A Miracle Mountain Christmas

By: Ciara Knight

Chapter 1

Flecks of white snow fluttered around the rolling hills, promising a quiet, beautiful Christmas on Miracle Mountain. Savannah Blake stood at the top of the front steps, closed her eyes, and leaned off the porch of the massive old retirement home turned Miracle Mountain Inn. One leg dangled and one hand gripped a column as she waited for the first drops of snow to reach her skin. She loved the invigorating feel of cold on her face after a morning of hammering, sawing, and arguing with the GGs over all the renovation decisions. Who knew three women could be so difficult? Especially one’s that call themselves Gaggle Girls.

One of the porch boards creaked then snapped. Her hand slid off the crunchy, peeling white paint. Her feet caught the top step, and she tumbled down to the snow-dusted grassy bed below.

“Ow. Ugh.” She rolled to her side and pressed her hand to the damp soil to hoist herself up.

Before she could climb to her feet, the front door opened and a rug smacked the railing over her head, sending dust, dirt, and old people smell all over her. “Hey, wait. Stop that!” She coughed and waved the air in front of her free of particles then wiped her eyes with her soiled hand, only to cause more grime to smear across her face.

“Whatcha doin’ down there? We ain’t payin’ you to sleep on the front lawn. Besides, you’re gonna track more dirt inside, and I’m cleanin’ the floors.” Cookie sidestepped and peered at the broken porch board with a loud harrumph.

Savannah wanted to argue that cleaning the floors in a construction zone, with bits of plaster, wood splinters, nails, and all sorts of dirty hazards about, was pointless. Yet, one look at the Cookie glare, with its trademark pursed lips and hunched brow, she snapped her mouth shut.

“Now, get outta that dirt and clean off. You don’t wanna be dirty. Not today.”

Savannah wiped her hands down the front of her jeans, spreading the dirt like a layer of frosting. “Why? Dirt kind of comes with the job. I can’t be as congenial as Sunny, you know.”

Cookie huffed and pushed her lips out like a babbling fish. If fish babbled.

“No one’s as perfect as Sunny,” Cookie declared. A hint of agitation over a fellow GG, and best friend, appeared at the mouth lines that deepened when she tensed. “Don’t matter. Now, you get cleaned up.” She swished her lips one more time for added emphasis. “I gotta cake baking, and I might give ya a piece if you’re quick about it.” Then she staccato-stomped through the front door.

Herbie, Savannah’s assistant and once-most-trusted-friend-turned-traitor, crept from behind a bush the moment Cookie’s steps faded away. “Coast clear?”

“Coward.” Savannah pulled herself up, tucked her hair behind her shoulder, and fluffed her flannel shirt free of dirt. “You could’ve saved me from the Cookie Chop.”

“Oh no,” Herbie shook his head. “I don’t get messed up with that. She nearly chopped me in half with that glare of hers last time I tried to help you.” He lifted a few blueprint scrolls into the air. “I fetch, I carry, I hammer, I opinionate. I don’t engage in Cookie Chops. I like my ear attached to my head.”

“As I said, coward.” Savannah grabbed the rolls of blueprints and hopped over the broken step. “Then get that hammer of yours and fix these steps before Sunny sees them or she’s liable to faint.”

“On it.” Herbie yanked the remains of the broken board free. What he lacked in education, he certainly made up for in handyman skills. Wedging his hammer against a nail, he pried it loose. “You think they’re up to something? I saw them in a gaggle earlier, whispering, like they were conjuring that Gaggle Girl power they muster up sometimes.”

Savannah froze mid-step. “The GGs aren’t planning anything. They can’t be. I’d know.” She shook off her trepidation and grabbed her tool bag. “It’s probably just all the fuss over this project. I mean, who would’ve thought three retirees could turn an old folks’ home into an inn?”

“Don’t you remember the GG incident of 2010?” Herbie whispered, like a spy in the heart of enemy territory.

She shivered at the memory. “I remember. The boat, the goat, and the waiter. How could I forget?”

“And the police. Oh, and poor Mr. Stan.” Herbie shook his shoulders and danced around the lawn as if he’d stepped on a rusty nail. “I’ve never looked at a goat the same again. I mean, did they really have to shave him, paint him, feather him, and…and—”

“Red eyes.” Savannah shook off the memory of that goat tied out front of poor Mr. Stan’s butcher shop. “Remember how long it took them to get the toilet paper off the boat and unclog the motor?”

Herbie nodded. “And the waiter.”

“Just a poor innocent victim in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“Think he ever got rid of his nervous tick?”

Sunny walked around the corner of the house in her oversized yellow hat and bright pink galoshes. “Hiya, you two. How’s your mornin’?” Her bright smile always seemed to match her manners.