Memories in December
Calendar Girls Book 4
by Gina Ardito
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance Publication Date: November 7, 2019
Siobhan Bendlow is struggling with her recovery from an eating disorder and the financial downturn of her photography business. The last thing she needs is to become the sole caretaker of her wacky grandmother. Especially since the man of her teenaged dreams, Jimmy Vais, has moved back to town, newly single and available. So has his pesky younger brother, Justin. One Vais is fun, but juggling two is a problem.
Althea Bendlow may be in her seventies now, but she still craves all the things she wanted in youth: joy, comfort, laughter, and happiness for her loved ones. If gaining the latter means performing some matchmaking magic for her only granddaughter, she’s up to the task. As long as her own past doesn’t keep distracting her, in the form of Captain Lou Rugerman, a man who meant the world to her for one night only.
Welcome back to Snug Harbor, where the memories of a lifetime can become the dreams of tomorrow…
Don’t get me wrong. I love my grandmother. But I swear she must have dropped the brown acid at Woodstock. She had no filter, no sense of decorum. I couldn’t imagine how my mom managed to grow up with Nana as her parental influence. Even Grandpa could never stifle her rowdy spirit.
Once, when I was about fourteen, I had a crush on this guy who lived across the street from us. Jimmy Vais was everything a teenage girl lusted after in those days. He was an older man, almost eighteen, and had long dark hair—even longer than mine!—and he played bass guitar in a band. He was tall and lanky and didn’t know I existed, much to my poor heart’s distress. That summer, I’d finally convinced my puritanical parents to buy me my first bikini, tame by today’s standards, by the way. One hot July day, I decided to wear my new bathing suit while washing Dad’s car. I know. Not a very original idea, but I was an MTV child, and all the sexiest videos had girls in bikinis or school girl uniforms, climbing on the hoods of sleek sports cars. So I’ve got the music blaring on some top forty radio station, and I’m soaking myself with the hose, practically kissing this enormous sponge, and here comes Nana Thea strolling up the walk.
“Well, look at you!” she exclaimed loud enough to drown out Britney Spears singing about getting hit one more time. “You’re gonna be a stunner when you’re finally able to fill out that bra cup.”
“Nana!” I screeched, but it was too late. The damage was done. I didn’t have to glance across the street to know Jimmy had heard her. His hoots of laughter rappelled down my spine and set my skin ablaze with embarrassment. It was the one and only time Jimmy paid the slightest attention to me. Of course, I did my own share of embarrassing things after that, which sent me on a tangent I’d rather never revisit. I’m sure Jimmy knew all about my stint at the clinic for eating disorders—the whole town did. To this day, whenever I hear people whisper around me, I wonder if they’re talking about me. Look. That’s her. They used to call her Barf Bag Bendlow...
I kill houseplants. There. Now you know one of my greatest shames. I'm not boasting. I just figure that if you're reading this, you're looking for more than how wonderful life is as a writer. You get enough of that elsewhere. Ditto for political rants, how to lose thirty pounds in a week, and creating gorgeous crafts with nothing more than twine and soup cans. My goal is to connect with you, dear reader, even if you're not a writer, not a New Yorker, not a mother, not a female. We're human (unless one of us is a spambot), and what we have in common is flaws. So here are a few more of mine:
I sing all the time. I sing songs most people don't know--jingles from television, crazy stuff I used to listen to on Dr. Demento, Broadway and movie soundtracks, and I can even bum-bum-bum through instrumental music. I sing in the car. In the shower. While I'm grocery shopping. And I headbop while I sing. When I'm not singing, I talk to myself. Just ignore me and move on. You get used to it after a while.
I don't eat my vegetables. Seriously. I only started eating salad about ten years ago, but I'd still rather have a cookie.
Given the option, I would live in a mall where I would never have to worry about freezing temperatures or too much sun. I'm extremely fair-skinned and could burn under a 60-watt light bulb.
I can't sleep without background noise so the television's on all night. If it's too dark and too quiet, all I have are my thoughts. And even *I* don't want to be alone with my thoughts.
Don't ask me to Zumba, line dance, or march in the parade. I have absolutely no rhythm.
I color outside the lines. Not because I'm a rebel, but because I suck as an artist. My artistic ability is limited to being able to draw Snoopy sleeping on his doghouse. And I don't even draw that well.
Regrets. I have more than a few.
My favorite activity is sleep, and I'm pretty good at it. I don't clock a lot of hours, but I can powernap like a Persian cat and rejuvenate within ten minutes.
I consider shopping and dining out excellent therapy for anything wrong in my life.
My feet are always cold. Always. My husband of more than a quarter century claims it's because I'm an alien sent to Earth to destroy him. (He might be right about that.)
