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Posts Tagged ‘Nanowrimo’

21, 779 Words

Yes, I know this is fewer than last time – that is because I had to delete some stuff. Also, I think I miscounted last time . . .

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

When Keith Richardson awoke after a surprisingly sound night of sleep, he looked outside the small window to a sheet of white. Immediately filled with alarm, he threw off the covers and jumped out of bed – and then immediately retreated back into bed. It was cold! He was more cautious the second time, placing a single foot on the floor and then pulled it back again. It was a stretch, but he managed to reach his clothing carefully folded on the chair next to the side table and didn’t break anything in the process, after which he proceeded to do something he had never done before. Dress while still in bed. Maybe he could also offer to pay for a new heating system for this house. Somehow, he didn’t think that offer would be as well received. Once his socks were safely on, he again stood, and this time managed to make it to the living room, where a fire was already blazing brightly. And something else too, based on the smells coming from the kitchen. He allowed a full smile before suppressing it so he could venture in to see what Josie had attempted to make for breakfast without insulting her.

Nonetheless, it was hard to keep the grin back when he found her, frantically trying to put out a fire on the electric stove by hitting it with a towel, several lumps of something that he surmised should have been pancakes in a skillet that had been hastily shoved to the back burner, which she had apparently also forgotten to turn off after heating water for the coffee that was actually safely poured into mugs. She did not hear him come into the kitchen and continued her futile quest for tranquility until he came up behind her.

“Allow me.”

Temporarily ignoring her startled look as she whirled to face him, he reached over and around her for the baking soda sitting on the back of the stove and deftly put out the fire with a generous sprinkle before turning off both front and back burner and moving the smoking lumps to the waiting plate. Only then did he look down at her with a grin, meaning to gently tease her for having taken care of the mess so quickly, but instantly became aware of how he had accidently enclosed her between him and the stove during his move to fix things. And how her wide, startled brown eyes were surprisingly close to his as he looked down at her. And how close she was to him. He cleared his throat and stepped back quickly, noting her instant, audible breath as though she had not breathed since he had come up.

“Thank you.” She confusedly turned back to the stove, grabbing a spatula and scraping burnt pieces out of the skillet onto the plate to join the black lumps.

“I do appreciate your attempt warm up the house.” He said, feeling that the tension might smother them if he didn’t say something. “But I think the fire in the living room was enough.”

She allowed a small smile, but was apparently too embarrassed to allow his joke to relax her.

“Ah – I had a question. One I am not sure I want to know the answer to, but I’m afraid I must ask.”

“Yes?” She still didn’t look at him.

“When I woke up, there was a wall of white outside the window – are we snowed in?”

At that she did laugh. “No – the snow rarely comes high enough to cover the window. Go open the front door.”

He obeyed and looked out with almost equal dismay at the blizzard still raging, creating a sheet of white intense enough to blot out even the impression of individual snowflakes.

“I am guessing I won’t be going anywhere today.”

“I am afraid not.”

“How long do these storms usually last?” He sat down at the table and accepted the mug of coffee Josie handed him gratefully.

“Storms this severe don’t happen very often, and normally not so early. But I don’t think it will last much longer than today.”

“Oh, good. I’ll tell my secretary to just move today’s appointments to tomorrow.” He was already pulling out his phone and paused only as Josie stopped her cleaning efforts and turned to look at him, biting her lip.

“What is it?” He set down the phone.

“We live in a small town.” The apology in her tone was effusive. “Or, more accurately, OUTSIDE a small town.”

“Yes, so?”

“So – there is no way to predict when they will get around to snowplowing the roads once the storm does end.”

“So you are saying . . .”

“That – you are likely going to be here until past Christmas.”

“What?” He immediately regretted the harshness of the tone as she winced.

“I’m really sorry. We really had no idea that there was going to be a blizzard or we would have warned you – we, we tend not to pay much attention to the weather. It usually doesn’t affect our lives one way or the other.”

He was legitimately at a loss for words. Not that it was her fault. Or anyone’s fault but his own. He should have been paying attention himself to the weather when he detoured from his schedule.

“Well.” He finally managed. “I suppose I had better start making some phone calls, then.” He stepped out to make them in private from his adopted room.

When he returned, Josie was standing over a steaming pot of what he surmised must be oatmeal.

“I’m so sorry, but this is usually what mom has anyway – at least when I am here.” She turned as he entered the room.

“Not at all.” He forced a light note into his voice he did not feel. It was unpleasant to recall his father’s anger at learning he had gotten himself snowed in and he now had to go to his meetings in his place. It did not help that all flights were running on a delayed or cancelled schedule so his father would not have his favorite pick of flights in order to get there either. Better to let it fade from his mind and make himself as pleasant as possible. “After all, you have an unexpected house guest. I am indebted to you for taking me in.”

“Well, I did think about making you sleep in the barn and fending for yourself, but Mom didn’t go for that.” Josie smiled as she turned back to her oatmeal – and instantly her face fell again.

Keith covered his mouth with his hand as he struggled hold back a laugh, watching her turned it over with her spoon to show black on the bottom. “I take it you and the stove simply aren’t getting along today.” Despite his best efforts a chuckle emerged with the comment.

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22,050 words

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

It was a good two hours later before Keith put down his empty cup of chocolate and looked at his Rolex with a start. “I am afraid I must be going!” He stood quickly, looking apologetically at mother and daughter, seated around the small kitchen table. “I didn’t realize how late it was.”

“Of course! I am sorry we kept you so late.” Josie rose immediately.

“I’m not sorry.” Her mother declared emphatically. “You are fun to talk to and I love having company. Josie does too, even if she doesn’t show it like she should. Are you sure you have to go? I want to hear more about your clients. I bet if I had the handling of them, I could get them to stop arguing. They really just want your money – that is the main trouble – you shouldn’t let them take such advantage of you. What you really need to do with your company is – “

“Mother! Leave poor Mr. Richardson alone and stop telling him how to run his own business!”

