Jordan set his coat on the hook by the door in Iris’s shop. He stopped and looked at the table Iris had set up in the middle of the craft room. Iris had a couple of decks of cards at the edge of the table and a Yahtzee game. “Brad and Carrie should be here any minute.” He craned his neck while he searched the room. “Where’s the Ticket to Ride Game?”
“I know you offered to play because I like it, but I didn’t want to bore the others.” Iris set her hand on his chest and stood on her tiptoe to kiss him. Jordan gave her a quick peck and resumed his search.
“One day, you’ll figure out we like the same things as you.” He walked into the kitchen with a sense of purpose that confused Iris. “You just get a little more excited than the rest of us.” His eyes fell on the game that Iris had tucked away at the top of the fridge. “There it is.”
The door opened with a crack, and Iris and Jordan’s attention averted to the guests. “Tell me you have regular coffee,” Simon called through the house. “Your grandmother is at it again. She keeps telling me I’m too intense. What does she expect from an eighty-two-year-old man? If I settle down, I might not get back up.” When he saw Jordan, he said, “Remember, in all family disagreements, you’re on my side. I need some help against these women.”
“I know what you mean,” Jordan nudged his elbow toward Iris. “She tried to get out of playing Ticket to Ride.”
“Afraid you’re going to lose?” Simon’s eyes sparkled.
Ever since the night of the Christmas parade, Jordan and Simon had been as thick as thieves. A couple of times, Iris and her grandmother marveled at the change in Simon.
“What?” he’d snap back at their joking. “When he started leaving flowers on old women’s doors, I changed my tune.”
Rose entered the house through the back door, and Carrie and Brad were behind her. They had just sat down at the table when the front door opened again. Iris rose to tell whoever it was that the store was closed for the evening. Jordan’s dad had closed the door behind him before Iris had completely stood.
“Your mother and Shannon should be in momentarily.”
Iris mentally tallied the number of people. There were more people than player tokens in the game. On top of that, it would be a tight squeeze around the table. “We can use two tables and have a Yahtzee tourna—”
In unison, everyone exclaimed, “No!”
Simon cleared his throat and pulled on his ear. “What if we play on teams?”
“Yes, teams.” Jordan nodded with eyes that almost seemed to thank Iris’s uncle.
Iris’s brow curved in confusion, asking why the game was so important.
“It is your favorite game,” Jordan egged, “and I still haven’t fulfilled my promise to you on that night we hung lights at your house.”
“And a promise is a promise,” Simon raised a finger to add emphasis to the point.
Somewhere between the argument between Iris and Jordan and the parade, Simon and Jordan had formed an unusual alliance. As far as Jordan was concerned, Simon spoke the wisdom of elders. Conversely, Simon had pulled Iris aside on Christmas morning to tell her she had done well by upgrading her relationship to Jordan. “And the high-speed internet he installed has nothing to do with my change in attitude.”
The alliance between Simon and Jordan was a mixed blessing. Yes, Iris had peace. It came at the expense of going up against the two most important men in her life. Whenever Iris mentioned something one disagreed with, the other pulled her aside to negotiate. As in playing Ticket to Ride when it would be easier to play Yahtzee.
Fighting against playing her favorite game made no sense, so Iris withdrew her efforts to push toward something everyone else would like. “Okay, Ticket to Ride teams it is.”
Jordan’s mother and Shannon rushed in the door. Charlene’s voice was breathy. “I hope we didn’t miss anything?”
Shannon rubbed the snow off her feet on the rug in front of the door. “Knowing Iris, there had to be a discussion.”
“Hey,” Iris dreaded that Shannon was right. Shannon was nicer since the night she insisted Iris and Jordan pull it together, but hints of the woman Iris rivaled all her life was still there.
In less time than it took to store snacks and drinks on the end tables, everyone was huddled around the board game that had the image of the United States map. Just seeing the train routes linking the hub cities made Iris giddy.
“I’ll pass out destination cards. Jordan can pass out the Train Car cards,” Shannon pried the box away from Simon, who had opened it. Two different sets of cards made up the game. One set had colors the player needed to collect to buy train cars. The other set had routes the player had to build with the plastic trains that formed a chain on the board. Iris hoped she and Jordan had routes that were closely connected.
“How about let’s do it the other way around.” Jordan gave Shannon a steely glare that surprised Iris. He and Shannon never power struggled. Or at least, she thought they hadn’t.
“Good point,” Shannon replied with her I’ll play nice grin.
“Remember, no looking until everyone has their cards.” Jordan set the cards in front of the teams. There was something in his tone that said, don’t think about arguing. Everyone nodded their agreement. The air of anticipation added to the suspense of the game. Iris thought to herself, wow, I had no idea this many people loved Ticket to Ride as much as I do.
When Jordan finished distributing the cards, he said, “You can look.” Iris waited for Jordan to pick up the cards. She was eager, not selfish. Jordan slid the cards closer to Iris. “You can read them first.”
Iris picked up the first card, but it didn’t make sense. Instead of a destination, a slip of paper with one word adhered to the card, obscuring the route. She found the same thing on all the cards. The first read Iris; the second had a circle with a diamond above it; the third had the word me, and the last had a heart. She murmured, “Something is wrong,” and flipped over the card to make sure they hadn’t passed out cards from a different game.
“You could fix it by saying, yes.” Jordan slid a box that he had set on the table in front of Iris. When it was in front of her, he opened it and got down on one knee.
“What is this?” Iris’s mind could not reconcile that what she wished for was taking place in real life.
“In all fairness, I should warn you that we made a wish under the tree ten years ago. Iris, it took me ten years to accept that the best thing that has ever happened to me could be forever. Please say you’ll be my wife. I promise I’ll be there every day to take care of you, knowing that you’ll do the same for me. I’ll show you how much you are cherished, and I promise to fight with you to let me help you with all things concerning life.”
The room was silent. Iris’s voice was lodged in her throat behind the tears she held back. She glanced over at Shannon, who seemed to be the better fit for Jordan. Her face glowed with happiness at what she witnessed. A thought came to Iris. She had been trying to figure out a way to make a love connection between Jordan and Shannon. Had Shannon been trying to do the same thing for Jordan and Iris. If the smile on her face was any indication, both women had the same thought. This time, Shannon had done a better job than Iris. All eyes in the room shone their blessing of agreement on Jordan’s request.
“Are you going to answer his question?” Simon nudged Iris with his voice.
Her voice was still stuck, so she nodded. Her eyes connected with Jordan, and she croaked her answer, “Yes.”
“Yes?” Jordan said it slowly with a hopeful lilt.
Iris’s voice returned. “Yes, Jordan Miller. I will gladly marry you.”
Jordan took the ring from the box and placed it on Iris’s finger. When it slid into place, her body warmed, and a sense of peace filled her. One day, she’d tell Jordan about the wish she made when she was twelve years old.
Jordan rose and pulled Iris into a hug.
The silence that enveloped them drifted away, and the happy sounds of the others in the room rushed into Iris’s awareness. Behind them, she heard her uncle and Jordan’s dad talking. His dad said, “Finally, he got something right.”
Simon replied, “I never doubted him for a minute.”