Coming to my house for a visit? Unless you've given me plenty of advance notice, be prepared. My floor will not be vacuumed, there will be dishes in my sink, and I only make my bed when I change the sheets once a week (I'm climbing back into it ASAP. Why make it?) Housecleaning is not high on my priority list. Okay, to be totally honest, it's not on the list at all.
I can resist anything...except ice cream.
Since this is our first date, I figure I've revealed enough secrets for now. But if you've read this bio and think I might be the author for you, pick up one of my books or stalk my website:www.ginaardito.com.
Sure, this book takes place in December. And yes, I do have a scene or two that occur on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but aside from a quick mention or two of the holiday season, the story could take place in any month. Okay, any month with snow and cold temps. The thing with The Calendar Girls books is that they’re not holiday romances. Each story in the series features two different women who’ve come to some kind of crossroads in their lives and have to choose a new path to take. The holiday is a minor event.
In Memories in December, you’ll meet Siobhan Bendlow, a recovering bulimic coping with her parents’ deaths, and Althea Bendlow, Siobhan’s grandmother who has opted to return to the place she always called home, Snug Harbor.
Siobhan’s career is in freefall, the guy she used to have a crush on has moved across the street, and his pesky younger brother has hired her to work on his ad campaign when Nana Thea arrives to add even more chaos to her life. And did I mention her spendthrift sister? Yeah. Here’s a phone conversation between the two:
“She’s interested in selling my house,” I managed to eke through tight teeth.
“It’s not your house, Bon. It was our parents’ house. And, I won’t lie. I could really use the cash the sale could bring in right about now.” I knew it. I poured a healthy dose of almond milk in my cup, then took a hearty sip before my jaw loosened enough for me to reply, “Yeah, well, I could really use a roof over my head right about now, so rather than tossing my carcass out onto the streets in the dead of winter, I guess you’re gonna have to forego the diamond bracelet or new car you were planning to buy.” The cluck of her tongue sounded as enraging hundreds of miles away as it did when we shared the same address. “Don’t be so dramatic. God, why do you always have to make it sound like you live in some Charles Dickens novel? I’ve got my own troubles, you know. You’re not the only one with worries looming over her head.” Why did she have to minimize my problems while exaggerating her own? Why did she always try to make me feel guilty? She had a husband who adored her, a beautiful little girl, and the perfect life in Colorado Springs. Her only trouble was her inability to curb her spending—a problem that had haunted her since she earned her first allowance. I shook my head. Not today. I would not let her derail me from the issue at hand this time. Whatever worries loomed over her head, she wouldn’t solve by kicking me out of my home. Still, I had to make sure I’d have nothing to regret later. “Is anyone sick? Dying? In need of a kidney?”
“What? No, of course not.”
“Then I’m not selling the house,” I insisted.
With her husband dead over five years ago, Thea doesn’t want to spend her remaining days in Florida. She believes her homecoming gives her a chance to watch over Siobhan when they’re both suddenly alone in life. And then one day, there he is: Captain Lou Rugerman, a man she knew in the early years of her marriage. But the freedom to come and go as she pleased, once tasted, is hard for Thea to give up.
“Thea? Is that you, dollface?” Only one man had ever called me dollface. I turned toward the sound of the familiar gruff voice and came face-to-face with that one man. Lou Rugerman was always a brawny man, and time hadn’t stooped him yet. He still had a full head of hair, now shot with silver, those bright blue eyes with thick, lush lashes that all the girls envied, and an upper torso that looked hewn from a giant redwood tree. More importantly, his heart was as deep and vast as the Atlantic, a fact I knew firsthand.
“When did you get home?” Lou’s question jolted me out of my menu-studying.
“Huh? Oh! Yesterday.”
“Well, that’s great. This town hasn’t been the same without your special brand of sunshine.” Did I mention Lou was smooth with the ladies, too? Yeah. Me, chief among them. My knees wilted. The man exuded sex appeal the way Vicks Vap-o-Rub exuded menthol.
“I’d like to take you out, Thea,” he said, his tone a sexy purr while he rubbed his calloused thumb over my palm. Oh, no. Not again. Lou Rugerman was eighteen the first time he said those words to me. I was twenty-three, married, and six months pregnant at the time. He didn’t care. If anything, my unavailability made him pursue me all the harder in those days. These days, I didn’t have a husband and a baby to shield me from his dogged pursuit. My throat dried, and I bit my lip before digging up the sense of humor I’d been using against his charm since 1972. “I can take myself out. How do you think I wound up here?”
I hope you’ll check out these two amazing women, the men who love them, and the sweet, small town where romance is always in the air.
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