When Amanda Goodwin turned left at the Cranberry Cove Community Hall, and saw the front yard had already been decorated with heart shaped ornaments and cupids holding bows, she reacted with a mean and grumpy, “Bah humbug.”
It wasn’t that she disliked Valentine’s Day so much as she hated the pressure of living up to the romantic madness. Even now, three days before the big day, the radio in her yellow Beetle blared out the holiday’s excess.
Spend one hundred dollars and enter your name to win our Valentine’s Day thousand dollar shopping spree!
This Valentine’s Day, give the one you love the most expensive piece of jewelry on the market!
And on and on it went. Amanda turned off the radio and inched the car over the town’s slippery streets.
Outside, fog swirled through the air and dimmed the glow of the vehicle’s headlights, while enormous white flakes drifted down from the sky and covered the ground in a fluffy blanket of snow. The tiny west coast village of Cranberry Cove rarely had snow in mid-February, but a cold front had settled in the region to give the Washington residents one last blast of winter.
Okay, so all she had to do was get through the next three days. Once her Grandma Elvira’s Valentine’s Day wedding was over, she could return to Seattle and forget about cherubs and chocolates and men who’d crushed her heart.
Amanda steered the car up to the curb in front of her parents’ two-storey house and sat there, arms braced against the steering wheel, her frown so tight she was sure a smile would crack her face.
There was only one person who really understood her aversion to the holiday and he was gone.
With a grumbly grunt, she shouldered the car door open and stepped out onto the icy street. The next thing she knew, she was flat on her back. Her head bounced once, twice, then settled.
Fat snowflakes landed on her face and melted down her cheeks. Her ears rang with — was that laughter? — and something familiar glided out of the fog and floated in the air above her.
“Get up, bumpkin.”
“Gramps?” She pushed up on her elbows and the image morphed into swirls of fog and snow. A dull pain throbbed at the back of her head. The cold from the ground seeped through her clothes. She scrambled to her feet and turned in a slow circle. “Who’s there?”
But the street was empty, she was alone, and there was only one explanation for what she’d seen. Wishful thinking. She’d inherited her grinchness from her Grandpa George, so it seemed appropriate she’d want to see him at this time of year. He’d hated Valentine’s Day as much as she did.
All that lovey-dovey stuff and for what? A rejection of the epic kind? Been there, done that. Humiliation warmed her cheeks.
Gramps had always told her that it was what a person did all year long to show their love. It wasn’t about showing it for that one day of the year and spending a fortune on diamonds and chocolates.
Although, truth be told, the chocolates would’ve been nice. Amanda suspected her grandpa was part unromantic and part tightwad.
Careful now, she maneuvered across the slick ice beneath her feet. She pulled her suitcase out of the trunk of the car, gingerly lowered the lid so the sound wouldn’t make her head explode, and headed toward the front door of her parents’ house. A gust of wind hit her in the face and sucked the breath from her lungs. She bent her head and shivered against the cold.
Along with the decidedly anti-cupid-like mood, now she had a headache. She stepped carefully up the cement steps so she wouldn’t fall again, set her suitcase down beside her, and rapped her knuckles against the front door. Through the etched glass window on the door, she heard the romantic croon of her parents’ favorite music from the seventies.
Another shiver went through her and she reached into her coat pocket for her keys.
Amanda jumped back from the door and squinted through the fog toward the front flowerbed. “Who’s there?”
The top of a camouflage colored toque popped out. A snort came from deep within the greenery, and then the rest of the toque appeared, followed by a familiar grizzled and worn face. “It’s been so long since you visited me, bumpkin, it’s no wonder you don’t recognize your own grandpa.”
Amanda stumbled backward on the porch landing and nearly slipped on the ice coated surface, stopping only when her back end hit the wrought iron rails and she could escape no further. “Gramps? What the hell?”
“Don’t swear, bumpkin. You know how your grandma hates blasphemy.”
Dizziness swirled in her head. She closed her eyes, forced herself to breathe deep, stay calm.
This wasn’t possible.
She opened one eye, opened the other, then gaped as the apparition floated out of the shrubs and hovered in the air like part of the fog.
Amanda pressed back against the railing. “No, no, no. You’re dead. I was at your funeral.”
“Tell me something I don’t already know.” He cupped his hands around his eyes, pressed his nose to the window and peered inside.
“Seriously dead. Dead as a doornail dead. Dead, dead, dead.”
“I agree, I’m dead. Can we get past this, bumpkin?” With a sigh, he dropped his hands to his sides and turned toward her, the ghostly vision slowly settling into something more solid. Tall. Shoulders slightly stooped. Gray eyes twinkling. Definitely her grandfather. “I need your help.”
Amanda covered her eyes, then peeked through the space between her fingers and saw him still there, floaty and real and impossible to believe. “It’s the holiday stress. All of the cupids and cherubs and Grandma’s wedding—”
“That’s why I’m here.” Grandpa stretched to his full five-foot-ten height, and shuffled out of the bushes and onto the sidewalk without leaving a mark in the snow. “To stop the wedding.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish