Today's First Chapter Spotlight is on Sharon Coady's MELANIE'S CHRISTMAS GIFT, just one of twelve brand-new stories in Christmas Pets & Kisses. This 12 book boxed set releases October 11th!
Melanie’s Christmas Gift
Copyright 2016, Author
The day of the wedding finally arrived with everything moving smoothly, and everyone going about their business except Anne, who missed Melanie being underfoot. Kyle insisted on taking her to his house last night, saying he didn’t want to tempt fate. To top it off, Kyle’s mother had insisted on coming over to help Anne get ready. She didn’t know his mother and hadn’t seen her in years.
Maybe wanting to get married so quickly wasn’t such a good idea after all. It had been her idea to have the wedding quickly and try for a baby right away. Having another great-grandchild was all Pop could talk about.
She made her way into the kitchen to find Pop standing by the coffee pot, waiting for it to finish brewing. “Morning, Pop.” She kissed him on the cheek. “You ready for the big day?”
“Yep, I’m ready. Question is, are you?” His eyes crinkled as his grin spread over his mouth.
“Yes, I am. I’m so excited. I can’t believe the day is finally here. I’m glad you’re going to walk me down the aisle. I know you’re not crazy about being around so many people, but it means a lot to me.” Anne grabbed a cup from the cabinet and poured hot water from the tea kettle into her cup, before taking a tea bag from the covered container.
He turned and held his arms out. “You’re the only granddaughter I have. I hate getting dressed up and going to a church, but I’ve waited a long time for this day. Like I’ve said before, I’m getting a grandson-in-law and a great granddaughter today. Who wouldn’t be happy? I love you, girl.”
She moved into his warm arms and gave him a big hug. “I love you, too. We’re both lucky. I feel like she’s my little girl, even though I didn’t give birth to her. How lucky can I get?” She sighed. “I’m just a little worried.”
Pop pushed her back and looked into her eyes. “What are you worried about?”
“Nothing is stupid. Tell me,” he ordered sternly.
“What if her mother shows up after all these years? Will she still want me to be her mommy?” Anne lowered her eyes as she felt the heat from the blush spread over her face.
“Well now, that’s not a stupid thought. But she left that little girl years ago. Why would you think she’d show up out of the blue?” He placed his hand under her chin, gently lifting her head so he could look into her eyes.
“I don’t know. The thought has prayed on my mind the last few days. I’m worried if she comes back, Melanie will want her and not me. Oh, I sound so selfish, don’t I?” She pulled her teabag from the water and wrapped the string around the spoon, giving it a little squeeze before placing the teabag on her saucer.
“Nope, you sound like a stepparent that is worried about a birth mother. I’ll bet they have some sort of group for this.” The corners of his mouth turned up.
“You watch too much reality TV.” She couldn’t help but giggle at his comment. “We need to leave by eleven. Kyle is coming by to pick you up. It really means the world to me that you’re giving me away.” Anne felt she couldn’t express enough how much it did mean, and she wanted him to know it.
“Oh, I’m not giving you away, I’m sharing,” Pop huffed as he filled his coffee cup. “Stupid words, giving away. You don’t give someone away,” he mumbled under his breath.
“Don’t get worked up, it’s just a silly saying.”
“I’m not worked up, I’m just saying it seems like a dumb thing to say. Are you making me my oatmeal this morning?” he grumbled again.
“Yep. Sit down and let me get it for you.” She kissed his cheek. She measured the water into the pot, added the long-cooking oatmeal, and turned on the burner.
“I’m happy you’re marrying Kyle. He’s a good man, and that little girl is so darn cute. Gram would have loved her.”
Anne smiled. “I know she would have.” She missed her gram so much; the pain of losing her didn’t seem to lessen as the time went on. Even while she and Melanie had been shopping for their dresses, she wished her gram had been there to help her choose hers. “She loved Kyle. This would have made her very happy.” She stirred the oatmeal as it slowly bubbled.
He took his cup and shuffled to the table, finally sitting down. “I’m hungry. Are you going to talk or fix my breakfast?” His eyes twinkled as his mouth turned up in a crooked grin. Mavy appeared from under the table and sprung into his lap. She leaned up against his belly and purred.
