Authors: Mary Manners
Tags: #christian Fiction
A Splash of Christmas
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
A Splash of Christmas
COPYRIGHT 2014 by Mary Manners
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or Pelican Ventures, LLC except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
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Contact Information: [email protected]
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version
Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.â¢ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
Cover Art by
White Rose Publishing, a division of Pelican Ventures, LLC
PO Box 1738 *Aztec, NM * 87410
White Rose Publishing Circle and Rosebud logo is a trademark of Pelican Ventures, LLC
First White Rose Edition, 2014
Electronic Edition ISBN 978-1-61116-464-0
Published in the United States of America
To Dave and Arlene Manners...your faith and kindness lift me up in so many wonderful ways. May God richly bless you and hold you close in His sweet embrace.
Praise for Mary Manners
"Good for anyone who loves chocolate and happy endings." ~Becky Taylor, Kate's Kisses
"Traci and Dylan captured my heart...just perfectly perfect!" ~Delia Latham, Designed by Love
"Such a wonderful love story. I love the characters. I love Mary Manners' books." ~Diana Montgomery, Light the Fire
"I have been telling all my friends about this incredible book and can't wait to read more from this amazing author." ~Cheri Swalwell, Buried Treasures
"... a wonderful novella that is sure to remind what the greatest gifts of Christmas are as well as leave you thankful for new beginnings!" ~Laura Pol, Christmas Wishes, Special Delivery
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
~ 1 Corinthians 13:2 ~
Faith O'Fallon flipped through a notebook on the cluttered desk of her office at the Mountain Light Children's Home as beads of perspiration collected along the nape of her neck. A box fan set to high speed in the window chased a sticky note from the scribble-splattered blotter, and Faith fell to her knees to retrieve it as it flitted across scuffed tile toward the foot of the file cabinet.
Snatching the slip of paper, Faith sucked in a deep, ragged breath. This task she'd recently bulldozed into seemed beyond impossible to accomplish. Yes, indeedâ¦that's what planning Mountain Light's Christmas party while knee-deep into the humidity-clad days of Indian summer, with the office air conditioning stubbornly on the fritzâagainâseemed to be. But Faith stood determined to see this task through to the end despite all the good, the bad, and the ugly that it brought along.
The Bad: checkâshe'd been turned down now at least half-a-dozen times by supporters who'd opened their pockets during previous years without so much as a flinch. The Ugly: checkâthe heat and oppressive humidity which lurked around every corner did little to nudge her or others in the community into the Christmas spirit.
The Good? Faith had nothing going in that area.
particular quality appeared to be AWOL at the moment.
Faith lowered the speed of the box fan as she collected the last of the scattered sticky notes and settled back into the desk chair. The sound of voices driftedâ¦laughter mingled with shouts of glee and the light spatter of an argument here and there as children played with water toys on the side lawn. One of the counselors had, to the boundless delight of the kids, set up a few sprinklers to combat the sweltering September heat since the kids were out of school due to a teacher in-service day.
Faith couldn't remember such a string of warm September days. The meager shower of water from the sprinklers wasn't much in the way of recreational activities; a pool would certainly prove an all-around much better option. But said pool seemed a flight of fancy and stood purely out of the realm of financial possibility for the children's home as Faith still struggled to procure so much as the tiniest bit of funding for the in-house holiday party and modest Christmas gifts for the kids.
She needed to secure a few compassionate and willing donors with deep pockets, and quick. Christmas loomed just a little more than three months away and the shopping and planning would require every bit of those precious days.
Faith smoothed a wrinkle from her linen skirt and readjusted the strap of one sandal, wishing she'd thought to don more sensible footwear this morning. The generous heels nipped and pinched with each step, and she longed to kick them off and join the carefree kids who ran through lush grass that beckoned from the yard beyond her office window.
No time for that. Focus, Faith, focus...
Faith was in her first year as the recreation director here at the children's home, and she'd quickly come to love every one of the kids, aged five to seventeen, with whom she crossed paths on a daily basis. They'd grown to be the family she'd never belonged to and had always longed for. Having spent the better part of her childhood at Mountain Light herself, she knew good and well the importance of even the smallest gestures of kindness. Now, she refused to let the kids down when it came to hosting the Christmas party they eagerly looked forward to all yearâ¦even if it killed her.
And it mightâ¦heatstroke was an option, or she simply might just melt to death. The tune “Frosty the Snowman
suddenly danced through Faith's head and a stab of sadness pierced her heart as she imagined Frosty slowly dissolving into a shadowy puddle.
Faith forced the image from her mind and pushed through to the happy ending when Frosty returned with hearty singing, gleeful dancing and hopes for what might come the following year.
Yes, that's what she needed to make it through to the other side of the Christmas partyâ¦a strong dose of hope.
