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Antoinette's Christmas Mantel: Season One

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[
__]Antoinette’s Christmas Mantel: Season One

 

[
__]I began arranging Christmas villages on our mantel a few years ago, mostly because villages are harder to set up under a tree, and also to keep our Godzilla cats from stomping them. The fragile cardboard houses are from around 1930 pre-war Japan, and the tiny figures (tin Zinnfiguren) are mostly pre-war Germany. As satisfying as this ephemeral holiday art is to create, I found that it needed a story. I began my Christmas tale with this mantel tableau and have added characters and their stories to it every year for a decade since then.

(Just double-tap on any of the images in this book to explore them in detail.)

 

Each Christmas when I begin to assemble my antique village, I run into the same old problem:  the mantel can only fit a dozen or so houses, and over time I have collected more than that. So every year I have to leave well-loved houses and tin figures in their storage boxes, even though Christmas should be their season to come alive. For this mantel, I've assembled fourteen of my very favorite Japanese cardboard houses, along with the cast of tin characters that people them. No Hawthorne, Lemax, or Dept. 56 houses in this village -- just an assortment of sweet, dusty, slightly tattered cardboard structures that have somehow managed to survive three quarters of a century without getting crushed and tossed.  Read and enjoy!

Copyright

 

This is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Antoinette’s Christmas Mantel: Season One

Copyright © 2016 by Antoinette Stockenberg

 

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

[* *]

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

 

The City Hall and Town Square Scene (Houses. 5, 6, and 7) 

The little village is having its first Christmas parade. As in any small town, there are probably more people and kids in the parade than at the parade, but that's what it's all about -- the chance for everyone to be a star, if only for a little while. There's lots of excitement and just plain joy here, especially among the children. Presents and candy will also be part of the day's treats; it's almost more than the children can bear. A perfect day, and it's not even Christmas yet!

The parade was the mayor’s idea. Mayor Albert Pittman is young and ambitious and recently married to Lavinia Von Struss, daughter of Peter Von Struss, the richest man in town and a person of vast property. The mayor has used his father-in-law’s connections to invite two different bands, complete in their historical costume, from abroad.

Mayor Pittman is immensely proud of that; it gives his town a cosmopolitan air that he feels has been missing.

Immediately after the parade, the mayor and his wife will be hosting a soiree in their brand-new mansion at the edge of town. Dashing in his red-satin-lined cape, the mayor waits with a guest in the town square for his carriage, leading the parade, to arrive.

His haughty spouse is the parade’s Grand Marshal (she ought to be; it’s her dowry that’s paid for the festivities). In her ermine-trimmed fare from Paris, Lavinia Pittman embodies the very height of fashion. Every accessory, every button is scrutinized by the women, both young and old, who watch her pass by.

Mayor Pittman is actually more focussed on his latest acquisition: the splendid dappled gray mare prancing smartly before its gleaming carriage. “A very nice bit o’ horseflesh,” the mayor’s guest admits as the carriage approaches. The mayor nods. Life, he decides, is going quite well.

While much of the town has turned out for the parade, one young woman won't be there -- Sonja, the lovely figure skater who had been so looking forward to watching the festivities with Johnny Hooks, a childhood friend who once had a desperate crush on her.

Sonja’s in bed with a broken ankle, the result of an awful misstep on the ice. She lies with her ankle bound in plaster, listening to the music, unable to see the musicians. Wiping away a tear, she wonders what Johnny will say when he learns what has happened.

Two years ago, Johnny ran away from his father’s farm, went to sea, and came back a strapping, barrel-chested man bursting through his old jacket. He’s not quite the same heartsick youth that he was. He has a girl in every port, and in this port, the girl is Sonja. He’s late for his rendezvous with her; the parade has already begun. Tardy or not, he’s charmed by the music and pauses at a fence in front of City Hall to have a look before going on to Sonja’s house. Standing there, he finds his attention caught by the saucy gal with the white muff just to his left. Is she flirting with him? Her voice is louder and merrier than it need be. Hmm.

 

Johnny turns back to the parade and is surprised to see a convoy of sleds loaded down with children being towed by -- his father!  It's the elder John Hooks, whose only thought has always been of working the farm. Work. Work. Work. And yet that same John Hooks looks almost as if he’s enjoying himself. No, that’s not possible, Johnny decides. The pay must be good, that’s all.

Not far from Johnny sits old man MacGowan, drawing on his ever-present pipe.

