This year, I’ve written a short story to share with you for the holidays. It will be added into a collection of Christmas Short Stories in 2021, but you all get the first look.
Enjoy Bea’s story. ©Ruth Anne Garcia 2020
Bea’s Christmas Gift
The snow falls in light fluffy flakes turning the ground white. A year ago, the sight of snow would’ve caused fear in the people of Grove Hills. The animals meander around the farms, huddling in the barns for warmth, or running in the fields with pure joy knowing winter is upon us. The sight of smoke billowing from chimneys bring signs of life in the vast emptiness. The mountain flanking the town stands tall, the tips already covered in fog and ice.
The stone fences around the boundary bring a sense of safety and security. The new addition was still something to get used to. It impedes the freedom of nature, the view of wild beauty. Signs surrounding the walls warn of Avalanches and a new ordinance to avoid hiking in the mountains. A hit to the tourism of the town, main street is struggling to regain its financial security.
That’s why I’m here, to surprise my grandmother and save her shop from the brink of bankruptcy. My grandmother, Bea Powers, is known to Grove Hills as Grandma Bea. She grew up here since the town was founded by her grandfather in the hills of Colorado in 1910. They’d traveled from Pennsylvania from a life of poverty and settled in the small town after seeing the riches of the land. A river ran through the town bringing the prospect of fishing and trade.
Wildlife like deer, boars, and foul made their homes in the mountains and were hunted for meat. The ground is fertile for growing and had been before Mr. Carter’s grocery mart opened in 1932. As I walk along main street, I see the prosperity of the town and how it grew in the last two generations.
A post office for Joel Evans to distribute mail stood next to Mona’s bakery and café. Peeking inside, I see that Joel has made changes since the rebuild. The front holds P.O. Boxes and a sectioned off area for boxes and envelopes. Behind the brightly painted orange desk, he sits staring at the screen of a computer looking bored.
Residents of Grove Hills enjoy their morning coffee and gossip inside and outside of the café. I smile as Mona waves me in and welcomes me into her shop. When I open the door, the smell of her brown sugar cookies fills my senses reminding me of my childhood.
“Tracy, I’m so happy you’ve come back to help our Bea.” Mona envelopes me into a warm hug, the smell of peppermint and cinnamon always remind me of her. When she pulls back, she holds me by the shoulders and tells me the same thing she has since I was thirteen. “You’re too skinny. Here, sit down and I’ll feed you some breakfast.”
“Thanks, Mona. I’ll have a coffee and some toast.” I smile at her scowl. Mona is just a few years younger than my grandmother at 82. The wrinkles around her eyes are from her constant smile. She’s earned them, she tells people. Her boxy figure is tucked in a pair of jeaned overalls and her brown boots are well worn from working in the garden.
“Toast? You’re skin and bones, you need more than toast to make it through the day.” She scoffs as she ushers me into a stool and hurries behind the corner. Through the swinging door, I hear the clashes of the kitchen. Roberto is singing a hymn and beating eggs in a bowl. He pokes his head through the window. “Hiya, Tracy. Glad you’re back.”
“Thanks. How’s Wanda?”
His cheeks redden making me smile at the mention of his new wife. “She’s amazing. You have to come to dinner so we can give you a proper welcome back supper.”
“Deal.” As I pull out my phone to check my email, I grimace to remember the internet connection in Grove Hills is atrocious at best. While my phone struggles to make a connection, Mona puts a full breakfast plate in front of me. “I said I wanted toast, Mona.”
“Oh, hush. You’ll eat more than toast and you’ll like it.” Mona puts a mug of hot coffee and the milk I like down and winks before sauntering off to fill drinks along the bar.
My boss has sent me several properties to check into in Grove Hills. My grandmother would be appalled to find that he’s inquiring on buying them up and adding them into Hanford’s legacy. There’s nothing wrong with the idea, per se, but the people of Grove Hills detest Hanford Industries and will protest until they have their way.
What used to be Donna’s Pizzeria, Jake’s pool hall, and Jones ale house, are on the list of purchases that I’m authorized to make. Frowning, I know the people won’t like it. With the fall out of the avalanche and the new wall separating from bigger towns, they need bigger stores to keep money coming in.
Grandma Bea has owned the antique shop in Grove Hills for a decade and while the tourism has halted her regular business, she’s in debt and the bank threatening to foreclose. Unbeknownst to her, I purchased the property and will be telling her on Christmas morning. I just hope it goes over as well when I tell her of the other properties.
What would it say about me if I changed the shop that I know she poured her blood, sweat, and tears into making it what it is today? I have to accept, looking around, that the people of the town don’t have the money to keep it afloat. Tourism is everything to this town and with the new fence separating the town from Radium Falls, there’s little that can be done. Changes will be made to modernize, and I know she’ll hate it, but it’s better than selling the property and losing her dream.
