Authors: Diane Greenwood Muir
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication / use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
Cover Design Photography: Maxim M. Muir
Copyright © 2014 Diane Greenwood Muir
All rights reserved.
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Diane Greenwood Muir’s
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Treasure Uncovered – Bellingwood #3
Secrets and Revelations – Bellingwood #4
Life Between the Lines - Bellingwood #5
Brushing her hand down the skirt of her dress, Polly
stood in the doorway. She smiled at the man she loved as he took her arm and they walked down the aisle of the church. The excitement in the room was palpable. There had been so much work done in preparation for the wedding and the day was finally here.
She had spent the
day with her friends, Lydia, Beryl, Andy, and Joss Mikkels, decorating the auditorium. Sylvie Donovan and Hannah McKenzie had conscripted young Rachel Devins to help in the kitchen as they prepared the evening meal. The day had been busy and Polly felt like she hadn't stopped moving until this moment. Henry Sturtz, her contractor, friend, and the man she had fallen in love with, stopped at a pew, took her hand, squeezed it and waited for her to step in and sit down.
Polly smiled at Lydia and Beryl as she sat beside them. Henry winked and returned to
his duties as usher.
"The church is beautiful, don't you think?" Lydia whispered.
Two arrangements of white carnations and red roses sat on the altar. Deep green holly branches wrapped around the vases; their red berries glistening in the flickering candle light. Ribbons of gold wove through the arrangements, creating a festive look. The church had been decorated with candles in the windows, wreaths draped in gold, red, and white on the walls, and garland entwined with little white lights wrapped around the communion rails. The large Advent wreath was in front of the organ on a golden pedestal and an immense Christmas tree stood in a corner with colorful lights circling its branches.
"What a wonderful time of the year to get married," Polly said. "The church is already beautifully decorated!"
Sylvie Donovan and her two sons, Jason and Andrew, moved into the pew behind them, joined by Eliseo Aquila and Jeff Lindsay. The music changed and Henry slipped in to sit with her.
Saner’s four grandchildren came down the aisle carrying brass candle lighters. Two split off to light candles in the windows, while the others lit candles at the altar. The overhead lights dimmed, bringing a warm glow to the room. Rev. Boehm and Len Specek came down the aisle followed by two of Andy's children, Melanie and John.
felt tears threaten and her throat constrict as she tried not to cry. The organist played a triumphant fanfare, the congregation stood, and turned to watch Bill Saner escort his beautiful mother down the aisle. She was dressed in a simple, ivory dress with gold accents. It was belted at the waist and a short jacket with gold buttons finished her elegant look. Andy smiled at Len who beamed back at her. He couldn't take his eyes off her, as if he was surprised this moment was really here.
Andy had shown up in a panic the morning after Len proposed. She was carrying a brand new notebook, ready to attack
and organize. They didn't want to wait long and she loved the idea of a Christmas wedding. Polly knew that if anyone could pull off a wedding in a little more than a month, it would be Andy Saner. They sat down with Jeff. Holiday weddings were popular and Christmas parties filled the calendar, but Jeff had pointed to a Friday evening in the middle of December.
He'd just laughed and said, "Andy, your future husband
asked me to hold this date last April."
She'd gasped, "Why did he wait so long to ask me?"
When she thought about, she said, "Because he wanted to make sure."
and Andy had known each other in high school, but then went on to live separate lives. His first wife had died two years ago and his daughter, Ellen, worked as an IT Specialist for the State Department at the American Consulate in Barcelona, Spain. She came home for three weeks each year to spend Christmas with her father and this year that included a wedding.
Polly felt Henry tug on her arm. She
quickly sat down beside him when she realized the congregation was no longer standing. She’d been paying attention to Ellen Specek, who was seated alone in the front pew, her hands clasped in her lap. Every once in a while, Ellen lifted a perfect white handkerchief to her eyes. Polly nudged Beryl and pointed. Beryl nodded, then tugged on Lydia's arm to get her in on the story. Lydia patted her friend’s knee and returned her attention to the pageant in front of them.
Andy’s son, Bill, shook Len's hand, then placed his mother's on top of it. He kissed her on the check,
and stepped back to sit with his family. Henry drew Polly close, put his left arm around her shoulders and reached across with his right hand to hold hers.
When they exchanged rings
, Polly stole a glance at Lydia. The woman had a fresh package of tissues in her purse, knowing she would cry through the ceremony. What Polly didn't expect was to see Beryl's face scrunched up and teary. She reached over to squeeze Beryl's hand, then grinned when her friend lifted her upper lip in a snarl.
Rev. Boehm pronounced the couple man and wife, delivered the benediction, and invited them to kiss. Amidst laughter and clapping and a traditional wedding recessional, Len and Andy Specek led the wedding party
back down the aisle.
Andrew leaned forward
in the pew, "I'm supposed to go back with you, Polly," he whispered when Sylvie, Eliseo and Jason left.
"That's great," Polly said.
Andy and Len came back down the aisle and spent a few moments talking with their children, then greeted their friends and made sure everyone knew there would be time for conversation and hugs at the reception.
Most of the crowd
waited in the large foyer. Len helped Andy into a beautiful white, faux fur, full length coat and after pulling on his own coat, took her arm and escorted her out of the church.
