Welcome back to Tuesday Tales and the second instalment of Candy Kayne’s Christmas. Today, I’m picking up where I left off last week. Since this is a word cue, you get a bigger chunk of story. Apologies since it’s a little long, but necessary for what’s to be! As I said, along with the word, BAR, I also used one of the images provided for us this season.
What was it people said about going home? Either you could never go back, or it was where you were loved no matter what. Funny how those two sayings were so completely opposite one another, but sadly, like her great-great-grandfather, she’d learned which one was true. The problem was while she’d accepted it, he never had, and had died in the hope the family would be reunited one day. Fat chance!
There had been nothing civil about the Civil War. Ideologies had torn families apart, and some of those riffs had never mended. Despite the fact Zeke had been the only one to survive, his father refused to allow him on the plantation since he’d sided with the Yankees. One hundred and fifty-years later, some of those hatreds still persisted. Hurt more deeply than anyone could imagine, Ezekiel Kayne had walked away from his heritage and moved north to seek his future.
Eventually, he’d settled in Willow Grove, New York, and had opened a small general store in what was then a thriving village thanks to the nearby falls on the White River, which provided water power for lumber and flour mills, distilleries, and tanneries. In 1885, a small Edison hydroelectric plant had opened, one of the few in the state. The denizens of Willow Grove had visions of their little town growing into a great city like Albany or Buffalo, maybe even New York, but sadly, their dreams never amounted to much. When the markets crashed in 1929, so did Willow Grove. The factories closed and other than the neighboring farmers, few people stayed in the central New York state village.
Among the businesses that did survive was Kayne’s General Store. The store, now a heritage building and tourist destination on its own, had been in business more than one hundred and thirty years, and a Kayne had run it, although, truth be told, it had evolved along with the rest of the family. Four years ago her father, the last male in Ezekiel Kayne’s line, had passed away. The fact the love of his life had died giving birth to his only child, a girl, had been heartbreaking for him, but Candace had never felt unloved or second rate, and now that she was truly alone in the world, she missed him terribly.
Dad had named her after her mother and while she’d hated being called Candy Kayne, it had never been said maliciously. There might still be Kaynes living in Georgia, the place her great-great-grandfather had persisted in calling home—a tradition continued by those who’d followed in his wake—but she’d never met one and wasn’t likely to. The only real home she’d ever known, was here in Willow Grove. It was a shame none of them had understood that. Dreaming about what couldn’t be only brought pain and frustration as she’d learned all too well.
After a bitter divorce that had scorched her heart and soul, Candace had reclaimed her maiden name and left Manhattan, where she’d worked as an editor for one of the premier publishing houses, and returned to her hometown to lick her wounds, only to lose the last of her family within months of her return. Thanks to the advances in technology and the nature of her job, she’d stayed on with Seven Seas Publishing, which was why dismal winter sales didn’t really bother her, and she could indulge in her two passions any time she wanted to—coffee and reading.
Today, Willow Grove was located in the heart of tourist country with wineries, camping, hiking, and boating on the nearby lakes and rivers, attracting thousands of people each summer. In the fall, while business wasn’t as brisk, it had picked up in recent years since the wineries offered fall foliage tours and specials, but without a ski resort nearby, the village didn’t get much tourist traffic during the winter months. Things started to pick up in May, but from November to April, Willow Grove was as sleepy a village as you could get.
Wiping her hands on her apron, she went into the living room and turned on the Christmas tree lights. After she’d buried her father, she’d expected to live in the cabin he’d built for her mother and run the store which was leaking money at an incredible rate. It hadn’t taken long for the isolation and unreliable Internet and power to force her to reconsider her choices. She’d sold the cabin to one of the nearby winery owners, and had used the money to renovate the building that was now hers and turn a losing proposition into a winning one.
While she couldn’t do anything to the outside because of its heritage designation, she could redo the interior to suit herself. She’d renovated the upstairs storage area into a loft every bit as luxurious as the one she and Judson had owned in Manhattan, decorating it not with the sleek, cold, modern designs her ex-husband had preferred, but with the cozy, cheery, stuffed chairs and antique wooden furniture her mother had collected years ago. Downstairs, she’d kept the entrance as it was, but the store had been renamed. Hanging from the black wrought-iron bar was a sign that read Kayne’s Quarters.
When you stepped inside, it was like coming into someone’s home. The large foyer opened up into four individual stores and the freight lift that took her up to her loft. In its heyday, it had served as a cargo elevator, used to bring stock and supplies upstairs for storage and then down again when needed. She’d painted the doors to resemble the wood-paneled walls down there, and upstairs, she’d hidden it behind double doors since it opened into her living room area. In addition to her coffee business, there was Nate’s Gallery, a boutique that sold hand-made carvings, Sally’s Sweet Shop, specializing in handmade candies and chocolates, and Cathy’s Candles and Quilts, similarly all hand-dipped or handmade.
