I have loved thee with an everlasting love. The verse from Jeremiah had always stuck with him. It had sustained him during the worst moments of his life. Even though he was a sinner, he still had God’s love.
And way past the age when kids believed in Santa, Finn had continued to believe with all his might. Although most people thought a little bit of the Christmas spirit evaporated once the secret of Santa was revealed, it had only made Finn more convinced of the beauty of this sacred time of year. Along with God, people were at the heart of Christmas.
On his way into town this morning he had cranked up the radio and rocked out to Christmas music. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t carry a tune. He could still belt out the lyrics about someone rocking around the Christmas tree. As he stood outside Keepsakes he stopped and looked up at the faded sign and the ramshackle exterior.
It needed to be spruced up before the snow came. The local weatherman had been reporting about a snowstorm hitting town in a few days. He made a mental note to mention it to Maggie and to remind her to stock up on household food and supplies by tomorrow.
Finn let himself into the shop with the key Maggie had given him. He flicked on the lights and surveyed the store. Although progress had been made, there was still lots to do before Keepsakes could open its doors. After about ten minutes of rooting around the shop, Finn heard the front door being opened. Maggie came in bundled up in a burgundy-colored coat and matching scarf. Both looked as if they’d seen better days.
“Good morning,” Finn said.
Maggie grimaced. “’Morning.”
Her normally friendly greeting was missing in action today. He studied her closely. Her eyes were red and it was clear to Finn she had been crying.
Finn frowned. “Wasn’t today Oliver’s first day of kindergarten?” Shouldn’t Maggie be smiling?
Maggie nodded but didn’t say a word.
“How’d it go?” he asked. He was being polite by asking. Finn didn’t want to know the answer. He could see it all over her face. The idea of Maggie crying made him feel incredibly uncomfortable. He wouldn’t know what to do to console her if she broke down in front of him. And the idea of her being in pain made his chest tighten uncomfortably.
“Terrible,” she said in a mournful voice. “I walked him inside like all of the other parents and we stayed until the teacher rang the start of school bell.” Maggie heaved out a deep breath. “Then all of the kids started waving to their parents and some of them were having a hard time saying goodbye.”
Finn winced. “Let me guess. Oliver cried?”
Maggie put her hands on her hips. “No, he didn’t cry. Nor did he wave or run up to me and give me a farewell kiss. He smiled, then turned around and joined the others for singing class. Seems they’re putting on a little Christmas show and Oliver needs to memorize four songs.”
“That’s great. Sounds like he took to it like a duck to water.”
Maggie nodded, lips trembling. “Yep. Oliver came through it with flying colors. Not so sure about Mom though. I feel as if I’ve been run over by a Mack truck. It’s rough being the new kid in town.”
“Maggie, you’re going to be fine. Everyone knows that the first day at a new
school is harder on the parents than on the kids. It’s a thing.”
“It is? You’re not pulling my leg are you?” she asked in a wary voice.
“Of course not. And you should be really proud of yourself. Oliver is a well-adjusted kid, despite having lost a parent. Do you have any idea how incredible that is?”
A smile slowly crept across Maggie’s face. Although he thought she was beautiful, a full-fledged smile transformed her into someone extraordinary. “It is pretty amazing now that you mention it.” She ran her hand through her shoulder-length chestnut-colored hair and beamed.
“Hey! Look over there!” Finn cried out, pointing at a spot near the front counter.
“What is it?” Maggie asking, whipping around to see what had gotten Finn so excited.
“There’s a clear spot over there. Can you believe it?” Finn asked.
Maggie shook her head and giggled. “It was bound to happen one of these days.”
Finn enjoyed making Maggie laugh. He liked watching the way her eyes crinkled and her nose scrunched up. He had a feeling she had no idea of her appeal.
It was sad that they’d resorted to this type of humor, Finn realized, but seeing a clear spot in the shop felt like spectacular news. They had been working nonstop for days to get rid of heaps of items they’d deemed as trash and get the shop in decent order. For the first time it seemed as if there was a light at the end of the tunnel. With the holidays rapidly approaching, they needed to open as soon as possible.
A sudden knocking on the door halted their conversation.
Maggie looked at him with big eyes. “Someone’s at the door.”
He held his finger up to his lips.