“No, little man. I think I might have done something wrong. Yesterday when we had our flying adventure you were upset about your mom going out on a date.”
“It’s okay, Finn. It doesn’t matter. She went anyway,” Oliver said with a shrug. Finn’s lips twitched.
“You said something that surprised me. About wanting me to be your father.”
“It’s true. I do.”
Finn felt as if his heart might crack wide-open. Oliver’s little voice was filled with sincerity. It was amazing, Finn realized, how open and honest kids were. They laid it all out there, risking getting their hearts broken and their hopes dashed. Oliver’s wide-open heart gutted Finn.
Finn reached out and clasped Oliver by the shoulder. “Oliver, that’s the biggest and best compliment anyone has ever bestowed on me.” He smiled at Oliver. “Life isn’t as simple as we’d like it to be. Matter-of-fact, it’s pretty complicated.”
Oliver looked down and focused on Boomer. “So you don’t want to be my dad, huh? I kind of figured.”
“Hey, that’s not it. I imagine being your dad would be the most awesome thing in the world.”
Oliver looked at him, tears shimmering in his eyes. “Really?”
“Yes, really. But you can’t just snap your fingers and pick a dad, Oliver. Your mom has a say in who your father’s going to be. That’s the way it works. And it’s best when the mother and father are in love,” Finn said, fighting past a lump in his throat. “Because a home filled with love is the best home of all.”
“My dad used to say all the time that I was the best thing he’d ever done,” Oliver said. He swiped away tears from his cheeks. “Sometimes I miss him so much it feels like I’m going to burst. I’ve been thinking if I found a new dad it wouldn’t hurt as much.”
“I know what it feels like to lose a parent. When my mom died it felt like the sun had been extinguished. For a long time, it seemed as if there was nothing good anywhere in this world.”
Oliver nodded. “I felt the same way. It’s been better since we moved here. I don’t cry myself to sleep every night like I used to.”
“Oliver, when we lose someone special there’s an ache on our souls. It lessens over time but it never completely goes away. If you find a dad here in Love, that will be terrific. But it won’t necessarily stop you from feeling sad about your dad.”
“I guess you’re right,” Oliver said. “My mom cries sometimes. She says it’s like a rushing river when you lose someone.”
“Your mom is one smart woman,” Finn said with a nod of his head. Maggie was right. Grief was like a rushing river. It hit you when least expected. It could be wild and out of control. Unpredictable.
“I want to make sure you understand this one huge thing. You deserve an outstanding father because you’re an incredible, loving, amazing boy. And if I had to guess, I’d say you’re going to get your wish one of these days. Be patient.”
“It’s okay if you can’t be my dad, Finn. ’Cause you’re already my best friend.”
Finn cleared his throat. Words eluded him. He wanted to grab Oliver and hug him f
or all he was worth. His best friend. Finn would accept that title with honor. And if he wasn’t so afraid of messing up Oliver’s life, Finn would fight to earn the title of father.
As soon as Maggie and Oliver arrived at the winter carnival on the town square, it felt to Maggie as if the entire town of Love embraced her. People approached her and introduced themselves, extending condolences to her about Uncle Tobias and welcoming her to town. Many expressed their enthusiasm about the grand opening of Keepsakes. It was nice to see all of the Prescott brothers—Cameron, Liam and Boone—happily settled down with their other halves. Their younger sister, Honor, who had been a toddler when Maggie had last seen her, was now a lovely young woman.
“Maggie Richards!” Maggie spun around at the sound of her name being called.
Dwight Lewis hadn’t changed in two decades. He looked remarkably similar to the bespectacled, bow tie–wearing boy who had preferred math equations to chasing frogs in the Nottingham Woods. Seeing him after all these years served as a blast from the past.
“Dwight!” Maggie greeted him. He pulled her into a friendly hug. Maggie felt a groundswell of emotion. Even though she and Finn had joked about Dwight the other day, it felt wonderful to see another childhood friend. She felt a little bad about hiding from him, although Keepsakes hadn’t been ready for prying eyes.
A thin, dark-haired woman stood beside him. Dwight reached for the woman’s hand and laced it with his own. “Maggie, I’d like to introduce you to Marta Svenson, my fiancée. Marta, this is my childhood pal Maggie Richards. She’s come back to Love after a long absence.”
Dwight was beaming with happiness. It bounced off him in waves. Maggie felt overjoyed for him and Marta. Finding love was truly a wonderful thing.
It felt nice to be in the thick of things. For too long she had burrowed herself in the shop and neglected making the acquaintances of the townsfolk. Many remembered her from her childhood visits to town. It was very humbling. And heartwarming.
Seeing the square lit up with holiday lights was a spectacular experience. Oliver’s eyes were lit up with joy. As far as the eye could see were Christmas lights—colored lights, white lights, sparkling lights. They extended throughout the downtown area. Jarvis Street was lit up in spectacular fashion. It was a breathtaking sight to behold. The Free Library of Love was decked out in red and green flashing lights.
So far she hadn’t seen Finn. Oliver kept asking for him over and over again as they explored the lights and ice sculptures. He had been looking forward to spending time with Finn this evening. As a diversion she sent him to play with Aidan and a few children from school. Maggie stood and watched from a distance as Oliver raced around the square with absolute abandon. Her chest tightened with pride. He was acclimating nicely to this wonderful town. A casual observer would never have known he was a newcomer to Love.