The money she collected from the leases covered the utilities and taxes on the building with enough remaining for groceries each month. With the settlement she’d received from Judson, the money from the sale of the cabin, the income from her editing job, the leases, and the profits generated by Kayne’s Coffee, she was in better financial shape than ever. Small consolation when all her dreams of a family and a happily ever after had vanished in a quagmire of lies and deceit.
Pulling out the bowl of icing, she separated it into three batches and added red food coloring to one and green to another, leaving the third one white. As soon as the colored icing was mixed, she placed the colors in separate bags, each with a small tip, and began the process of covering the sugar cookie with alternating red, green, and white stripes.
It had been Sally’s idea that the four of them should join the cookie extravaganza this year. While she’d been less than thrilled, Candace had gone along with it. Normally, Sally closed up shop for the winter months and vacationed in Florida, but her daughter was due any day, and she wouldn’t be seeking the heat this winter. She would be offering bell-shaped biscuits. Nate usually spent the winter months rebuilding his inventory and had agreed to play along when his wife Amy volunteered to help out. She was looking after supplying his reindeer-shaped cookies. Cathy had opted for candle-shaped cookies, having thrown aside a few designs that were just a bit too phallic to be in good taste, so to speak.
Each of the other twelve shops involved in the promotion had selected a different themed cookie, so no two were alike. With a twenty-dollar purchase, the patron received a real cookie and a similar sticker on a cookie extravaganza card, as well as a ballot put into the drum for the shop’s prize. In her case, the reward was a Swiss-made, French press coffee maker and a voucher for one pound of freshly roasted and ground coffee beans each month for a year. Once a person made a purchase from each of the twelve shops involved, their completed card went into a draw for a seven-day Caribbean cruise. Flyers had gone up at all the wineries and resorts within a hundred miles.
Earlier today, she, Sally, Amy, and Cathy had decorated the foyer to look like the inside of someone’s home. Candace had purchased an electric fireplace and a few comfy chairs for the area to replace the checkered tables and chairs that supplied sitting rooms out of the heat for the various summer visitors. Unable to stop herself, she’d set up the antique train set near the window, the one she’d painted to resemble the little train in one of her author’s children’s books, A Christmas Train for Tonio. Finally, she’d set up a coffee and cocoa bar, where patrons could have a cup of either one, free with any purchase. Sally, Nate and Cathy had each contributed items from their various shops to enhance the décor, and Silver’s Hardware had sold them a Christmas tree at half-price. She’d almost dismissed having one upstairs, but the room had seemed barren, so she’d bought herself a small one anyway.
After she finished icing the twenty-fourth cookie, she placed the remaining frosting in sealed containers in the fridge, and placed the decorated cookies on the counter to allow them to harden and dry. Reaching for the December twelfth treat in her Advent calendar, Candace walked over to the table, turned on the radio, and looked outside. It was only four o’clock, but much darker than it should be thanks to the heavy cloud cover. The snow, which had started early this morning, was still coming down hard, coating everything in white. No doubt the roads were a mess by now and would be even worse come morning. It looked as if the kids would have a snow day.
“So much for the first day of the cookie extravaganza,” she said aloud, before she began humming along to the Bing Crosby tune on the radio. “No need to dream of a white Christmas now.”
She unwrapped the chocolate, and placed the small square on her tongue, eager to discover today’s surprise. Sally had made and sold several of these calendars this year. No one was ever too old to look forward to the holidays. As the chocolate melted, the taste of pineapple and cocoa filled her mouth. Sally’s handiwork never ceased to amaze her. Each milk chocolate square looked exactly like the other, and yet it had a flavor unique onto itself.
Walking back to her bedroom, she changed into long-johns, wool socks, and jeans, and put on a turtleneck sweater and a sweatshirt. There was a meeting at the Stockton Winery at five and if she expected to get there on time, she needed to get out and start shoveling. The plow had probably passed by now, depositing its load of snow across her driveway as it always did.
Satisfied everything was as it should be, Candace grabbed her hat, gloves, scarf and coat, slipped on her boots and opened the double doors to the elevator.
The cold took her breath away, but she had to admit, seeing everything with a fresh coat of pristine snow reminded her why she loved winter. Her snooty relatives in Georgia or wherever south they lived could keep the heat. Humming another Bing Crosby tune from the old movie she’d watched last night, she reached for the shovel and attacked the eight inches of fluffy white stuff blocking her driveway.
That’s it for this week. Come back next Tuesday for more.
Please take the time now to check out the other selections on Tuesday Tales.