He’s still the lightkeeper, a job that suits him well, but he’s had to come into town for supplies, so while he’s at it, he stops for a gam with his old pal Florrie, who’s doing a brisk business selling hot cocoa. Now why didn’t he think of something like that? More profit in hot cocoa than haggling over the price of Christmas trees. Next year.

Barely aware of the joyful shouts of all the children, two attorneys stand outside City Hall and discuss settling a drawn-out case.

Christmas is coming, and each would like to collect his fee. Indeed. A deal is struck. The disputed land will be split down the middle. They can’t be fairer than that. A pity the landowners didn’t think of that on their own; they could have saved themselves some money.

The children trailing on sleds behind Farmer Hooks’s intrepid palomino care nothing of disputes; they’re getting along just swell.

The children trailing on sleds behind Farmer Hooks’s intrepid palomino care nothing of disputes; they’re getting along just swell. The younger children are holding on tight, the older ones just want to go faster. In the last seat on the last sled, pretty Yolanda in her fetching white boots calls out to friends she spies in the crowd. Look at me! Look at me!

And then there’s Samuel Rickens. He’s had a rough time of it lately, what with having a weakness for drink and all.

 

He needs to work so that he can make some money so that he can purchase some spirits. And if the work involves sweeping after horses in a parade so that the band members aren’t, well, distracted from their playing, then that’s what he’s going to do. So he sweeps up the messes. But he can think of better ways to spend his time.

The Snowball Fight Scene (Houses 3 and 4)

Not far from the parade’s end, an inseparable bunch falls into an impromptu snowball fight. It’s Mickey Sullivan’s fault, really. He’s the one who pitched the first one and then hid behind a tree. No one knows who did it, and no one even cares; any excuse for a snowball fight.

Jeffrey and Jimmy are doing their best to steal the carrot nose from the giant snowman, because they could use it for one they want to make after the parade. So far, no joy there.

 “That snowman is a monster,” Jeffrey says, awed. “We’re gonna need a chair.”

Big Billy, hanging back, still isn’t part of the gang. He kind of wishes someone would throw a snowball just once at him … but he’s mostly ignored, because he’s Mickey Sullivan’s cousin and there would be heck to pay if anyone picked on him.

The Marching Bands Scene (Houses 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12)

A military band! No one has ever seen one before, and everyone’s impressed by the fancy uniforms, the band’s precision, and the stirring march they’re playing. It just makes you want to fall in step behind them, the children watching from the bench agree. Left, right, left, right!

The men marching behind the military band are more like a choir, those same children observe. Just kind of walking, not really marching. But at least the young benchsitters know the words to the carol the men are singing: God rest ye merry gentlemen ….

What the children on the bench cannot yet see is the next and most exciting band of all -- snowmen! Playing instruments! Even the woman leaving her house with a basket of food for an ailing neighbor is taken in by the cleverness of their costumes. They look so real, and certainly their instruments are. What a jolly group. It brings a smile to her face and eases her concern for her good friend and neighbor, if only for a moment.

But as for Miss Bates -- now Mrs. Jack Jones -- she's a bit uncomfortable at the sight of the costumed band, and she prefers to avert her gaze. Rusty doesn't understand the snowmen either, and barks suspiciously. It's not until Mr. Jack Jones catches up with them that they relax and feel at ease. It must be all right if Jack Jones doesn't mind.

Santa and his Reindeer Scene (Houses 12, 13, and 14)

At last, at last, the whole point of the parade: Santa himself -- Santa Claus himself! -- walks behind a gift-laden sled pulled by eight well-trained reindeer (and one young red-nosed one, more or less keeping his place in front of them). Oh, when they arrive at City Hall and the presents are passed out -- oh, what joy there will be.

Everyone knows that the best place to see the parade is at City Hall where the presents will be, but a couple who have become engaged that very hour isn’t paying much attention to that strategy. Clyde has just slipped a ring on Margaret’s finger, and as they admire it in the light of the porch of her parents’ house, they hear a deep-bellied Ho, ho, ho! And Margaret, giddy with happiness, realizes she will always and forever believe in the magic of Christmas.

At the next house down, Mrs. Pettifore is holding the hand of her cherished little girl. The two stand all by themselves, except for the maid, in front of Mr. Pettifore's house. (Mr. Pettifore, an attorney, has business at City Hall and has not been able to make it home in time to watch the parade with them.) Mrs. Pettifore could have taken Eloise to join the other children at City Hall -- what could be easier than to meet her husband after his business was done? -- but it would be noisy there and crowded and, really, not the thing for Eloise. And besides, Mrs. Pettifore has a surprise early present, a beautiful doll with flaxen hair, waiting inside the house for her daughter. A much finer present than the token ones that will be given out at City Hall to the children gathered there. No, this is much the preferred way to view a parade, Mrs. Pettifore feels certain; apart and safe.

