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Authors: Viola Shipman

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BOOK: The Charm Bracelet
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The Dragonfly Charm

To a Life Filled with Good Fortune

 

Four

Main Street of Scoops, Michigan, looked like a live-action Currier & Ives portrait.

Arden watched as the little Victorian storefronts—filled with restaurants, coffee shops, clothing, jewelry, and handbag stores—drew in customers. Window boxes overflowing with petunias, marigolds, and begonias decorated every storefront.

“I forgot how quaint Main Street is,” Lauren said. “It's just so …
sweet
, so quintessentially Norman Rockwell. Hey? Shouldn't we call Grandma?”

“Let's surprise her instead,” Arden suggested, sniffing the air, smelling the sweet smell of fudge. “I have this feeling…”

Arden let her voice trail off. She grabbed her daughter's hand and led her down the narrow downtown streets canopied with white birch, sugar maples, and towering pines. An inland harbor—filled with bobbing boats, kayakers, and the last hand-cranked chain ferry in the United States—shimmered alongside Main Street, while in the distance they could see Lake Michigan and its towering dunes. It was a majestic backdrop.

They zipped through the bustling little downtown until they ran into resorters clotting the sidewalk outside Dolly's Sweet Shop.

“Wow! I forgot about all the ‘fudgies,'” Arden said, using the nickname Michiganders called tourists who took over coastal resort towns from Memorial Day through Labor Day. “They're like zombies. You just can't get rid of them. And they arrive earlier and earlier every year.”

“Mother,” Lauren said, whacking her mother on the shoulder, and nodding toward Dolly's nostalgic red storefront. “Ssshhh! You know why they're here.”

“I do.”

Arden walked up and tapped on the large window etched with Dolly's logo.

“Hi, Mom,” she called through the glass.

Lolly looked up from the copper urns at the sound of her daughter's voice, her face changing from complete shock to total joy.

Lolly jumped up and down in the window, before handing her fudge-covered paddles to a young girl and running outside.

For as long as Arden could remember, her mother had been the center of attention in downtown Scoops. For decades, Lolly Lindsey had stood in the huge front window of Dolly's Sweet Shop, like Auntie Mame, a bigger-than-life personality in small-town America. While many flocked for the fudge, most came for the “show.” Lolly was a regional treasure. She wore a variety of brightly colored vintage aprons: Red dotted with triple-scoop ice cream cones, white decorated with blueberries or cherries, pink with dancing cupcakes. But wigs were her signature look: Red, pink, white; bobs and beehives. Every hour on the hour, Lolly would dance and sing, “Hello, Dolly,” entertaining vacationers and luring tourists into the shop.

Arden and her mother were total opposites: Lolly was as dramatic as Arden was buttoned down. And while Lolly's theatrics often embarrassed Arden, she was beyond happy to see her mother.

“My girls! What a surprise!” Lolly yelled, pulling Arden in for a bear hug. “What on earth are you doing here?”

Lolly turned to Lauren, pulled her close and began to jump anew. Lauren joined in, jumping up and down, screaming in unison with her grandmother, their bracelets rattling.

“We missed you and wanted to spend Memorial Day with you!” Lauren said, her words bouncing in the air along with her body. “I love you, Grandma!”

Lolly stopped jumping and pulled her granddaughter into her arms. “I love you, too, my dear,” she whispered, before turning to Arden and raining her cheeks with kisses. “And I love you, too, my baby. It's been too long.”

“I know,” Arden said. “I love you, too, Mom.”

As Lolly took her daughter's face in her hands to study it closely, Arden thought,
My God, she's aged.

Even underneath the wig and all the makeup, her mother looked so much older than the last time she had seen her. Lolly's bright red lipstick trailed up the deep crevices that ran northward from her lips, like tiny rivers. Under all the foundation, Arden could still detect dark circles, and there was a hollowness in her cheeks despite her blush. Even her mother's eyes—long the color of the blue hydrangeas she loved so much—had faded. Her apron and sweat suit couldn't hide her shrinking body or rounding back.

“So? What brings my girls to Michigan unannounced?”

Lauren and Arden stared at each other.

“Okay, what gives, girls?” Lolly asked, hands on hips. “Going somewhere on a whim—even to the bathroom—is so unlike you, Arden.”

