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Part 6 (conclusion)

Miranda walked to church on Christmas Eve. She shivered in the nippy air. Last-minute shoppers scurried in and out of shops on Main Street. Greetings of “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” passed from person to person.

If only the spirit of joy and friendliness could happen every day, she thought. Miranda had loved Christmas as a child, but she hadn’t experienced this kind of joy for a long time.

She wore a forest green velour dress with a cranberry-colored belt and a string of cranberry-colored beads. Her choir robe covered the dress, but she wanted the occasion to feel festive. She sang from the depths of her heart, praying that someone might find God’s love and joy through tonight’s beautiful Christmas music and tomorrow at The Shepherd’s Kitchen.

Several people asked her about Duncan and wished her a Merry Christmas. The choir director and pastor thanked her for singing. She pulled her coat from the hanger, debating whether she would ask a couple she knew for a ride back to her apartment. As she began to slip one arm into a sleeve, someone’s hands took the coat from her.

“Grandpa said a young woman shouldn’t walk home by herself after dark,” said a low voice close to her ear.

“Nate?” Miranda whirled around. “You’re here!” She threw her arms around him. She backed away, blushing. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Nate smiled and shook his head. “I’m not,” he said softly. “You look lovely tonight.”

“I-I thought–I didn’t expect to see you. I thought you….”

“I went home, but Grandpa was so worried about you and the fact they had to do Christmas dinner at Shepherd’s without him, he convinced me to come.”

He held her coat so she could put it on. As he settled the coat on her shoulders, he let his hands rest there briefly. “I wanted to come. And, by the way, the choir sounded good.”

“Thank you. I love to sing. ” Breathlessly she asked, “Your parents let you come?”

“They were disappointed when I decided to leave.” He chuckled. “My dad thought you were Grandpa’s elderly friend. He thought you had a very young voice for someone so old.”

Miranda might have laughed at his words, but they didn’t fully register to her muddled brain.

The pastor turned off the lights and stood by the door. Miranda buttoned her coat and put on her gloves.

“I think the pastor wants to leave. We’d better go.” They said good night and Merry Christmas to him as they went out.

The cold blast of air made them both shiver

“I have my car, so I’ll drive you home, if that’s okay with you,” Nate said.

She nodded. “Are you going back tonight?”

He tucked her hand under his arm. “No, I got permission to stay in Grandpa’s apartment for a couple of days. And I have orders to bring you home with me over the weekend. Mom and Dad are quite interested in meeting you, especially since they learned you were a young woman. And Grandpa would like you to come.”

Duncan was a safer subject than the meaning of an invitation from his family. “How is your grandfather?”

“He still has a cough, although he’s much better. He’s going crazy because he’s hardly allowed to move from the lounge chair in the living room. But he loves seeing everyone again. And I’m sure he’ll finagle a way to help with Christmas dinner tomorrow.”

He helped her into the car, then he got in the driver’s seat and rubbed his gloved hands together. “Brrr, cold!” He started the engine. Miranda shivered as cold air blasted through the vents. “Sorry about that,” he said, turning the knob to a lower fan setting. “It will get warm in a minute.”

Miranda nodded. Their eyes met and held.  He took her gloved hand. “I’ve wanted so much to see you again. I almost called you, but….”

She sighed. “I wish you had.”

“Grandpa’s neighbors at his apartment house have invited us for breakfast in the community room tomorrow. Will you go with me?”

Her heart beat faster. Nate came and wanted to spend time with her. She nodded. “Yes, I’d be glad to go with you.”

“Will it be all right if I pick you up at seven-thirty?”

Miranda’s heart sang. “Yes, I’ll be ready. I have to be at The Shepherd’s Kitchen by ten to help with set-up.”

“Me, too,” he said.”

#

“Miranda.” Her name sounded like music. “I’d love to spend more time with you tonight. But there’s not a deli or coffee shop open, at least not one where I’d take you. We could take a walk, but as cold as it is, I think it would be better to wait until tomorrow.” She nodded. He shifted a little closer to her. “You haven’t given me an answer yet.”

She tipped her head as she searched his face. “Did you ask me something?”

“Remember I said Mom and Dad wanted me to bring you home for the weekend. So…? He looked into her eyes, hoping.

She looked down, rubbing one gloved hand against the other. “I…Do you want me to go home with you?”

He lifted her chin with his fingers. “More than anything.” he reached for her hand. “Grandpa said a girl like you is a treasure that shouldn’t be lost.” He held his breath, willing her to say yes.

She pushed her hair back from her face. “I’ll go with you, as long as I won’t be intruding.”

He breathed again. “My parents want you to come. You’re highly recommended by Grandpa, you know.”

Miranda relaxed and a smile lit her face. “I like you, Nate MacAllister, a whole lot. You and your grandfather are two of a kind.”

He touched her cheek. “I consider that a compliment, Miranda Winters.” He smiled. “I’d better get you home. We’ll spend tomorrow together.”

“Yes, tomorrow,” she whispered.

THE END