Iris had always relished in the atmosphere in the craft store. After Jordan kissed her, it seemed that much more magical. She practically floated with the soft, classical holiday music in the background. The candy cane scented wax candle melt added warmth to the already cozy room. When her grandmother wasn’t chatting with one of the older customers, she continued crocheting the blanket she wanted to give to Iris’s cousin as a Christmas present. It felt like they were living a scene in a holiday movie.
A fortuitously timed lull in business provided the time to brew a pot of tea. Iris sipped on her peppermint tea while admiring the progress her grandmother had made. The rainbow granny square blanket enticed her to curl into the corner of the couch with a good book. “You started in November, and you’re almost finished.”
“Next year, I’m starting in August.” Rose examined the row she had finished. “I may have to stay up late a couple of nights to make sure this is ready on Christmas morning.”
From what Iris could tell, she only needed a couple more rows of trim, and the project would be complete. Iris was thinking of how she could help her grandmother when the door opened. Carrie Miller hobbled through the doorway. Her sister, Shannon, followed closely behind. The two sisters were so similar in height and stature they could have been twins. They were one year apart in age and even as small children went everywhere together. Before Carrie’s face was altered by the scar from the accident, it was hard to tell Carrie and Shannon apart.
“Hi.” Iris popped up to greet the sisters.
“We stopped by looking for something specific,” Shannon spoke for both the sisters. It was something she started doing after the accident. However, when Shannon wasn’t around, Carrie communicated with a simplicity that endeared her to whomever she spoke with.
Shannon and Carrie had never visited Iris’s store. Iris had no guesses as to what they wanted. Then she remembered all those years ago that her grandmother mentioned Shannon’s request to buy the store. Surely, Shannon wouldn’t be so crass as to ask to buy it now. At least, that is what Iris had hoped. She spoke with the pleasant voice she used with people who were visiting Paradise Hills. “Is it something for yourself or a gift?”
“A little of both.” Shannon held out an arm for Carrie to balance and guided her to the cushioned chair beside Rose.
The racing in Iris’s heart taunted her. If Carrie and Shannon planned to buy something, they would have made their way to the other rooms in the store. Sitting in the comfy chairs meant one thing. They stepped into her territory, intending to make it theirs.
“We’ve been racking our brains trying to figure out something. Finally, we just thought it was better if we just asked.”
“Isn’t that how it is for most of our problems?” Iris prepared herself to let the sisters down gently when they asked about buying the store. She clasped her hands in front of her and poised her chin to seem graceful with her declination.
“Who is the Holiday Kisses Angel?” Shannon had always been forthright.
Iris leaned away from the question to create space for her to give a vague response. Jordan did it all the time. She hoped she had picked up the skill. “Why are you asking me?”
“Because we want to help.” Shannon sat in the chair on the other side of her sister. “Think about it. I have connections that could expand the benefits. Right now, the Holiday Kisses Angel, whoever that may be, is doing random acts of kindness. He or she is kind. But it isn’t enough. People have bills, need gifts for their kids, maybe groceries. Carrie and I help the people who come to the food bank. But we want to help with those things, too.”
Shannon’s insult stung Iris. She tugged at the bottom of her sweater.
“Why don’t you just give the gifts to the people you mention?”
“Because they’ll think we are doing it for attention.” Shannon flicked her hand like Iris’s question was a minor nuisance.
“And you think the Holiday Kisses Angel would know who needs groceries?” As far as Iris was concerned, Shannon had achieved her mission. They were older, but the theme remained the same. Shannon told Iris that she wasn’t doing a good enough job. Anything Iris could do, Shannon could do better. The criticism zapped at Iris’s enthusiasm. Was she, in fact, a failure at being kind?
“I told Jordan it wasn’t you,” Shannon turned to face Carrie. “Iris is right. We don’t need the name to do kind things.”
“But Jordan said—” Carrie argued.
“He was taking a guess,” Shannon interrupted. “We’ll have to tell him our plan didn’t work.”
It would have been less painful for someone to punch the air out of Iris’s lungs. Her mind raced to the calculations. Jordan left the dance with Shannon. The next day he dressed as Santa.
Was it all a game to get Iris to tell him that she was responsible for the random acts of kindness?
As much as Iris didn’t want to rush to conclusions, the evidence was there in front of her. Then she thought back to when she was painting his aunt’s nails. Jordan insinuated Iris was the Holiday Kisses Angel. Was he a piece in Shannon’s game? Had the kisses and sweet comments he made been part of his ruse?
Her gut insisted it had to be a misunderstanding. That they were all coincidences. Jordan wouldn’t use his friendship with Iris to gain favor with Shannon.
The door to the store opened, and the mayor wearing a Santa hat greeted everyone in the room with a hardy, “Hello.” Iris inhaled her relief. It had to be a sign.
“Dad?” Carrie leaned forward on her elbows to stand.
“Good to see you, Rod.” Grandma Rose set the blanket atop the bag beside her chair. “Your daughters were discussing things they could do to help others.”
“I’m sure they had some good ideas.” Rod beamed. “Carrie has a heart of gold.”
Shannon had done most of the talking, yet Carrie got the credit for the poor attempt at a good deed. Iris wondered if that was what it was like in their house all the time.
“What can we help you with?” Iris asked.
“I stopped by to thank you for filling in for the Mrs. and me, yesterday.” He directed his attention to Shannon and Carrie. “I had a little heartburn. You know how your mother is, she insisted I visit Dr. Nelson. Anyway.” He gestured with his hand toward Iris. “Iris here filled in as Mrs. Clause for your mother.”
“Why didn’t Mom call me?” The hurt tone in Shannon’s voice confirmed Iris’s earlier suspicion. Her parents overlooked her.
“You were at the high school wrapping gifts,” the mayor explained. “There was no way you could be two places at once.”
“I was done by three. I could have made it.”
“Maybe, next time,” the mayor said. “In the meantime, what are you two doing for lunch?”
The Shepard family left as quickly as they had entered the store, leaving Iris and her grandmother in the whirlwind of their energy. “That was an interesting discourse,” Rose watched after them.
“Would we expect anything different,” Iris replied.
“I suppose you’re right.” Rose picked up her crocheting. “And don’t listen to a word Shannon said.”
“Hmm.” Iris’s mind was trapped in her musings. Why did it matter to Jordan, Carrie, and Shannon if she was kind? There wasn’t a limit to the spirit of generosity. But, Shannon had pointed out there was a level of appreciation for the type of kindness administered.
“Showing someone you care about them makes a world of difference. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Rose’s advice hung in the air, challenging Iris to deny that she needed to hear it. Iris took a sip of tea and swallowed. The sweetness of the honey followed by the cool of the mint refreshed and warmed her palate. Iris savored the taste for a moment before saying, “I’ll keep that in mind.”
I promise Iris will have her happy ending and by the end of the story all of the characters will have grown…(make sure to see my Nano pep talk)