Silver Bells

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"Merry Christmas, dear," Elizabeth Donovan said, eyeing her hair tussled granddaughter as she slumped into the kitchen. "Welcome to the land of the living." She sat calmly stirring her tea.

"It's only Christmas Eve," Teddi said through a yawn, shuffling over to the cupboard to pull out her own tea cup. "Let's save the celebration for tomorrow when Uncle Richard and that brain-dead wife of his get here."

"Don't be nasty, Theodora. We're lucky to have them. Last year was lonely without your grandfather. I expect a bit more life will be in order this year around."

Teddi was surprised to hear her grandmother mention her grandfather. She rarely brought him up. Rather, she fell into a quiet routine of gardening, volunteering at the women's aid relief, tea on Thursday afternoons with the ladies of the town, and walking on Sunday mornings with Mr. Baxter. She looked a little sad at the moment, so Teddi chose not to bring up the fact that Calvin had been with them last year, and there was no way in the world her Uncle Richard and Aunt Olive could fill the loneliness like he could. Instead, she said, "I'm sorry. I'm just not in the merry-making mood."

Teddi poured herself some tea but before she could take a seat next to her grandmother, someone rapped on the backdoor. "Send whomever it is away, grandmother. I'm not dressed for guests."

"Nonsense," said Mrs. Donovan, going to peek out of the thin curtain that covered the window on the door. "It's only Miranda Schroeder."

Teddi sighed. Mrs. Schroeder was all right. She always praised her mother, and she'd always liked Teddi. Of course, it mostly had to do with the fact that her grandmother placed her on such a pedestal in front of her friends, and they all seemed to believe it, which was why Mrs. Schroeder seemed to like telling her that she needed to find a suitable mate. As if Calvin wasn't suitable. Teddi decided long ago not to care, but there was something still plaguing her, something that she needed to clear in her mind if she were ever to move on with Calvin and live a happy life. He could pretend it away all he wanted, but the fact was that the people of Brookhurst had a reason for thinking they should be apart. No level of maturity Teddi and Calvin had developed over the past few years could change that.

"Theodora, go and get Mrs. Schroeder's gift. It's under the tree."

Teddi left the room, combing out her hair with her fingers then going to peruse the tree. She listened as her grandmother opened the back door and greeted one of the ladies from Thursday afternoon tea.

"Hello, Miranda."

"Hello, Elizabeth. I was just telling Clifford how much I miss hearing Theodora's beautiful playing on Christmas Eve. It's a shame we don't have your parties to look forward to anymore."

Teddi rolled her eyes. Her grandmother's friends were always the same, discussing the same topics, and pretending to worry about things that really weren't important.

"I just haven't had the energy," her grandmother was saying, causing Teddi to feel a pang for her for the second time that morning, but was quickly doused when she heard her add, "and I haven't heard Theodora stroke a note in over a year." She didn't have time to play the piano for her friends.

"Well, she's grown up now," Mrs. Schroeder said to Teddi's surprise. "Quite busy, I'm sure. It is too bad." There she went. "So much talent and beauty shouldn't be wasted. Like her mother in that way."

"Her mother was scarcely as talented as my Theodora," said Mrs. Donovan as Teddi pulled out the gift intended for both Mrs. Schroeder and her husband. "She's also very skilled as a writer."

"You never will admit that Aurora was a very talented artist."

"That is not entirely true, I—"

"Hello, Mrs. Schroeder," Teddi said, interrupting with a bright smile and handing her the gift congenially. "It's nice to see you. I'm sorry I'm such a mess."

"No need to get dressed for me. Thank you for the gift. I just came by to drop off the pair I got for you and your grandmother," she nodded toward the two small wrapped boxes that were now sitting on the kitchen table.

"Won't you stay for some tea?" said Mrs. Donovan.

"I suppose a spot of something warm would be nice before I head back out."

"It's already made," said Teddi. "I'll get you a cup."

"I'll do that, dear. You go and put the gifts away."

"Are you sure?"

"Perfectly."

As Teddi placed each gift carefully under the tree, they would be opened either that night or the next morning, the doorbell rang.

Sighing, Teddi frowned. It was probably another one of her grandmother's friends. Last year, it was expected that Elizabeth Donovan would not throw her annual Christmas Eve party. However, the society matrons had been pecking around for something to do, and apparently, either too lazy or too stuck in their ways to take over the tradition for her.

"Theodora, will you get that please? Oh, but you aren't dressed."

"I'll see who it is through the peep hole," she said loud enough so that her grandmother would hear. As soon as she saw who it was, her breath was snatched from her body but that did not stop her from throwing the door open. "Calvin!"

"Hey, dollface," he said, dropping his duffle just in time to catch Teddi leaping into his arms.

"Oh my God. What are you doing here?" she asked, still squeezing him tightly.

Calvin pressed her close and rocked her, dropping his lips into her hair. After a moment, he moved back, and looked down at her with mirth in his eyes. "I can always go. The Langford's on overhaul, but maybe they could use me down at the shipyards."

"Don't you dare," she said, studying his face then glancing down at his sailor blues. How she'd missed him. Tears pricked her eyes, and in an effort to stop them, she pressed her mouth to his. It didn't work. But by the time the salty water snaked down the sides of her face, she was focused on something completely different. She had forgotten how good it felt to kiss him.

"Finally. Finally," Calvin whispered through kisses. "I missed you."

"Me too," she said, stepping back and wiping her face and sniffling. "How long are you here?"

"Two weeks."

Teddi frowned, putting her arms back around his neck. "That's all?"

"Not enough for you?" he asked with a smirk. "Well, I have something planned that might make up for it. Go get dressed and put on your coat."

"I can't just leave."

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