Maggie's Refrain, page 1
Full Circle - Book 2
Published by WordCrafts Press at Smashwords
Copyright © 2015 Marcia Ware
Cover design & photography by David Warren
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite only retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Maggie’s Refrain is a work of fiction. All References to persons, places or events are fictitious or used fictitiously.
To Grandma, Daddy, Mom, Margaret, Maria and Alan... where the circle began.
To David, Lily, Andrew and Addison...
where the circle completes.
And to my Savior, who holds us all together.
Family is everything.
About the Author
The Yuletide season brought with it the hustle and bustle that was common for the Buchanan Family. But without Grace’s energetic sense of order, it never took long for Joe to feel the pressure of being all things to all people. There were school pageants and church musicals, cookie baking, house decorating, gift buying, and of course, Christmas break for the kids. And with the semester at the University winding down, Joe was faced with the daunting task of gearing up for finals and grading tomes of term papers.
If not for the ready assistance he received from the women in his life - his mother Elise, Sissy and Maggie - Joe’s world would have spun into a whirlwind of inescapable confusion.
Elise offered to take the twins off of his hands for a weekend with promises of shopping for presents, pictures with Santa, and all the Christmas treats she could pump into their little bodies.
“May God have mercy on your soul,” Joe chuckled as he watched his mother’s car drive away with the twins that morning. For her part, Joe knew Elise was a loving grandmother who divided her discipline and her diversions evenly. If anyone could handle Matty and Mary Margaret, it was she.
Sissy made plans to have Gwen stay at her place for some fun “girl time.” Joe couldn’t remember ever having seen his daughter so excited. Bubbling over with eager anticipation, Gwen practically tackled her aunt as Sissy came through the door.
“Are you sure you’re up for this,” Joe asked.
“Oh yeah,” said Sissy, peeling Gwen off of her arm in order to pull some DVDs from her stylish designer backpack.
While Grace might have been the accomplished artist, Sissy was definitely the arbiter of fashion in the Hammond family. One would never guess that she was born a Midwestern girl. Her wardrobe choices were 100 percent Rodeo Drive.
She was never one to simply “throw something together.” It was all carefully and meticulously planned, from the jeweled sunglasses that held back her thick, radiant hair, right down to the soles of her Italian leather boots. Whenever she knew she’d be seeing Joe, she always played up the glamour just a little bit more. And Joe, being a man, would always notice. He had never denied his sister in law’s statuesque beauty.
“Wow Sis, you look great,” he said.
Still searching for the DVDs, Sissy gave a flirtatious toss of the head and smiled. “Thanks,” she replied.
“So, whatcha got planned for my baby?”
Having found the movies, Sissy put her arm around Gwen. “Well, after I get my sweet niece home and settled in, there’s an afternoon tea for Women in the Entertainment Arts, at the Opryland hotel. Gwen, I would love for you to be my guest.”
Gwen nodded an enthusiastic “Yes!”
“Then I thought we’d pay a little visit to my office at Star - thought I’d show you what I get to do all day.”
Joe was impressed. “Ooh, can I go too?”
“Dad,” Gwen sighed.
“I know, I know…no boys allowed,” Joe said, pretending to be disappointed.
“A private tour for you next time,” Sissy whispered with a wink.
Joe wasn’t quite sure what he was meant to do with her response, so he simply smiled politely. “Sounds like you’ve got a lot going on,” he said.
“Oh, but I’m not done,” Sissy said brightly. “I thought we’d have dinner at Margot.” Turning her attention to Gwen, she asked, “Have you ever had French food?”
Wide-eyed, the young girl shook her head. “Then Margot it is!” Sissy said triumphantly. “Then I thought we’d close out the evening with some serious chick flicks. How’s that sound?”
Gwen bit her lip; using every ounce of energy she could to maintain composure, because she could tell Sissy had more.
“Now tomorrow, we’ve got breakfast at Loveless Café…”
“From Margot to the Loveless cafe,” Joe said. “Impressive.”
“I’m a firm believer in mixing it up,” Sissy cooed. “As I was saying, after that, a full day of shopping and pampering at the spa.”
Then it was time to reveal the part of the plan she knew her niece wanted to hear. “The shopping part is very important because we’re going to…wait for it…” A final reach inside of her bag yielded what appeared to be two large tickets. With a look of pride she announced, “…The big Star Records Christmas party downtown at the Renaissance Hotel!”
Feeling as though she’d won the lottery, Gwen was ready to come out of her skin. “Aunt Sissy, you are the bomb!”
“That means she thinks you’re cool,” Joe said knowledgeably.
“I think I got that,” Sissy laughed.
“Oh, swag money!” Gwen cheered while simultaneously pulling her cell out of her pocket and jumping up and down. “I can’t wait to text my BF Jess to tell her I’m gonna turn up with DT at the Star Jam…she is gonna freak!”
