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Authors: Richard Paul Evans

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BOOK: The Mistletoe Inn
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I hesitated a moment, then said, “Well, there is something.”

“Name it.”

“I wouldn't ask for you to do the whole thing, but maybe you could help me with part of it. There's a romance writers' conference in Vermont that I'd like to go to.”

“Still holding on to the dream?”

“Barely,” I said.

“I'm glad you are,” he said. “You're such a talented writer. You hang on to it. Without dreams, life is a desert.”

“With a love life like mine I should be writing horror, not romance.”

“We're Italians. We invented the word
. So you just hang on to that dream until it happens. That's what gets us up in the morning.”

I sighed. “So what do you dream about?”

“My daughter,” he said without hesitation. “Mostly. And her next visit. I can't wait to see you.”

“I can't wait to see you, Dad. I love you.”

“I love you too, girl.”


Like a balloon, a full heart is easier to puncture.

Kimberly Rossi's Diary

The next few weeks passed slowly. We had several major snowstorms, and business at the dealership was slow. There's a predictable psychology of car sales and people don't like to buy new cars in the snow, unless, of course, there's too much snow and they suddenly need a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

I was very glad for Thanksgiving break. I left work early Wednesday afternoon and drove myself out to the airport for my flight to Vegas.

Much can be said about the Denver airport, and much is. There are groups of conspiracy theorists who believe that the Denver airport is the secret headquarters of the Illuminati, New World Order, or the Neo-Nazi party, evidenced by the fact that from the air, the airport purportedly looks like a giant swastika.

My favorite theory is that the airport is an underground base for aliens. However, if the airport
run by aliens, you would think they would do a better job of managing things. A technically advanced civilization that can travel at light speed should, for instance, be able to get your luggage to you.

And then there's
, the airport's famous thirty-two-foot,
anatomically correct blue horse sculpture. With its blazing red-bulb eyes and crazed expression, the piece is enough to stir fear in the most seasoned flier. What adds to the sculpture's lore is the fact that in a Frankenstein's-monster sort of way, the creation killed its creator. Luis Jiménez, the sculpture's artist, was crushed when a piece of the massive sculpture fell on him.

Not surprisingly, the airport was slammed with pre-Thanksgiving traffic, and the security line at Denver International looked more like the start of the Boston Marathon than any sort of a civilized queue. The insanity didn't ease after the security checkpoint, as every gate was thronged with travelers.

As I was at the gate checking on a possible seat upgrade, a harried young father walked up next to me.

“There's been a mistake,” he said to a ticket agent, laying a stack of boarding passes on the counter in front of him. “They've scattered our seats throughout the plane.”

The agent, who looked as if he'd had better days, glanced down at the passes, then back up. “I'm sorry,” he said gruffly, “the flight's overbooked. There's nothing I can do about it now.”

“But we have four children,” he said. “Three of them are under four. Our flight's already been delayed three hours. These kids are going crazy.”

“You should have thought of that when you booked the tickets.”

“I should have thought that you would delay the flight three hours?” the man asked.

“A delayed flight's always a possibility, sir. But I meant you should have booked your seats together.”

“They were all booked at the same time six weeks in advance. There was no reason to believe that you would scatter them.”

didn't do anything to your seats,” he said defensively. “And it's out of my hands. There's nothing I can do about it.”

I looked sympathetically at the frustrated man, wondering what he would do.

“Can I talk to a manager?” he asked, doing his best to remain civil.

“She's not here right now,” the agent said. “We're a bit busy.” He scooped up the passes and handed them back. “I'll call you up to the counter when she can talk. But, like I said, the flight's overbooked. I doubt there's anything she can do.”

The man took his passes and returned to a seat next to his wife, who looked equally stressed—more so after he relayed the information he'd just received.

I was told that all the first-class passengers had checked in, so I took a seat directly across from the man and his family. I watched the exhausted couple become increasingly exasperated as their small children grew more impatient. About forty-five minutes later the man still hadn't been called up so he returned to the counter. The agent spoke loud enough that I could hear him say curtly, “I told you I'd call you up when she had time.”

The man again returned to his seat. Busy or not, there was no excuse for the agent's rudeness, I thought.

Another half hour passed when the man stood and walked back up to the counter. The gate agent stiffened as the man approached and I expected an explosive confrontation. Instead, the man said, “Hey, about my request. Don't worry about it.”

The agent looked at him with a blank expression. “What?”

“It's cool, really. You're busy, don't worry about it. We're good.”

The agent looked even more disturbed than before. “What?”

“Look,” the man said calmly. “After four hours in this airport with these kids, we're exhausted. If you're offering free babysitting, we're all over that. They can be someone else's problems.” He turned and walked back to his seat, leaving the agent speechless. Less than ten minutes later the agent paged the man over the intercom, then said nothing as he handed the man a pile of boarding passes, presumably all next to each other.