Lauren couldn't help herself: She began to laugh, so hard in fact, she had to double over, until her face was near the sidewalk outside Dolly's.

“Thanks, you both,” Arden said. “Really appreciate it.”

“Spill the beans, or no one gets any fudge.”

“Mom! Talk! Now!” Lauren said, suddenly very serious. “There's chocolate at stake!”

“Well … let's just say Lauren and I needed a road trip.”

Lolly looked at her daughter with great skepticism. “That'll do for now,” she said. “I'm just happy to see you both again.”

Lolly paused, and opened her mouth to speak, but her cheeks quivered, and Arden could tell her mother was either ready to cry or to tell them something. Instead, she simply chirped, “Now … who wants candy?”

What is she holding back?
Arden wondered
.

Lauren took off for the fudge shop. Through the window, Lolly and Arden watched Lauren nab a little white sack and run through Dolly's like a kid in a candy store. The brick walls of Dolly's were lined with uneven wooden shelves and rickety tables covered with red gingham tablecloths and little red baskets overflowing with chocolate and sweets. Lauren grabbed all flavors of homemade saltwater taffy and licorice, before nabbing turtles and a mound of maple fudge. Without slowing, she headed toward the ice cream counter in the back of the shop, where high school kids in white smocks dispensed a rainbow of flavors.

“I bet she gets a triple scoop of Superman, Blue Moon, and Birthday Cake,” Lolly said, her eyes twinkling as she watched her granddaughter. “I knew it! That's my Lorna.”

Lorna?
Arden wondered
. Again?

Arden turned to look at her mother, waiting for her to catch her error. But Lolly only continued to smile and admire her granddaughter. Arden thought of the card she had received from her mother with the charm, containing the same mistake, and was about to say something when Lauren reappeared carrying a bag stuffed with sweets and a triple scoop ice cream cone.

“I'm glad to see you haven't changed,” Lolly said, as her granddaughter licked the cone, the ice cream already beginning to trickle down her arm in the surprisingly strong May sunshine.

Lolly smiled at her granddaughter, and Lauren placed her head on her grandma's shoulder, sighing.

“My beautiful baby girl,” Lolly whispered. “I've missed you so much.”

Arden watched her mom hold her daughter, and she was nearly overcome with emotion.

It's been way too long since I've been home,
Arden thought
.

“Hey! It's the fudge lady!” a little boy with unruly curls suddenly screamed, knocking Arden from her thoughts. A group of children quickly gathered around Lolly. “When's your next show?” they asked, as Lolly pointed at the clock in the window.

“Five minutes,” she chirped.

“Arden? Arden, is that you?”

A pretty blond woman in bright Lilly Pulitzer and a choker of pearls was holding the hand of a girl, while a gaggle of children trailed closely behind.

“It's Kathy,” she said. “Kathy Van Wieren.”

Arden felt like Alice again, falling down the rabbit hole. Suddenly, she was back in school, the lonely, shy, dark-haired girl who read too much, in a sea of tall, towheaded, beautiful and popular Dutch girls.

“Hi,” Arden sputtered. “My gosh, it's been … so long.”

“I haven't seen you since we graduated,” Kathy said, her chirpy voice as happy as a robin's. “I heard you moved to New York to write for
People
magazine…”

“Actually, I live in Chicago and work for
Paparazzi
,” Arden answered. “I … well, I…”

Arden stopped. She realized suddenly that, other than her job, she didn't really have a reason for staying away so long.

“Well, it sounds so glamorous,” Kathy said. “Working next to all those stars.”

Kathy gestured at her children. “My life is anything but. Not with five kids … my youngest is six.”

Kathy looked at her youngest, ruffled her locks, and chuckled. “I'm such a good Catholic.”

She continued, “My husband and I live in Chicago, too, but we spend our summers in Scoops at my grandparents' cottage, and he comes up when he can.”

Lolly reached into her apron to grab some taffy. Kathy's son lurched for the candy while her daughter hid behind her mother's body.

“Sugar,” Kathy sighed. “Just what they need. But they just love your mother. Everyone does.” Kathy stopped and smiled at Lolly. “She has always been quite the character, hasn't she? You two are so different.”

Arden couldn't help it, but she flinched at Kathy's words, which made her uncomfortable and reminded her why she had so much trouble coming back home.

