Anastasia waved her friends away, turning eyeing the center of town. This was her second Christmas in Landmark, and she was satisfied that a sense of peace and belonging had settled more deeply inside her as her first full year had flown by.
Of course it wasn't fair to compare Landmark to Baltimore, with its lights on the water; boats, large and small, motored and sail, all decked out, casting their warm reflection on the water. And, certainly Landmark with large lawns, historic and modern homes along Main was festive, but unlike Hampden's Christmas lights, Miracle on 34th Street.
At night Brownstones with their second story bowed windows became living ginger bread houses; electric icicles dangling from roofs and porches instead of the sugary confection, but none less dazzling.
Anastasia took in her surroundings. Red and white poinsettias stood sentinel on each side of business doorways, welcoming customers inside. More of the colorful plants were clustered in groupings of three and five or more at key points on the boardwalk and marked the entrance and exit of the Christmas tree maze.
She inhaled deeply, taking the crisp air into her lungs, but mainly enjoying the tangy scent of pine prevalent in this part of northeast Texas.
Anastasia let her gaze wander, families of all sizes and ages, young and elderly couples, and a group of teenage girls that Stasia settled her stare, lingering, taking in the way they huddled into one another, laughing and giggling, starting and stopping as a unit outside store windows, or rushing out of a store, pausing to reflect upon their latest purchase of the cute guy behind a counter.
Anastasia couldn't help but smile at their enthusiasm as she made her way toward the far end of the boardwalk. Today, was a special occasion. She had time to reflect upon Jacy and Tamara's romances.
While Stasia hadn't planned her part in helping them find love, she couldn't suppress the warmth in her breast at their new-found love. "And Maddie," Anastasia muttered as she skirted a group of carolers.
She paused and turned back. "Sweet," she said, taking in the quartets', two men and two women, costumes. Red cowboy hats trimmed in white fur, red felt strapped to the shanks of their boots, and the vests. Classic tuxedo vests, Christmas style. One green vest with poinsettias, another blue with snowmen, yet another black with Santa and his list of good boys and girls, and the last one, vintage gold with various scenes of the nativity.
"Stasia." The sound of her name over the melody of "Silent Night" pulled Anastasia from her reverie. She turned to find Marlee standing beside her. "Wow. A Santa Catsuit."
"Wow yourself, girl." Marlee's brows wiggled.
Stasia curtsied, her ample cleavage bursting against the cutout of her neckline. "I feel a little naughty, but this is fun." Anastasia confided to her friend as they walked away.
"Where's the rest of your clan?"
"Here and there, but we'll all convene for the lighting of the tree in a few hours. In the meantime, I thought we could meet up with Patty and Jennifer over some mulled wine and a lot of gossip.
"Ooh. Who is it? I know Mr. Stubblefield found someone to marry.
"Then it has to be Ms. Flory. Did she..."
"My lips are sealed until we meet the girls."
"Okay, then. Let's get going. Maybe new fodder for my next book."
"Oh, it's fodder all right. Gorgeous and way more naughty than anything this town has seen since we were founded by that Madame."
"Wait a minute." Anastasia stumbled to a halt. "Landmark was founded by a madame, a real live..."
"Woman of the night."
Stasia gripped Marlee's elbow and pulled her toward the circle of white lights, shaped like a circular tent, up on the right where refreshments were being served.
"I can't wait to hear this."