Sunday, April 5, 2015

Cara Mia Delgatto and the Easter Miracle, Conclusion

Note: The beginning of this month, I started writing a real-time, serialized story featuring Kiki Lowenstein. That was so much fun that I've decided to do another. This one features Kiki's friend Cara Mia Delgatto. I hope you'll tell a friend about these blog posts!

To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, scroll down your computer screen to the OLDER POSTS button.

Because Francine Gainer was arriving early the next day to pick up the Easter scenes for her granddaughters, Skye quickly decorated one of the four gecko eggs to look like the original. As she replaced the new egg with the one that Honora had made of polymer clay, we could see that this was a perfect match.

"I'm still not totally comfortable with deceiving Francine," I said, as I admired the finished product.

"You don't have to. You can tell her."

I nodded. "That's what I'll do."

But the next morning we were incredibly busy. I barely had the chance to tell Honora about the swap, when a customer interrupted needing assistance. At eleven, when the store was full of happy shoppers, Francine tapped me on the shoulder. "Cara? Should I go in the back? I assume that's where Honora has the Easter gifts."

I opened my mouth to tell her about the swap, but standing at her side was a young woman, obviously her granddaughter. As I struggled with my conscience, the girl stuck out her hand and introduced herself as Dahlia Gainer. Now I was in a real quandary. Telling Francine about the swap was one thing, but sharing the deception with her granddaughter was entirely different. Especially given the look of expectation that lit up the child's face. In a snap, I decided that I would call Francine later. That way SHE could decide whether to tell Dahlia about the egg-aspirating problem.

Leading the way, I took Dahlia and her grandmother into the back room. As we walked, Francine whispered, "The child was so depressed that I decided to tell her about the gift one day early. She's a bit old for the Easter bunny, and I knew it would brighten her spirits."

One look at the three bird cages with their adorable Easter scenes inside and Dahlia practically cheered. Skye had created clever tags for each cage, displaying each of the girl's names. Dahlia immediately was drawn to her cage, probably because the colors were the blues and yellows she loved. "Oh, Gram, look! See the jeweled egg? Grandpa told me about them. Isn't it wonderful? I didn't get to see them before when he was working on them, but look, look!"

My heart sank. It took all my powers to keep my mouth shut. Fortunately for me, MJ stuck her head in the back room. "We have a customer who needs to talk to you, Cara. I can help Mrs. Gainer get these into her car."

Later that day I tried to reach Francine on her cell phone, but it went immediately to voice mail. I tried again that evening with the same result. I felt crummy about the deception, but I consoled myself by remembering how happy Dahlia had been.

**

Easter came and Easter went. Our sales were outstanding. Our in store event with the Highwayman painters went well. We sold three landscapes. The opera singers were outstanding. Skye was busy all day showing eager children how to paint seeds in eggshells. We'd done so well that I was trying to rearrange our scant merchandise to cover the bare shelves when I heard the door minder ding.

"That egg," said Francine. She stared at me.

I swallowed. Luckily, Honora had heard the door minder. She came out of the back and waved cheerfully to her old friend. Of course, Honora knew about the swap. She'd been relieved we'd found a suitable substitute, and she'd since volunteered to tell Francine the truth. But she hadn't been able to rouse Mrs. Gainer by phone.

"That egg," repeated Francine.

Honora and I both must have turned white. "Mrs. Gainer--"

"Wait. Don't say a word. It was a miracle. An absolute miracle!"

My legs went weak with relief. Sort of. We needed to know more.

"Why don't you come in the back and tell us all about it," said Honora. "I've made a fresh pot of tea."

When Francine turned her head, Honora pantomimed zipping her mouth shut. She was right. Our excuses and apologies could wait until after Francine said her piece.

Once we were seated at the table and the tea had been poured, Francine dragged out her phone. "I have photos to show you. As you know, Cara, my granddaughter Dahlia was overjoyed by the work that Honora had done. She held her bird cage on her lap the whole way home. The next morning, she was up at crack of dawn, because she wanted to see the expressions on her sisters' faces when they saw their scenes."

Taking a swallow of my tea, I steeled myself. Any minute now, we were going to hear that Dahlia figured out her egg wasn't like her sisters.

"But guess what she found in her bird cage?" Francine's eyes were animated. She pushed her phone to the middle of the table. "A baby gecko."

"My stars!" Honora picked up the phone and gawped at the photo. She handed it to me. Sure enough, a tiny gecko was there, resting against two portions of the eggshell.

"I don't know how to thank you. You two worked a miracle. Dahlia explained to me that her grandfather told her he'd decorated gecko eggs. She was sad that the egg would never hatch because he took it from the nest. Durwood showed her photos of where he found them, I guess. Geckos don't really make nests. The type of geckos we get in our houses don't, at least." Francine paused to wipe her eyes with her paper napkin. "To Dahlia, this was a sign from her grandfather. A true Easter miracle."