“You know, that is another thing – why do you still call him Mr. Richardson? You are working together aren’t you? He hired you, didn’t he? He is our guest, isn’t he? Why don’t you call him Keith? Are you that stuck up, Keith, that you need to be called Mr.?” Mrs. Grant raised rather accusing, clear blue eyes to that taken aback man.

“Mother!” If Josie had been horrified before, she was positively aghast now.

“No, no, of course she is right.” The ever-polite Keith Richardson quickly rose to the occasion. “Please, call me Keith, Miss Grant.”

“And you call her Josie.” Mrs. Grant concluded with satisfaction.

Josie escorted Mr. Richardson – Keith – to the front door as fast as humanly possible without actually handing him a hat.

“I really am so sorry about her – “

“Stop apologizing for your mother.” Keith slid his coat on and then looked down at her with serious eyes. “She is a charming woman with many worries on her mind. She gets her mind off her own worries by listening to other people’s and worrying about them instead. It has been a good break from my normal business visiting with someone like her.”

“Thank you.” Josie awkwardly lowered her eyes, suddenly self-conscious.

“Thank you. For your hospitality and – “ Keith stopped as he opened the door and stared out in dismay. The heavy, swirling snow began huring itself into the house as though desperate to suck out the warmth it had just discovered. Josie reached around Keith to slam the door shut quickly.

“I’m guessing I’m not leaving right now.” Keith said, his hand still on the door.

“Probably not at all tonight, based on that.” Josie said, matter-of-factly.

“Oh, good! Now you will have to spend the night!” Mrs. Grant had apparently wheeled herself out of the kitchen. “Josie will fix up the spare room for you and we will make more hot chocolate, and we can heat up more stew if you are still hungry and maybe we can watch a movie and it will be just like having a sleepover, except we will all be in separate rooms of course, or we can just talk all night, and . . . “

 

*                                             *                                             *

 

In short order, Keith Richardson was installed in the guest bedroom, clothed some old sweatpants that had been dug out of the attic that had belonged to the late Mr. Grant to serve as pajamas. He sat on the rather hard bed, absentmindedly noting the homemade looking quilt that served as a blanket, and looking about the small, quaint old room that had obviously not seen use in some years, and wondering what he had gotten himself into.

Thankfully, his phone still had reception despite the backwoods feel of this farm and he was able to call his secretary to rearrange any morning meetings, but it didn’t mean he was happy about missing them.  He’d meant it when he told Josie – Miss Grant – that he enjoyed talking with her mother – but he wasn’t sure how he felt about continuing to fend off hints from her about Josie – Miss Grant – for who knew how long? Surely only until morning. He could do that.

He was fairly sure Miss Grant felt about as happy as about him staying as he did. The faint blush on her cheeks and tight lips as she had moved about preparing things for him had bespoken significant discomfort. Whether it was because she did not enjoy his company or was simply embarrassed, he had yet to figure out. Maybe she thought he had gotten caught by the blizzard on purpose so he could keep an eye on the drawing.

The drawing. His shoulders relaxed a little as he thought about it. There was no doubt it was a beautiful piece of work and the heart of the artist could be felt throughout the piece, incomplete as it was. He leaned back a little gingerly on the stack of pillows, half afraid the ancient headboard would crumble at his touch, but the oak held firmly, obviously made to last by someone who used to take pleasure in their woodwork. He was certain his mother would love it, and he wondered if he could persuade Miss Grant to allow him to pay more for it than their agreed upon price. When he was negotiating price he had not realized she was trying to support a dying mother. For, based on the lack of information and brevity of her speech he knew that she was dying. That the only hope was additional, far more expensive treatments that they obviously could not afford. Maybe she would just take money if he offered it. She might. It was her mother after all. But some people got weird about things like that. No, offering more for the painting was probably the best way.

Conscience eased, he got up long enough to slip underneath the quilt, suddenly aware of how cold the room was. Without the warmth of the fireplace that Josie – Miss Grant – was adept at keeping going, he was pretty sure he could literally feel the snow seeping in through cracks around the window.

One good thing about cold, it facilitated heavy sleeping. Despite the new environment, his eyes began closing, his final thought on the glimpse he had had of Josie at the office that first day she had done her hair up and he had realized she was a woman, not a girl.

 

Josie, by contrast, lay wide awake in her room up the stairs and down the hall. She stared at the white, slightly cracked ceiling above her, trying to wrap her mind around the events of the evening. Mr. Richardson, at her farm, under her roof, sleeping in the spare room! He had taken a tour of her farm, chatted with her mother, complimented her aunt’s stew – for a few hours she had almost forgotten he was a client – that he was Saunders largest client – and thought of him as simply a visitor. A handsome visitor, easily discomfiting her, but just an easy-going, pleasant conversationalist. If she let herself, she was pretty sure she could adore him just for how kind he was to her mother. But what to do with him tomorrow? For she was sure, based on previous experience, that blizzard was not going to let up in the morning. Even if it did, it would be a minimum of a day before the snowplows got around to their road, not to mention hiring someone to plow out their driveway. But she had not told him any of that. First, it was worst case scenario, really, and second, he was so distressed at just spending the night, she didn’t have the courage to tell him it would likely be more than one.

She would have to figure out a simple breakfast that he would enjoy and she could actually make. Or at least one she wouldn’t burn. Her mother was content with oatmeal when she was home, but she was fairly sure he was used to fancier fare than that. And then – to be stuck in the house with him all day! She needed to get control of herself and stop blushing every time he looked at her with those eyes as deep as a black night. Or spoke to her in that velvet voice. Or smiled. Oh, she had it bad. She turned over and pulled her pillow over her ears as though that would stop her thinking. But he had liked her drawing. She smiled involuntarily. He really had. Now she just had to make sure he liked the completed product as well as he liked the partial. Her mind now on the drawing, she quickly lost all hope of sleep and moved to her desk, wrapped in a blanket and soon lost herself in a world consisting of pencils and colors.

 

Mrs. Grant had no issues falling to sleep. She had only one coherent thought before she fell into an unconsciousness blissfully free of pain. At least Josie will be well taken care of when I am gone.

