"Gals, we need to hurry," Jacy said pushing Tamara and Maddie through the rugged store, rough cedar walls, exposed beam ceilings, and wood floors smoothed to a dull gray after years of hundreds of people meandering the aisles trying on boots, or looking for a pair of jeans, plaid shirt, or a hat. Bob's Boot Bazaar catered to the cowboys, and a few cowgirls of Landmark. Jacy had spied a few ruffled jean skirts and jean capris.
"Bye, Bob, see you at the Christmas Tree lighting later, and I'll be back at the end of the week for the," she paused glancing around, though she knew Trace wasn't anywhere near the store, "boots," Jacy called, ushering her friends out the door. The scent of leather and evergreen clung to them from the live fir tree and garland, and the sprays of cedar and pine lining every open space.
Jacy had spent the last few hours searching for the right pair of boots for Trace. Well, she'd had to stop and start on numerous occasions because Bob interrupted with story after story of fitting the Blackwell's with boots since they were 'younguns' as he called them. And then someone would add their own story, it got to be too much and she just nodded as she moved along aisles, a line forming behind her as they continued their tales.
Once out the door, Jacy led her friends away from downtown and the two-story bricked businesses making her way toward Tandy's. Marlee and Summer wanted some of her homemade scones and sweet butters. And Jacy had spied an embroidered purse just right for Anastasia. But, she'd really wanted was a jalapeno and cheddar scone slathered in pepper jelly. "Hmm. I think I'll order some for Christmas Eve dinner."
"Girls stop gawking or I'm going to leave you." Jacy paused. Yes, main street was a sight to behold; adorned in its finery or greenery, she should say. Wreaths were attached to the lamp posts while garland surrounded windows, of every building and wrapped around wire strung across the boardwalk diagonally from building to building.
Red and gold and silver and blue ribbons, and bows and bells and balls gave a festive accent to the otherwise monotonous greenery. Lights, which had been on since early morning, began twinkling in the dimming light. Soon they'd cast a bright colorful glow when the sun finally set in a little over an hour.
Excitement rippled through her at the thought of her first Christmas as Trace's wife. Her fingers automatically began to twist the diamond on her third left finger, just to remind herself she wasn't dreaming.
She'd almost lost Trace due to her silly insecurities... Jacy pushed back the thought. Taking in the festive decorations, she refused to allow anything to steal her joy today.
Passing Mitchum's Hardware, Jacy only glanced at the purple and aqua decorations, so different than the others on Main Street, but not less inviting. Jacy had loved the peacock theme and thought she might try it next year in her studio, as she'd watched small children line the window along the sidewalk pressing their faces against the glass in awe.
It might keep them still while she took family Christmas card photos, she'd thought. But, then Jacy was certain at least one child would touch or pull down her decor. She'd laughed and shrugged mentally. That was what the holidays were about, hands on, inviting one to sample and try, and just welcoming friends and family into your heart.
Jacy turned back to see Maddie and Tamara meandering her way, stopping to chat with neighbors and friends. To laugh at children as they raced through the Christmas Tree Maze in the middle of the boardwalk over and over again. To see them waving at passengers on the Christmas Express, a wooden train slowly circling a track along the edge of the trees, manger scene, and wooden benches, carrying people from one end of the boardwalk to the other, stopping and starting often to let residents, young and old alike, on and off the cars.
Jacy stopped, a smile breaking across her face. She'd been so busy trying to get all of her shopping done before Forrest's big surprise for Dani that she'd almost forgotten to enjoy the day.
Spying Johnny Nick's Barbecue stand, Jacy sauntered into line. The smoky flavors making her stomach grumble, reminding her it had been hours since she'd had anything more substantial than spiced cider and cookies.
"Hey, Johnny Nick, I'd like three ribs please, hot." The man knew his way around a pit. He'd catered their wedding, and cooked for Masters at times. Johnny Nick's method was open pit when possible, but like now, the black behemoth behind him, belched out gray tendrils slipping away on the breeze on this crisp, first winter's day.
"Thanks, Johnny, Merry Christmas. Give Susan my love." Jacy handed him a wad of cash, grabbed a handful of napkins, and circled around the line, looking for Tam and Maddie.
She halted upon seeing Anastasia. The woman was dressed as Mrs.Claus, a somewhat naughty Mrs. Claus with a knee length skirt and low cut bosom and knee high candy cane stockings.
"Stasia, you look gorgeous as usual. But," Jacy leaned in for only the trio to hear her next words, "What about the children?"
Anastasia looked down at her attire giving it a thorough once over. "The good parts are covered," she said lifting her grinning gaze back to Jacy.
"Ha. I should've known. Here ladies, I've had us running all over the place like hens without heads, that we've neglected sustenance." Tamara and Maddie gratefully grabbed a rib, moaning with their first bite. "Stasia?" Jacy offered the last rib. "I can get me another one."
"No thanks, dear. I'm due to be at the tree any moment now." A hand fluttered gracefully upward and behind her. "Besides, I couldn't eat another bite. Just finished a turkey leg."
"You will be at the lighting won't you?" Stasia asked, changing the subject.
"Yes, wouldn't miss it," the three women said in unison.
"I have one more stop and then we're taking our packages to my car and then we'll be in place," Jacy said around a mouthful of spicy pork.
"Don't dally." Anastasia said, waving goodbye slowly making her way toward the end of the boardwalk.
"That woman is the sweetest," Maddie said.
"Great boss," Tamara added.
"A good friend." Jacy chimed in.
The three stood for a moment longer lost in their own thoughts about Anastasia Barton. They varied, but when they turned toward Tandy's Tea House, Tamara uttered, "the best." Maddie nodding and agreeing with the other women.