Christmas With the Colburns

Christmas With the Colburns by Keely Brooke Keith

Book: Christmas With the Colburns by Keely Brooke Keith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Keely Brooke Keith
 
    Chapter One

 
    Lydia Bradshaw refused to allow the Colburn house to go
undecorated at Christmastime. Weaving among the bartering villagers at the
open-air market, she anchored baby Andrew on her hip and scanned the traders’
booths for tinsel, ribbon, garland—anything that might make her family’s
home look like it did when her mother was alive. Surely one of the traders or
artisans had something left, even this late in December.
    “I should have started making decorations weeks ago,” she
muttered to the baby, as if an eleven-month-old cared, “but with a medical
practice, a house to manage, and a great-aunt to care for, it seems my favorite
holiday has sneaked up on me like a cat on a mouse.” She smiled down at Andrew
as he sucked on his fingers. “Come to think of it, if our barn cats did their
job and killed mice, my box of decorations from last Christmas wouldn’t have
been turned into a reeking, chewed-up nest.”
    Determined to make her and Connor’s first Christmas with the
baby a celebration to remember, Lydia dodged the carpet trader, avoided the
hat-maker’s boy, who was trying to demonstrate hairpins on unsuspecting
customers—someone really should stop him—and turned before the
gossipy wool spinner noticed her. As she passed the produce booth, tin
cylinders with colorful labels caught her eye. Her skirt swirled as she turned
on her boot heel. “Are these canned cherries already pitted?” she asked the
young man working at the back of the booth.
    He didn’t respond and continued sprinkling sugar on a tray of
freshly roasted nuts. That’s where the luscious smell was coming from. Lydia cleared
her throat and tried again. “Excuse me?”
    The veteran produce trader stepped out from behind his wagon
where he was unloading a crate of lemons. He yelled at his new worker, “It’s
your job to help the customers.”
    The young man snapped his attention to Lydia and hurried to
the front of the booth. “Sorry. Yes, ma’am, canned pitted cherries from
Riverside.” He straightened his straw hat and grinned, revealing a broken
bicuspid and swollen gums. “How many cans would you like?”
    “Two please. No wait…” She mentally calculated the number of
family members who would be coming for Christmas dinner this year. Fifteen…
seventeen if Everett Foster and his mother, Roseanna, accepted her invitation.
It would be the biggest crowd yet. She would have to double her mother’s cherry
salad recipe. “Four cans, please.”
    “Yes, ma’am.” He removed the cans from his display. “What
would you like to trade?”
    “She’s the village physician,” the veteran trader
interrupted, scowling at the young man. “This is Dr. Lydia Bradshaw, formerly
Dr. Lydia Colburn. You don’t charge a doctor for cherries.”
    “It’s quite all right.” She looked at the young man. “How
about four cans of cherries and I’ll take care of that infected tooth for you?”
    His cheeks reddened and he covered his mouth with his dirty
fingers. “That sounds painful.”
    “I have medicine that will remove the pain, and once the
tooth is out, you will feel much better.”
    “Thank you, ma’am. I accept your trade.” He picked up the
cans. “I’ll just carry these to your wagon.”
    “I walked here.” She shifted the baby to the other hip. “When
the market closes this afternoon, come by my office. I live at the Colburn
house—the two-story brick home near the south entrance of the village.
The medical cottage is next door. Try the cottage first and if there’s no
answer, go to the back door of the house. And bring the cherries with you.”
    He nodded and spoke through barely parted lips, trying not to
reveal his broken tooth again. “Thank you, Doctor. I’ll be much obliged for
your help.”
    As she resumed her search for decorating materials, Lydia
spotted her father, John Colburn, the village overseer, on the chapel steps.
The morning light made his trimmed beard appear grayer than usual.

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