Tear Down and Die“Did you see the announcement from the Chamber of Commerce?” MJ Austin, my store manager, waved a sheet of paper at me. “The annual Christmas Parade kicks off at eight, the morning after Thanksgiving. We’re sure to get a flood of snowbirds wandering through the downtown, doing their holiday shopping. That means we need to have this place decorated before Thanksgiving. I was wondering what you had in mind for The Treasure Chest.”

“I’d be glad to help you decorate,” said Skye Blue. Skye had that whole Stevie Nicks thing going, whereas MJ could have doubled for Ellie Mae Clampett. I only have two employees, and they’re as different as night and day. “There’s a prize for the shop that shows the best holiday spirit. This should be fun!”

It didn’t sound like fun to me. Not at all. Instead, I felt my eyes well up with tears. “Uh, I, um,” and I turned my face away so they couldn’t see me struggle with my emotions. This would be my first Christmas since my parents died, and my first away from my hometown, St. Louis.

While I was happy to have purchased The Treasure Chest, my lovely little shop in Stuart, Florida, I suddenly missed Missouri. Without the changing of the seasons, I felt disconnected from the calendar. Although I love being surrounded by beach-themed décor items, I miss the bracing nip of cold weather. As for a White Christmas, I could only have one if I planted my toes in the sand.

Skye tilted her head, and her silver bell earrings jingled. MJ stared at me, her fingers smoothing her rhinestone studded belt. They were waiting for me to explain my reaction when Jack, my Chihuahua, started barking at me. He stood up on his hind legs and danced in a silly circle.

“Have you been a good boy?” I asked as I scooped him up. While I cuddling the tiny rescue pup, I decided that I simply had to get in a festive mood. I wasn’t about to let my staff down.

“What did you two have in mind for the shop?” I asked. “Are you expecting me to put in a big order for holiday items? If so, we’re sunk because we’ve probably missed most of the delivery dates.”

Skye’s mouth curled into a half-smile. “Huh, who needs manufactured goods? Our specialty is upcycling, recycling, and repurposing. All we need is for you to set a date for the decorating party. MJ and I will do the rest.”

“You don’t have to do it all by yourselves,” I said. “I’m sure I can come up with an ornament or two.”

A week later, I welcomed the pizza delivery guy. After paying him, I locked the front door and flipped our sign to CLOSED. “Pizza’s here! Are you all ready to decorate?”

My employees had been sneaking around for days. They’d accepted two packages from UPS. Skye had brought down three huge boxes from her apartment on the second floor. I had no idea what was inside. Now the tiny stereo system I’d installed played the dulcet tones of Manhattan Transfer singing carols. MJ came out of the back room. She was dragging a big box behind her. Skye had boxes loaded on a push cart. She brought up the rear.

“The pizza can wait,” said MJ. “You have to open this first.”

Inside the box I found a white artificial Christmas tree pre-strung with white fairy lights. The pieces snapped together in nothing flat. It really was gorgeous, totally different from the green trees I was accustomed to, but cool.

“Now for the trimmings,” said Skye.

From the boxes, she pulled handmade ornaments so fabulous my jaw dropped. Using fishhooks, starfish, glitter, and glass beads, she’d created a multi-tiered trinket that caught the light. After seeing how thrilled I was, she said, “That’s not all.”

MJ reached into another box. She pulled out garlands of white shells, interspersed with sparkling white beads. The strands were fabulous!

“This box is a gift from your pal, Kiki Lowenstein,” said Skye. “We can’t wait to see what she’s done.”

Inside were tiny gold frames. In the center of each was an original Zentangle® design, done with a gold pen on white paper. “Look closer at the frames,” said Skye. “She upcycled those plastic lids from small carryout containers. Aren’t they fabulous?”

I hadn’t been twiddling my thumbs. I went into the storage room and came back with my own box. As Skye and MJ watched, I pulled out the ornaments I’d made by gluing jingle shells into small clusters and adding fake pearls at the centers.

When the Christmas Parade rolled around, we were ready. The store looked absolutely glorious. We didn’t take first prize with our décor. We won the Grand Prize, which was a snow globe. Inside was a tiny evergreen with a cardinal sitting on one of the branches.

“How do you like that, Jack?” I said, to my small friend as he wagged his tail. “I got my White Christmas after all.”

You can read more about Cara Mia in Tear Down and Die , the first book in the new “Cara Mia Delgatto” mystery series, published by Spot On Publishing. Book will be available at Amazon.com in the coming weeks.

For a limited time only, Joanna is offering “Kiki Lowenstein and The Cupcake Caper” as a free kindle download from November 9 – November 11, 2013.

Meet the author
Joanna Campbell Slan is the author of three mystery series, including The Kiki Lowenstein mystery series, The Jane Eyre Chronicles and her upcoming new series, Cara Mia Delgatto mysteries. Visit Joanna at her website or on Facebook.

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