Saturday, Caroline watched each group of children come through the door of the library. She’d just about given up on Sharie and Joey appearing when she glanced up from making a paper snowflake to see them leading their father into the room Caroline had stayed late to decorate the night before.
Snow clung to the children’s caps and mittens and even, Caroline noticed, to Joshua Kendall’s eyelashes. They were incredibly long and fringed his dark eyes, giving them a sleepy, mysterious appeal.
Caroline chided herself for noticing such a thing and gave the children each a snowflake to write their names on.
“I’m so glad you came. We were just getting ready to start.”
She led them to the corner where the other children had gathered and for the next hour kept them all entertained with Christmas and other holiday stories. Afterwards, she put on music while her assistant served punch and cookies.
As she talked with some of the mothers, Caroline glanced around the room, wondering where Joshua Kendall had gone. Since it was mostly moms who brought their children today, he probably felt out of place. She finally noticed him standing behind one of the taller bookshelves. I guess I should have made more of an effort to make him feel comfortable.
“Isn’t that the fellow who set up the new veterinary clinic just outside of town?” she heard one of the women murmured to another.
“Betty says he’s really nice. She took her St. Bernard to him, and you know what a time she has getting that big brute to move. Seems Dr. Kendall just talked to him, coaxed him right out of the car and into the office before the crazy dog knew what was happening. He’s really such a nice-looking man, too. Betty said she heard he’s a widower with two little ones. Do you suppose they’re here?”
The woman’s question was answered when Joey and his sister ran to the man behind the bookshelf.
“Can we get some books today, Daddy?” Caroline heard the boy ask. It was the first time she’d actually heard Joey talk.
Caroline went up to them. “Can I help you find anything special?” she offered.
“Joey’s into dinosaurs,” Joshua said. “But Sharie, I don’t know.”
Sharie looked solemnly up at Caroline. “The teddy bear book,” she whispered.
“You’ll need to get library cards first, but we’ll take care of that in a jiffy.” Caroline went to the circulation desk and brought out information cards for Joshua to fill out. “I’ll enter everything into the computer, but we still like to have index cards, too.”
While he did that, she went to look for the teddy bear book. Her heart sank when she didn’t find it in its regular spot.
“It looks like it’s already checked out,” she told Sharie gently. “I’m really sorry, but when it comes back I’ll be sure and save it for you. How about a different book today? There are some nice Christmas ones on the table over here.”
Caroline led Sharie to the display and helped her select one of Christmas stories from around the world. The girl took it, but the enthusiasm she’d shown so briefly had disappeared. Joshua seemed surprised at her selection.
“Are you sure that’s what you want?” he asked.
Sharie stared at the colorful storybook for a moment, then hugged it and nodded.
Joshua looked wonderingly at his daughter, then at Caroline.
“This is nice what you do for the children here. It means more to me than you know.”
Caroline read the sadness in his dark eyes again, and this time she felt her heart turn over. She was glad when Joshua and his children left. She was fast beginning to feel something more than just a friendly interest in them, but something told her the interest would be one-sided.