Late Monday afternoon Bess stepped into her apartment. She shrugged off her coat, hat, gloves, and scarf, and looked around. The doll was not there. Neither was Nancy.
Bess got the kettle started. The skies were overcast and snow appeared to be on the way. Evening was coming on fast.
A few minutes later, Nancy swept in. "It's all taken care of." A huge smile lit her rosy-cheeked face.
"She's gone?" Bess helped Nancy take off her heavy coat. "I mean, is she really gone?"
"Yes." Nancy blew on her cold hands.
"Well, where is she? Don't keep me on pins and needles."
"Tea first." Nancy rubbed her hands together furiously. "I'm freezing."
Sipping tea and munching on the last of the lemony sconces, Nancy said, "It came to me that night. After we put her in the box. I thought about how dark and lonely it must be in there."
Bess eyed Nancy suspiciously.
"I figured she was lonely," Nancy said.
"Lonely?" Bess wasn't sure she believed that. But then, she had never considered that possibly. She had assumed the doll simply did not like her.
"Think about," Nancy urged. "She once lived in a house filled with dolls. She was surrounded by hundreds of other dolls. Some were probably her friends. Then suddenly, she was ripped from the only home she ever knew. Placed in a cold, dark box and sent to a strange place. She arrived here and found herself completely alone. There were no other dolls to comfort her. To welcome her and befriend her. She was placed on a shelf and left to sit there day after day." Nancy gently patted Bess' hand. "I'm not blaming you for that. You had no way of knowing how the doll felt. Neither did I, at first."
Nancy sipped her tea and continued, "I needed to find a place for the doll. A special place that suited her special needs."
"Did you find such a place? In one day?"
"I did. After some searching on the internet, I drove into central Chicago. I went to Madame Tara's Dollhouse. It's a very special shop in downtown Chicago. Madame Tara has everything you'd ever want for dolls and dollhouses. I had arranged an appointment with Madame Tara before I left. When I showed her the doll she was speechless. She looked the doll over quite thoroughly and said the workmanship was exquisite. Something from a bygone age. She hadn't seen anything like it in years. She was very happy to have the doll as part of her exclusive collection."
"So, you gave her the doll?"
Nancy's dark blue eyes twinkled. "Actually, she paid for it." Nancy withdrew an envelope from her handbag and placed it on the table. "Two hundred dollars."
Now, Bess was speechless.
# # # #
Bess hugged Nancy good-bye. It was early morning and Nancy was anxious to get back to her apartment and small detective agency in River Heights.
"I can't thank you enough," Bess said. "You truly are a great detective and a wonderful friend."
Nancy waved away the compliments. "I'm just happy we were able to spend time together. In spite of everything, I had fun. It was nice seeing you, Bess. We'll have to get together again soon."
"Promise?" Bess quirked an arched eyebrow.
"Promise." Nancy gave her friend one last, long hug.
# # # #
What should have been a two hour drive took almost four. Nancy drove through snow and sleet and wind. A long, hard drive in anyone's book, but worth it. Home awaited at the end. Home and Frank.
# # # #
Frank pulled a pot roast out of the oven. Tender meat, potatoes, carrots, and onions. All bubbling in a thick broth.
"Damn, that smells good. Even if I do say so myself." Now, if a steaming, melt in your mouth pot roast didn't say I love you, he didn't know what did.
He had called his mother yesterday and gotten the recipe. He'd written the instructions down carefully and asked questions when unsure of something. Today, he'd followed mom's recipe and instructions to the letter.
The apartment door opened and Nancy walked in, wheeling her suitcase behind her. She breathed in the aroma and broke into a delighted smile. "Would that be my favorite meal that I smell?"
"It might be," Frank said coyly. He doffed the oven mitts and scooped Nancy up in a big bear hug. He spun her around and planted a hungry kiss on her lips.
When her feet touched the floor again, Nancy wore a rapturous smile. A smile that unabashedly told of her love and affection for this caring, broad shouldered man.
Nancy gazed into Frank's warm brown eyes and said, "I think you missed me."
"Is it that obvious?"
Nancy laughed. "Yes, and I love it." She kissed his lips and brushed a cold thumb over his cheek. "By the way, I missed you, too."
"Good. I like to hear that."
Frank kissed Nancy again, a soft peck on the cheek. "Give me a minute and I'll have dinner on the table."
Frank headed to the kitchen. "Hey, did you solve Bess' mystery?"
Nancy grabbed the handle of her suitcase. "Yes. It all came down to loneliness."
"Yes. Loneliness and a little love." Nancy beamed and wheeled her suitcase to the bedroom.
A/N: Well, there you have it. A simple little story that has gotten my brain in gear so I can finished my other stories.
And another big "Thank You" for the reviews. I know some folks were just waiting for Frank and that's okay. Who doesn't like Frank? :D
Also, I wanted to thank reviewers for NOT giving away any of the happenings (or the solution) in their reviews. I know some people read reviews first to decide if they want to read a story. I'm one of those people and knowing what's going to happen, or the solution, can spoil the read. So, thanks again for keeping things quiet. :)