Memories in December
Calendar Girls Book 4
by Gina Ardito
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: November 7, 2019
Siobhan Bendlow is struggling with her recovery from an eating disorder and the financial downturn of her photography business. The last thing she needs is to become the sole caretaker of her wacky grandmother. Especially since the man of her teenaged dreams, Jimmy Vais, has moved back to town, newly single and available. So has his pesky younger brother, Justin. One Vais is fun, but juggling two is a problem.
Althea Bendlow may be in her seventies now, but she still craves all the things she wanted in youth: joy, comfort, laughter, and happiness for her loved ones. If gaining the latter means performing some matchmaking magic for her only granddaughter, she’s up to the task. As long as her own past doesn’t keep distracting her, in the form of Captain Lou Rugerman, a man who meant the world to her for one night only.
Welcome back to Snug Harbor, where the memories of a lifetime can become the dreams of tomorrow…
**easily read as a standalone!!**
“Perfect timing,” Nana said when my headlights reflected off the garage door. “You’ll have just enough time to clean yourself up before dinner.” I glared at her from the driver’s seat as I slid the gear into park. The fine hairs on my arms danced in suspicion. “Clean myself up?” “Mmm-hmm.” She opened the passenger door and unclipped her seatbelt. “We’re having guests tonight.” A shiver went up my spine. “What kind of guests?” “Dinner guests,” she replied and climbed out, slamming the door behind her. I followed more slowly, thanks to the shock of her statement, which, I’m sure, was what she intended. “Nana! Who’s coming over?” She stopped when she reached our front door and turned to watch my approach. “Hurry up, Bon-Bon. I’m freezing my noonies off out here.” She hugged herself and bounced on her toes. I strode the next few dozen feet in determined lengths, my keys jangling idly in my pocket. “I’m gonna keep you out here ‘til your noonies hit the pavement, if you don’t tell me what you did this time.” “What did I do?” She feigned shock, slapping a hand on her chest and widening her eyes in childlike innocence. “I invited a few friends for dinner. It’s not like I ate a baby.” God, the things that came out of her mouth never ceased to leave me speechless. I think she said this kinda stuff to keep people so stunned they wouldn’t reply. Not this time. “Who’s coming?” “Lou, of course.” Okay. Lou was okay. I almost breathed a sigh of relief until my logical brain silently chastised me. Don’t trust her. If she’s willing to tell you she invited Lou, it’s because the identity of one of the other guests will cause you to blow a gasket. “Who else?” She shrugged. “One of our neighbors.” Oh, God. No. “Which one of our neighbors?” “Just Jimmy.” Just Jimmy. It took a full minute for my brain to click. “Jimmy Vais?” “He’s all alone, Siobhan,” she whispered, her brow etched with concern. “I had to invite him. I felt bad. You should see the house. He keeps it dark all the time. I think he might be depressed. Maybe he’s not over his divorce yet.” She stamped her feet on the patio, and her voice grew in volume and energy. “Now, come on! Open the door. We can talk more about tonight’s plans inside, where it’s warm, and I bet it smells delicious in there.” Did you ever see those old movies where someone’s stuck on the railroad tracks and a train is coming? You find yourself yelling at the screen, “Move! Hurry!” but the character seems to be stuck or deaf or too stupid to get out of the way. Nana was my oncoming train. I knew she was dangerous to my well-being, but I couldn’t seem to get out of the way.
I kill houseplants. There. Now you know one of my greatest shames. I'm not boasting. I just figure that if you're reading this, you're looking for more than how wonderful life is as a writer. You get enough of that elsewhere. Ditto for political rants, how to lose thirty pounds in a week, and creating gorgeous crafts with nothing more than twine and soup cans. My goal is to connect with you, dear reader, even if you're not a writer, not a New Yorker, not a mother, not a female. We're human (unless one of us is a spambot), and what we have in common is flaws. So here are a few more of mine:
I sing all the time. I sing songs most people don't know--jingles from television, crazy stuff I used to listen to on Dr. Demento, Broadway and movie soundtracks, and I can even bum-bum-bum through instrumental music. I sing in the car. In the shower. While I'm grocery shopping. And I headbop while I sing. When I'm not singing, I talk to myself. Just ignore me and move on. You get used to it after a while.
I don't eat my vegetables. Seriously. I only started eating salad about ten years ago, but I'd still rather have a cookie.
Given the option, I would live in a mall where I would never have to worry about freezing temperatures or too much sun. I'm extremely fair-skinned and could burn under a 60-watt light bulb.
I can't sleep without background noise so the television's on all night. If it's too dark and too quiet, all I have are my thoughts. And even *I* don't want to be alone with my thoughts.
Don't ask me to Zumba, line dance, or march in the parade. I have absolutely no rhythm.
I color outside the lines. Not because I'm a rebel, but because I suck as an artist. My artistic ability is limited to being able to draw Snoopy sleeping on his doghouse. And I don't even draw that well.
Regrets. I have more than a few.
My favorite activity is sleep, and I'm pretty good at it. I don't clock a lot of hours, but I can powernap like a Persian cat and rejuvenate within ten minutes.
I consider shopping and dining out excellent therapy for anything wrong in my life.
My feet are always cold. Always. My husband of more than a quarter century claims it's because I'm an alien sent to Earth to destroy him. (He might be right about that.)
Coming to my house for a visit? Unless you've given me plenty of advance notice, be prepared. My floor will not be vacuumed, there will be dishes in my sink, and I only make my bed when I change the sheets once a week (I'm climbing back into it ASAP. Why make it?) Housecleaning is not high on my priority list. Okay, to be totally honest, it's not on the list at all.
