No Bells Ringing

by Pat Jeanne Davis
(Philadelphia, PA)

No Bells Ringing

by Pat Jeanne Davis
www.patjeannedavis.com

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

The words coming from the Church on the Mall’s sound system rang in Melanie’s ear. She walked toward her spot through a crowded community room, hauling a large metal table. Today was the annual holiday bazaar and Mel was there to sign copies of a book series containing a few of her stories. But there was no carol ringing within her heart. How could a thirty-year-old single gal with no prospects be “merry and bright”?

She heaved a sigh, feeling like the last person who should be writing inspirational stories called “All in Good Time” or “Wait and See.”

As she struggled to unfold the table, her hand caught a sharp edge, and the table crashed to the floor. An icy knot grew in Melanie’s stomach as blood pulsed to the surface of her finger.

Great. She pulled a tissue from her bag and wrapped it around her finger.

“Let me help with that,” said a deep voice from behind Mel.

She whirled around and saw a handsome, smiling man. He grabbed the table and placed it against a wall decorated with a colorful wreath. “Will that do?”

She mustered a smile. “Thank you.”

He looked at her hand and motioned toward a corridor. “The restroom’s at the far end of the hall. There are Band-Aids and peroxide in the cabin.”

“Thanks.” Mel walked off.

When she returned, the stranger extended his hand. “My name’s Jake.” He gestured to the large poster with her name in bold lettering. “And you’re Melanie.”

She took his big, warm hand in her uninjured one and glanced over the eye-catching display he’d made with the books. “I didn’t expect you to do all this too.”

“No problem.” As Jake surveyed her stack of books, his gaze fixed on Inspiration for Singles. Way to be subtle.

“I hear you’re donating your proceeds to a Christmas fund at Northern Home.”

Mel nodded. “They’ll go toward gifts for those who have nowhere to go over the holiday.”

“I do some writing as well,” he shouted over the noise of vendors setting up tables around them and the music that still blared.

“Always nice to meet a fellow—” Before she could finish her sentence, an elderly lady rushed up to Jake.

“Wonderful to see you on a Saturday morning.” She took his arm. “Don’t remember seeing you here when you’re not directing the choir.”

“Good morning, Phyllis.” He flashed a big smile. “I’m a bazaar coordinator this time. Would you be interested in buying one of these books to raise money for a worthy cause?”

“It’ll make Christmas a little brighter for a poor child,” Mel added, grateful for Jake’s lead-in.

“Let me see what you’ve got.” The prospective buyer scanned the titles, then picked up a copy of Christmas Miracles. “I’ll take this one.”

Mel autographed the volume, and the lady paid in cash.

A thick silence hung between her and Jake, despite the tide of holiday clamor.

“So, you’re the music director?” Mel asked.

“I also write a weekly column for the local newspaper.”

“What do you write about?”

Jake rubbed the back of his neck and gave a low chuckle. “I give advice to singles.”

Mel’s gaze dropped to his left hand. No wedding ring. Before she could think of what to say, he was called away.

Immediately Phyllis reappeared, leaned over her table and whispered. “Can’t understand why someone hasn’t snatched Jake up before now.”

Mel felt her cheeks grow warm. Was she trying to spark her interest?

Phyllis stepped back. “He’d make the right person a fine catch.” She smiled, waved and shuffled off.

Over the next hour, more shoppers stopped by Mel’s book table. She answered questions and made a few sales, but she couldn’t stop thinking about Jake.

When the crowds thinned out, he returned and gave her a cup of coffee.

She held out one of her books. “I’d like to give you this as a thank-you for coming to my rescue.” She handed him Inspiration for Singles.

“This will be useful for my singles group.” He shifted his feet. “We meet in Room 3 every Monday night at seven.” His grin widened.

Was that an invitation? She wasn’t sure. “Would you like me to sign your copy?”

“Of course.” His deep blue eyes fixed on hers. “And I hope you’ll read my column next week in The Review.” He winked. “It’s about anticipating the unexpected.”

As she gave her book back to him, their hands touched. Did he feel the same attraction?

Mel’s heart surged with hope. Outside, Christmas bells were ringing. This time they rang right within her heart.

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