Nantucket White Christmas
Born on Christmas, Angela Stark has always hated the holiday. Bad things always seem to happen, and this year is no exception—she is fired and evicted on the first day of December.
She was living and working as a maid in San Francisco. Who will hire her at this time of year, especially if they learn why she was fired?
Her only family is Sam, an elderly and quite vocal orange cat. Her only option is to stay temporarily with her best friend Jane, who is extremely allergic to cats. It's not ideal, but it doesn't look like she has a choice…until a certified letter arrives that changes everything.
The next thing she knows, she and Sam are flying to Nantucket, a place they've never been before.
It's meant to be a temporary visit. But then Angela meets the Hodges family and friends and begins to question where home really is.
Release date: November 19, 2019
Publisher: Piping Plover Press
Print pages: 244
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Nantucket White Christmas
Grandma got run over by a reindeer…”
The cheerful Christmas carol blasted through the ancient speakers of Angela Stark’s tired old Saturn sedan. She changed the channel as quickly as possible. It was annoying that her favorite station started playing nothing but Christmas music as soon as Thanksgiving rolled around. She’d already suffered through a week of it and it was only December first.
Angela felt positively Scrooge-like as she sat in the San Francisco morning rush hour traffic. She hated this time of year. It was bad enough that her birthday fell on Christmas itself. Growing up as an orphan and bouncing from one foster home to the next, her birthday usually got lost in the shuffle. Nothing good ever seemed to happen around the holidays. For as long as she could recall, her memories of the time of year were not happy ones, beginning with her mother overdosing on Christmas Eve when Angela was barely five years old.
It had just been the two of them, and Chrissy had never been the motherly type. She was sweet enough, child-like almost when she was sober, but that wasn’t often. Chrissy was a junkie, addicted to heroin and even as a child, Angela knew that wasn’t a good thing. She still remembered the day that she found her mother, and the vivid image of her seemingly asleep on the sofa, holding a half-eaten candy-cane. Angela had tried her best to wake her, but Chrissy was gone.
And since there was no other known family, little Angela went into foster care. As soon as she was eighteen, she moved into an apartment with several friends. She was working by then, hostessing at a local restaurant. There was no money for college, but she’d done well enough in school to get a small scholarship which helped to pay for some classes at the local community college. Eventually, though, she’d had to drop to part-time and started working full-time as a maid for a cleaning company.
Now, at age twenty-eight, she only had two classes left for her Bachelor’s Degree in Business. Once she graduated, she planned to get a job in marketing at one of the many software companies in Silicon Valley. She’d tried a few times to get something entry-level over the years, but every company seemed to want a college degree.
So, for now, cleaning other people’s houses paid the bills, or at least it had until her roommate skipped out on her. Because of Susie’s disappearing act, Angela was almost three months behind on half the rent. But she had someone lined up to move in tomorrow and her first and last month’s deposit should catch her up. Angela knew she was supposed to set it aside in a separate account, but she figured she could do that in a few months and all would be well. Of the people that answered her ad, Kim was the person who seemed the most stable and could move in the quickest. Robert Smith, the building’s property manager, had been calling daily looking for money that Angela didn’t have. But she would have it soon enough, hopefully.
And truth be told, Angela didn’t mind cleaning. She was good at it, and she found it relaxing and satisfying to leave a home spotless. She had a busy day ahead of her, with several large homes she cleaned regularly. The first on her list was for one of her least favorite clients. The house was gorgeous, but the owner was annoying and her teenage daughter was an absolute slob. Usually, they weren’t there when Angela cleaned but today mother and daughter were both home when Angela arrived and the mother was screaming upstairs to her daughter to hurry up.
“We have mani-pedi appointments and if she doesn’t get down here we’re going to be late,” Mrs. Davis explained. “Julia, now!”
Two minutes later, a sullen, skinny, sixteen-year-old with long purple streaks in her dark brown hair came trudging down the stairs with a backpack slung over one shoulder. She glanced at Angela and several emotions flashed across her face—surprise, followed by what looked like guilt, which quickly morphed into annoyance as her mother told her to hurry again.
“I’ll take my own car,” Julia said. “I’m going to meet up with Stacy later.”
“Now you tell me. I could have already left.” Mrs. Davis sighed and turned back to Angela. “Be sure to scrub the bathtub in the guest bathroom. We have company coming.”
“Will do.” Angela felt like adding that she always scrubbed it, but bit her tongue. She just wanted them to leave so she could blast her music and focus on cleaning.