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Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

 

“Miss Grant. Please accept my apologies for dropping in on you like this. Is this a bad time?”

“Mr. Richardson.” Josie couldn’t keep the shock out of her tone as her hand automatically went to her messy hair and tried to push it back into the slipping hair tie. She could sense him taking in the flour and dough coved apron that had not entirely prevented ingredients from reaching her jeans and t-shirt. How she managed to get everything everywhere when she attempted baking, she could never figure out. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I was planning to call and make sure everything was going all right, but I was meeting with a client a short ways from here and, when I passed the sign for your exit, I thought I might just pull over and check it out in person. You know, see what I am paying for and everything.”

She had forgotten how charming his smile could be. “How did you know where I lived?”

“You weren’t lying. It is a small town.”

She smiled. Of course.

“So.” He peered around her into the warm house. “Is there any chance I could come in? If it isn’t too much of an inconvenience. It is far colder than I realized out here – I am thinking your farm must create a channel from the North Pole.”

“Of course, please – I’m so sorry!” Josie stepped back to allow him to brush past her, noting how much taller he was than her and hoping he couldn’t hear her thumping heart when his arm brushed hers.

She shut the door and led him into the living room, scurrying to put pillows back in place and shove some scattered papers into a drawer that was usually reserved for batteries.

“You look like you are in the middle of something.” He noted, again appraising the apron.

“Oh, I’m just – attempting to bake. It never goes well anyway. Can I take your coat?”

“Josie – who was it?” The knock must have awakened Mrs. Grant, who obviously couldn’t wait to keep up on the latest excitement.

“Just a moment.” Josie laid his coat over the arm of the sofa and hurried to her mother’s bedroom, carefully closing the door behind her as she went in.  “It’s Mr. Richardson, Mom. He’s just –“

“Your Mr. Richardson?” Her mother’s voice immediately went high with excitement.

“Shhh! He’s in the living room, mom! And he isn’t –“

“He is still here? Can I meet him? Is he here to bring you on a date? Why don’t you look nicer? Why didn’t you tell me? Hurry, help me get dressed.”

“Mother. Don’t be ridiculous. He just came to check on the drawing. He is only staying a few minutes and you are not getting out of bed.”

“But, Josie –“

“No, mom. Now I need to get back out there.”

“You never let me have any excitement.” Mrs. Grant went into a pout. Josie just shook her head and exited back to the living room.

“Sorry about that. Can I get you a cup of coffee or something?”

“That would be great, if it isn’t too much trouble.” He looked toward the door she had just come out of. “Was that your mom?”

“Yes. She hates feeling like she is missing out.”

“I can understand that.”

To Josie’s consternation, instead of staying put, Keith followed her to the kitchen as she went to put on a pot of coffee.

 

Silence reigned for a few moments until Josie broke it. “So, you came to see the drawing, I assume?”

“If you don’t mind. I was also thinking a tour of the farm might be nice – but then I experienced the cold.”

“You should experience it in January and February, if you think this is cold.”

“Thank you, I think I will stick with the heat in my car, moving from parking garage to parking garage.”

“It isn’t finished yet.”

“That’s all right. You promised to get it to me before Christmas, and you still have three days left.”

Josie handed him a coffee, grabbing cream from the fridge in case he wanted any. “Hold on, I’ll go get it.”

She reentered the kitchen to behold her mother, berobed and in her wheelchair, chatting with Keith.

“Mom! What on earth are you doing?” She gasped.

“Oh, hello, Josie.” Mrs. Grant glanced at her as if it was the most natural thing in the world for her to be up and visiting with company.

“How did you get out of bed?”

“I’m not as devoid of self-reliance as you and your aunt seem to think, my dear. It may be harder on me without help, but it certainly isn’t impossible, and I don’t see that I had any choice when you denied me the opportunity of meeting this handsome gentleman.”

“But, mom.”

“You interrupted, Josie. Now, Mr. Richardson, you were explaining to me how your father made all his money.”

“Mother!” Josie was sure her cheeks could match the brightness of the rising sun.

“What? It is a perfectly natural subject.”

“Your mother is a charming woman, Miss Grant.” Mr. Richardson evidently thought it time to intervene. “It was very kind of her to come keep me company while I waited.”

“You will stay to dinner too, won’t you, Mr. Richardson? Josie isn’t the best book, but Patty put some beef stew in the freezer and we can just reheat that.”

“Oh, thank you, Mrs. Grant. That is very kind of you, but I really need to – “

“Nonsense. We never have company, and I never get to see anyone except doctors. There’s nothing that can’t wait long enough for a homecooked dinner, is there?”

“Well, I suppose –“

“Please, don’t feel like you have to, Mr. Richardson. Mom can be a little pushy. And she is not nearly as starved for company as she likes to make out.”

“It isn’t you who has to spend all day along in bed or on a sofa.” Mrs. Grant moaned dramatically. “And maybe if Mr. Richardson is actually here, you won’t go off all evening to work on that drawing and leave me all by myself. It’s bad enough that I almost never get to see you, but the one week you are here. . . .”

“I would be delighted to stay to dinner.” Keith said quickly, whether out of guilt, sympathy, or just to stop Mrs. Grant from continuing to talk, Josie didn’t know.

“Great! We are going to have a marvelous time! Josie, take the beef stew out of the freezer, and throw away that lump that I think was supposed to be my cinnamon buns. And then take Mr. Richardson outside. He says he’s never actually been on a farm before, and that has to change!”

“It is very cold outside, Mom. I don’t think Mr. Richardson – “

“He’ll be fine. It will be good for him and his lily-white hands. But put me back to bed first. I’m tired and I want to rest before we eat.”

With nothing more to say, Josie silently set the envelope containing the partial drawing in front of Keith and wheeled her mother out of the room.

Keith was examining the drawing when she came back and she went to obey her mother’s instructions without interrupting him. Part of her was anxious to know his thoughts, but a larger part dreaded hearing criticism or disappointment. She had just finished washing the counter of all remaining parts of dough when he spoke.

