The Godmother – Caroline Lee

“OH, do stop sniffling into your tea, Helga! If you can’t focus on the task at hand, pass me the list.” “I’m sniffling into my cakes, thank you very much, and I’m perfectly capable of—” With a huge sigh, Doc reached across the table and pulled the bundle of papers out of her companion’s hand. Helga wasn’t anywhere close to her happy self; when she mourned, she mourned hard. Of course, the rest of them were no different. Pulling out her spectacles, Doc took a moment to study the other ladies. The six of them—only six since Somnolena had died—were seated around the table in the house’s kitchen, poking dejectedly at the funeral cake Bashful had made. “A sad bunch we are,” Doc mumbled, settling her glasses on her nose and lifting the applications. “Well, why wouldn’t we be?” Doc’s niece, Snee—Suzy—wiped at her nose with a handkerchief, not even bothering to pretend she was enjoying her tea. “We’ll all miss Somnolena.” “Yeah,” grumbled Grunhilda, from where she slouched in her chair, her arms folded across her chest, as she glared at the cake as though it had personally offended her. “She was alright. I’ll even miss the way she used to fall asleep standing up.” “I’ll miss the way she was so good at reading the leaves,” murmured silly little Dorcas, rather mournfully, while staring down at her now-empty cup of tea. “Yes, well, we’ll all miss her. Frankly, I’m impressed she was really gone and not just sleeping.

Who knows how long she might’ve laid there? But life does move on, my dears,” declared Doc forcefully, straightening the bundle of applications. “We owe it to her to find a worthy replacement.” Bashful sighed flamboyantly. Everything that woman did was flamboyant. “You’re right.” She waved a hand bedecked in more brass bangles than should be allowed on any one person, and she sounded like a one-woman marching band. “Start reading the applicants.” “I’m not doing all the work myself,” Doc declared, dividing the stack into six random piles and handing them out. “Everyone start reading. If you think you’ve found a good candidate, speak up.

” It took a while to get them going; they were a bit like a freight train. But once they were going—also like a freight train—the Godmothers didn’t stop until they’d achieved their objective. Usually it was a Happily Ever After for their assigned clients which caused them to meet and go over candidates like this, but this time, it was to find someone in their little enclave to replace Somnolena, whom Doc would miss more than she was letting on. They had one of the largest enclaves in the International Guild of Godmothers, mainly because theirs was nominally the guild’s headquarters. Of course, no one told a bunch of godmothers what to do—although Doc prided herself on the assumption that, if anyone could do it, it’d be her—so being in charge of the guild headquarters wasn’t all that much extra work. Besides, she had her niece to help in the day-to-day running of things. The six of them sat in silence for a long while, the only sounds being the shuffling of papers, the slurping of tea, and once, Bashful clanking around, handing out more cakes. Occasionally, Helga would let out a cheerful giggle—the woman was happy even in the most inappropriate of times—or Suzy would sneeze. Grunhilda kept up a steady stream of grumpy grumbles under her breath as she read, but since Doc wasn’t close enough to understand them, she felt confident in ignoring them. It was Dorcas who eventually burst out, “I’ve got her!” She flung her arm out, knocking over her teacup and spilling the dregs all over four other applications Suzy had placed in the “Absolutely Unsuitable” pile.

“Whoops! Sorry!” she blurted to the rest of the table, as she used her free hand to press a handkerchief—which she’d pulled from her amble bosom—against the mess. “I have her application, not her herself; that would be silly.” She waved the paper. “Here it is!” Helga snatched the application from Dorcas’s hand, thankfully preventing more damage, as Grunhilda groaned theatrically and dropped her head into her hand. “Hmm,” Helga murmured, as she read, “right age, right motivation…cute name. This could work.” When she looked up and met Doc’s eyes, Doc saw the hope there. With a sigh, she reached out and took the paper from Helga. Christmas Harrington, age thirty-six, from Missouri. When asked why she was applying for this particular job, Christmas had written: My sisters and brothers have all been married.

