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Annie would be there, too, with a good friend of Andrew’s from the football team. Everything had worked out so well. Courtney could hardly believe it. Monica had been asked by a friend of Mike’s, and all four couples intended to go out after the dance.

“As your grandmother would say,” Annie continued, “Andrew’s smitten.”

Smitten. What a perfectly lovely word. “Oh, Annie, I think he’s just…wonderful.” No adjective satisfactorily described her feelings about Andrew Hamlin. Being with him made leaving Chicago for her senior year almost worthwhile.

“Who’d send you that kind of money?” Annie wondered.

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Courtney was beyond conjecture.

“Your dad?” Annie suggested. “Or your brother?”

Courtney automatically shook her head. “No, neither of them,” she said.

“Then who?”

“I don’t know, but it’s the most fabulous gift I’ve ever received.” The doorbell chimed just then. “There’s someone at the door. Grams is in the kitchen, so I’d better get it.”

“Okay. I’ll tell Andrew you called.”

“Thanks.” She could hardly wait to talk to him.

Hurrying to the door, Courtney opened it and gasped out loud when she saw her sister, suitcase in hand. “Julianna!”

“Aren’t you going to let me in?” her sister asked. “Courtney, my goodness, look at you! You’re gorgeous. Who would’ve thought those pounds would make such a difference.”

Tears of joy sprang to Courtney’s eyes as she threw open the screen door. “What are you doing here?” she asked, hugging her tightly.

In seconds they were both laughing and weeping simultaneously. The commotion was enough to bring their grandmother out from the kitchen. Soon her squeals of delight mingled with theirs.

“My, oh my, this is lovely,” Grams said, pulling Julianna into the living room. “But—how did you get here?”

“By plane. The most amazing thing happened. I got an express letter that said my baby sister’s been asked to Home-coming by the star football player. Which I knew, of course. The letter suggested Courtney might need a little help getting ready for the big dance.”

Her grandmother raised both hands. “I’m telling you right now, I had nothing to do with this.”

“There was an airline ticket in the envelope,” Julianna explained. “Also included was a long list of instructions. The first was that a car service would arrange to drive me to O’Hare, and that another car would be waiting to pick me up at Sea-Tac. It would then drive me to Grams’s house, but I was warned I couldn’t say anything to either of you in advance.”

“Well, I, for one, am surprised,” Courtney whispered, her cheeks still wet with tears.

“I was given a cashier’s check for my expenses, but it’s far more money than I’ll need. I’m thinking we should make an appointment for your hair and your nails as soon as we can.”

“My hair and nails, too?” Courtney whispered, so overwhelmed she could barely speak.

Grams looked utterly perplexed. “I wish I’d thought of it, but even if I had, I never would’ve been able to afford all this.”

“Our carriage awaits,” her sister announced grandly. “Well, the car. But the driver’s in livery.” She giggled. “I mean, a uniform—but isn’t this just like Cinderella?”

“Why’s the car waiting?” Courtney felt as if she had, indeed, been dropped into the middle of her favorite fairy tale. At the good part, though, when the godmother materializes and waves her wand around. Or godfather, she corrected, and it was a check, not a wand.

“The car’s going to take us all to dinner,” Julianna said. “We have reservations at Morton’s on 4th Avenue. From there, the driver will drop Courtney and me at the mall and take you home, Grams. We’re supposed to arrange a time and place for him to meet us when we’re finished.”

“I can’t believe this,” Courtney shrieked, giving way to her excitement. “I just can’t believe this.”

“I must admit this is some Fairy Godfather you’ve got,” Julianna teased.

“Let me grab my sweater,” Vera said. “I didn’t feel like cooking tonight, anyway.”

Courtney led her sister upstairs so they could leave her suitcase in one of the spare rooms. “How long can you stay?” she asked.

“Just until Saturday afternoon. I have to get back, and whoever arranged this seemed to know that, too.”

“Have you talked to Jason?”

She shook her head. “It isn’t him,” she said with a laugh. “He doesn’t have a dime to his name. In fact, he’s always trying to borrow from me—as if I had anything extra.”

The phone rang just as they were leaving the house. Courtney debated whether she should answer it, and then decided it might be Andrew. With her grandmother’s ancient phone, Caller ID wasn’t an option, even if she’d been willing to spring for it. So phone calls were always a mystery.

“Hello,” she answered, hoping it was Andrew.

“You called?”

“I did. Oh, Andrew, the most wonderful thing’s happened! But I don’t have time to explain everything right now.”

“Why not?”

“Because,” she laughed, giddy with joy, “my sister’s here and there’s a car waiting to take me shopping for a Homecoming dress, and Andrew—oh, Annie can tell you about it.”