“Can we stay and watch her show, Mom?” the little boy asked, his mouth stuffed with taffy. “Puh-leeeze!”

Kathy rolled her eyes at Arden. “Yes, yes, of course. But no more candy, okay?”

Kathy smiled, her eyes traveling southward to search Arden's left hand. “Are you married?”

“No…,” she started, before Kathy preempted her, whispering, “Oh, my goodness. I'm sorry. I forgot.”

Arden nodded toward her daughter. “That's my daughter, Lauren. She's going to be a senior next year at Northwestern.”

“She's …
beautiful
,” Kathy said, looking back and forth from Arden to Lauren.

“Thank you,” Arden replied, wondering if her comment was a compliment or veiled put-down. “Well, listen … We just got into town, and we're exhausted.”

“Let's do dinner!” Kathy said.

“Sure,” Arden lied.

“Does your Mom still live in that cute little log cabin?”

Arden nodded as Kathy walked on. Arden headed over to her mother and pulled her out of the circle. “Mom, Lauren and I would like to get a bite to eat and then head over to the cabin, okay? We're tired from the drive. And we need more than sugar for lunch.”

Lolly looked over at Lauren, watching her granddaughter share some of her own taffy with the kids. “Listen, I have shows until seven. So grab a bite, and I'll meet you at home later on.”

“Really, Mom? You still have
shows
so late?”

Lolly's face sagged like a sailboat's mast.

“Yes, I do,” she said. “People are
counting
on me. It's almost Memorial Day. They wait all winter to see my Dolly act, and the weather looks perfect for big crowds. You two go shop, get a glass of wine … relax. I'll run home after I'm done.

“Now, scoot! Go have some fun. Get in some trouble. It's summer in Scoops, for goodness' sake.”

Arden looked at her mother and laughed. “Trouble in Scoops? Now that's funny.”

Lolly grabbed her daughter by the chin and gave her head a gentle little tug. “Always such a serious face! I'll see you later. I love you!”

Arden watched her mother immediately transform into Dolly as she walked away, blowing kisses to the crowd now gathering in front, anticipating the next show.

“Ready?” Arden finally asked Lauren.

“Really, Mom? We have to watch Grandma do her thing. She
is
summer.”

Arden smiled at her daughter, and then nodded. “Okay.”

In her wigs, makeup, and apron, Lolly was the spitting image of the real Dolly Van Voozle featured in the shop's logo.

Though her mother's alter ego had often embarrassed her when she was young, it was a perfect fit.

She's always had a lifelong flare for drama,
Arden thought.

Lauren dragged her mother toward the front of the crowd, and Arden steeled herself, taking a breath, the smell of butter and chocolate filling her nose.

A white-haired man sat down at a player piano in front of the shop, pantomime-playing as he rotated sheets of paper music onto a large spool, polkas and tunes from a bygone era filling the street outside.

The old clock chimed in the rose garden across the street from Dolly's, and Kathy's little girl asked, “Is it time for the fudge lady?” The crowd giggled in anticipation, as Lolly adjusted her fire engine red wig and opened the double doors with a dramatic flair, the scent of wholesome sweetness trailing behind her.

“Greetings!” Lolly yelled.

“Hello, Dolly!” the crowd yelled back.

“What did you say?” She laughed, lifting her hands like a cheerleader to urge them on.

“HELLO, DOLLY!”

And, with that, she yanked off her pink apron dotted with singing lollipops to reveal a sparkly white sequined gown, cut on a bias, and a strand of pearls, all of which were haphazardly thrown on over a purple sweat suit and tennis shoes. Don, the elderly man from the player piano who had trailed along behind her like the sweet smells of the shop, handed her a feather boa. Lolly curtsied, taking it from his hands, before he returned to the player piano and rolled a new sheet of paper music onto the spool.

For a few seconds, there was silence, before the speakers on the street emitted a few squeaks as the spool rotated on the player piano playing the tune to “Hello, Dolly.” And then:

Lolly turned to salute the fudge shop and its logo, before bowing to the crowd. She put her boa around the shy little girl who had asked about her moments ago and shimmied with her until the girl broke into a fit of giggles. Then she urged the crowd to sing:
“You're lookin' swell, Dolly…”

BOOK: The Charm Bracelet
10.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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