“This is incredible, Miss Grant.”

She looked up quickly. “Really?”

He stood and walked over to her. “Absolutely. The detail in this is amazing.” He motioned to the sunrise. “You can almost see it coming off the page. And the trees – the house. I think my mom is going to love this.”

“Thank you.” The profound relief and delight that swept through Josie set her almost giddy. She actually smiled up into his eyes. “Now, did you want to see the real thing? Or was that just another thing my mom pushed you into?”

He laughed. “I would love to see the real thing. Just take it easy on me if I wimp out and ask to go back in right away.”

It had started snowing lightly by the time they bundled up and stepped outside. It was amusing to see Keith immediately shrink into his coat and scarf, stuffing his thinly gloved hands into his pockets.

“Are you going to survive?” Josie couldn’t keep the laugh from her tone.

“It isn’t my fault you chose to live in the smallest, coldest town in the north.”

“And it isn’t mine that your mother had delightful summers on a farm.”

“Touché.”

They walked in silence a moment, Josie leading him toward her favorite grove of trees. She kept glancing at him sideways, trying to gauge his reaction to her home, but other than eyes bright with curiosity, she could determine very little of what he was actually thinking. He satisfied her curiosity a moment later.

“Miss Grant – if I am not being too personal, might I ask a question?”

“Of course.”

“What is wrong? With your mother?”

“She has cancer.” Josie said, briefly. After a moment, she continued. “It – isn’t healing the way it should be – with the treatments. The doctor wants additional care for her, but . . . “

“But you can’t afford it.” It was a statement, not a question, but Josie nodded anyway.

“And that is why you are living and working in the city now.”

She glanced at him in surprise.

“It’s clear you love your mother and your farm, Miss Grant. You would not be in the city unless you had a specific reason.”

Josie cleared her throat as they approached the trees and forced a cheerful note into her tone. “This is my grove.”

Keith looked at the small line of trees with amusement. “A little small to be called a grove, isn’t it?”

“Nonetheless, it is my grove. My favorite place to sit in the summer and look around. It is a perfect view of the house while still being far enough away to feel alone. A perfect place for dreaming.”

“While awake or asleep?”

“Why not both?” Josie flashed a smile at him.

They continued to explore different aspects of the farm, Josie showing him the fields, and the sheds and the animals, until Josie noticed his bright red nose, his eyes blinking consistently to keep the increasing snowfall out, and noted that he occasionally removed his hands from his pocket to rub them together briskly.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Richardson – I have kept you out far too long! You must be freezing.”

“Well, I admit I am beginning to believe your farm is actually located in the arctic.” He tried to smile, but it was apparently too much for his frozen cheeks.

“Come on, let’s head back to the house – we’ll get you warmed up with some more coffee. Or hot chocolate, if you prefer.”

He followed her back and they entered the house, reveling in the immediate warmth that enveloped them.

“Is that you, Josie?” Mrs. Grant’s voice immediately drifted out faintly from the bedroom. “I was beginning to worry!”

“We are fine, mother! It’s getting cold out there though!”

“Make your young man some coffee! And don’t make it taste like a mudpile!”

Josie flushed and hurriedly removed her boots and coat, shaking the clinging snow off onto the rug. “Sorry about her, Mr. Richardson. She tries to match me with every man she meets.”

“I understand – my mother tends to do the same with me. Except – with women, not men.”

She grinned up at him, relieved that he took it lightly. “Coffee or hot chocolate?”

“Coffee, please. Decaf.”

“We don’t have decaf, I’m afraid. We don’t believe in it here.”

He raised his thick eyebrows. “You don’t believe in it?”

“No – we believe it defeats the reason for the existence of coffee.”

She walked towards the kitchen, having deprived herself of the bundle of snowladen outdoor clothing and he followed.

“Well, in that case, hot chocolate it is.”

“Hot chocolate, I can do. Let me find out if Mom wants any.”

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Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

 

“Miss Grant. Please accept my apologies for dropping in on you like this. Is this a bad time?”

“Mr. Richardson.” Josie couldn’t keep the shock out of her tone as her hand automatically went to her messy hair and tried to push it back into the slipping hair tie. She could sense him taking in the flour and dough coved apron that had not entirely prevented ingredients from reaching her jeans and t-shirt. How she managed to get everything everywhere when she attempted baking, she could never figure out. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I was planning to call and make sure everything was going all right, but I was meeting with a client a short ways from here and, when I passed the sign for your exit, I thought I might just pull over and check it out in person. You know, see what I am paying for and everything.”

She had forgotten how charming his smile could be. “How did you know where I lived?”

“You weren’t lying. It is a small town.”

She smiled. Of course.

“So.” He peered around her into the warm house. “Is there any chance I could come in? If it isn’t too much of an inconvenience. It is far colder than I realized out here – I am thinking your farm must create a channel from the North Pole.”

“Of course, please – I’m so sorry!” Josie stepped back to allow him to brush past her, noting how much taller he was than her and hoping he couldn’t hear her thumping heart when his arm brushed hers.

She shut the door and led him into the living room, scurrying to put pillows back in place and shove some scattered papers into a drawer that was usually reserved for batteries.

“You look like you are in the middle of something.” He noted, again appraising the apron.

“Oh, I’m just – attempting to bake. It never goes well anyway. Can I take your coat?”

“Josie – who was it?” The knock must have awakened Mrs. Grant, who obviously couldn’t wait to keep up on the latest excitement.

“Just a moment.” Josie laid his coat over the arm of the sofa and hurried to her mother’s bedroom, carefully closing the door behind her as she went in.  “It’s Mr. Richardson, Mom. He’s just –“

“Your Mr. Richardson?” Her mother’s voice immediately went high with excitement.

“Shhh! He’s in the living room, mom! And he isn’t –“

“He is still here? Can I meet him? Is he here to bring you on a date? Why don’t you look nicer? Why didn’t you tell me? Hurry, help me get dressed.”

“Mother. Don’t be ridiculous. He just came to check on the drawing. He is only staying a few minutes and you are not getting out of bed.”