Poor Eloise.

 

The Church Scene (Church and House 1 and 2) 

 

Not everyone in the village is devoted to the parade. Will Jenkins has spent the day quietly hauling kings, a shepherd, a donkey, a mother, a father, a babe and a manger out of the barn behind Father Andrew’s church. Since the death of his beloved Laura from influenza, Will has been quietly putting the shattered pieces of his life together again.

 

It's not that he's forgotten Laura -- he has grieved a long time, and there's a well-worn path to her grave to prove it -- but even the most broken heart has the capacity to mend, should the spirit be willing.

And Will has that spirit. He's young and strong and filled with a desire to make a difference. He has begun, in his spare hours, to use his considerable skills as a handiman to help the poor in need. Whether the need is to have a leaky roof repaired or a broken gate fixed or a chimney repointed -- Will's the man to get it done. Word has quietly spread of his kindness, and among the poor, affection for him runs deep.

Father Andrew, too, has developed real respect for the soft-spoken handiman. In the early weeks after Laura’s death, the priest was able give some comfort and counsel to him, and eventually Will became a grateful and regular visitor. Almost all churches are poor, and almost all churches need repair. Thankfully, the daunting to-do list that Will originally compiled has grown shorter by the week. But today the repairs are on hold. It’s time to recreate the event for which the season came into being.

Will has carefully arranged the statues (with Father Andrew’s very opinionated help) and is about to place the last figure, a sheep, alongside its young shepherd when Harmony Anderson appears. Will turns instantly from a quietly confident handiman into a statue himself. He doesn’t even know to put the sheep down, but continues to hold it awkwardly in his arms. (It’s a very heavy sheep.) He and Harmony have run into one another at various teas and socials and have discovered that they share the saddest of common interests: the loss of a loved one.

Their conversations have always been long and easy, but lately Will's thoughts increasingly have turned to her at night, especially when he sits in front of the fire in his modest home and wonders what might have been ... and what might still be. It has seemed to him -- but what does he know? -- that Harmony's smiles are warmer and more frequent. Right now she looks radiant, or has he simply never noticed it before? The result of Will's inner turmoil is clear: he is hopelessly tongue-tied.

Father Andrew watches the two from the steps of his little church and smiles. He has seen it all before. 

A note from the author

 

I hope you’ve had fun with this first offering of my Christmas mantel story.  This pictorial ebook is a bit of whimsy and very different from the romance novels that I’ve written.  If you’d like to try one of those novels and are still in a Christmas mood, then I recommend that you try either Keepsake or EmbersKeepsake opens in a picturesque New England village just as the holiday celebrations are starting, and Embers wraps things up with a big red Christmas bow.

On the next pages you’ll find a brief description of several of my other books, along with a link to a short excerpt from a Month at the Shore, one of my favorites, for you to sample.

More for your eReader by Antoinette Stockenberg

The Complete BY THE SEA Series Boxed Set

“A riveting saga/mystery.”

—Rave Reviews

In the tradition of Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey, BY THE SEA is a four-book series that sweeps from the Gilded Age through the Gatsby Era’s Roaring Twenties and then on to the Great Depression, culminating nearly a century later in Newport, Rhode Island, wealthy and alluring “City by the Sea.” Set against a backdrop of mansions, the glorious America’s Cup Yacht Races, and new money, the series traces the passions and adventures of three families from three different classes. 

A Month at the Shore

“An addictive, captivating story of love, family and trust.”

Romance Reviews Today
Laura Shore has fled her humble past on Cape Cod and made a name for herself on the opposite coast.  But when she returns and joins forces with her two siblings to try to save Shore Gardens, the failing family nursery, she finds that she hasn't left the past behind at all.  Kendall Barclay, the town's rich son and her childhood knight in shining armor, lives there still, and his hold over Laura is as strong as ever.  Like a true knight, he's attentive, courteous, and ready to help -- until a discovery is made that threatens the family, the nursery, and Laura's deepening relationship with him.

Select here to read an excerpt from A MONTH AT THE SHORE.

