Mid-October

 

“I’m so happy you came home for a long weekend, sweetheart,” Helen Belden told her daughter as they walked toward the home improvement store’s garden center.  “I know you don’t like shopping but I’m glad you agreed to run errands with me before we go to lunch.”

 

Twenty-one-year-old Trixie gave her mother a one-armed hug.  “There’s nothing I love more than buying fertilizer with my mother,” she replied with a giggle.  Both my professors for Friday classes gave out assignments for today and next week.  They said we didn’t need to come into class, I knew it would be a perfect chance to come home for a visit.”

 

Helen snorted delicately and tossed her curls, just like her daughter.  “Let me guess.  Jim is in Chicago for that business administration seminar that Matt asked him to take, so you were at loose ends.”

 

Her daughter’s cheeks blushed a deep pink.  She and Jim Frayne had been dating since her sixteenth birthday.  They’d been in love longer than that.  “I don’t deny that Jim being gone played into it but I told him I wanted to come home to see you and Daddy.  We talked about it and decided we could do something special next Friday when I don’t have classes.”  She stuck her hands into her jeans pockets as she walked beside her mom.  “I’m just glad I could get an appointment with Dr. Ferris for a check-up,” she added.

 

Helen’s eyes cut sharply to her daughter’s face.  “Are you all right?” she asked worriedly.

 

“Yes, I’m fine,” Trixie answered quietly.  “I just need to have my annual exam.”

 

“Ah,” her mother said packing a wealth of knowledge into such a small word.  “Well, see that you take care of yourself and make sure you don’t bring home any surprises for Daddy.  I don’t think he’d be as understanding about it as I am.”

 

Trixie rolled her eyes, then giggled at her mother.  “I’m sure you’re right.”

 

The duo stepped through the doors from the main store into the seasonal shop and stopped dead in their tracks.

 

“I cannot believe how they push the holidays earlier and earlier,” Helen complained, looking around the large space.  “Christmas decorations and it’s not even Halloween.”

 

Trixie’s eyes danced with excitement because she loved all things Christmas.  “I know it’s early, Moms, but I love it.  Look at those ornaments!” she exclaimed pointing toward a display of brightly colored decorations.  “Do you need me to help get the fertilizer?” she asked, glancing around the seasonal area.  “I want to look at everything.”

 

Helen patted her shoulder.  “Of course, I can get a bag of fertilizer.  You go ahead and look.  I’ll find you.”

 

“Thanks, Moms!” Trixie said, slowly moving away down the aisle, inspecting each new item on display.

 

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Helen returned from the garden shop and meandered through the holiday décor eyeing the new items for this year.  She made a few notes on her phone of things she wanted to check at home for possible replacement.  Turning into the last aisle, she saw Trixie standing mid-way down the aisle, clutching a box to her chest and staring at a display in front of her.  Helen was startled to see tears running down her daughter’s cheeks.

 

“Trixie!” she said sharply, hurriedly pushing her cart of garden supplies toward her daughter.  “What’s wrong?” she asked, wrapping an arm around her baby girl and wiping the tears from her face.  “What happened?”

 

“Moms, look,” she rasped, pointing to the display.  “It looks just like it.  I mean exactly like it.  Don’t you think?” She turned to her mother for confirmation.

 

“Oh my, Trixie,” Helen said, shocked at what she was seeing.  “It’s like they created it as a model of the real thing.”

 

“I’m getting it, Moms,” she advised, holding out the box in her arms to show her mother.  “I’m giving it to Jim for Christmas,” she declared, placing the box in her mother’s cart.

 

Helen brushed an errant tear from her own cheek.  “He’ll love it, baby.  I think you should get some of the accessories to go with it,” she stated, pulling a pair of packages off a shelf and showing them to her daughter.

 

“Yes, we definitely need those,” Trixie said, selecting one last item.  “This present is going to be perfectly perfect,” she said happily as they headed toward the checkout.

 

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December 24 – The Manor House

 

“Trixie?” Jim called as he reached the top of the stairs.  “Babe, where are you?” he asked, walking down the hall to glance into Honey’s room.  “Trixie?”

 

“Here,” Trixie replied from his room across the hall.

 

Stepping through the doorway, he saw the love of his life standing by the side of his bed, nervously wringing her hands and eyeing him with anxious blue eyes.

 

In three long strides, he was before her, gathering her gently to his chest and lifting her chin so he could look into her sapphire blue eyes.  “Baby, what’s the matter?” he asked.  “You disappeared and Mother sent me to get you because supper will be ready in a half-hour.”

 

Trixie dropped her head to his chest and nestled her face into his neck, then placed a kiss on his neck.  “There’s nothing the matter, Jim.  I just needed to do something.”