“But, Josie –“

“No, mom. Now I need to get back out there.”

“You never let me have any excitement.” Mrs. Grant went into a pout. Josie just shook her head and exited back to the living room.

“Sorry about that. Can I get you a cup of coffee or something?”

“That would be great, if it isn’t too much trouble.” He looked toward the door she had just come out of. “Was that your mom?”

“Yes. She hates feeling like she is missing out.”

“I can understand that.”

To Josie’s consternation, instead of staying put, Keith followed her to the kitchen as she went to put on a pot of coffee. “Regular?”

“Yes, please. I never drink decaf. It tastes awful.”

“You can’t actually taste a difference?”

“Oh, yes, I can. And it is awful.”

Josie laughed. “Regular it is, then. But don’t blame me if you can’t sleep tonight.”

“All blame averted.”

Silence reigned for a few moments until Josie broke it. “So, you came to see the drawing, I assume?”

“If you don’t mind. I was also thinking a tour of the farm might be nice – but then I experienced the cold.”

“You should experience it in January and February, if you think this is cold.”

“Thank you, I think I will stick with the heat in my car, moving from parking garage to parking garage.”

“It isn’t finished yet.”

“That’s all right. You promised to get it to me before Christmas, and you still have three days left.”

Josie handed him a coffee, grabbing cream from the fridge in case he wanted any. “Hold on, I’ll go get it.”

She reentered the kitchen to behold her mother, berobed and in her wheelchair, chatting with Keith.

“Mom! What on earth are you doing?” She gasped.

“Oh, hello, Josie.” Mrs. Grant glanced at her as if it was the most natural thing in the world for her to be up and visiting with company.

“How did you get out of bed?”

“I’m not as devoid of self-reliance as you and your aunt seem to think, my dear. It may be harder on me without help, but it certainly isn’t impossible, and I don’t see that I had any choice when you denied me the opportunity of meeting this handsome gentleman.”

“But, mom.”

“You interrupted, Josie. Now, Mr. Richardson, you were explaining to me how your father made all his money.”

“Mother!” Josie was sure her cheeks could match the brightness of the rising sun.

“What? It is a perfectly natural subject.”

“Your mother is a charming woman, Miss Grant.” Mr. Richardson evidently thought it time to intervene. “It was very kind of her to come keep me company while I waited.”

“You will stay to dinner too, won’t you, Mr. Richardson? Josie isn’t the best book, but Patty put some beef stew in the freezer and we can just reheat that.”

“Oh, thank you, Mrs. Grant. That is very kind of you, but I really need to – “

“Nonsense. We never have company, and I never get to see anyone except doctors. There’s nothing that can’t wait long enough for a homecooked dinner, is there?”

“Well, I suppose –“

“Please, don’t feel like you have to, Mr. Richardson. Mom can be a little pushy. And she is not nearly as starved for company as she likes to make out.”

“It isn’t you who has to spend all day along in bed or on a sofa.” Mrs. Grant moaned dramatically. “And maybe if Mr. Richardson is actually here, you won’t go off all evening to work on that drawing and leave me all by myself. It’s bad enough that I almost never get to see you, but the one week you are here. . . .”

“I would be delighted to stay to dinner.” Keith said quickly, whether out of guilt, sympathy, or just to stop Mrs. Grant from continuing to talk, Josie didn’t know.

“Great! We are going to have a marvelous time! Josie, take the beef stew out of the freezer, and throw away that lump that I think was supposed to be my cinnamon buns. And then take Mr. Richardson outside. He says he’s never actually been on a farm before, and that has to change!”

“It is very cold outside, Mom. I don’t think Mr. Richardson – “

“He’ll be fine. It will be good for him and his lily-white hands. But put me back to bed first. I’m tired and I want to rest before we eat.”

With nothing more to say, Josie silently set the envelope containing the partial drawing in front of Keith and wheeled her mother out of the room.

Keith was examining the drawing when she came back and she went to obey her mother’s instructions without interrupting him. Part of her was anxious to know his thoughts, but a larger part dreaded hearing criticism or disappointment. She had just finished washing the counter of all remaining parts of dough when he spoke.

“This is incredible, Miss Grant.”

She looked up quickly. “Really?”

He stood and walked over to her. “Absolutely. The detail in this is amazing.” He motioned to the sunrise. “You can almost see it coming off the page. And the trees – the house. I think my mom is going to love this.”

“Thank you.” The profound relief and delight that swept through Josie set her almost giddy. She actually smiled up into his eyes. “Now, did you want to see the real thing? Or was that just another thing my mom pushed you into?”

He laughed. “I would love to see the real thing. Just take it easy on me if I wimp out and ask to go back in right away.”

It had started snowing lightly by the time they bundled up and stepped outside.

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17, 051 Words

So, I may not have been able to finish NaNo within November, but I have decided to try and make the goal by end of December instead, to defeat the forces that seemed to be working against me. Therefore, I’m still writing. It’s a nice break from editing, anyway.

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

Mr. Peters practically fell over himself to offer Josie the opportunity to work from her home Christmas week after Mr. Richardson was through with him, and it was with great joy Aunt Patty received the news she could head out to visit her family Friday evening as soon as Josie arrived. Theresa was a bit grumpy about the fact Josie was going to be able to work remotely when she had never been given permission to do so, but Josie’s delight was enough to infect even her, and by the end of the week, she was even grudgingly happy for her.

Josie got out of her car on Friday, already looking around to determine the best spot to capture for the drawing. She had met with Mr. Richardson one more time before leaving to discuss particulars, explain the tiny, small town she lived in and the describe her farm to make sure it would suit and was anxious that she shouldn’t disappoint him. After all, a promotion and better paycheck could be riding on this.

“Josie!” Aunt Patty hurried out of the house to greet her.

“Aunt Patty – I thought you would already be on your way home! You said you were going to leave when I told you I was on my way.”

“I know, but I wanted to make sure you had dinner when you arrived, and I got carried away, and you know how it is. Come on in – your mother is up on the sofa waiting for you.”

