“Sweetheart, just where do you think this relationship is headed?” her mother asked, clearly concerned for Carrie.
She appreciated her mother’s question. “I don’t know, and I don’t think Finn does, either. For right now, we’re taking it one day at a time. And, Mom, you won’t believe what he sent me. He actually mailed me a toaster. It looks like an antique.”
“You heard me right. A toaster. I realize it probably has some special significance to him that he wanted to share with me. But if that’s the case, he hasn’t explained it yet. I have it in my kitchen.”
Her mother chuckled. “Oh, dear, Carrie. Listen, honey. I don’t want to burst your bubble. You’re new into this relationship, and this is a honeymoon period, but soon enough reality is going to settle in. I don’t want you to set yourself up for heartache. Just be careful, okay?”
“I will, Mom.” And while she agreed, Carrie couldn’t help thinking that love would see her and Finn through any obstacle. She was crazy for this guy, toaster and all.
Once they’d finished chatting, Carrie returned to her computer. Finn was scheduled to phone, but he hadn’t, which concerned her. Just then her cell phone chirped, letting her know she had a text message.
Carrie grabbed her phone.
What are you doing?
Listening to “Mary, Did You Know,” which was playing softly in the background. It was one of her favorite Christmas songs.
A little early for Christmas music, isn’t it?
Reading Finn’s text, she punched in her answer. Not for me. Besides, you have your Christmas decorations in your cabin. How are they holding up?
He responded within seconds. Snowflakes dangling from my ceiling. Utterly ridiculous.
But they are still up?
Yes. Remind me of you.
Very sweet, thank you.
I look at them and think of the stars we saw that night.
That incredible starry night. Makes me miss being with you all the more.
G-r-r-r. Hennessey misses you.
Hennessey? What about you?
Finn texted back a smiley face.
Carrie laughed. She had just tucked her cell phone in her jeans pocket when it rang. A sweet joy went through her when she saw it was Finn. So she was going to get her phone call after all.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hi. It seemed ridiculous to be texting you when we could be talking.”
“I agree. You must be in Fairbanks. I had no idea you spent that much time in town.”
“Generally, I don’t. Fact is, until these last few days, it’s been weeks since I was at the condo.”
In other words, he’d come into town in order to be able to communicate more easily with her. Finn wasn’t a romantic man. The fact that he would mail her a toaster told her it was highly unlikely that he would look to win her heart with flowers or jewels.
“I had bread from my toaster for breakfast this morning.” She mentioned this so he’d know that she’d put his gift to good use.
“That isn’t much of a breakfast.”
“I was in a hurry to get to church. I’m in the choir, and we had an early practice for the Christmas pageant.”
“You sing, too?”
“I’m an alto. I harmonize well. Come to think of it, I play well with others, too.”
“Clearly you’re a woman of many talents.”
She ran her fingers through a tousle of dark curls. “I’d like to think so.”
They spoke for an hour until her cell phone battery was nearly depleted. Before they ended their conversation, Finn told her he would be out of reach for a couple of days, checking the pipeline outside of Fairbanks.
“I’ll survive,” she assured him. Although she made it sound as if it wouldn’t trouble her, she was already dreading not hearing from him.
“Maybe you’ll survive, but I’m not sure about me.”
“Finn.” She laughed, her heart warmed by his words. “That’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me.”
He snickered softly. “I’m not a romantic kind of guy.”
“I sort of guessed that, which makes these little comments precious. I’ll miss hearing from you, too.”
He grumbled as if he didn’t quite know how to respond.
“Oh, before you go, I wanted to tell you that I’ll be in Chicago for Thanksgiving—it’ll be my first alone, but I’ll be in Seattle for Christmas.” She mentioned this with the hope that he would take the hint and fly down for a visit. Seattle was relatively close to him, much closer than Chicago. When he didn’t immediately pick up on her hint, she added, “My parents feel bad that I won’t be with everyone on Thanksgiving, so for Christmas they’re giving me a ticket to fly home.”
He hesitated and then asked with what seemed like reluctance, “Have you talked to my mother since your return?”
“No. I haven’t had a chance to get in touch with her. I know she’s anxious to hear what happened with the ring.” Truth was, Carrie felt terrible having to tell Joan that her plan had backfired. Given the turn in her relationship with Finn, maybe she’d hang on to the ring a bit longer, rather than returning it at Christmas, as she’d planned.
“Does my mother need anything?” he asked. His voice was low, concerned, and different from the teasing banter they had exchanged earlier.
“She’s well physically, if that’s what you’re asking. As for her other needs, there was only one thing I picked up on.”
“And that is?”
Carrie knew she was wading into deep waters, but she felt she had to try. Finn’s mother had entrusted her with something precious, and she wanted to repay the favor. “She needs her son.”
His response was a dismissive snort.