**

We never told Francine what had happened. There didn't seem to be much point. As for the missing egg, later that day I was cleaning Luna's kitty litter box. Sparkling faux gems winked up at me from the mess. I remembered something that Honora had once told me. "The two enemies of a dollhouse are dust and cats."

But this time, Luna had done a good deed. In fact, she had been part of a miracle.

~ The End ~

 I hope you've enjoyed my Easter gift to all of you! I will leave this up until April 11, and then it will disappear. Much love to all of you! May your lives be touched by miracles--Your friend, Joanna

**PS Now it's easier than EVER to follow my blog. In the far right column, all you need to do is enter your email address! How cool is that! Once you do it, you'll never miss an installment in one of my serialized short stories.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Cara Mia Delgatto and the Easter Miracle, Part 10

Note: The beginning of this month, I started writing a real-time, serialized story featuring Kiki Lowenstein. That was so much fun that I've decided to do another. This one features Kiki's friend Cara Mia Delgatto. I hope you'll tell a friend about these blog posts!

To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, scroll down your computer screen to the OLDER POSTS button.

Honora shook her head. "I have no idea what to do. I'm totally at a loss."

"Could you replace it?" asked Skye. "You have two more to use as examples."

"But I have no idea what it's made of!" Our friend sank down into a chair. Her bun, usually so tidy at the back of her neck, sagged. She looked to be on the verge of tears, and that shocked me. Honora is typically the most even-tempered person I've ever met.

"When Francine brought the eggs in, you guessed that they were made of polymer clay. Since they fooled you, why not make one of clay? Look, the egg is bound to turn up. When it does, you can replace it with an apology. Better yet, I'll apologize. It's my store and the buck stops here," I said.

"Is that ethical?" Honora's hands shook as she took a linen handkerchief out of her pocket and wiped her eyes.

I thought a minute. "I'm not sure. It's a stop-gap measure. You can't present Francine with three bird cages and have one of them missing an egg. Especially when that egg would belong to Dahlia's scene. Besides, as I understand it, the girl hasn't seen the jeweled eggs. This is all about making her feel better about her grandfather. Why don't you get busy replacing the egg, and let me think about the ethics of the situation."

"For all we know, the eggs are polymer clay," Skye pointed out. "When is Francine Gainer coming to pick up the bird cages?"

"First thing Saturday morning. Tomorrow." Honora tucked the handkerchief back into her pocket. "I'll get busy making a replacement. We can decide what to tell Francine later, but at least we won't be returning a scene that's deficient."

The rest of the day flew by, as it often happens in the run-up to a holiday. We sold out of all our Easter merchandise. To compensate, Skye and MJ tied bright pastel ribbons on things that definitely were not Easter-ish, but those items sold as well. By the time we turned the sign in the door to CLOSED, we were all exhausted. I ordered a pizza for my crew. The group was unusually quiet as they ate. I knew what everyone was thinking. Was it right for me to replace the egg with a forgery? I wasn't sure if it was, but at least the look of the room scene was consistent. After telling MJ, Honora, and Sid goodbye, I began cleaning up after our meal while Skye ran upstairs to get started painting.

She hadn't been gone ten minutes when I heard her feet tramping down the stairs. "Look!"

In her hands were four tiny eggs. The same size exactly as the missing jeweled egg that Durwood Gainer had created.


"What are those? Where did you get them?"

"I unscrewed the electrical plate in my bathroom. These were behind the plate. Remember? I told you last week that I found a tiny baby gecko in my shower. I bet these would have been his siblings. Probably not all of them hatched. But the best part is that they're exactly the same as the jeweled egg. This is what Durwood Gainer used! I'll glue on the fake gems and replace the polymer clay egg with this one. You won't have to tell Francine Gainer what happened, because now we know his secret!"

Somehow I felt both relieved and guilty. "I'm not sure. It doesn't seem right."

Skye nodded. "I know. Even as I said you didn't need to tell her, I felt a twinge of guilt. But here's the deal. At least now you have options, right?"


~ The exciting (and surprising) conclusion comes tomorrow! It's my Easter gift to all of you!
Now it's easier than EVER to follow my blog. In the far right column, all you need to do is enter your email address! How cool is that! Once you do it, you'll never miss an installment in one of my serialized short stories.
 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Cara Mia Delgatto and the Easter Miracle, Part 9

Note: The beginning of this month, I started writing a real-time, serialized story featuring Kiki Lowenstein. That was so much fun that I've decided to do another. This one features Kiki's friend Cara Mia Delgatto. I hope you'll tell a friend about these blog posts!

To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, scroll down your computer screen to the OLDER POSTS
button.

Everything was clicking along fabulously! Skye had decorated the front window, showcasing all sorts of items especially for Easter. EveLynn had made a dozen banners and Easter pillow covers. On a piece of pegboard, we'd hung "Bunny Crossing" signs made from driftwood. There were baskets galore, filled with unusual and beach-themed items. On a fake table in the window, Skye displayed a table setting that revolved around an Easter tree, place cards, cool napkin holders, and several Mason jars of pastel jellybeans and white candles.

