Home > A Family for Christmas(7)

A Family for Christmas(7)
Mona Ingram

“I didn’t expect to see you here!” She gave Maddie a quick kiss and drew back to look at Annie. “Hello,” she said, sticking out her hand. “I’m Lily Hsu.”

“I’m Annie Campbell. Your clothes are amazing. I hope to be a designer one day.”

“Excellent.” She shot a curious look at Maddie. “I thought I knew most of Maddie’s friends, but I haven’t heard her mention you.”

“Oh, we just met.” Annie smiled up at Maddie. “She was waiting to see my uncle.”

Lily’s eyebrows shot up. “Your uncle?”

Maddie stepped in. “Chase Drummond. Apparently I have to see him about renting the space, but he’s in a long meeting, and we came over here to pass some time.”

Lily nodded as though this made sense. “I see. And what are you going to do now?”

“I haven’t asked Annie yet, but I thought we’d go to that little specialty coffee place next door. I didn’t have any coffee this morning and I could really use some.” She looked down at the young girl. “What do you say? Could you go for a hot chocolate?”

Annie nodded. “That would be nice. I’d better call my uncle’s office and tell them where I am.”

Lily acknowledged a compliment from one of the departing spectators then turned back to Maddie and Annie. “I have a few things to do here, but I’ll try to join you. Don’t wait for me though.” She paused and looked at Maddie. “If I get tied up, I’ll call you, and if you leave, you call me, okay?”

“That’s a deal.”

Chapter Four

Annie studied the chalkboard menu, eyes wide with delight. Maddie assumed that her uncle took her to more traditional restaurants. Every second table seemed to be occupied by someone with a laptop, and many of the others were engrossed in their iPhones.

“What would you like?” she asked the youngster.

Annie became uncharacteristically shy. “Could I have a chai please? I’ve never had one before and I’ve been dying to try one.”

Maddie hesitated. She’d never tried one herself, but she couldn’t see that it would do the child any harm. “Why not?” she said brightly. “I’m going to have a latte.”

They were soon settled at a table by the window. It was obvious to Maddie that Annie was trying to contain her excitement. She sipped at her drink, and Maddie’s heart expanded to see the happiness on the child’s face.

“It’s good,” she said and took another sip.

“I’m glad you like it. I’ve never actually had one, myself.”

“Would you like to try?” Annie turned the cup around and nudged it across the table.

“I think I would. Would you like to try my latté?”

“No thanks.” She watched expectantly as Maddie tried the chai.

“You’re right, it is good,” she said, surprised. “Now I see what all the fuss is about.” She returned the cup to Annie and shrugged out of her cape. “So you liked Lily’s clothes?”

“They were wonderful. And to think that she does the silk screening, as well.” She sipped thoughtfully at her drink. “We had a demonstration of silk screening at school, but it was just lettering on a t-shirt.” She looked at Maddie, eyes free of guile. “Does Lily ever give tours of her shop? I’d love to see it some time.”

Maddie tried to remember if her roommate had ever mentioned a tour. “I don’t think so.”

Annie tried to hide her disappointment. “Maybe some day. I have a lot of other things to learn, I know that.” A slight frown creased her brow. “Last night my uncle asked me what I want for Christmas and when I told him he just looked at me as though I was crazy.”

Maddie didn’t know if she should go there, but she wanted to know. “What did you want?”

“A sewing machine.” She gave her head what could only be called a frustrated shake. “I have to be able to sew if I’m ever going to become a designer.”

Maddie was surprised. She would have thought that Chase would be delighted to have the problem solved. “What did he say?”

Annie thought for a moment. “He was going to say something, but then Cynthia came out with one of those phony laughs and said I couldn’t possibly want a sewing machine, that I’m far too young.” Tears started to well up in her eyes, and she brushed them back impatiently. “I’ll bet she doesn’t even know how to use one herself.”

“Who is Cynthia? Your housekeeper?”

“No. She’s my uncle’s girlfriend.” She stared into her chai. “She never pays any attention to me. How does she know whether I can use a sewing machine or not?” She shrugged, and the helpless gesture wrenched at Maddie’s heart. “Anyway, Uncle Chase said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll come up with something’.” She sipped at the chai. “This is really good. Thank you.”

Maddie took a moment to recover her aplomb. “Have you ever done any sewing before?”

Annie nodded. “That’s what makes it so unfair. I know how to work one. We had a play at school, and I helped out with the costumes.” She made a funny face. “It was plain sewing. Nothing glamorous like the fashion show today, but I do know how a sewing machine runs. Mrs. Z. showed us what to do.”

“Mrs Z.?”

Annie giggled. “We call her Mrs. Z. because her last name is really long and hard to pronounce. But she sure knows how to sew.”

“Sounds as if you like her.”

Annie acknowledged the comment with a quick nod, and then looked out the window, her thoughts somewhere else. When she finally spoke her voice was low. “She sticks up for me when the other kids make fun of me and call me names.”

Maddie couldn’t imagine why anyone would make fun of this delightful child, but then it had been a long time since she was in school. Things had changed a lot.

“What do they say?”

The child turned around, her eyes bright with tears. Maddie could see that she was fighting to hold herself together. “They call me Little Orphan Annie.” She very deliberately took a napkin from the dispenser, folded it once and dabbed at her eyes. “They say all I need is curly hair and I could be in the movies.”

Maddie’s throat closed up as she thought of what the child must have endured.

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