A bag of microwave popcorn, a ball of yarn, and a Hallmark movie called out to Iris. “Come inside and be cozy.” She was sure she heard it. The temptation of the new lights delivered to her earlier in the day was stronger.
After she hung them around the doorway of her tiny cottage, Iris promised herself, she’d heed the invitation. So out she went in the red plaid fleece coat and matching mittens and hat to turn her house into a wintertime candy house.
The job wasn’t too complicated. She’d line the edges of the house frame with icicle lights. It would be easy to connect those to the single strand lights that would wrap around the door and connect with another strand of icicles. With a plan fully formed in her mind, Iris shivered away the cold and got busy.
Climbing up the ladder to connect six inches of the strand; only to have to crawl down the ladder, move it and begin the process, was not a part of Iris’s plan. After the fifth climb, her enthusiasm for the project waned. This particular task was one of those that was easier in her head than it was in real life, which extra encouragement was necessary. Gripping the sides of the ladder to scoot it another two feet, Iris said through her groan, “I can have cookies with the popcorn.”
At the top of the ladder, Iris recalculated her completion time. If she stretched, she could reduce the times she’d have to move the ladder. In the middle of one of those stretches she heard Jordan say, “You look like you could use some help.” She remembered seeing the reflection of the headlights crawl across the house but hadn’t realized they’d stopped.
“I’m just about done,” Iris may have exaggerated just a little. She still had the other side of the door and the railing. But that was the easy part, she told herself.
Jordan approached the ladder and held it, so it was securely in place. “Has anyone ever told you, you are too independent?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the same person who said you’re too bossy,” she joked to hide her embarrassment with being caught doing something that was unsafe. That and Iris loved the back and forth banter she shared with Jordan. Both were strong-willed and were self-aware to admit it.
“In that case.” Jordan offered a hand for Iris to hold on to for balance while she descended from the ladder. “Let’s make a deal. You let me help you hang the lights. I’ll let you make me cocoa.” The arch in his brow held a tiny threat. Give in to my request, or I’ll give you a hard time for being too high on the ladder and leaning forward.
Iris glared at him. Who cared how cute he looked in his wool plaid coat and Montana Bobcats ski hat. His suggestion sounded too domestic for her comfort. “Make you cocoa?” She challenged.
“You know this is the only chance I’ll get to help you decorate. My mother pays someone to hang the lights at our house.” Jordan didn’t as much as apologize for the tone in his voice as he explained no offense was intended. He wanted to decorate and was willing to use whatever means necessary to get Iris off the ladder.
When worded that way, Iris felt it would be wrong to refuse Jordan’s help. People often whispered rumors about Jordan’s mother. They all believed Charlene was a secret contributor to Montana Magazine’s home tips section. The only caveat to her keen eyes was nobody could do things the way she liked. Jordan often had attributed his lack of involvement in his mother’s projects to her demand for perfection.
“And, I’ll play Ticket to Ride with you,” Jordan rubbed his hands. By adding Iris’s favorite game, he had sweetened the deal to a level that both knew Iris couldn’t resist.
“Whip cream and chocolate sprinkles?” Iris hustled down the ladder.
Jordan took his place on the steps. “You can surprise me.” He picked up the string while eyeballing the hooks on the edge of the doorway.
The year prior, Jordan also visited when Iris was decorating. That time, he installed a system that made it easier to hang her lights.
“It lines up with the pane divider.” She pointed with her at the window at that top of her front door. A hook was directly above the decorative divider in the middle.
“We did a great job of blending them,” Jordan leaned forward and secured the wire in the holder.
Iris unreeled the lights, feeding Jordan more line, so he could continue the task. She recognized that to anyone observing from the sidewalk, they looked like a married couple preparing their home for the holidays. If only, she thought to herself. Jordan got her. How many men would know they only had to bribe her with her favorite game? One.
She tamped down her wish. There were too many outside factors that would interfere. Their social circles were different. Jordan belonged in the group of people who influenced the structure of Paradise Hills. Iris was just a regular girl.
No, being friends was good enough.
But Iris couldn’t help wondering; why was her heart wishing for things it couldn’t have.
I know this is a short one. The next chapter tells the story from Jordan’s point of view. Cue in the dun-da-da music.