“Stop being a rascal. You know I’m making it for you.” She sighed as she spooned the oatmeal into his favorite bowl. “I think I’m a bit nervous, too nervous to eat.” Her stomach was doing flip-flops this morning.
“What are you nervous for? Not like you haven’t been planning for this day. What’s got you so jumpy?”
“I haven’t met some of the people Kyle’s mother invited. It turns out he has a rather large family. We’d planned on a small wedding, and she sort of changed that. I guess it’s making me nervous. It’s just been you and me for a long time now.” She wrung her hands before tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Hey, they’re going to love you. Me, I’m not so sure. I know I can be a bit gruff sometimes and that makes me hard to like. You and your gram saw through that. I guess Kyle and Melanie do, too.”
Anne set his bowl of oatmeal down in front of him and ran her hand over Mavy’s soft fur. “Anyone who takes the time to get to know you sees through it. If they don’t like you, well that’s just too bad.” She leaned down and kissed his cheek. “I’m going to go take a shower. Do you need anything else?”
“Nope. I’ll eat this and start getting myself ready, you have to be there at eleven, but Kyle said he would pick me up about nine. I guess we have to get to the church to make sure everything is set up right. He said he needed my keen eyes. I think he just wanted to get me out of your way.” He snickered.
“That’s not true. Kyle likes spending time with you, and you are not in my way. Well, having a couple of strange women in the house, fussing over me and helping me get ready, might get in your way. I’ll see you later, Pop.” Anne hurried into the bathroom and started the shower. I’m worried they’ll get in my way.
She finished her shower and dried her hair. Looking at her reflection in the mirror, Anne couldn’t believe how happy she looked; her expression was radiant. Kyle and Melanie had made such a difference in both her and Pop’s lives. I hope I get pregnant right away. She and Kyle had talked it over, and he’d agreed with her they needed to have a baby quickly. Pop was doing okay, but Anne could see he was getting weaker. She wanted to give him this one last wish. He missed Gram so much, and at times, she thought the grief overwhelmed him. She knew he tried to hide it, but his eyes always gave him away.
Just as she finished putting on her lotion and big, fluffy robe, the doorbell rang. Anne hurried out to find Pop opening the door. “Come on in. How are you this morning? I’m Anne’s grandfather, Walter, but everyone calls me Pop.” His eyes sparkled as his mouth turned up in a forced grin. “Kyle, good to see you.”
It tickled her that he was trying his best to smile and welcome everyone into their home. Pop never was one who liked crowds, especially crowds that he didn’t know coming into his home. He could be a downright cranky beast at times, so this was a pleasant surprise, and she felt her anxiety lessen.
Once the women were introduced, Kyle took Pop’s suit bag off the closet door as Pop headed for the door. “Just a moment, son.” Pop turned and glanced at Anne. “I love you, girl. See you at the wedding.” He lifted his hand and waved.
Tears welled in her eyes as she waved back. “I love you too, Pop.” Before she had time to think any further, the women surrounded her, chatting about her hair, her beautiful skin… Anne smiled and nodded, but she let her mind wander, as their chatter became nothing but background noise. She thought back to the day that she and Melanie had gone dress shopping.
Melanie had insisted on having a pink dress since it was her favorite color. Lucky for her, they had found a beautiful, pale pink dress with a chiffon skirt at the first children’s department they visited. The waist was cinched with a deeper pink ribbon tie and a silk pink flower. It was something Melanie would be able to wear again. She had been so excited; she kept spinning this way and that, looking at her reflection in the mirror. Anne remembered how she had exclaimed, “This one is perfect. I think my daddy will love it.” She had spun around again, a big smile turning her mouth up so far that her little dimples showed. “Can I have it, Mommy?”
When Anne had told her she also thought it was perfect, Melanie was so excited she kept twirling around and around in circles. She had wanted to wear it home and almost cried when Anne told her they had to pick their dresses up later.
