Linda Wood Rondeau

Snark & Sensibility

RESTORING CHRISTMAS
Friday, December 6, 2019 by JULIE ARDUINI

PLEASE WELCOME

JULIE ARDUINI

TO

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY

 

EXCERPT FROM RESTORING CHRISTMAS

If Holly Christmas’ heart was in charge, returning to Geneseo Valley never would have happened. She slowed her Subaru Forester and blinked away fresh tears. The car shook as Holly wavered between the brake and accelerator. If memories alone could steer, the car would be parked in the lot she had played in since she could walk.

With her uncle expecting her, she cruised into the parking area adjacent to the family business. Holly found a space to stop thanks to faded yellow lines. Dabbing her eyes and cheeks with a tissue, she grabbed her planner, slung her purse over her shoulder, and got out. With a deep breath, she faced the historic mansion ahead of her.

The crunch of late September leaves marked her tentative steps toward the main entrance. Glancing ahead, she noted the overgrown weeds and bushes out front in desperate need of pruning. The once red and white striped pole showed rust spots and the red faded to pink. The sign that once proudly displayed the tourist destination was now a rotted piece of splinter. The engraving was more of a petri dish for moss and algae, making it barely readable.

Welcome to Christmas Mansion.

Holly stopped, a shudder zigzagged from head to toe. Re-gaining her balance, she kept her focus on the cement steps as she sidestepped a jagged chunk in the path. The porch still featured the wooden soldier she stood next to every year to mark how much she’d grown. The stiff greeter was a shell of his former holiday glory, nearly as faded as everything else. She opened the almost pink colored door and sighed at the sound of a sinister squeak. This isn’t the Christmas Mansion. It’s a Halloween spook house.

Fighting the urge to run back to her car and her life in Ohio, Holly cleared her throat. “Uncle Nick? It’s Holly. Are you here?”

She glanced around the lobby, the same register with a bell sound she pushed as a teen after a customer purchase. Dusty shelves housed a potpourri of holiday items—candles, snow globes, and ornaments thrown together in complete chaos.

Before she could investigate further, a shuffle echoed from the hallway and her uncle entered. “Holly? I can’t believe it, right here in Upstate New York. What an answer to prayer.” The cobalt blue glint in his eyes reminded her of her father.

She stepped into her uncle’s hug, surprised by his emotion as he held onto her arms and gazed into her eyes. “I don’t know about answer to prayer, but things changed with my job, and I thought it was a good time to help out.” She waved her hands with animation. “Here I am!”

The younger Christmas brother nodded. “I’ve tried to keep things going after your father passed, but I can’t even fit into his Santa suit.”

Holly smiled as she glanced at his thin frame. “A few cookies from Mrs. Olson will take care of that.” The volunteer greeter was a Geneseo Valley legend for her sugar cookies.

His smile disappeared. “You didn’t hear? Mrs. Olson passed in July. That’s one of the many things I need to do—find a new greeter. Then there’s a landscaping team. I know it’s September, but it won’t be long until school kids visit.” He scratched his balding head. “I did take care of one thing. I arranged for a group from a local school to get the gift shop back in order. Your father was so beloved as Chris Christmas that everyone seemed to overlook the haphazard way he organized the shop.”

Holly attempted to tame the rolling waves in her stomach. Mrs. Olson was a Christmas Mansion staple as much as her father was all about dressing up as Santa and entertaining. Her grin didn’t last long. She didn’t need to tour the mansion to know the entire place was a mess. The financial state most likely wasn’t much better. “Great. The students will have their work cut out for them. I still have unpacking to do at the house, but the place still opens at eight on weekdays, right?”

Uncle Nick hesitated. “Yes, but…”

She fished the keys out of her purse. “Great. I’ll be ready to start tomorrow.” Before she could find her sunglasses, the front door burst open and a choir of adolescent chatter filled the lobby. Kids who looked to be around junior high age swarmed the area, pointing at the shelves and leaning on the glass case that housed the register. “Uncle Nick?”

Before he could speak, among the chaos emerged a man with a red and black plaid flannel shirt. His wavy black locks bobbed as he whistled. All the students froze and focused on him with the same intensity Holly gave. The mesmerizing stranger pulled out his phone, opened a screen, and traced his finger down the screen before looking up. “Hi. I’m supposed to meet with a Nick Christmas?”

 

ABOUT JULIE ARDUINI

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to find freedom in Christ by surrendering the good, the bad, and ---maybe one day---the chocolate. She’s the author of the contemporary romance series SURRENDERING TIME, (Entrusted, Entangled, Engaged,) as well as the stand-alone novellas, MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN and RESTORING CHRISTMAS. She also shares her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. Her other latest release, YOU’RE AMAZING, is a book for girls ages 10-100, written with her teenaged daughter, Hannah, and is book 2 in their SURRENDERING STINKIN’ THINKIN’ series. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read, as well as monthly with Inspy Romance. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to opt in to her content full of resources and giveaway opportunities.

Facebook: http://facebook.com/JulieArduini

Twitter: http://twitter.com/JulieArduini

G+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JulieArduini/posts

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/JulieArduini

Instagram: http://instagram.com/JulieArduini

Snapchat: https://www.snapchat.com/add/JulieArduini

Goodreads: http://goodreads.com/JulieArduini

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Julie-Arduini/e/B00PBKDRSQ/

Monthly Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/dCFG

 

ABOUT RESTORING CHRISTMAS

Filled with grief and regret, Holly Christmas returns to Geneseo Valley and the family business, The Christmas Mansion. Can Kevin Holt restore her love for the season and the memories she left behind?

***

Holly Christmas left Geneseo Valley and her family’s holiday tourist attraction, The Christmas Mansion, as soon as she graduated.  Now both her parents have passed, and Holly returns when her uncle needs her help running the mansion. On Holly’s first day back, a blunt middle-schooler proclaims Holly hates Christmas. His comment forces her to reconcile the past while planning for the mansion’s future.

Kevin Holt is invested in offering hope to students with challenges. His best friend’s son is in Kevin’s class, and Nathan needs guidance. Their community project placement at The Christmas Mansion is an opportunity to make a positive difference. When Nathan blurts out his thoughts to the beautiful co-owner, Kevin wonders if he has what it takes to help restore the mansion to its former glory, mentor Nathan, and convince Holly Christmas she’s exactly where she needs to be.

 

Purchase Restoring Christmas eBook:

https://www.amazon.com/Restoring-Christmas-Novella-Julie-Arduini-ebook/dp/B07ZDHX954

Purchase Restoring Christmas Softcover:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733687629

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Julie Arduini From OH At 12/6/2019 10:01:32 AM

Thanks, Linda! I appreciate the opportunity to share Restoring Christmas.

Reply by: Linda Wood Rondeau

Glad to have you.

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