“We wanted to rule the world,” Maggie said in a wistful tone.
They had been so innocent back then. At ten years old it had been easy to believe in happy endings and dreams come true. Both she and Finn had been exposed to darkness in their lives. Despite her belief that God hadn’t been by her side through the tough times, Maggie now knew it wasn’t true. He had seen her through the worst of it, and through Uncle Tobias, God had shown her grace and pointed her in a new direction.
Life tended to provide reality checks along the way. And then she’d had to switch up her dreams, Maggie realized, as she looked around the store. This place was her new dream. A feeling of gratitude threatened to overwhelm her. She’d never really allowed herself to imagine owning anything with such potential. Things were coming together.
She and Finn had arranged for a garbage disposal company to pick up the items in the shop deemed to be trash. At Finn’s suggestion, they also had a pile of items they were donating to a charitable organization benefiting the homeless. In a few days a crew was coming in to help them give the place a top-to-bottom cleaning. They had a lot of work to do before then.
“Hey, Maggie.” Finn’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “I’ve been thinking. You’ve been working so hard here at the shop. It hasn’t given you much time for socializing.”
Maggie swung her gaze up from the front counter. Her mind felt blank. What was Finn talking about? The Operation Love campaign?
“Socializing?” she asked. It had been so long it felt like a foreign concept.
Finn chuckled. “Yes. As in getting to know the townsfolk. You’re going to need their friendship and goodwill once the store opens. I’m one hundred percent certain you’ll get their support, but it would be nice to have some established ties.”
Maggie shrugged. “Well, I have you and Hazel. And there’s Jasper and Declan.” She was counting on her fingers. “And Ruby and Aidan.”
Finn looked at her without saying a word. He didn’t have to spea
k. His expression said it all.
She bit her lip. The town of Love was a small hamlet, but even she knew her numbers were pitiful. When was the last time she’d made an actual friend? Or ventured out of her comfort zone? Moving to Alaska had been a huge leap of faith, but it would be meaningless if she failed to connect with the townsfolk who lived here.
So much had been lost over the years, including her ability to connect with people.
“I did a little brainstorming last night about the grand opening. I think we should think big.” He spread his arms wide. “Huge. We could make up flyers and host a holiday party here with eggnog and red velvet cake and lots of party favors.”
Maggie smiled. She loved Finn’s enthusiasm. Although it was crystal clear he was working with her in order to get his inheritance, he never hesitated to go the extra mile. He had a great attitude. It was no small wonder Oliver thought he’d hung the moon.
“That’s a great idea,” Maggie said. She rubbed her hands together. “Who doesn’t adore eggnog?”
Finn looked at his watch. “I can man the store if you want to head over to the meeting for the carol singers. Pastor Jack would love to have you. They’re meeting in the fellowship hall at the church at noon.” He wagged his eyebrows at her. “I seem to remember you singing at church when we were kids, and I hear they’re looking for a soprano.”
“I do enjoy singing. It’s been a while though,” she said in a soft voice.
So many things had been watered down over the years due to Sam’s problems. She had distanced herself from her church community due to the shame she’d felt after his death. How could she have walked into church after all the media attention and finger-pointing?
And she knew she hadn’t really grieved Sam in the proper way. Her anger and shock and embarrassment hadn’t allowed her to fully mourn the man she’d loved but hadn’t ever really known.
“I imagine it’s like riding a sled down a mountain.” Finn’s eyes twinkled as he mentioned their favorite childhood pastime. “Something you never quite forget how to do.”
Finn was right. She loved singing, especially in a group setting. Why had she given up something that gave her so much joy and brought her closer to God?
A sheepish feeling swept over her. Why was she feeling so reluctant to make friends in Love? She had been excited about making those connections, but now she felt nervous. There had been so much rejection back in Boston. Maggie almost felt wary of opening herself up to being hurt again by judgment and derision. It had been an incredibly painful experience to be shunned.
“Are you sure you can hold down the fort by yourself?” she asked. A part of her wanted him to tell her he couldn’t handle dealing with the store by himself. That would give her a way out. Truthfully, the shop had become something of a cocoon for her. She spent all of her days at Keepsakes and her evenings were occupied by Oliver.
“I can definitely handle it, Mags. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’re making great progress here. This place is starting to look terrific. Take a moment to stop and smell the forget-me-nots.” Forget-me-nots were the official state flower of Alaska.
Although Finn’s voice had a teasing tone, Maggie could sense he was serious. It hit her all at once. Finn cared about her. Despite all the years of separation, he still wanted the best for her. It made her feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
“Okay. Why not? I’m going to go meet up with the choral group.” She sat down on a chair and pulled on her warm, fuzzy boots. She had splurged yesterday and bought a pair of Hazel’s Alaskan Lovely boots. Maggie wasn’t used to having new things. For so long she’d scrimped and saved to try to keep a roof over her family’s heads and to see to Oliver’s needs. Now, with this inheritance, she didn’t have to constantly worry about every dime. She had even purchased a few items to put under the tree for Oliver. She couldn’t wait to see the look on her son’s face when he unwrapped the toboggan.
Finn nodded his approval. “Have a good time. I’ll meet Oliver at the bus stop. No worries.”
Maggie put her coat and hat on, then reached in her purse for her mittens. “I’ll see you later.” Strangely enough she felt like a child venturing out into the big bad world all by her lonesome.
“Hold on a minute,” Finn called out. He walked up to her and reached out to zip up her jacket so her neck wasn’t exposed. She looked up into his sea green eyes. “There. It’s cold out there. We wouldn’t want you to get sick.” They locked gazes, and Finn smiled. Maggie felt the oddest sensation as she gazed into Finn’s eyes. Butterflies soared in her belly. For a second she felt her palms moisten.