But once Anne explained that they had to go get their shoes and stockings, as well as trying to figure out what to do about the jewelry, she had settled down somewhat. She had further explained to the little one that they still had to find a basket so she could carry the rose petals. “So you see, we have a lot more to do before we pick our dresses up and head home.”
This had appeased her and as they made their way to the shoe store, she’d chatted nonstop. “This is so much fun. I’m so glad you and Daddy will get married at that special church. I can’t wait to be the flower girl!”
After trying on almost every pair of shoes, Anne had finally convinced Melanie to get the white Mary Jane’s with a strap. Melanie had to walk up and down in front of the mirrors, looking at her feet before she declared the shoes perfect for the wedding.
Anne glanced at the dresser where her necklace with the two little intertwined silver hearts lay. She had purchased the matching necklaces that same day. She remembered how Melanie had squealed when she’d seen them. “Matching? Like mommy and daughter ones?”
“Yes, like mommy and daughter ones. Don’t tell Daddy about the dresses okay, honey? We have to keep them secret until the wedding.”
“I promise. I can keep the secret. I kept the secret about your presents!” She had beamed as Anne hooked her into the car seat and kissed her on the tip of her nose.
Her gram’s face came to mind again, making her sigh.
“Anne? Dear, are you all right?” Nancy patted her arm.
“Yes, I’m sorry, what did you say?” She hadn’t realized how deep in thought she’d been. “I’m fine. I was just thinking about my gram. I miss her and I wish she could be here today. Did you know she and Kyle stayed friends all these years? It makes me sad. I feel like I missed out on so much of their lives when I moved away to start my own.” Anne knew she was rambling; she always did when she was nervous.
“Anne, you talked to them every day and you’re here now. Yes, I knew Kyle and Elma talked often. He never stopped loving you, and he loves your grandparents. According to him, she was one of the sweetest women God ever graced the earth with. You were blessed to have her. She is with you today, don’t you make any mistake about it.”
Anne nibbled on her bottom lip. “You knew he still talked to them?” She knew these feelings were silly, but she knew so little about his relationship with her gram.
“Yes. I think it was his way of still feeling close to you. I was very upset with him for keeping Melanie a secret. I told him you and your gram would accept her. I’m sorry Melanie will never know her. You didn’t know this, but I always thought what you and Kyle had all those years ago was the real thing. It seems I was correct.” She smiled and touched Anne’s shoulder softly.
If felt strange hearing those things coming from Kyle’s mother. Anne had met her only a couple of times while they were together, and she had never been friendly or warm. “How did you know my grandmother?”
“Kyle told me about her. It wasn’t often, but he would sometimes share. My goodness, when she gave him her recipe for the spaghetti sauce, he practiced it every week until he had it perfect.”
“That was when they were living with you?”
“Yes, before he finished school and moved into his own place. He’s a very independent young man. He’s done a great job with his little girl, don’t you think?”
Anne sat back and crossed her legs, feeling a little of the tension release. “Melanie is a wonderful little girl. He’s done an amazing job.” Sighing with happiness at the thought of Kyle and Melanie again, she turned and smiled at Nancy. “What should I call you now that we’re getting married? I feel I don’t know you very well yet.” Anne gazed at the woman who was going to be her mother-in-law in just a few short hours.
“Oh, you can just call me Nancy, and this is Kyle’s Aunt Kim. I guess I should have introduced you before we started fawning all over you. I’m so excited you’re joining our family. Now, we need to get busy, or you’re not going to be ready to walk down that aisle on time. It just won’t do to have the bride late. Come, sit down so we can get started on your hair and makeup.”
“I can do my own makeup, and I was just going to pull my hair back from my face with these clips I picked up.” She pointed to her dresser as she sat down.
“Nonsense, Kim is a hair dresser, and she’ll do a beautiful job for you. Did Kyle ever tell you when I was young that I was a makeup artist for the local news station? I bet he didn’t. He never was one for talking about family business.”
“Aunt Kim?” Anne looked in the mirror at the unfamiliar lady standing behind her.