 

“Trixie, whatever would you possibly need to do in my bedroom without me?” he queried, waggling russet eyebrows and grinning lasciviously.

 

A soft giggle escaped from his special girl.  Eyes shining with love, she reached up and cradled his face in her hands, kissing him deeply.  “We’ll get back to that,” she whispered, pressing another kiss to his lips. 

 

Turning her head toward Jim’s chest of drawers, she quietly announced, “I came to deliver your Christmas present.”

 

Following her gaze, Jim saw a gaily wrapped box about a foot and a-half square sitting in the center of the top of the dresser.

 

“What is it?” he asked, walking toward the box with Trixie cuddled into him.

 

“You’ll need to open it to see, Jim.”  Looking up at him, she advised, “The box is just a shell.  You’ll need to lift it straight up to get to the present.”

 

“Hmmm.”  He smiled.  “Why do I think you’re up to mischief?”

 

“I wouldn’t know,” she replied haughtily. “I’m always good.”

 

“That you are,” he agreed with another waggle of his brows.

 

“Goof!” she admonished, stepping closer to the box so she’d be able to see his reaction.  “Open it.”

 

“Straight up?” he asked moving in front of the box and placing a hand on the top.

 

“Yup!”

 

Jim glanced at Trixie with a smile on his face.  “Hmmm.”

 

“Go on.”

 

He placed his hands on opposite corners of the box and lifted it up two feet before moving it to one side and setting it on a chair next to the chest of drawers. 

 

“Trixie!” he exclaimed.  “Where did you find it?” he asked, reaching out a hand and then snatching it back before he could touch.

 

There, in the center of his chest of drawers, was a perfect replica of Ten Acres prior to the fire.  The house was painted the same blue-gray with white trim and gingerbread.  Flanking the house were trees and bushes dusted with a touch of flocking snow.  Soft, warm light shone from each window.

 

“It’s Ten Acres,” he whispered, running a long, gentle finger along the roof-line and trim.  “This is what it must have looked like when Aunt Nell was alive.  It’s amazing.”  Turning to Trixie, he saw the tears pooling in her beautiful eyes.  “Trixie, come here,” he requested, pulling her into his arms and hugging her tight.  “I don’t’ know where you found it but I love it.”

 

Lifting her face, Trixie looked into his emerald eyes.  “I bought it back in October when I came home that weekend.  I found it when I went to the home supply store with Moms,” she explained, watching him as he stared in awe at his gift.  Placing a finger on his cheek, she turned his face back to hers.  “I couldn’t rebuild the actual house for you but this is the next best thing.  I wanted to give you this Ten Acres as a home for Christmas.  This way, you can always carry home with you.”

 

Jim tugged his curl and watched it spring back, reflecting all the life and energy Trixie possessed.  He smiled at her as he cupped a hand under her jaw and lifted her lips to drink from them.  “Trixie, I love my present but, baby, as long as I have your love, I carry my home with me,” he said softly.  “You, Trixie.  You’re my home.  Always.”  He kissed her, expressing every bit of love he had in his heart for her.

 

“I love you, Jim,” she whispered against his lips.  “Welcome home.”

 

“I love you, too, Trixie,” he replied, kissing her again before moving her to sit on the end of his bed.  Maintaining eye-contact, he dropped to one knee and reached into his pocket and pulled out a jeweler’s box.

 

Trixie’s hands covered her mouth after she’d uttered an “oh”.

 

“Trixie, my love.  My life.  My home.  Will you marry me?  And we can rebuild Ten Acres for our family?” he asked, opening the box to display the antique solitaire that had belonged to his Aunt Nell. 

 

“Yes!” she cried, throwing her arms around his neck.  “I love you!”

 

“I love you, Trixie,” he said between the kisses with which he covered her face.  “We’ve given each other the best present.  Love and a home for Christmas.”

 

 

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Authors’ Notes:

 

This year has been a long one for us.  We’ve not been able to write much this year between Jenny’s work and taking classes and me injuring my right arm.  Christmas is the one time of year that we always want to post a story.  It’s when we became sisters.  Not just writing sisters but sisters of the heart.

 

The idea or item that inspires a story is always fascinating to us.  This year as Jo decorated her home for the holidays, it dawned on her that the mansion from her holiday village looked like Ten Acres.  That thought was shared with Jenny and the story developed from there.

 

The mansion was actually purchased at Lowe’s from the seasonal shop next to the garden center.   It is part of the 2004 Carole Towne Collection called the Holland House but it will forever be Ten Acres to us.

 

We want to thank our wonderful editors, Joycey and Kelly.  Our stories are always better because of their love of the Bob-Whites and their attention to detail. 

 

Any errors are Jenny’s.

 

Nuh-uh, they’re Jo’s.

 

Background is from Shutterstock.

 

Header photo is from Sears.com