle marched out of the elevator and over to the front desk. She hit the bell repeatedly until a bored-looking teen walked out, chomping on a wad of gum. "I've already told you that we don't have a Starbucks here. This is Michigan, not Ohio; we like our coffee to be locally grown."
"You were clearly put in my orbit just to raise my blood pressure and to make a joke about Michigan being awful but I don't have time for that," Belle snapped. "The water in my shower isn't working."
"Oh, you mean her majesty of Idaho needs running water to take a shower? Wet wipes aren't good enough for you?"
"I live in Los Angeles!" After taking a deep breath, Belle wondered why she bothered.
The teen shot her a puzzled look. Then answered, "I'm sorry, I don't speak Italian."
"Can you just send someone up to fix my shower, please."
"Whatever," the teen responded but picked up the phone and punched in a few numbers.
By the time she got back to her room, a man wearing flannel was at the door. He tried to push the door, causing Belle to yell out, "that's my room!"
He turned to her, a puzzled expression on his face. "I was told the Queen of Toronto needed running water. But I didn't think queens typically ran around in just a towel."
"I live in Los Angeles!" She said as she opened the door.
"Maybe she does need to work a bit more on geography," he said to himself. After taking out a tool, he hit the faucet.
Out of the blue, Belle looked at the man and blurted out, "I think we're going to fall in love, you know later in the story."
"What? Why would you say something like that? How do you know I don't have a partner?"
"You're wearing flannel!"
"Guys in a couple don't wear flannel?"
Once the water flowed through the pipes, the man went to leave. Belle called out, "you never told me your name."
"Nick. Nick Jingle."
"Why didn't you put clothes on before you went to the front desk?" Grandma Margaret asked after she heard Belle's story. "And for the love of Santa, why didn't you just come stay with me?"
"I got in late last night and didn't want to bother you," Belle hugged her grandmother again. "The inn wasn't so bad, and there was a cute guy; he was wearing flannel…."
"Flannel. HIs name is Nick Jingle," she dipped her finger into a bowl of cookie dough her grandmother was making. "I told him that I thought we were going to fall in love later on."
Grandma Margaret's jaw dropped, along with the wooden spoon she was using to make the dough. "Belle, you don't tell the man that. Those are thoughts we keep in our head. I'm just the wise old woman who helps move the plot along but I was once the young ingenue like you and now you've added a complication to something that should have been easy."
"What should have been easy?" Both women looked up to find Nick standing at the counter, wearing a green flannel shirt and wood in his arms.
Belle hid her face, which was burning hot with embarrassment. Grandma Margaret looked at Nick, "would you be so kind as to set that by the stove. And then I really need the two of you to go into town and get me a gallon of milk."
"I can get the milk grandma."
"No! Both of you need to go, there's plenty for you to talk about. And I need to justify my presence in the story by getting the two of you to face your fears."
"But I'm not afraid of milk, ma'am," Nick set the wood down as requested. "And if your granddaughter doesn't know the way, I can run and pick it up for you."
"Don't be ridiculous, Belle can go with you. She doesn't mind at all," Grandma Margaret looked over at her granddaughter. "Don't give me that look, just go with him."
"Grandma," Belle protested.
"Just go and let's get this story moving already."
"Sorry about grandma," Belle looked over at Nick. "You must think my entire family is crazy."
"Well, you did tell me that we were going to fall in love because I'm wearing flannel and your grandma sent two people to do a job that one person could easily do," he smiled at her. "But any excuse I can find to spend time with a beautiful woman, I'll take it."
"You think I'm beautiful?"
"C'mon, you know you are. And everyone tells me that despite having the standards of royalty, you're actually lovely," Nick stopped in his tracks. His eyes were laser-focused on an advertisement for the Lane Maine concert from the previous evening. "Unlike her."
After shooting a puzzled look over at Nick, Belle asked, "What do you have against Lane Maine?"