Eliseo was seated in
the sleigh that Henry and Polly had refurbished. Jason stood beside it, dressed in a long waist-coat and top hat. Andy took Jason's hand and stepped in. Len followed and Jason climbed up to sit beside Eliseo. Polly looked at the boy beside the man. She took out her phone and snapped a few pictures, emailing one to Sylvie. Len reached under the seat for a furry blanket and laid it across their knees.
Eliseo signaled to the horses and they moved off. He and Jason had driven around town earlier to find the prettiest Christmas lights for a sleigh ride.
"Wait here with Andrew," Henry said. "I'll bring the truck up."
"We can walk with you," Polly protested. "The parking lot isn't that big."
Henry stood in front of her, "Can't I ask you to do one thing without an argument? I want to do something nice for you."
She dropped her head and chuckled. "Fine. We'll wait. But, w
e’re going to laugh behind your back."
He walked away, shaking his head and Andrew looked up at her. "Why are we laughing at him?"
"Because every once in a while he has to remind me that I should let him do nice things for me."
"He does nice things all the time, doesn't he?" Andrew was perplexed.
Polly put her arm around the little boy's shoulders and realized that he, too, was growing taller. "Yes, Andrew, he does. But sometimes I'm not very gracious about it."
"Will you let me ride in the sleigh when there is snow?" he asked, setting aside
the conversation. Polly smiled. Sometimes the most important thing was a sleigh ride in the snow.
"I can hardly wait until we have snow on the ground. Do you see how much fun Demi and Daisy are having with the
sleigh today? Just imagine how great it will be when they can pull and it glides across the ground. We'll all take rides then."
"Jason looked pretty cool in that hat and coat."
"Yes, he did." Henry's truck pulled up. "Here he is, let's go."
They approached Sycamore House. Jeff had strung white Christm
as lights around the old schoolhouse and strategically placed small Christmas trees in some of the windows. Their lights twinkled and the streets lamps glowed in the darkness. The arch in the garden was wrapped in colorful lights while luminarias lined the driveways and sidewalks. The white fence around the pasture was draped in swooping greenery wrapped with light.
Henry drove into her driveway and parked. "This
looks really nice," he said when they entered the auditorium.
Gold tablecloths and colorful Christmas balls nestled into greenery
decorated the tables. Small cakes were placed at the center of each table on a stand. Each was a different flavor and covered with a simple butter cream icing. Andy and Len's friends and family mingled around the tables, reading the different cake types and settling when they found one they liked.
Ellen Specek came in the main doors by herself and looked around the room, trying to orient herself.
"She looks a little lost," Polly said to Henry. "I can't let her stand there by herself."
"Go rescue her," he laughed. "You're good at that."
Polly swatted him and made her way across the room.
"Hi, Ellen! We haven't met yet, but I'm Polly Giller."
The girl looked up at Polly's voice with gratitude in her eyes. "You own this place, don't you?"
"I do," Polly nodded. "Come with me. I think they have you over here at Andy and Len's table."
"Thank you. I thought I would know more people, but it's been so long since I've lived here, I'm having trouble putting names and faces together."
"I have the same problem, but I don’t know
enough people yet. How long have you been gone?"
"Since I graduated from high school." Ellen thought about it. "I went to California for college, and then ended up in Spain five years ago. I think the only time I'm ever home is at Christmas. Well … and mom's funeral, but that was only for a week."
"I know what that's like," Polly commiserated. "I left Iowa to go to college in Boston. After Dad died, I didn't even come back for Christmas. Everything changed in the years I was gone."
"Or maybe you changed," Ellen replied. "I feel like everything has stayed the same, but I don't fit in any longer. All of their lives kept going on without me. It's difficult trying to poke a hole back into the fabric of the community to make myself fit in again."
"Maybe that's it. It’s been easy for me to get involved in Bellingwood, though."
find dead bodies!" Ellen said. "I've never heard of such a thing. Dad started emailing me about your adventures last spring. No wonder you've managed to get involved. People keep waiting for what new thing you'll uncover."
Polly looked at her in shock. "I don't mean to do any of th
"I think that's why people like you so much," Ellen said. "They love watching you be surprised by
everything. Dad thinks the world of you."
The decibel level in the room had risen as more and more people found seats.
All of a sudden, a hush fell as Len and Andy appeared in the doorway. The light from the foyer encircled the two. Andy's face was flushed red from the chill of the evening and Len Specek grinned as he took her hand and stepped into the room. Applause erupted, following the couple to their seats. Polly quietly moved away and watched Andy sit down beside Ellen.
Polly and Henry
sat with Joss and Nate Mikkels. Beryl plopped down beside Polly and let out a whoosh, "This place is too, too, tonight," she said, dramatically.
"Too, too what?" Nate
"Too much! Too elegant, too friendly, too Christmassy, too happy. Too, too, too!!
"What's up with you?" Polly asked. "I think it's lovely."
"Of course it's lovely. Everything Andy touches is lovely. But, it's too much."
Then it hit Polly. The last month and a half had sped by. From the day that Len proposed to Andy, she had been fully focused on pulling this wedding off and engaged everyone in her busyness. Beryl, Lydia and Andy had spent weekends traveling to Chicago and Kansas City, Omaha and Minneapolis looking for the perfect dress. No one was more surprised than Andy when they found it in a shop in Des Moines.
It was over for Beryl. Andy had a life with Len to
get started and Beryl was afraid of losing all that time with her best friend.