We'd also sent out an email every day with a quick decorating or food service tip, plus an invitation to visit the store on Easter and meet two of the original Highwayman painters.

Sid had painted the old bicycle a deep, dark green. MJ found a basket that could fit against the handlebars. Using two old belts, Sid strapped the basket on. I made a quick trip to the local dollar store and found daisies and tulips. Chained to the iron link outside, the bike was a trendy advertisement for spring.

Yes, we were looking good and feeling fine when a shriek came from the back room. I dropped the small jar of jelly beans I'd been decorating with a ribbon. It bounced and candies flew everywhere. However, I didn't stop to pick them up. Instead, I ran to see what had happened to Honora.

She stood in front of her work table, staring at the bird cages.

"What's wrong? Are you okay?" I asked.

"No. No. No."

"Honora? Talk to me."

"It's missing. The jeweled egg from the cage I made for Dahlia. It was here yesterday. The scenes are almost ready to go. Francine is coming Saturday night to pick them up. Oh, Cara! What will I do?"

My first instinct (after reassuring her) was to get down on my hands and knees so I could search the floor. Honora watched. Her joints are a bit too stiff for her to have joined me. When my efforts proved futile, I rocked back onto my haunches. "Maybe it bounced," I said.

We tore apart the work area. MJ left her desk, learned what happened, and she joined us. Sid suggested that Honora shake out her clothes. I went upstairs to my apartment, grabbed a white flat sheet, and directed her to the bathroom. There she disrobed and turned all her clothes inside out.

Next we opened all the tiny containers where Honora set aside duplicate items and raw materials. Still, we couldn't find the jeweled egg. By then, we'd been searching for more than an hour. Skye popped over while taking a break from work at Pumpernickel's. She, too, crawled on the floor. "Sometimes things roll a long distance," she said.

We dragged everything from the back room onto the display floor.

The egg was still missing in action.


~ To be continued 

Now it's easier than EVER to follow my blog. In the far right column, all you need to do is enter your email address! How cool is that! Once you do it, you'll never miss an installment in one of my serialized short stories.

 And stay tuned as this story continues tomorrow.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cara Mia Delgatto and the Easter Miracle, Part 8


Note: The beginning of this month, I started writing a real-time, serialized story featuring Kiki Lowenstein. That was so much fun that I've decided to do another. This one features Kiki's friend Cara Mia Delgatto. I hope you'll tell a friend about these blog posts!

To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, scroll down your computer screen to the OLDER POSTS button.

The next morning Skye was up before me. I heard her close the door to her apartment softly, because our units are right next to each other. After snoozing a little longer, I dragged myself out of bed, got dressed, and arrived right as she put a breakfast casserole into the oven.
 
"I'll start the coffee," I said, right as the back door opened, and MJ came waltzing in with a huge grin on her face.
 
She climbed onto one of the chairs surrounding the table and smirked down at us, pausing as Honora popped through the back door, followed by Sid. "My humble servants. You may now address the Queen of the Highwaymen. I managed to get two Highwayman painters to spend time here on Easter Sunday. Is that the bees' knees or what?"
 
Skye and I applauded MJ as she preened. "Furthermore, I have rounded up three paintings by Beanie Backus that we can display. Since he's the man who originally shared his skills with some of the Highwayman painters, these are fantastic pieces."
 
This painting by Beanie Backus explains why MJ was so proud of herself!
 
"You better climb down before you fall," said Skye, offering her hand to MJ. "Bravo! Bravo!"
 
As we helped MJ down, Honora stepped over to the empty chair and dinged a spoon against a glass vase. "My turn! I asked two opera singers to join us on Easter Sunday. They're in town vacationing with friends on Singer Island. They'll perform three selections in keeping with the season."
 
Again, we offered up a round of applause. As Honora sank into a wobbly curtsey, Sid took her spot. "It's not much, but I brought Cara an old bicycle. Last night I found a photo online of one that had been painted dark green. Someone also added a basket with a bouquet of tulips inside. I figured it out and I can chain the bicycle to the front of the store. There's that old iron link there by the drain spout."
 
"He also agreed to dress like the Easter Bunny," I said.
 
"Right, but I found someone who'll do a better job. Her name is Jillian. She went to school with me, and she could use the money. I told her she could work those hours instead of me." Sid blushed.
 
Although it occurred to me that he was ducking a responsibility, the way his cheeks colored led me to believe he was actually trying his best to do a good deed without being too obvious about it. Instead of chastising him, I smiled. "That's very kind of you, Sid. I'll need help serving the food and refreshments, so there's plenty of work to go around."
 
He mumbled his thanks and asked, "Is that food in the oven? I'm starved."
 
Soon we were all gathered around my table, eating, planning, and making notes on the upcoming holiday.
 
~ To be continued ~

Remember: It's REALLY easy to follow my blog. Just scroll down until you see the BLUE rectangle that's above the photos of my friends. It says, "Join this site." Click on that rectangle and follow the instructions. Woo-hoo, aren't you smart?

And stay tuned as this story continues tomorrow.