Josie followed her aunt into the warm house, reveling in the already crackling fire in the living room and sumptuous smells emanating from the cozy kitchen. “Did Drew build the fire?”

“Yes – he is a good boy. Always insists on building the fire and doesn’t even charge extra.”

“Josie – I am so glad you are home!” Mrs. Grant was leaned back on the sofa, a blanket tucked around her and held out frail arms to her daughter. “How on earth were you able to get an entire week? We are going to have so much fun! Did you hear that the Johnson’s daughter refused to come home for Christmas?”

“Isn’t she spending the holidays with her fiancé’s family?”

“Yes, exactly! Can you believe it? Already abandoning her family and she isn’t even married yet!”

“Mom.” Josie shook her head and gave her another hug. “We’ll catch up on the gossip later. Right now-“

“It’s not gossip.” Protested her mom. “It’s only –“

“Facts of life to teach you lessons.” Josie finished almost in chorus with her. “Facts of life or not, I’m starving and I bet you are too, and since Aunt Patty has already stayed late to make us dinner, I think we should enjoy it with her before she has to leave.”

Accordingly, the three ate dinner together in the living room, even Mrs. Grant remaining silent for the most part as Josie related how she had come to be able to spend an entire week at home.

“So have you decided from which angle you will draw it?” Aunt Patty asked.

“Not yet – I am going to go tramp around outside tomorrow morning and see where the best light hits. I wish I knew a little more about his uncle’s farm so I could try to capture a more familiar angle, but I suppose anything will do.”

“You said this Mr. Richardson is rich, right?”

“Yes.”

“Chances are, a google search for his family might turn up some details – there might even be pictures online of the old farm. Especially if his mother was rich before him. The internet has everything these days. It’s disgusting, if you ask me – no sense of privacy or politeness anymore. Everyone prying into everyone else’s business, whether invited or not.”

“Isn’t that what you just told me to do?” Josie smiled.

“Well, I can’t help it if someone else already decided to be creepy. Besides, he essentially gave you permission to pry. It is hardly the same thing.” Aunt Patty composedly continued eating her mashed potatoes.

“Is he handsome too?” Mrs. Grant cut in suddenly.

“What?” Josie looked over at her.

“You said this Mr. Richardson is rich. Is he handsome?”

“I – I suppose so. I – haven’t really noticed.”

“That isn’t what your face is currently saying.” Mrs. Grant said. “Is this the young man you were thinking about last time? Why haven’t you mentioned him before? Does he have a girlfriend? Is he nice? Does he go to church?”

“MOM! No – I mean – I don’t know! I have barely talked to him – he is a professional acquaintance. It would hardly be proper for me to ask him questions like those even if I wanted to know.”

“But he asked you to do a drawing for him. Was that professional? It seems rather personal to me. I think you should do some research on him as well as his uncle’s farm. We need to make sure he is appropriate for you – you know, being rich and handsome won’t make marriage any easier.”

“I think it’s time for you to take a nap, mom.”

“But Josie! This is important. You need to be careful, but don’t be too picky or . . .” Mrs. Grant continued talking as Aunt Patty and Josie moved her to her wheelchair and brought her to the bedroom.

 

*                                             *                                             *                                             *

Josie lifted her head and breathed the cold air in deeply. The crispness that might feel biting to some seemed warm and welcoming to her, like it was welcoming her home for another Christmas, and it swirled around her inviting her to dance with it. She lifted hands to greet it, but it didn’t last too long before she stuffed them back into her pockets. She probably should have taken the time to grab her heavy gloves. But she didn’t want to miss it.

Quickening her pace a bit, she reached the barn and found the old ladder where it always was. She climbed up it, pausing just long enough to unfasten the latch to the rooftop and hoisted herself up to the little portion of the barn roof that seemed almost flat due to the hours she had spent up there. Just in time. She pulled her knees up to her chest and stuck her bare hands between them for warmth as she watched the orange red hued light creeping over the horizon, as comforting and bright as though it was the middle of summer and it was joyful she was back.

A smile tugged at the edge of her lips as she watched the sun rise; it always reminded her of that verse – faith, the substance of things hoped for. The initial light was like the beginning of a promise and as the sun slowly appeared, it was the fulfillment of the promise. This was definitely one of the things she missed most living in Boston. Morning always filled her with vitality, ambition, and confidence. If it could only always be morning, with a rising son, she felt like she could be more than a meek new girl in the office.

Taking her eyes off the sun as it slowly became too bright to be good for her, she let them trail over the length and breadth of her farm as though caressing it and reminding it that she still loved every piece of this land more than any charm a big city might hold. Yes, her farm. They might rent it out to actually be worked, but it was still theirs and would be as long as she could make sure of it. It was where she grew up – she wouldn’t lose it.

She stood, knowing she really shouldn’t, but wanting a full view. The fields covered in white, with an occasional leftover stalk of some plant or another sticking out of it, creating the idea of a barren wasteland, the well-kept barns, thanks to the neighbors renting them – starkly contrasting the white farmhouse in desperate need of repair, the favorite row of red maples. It didn’t matter, she realized, exactly what Keith Richardson’s uncle’s farm had looked like – she would never be able to paint it as his mother had seen it. What she could do, was draw her farm as she saw it – as she loved it. You could always tell if an artist loved his work, and if she loved hers, she knew – or hoped – his mother would like it as well.   And this was her vantage point. The full view of home.

*                                             *                                             *                                             *

She’d been hard at work for three days, taking breaks to fix meals and care for her mother and do her actual job, but focused, if not physically, then mentally, on her picture. She always rose before daybreak to try and capture the sun enveloping the farm in its loving embrace, but worked in the evenings too, tracing every detail of the trees, using her memory to fill in the full effect of its leaves waving in the wind and using the shape of the field to create a green, thriving place in place of the stark one before her.

Mrs. Grant had even ceased asking her questions about Keith Richardson, enjoying the sight of her daughter around the house too much to push too far. That didn’t stop her, however, from pointing out any eligible man who happened to be within sight of the house if the neighbors stopped by to get something from the barn or asking pointedly if she had talked with anyone on the occasions Jocelyn went to town for anything.