I can resist anything...except ice cream.
Since this is our first date, I figure I've revealed enough secrets for now. But if you've read this bio and think I might be the author for you, pick up one of my books or stalk my website: www.ginaardito.com.
Writing Across an Age Gap
In Memories in December (like with all the Calendar Girls books), there are two heroines. This time around, the story revolves around thirty-year-old Siobhan Bendlow and her seventy-year-old grandmother, Althea Bendlow. That means a forty-year age gap between these two ladies.
Talk about a writing challenge! Bear in mind, I’m in my fifties. Which means, I’m twenty-five years older than my younger heroine, and fifteen years younger than my older heroine. Not exactly a comfortable place to write from while hopping from one head to the other, chapter by chapter.
Althea spends a great deal of the book reminiscing about her younger self (hence, the title, Memories in December), and I loved the research involved in conjuring up her youthful indiscretions and turbulent past. She attended Woodstock, married a Vietnam vet, and outlived her husband both her children. Hers is a life full of rich moments, many of them tragic, and yet, she maintains a positive attitude.
Siobhan insisted I couldn’t wear a caftan and my Keds to the Gull and Oar. As if anyone would notice what I had on and care. After all, once I was seated, I’d only be visible from the waist up anyway. The gold and red floral pattern would look like a pretty blouse to the other customers and restaurant staff. But, no. Bon-Bon made me promise I’d wear something dressier.
Still, I wanted to be comfortable. After some heated debates, we finally settled on a deep blue, crushed velvet jumpsuit that worked for both of us. I loved the bell bottom cuffs and the drawstring waist. At my age, I’d outgrown the need to suck in my gut by shimmying into control-top pantyhose and stumble around in high heels meant to arch my back for a man’s appreciation. And I told her so. When she pushed a pair of silver ballet flats on my feet, I was surprised how nice they looked peeking out from the hem of my pants.
“And they won’t make your feet ache or arch your back to entice Captain Lou,” she pointed out.
Because I didn’t like her snippy attitude, and besides, the whole date idea made me ornery, I retorted with, “I’m not puttin’ on tons of makeup or a bunch of jewelry, either. I’m too old for that kinda stuff. I’d look like some vain woman, desperately trying to cling to her youth. I won’t be seen as ridiculous. I’m seventy years old and proud of it. Lou’s getting me the way God made me, wrinkles and all. Take a tip from me, Bon-Bon. Love who you are first. Only then will real love find you.” My granddaughter glared at me, and I realized a minute too late I’d touched on a sore subject. I had to backpedal. Fast. I fussed with my collar. “I swear, if Lou makes one snide comment about how I look, this date is off.”
The anger left her eyes, but the hurt remained. I’d have to double down on my efforts to get her fixed up with Jimmy Vais. Once she was happily in a relationship, she’d mellow out.
Maybe it’s because I’m closer to her in age and have experienced more of a life these days, but I found Althea a fun and easy character to write. Siobhan, on the other hand, gave me fits. Don’t get me wrong. I like her. I love her, in fact, as I do all my characters. They’re my imaginary children, and like my real children, I know their flaws as well as their virtues. Siobhan has blind spots that make the older me want to take her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. Her life’s been rough, and she’s had her share of heartache, but unlike her grandma, Siobhan allows the circumstances to rule her reaction, instead of tackling issues head-on.
“I thought I’d head over to Schooner Court to see the Christmas lights.” At last, Jimmy returned his attention to me, a too-sweet smile on his sarcastic face. “Maybe Siobhan would like to join me?”
I’d rather eat live spiders.
Before I could come up with a more polite reply, my grandmother clapped and announced, “She’d love to! Go on, Bon-Bon.”
Any doubt I’d harbored that this dinner was a set-up disappeared. The old lady got to her feet faster than I could and practically dumped me out of my chair.
“Don’t worry about the dishes,” she told me—as if that was my greatest fear right now. The fact Jimmy still watched me with that sociopath smile gleaming brighter than the diamonds in our chandelier had no effect on her. She shooed me with her hands. “Lou will help me clean up. Go on. Get your coat. Go with Jimmy. We’ll be fine.”
I stifled a shiver. Yeah, sure. They’d be fine. What about me?
“Well?” Jimmy prompted. “You coming?”
I could’ve said no, could’ve gone with my first instinct and opted for the spiders, but I was pretty sure that was what he wanted. Never let it be said I did what someone else wanted. In that respect, I was a lot like my grandmother. I matched the monster’s predatory grin with one of my own. “Sounds fun. Count me in.”
Ha! He blinked. I’d caught him off-guard by agreeing. Good. I’d hate to be the only stunned player in this…whatever game this was.
“I’ll just get our coats,” I added in a lighthearted tone far from the angst I felt in the pit of my stomach. How did I know he wasn’t a serial killer, for God’s sake? I couldn’t help but remember Nana’s comments from earlier. You should see the house. He keeps it dark all the time. Why? Did he hide the bodies of the women who ticked him off in the basement?
Minutes later, despite misgivings screaming inside my skull, I sat in the passenger seat of Jimmy’s car in his driveway. My breath came in quick gulps, forming puffy clouds in the chilled air while I waited for him to turn up the heat. What in the world was I doing here? What did I have to prove? Did I really care if Jimmy Vais thought I was weak or cowardly or waiting ‘til he left before I threw up my dinner?
Over time, both women will come to learn from and appreciate the other, and this transition allows them to find love. Because, after all, as Althea would be the first one to tell you, you have to love yourself before someone else can love you.
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