"Isn't this wonderful?" I gushed to Connie, handing her a section of the lighted garland we were stringing around the banister at Wooton's and my new home.
Christmas had always been my favorite time of the year, and this year, it felt especially magical. For starters, Wooton and I were celebrating our first Christmas together in our new house, and we'd decided to go all out with the decorating.
"It is pretty impressive," Connie agreed. "I mean, you guys have had practically the whole town over here decorating."
"We wouldn't have it any other way! We wanted everybody to be a part of the celebration. It's going to be the best Christmas party ever!" My voice squeaked with excitement. Wooton and I were going to be hosting a combination belated housewarming and Christmas Eve celebration in just over a week. It seemed like we'd been preparing for ages, and it was finally almost here.
"Everybody at Whit's End has been telling me how excited they are to see the finished product." She paused, raising her eyebrows quizzically. "What I want to know is what on earth is going on with all those giant boxes out front. Why are they all covered up with tarps?"
"I told you before, Connie—it's a surprise!"
Just then, Wooton strode casually in through the side door from the garage.
"Yeah, to go along with our other surprise." He raised an eyebrow mysteriously and winked at me. My stomach flip-flopped. Even after almost a year of marriage, his boyish charm could still give me butterflies.
"What other surprise? Come on, you guys—cut it out with the secrecy! Eugene knows what's going on with the boxes. How come I—"
I cut her off. "That's because he's been working on them, Connie. It only makes sense."
"Okay, fine. But what about this other thing? I'm always the last one to know anything about what's going on around here."
"Well, you won't be this time," Wooton said, significantly.
I giggled at Connie's confused expression.
"What? Why? What are you saying?"
"We wanted to give you the news before anyone else because, well, we have a favor to ask you." I felt a sudden twinge of nervousness.
"A favor? Come on, Penny. You know I'd to anything for you."
"Go head, Wooton." I smiled and nodded at my better half to take the floor.
He took a deep breath, then began, "Connie, we'd like to ask you to become our baby's godmother."
"WHAT?!" Connie's jaw dropped, and she just stood there for a second. "Uh…I mean…Congratulations, you two!" She flung her arms around the both of us, but I sensed a degree of hesitation in her action.
"Penny wanted to tell you earlier," Wooton interjected, "but I kind of wanted to be there, too, when she told you—so we could ask you."
"Ask me what?" she queried absently.
"Remember?" I asked, surprised at the impatient tone in my voice. "We're asking you to be the baby's godmother. Will you?"
"Oh, uh, yes, of course I will!" She seemed to be looking at something far away as she spoke.
"Wonderful!" I exclaimed, unintentionally matching her half-hearted tone. "I can't wait for Baby Bassett to meet Auntie Connie." I tried again to sound excited, but with limited success.
"Yeah, it'll be great." She was staring off into space again. "But, uh, speaking of kids, have either of you seen Jules? It's probably about time I get her home. She has exams tomorrow."
"I saw her talking on the phone on the front porch a while ago," Wooton offered. "Maybe she stayed outside to help Buck and Eugene with the, uh, super-secret boxes."
Connie shot him a look. Then, as if on cue, Jules walked through the front door, a troubled look on her face.
"Hey! I was just looking for you. We should be heading home."
"Okay, but, um. . ." She twisted a lock of hair nervously around her finger. "I was just talking to my mom…"
"Oh, good!" Connie interrupted. "Did you enjoy catching up with her?"
"Sure, but, uh…she said she's going to be coming here for Christmas."
"Oh!" Connie's face turned white and twisted into an expression I'd never seen on her before. "Uh, well, that'll be nice. Since Jillian's out of town for the holidays, we'll have plenty of room for her to stay with us. When is she coming?"
"Well…um…her flight gets in tomorrow."
Jules nodded, biting her lip.
"Oh boy…Uh, we've got to go. Like, now." She gave me a hurried side hug as she dashed out the door with Jules in tow. "Congratulations again!" she hollered over her shoulder.
The door slammed, and I looked at Wooton in bewilderment.
"What's wrong, babe?" he asked, coming up behind me and wrapping his arms around my waist.
"Maybe nothing." I leaned my head back on his chest to look up into his eyes. "But…did it seem like Connie wasn't very excited about our news?"
"I don't know about that," he said diplomatically. "She probably just wasn't expecting it and didn't know how to respond. And it probably threw her off when Jules came in and said her mom was coming to town. I mean, Connie's almost been like Jules's mom for the past few months, and it might be kind of, well…hard for her to see Jules with her real mom. Not to mention the feelings it might dig up about her own mom."
I signed deeply, leaning into his gentle embrace and closing my eyes. "I guess you're right. I just wish…I don't know…"
He ran his fingers gently through my disheveled mess of blonde curls. "I know."