It was a lovely, quiet existence that almost allowed Josie to forget she now lived in the city until a knock at the door the evening of that third day. Josie wiped off the flour on her hands onto her apron, casting a doleful look at her attempt to make cinnamon buns for her mother before she hurried to answer it. Mrs. Grant had not let up hinting that Aunt Patty always made cinnamon buns for her at least once a week.

The sight of Keith Richardson’s perfectly styled hair and Dolce & Gabbana wool coat were so out of place that Josie actually didn’t recognize him for a moment.

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I might be a little behind. Oh, well. I can do 4,000 words a day to catch up, right? *gulp* Let’s not think about that right now and instead concentrate on the next portion of my story, which I finally got typed up.

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

“I love drawing, sir. And I am quite good. I was hoping, perhaps, you could put in a word for me and –“

“Wait a minute – let me get this straight.” Mr. Peters actually lowered his standing desk so he could look at her. “You only just got acclimated to this job and you want to move positions?”

“No! I mean – sort of – it is just . . .”

“Please sit down, Miss Grant.” Mr. Peters sat himself and waited until Josie slowly lowered herself in the chair opposite him, a knot forming in her stomach.

“Now, Miss Grant, what makes you think you are qualified to work in design? Our designers have years of experience and, in some cases, multiple degrees. You have only recently even learned to dress professionally, and you have no experience. Believe me – I went over your resume with a fine-tooth comb, recommendation or not.” Mr. Peters reached across and took the stack of sketches Josie had set in front of her, glancing through them briefly. “You have raw talent, there is no doubt of that, but experience – experience and training is key. I would not risk my company’s reputation even if you had been here as long as Theresa has. Our clients have very specific expectations about quality and I would not chance losing their trust just because a young girl has some talent and big dreams.”

“Yes, sir.” Josie stood, well aware arguing not only would be fruitless but may result in affecting his perception of her as his employee as well. Nonetheless, as she began to retreat from his office, a thought struck her and she turned back.

“Mr. Peters – what if a client is already interested in my designs?”

“What do you mean?” He stood, looking at her with some alarm. “Miss Grant, if you have been approaching my clients without –“

“Oh, no! Of course not. But Mr. Richardson saw one of my sketches by chance and requested I do another one on commission for him. If he liked it enough to ask me to do something for him privately, then wouldn’t he like my designs in a professional capacity as well?”

“Hmm.” Mr. Peters thought it over. “And did he like the completed commission?”

“Oh – well, I was unable to do it that weekend, since I was out of town.” Josie flushed but hurried on. “However, I am sure if I offered to do one again he would take me up on it.”

“Very well – if Mr. Richardson has you do a drawing for him and likes the completed product, then we will talk again. Absolutely no promises, but we will talk.”

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Peters!” Josie fairly ran out of the room before he could change his mind.

“So how did it go?” Theresa pounced as soon as Josie closed the door behind her.

“Well, he said no.”

“I told you it wouldn’t happen.” There was no denying the note of satisfaction in Theresa’s voice. Not malicious, Josie knew – probably just delight in both being right and not losing her new assistant. She almost hated to burst her bubble. Almost.

“But . . .”

“But what?” Theresa turned her head sharply. “You aren’t quitting because of that, are you?”

“No, of course not. But he said if Mr. Richardson hires me for a sketch and is pleased wit it, he will reconsider.”

“Really?” Theresa sounded a little dumbfounded.

“Yup. So I guess I’ll have to make sure Mr. Richardson knows I’m still interested in sketching for him  – or his mother -or whoever.”

“Don’t you go bothering him about it. He probably only asked you to be polite anyway.” But Theresa no longer sounded so sure of herself.

“It wouldn’t hurt to let him know I am interested and available, though, right?”

“I suppose – as long as you don’t coerce him into it.” Theresa conceded a bit reluctantly.

“Well, what have we here?” A sweet voice sounded behind them. “A plot to further damage relationships with our clients?”

“None of your business, Ms. Hynes.” Theresa said.

“If I catch either of you talking to Mr. Richardson again, I will tell Mr. Peters how you tried to sabotage our good relationship and therefore the company.” The sweet tone was gone and a savage note displayed just how angry the woman was.

“You brought what happened upon yourself, Caroline.” Theresa retorted without fear. “If you had not been publicly criticizing a coworker, Mr. Richardson would not have gotten upset.”

“Nonetheless.” Caroline had gotten control of herself again and the sweetness was back. “I am the one who makes the money for this company and Mr. Peters cannot afford to lose me, so I would suggest you tread carefully.”

*                                             *                             *                             *

Jocelyn found it more difficult than she expected to approach Keith Richardson again. Though he seemed to be in and out of the office more than ever – a fact she wasn’t sure whether to attribute to Caroline’s overt attentions or to the new marketing plans being drawn up for his company – he always seemed to be in a hurry and Josie found herself shrinking from the bold task of actually soliciting him. It took a call from Aunt Patty to finally steel her resolve.

“Hello, dear! How are you doing?” The older lady’s voice was a little too anxious to sound normal.

“Aunt Patty – what is wrong?”

“Why must you always jump to conclusions? What if I just want to talk to my favorite niece?”

“You mean your only niece? I know how much you hate phones, Aunt Patty. That excuse doesn’t work.”

“Letters are so much more romantic. In the classic sense, not the lovey dovey sense.”

“So what’s wrong?”

Aunt Patty sighed dramatically before responding. “Very well. If you are insistent on getting straight to the point. You know, a little small talk never hurt anyone.”

“Is Mom getting worse?”

The responding silence almost negated the need for Aunt Patty’s verbal confirmation. “Well, the doctor wants more frequent treatments and an in-home nurse. Especially for the times I need to leave. Like – for Christmas next week. My son keeps asking when I will be there. He is still a little sore at me for missing Thanksgiving. I don’t mean to burden you, my dear, especially when you do so much for your poor mother, but I thought you should know, and I know quite well your mother won’t tell you.”