Joe and Sissy met with blank stares.
“Ohhkay. I got nothin’,” said Joe.
“I’m gonna assume it’s still something good…?” Sissy asked, her eyes conveying an expression of hopefulness.
Furiously sending out a message on her phone, Gwen laughed. “Of course it is,” she said. “I’m telling Jess that I’ll finally get to meet Deana at the Star party, and Jess is gonna be really excited.”
Snapping his fingers, Joe said, “I have got to get that English to Teenage Translator.”
Apparently finished flaunting her good fortune to her friend, Gwen returned her phone to her pocket. “So what movies did you get, Aunt Sissy,” asked Gwen, finally taking a breath.
Sissy beamed with pride. “I got Kit Kittredge and The Little Mermaid!”
Gwen looked as if she’d been doused with cold water. “Are you kidding me? What am I, ten?”
Sissy appeared to be shocked. “You mean, you don’t like what I picked out?”
Gwen immediately recognized her faux pas. “Oh, I’m sorry, Aunt Sissy,” she said, embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to…”
“I just can’t believe this! I went through all of the trouble to find movies I thought you’d like, and I’m just so hurt!”
“Gotcha!” Sissy exclaimed.
Gwen blushed as she let out a sound of relief. “Ha ha ha, very funny,” she said. “Okay seriously, what did you really get?”
Sissy showed her the side panel of the DVD case. “Pride and Prejudice…”
“The one with Keira Knightley?”
“You got it!”
Gwen screamed and said something completely indecipherable. Joe winced and put a finger in his ear.
“I’d ask what the other movie is, but I’m afraid that I’ll lose my hearing completely,” he said.
Sissy revealed the other title. “I got…13 going on 30!”
Gwen continued to cheer as Joe continued to shield his ears from the noise.
“I’m off to learn sign language. I’m officially impaired,” he joked. Kissing Gwen on her forehead, he added, “Alright then, hug your father and scram. He’s got work to do.”
With the kids officially occupied and the house silent, Joe dove into his tasks with a steady determination. By the time he came up for air, the clock read 7:30 pm.
He decided to take a break and fix himself a sandwich when there was a knock at the back door. It was Maggie. He couldn’t tell what she was wearing beneath her coat, but from the look of her hair and makeup, it was clear she was planning to do something special. In one hand she carried her purse, in the other, an oversized gift bag.
“Merry Christmas!” she said as he opened the door. “I know you’re really busy, but I thought maybe you could use a break.”
Genuinely glad to see her, he stepped aside to let her in. “Hey you, perfect timing,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I was just fixing…” His words trailed off as Maggie playfully pushed past him on her way to the living room, pretending to ignore him.
“Sure, come on in, make yourself at home,” he said with feigned incredulity. “As I was saying, I’m fixing myself something to eat. Wanna join me in some fried bologna?”
Maggie removed her coat to reveal a wrap-around dress of deep eggplant that complimented her curves and emphasized the best of her shape. Her hair was pulled away from her face by a brown suede headband that allowed her curls to cascade fully around her shoulders. Her knee-high boots matched the headband, and her makeup and jewelry were subtle and understated.
“Wow,” Joe said. “That’s not a sandwich dress.”
Despite his attempt at humor, Joe’s admiration was evident, sending Maggie’s confidence skyward. Following his lead, she casually tossed her coat on a nearby chair. “Precisely. Especially not fried bologna,” she said haughtily.
“I’m a Spam girl, what can I tell you?”
“Besides, you’d burn it anyway.”
“I mean, for real. I’ve seen you burn water.”
“Okay!” he laughed. “Point taken. Now, moving on to more important things…” Attempting to look inside the bag, he asked with a mischievous, childlike tone, “What’d ya bring me…?”
Maggie began to remove several beautifully wrapped boxes from the bag, placing them under the tree. “Well, Mr. I’m-the-Center-of-the-Universe, there are several gifts in here, if you must know. Yes, here’s something for you…”
“I knew it.”
“Boy, hush. Here are the ones for the kids. This one’s for your mom, and I even got Sissy and the Hammonds something.”
“You have got to be the most impressive little elf I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Can I open mine now?”
Maggie gave him a look that was clearly meant to discourage. “Alright, alright,” he said. “But I can’t promise I won’t open it after you go home.”
“Well, that’s between you and Kris Kringle,” she said.
“Do you have a hot date tonight? You look fantastic.”
“Thank you. No hot date, but I do have an agenda.” As she folded the large gift bag, she proceeded to unveil her plan. “I’ve got a really sweet friend, a fellow singer named Kira, and we do session work around town together. She’s doing her thing down at Sambuca tonight with some cool arrangements on Christmas songs…”
“Say no more. Give me 10 minutes. I would love to get out of here,” he said.
As he sprinted up the stairs, Maggie took a moment to regard the Christmas tree. She noticed a silver box wedged between some of the branches, the gift tag bearing her name.