“This must be the day for good news.”

“What do you mean?” Everyone was waiting on the porch, but she had to know.

“It won’t be official until tomorrow, but I’ve been elected Homecoming King.”

“Oh, Andrew! Congratulations.”

“Nothing in this world would make me prouder than to have you with me on Friday night.”

Running light-heartedly out to the car, Courtney couldn’t stop smiling. She didn’t know what she’d done that could have merited such generosity, but she’d be forever grateful to whoever had decided to become her Fairy Godfather.

She didn’t think she’d ever been happier in her life.


“When in doubt, grab a ball of yarn and Get Creative!”

—Sasha Kagan, Sasha Kagan Knitwear.


It was more than a week since I’d seen Brad. My anger had cooled and I wished I could take back some of what I’d said. I hoped he felt the same way. Tuesday morning when I removed the Closed sign from my door, I took the opportunity to glance up and down the street. It was too early to see Brad’s UPS truck, but I was hopeful nonetheless. I hadn’t figured out what I’d say, but I knew I’d be far less emotional than last week at Green Lake.

It had been an incredible few days. Friday afternoon, Courtney came by to introduce me to her older sister. They had a fantastic story about a fairy godfather who’d stepped in to ensure that her date for Homecoming would be as perfect as it could possibly be. I couldn’t imagine who’d do anything like that. I think Courtney somehow expected me to know, but I didn’t.

On Saturday it was Bethanne who arrived with an equally fantastic story of a mysterious benefactor who’d given her the money she needed, no strings attached. A gift, not a loan. The only stipulation was that she help someone else if she was ever in a position to do so.

Exuberant, she dashed across the street with a business idea that involved Alix—a contract to provide birthday cakes and other desserts for the various events Bethanne arranged.

I was thrilled for both Bethanne and Courtney. If this fairy godfather had any extra fairy dust available, I could use some myself—not that I expected any magic in my life.

The bell chimed, and Margaret walked in promptly at ten. “Good morning,” she said cheerfully.

“Morning,” I responded. I thought of asking her about her good mood but hesitated, wondering if she’d volunteer the information herself. Often it’s still difficult to know how best to approach my sister.

“It looks like you had a good weekend,” I finally ventured, somewhat cautiously.

“We sure did.” She was practically skipping as she entered the store. I trailed behind her to the office.

“Did you do anything fun?” I asked. I was thinking maybe dinner out or a movie.

“Better than anything you can imagine!” She gave me a huge smile. Not a typical Margaret smile, either, which often seemed more of a grimace, but a wide, unstinting smile that changed her whole face.

“Oh?” I said, dying of curiosity.

She opened her purse and removed an envelope, which she handed me with a dramatic flourish.

“What’s this?”

“Open it and see.”

I’ll admit I was eager enough to tear it open. Inside was a card and a check. I noticed the amount and gasped—it was for the entire bank loan of ten thousand dollars. The card was a thank-you note written to me by my brother-in-law and signed by both Margaret and Matt.

“What…how—” I stammered, hardly able to form a question.

“Matt has a wonderful new job.”

My guess was that this new job had nothing to do with painting houses. “The money…”

“A signing bonus.”


“We talked it over, Matt and I, when you first gave us the money. Matt was so touched that you’d do this for us. I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference it made to be able to keep the house. We—we’ve never gotten this far behind, and it was a blow to both of us. We’re terribly grateful for what you did, but we always felt the money had to be a loan.”

“But…” I couldn’t seem to get out more than one word at a time—and it takes a lot to leave me speechless.

“The truly astounding part is that Matt hadn’t even applied with this particular engineering firm. Their Human Resources department contacted him on Thursday and asked him to submit an application immediately, which he did. They didn’t have it longer than a day before he heard back and the negotiations began.”

“That’s marvelous!”

“It is—more than you know. I’ve hardly ever seen Matt so excited. He was like a little kid when he got the news. He started work yesterday. I wanted to say something on Friday, but we decided to wait until everything was in place—and we could give you this.” She pointed to the check.

“Margaret,” I said, hugging my sister. “Are you sure? I mean, there must be a hundred things you need. Keep the money, repay me when you can.”

“No,” she returned sternly. “This is yours, and neither Matt nor I will hear of anything else.”

“Wow,” I whispered, “the fairy dust is flying all over the place.” I don’t think my sister realized what a turning point that loan was for me, in more ways than one. Perhaps for the first time since I became an adult, I’d truly stepped outside myself. I know that sounds odd, but it has to do with the rather insular life I’d lived for so many years. What I mean is, when I was a teenager and in my twenties, my whole life revolved around my sickness and consequently around me. Not until I opened the shop on Blossom Street did I begin to understand how self-absorbed I’d become.