“Thanks for letting me know, Aunt Patty.” Josie tried not to betray the sinking feeling she had. How could she ever afford in-home care? “When do you need to go back home for Christmas?”

“Well, I was going to go as soon as you got back for the Christmas. Do you know yet how much time you get off for it yet, by the way?”

“Uh – no. Not yet.” It was sort of true. There was the possibility she could get more than Christmas Eve off if she asked. Maybe.

“Okay, well, if you let me know once you find out, I will tell my son. I am sorry, dear – I wish I could stay here and help out more, but I do need to spend the holidays with my children.”

“No, of course! I wouldn’t expect anything less. I – I might be able to get another job – sort of – and make a little extra soon. So – I will see what I can do.”

“Don’t kill yourself, dear. God will provide somehow.”

“Of course – I’ll keep you updated. Thanks, Aunt Patty.”

So it was that the next time Keith Richardson walked into the office, Josie squared her shoulders and cornered him in the elevator after his meeting.

“Mr. Richardson.” She said as she followed him into the elevator.

“Miss Grant – did I forget something?”

“No, sir. I just wanted to speak with you. Do you mind if I walk you out?”

“Not at all? What can I do for you?”

“Well, sir – you mentioned. . .that one night when you were skating. You asked about – about my sketches.”

“Ah, yes – they were very impressive, especially for one so young.”

Josie suppressed her insulted feeling and continued. “Thank you. I was just wondering – you mentioned your mother wanted a drawing and I know I was busy that weekend, but I am available now, and I was just wondering – I would love the opportunity if it isn’t too late and if you are still interested and I am pretty flexible schedule wise and I wouldn’t charge much at all if you – or she – was still interested, that is.” It all came out in a rush as though she was afraid she would stop halfway through and be unable to continue.

“Oh – I see.” Keith said with some surprise and undeniably slightly amused. The elevator doors chimed open on the ground floor and he strode out. Josie hesitated, uncertain if that was a refusal or if she was supposed to –

“Coming?” He looked back at her and she hurried out after him.

“So, I have to say,” He said as they walked toward the door, “my mother already found another artist and had her drawing done.”

“Oh.” Josie’s tone doubtlessly conveyed her sinking heart. He glanced down at her and held open the door so she could precede him out to the sidewalk.

“But I may have another idea.”

“Oh?”

“If you are serious about your offer, anyway.”

“Of course!”

“It is rather difficult to find gifts for my mother. She buys anything she wants, so Christmas shopping is basically impossible. So, your offer gives me an idea. I bet she would love an original drawing from a local, undiscovered young talent. Is that something you would be interested in?”

“Oh, wouldn’t I!” Josie exclaimed, excitement staining her cheeks and taking the edge of the cold wind off.

“Perfect! Then we just have to determine a picture. As the artist, have you have suggestions off hand?” He smiled down at her and her cheeks flushed from more than just the excitement and cold wind.

“Well – would she like a portrait of – of her son? Or family?”

“Not bad – I am sure she would. But to be quite honest, we have family portraits done yearly, so that may be a little repetitive.”

“Of course! That is rather obvious.” Josie quickly racked her brain for additional ideas. “What about – where she grew up? Any memories there?”

“Well, she grew up in the center of New York society – which might be a bit difficult to capture.  Oh – wait – I know!” His eyes brightened. “Her family used to visit an uncle’s farm in western New York. Whenever Mother has a touch too much wine, she goes off into hours’ worth of stories surrounding it, explaining how she and her brother climbed trees and explored nooks and crannies and turned an old barn into a play house. She loved that place!”

“That’s perfect! Do you know where it is? I could take a weekend out there – assuming they don’t care.”

Keith’s face dropped a bit. “Well – it was sold when Uncle Rodney died and I think its been torn down and replaced with a factory or something.”

“Oh – that could create an issue.” Josie offered a half smile.

“If only I knew someone with a nice farm, I bet it would be close enough to still catch her sentiment.”

Josie felt more than a little awkward as she cleared her throat. “Uh – well, actually. . .”

“You know someone?”

“More or less. My farm – actually. I grew up on a farm. My mom still lives there.”

“Really? Well, I guess that explains why you are so different.”

“Different?” Josie cocked her head and met his eyes without difficulty for the first time in their conversation.

“Oh – not in a bad way!” Keith quickly tried to amend. “Just – you know. Quiet. And not as taken up in appearances – and, uh-“

Josie raised her eyebrows, her ears lighting on fire. “No, I get it. I’m different.” Sometimes she was surprised at how quickly her self-consciousness disappeared when she was upset about something. “I don’t really fit in. I understand.”

“That’s not what I meant – what I really meant – “

She had to admit, as offended as she felt, it was also a little fun to see cool, collected Keith Richardson stumbling over his words. He cleared his throat and apparently deemed it best to just move on.

“Is it all right to just use your farm? I will compensate for both the use and the drawing, of course.”

“Of course we can use our farm. It will be a pleasure, Mr. Richardson.”

“Thank you.” He appeared immensely relieved she had accepted the change of subject. “When do you think it might be ready?”

“I will have to see if Mr. Peters will allow me to work remotely next week. If so, I can go down this weekend and have it ready for you to pick up at least a couple days before Christmas.”

“That would be perfect! Do you think it would help if I spoke to Mr. Peters about it?”

“Actually, it probably would help immensely.”

“Great – then I will do so tomorrow. Thank you, Miss Grant.” He stepped toward a waiting limo, eager to get himself safely away, but turned back and, with another of his mischievous grins, bowed before entering. Josie gave in and bopped a curtsy in response.

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My computer is fixed! My lovely husband ordered a hard drive and fixed it himself to try to get it done faster!

So I am sure you are wondering if I was able to keep up with my word count while handwriting. The answer is – um. If thinking about the book counts, then absolutely! If I had to actually write stuff down, then no. No I didn’t. But I am going to try and type up what I did write today and get it posted. Assuming I can read my own handwriting.

NaNo power outage

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