When she was finished with her last house, at a little past four, Angela walked into the cleaning company headquarters to drop off her keys. She picked them up for each home in the morning and returned them at the end of the day. She’d worked for Happy Cleaners for over four years and was one of their longest tenured employees.
The owner of the company, Nora Feeney, was a skinny, chain-smoking bundle of nerves. Everything seemed to agitate her, but Angela was used to it and just smiled when she walked into the office. No one smiled back today, though. Instead, Nora, her husband Tom, and the receptionist, Mary, all looked uncomfortable when they saw Angela. There was a definite chill in the air.
With a sense of foreboding, Angela walked over to the wall where the keys were hung and put her three in their spots. When she turned around, Mary was staring at her computer and Tom had left the room. Nora hadn’t moved and was standing with her bony arms crossed over her chest.
“Angela, could you step into my office for a moment, please?”
“Of course.” Angela followed her boss into her office and stood, waiting for Nora to speak.
“This is a bit awkward,” Nora began. “I’ve never actually had this situation happen before and it’s unfortunate as you’ve been a good, consistent cleaner for us. But, we don’t really have a choice, I’m afraid.”
Angela had no idea what Nora was talking about, but shivered as a chill ran down her spine. She said nothing, and waited for Nora to explain.
“I had a call from Mrs. Davis. You cleaned her place this morning?”
Angela nodded. “I did. They were first on my list. I saw her and her daughter briefly, before they headed out.”
“Yes, well, Mrs. Davis called this afternoon and she wasn’t happy with us at all. Or more specifically, with you.”
Angela narrowed her eyes, feeling irritated at the annoying woman. What was it this time? She’d scrubbed that guest bathtub until it gleamed. “What was she upset about?”
“She said her diamond tennis bracelet is missing. It was on her nightstand when she left and when she got home, it was gone. The only other person in the house was you. They have an alarm system and cameras that noted everyone who came and went and it was only you.”
Angela’s jaw dropped. “Are you saying she’s accusing me of taking her bracelet? I didn’t touch it and I never even saw it on her nightstand.” She thought for a moment and it didn’t take her long to figure out where the bracelet went. The guilty look on Julia Davis’s face as she came down the stairs—either Mrs. Davis was mistaken about where she put her bracelet or her daughter lifted it before she walked out.
“She can’t prove anything of course, but she is insisting that we fire you. She said if we don’t, she’ll stop using us and will tell everyone she has referred to stop using us, too.” Nora looked miserable as she said it and Angela almost felt sorry for her. Almost.
“She’s furious and we simply can’t afford to lose that much business. I’m so sorry, Angela. If anything changes, and we’re able to rehire you, I’ll be in touch. I really do hope that is the case.”
Angela nodded. “I understand. When you tell her that you’ve let me go, you might want to also tell her to ask her daughter Julia if she’s seen the bracelet.”
“I will, and again, Angela, I’m so sorry.”
* * *
Angela drove home in a daze and didn’t realize until she pulled up to her condo and grabbed her phone and purse that she had a new text message. It was from Kim, the roommate who was supposed to move in the next day.
“Angela, I’m so sorry to do this last minute, but I’m not going to be able to move in with you after all. My boyfriend proposed last night and asked me to move in with him instead. I hope you understand and again, I’m so sorry. Could you please just rip up the check I gave you? Thank you!”
Angela laughed before she almost started to cry. Could her day possibly get any worse?
As it turned out, it could.
She wasn’t home ten minutes before there was a knock on the door and her heart sank as she opened it. She didn’t have to guess who it was. Only one person would be knocking on her door. Sure enough, Robert Smith, the property manager, stood there with his thinning hair and permanent scowl.
“Hi, Angela. I hope you’ve got something for me today? It’s the last day for you to bring your account current.”
Angela took a deep breath and willed the tears to stay down. Crying wasn’t going to help.
“I thought that I’d have a check for you today, but my new roommate changed her mind. So, I have to turn the ad on again. I need a little more time, please.”
Robert Smith actually looked disappointed as he shook his head and reached into the rumpled manila folder that was tucked under his arm. He pulled out a typed letter and handed it to her.
“What’s this?” Angela asked as she glanced at the letter. The words grew blurry as the first tears fell.
“I’m sorry, Angela. I gave you all the time that I could. That’s your official eviction notice. You have two weeks to pack up and get out.”
Angela just nodded. She’d had several extensions already and he had warned that eviction would be the next step. But she’d thought she would be able to avoid it with the new roommate moving in.
“Good luck, Angela.” He walked off as Angela closed the door behind her. Her day had gone from bad to horrific and she had no idea what to do next.
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