There were times when Helen was sweet and doting. Then there were glimpses of Helen before she matured into the woman who became Jordan’s influential grandmother. She swooned over handsome men, could be won over by a sincere compliment. Both versions of the Paradise Hills matron never took no for an answer.
Jordan’s other grandmother took her place to Helen’s right while Iris was on the left. Others followed, and soon they had a small line ready to start the dance.
A square dance caller, complete with the Stetson and bolo tie, took the microphone in the front of the room. “Okay, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s rehearse the steps and get started.”
The rehearsal of the steps was more of a formality than a necessity. The teachers taught the kids the dance every year from second grade on. The Holly Jolly Christmas line dance was as much a part of their holiday routine as was the play. It began with everyone taking a step to the right, followed by a step to the left. They crossed legs, turned to the right, and shuffled.
Iris’s favorite part was when they formed mini circles and dosey doed. When they were younger, nobody understood the dosey doe rule. The teacher never explicitly stated who was supposed to use their right hand and who used the left? Since most of the kids were confused, friends sought each other out and whirled each other quickly. One time, Jordan swung Iris so hard her feet left the floor. The teacher fussed at them for goofing around and had them sit out on the bleachers for a full song. Later, when they were confident that the teacher’s attention was elsewhere, Jordan and Iris giggled.
Somewhere in the dosey doe, Iris found herself elbow to elbow with Rod Miller, the mayor of Paradise Hills. Most importantly, Shannon’s father. More than once, Iris envied Shannon. Shannon was beautiful, smart, clever, and had the mayor for a father.
Rod was a great mayor, and he was what everyone thought a father should be. He attended all of Shannon’s events and told her publicly how proud he was of her.
But he was like that with all the members in the community. After graduating from college, Iris was nervous about taking over the craft store. The responsibility of running the legacy store daunted her. What if she ruined all the years of work her grandmother and mother invested in the community? Rod visited at least once a month to check in on Iris. In these visits, they often had discussions that Iris wished she could have had with her father. With each visit and success, she felt the hold of the childhood competition between Shannon and herself wane. They were women with different roles in the community. Paradise Hills was big enough for both of them.
The music ended, and everyone clapped their delight with the dance and each other. Rod was next to Iris when the music to the next song began. “Shall we?” He held out his hand for Iris to accept. They started out in an easy sway, which gave way to full Jitterbug. The hem of Iris’s skirt tickled her legs when it flared out. She felt like she would fly when Rod released her into a rollout. Iris was so focused on following Rod’s lead, time and space didn’t matter. Her lungs tightened in the fight to absorb the air she needed to keep up the pace. The music slowed, and the dance ended with Iris and Rod taking a bow. People clapped. For that short bit of time, Iris wasn’t the quirky Sinclair who was destined, like her mother and grandmother, to have her husband leave her. Iris was someone who people wanted to have fun with. She clapped as she faced Rod. “Thank you. It was so much fun.”
“I should be thanking you. My daughter thinks I’m too old to be seen dancing with, and my wife says she’s too old to try.” The humor in his voice hinted at Rod’s dancing being an enjoyable topic around the family dinner table. Iris hoped beneath that controlling exterior, Shannon Miller was aware she lived a life most didn’t dare to consider a possibility.
“I would love to buy you a glass of free punch.” Once again, Rod extended his elbow for Iris to accept.
As they walked, he said, “Jordon will figure it out.”
“And it will be too late because I already danced with you.” Iris avoided the insinuation. She had been so careful to hide her feelings for Jordan, there was no way anyone could have known she was in love with him. That and she was pleased with her decision. Jordon didn’t know it, but he was in love with Shannon. With a little help from Iris, this would be a special Christmas for him.
“You are a sweet girl.” Rod kissed her on the cheek and squeezed her hand. “Your mother would be proud of you.”
“Thank you.” Rod’s mention of the person Iris missed the most filled Iris with the warmth of unconditional love. “It means a lot to me.”
Iris watched Rod disappear into the crowd, most likely to find his wife.
Jordan moved along the wall of the room with Shannon in tow. His eyes drew Iris’s attention and connected with her. This time his expression spoke the apology he was soon to deliver.
It’s okay, Iris told herself. She promised herself she’d smile when Jordan told her about the growing connection between him and Shannon. It was supposed to happen this way.
I didn’t want you to be upset with Shannon for too long, so I’m posting the next chapter. Link to Holiday Kisses Chapter 10