“Can I take my Christmas present?” she yelled up the stairs.
Joe rummaged through his closet with urgent intensity. Holding various items out at arm’s length, he muttered, “Nah, she’s seen me in that already…”
Catching himself before declaring that a particular pair of khakis made his backside look odd, he laughed, shook his head and settled on black jeans and a rich, olive-green cable knit sweater.
He heard Maggie yell something from downstairs, but couldn’t make out what she was saying. He figured she was telling him to hurry up, so he began to pick up his pace.
There were bottles and tubes of styling product on the sink in the bathroom that he’d purchased at Gwen’s urging, thinking that maybe he could do something different with his hair - something that his daughter deemed a bit more ‘modern.’
“Your hair is so retro,” she would say. “I mean, it’s cool that you have long hair, ‘cause it’s in - but you’re a dad; you need ‘dad’ hair.”
Whatever “dad” hair actually was, he promised her he’d consider it someday. But for now, Joe settled within himself that this evening would probably not be the best time to experiment. “Better leave well enough alone,” he said. The way it naturally fell around his face once his hands went through was all the grooming he figured he’d need.
Donning a leather jacket, Joe froze in his tracks for one final review. A spray of cologne - not too much; don’t wanna overpower her-and he was ready.
Sambuca was a perfect choice. Kira was in rare form, mixing the promised holiday tunes with jazz standards and gritty soul and blues. Halfway through her second set, she called Maggie up to sing a song or two. With a little urging, Maggie grabbed a stool and a microphone, and let the music take her where it wanted to go.
She sat poised and lovely as she took her place on the stage. Bathed in the spotlight, she was luminous. Joe had to remind himself to breathe. He felt a burning in the center of his chest that made it impossible for him to sit completely still. A sense of pride coursed through him, however, when he was able to see the effect that Maggie’s voice had on everyone else in the room.
As the crowd cheered at the end of a tender duet between the women, Joe jumped up to help Maggie down from her place on the stage and back to their table. The emotion of the moment was palpable. The music swirled around them and drew them in as Joe tenderly took Maggie’s hand in his own.
The ride home was, for the most part, silent. When they did speak, they kept it around the edges of what seemed to be on both of their minds.
“So…Kira seemed really cool. I enjoyed talking with her too,” he said.
“Yeah, she’s a genuine talent. One of the best.”
“One of,” Joe agreed. “But I’m telling you, you’re still my favorite. You were amazing tonight. Everyone loved you. I think you stole the show.”
Maggie turned to Joe and smiled. He glanced over just long enough to drink it in. He reached out and took her hand.
She spent the rest of the drive staring down at the two sets of fingers intertwined. Her delicate tan hand fit nicely in his, their skin tones not too terribly far apart. Joe took his thumb and ran it back and forth over hers in that earth shaking way that lets a person know that they truly enjoy being in close physical contact. The sensation sent Maggie’s stomach spinning.
At the house, Joe and Maggie lingered in the car for as long as they could, but they knew that their evening was coming to an end. Joe broke the silence, by asking, “So, you fly home for Christmas with your family tomorrow?”
“Yeah, the flight’s at 6 pm.”
“Seems a bit early. Christmas isn’t for another week.”
“Things have been going well with Daddy and me. I just want to spend more time with him.”
“That’s great, Maggie. I’m really happy for you. You need a lift to the airport?”
“Nah, thanks, I’ve got that covered. Deana wants us to lay down some bgv’s on the new album, and she wants to get the bulk of it done before we all scatter to the winds. Darla’s gonna drop me off.”
Joe furrowed his brow. “Lay down some bgv’s?”
Maggie smiled, “Record background vocals.”
For the second time that day, Joe found it ironic that his mastery of the English language was being challenged yet again. “You crazy musicians with your own language,” he teased. “But since we’re on the subject - I have always wanted to see how you do what you do.”
“You’re welcome to come,” she said. “In fact, I’d love it if you did.”
She pulled a business card out of her purse and began to write down directions to the studio. “I’ll tell the guys to be on the lookout for you. There’s always someone up front; just tell them you’re a friend of mine, and they’ll take you back to the proper room.”
Joe was excited. “Thanks Mags. This is so amazing! I can’t wait.”
“And on that note…”
“Very ‘punny.’ Come on, I’ll walk you to your car.”
She allowed Joe time to come around on her side to let her out. They rejoined hands as they made the slow walk back to her SUV.
The night was cool, but not cold; typical of that time of year in Nashville. But neither Joe nor Maggie felt the chill.
She leaned against her car, her hand still in Joe’s. Joe gazed deeply into Maggie’s eyes and inhaled sharply. Slowly, he released her hand, and enveloped her with both arms. She returned the gesture by wrapping her arms around his neck. Before long, their hug began to morph into a slow dance, swaying back and forth to the music that resonated in their heads.