“The last thing I want to do on New Year’s Eve is be out on the highways.” I shook my head as I poured myself another cup of peppermint tea. “Remind me the next time I get pregnant to make sure the baby comes in the spring or summer or even fall when it isn’t so icy outside.”
“You want to get pregnant again?” My daughter Anya’s denim blue eyes were as big as the tea cup in her hand. At thirteen, she’s very curious about s-e-x, so I could imagine the mental gymnastics she was entertaining.
“Sounds like a plan to me,” said my fiancé, Detective Chad Detweiler, winking at me. He had been listening from his accustomed spot, leaning against the kitchen counter with his long legs crossed at the ankle.
“First things, first. Let’s wait until I deliver this little dude, okay?” I patted my huge belly. “I’m just sayin.’ I don’t much care how we celebrate the New Year as long as we’re all snug here at home. I don’t want us out on the roads. Not if we can help it.”
Of course, if Detweiler got called into work, he’d have no choice to leave us and brave the slick roads. But my fingers were crossed that he could stay home. Our baby was due in two weeks, and I wanted my husband-to-be at my side when I delivered. Since this was a second pregnancy for me, the little rascal might decide to come early.
“What do you do to celebrate the New Year in Scotland?” Anya looked up at our nanny, Bronwyn Macavity, with curiosity. Brawny, as we call her, is a Scot, through and through. People recognize her provenance immediately because she typically wears a kilt, a white blouse, knee socks and brogues.
“All sorts of things. We have a celebration called Hogmanay that begins on December 31. For some it lasts until January 2, what with singing, dancing, and telling stories. In my neighborhood, Robbie McGillis woke us all up on the New Year, playing his bagpipes. ‘Twas a thrilling sound, you can bet. Then Mum and Da would go through the house, room to room, sprinkling every corner with holy water and carrying lit pieces of juniper to chase away bad spirits.”
“Then I vote we have a Hogmanay New Year,” said Anya. “What do you think, Erik?”
“Hogs! Many!” Her five-year-old brother nodded in agreement, as he lifted his tiny hand for a high five as his red curls bobbed in agreement.
That settled, the kids raced off to watch Frozen for the umpteenth zillion time. Thinking ahead, I asked Brawny, “What do I need to do to help you pull this off?”
“Not a thing. Aye, and it’ll be my pleasure to share this with the wee ones.”
* * * * * * * * *
We sat down to a New Year’s Eve dinner of stew. The tantalizing smell of it cooking had made my mouth water all day long. For dessert, Brawny had baked shortbread cookies.
“I helped-ed! So did Anya!” crowed Erik, happily. “They’s lemon curse, too.”
“Lemon curse” was quickly explained to be “lemon curd,” which I happily slathered onto my cookies.
Once dinner was over, we piled onto the furniture in the family room. The animals joined us, so that I had a cat in the nook of my knees, a Great Dane at my feet, and another cat in my lap. Detweiler lit a big blaze in the fireplace. At the stroke of midnight, we counted down the New Year. Brawny excused herself to go get the mulled cider she’d been cooking in the Crockpot. The scent of cloves mixed with the burning wood was delightful.
“Erik and I have a surprise for you,” said Anya. “Brawny helped, but we’ve been practicing all day.”
As Detweiler and I sipped our hot drinks, Erik and Anya stood side-by-side and sang, “Auld Lang Syne.” Their piping voices rose to the rafters. The childlike tones formed an enchanting counterpoint to a song that had served to usher in the New Year for centuries, even before Robert Burns shaped the old Scots folk anthem into a national poem.
“Aye, but do ye know what it means?” Brawny asked, after we’d applauded the children’s performance.
“It means we won’t forget the ones we’ve loved and lost,” said Anya. “Isn’t that right, Erik?”
He nodded solemnly. “Even if a hog’s many years go by.”
~ The End ~
Shotgun, Wedding, Bells is the 11th book in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series, published by Spot On Publishing. The first book in the series is Paper, Scissors, Death.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on February 6 for the chance to win a print copy of Shotgun, Wedding, Bells (U.S. residents only) or the e-book version (open to everyone). Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes.
Meet the author
National bestselling and award-winning author Joanna Campbell Slan is a real sap. She loves animals, kids, and crafts. (Not necessarily in that order.) She’s also a huge reader, who’s never without a book in her hands. You can find her walking the beach on Jupiter Island, looking for seashells. Learn more at www.JoannaSlan.com.