Well played
, I thought.
Well played.

My flight landed in Vegas at around five. Not surprisingly the Las Vegas airport was even more slammed than Denver's. I retrieved my bag from the carousel, then called my father. “I'm here.”

“I'm just parked in the cell phone lot,” he said. “I'll be right there.”

Just a few minutes after I arrived at the curb my father pulled up in his metallic-blue 2004 Ford Taurus. He climbed out to hug me. One of the effects of not seeing my father for such long stretches of time was that he always looked older. But this time he was thinner too. Regardless, it was always good to see him. We embraced and he kissed my face all over until I laughed—just as he had done when I was a little girl.

“It's so good to see you, sweetie.”

“It's good to see you, Dad. You lost weight.”

“It happens,” he said.

“I wish it would happen to me.”

“You don't need to lose weight. You look perfect.” He grabbed my bag and threw it into the backseat of his car. “Are you hungry?”


“Good. I thought we'd stop by Salvatore's on the way home.” When we were on the freeway he asked, “How was your flight?”

“Crowded,” I said. “People were grumpy.”

“Crowds make people grumpy,” he said. “Nothing like holiday travel to foul some people's mood.”

“Not you,” I said.

He smiled. “No, not me. I get to see my girl.”

We stopped at my father's favorite Italian restaurant, Cucina Salvatore. I hadn't been there for years, not since I'd moved to Colorado. The owner, Salvatore, loudly greeted my father as we walked in.

. It has been too long.”

“You say that every time,” my father said. “I was here just last week.”

“You are
. It is always too long.
Sempre troppo tempo

“He says that to everyone,” my father said to me.

Salvatore gestured toward me. “How is it you are always with beautiful women?”

“Oh really?” I said.

“This is my daughter,” my father said.

Questa bella donna è la tua figlia? No!
” Salvatore put his hands on my cheeks and kissed me. “They grow too fast.”

Salvatore sat us at a small table near the corner of the restaurant. “For family, the best table in the house,” he said. “
Buon appetito

After he had left, my father smiled, then said, “Always the best table in the house.” Then he told me that Salvatore had said that about two other tables.

We ordered bruschetta with baked garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese for an appetizer, then shared a Caprese salad. For our
primi piatti
I ordered a scallop risotto and my father ordered the mushroom gnocchi. For our second plate my father ordered Florentine steak while I had breaded chicken cacciatore.

After we'd been served our meals, my father asked, “So how's work?”

“Living the dream,” I said sarcastically.

He nodded understandingly. He took a bite of steak, then said, “Tell me about this writers' conference.”

“It's small. Intimate. From what I read, it's more than just a conference, it's a weeklong retreat with daily workshops where I can refine my book. And there will be real agents I can show my book to. But the best part is that my favorite writer of all time is going to be there. H. T. Cowell.”

“I don't think I know who that is,” my father said. “What has he written?”

“Nothing you would have read. He's a romance writer.”

“Did Mom read him?” he asked. “She loved those romance books.”

The question bothered me. “No. He came after her.”

I think he sensed how uncomfortable I was and changed the subject. “Have you ever shown your book to an agent before?”

“No. I've sent it to a few publishers, but they just sent back rejection letters.” I took a drink of wine. “Maybe it's just not good enough. Maybe I'm not good enough.”

“Stop that,” my father said. “All great artists get rejections. It's part of what defines them. Decca Records turned down the Beatles.”

“I'm not the Beatles,” I said. “And I'm no great artist.”

“Why? Because you know yourself? A prophet is without honor in his own country, but more so in his own mind.”

“I'm not a prophet either.”

“But you might be a great writer,” he said. “Or will be.” My dad leaned forward. “Writing and work aside, how are you doing? How are you handling the divorce?”

“I'm fine,” I said. “I'm doing really well.”

For a moment he looked deep into my eyes, then said,
“Remember when you were a teenager and you told me that you hadn't taken my Buick with your friends?”

I wasn't sure why he chose this moment to bring up that not-so-pleasant memory. “Yes.”

“Well, you're no better a liar now than you were then.”

My eyes filled with tears. Then I bowed my head and began to cry. My father reached across the table and took my hand. “I'm sorry.”

I wiped my eyes with my napkin, then looked back at him. “Why doesn't anybody want me? What's wrong with me?”

My father looked anguished. “Honey, there's nothing wrong with you.”

I continued wiping my eyes. “You haven't really liked any of the guys I dated.”

“I liked that Briton guy. The med student.”

“That lasted only four weeks,” I said. “I saw him on Facebook. He's married now, has two children and his own practice. He's doing well.”

The moment fell into silence. Our waiter, Mario, came over and refilled our water glasses from a carafe. After he left I said, “You didn't like Marcus.”

BOOK: The Mistletoe Inn
13.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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