Faith brushed a wavy wisp of long, cinnamon hair that had escaped its ponytail from her eyes. She wished for the umpteenth time that her hair was more controllableâa wave that fanned sleek and stylish much like the manes that models in the latest fashion magazines possessed instead of the mass of unruly curls that refused to cooperate whenever the humidity rose above forty percent.
Faith gave up the fight. She tugged the elastic band from the tail, releasing her hair to spring free over her shoulders and tumble down to the middle of her back. She raked her fingers through the curls as she drew another deep breath, inhaling the scent of lilacs that bloomed outside the office window. The sweet and slightly musky scent wasn't exactly the key to nudging her into the Christmas spirit either.
She spun in the rolling chair and grabbed a small box filled with trinkets that sat atop the file cabinet. A quick turn back toward the desk, and she dumped the contents onto the blotter. Out spilled a half-burned jar candle she'd found at the bottom of her junk drawer at home. Next, a Bing Crosby CD, and a vintage ceramic light-up snowman with a snowflake belly that had once belonged to her great-grandmother followed suit.
Faith removed the CD from its case and inserted the disc into the player atop the file cabinet. Soon, the soft strains of Bing Crosby's rich and throaty caramel voice filled the office with dreams of a white Christmas. The candle, once lit, sent aromatic whispers of pine drifting. Finally, the snowman found his place front and center atop Faith's desk. The jolly, bright glow from his belly added the final touch of Christmas warmth.
I can do thisâ¦
Faith closed her eyes and breathed deeply, sending a quick but heartfelt prayer to the heavens above.
Lord, please help me find the funding to have a Christmas celebration for the kids. It will mean so much to them and they're counting on me. They need meâ¦and I need them.
The staccato click of heels signaled someone's approach. A shadow crossed the doorway, momentarily blocking muted rays of sunlight that spilled into the hall from double-paned glass entrance doors across the way. “Faith, get a move onâ¦we're running late and we have to goânow.”
Faith's head snapped up to find Avery Daniels, her best friend since the fifth grade, poised with one hip pressed against the door jamb. Avery worked a piece of gum between her jaws, snapping it smartly as was often her habit.
“Oh, hi, Ave.” Faith sighed and raked a hand through hair that refused to cooperate. “Is it noon already?”
“Five pastâno, ten now.” Avery's brow furrowed as she tapped the screen of the cellphone clutched in one fist. “And I'm parked in a tow-away zone. I've texted you at least half-a-dozen times. Don't you check your messages?”
“Not when I'm neck-deep into work.” Faith tossed the crumpled sticky note onto the blotter as her belly did a convoluted little dance. She hated to let Avery down, but duty called. She snatched a curl that obscured her vision and twisted it around her index finger as she spoke. “Look, umâ¦I really should stick around here and work through lunch instead of heading to that audition with you. There's so much on my plate right now.”
“Oh no you don't.” Avery waggled a finger capped by a scarlet-tipped nail. “We've had this gig set for a month now and you promised, Faith. You can't back out on me this late in the game. I can't do this alone.” She slipped one hand into the pocket of crisp, white jeans coupled with a V-necked black T-shirt that accentuated every ample curve. “Besides, there's ten thousand dollars on the line.”
“Ten thousand?” Faith grabbed a pen and tapped it along the desktop. “I thought it was five.”
“I thought the same until I read the small print in the audition instructions.” Avery stepped through the doorway and her perfume did battle with the pine-scented candle and a glimmer of lilac that wisped through the window. “If I'm selected to co-star alongside Ben Ward in today's first round of auditionsâwhich I thoroughly plan to beâI'll be awarded a cool ten-grand for my efforts. It's a win-win situation, since Ben is a hearty slice of heaven in steel-toed boots. It's no secret that he carries the bulk of the ratings for the Poolside Oasis show virtually singlehandedly. And the thought of filming a show with himâ¦of sharing a romantic date with himâ”
“It's not a date, Averyâand there's absolutely nothing romantic about this circus he and the producers are bent on staging. What's being offered is simply the opportunity to sit beside Ben Ward in a trumped-up, made-for-TV episode at the poolside of one of his backyard creations.”
“Is that so?” Avery's gaze darkened to storm status as she plucked the gum from her mouth and wrapped it in a tissue before tossing it into the trash can. “Well, aren't you a dark cloud raining on my parade today?”
“I'm simply attempting to keep it real. This audition nonsense that's stuck in your craw is nothing more than a far-reaching ploy to increase the show's ratings.”
“Well, I can certainly help with that.” Avery flashed the smile that drew men to her like a magnet draws coins. She knew the power of her self-confidence coupled with a personality more effervescent than soda-pop. “Besides, a girl can dream, can't she?”
“I suppose so, but
girl”âFaith crooked her index finger and poked herself in the chest, wishing that she might, for once, live as care-free and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants as Avery managed to do on a daily basisâ“plans to keep both her feet planted firmly on the ground.”