Keepsake

“Deeply emotional … unforgettable”

amazon.com review
KEEPSAKE … a postcard-perfect town in Connecticut. When stonemason Quinn Leary returns after seventeen years, he has one desire: to prove his father’s innocence of a terrible crime committed when Quinn and Olivia Bennett, town princess, were high-school rivals. Class doesn’t matter now but family loyalties do, and they’re fierce enough to threaten the newfound passion between two equals.

Embers

“A deft blend of mystery and romance … sure to win more kudos”

Publishers Weekly
To Meg Hazard, it seemed like a good idea at the time: squeezing her extended family into the back rooms of their rambling Victorian home and converting the rest of the house into a Bed and Breakfast in the coastal town of Bar Harbor, Maine.  Paying guests are most welcome, but the arrival of a Chicago cop on medical leave turns out to be both good news and bad news for Meg and the Inn Between.

A Charmed Place

“Buy this book! A truly fantastic read!”

—Suzanne Barr, Gulf Coast Woman
USA TODAY bestselling author Antoinette Stockenberg delivers an original and wonderfully romantic story of two people -- college lovers separated for twenty years -- who have the chance to be happy together at last.  But family, friends, an ex-husband, a teenaged daughter and an unsolved murder seem destined to keep the lovers star-crossed, until Dan takes up residence in the Cape Cod lighthouse, with Maddie's rose-covered cottage just a short walk away ...

 

About the Author

 

USA Today bestselling novelist Antoinette Stockenberg grew up wanting be a cowgirl and have her own horse (her great-grandfather bred horses for the carriage trade back in the old country), but the geography just didn’t work out: there weren’t many ranches in Chicago. Her other, more doable dream was to write books, and after stints as secretary, programmer, teacher, grad student, boatyard hand, office manager and magazine writer (in that order), she achieved that goal, writing over a dozen novels, several of them with paranormal elements. One of them is the RITA award-winning EMILY’S GHOST.

Stockenberg’s books have been published in a dozen languages and are often set in quaint New England harbor towns, always with a dose of humor. She writes about complex family relationships and the fallout that old, unearthed secrets can have on them. Sometimes there’s an old murder. Sometimes there’s an old ghost. Sometimes once-lovers find one another after half a lifetime apart.

Her work has been compared to writers as diverse as Barbara Freethy, Nora Roberts, LaVyrle Spencer and Mary Stewart by critics and authors alike, and her novels have appeared on bestseller lists in USA Today as well as the national bookstore chains. Her website features sample chapters, numerous reviews, many photos, and an enchanting Christmas section.

Visit her website at antoinettestockenberg.com to read sample chapters of all of her books.

[]A MONTH AT THE SHORE Prologue

Antoinette Stockenberg

“ An addictive, captivating story of love, family and trust.”

Romance Reviews Today

[* *]

Laura Shore has fled her humble past on Cape Cod and made a name for herself on the opposite coast.  But when she returns and joins forces with her two siblings to try to save Shore Gardens, the failing family nursery, she finds that she hasn't left the past behind at all.  Kendall Barclay, the town's rich son and her childhood knight in shining armor, lives there still, and his hold over Laura is as strong as ever.  Like a true knight, he's attentive, courteous, and ready to help -- until a discovery is made that threatens the family, the nursery, and Laura's deepening relationship with him.

Prologue

The day after eighth-grade graduation was the best and worst of Kendall’s life.

He was minding his own business, which happened to be tracking down a snowy owl that had been sighted in a woods just outside of town, when he heard boys’ voices farther up the trail.

He was sorry to hear them. He didn’t want to be caught with a pair of expensive binoculars around his neck and looking for birds, so he got back on his bike with every intention of leaving the way he had come: quietly. As he pedaled off, the voices got more shrill—whoops and yelps, the sounds of small-town kids on the warpath. He would be fair game for them, he knew from experience, so he picked up his pace.

And then he heard the scream. It was a girl’s cry, frightened and angry at the same time, and it sent chills up his back and arms. He slammed on the brakes so violently that his bike skidded on the soft path and went out from under him, falling on top of him and scraping across his pale, thin legs.

He righted the bike, but his hands and legs were shaking as he mounted it again and set off in the direction of the scream. Part of him was hoping and praying that it was all just fooling around; but part of him knew better.

He found them in a clearing next to the trail where he knew kids liked to hang out drinking and smoking—and, he had always assumed, having sex. Four boys had a girl cornered.