I devised a plan that I pitched to Hanford and Grove Bank and it worked. Setting foot back into the town of my birth, I know that I’ll do whatever I can to make it a reality. I eat the breakfast Mona put in front of me and add a pastry for good measure. My stomach may be hurting for a while but seeing her happy is worth it.
Main street has changed a lot since I was here last. The window displays are bright and cheerful, Christmas decorations and advertisements fill the windows and doors. Suzy Waters still works at the Inn where I’m staying for the next few months. Her light hair and eyes have become less childlike and more grownup in the last year. Her smile is still shy. “Hi, Tracy. Momma said you were coming to visit us. I have your room all ready for you.”
“Thanks, Suzy. Which room do I get?” I take a mint and pop it in my mouth letting the chocolate melt. The entrance of the inn is as homey and welcoming as I remember. Garland lines the desk with Christmas trees and polar bear figures in different sizes are displayed. There’s a tree in the corner decorated with glowing lights and bright bulbs.
“Momma put you in Irish Paradise. I made the beds and put the oils you like in the cupboards. I hope you don’t mind but Jolly still goes in and out of the rooms.”
Jolly is the Waters’ yellow lab beginning to show her age as she sniffs my pant leg. “I don’t mind at all,” I say reaching down and rubbing behind her ears. “Did you by any chance get an improved Wi-Fi network?” My hopes are shot down as her lip tucks into her teeth and begins to gnaw.
“Sorry, Tracy.” Her shrug tells me that she’s just as sorry as I am.
“Oh, it was wishful thinking. I’ll head on up. You have a good night. Mona asked me to give you these.” I smile as Suzy opens the top of a canister to find snicker doodles. Her smile tells me she’s going to eat them all by the time the sun comes up in the morning.
“Dinner is between 5 and 6, breakfast is at 9 sharp and there are snacks in the kitchen. Momma made me stock your favorite coffee and snacks.”
“Thanks, Suzy. I appreciate it.” I give Jolly one more rub before ascending the stairs and finding the second floor just as cheerfully decorated. A big Santa clause covers my door winking at me with red cheeks and a bright smile.
My room smells of coconut and lime, my favorite scent combination, and there’s a towel folded in the shape of a swan on the pillow. Chocolate kisses are used for the eyes and I start to think I’m about to gain weight on this little visit if they keep leaving me treats that I can’t resist.
As I boot my laptop up and unpack my clothes, the first kiss serves as my afternoon snack. To avoid eating the second, I pop it in the minifridge and am happy to see the fridge is well stocked. The small kitchenette will work for my visit when I’m not downstairs for meals.
I settle onto the bed and arrange the pillows to create a cocoon and bring up my business proposal. I’ve worked on it for the last few weeks and it’s solid. I know there are obstacles and my credit history may not be as solidly built as I’d like, but the real barrier is Mr. Rutherford. Henry Rutherford took over as bank manager after the avalanche.
His father was badly injured and couldn’t keep up with the demands of the job. I make changes and think of the best way to approach a man like him. In high school, he was arrogant and had a chip on his shoulder. As an adult, his chip grew and so did his attentions toward the ladies. The one and only time he turned those attentions on me, I turned him down flat.
If he holds grudges, I’m in for it. Frustrated, I decide to call my friend and colleague Evie. She answers on the third ring and I hear her through the crackling. “You’ve been gone four hours and you need me already? You sure you’re gonna last the next three months?”
I chuckle and try to ignore the crackling on the line. With the mountain the phonelines are crappy and forget cell service in this town. It’s almost nonexistent. “I’m fine. I need some advice.”
I hear her voice strong and true and I know that I’m being silly. “You have a solid plan and you need to stop worrying. Tracy Powers, you are a going to get this deal and you’re going to improve Grove Hills. Don’t let yourself doubt or you’ll tank it.”
“I’m not worried that I’ll build and improve,” I tell her. “I’m worried that my grandmother and the people of this town will be against progress. Modernization is still taboo to these people. Last month, the post office just switched to online orders.”
“They’ll have to get used to it, sister. If they want to live in the boonies, they have to buck up and accept changes. Starting with descent internet and phone lines. Jesus, my ears hurt talking to you.”
Buzzing comes over the line and I agree. It’s awfully annoying to hear. “If all goes well, it’ll be a thing of the past.”
“That’s the positivity I want to hear,” Evie says proudly. “So, how’s the room? Where are you in the world?”
I glance around and smile. Evie has always been envious of the way the rooms are decorated. The bed is a wooden frame and mattress with a high backboard with Celtic names woven with symbols. The walls are painted like the land, green and vast. “Irish Paradise,” I tell her.
“I’m so jealous,” she says as the buzzing continues. “Don’t get too comfortable, because if you don’t come back to Boulder, I’ll come and hunt you down.”
I laugh at her threats. “I promise I’m coming back.” I upload the excel sheet with my finances and add it to the business proposal. “I’ll call you in a couple of days. And Evie?”
Part 2 coming soon. 🙂