I’m surrounded by almost-grown nieces and nephews, all of whom I’ve helped care for. I’ve done my share of matchmaking, and it’s not that difficult. In my experience, it’s based on pushing two suitable people together and explaining the situation to them, then standing back and letting them do the rest. Doc squinted thoughtfully down at the application. Hmm. Well, she wasn’t wrong. In fact, she seemed to have touched on the basic tenant of godmothering. There were two major factions in the guild; one believed True Love could only be found with one other person in the entire world, and the other belief—which Doc knew to be the truth, and since she’d written The Book, her opinion was really all that mattered—was most people could find True Love with most other people, assuming they had enough in common. The trick was to find that commonality and nurture it. And of course, to ensure both people were of the right personalities to ensure happiness in the other.

“Can you see what she’s not saying?” Helga asked, after Doc read that part of Christmas’s application to the others. Before Doc could answer, Dorcas spoke up, “What do you mean, not saying? If she’s not saying it, how would we know it?” Bashful waved her fingers mystically in the air. “Magic,” she breathed. Grunhilda rolled her eyes. “More like common sense.” Suzy sneezed. Feeling her patience wear thin, Doc smoothed the application on the table. “Helga’s hearing the words she’s not saying, because we’ve all heard them before.” In our own heads. “This Christmas Harrington has not found her own happiness through marriage and motherhood, so she’s taken it upon herself to bring happiness to others—hence the matchmaking and child-caring comment.

” “So when she saw the application for a professional matchmaking guild,” interrupted Helga cheerfully, “she jumped on the chance to join!” “We’ve all been called to the guild to help others,” agreed Suzy. “Why’s her name Christmas?” blurted Dorcas. “That’s a bit silly, isn’t it?” “Maybe her sisters are Easter and Hannukah, and her brothers are Halloween and Independence Day,” growled Grunhilda, glaring at the dopey woman. But Dorcas, being Dorcas, didn’t notice as she tapped the large wart on her chin. “That would be a mouthful, wouldn’t it? ‘Independence Day Harrington, you get down out of that tree and bring back my peach pie!’ See? It’s difficult to yell.” “How’d he get into the tree with the pie?” mused Bashful. “What pie?” “The peach pie. How’d Independence Day get into the tree without dropping it?” Dorcas hummed. “Good point. How about, ‘Independence Day Harrington, you quit slapping your sisters with that dead fish and get back to copying your letters!’ ” Grunhilda stared at Dorcas with a mixture of revulsion and amazement.

“You had a very strange childhood, didn’t you?” Suzy sneezed. “You were the one, Miss Grumpy, who had suggested her siblings’ names—” “She was born on December twenty-fourth!” Doc snapped, interrupting their bickering, pleased to have finally found the information. “Grunhilda, her siblings have perfectly normal names. Dorcas, you are strange. Suzy, get a new handkerchief.” “Yes, Aunt,” mumbled the miserable young woman. “It’s this stupid hay fever.” Helga nodded and patted Suzy’s arm. “Yes, dear. It’s always hay fever with you, isn’t it?” While the other’s squabbling whirled around her, oddly comforting, Doc stared thoughtfully down at the application.

Christmas Harrington. There was something about the words of her application which had struck her as not quite right. She’d spoken of matchmaking and had indicated a desire to be helpful, but… was there more? A longing perhaps? Every one of the Godmothers at this table—and in the guild as a whole—had made the decision to forgo their own chance at finding True Love in order to help others. It was part of the oath, and they were all pleased with that choice. But there was just enough bitterness in Christmas’s application to make Doc wonder. “I think…” she began slowly, tapping one long finger against the paper, noting the applicant was an orphan. One more check in her favor. “I think it might be a very good idea to invite Ms. Christmas Harrington to Everland.” Just to see if Doc’s suspicions were correct.

If they weren’t, then maybe the guild would have an enthusiastic new member. If they were, then the guild would do what it did best…help save Christmas.

.

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