"A few years ago, I took my sister to see her in concert. She was late to come on stage and then we waited for her to come out back and she looked at us and ran to her limo. Broke my sister's heart. I've never forgiven her for that."
"I don't remember that."
"Why would you remember that? You weren't there," Nick said. He held the door open for her. "If you're going to be around for the Christmas talent show, we could use some help. Or someone with talent."
"When is it? I'd be happy to pitch in," Belle answered with a smile. "When is it?"
"In two weeks."
"Is my brother trying to recruit you?" The bored teen from the hotel asked as she hugged Nick. "You don't have to help if you prefer not to. This Christmas stuff is…."
"Mom warned you about your language," Nick advised.
"I agree, I'm not all for Christmas usually. But there's something special about this year," Belle looked at the refrigerators. She quickly opened it and pulled out the gallon of milk.
"You mean because you and my brother have a crush on each other?"
Nick and Belle looked away from one another. She made her way to the counter and paid for the milk before heading outside. She felt odd that someone had been able to read her thoughts so easily.
"Hey, I'm sorry about my sister. She doesn't have a filter. It's one of the side effects of the great Lane Maine snub."
"I know we met this morning under less than ideal terms but I do like you," Belle admitted.
"Despite you telling me that we were going to fall in love because I'm wearing flannel and us only having two conversations, I really like you too. It's love at first sight or something," Nick frowned. "Of course this means that your ex is going to show up and cause problems for us."
"My ex is gay. If he shows up, it'll be because he wants to date you."
When they got back to the cookie shop, Nick leaned in to kiss but was interrupted by Grandma Margaret. "Belle, doll, can you please come in here. I need to speak with you."
"Sorry," Belle said as she pulled away from the almost kiss. "I don't know why she's acting so odd."
"It's ok, I need to go do some work for the talent show."
As he walked away, she went into the bakery. "What's wrong…."
Before she could finish, Belle saw what the issue was; Connor Partition stood next to Grandma Margaret. "Laney! Darling, how are you?"
"My name is Belle. What are you doing here?"
"I wondered why we were doing that whole Hannah Montana nonsense," Grandma Margaret piped in.
"Nick hates Lane Maine because she, I, ignored his sister by mistake."
"Lane, can we stop with the exposition stuff, I want to get back together."
"Lane?" The voice belonged to Nick. "I should have known you were Lane Maine!" He stormed off before Belle could say anything.
"That was really bad timing. Do you think he'll ever forgive me?"
"It's the Christmas season, of course he'll forgive you after a big gesture," Grandma smiled. Then nodded her head over at Connor, "and get rid of this guy. He keeps wanting to do a makeover on me."
"We are not getting back together, Connor! You broke up with me to chase that hot ghost hunter across the country."
"Yes but now I have a movie coming out and need a reconciliation for Corey and Lane."
"It's not happening!" Belle yelled. Then sighed.
Two Weeks Later
"I can't believe you did this!" Beau said as he stood in the bakery. "Not only did you give your grandmother enough money to retire on but you raised more money with the talent show than anyone else."
"And I retired Lane Maine. Why do you forget the important stuff?"
"This could have been done with your grandmother but I had to show up again because I said I was going to."
"Hello, Handsome," Grandma Margaret purred. "I have the milk if you have the cookies."
"It's gross that you two are dating," Belle said. "And I'm still single. I can't believe Connor just came out of the closet and started dating that hot boy bander."
"Everyone falls in love at Christmas time," Grandma raised her eyebrows and nodded at Nick, who was waiting by the door.
Belle ran to the door. "I'm so sorry about everything. I didn't mean to ignore your sister or to lie to you. But we only had a few conversations."
"I know and to be honest I was a bit put off by your comments about us falling in love and looking for a reason not to. But you've done so much good," he was interrupted by Belle kissing him. "It's almost time for you to take the stage."
They walked to the downtown area. She took the stage, "It's great to be here tonight. And to be starting a new life."