“Could you keep my hair simple, please? I don’t want anything elaborate. I don’t feel it would go with my dress. Wait a moment. I’ll get my dress so you can see what I’m saying.” She shot up from the chair and hurried to her room, closing the door behind her. Taking a couple of deep breaths, she took her dress off the hook, put a smile on her face before she opened the door, and hurried out into the dining room. “Here it is.” Anne held up the Tiffany blue, off-the-shoulder dress she’d chosen. It was fitted at the waist with a gathered, tea-length skirt that flowed perfectly over her hips. She had seen it as elegant yet soft. Anne had never wanted the traditional white wedding gown. She found herself holding her breath, waiting for their reaction.
Aunt Kim’s eyes lit up. “Oh, it’s beautiful! I love the color and the style, simple yet elegant. I know the perfect hairstyle to go with it. Look at that, Nancy. Isn’t it the most stunning dress you’ve ever seen?”
“It is stunning. I love it. I know just what to do for your makeup now, too. You will be the most beautiful bride anyone has ever seen, too. Come on now, sweetie. Hang it there for us to enjoy while we work our magic. Wait until you see what Kim did to our sweet, little Melanie. She looks like a fairytale princess with her little ringlets. She went on and on about how you helped her get her dress and shoes. She told Aunt Kim she tried on every pair in the store before she found her perfect shoes. That dress looks so adorable on her.”
Anne sat back and said a prayer as she put herself into their hands; she hoped she wouldn’t look a fright when they were done. Twenty minutes later, Nancy and Kim stepped back and declared her finished. Anne strolled into her bedroom, taking a deep breath before she gazed at her reflection in the mirror. A smile spread over her lips as she admired the way they had transformed her into an elegant, glamorous woman. “Oh my gosh, look at what you two did! I can’t wait to step into my dress.”
“May we come in?” Nancy stood in the doorway beaming, her hands clasped in front of her.
“Please! You can help me slip it on without messing up my hair or makeup.” Anne slipped out of her robe as Nancy and Kim helped her carefully step into her dress.
Kim slid the zipper up and Nancy fixed the straps. “Don’t look yet. Where are your shoes? You need to see the complete look,” Nancy exclaimed.
“They’re on the bed in the box. I won’t peek. I promise. Would you also get my necklace there on the dresser?” Anne giggled at their excitement. Kim was standing in front of her, so she couldn’t see in the mirror. She closed her eyes, wishing for the hundredth time today that her grandmother was standing with her.
“Oh, Melanie has the same one,” Nancy declared, bringing Anne back to the moment. “You bought matching necklaces. No wonder she was so excited when Aunt Kim fastened it on her neck.”
“You look exquisite. Kyle is going to be speechless. You are such a breath of fresh air for this old, stuffy family,” Aunt Kim whispered. “Don’t you tell Nancy I said that, okay?”
Anne smiled and nodded her head. “I won’t,” she whispered back.
“Here you are, slip these on. Oh my, Kim. Look at her. Kyle is going to be speechless.”
Kim and Anne giggled.
“What? He will and you know it,” Nancy declared, placing her hands on her hips.
“He will, Nancy. Don’t get your panties in a bunch. We’re laughing because I just said that exact same thing to Anne.”
“Oh, I didn’t hear you. Now, move so she can see herself.” Nancy waved her arms for Aunt Kim to move
Aunt Kim stepped to the side, and Anne’s breath caught. There, in front of her, stood a stunning, gorgeous woman. The dress complimented her pale skin as her hair pooled around her shoulders, framing her face. Her green eyes sparkled and the makeup was just smoky enough to make her appear elegant. Anne turned her face a little. “What did you do to my lashes?” She was amazed because she had little baby lashes. Now they were voluptuous and full.
“Trade secret, dear. Do you like it?”
“Yes. You’ve both made me look like a fairytale princess. How can I ever thank you?”
“Just make my son the happiest man alive and my granddaughter the happiest little girl alive. That’s all. Oh wait, there is one more thing, maybe another grandchild.”
She hugged both of them, feeling a blush spread over her face. She glanced at the time. “We better get going. I don’t think it would do for the bride to be late to the wedding.”