“By the way, you look cute in that outfit. It’s Clark Griswold meets James Bond with a little bit of Viking. I like it.” Her eyebrows arched, and she threw Jordan a wicked grin.
It was like she struck a match against Jordan. He felt the spark but knew if he didn’t act on it, the flame would wither.
“Hmm. Viking?” Shannon gave Jordan an assessing look over. “I didn’t see it until Iris mentioned it.” The sincerity in her voice offended Jordan more than if she would have said something salty.
Iris gave Jordan and Shannon a look of recognition. Then her face fell into a wistful expression. The way she tipped her head and backed away made Jordan feel like she was saying, “Goodbye.”
Simon approached Iris from behind. Simon wore a red vest and a mistletoe cumber bun over his basic, black pants and a white shirt. It bore the signature of the Sinclairs—everything they wore said one of a kind. Most likely, Iris or Rose had stitched it. With a gentle tap on the shoulder, Simon garnered Iris’s attention. He angled his body away from Jordan to make it clear he only wanted to talk to Iris. Which Jordan had grown accustomed to; it was better when Simon ignored him. Otherwise, he’d point out men for Iris to consider for a potential marriage.
This time it was Iris giving Jordan an apologetic smile.
Jordan watched Iris disappear into the crowd. It was like watching someone with a candle walk away in the darkness. When she stood hand to hand in front of her uncle, an uncomfortable awareness hit Jordan so hard he had to tighten his chest. Iris had danced more in the time he’d been trying to capture the perfect picture of Shannon than they had in several years combined. Why? Did she have more fun without him?
One activity at a time, Iris signed up for events and projects without Jordan. She helped at the school, the senior center, or offered a class at one of the community centers. The feeling that he was losing Iris nagged at Jordan. If he didn’t follow through with his intention, Iris would slip through his fingers.
“She’d have better luck finding a date if she hung out with people her own age,” Shannon brushed at something on her shoulder. “C’mon, Viking, we need to devise a plan to gain Iris’s trust so she’ll agree to work with Carrie and me.”
When Iris said Jordan looked like a Viking, he believed it. It was like Iris thought Jordan had something rugged in his appearance and trusted that he’d travel the world and pillage for her. Shannon, on the other hand, made it sound like she was making fun of him.
“Please don’t call me that,” Jordan grumbled softly. It was just enough to say he didn’t like her referring to him in the same way Iris had, but not enough to offend her. Shannon said, work with Carrie and me, but it was so much more than that. Shannon did most of the work. But Carrie received the accolades. If anyone were to ask what Shannon’s profession was, nobody would have been able to answer. However, the same person would say that Carrie worked as a grant writer for the city.
In an odd display of self-awareness, Shannon explained the reasoning behind her uncommon humility. “People don’t like to work with me because I’m too driven.” She shook her head like it didn’t matter. But a tenderness that came through the edges of her eyes said otherwise. A rushed “You’re one of the few who can keep up with me,” seemed to be enough for her to return to life as usual.
So Jordan had two female friends who were the complete opposites.
“If we don’t get Iris’s agreement, we won’t have any time to implement the ideas we’ve come up with.”
“You could talk to her yourself,” Jordan suggested knowing that would never happen. Iris dodged Shannon every time Shannon tried to form an alliance. If Shannon wanted to work with Iris, she would have to learn to soften her approach and treat Iris the same way she treated her sister Carrie.
Jordan never got the dance he wanted because Iris left early. “I have a busy day tomorrow.” She explained, “I have to open the shop early in the morning and am playing the piano at the sing-along at the senior center.” She departed telling Jordan and Shannon to have fun and was gone.
Following Iris’s lead, Jordan and Shannon left partway through the dance because Shannon’s sister, Carrie, was at home.
The Millers lived in a large historic house that was a block away from the City Hall building, where they had the dance. Over the summer, the Millers could hear the concerts and audio from the outdoor movie showings the town hosted at their summer in the park series. The cold night air nipped at Jordan and Shannon’s cheeks on their brisk walk to the house. The scent of wood from the fireplaces on the way softened the harshness of the otherwise bitter weather.
Shannon opened the door and ushered Jordan into the house. “Carrie, we come bearing gifts.” As soon as Carrie appeared from around the doorway, Shannon morphed into a different person. It was a side of Shannon that Iris would like if Shannon ever dropped her guard long enough for Iris to see it.
“Thank you for coming home early,” Carrie spoke with a soft voice that resembled a Disney princess.
“We would have been here sooner, but Jordan had to say goodbye to everyone and their cat and dog.”
“Don’t forget to mention that someone also had a pet hamster,” Jordan snarked.
Carrie laughed at his joke.
Shannon made a face and said, “Save the salt for the popcorn.”
Jordan tucked his arm in Carrie’s elbow to help her walk to the family room. “One day, we’re getting you to the dance. The I can’t dance excuse will only work for so long. Shannon goes every year, and she never dances.”
Again, Carrie rewarded Jordan with a chuckle. “I think she does it because she is too self-conscious.”
“Yeah, that’s it.” Shannon rolled her eyes playfully. “The Miller sisters are like two peas in a pod.”
“Except one is prettier.” Carrie softened. Until the car collision that left a scar that changed Carrie’s hairline and altered her gait, people mistook Shannon and Carrie for twins.
“That doesn’t stop me from trying to be as good as you.” Shannon’s eyes gleamed and her voice softened, conveying the sincerity of her words.
Jordan’s chest tightened in sadness for Shannon. What she wanted from life was within an arm’s reach. Shannon was severe in her presentation, but her intentions were always noble. If Iris saw this side of Shanon, she’d see the past had changed her, too. Then they could begin a friendship where Iris would have more connections to expand her good deeds and Shannon would have a someone to show her how to be more approachable.
Until it happened, Jordan was stuck in the middle of the friendship that could change both women’s lives. He didn’t know how or when, but something in his heart told him, one day it would happen.