We’re getting so close to the release of Book 20 – Love’s Surprises. Things are right on schedule for December 25th. And don’t forget, there will be a Christmas short story released on January 1st, too!
It’s strange to be caught up in the wondrous craziness that is the Christmas season when the book that I’ve been focusing on is set at the end of October / early November. But I can push through – especially when I get to also play with Polly and her friends at Christmastime.
This little vignette is the first anniversary of Rachel and Billy Endicott. They were married on Halloween last year. Billy works with Doug Randall as an electrician and Rachel is taking over more and more responsibilities with Sycamore House Catering with Sylvie working in the bakery at Sweet Beans.
These two kids are so young, but they have so much ahead of them.
Rachel woke up to a cold wet nose nudging her cheek.
“Nudge her again,” she heard Billy whisper.
“What time is it?”
The dog pushed at her again and Rachel opened one eye to peer at him. He was sitting on the floor beside her, his head on her pillow.
“What are you doing, you goofy dog?”
Big Jack put his paw up beside his face and she realized that he had something tied around his neck.
“What is this?”
“Untie it,” Billy whispered.
Rachel pushed the blankets back and pulled herself upright, then looked around the room. Billy had brought in several lit candles and stood in the doorway holding another candle.
He smiled at her. “Happy Anniversary. Untie the note.”
“Happy Anniversary,” she said and reached around Big Jack’s neck until she found the bow, then untied it. “Good boy.” Rachel patted his head and he wagged his tail.
“Come here, boy,” Billy said, and bent down to give the dog a treat. “We’ve been practicing this all month.”
“Yeah. I knew he was smart enough to do what I asked. We just had to figure out how to get him to wake you up. Whenever we were here alone, I had him push at your pillow. I wasn’t sure if he’d actually nose your face. I guess he thinks you smell good, too.”
“What is this?” she asked, holding up the envelope. Billy had sealed the back of the envelope over a long ribbon which he’d then tied around Big Jack’s neck. “That was kind of clever.”
“It’s our first anniversary. Mom said it’s supposed to be paper. I didn’t know what kind of paper thing you’d want, so I wrote you a letter.”
That got Rachel’s attention. “You wrote me a letter?”
“Yeah. It’s nothing. No big deal. It’s on paper, though.” He’d come over to stand beside her and put the candle on the bedstand.
“You wrote me a letter?” she asked again, rather surprised. Of all the things she expected Billy to do on their anniversary, a handwritten letter to her was the last that would have come up. Rachel began to carefully unseal the letter. She didn’t want to mess this up.
Billy reached out and took the letter out of her hand. “It was a dumb idea, wasn’t it. I should have spent more time thinking of a better present. I’m sorry.”
“No, this is amazing.” Rachel snatched the letter back and unfolded it. “I’m just surprised. She patted the bed beside her. When Billy sat down, she leaned into him, then looked up. With a quick move, she kissed his cheek. “Thank you.”
“You haven’t even read it yet. I made coffee and bought some of your favorite cinnamon rolls from the bakery yesterday. You read and I’ll bring those in for you. It’s okay if we have breakfast in bed, today, isn’t it?”
“Oh Billy.” Rachel couldn’t believe she was about to cry. He never did things like this.
“Do you want some coffee and a roll?” he asked, standing up. He rubbed Big Jack’s head again and pulled another treat out of a pocket in his pants for the dog.
She nodded and leaned toward the candle so she could read the letter.
Can you believe it’s been a whole year since we got married? I can’t. I can’t believe you ever agreed to marry me. You are the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. I always thought that I’d end up as some old man, living alone. You know, like one of those guys who everybody feels sorry for? But I won’t ever be that old guy because you said yes a year ago.
I was so nervous that day. You made it as easy as it could be and didn’t have a lot of weird expectations that I had to live up to. You just let me be who I am. When I saw you that day, instead of getting more nervous, I felt myself calm down. That’s what you do for me. Whenever I worry about something, all I have to do is look at you and I settle down because I know that I’m never alone.
I know I’m probably not the best husband. We don’t like the same movies or read the same books and I know I drive you crazy because I still like to hang out with Doug and play video games, but I am so glad that you put up with all of that and I am glad that you always tell me I can be better and do big things. I don’t know what those will ever be, but I’m glad that you’re on my side.
Just so you know, I will always be on your side, too. I’ve never really said it, but I’m proud of you. I know how much you love your job and it’s way cool to see you so excited about going to work every day, even when the hours are crazy and clients are mean.
Our life is just starting. I never thought that I’d be lucky enough to have such a wonderful person standing beside me.
I love you, Rachel Endicott. This has been the best year of my life and it’s all because of you.
“Is it okay?” he asked, standing in the doorway again, this time carrying a tray with mugs and plates on it.
“It’s beautiful,” she said. “I love you, too. I can’t believe you wrote all of this down. I want to frame it.”
The look of shock that passed across his face made her laugh. “No,” he said. “You can’t do that. I don’t want anyone else to ever read that letter. You can burn it.” He put the tray on a desk in their room, then held his hand out. “Give it to me and I’ll burn it.”
Rachel clutched the letter to her chest. “You’ll do no such thing. This is the sweetest thing I’ve ever gotten in my life. I’m keeping it forever. When we have kids and they think you’re an old fuddy duddy because you won’t play video games with them, I’ll show them this letter and tell them what a cool guy you used to be.”
“They won’t believe it.” He held out a mug of coffee. “Are we talking about having babies now?”
This time it was Rachel’s turn to look at him in shock. “Right now? No! I’m just getting started with the catering business. I don’t have time for that. Besides, we’re really young. Aren’t we? Are you ready for babies? We’ve never really talked about this.”
“I’m not ready. You’re the one who brought it up.”
She shook her head furiously. “I was just talking about someday in the far future when we had kids. Remember? I said you would be an old fuddy duddy. That means you’d have to be in your forties or something.”
Billy breathed a sigh of relief. “I think it would be awesome to have kids with you, but yeah, we’re still young.” He held out the mug to her again.
“Maybe we should get a cat.” Rachel sat up and took it from him. It was still too hot to drink, so she put it beside the candle.
“I don’t know if Big Jack would like having a cat around,” Billy said. “He’s kinda possessive.”
“He did great with Obiwan and when Doug got a dog, he was great then, too.”
“But those were dogs. Why do you want a cat?”
“Just because. Can we?”
“I don’t know, boy,” Billy said, rubbing Big Jack’s head. “What do you think about having a feline around here?” He looked up. “He’s pretty set in his ways.”
Rachel smiled at him. “I think you’re the one who’s set in his ways.” She picked up the letter again. “Except for this. You really outdid yourself with this present.”
“It was really okay? You didn’t have something else in mind that I should have done for you?”
“Not at all. This is really the sweetest thing. I love it. And you brought me breakfast and you’re sitting here talking to me.” Rachel scooted over in the bed. “I’m so lucky to have you. Come snuggle with me for a few minutes before you have to get in the shower.”
He looked at the coffee and rolls on the desk, then moved over to the bed and lifted the blankets to crawl in with her. “You aren’t going to make me late, are you?”