It’s Christmas Eve, and as Sara waits for her husband and son to arrive home to Blue Hydrangeas, their Cape Cod bed and breakfast, a blizzard threatens to close the bridges, stranding all travelers to and from the Cape. As she prepares for the holiday, unexpected visitors arrive, all sharing the common bond of grief. Sara is determined the storm and sadness will not spoil Christmas, and ensures Santa will find his way to two fatherless children far from home. A sweet slice-of-life story about loved ones and strangers coming together to share the spirit of Christmas. Prequel to the novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story.
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Sara peered out of the window and noted another inch of fresh snow on the ground. Time to get out the shovel.
She bundled up in an old parka and headed outside. The snow was light, and she cleared it with ease. She enjoyed working in the frigid weather, the cold air stinging her cheeks, her body made warm by her efforts. While she worked, she hummed a medley of Christmas carols.
The wind whipped the snow around her, and she remembered the empty bird feeders. She cleared an additional path to them and filled each with seed. She couldn’t bear to see her birds suffer. Satisfied, she moved on to the front of the house and was almost finished clearing the front walk and stairs when the sound of an approaching motor vehicle broke the silence. Seconds later, a pickup truck carrying a load of Christmas trees made its way up the drive.
She finished removing the last of the snow from the entrance to the house. “Come on in,” she called to the truck’s occupants as they exited the vehicle.
Minutes later, two burly men carried a magnificent Colorado Blue Spruce, ordered direct from the tree farm, up her front walk and into the house. She guided them into her formal living room and indicated the space in front of the window, a tree stand in place.
“Right there will be fine, Kenny,” she told the man in charge. His partner, Tom, was younger and smaller and never said much. She shed her parka and gloves, dropping snow onto the hardwood floor, and made a mental note to mop it up as soon as the men left.
“Do you want us to set it up for you?” Kenny took a small saw out of his pocket.
She nodded, and the men proceeded to cut an inch or so off the tree’s trunk. They stood the tree to its full height and inserted it into its sturdy metal stand. While she gave instructions, they positioned it to its best advantage.
“A little more to the left. Now back a bit. Not that far back. OK, that’s good. Leave it there.”
Pleased with the positioning of the tree, she waited while they secured it. They stood when finished and stepped back to appraise it with her.
“It’s a nice tree,” Kenny said. “We cut it down just yesterday morning.” He took a deep breath. “The room already smells like pine.”
She inhaled, closing her eyes. “It’s wonderful.”
“Anything else we can do for you before we hit the road? The snow’s getting heavy. The town’s plows can’t keep up with it.”
“How bad are the roads?”
“Getting worse by the minute.”
Her hopes plummeted. “But the weatherman on the radio said the heavy snow will end later this morning.”
“Haven’t you heard?” Kenny raised his bushy eyebrows. “Old news. The storm’s taken a new path. Most recent report says it’s supposed to get worse before it gets better. A lotworse.”
“What are you saying?” She’d turned off the radio after the weather report to enjoy the silence and hadn’t kept up with the news.
“A blizzard is on its way, the second big one this year. Seventy-eight will go down in history as one of the snowiest years ever.”
“But it’s Christmas Eve,” she cried, and immediately felt silly. Mother Nature didn’t care about Christmas Eve.
“That look on your face tells me David and Jack aren’t home yet.”
“No,” she revealed, even more disheartened. The thought of another blizzard to rival last February’s Great Blizzard of 1978 terrified her. The power had gone out. No heat. No stove. They were snowed in for days. But they were together, camped out in front of the fireplace, keeping warm, able to heat up cans of soup and brew coffee. It was a miserable welcome their first winter as full-time Cape Cod residents. During those long, cold days she considered going back to New York, but remembered the winters there were also wretched. She bucked up and soldiered on.
And now this.
Kenny shook his head. “Well, I hope they make it home before the officials close the bridges.”
Her eyes widened. “Close the bridges?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he solemnly said. “The Army Corps of Engineers are talking about shutting them down if it gets too bad. If they do, no one will be able to get on or off the Cape.”
“Oh dear.” She suddenly needed to sit down and landed on the couch. “I have no way to reach Jack and David, no way to let them know. I don’t even know where they are.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll be fine, and home any minute. Now, is there anything else we can do for you before we go? We’ve got a truckload of trees to deliver.”
Sara couldn’t think. Her mind was racing.
The men waited a moment, and then Kenny turned to his silent but hardworking partner. “I guess we can go.” They turned to leave.
Sara came to her senses. She stood and reached into a pocket, pulling out a few dollars. She handed each man a small tip. They stuffed the bills into their pockets, broad smiles on their weather-worn faces.
“Thank you, Mrs. Harmon,” Kenny said. “Listen, it was a little rough coming up your driveway. I’ll plow you out now and I’ll try to come back later to keep it clear. All right?”
She nodded. “I’d appreciate it.”
“No problem.” He made for the door, Tom close behind him. “And Merry Christmas. I’ll be seeing you around town soon, I’m sure.” The men let themselves out.
She stared at the tree, seven feet tall, six feet wide at the bottom, and ideal for the corner it occupied. She and Jack had driven out to the tree farm months ago and selected it from acres of possibilities. It was a new tradition for their new life on the Cape. She’d let it rest a while before piling on the decorations.
Marianne Sciucco is not a nurse who writes. She’s a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, she studied the craft of writing as an English major at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and briefly worked as a newspaper reporter in New England. To avoid poverty, she became a nurse and now writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. A native Bostonian who loves Cape Cod, she makes her home in upstate New York. When not writing contemporary and young adult “flinch-free” fiction, she works as a campus nurse at a community college. She’s also a founder and admin at AlzAuthors, a global community of authors and readers whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Q&A WITH AUTHOR:
What inspired you to write a prequel to Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story?
While writing Blue Hydrangeas I fell in love with Jack and Sara – literally; I met a couple in my work that inspired them – and of course the inn. I’ve been vacationing on Cape Cod for decades (once lived there) and would love to find a place like Blue Hydrangeas to stay. Many of my readers have told me they feel the same way and wanted to visit the inn again. So it was easy to decide to go back. And of course I wanted to write about Jack and Sara’s earlier years, who they before Sara’s Alzheimer’s enters the picture. Happier times.
Why write about the Great Blizzard of 1978?
All great stories need a huge catalyst and what’s greater than a surprise blizzard on Christmas Eve? I lived through the Great Blizzard and remember it well, such a scary time, so I took some literary license and added a second great storm to ’78. I was also inspired by the television movie “The Homecoming,” which became the series “The Walton’s.” I was captivated by the image of the mother peering out the window waiting for her husband to return in the storm, while trying to maintain the Christmas spirit for her children.
Do you have any special Christmas traditions and are they in this book?
My family indulges in the The Feast of the Seven Fishes every Christmas Eve. It’s an old Italian tradition and every year it’s a challenge coming up with seven fishes that most people will eat. We’re more shellfish-oriented, so we usually eat a lot of that: calamari, clams, shrimp, scallops, crab, and also cod and sole. My husband and I often talk about preparing the seafood stew Sara makes but we haven’t gotten there yet.
What are you working on now?
My next project will be “A Wedding at Blue Hydrangeas,” David and Anne’s story. The inn is the ideal location for nuptials, but I’m adding in a very emotional catalyst: a fire! And a surprise guest that makes the weekend challenging to say the least. Of course, Sara pulls it all off magnificently.
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