She was standing in front of the campfire rocks. Ken couldn’t see her very well because she was shielded by the four boys. They were practically shoulder to shoulder, but one pair of shoulders stood higher and broader than the rest: they belonged to Will Burton, the doctor’s son, a bully who had squeezed more than one allowance out of Ken on a Friday afternoon. Will’s younger, red-haired brother Dagger was there, too, and two other kids that Ken didn’t recognize.

“Hey!” he yelled at their backs, almost before he could think about it.

They all turned around at the same time, surprised and therefore pissed. But Ken wasn’t looking at them, he was looking at her. He was stunned to realize that she had breasts; how had he never noticed that? She was clutching her torn shirt to herself, but he could see her dark pink nipple. Instantly he looked away. When he looked back again immediately, he saw that her face was all flushed and her cheeks were wet, and he felt desperately ashamed.

“Leave her alone,” he said in a voice filled with fury.

Will Burton just laughed. “Ooh, I’m scared. What’re you gonna do? Run and tell your daddy?”

The other boys snickered and approached him as he stood astride his bike.

He could have taken off. He didn’t, because he wanted her to make a break for it. But she stayed right where she was! He couldn’t believe it. She wasn’t moving. It was like she was hypnotized or paralyzed or something. She was looking straight at him and nobody else. He was ashamed in advance for what he knew was going to happen to him.

He became aware of the crack of branches underfoot as one of the boys he didn’t know took up a position behind him. Instinctively he glanced over his shoulder at him. At the same instant, Dagger Burton grabbed his binoculars out of his bike basket.

Dagger turned away and aimed the binoculars straight at her breasts while Ken and the others remained in their standoff. Everything seemed to go on hold while Dagger did his thing.

“Shit, I can’t see anything,” Dagger said after fiddling with the adjustments. “Everything’s blurry. I must be too close.”

Stupidly, Dagger began backing away from her in an attempt to get in better focus.

So that left three.

“Leave her alone,” Ken said, controlling the quaver that hovered at the back of his voice. “Get out now, and I won’t tell anyone.”

Will Burton was only a year older than Ken but just then seemed twice his size, minimum. He snorted and said, “Who’s gonna make me? You—Skinnykenny? What a dork.”

Ken tried to make his voice sound strong. “Leave her alone.” But his voice broke and the last word came out like a hiccup, and everyone laughed, except her, of course.

He didn’t dare look at her; he was so totally mortified. For her, for him, for both of them. He was rich and she was poor, but at that moment both of them were equals.

Hulking Will Burton waited until the snickers died down, and then in a voice that was way calmer and deeper than Ken’s, he said: “Dork.”

It was true. Ken was a dork; he knew he was a dork. But there was something about being called one in front of her that made something inside of him snap. He threw down his bike and went wading into Will Burton: head down, arms flailing, landing punches half in the air. But he made contact, too—for the stolen allowances, for the snickers, and mostly for that exposed nipple, which he knew was now burned into his memory for life. He hated them all, hated them for their contempt for anyone who wasn’t as cool as they were.

They punched him and kicked him and he tasted his own blood, but still he kept flailing. His eyes were shut, so he couldn’t tell if she was taking off or not. Before he could get the chance to look, he felt a hard whack on the back of his head—he was pretty sure, from his brand-new binoculars.


Antoinette's Christmas Mantel: Season One

I began arranging Christmas villages on our mantel a few years ago, mostly because villages are harder to set up under a tree, and also to keep our Godzilla cats from stomping them. The fragile cardboard houses are from around 1930 pre-war Japan, and the tiny figures (tin Zinnfiguren) are mostly pre-war Germany. As satisfying as this ephemeral holiday art is to create, I found that it needed a story. I began my Christmas tale with this mantel tableau and have added characters and their stories to it every year for a decade since then. Each Christmas when I begin to assemble my antique village, I run into the same old problem: the mantel can only fit a dozen or so houses, and over time I have collected more than that. So every year I have to leave well-loved houses and tin figures in their storage boxes, even though Christmas should be their season to come alive. For this mantel, I've assembled fourteen of my very favorite Japanese cardboard houses, along with the cast of tin characters that people them. No Hawthorne, Lemax, or Dept. 56 houses in this village -- just an assortment of sweet, dusty, slightly tattered cardboard structures that have somehow managed to survive three quarters of a century without getting crushed and tossed. Read and enjoy!

  • Author: Antoinette Stockenberg
  • Published: 2016-12-18 17:05:12
  • Words: 4546
Antoinette's Christmas Mantel: Season One Antoinette's Christmas Mantel: Season One