Read The Christmas Joy Ride Online

Authors: Melody Carlson

Tags: #FIC042000, #FIC027020, #Christmas stories

The Christmas Joy Ride

© 2015 by Carlson Management, Inc.

Published by Revell

a division of Baker Publishing Group

P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

www
.
revellbooks
.com

Ebook edition created 2015

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

ISBN 978-1-4412-2817-8

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

The author is represented by Sara A. Fortenberry Literary Agency.

1

C
hristmas in a box—what could be better? Joy Jorgenson smiled with satisfaction as she placed the last bundle of colored lights in the red plastic storage box. She set the filled box on top of a green plastic bin. She'd packed more than thirty boxes and bins during the past couple of weeks. Each one was filled with carefully selected Christmas decorations, some dating clear back to the 1940s. All sorts of trinkets and treasures . . . all packed with love and with hope. She uncapped her black felt pen, carefully printing TULSA in all caps on the top of the red box.

“Yoo-hoo?”
A female voice called out from the front of the garage. “You in there, Joy?”

“Back here.” Joy peered over to where she'd left the big door up, seeing a silhouette in the sunlight. She slowly pushed herself
to her feet. The creakiness in her bones reminded her of her age. And today it felt as if all eighty-five years were pulling on her like lead weights. Across the shadowy space she spied someone moving through the musty garage. Unless she was mistaken, it was Miranda Fortner.

“Miranda!”
Joy exclaimed as her young neighbor's face became visible. “Oh, I'm so glad to see you.” She opened her arms to give her friend a big warm hug. “When did you get back?”

“Just a few minutes ago,” Miranda told her.

“I missed you so much. But I'm sure your sister was grateful for your help. How is that new baby?”

“Just fine. But it's good to be home. Between the toddler twins and Faye's new little one, that house was like a never-ending three-ring circus.” Miranda looked around the garage. “What are you doing out here anyway?”

“Just a little, uh, organizing.” Joy stooped to pick up the bin she'd just filled.

“Hey, let me get that.” Miranda took the bin from Joy. “You shouldn't be carrying heavy things.”

“Oh, it's not that heavy.” Joy let out a tired sigh. “But thank you, dear. I was just feeling my years. Take it on out to the driveway . . . with the others.”

“What on earth are you doing with all these bins and boxes?” Miranda set it down next to the other ones that Joy had already lined up outside of the garage.

“Just packing a few things.” Joy brushed off her hands on the front of her corduroy trousers. “I'm nearly done.”

“But you told me when you'd sold your home, everything in it was included,” Miranda pointed out. “Why bother packing all this old stuff in the garage? Can't the buyers just deal with it for you? I figured the new owners would probably have some gargantuan garage sale. If I had any money I'd go shopping myself.”

“Yes, they did offer to take care of everything—and I appreciate that.” Joy gazed back at the beautiful home that she and George had occupied for most of their married years. Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, George had designed and built the single-story structure in the late fifties. Together they'd furnished it in Danish Modern, carefully selecting sleek classic pieces that complimented the architectural style of the midcentury home. It was really a jewel. The buyers, a pair of young attorneys, had fallen in love with the whole package, offering her much more than she'd ever dreamed possible and convincing her that perhaps her sons were right. It was time to leave Chicago, to spend the remainder of her days in a place where snow shovels and fur-lined boots were unnecessary.

“I'm only taking my personal belongings to Phoenix,” Joy explained. “And most of them have already been shipped.”

“So what's with all this stuff?” Miranda peered curiously at Joy.

“I needed some, uh, some Christmas things.”

Miranda frowned at the long row of boxes and bins. “I know some people—like my sister—think I've turned into a real grinch, but this seems like an awful lot of Christmas junk to haul off to Phoenix. And didn't you tell me your new place is pretty small? Just a studio apartment?”

“Oh, these things aren't for me.”

Miranda's eyes lit up. “Is this related to your Christmas blog?”

Joy slowly nodded, wondering how much she should say. “As a matter of fact, it is.”

“Do you plan to continue your holiday website in Phoenix? Will
Christmas Joy
live on in the Southwest?”

Joy shrugged. “I'm not sure about that. I've been wondering if I should let it go.”

“But you have so many followers. And your holiday hints are so helpful. Where would the world be without
Christmas Joy
?”

Joy smiled wistfully. “Well, hopefully Christmas joy will remain around a lot longer than my website . . . and me.”

“Yeah, I know. But if it's because you're worried I won't be nearby to help you with the internet stuff, don't be concerned. I mean even though I feel grinchier than ever this year, I still want to help with your website. I actually enjoy it. And it doesn't matter that you'll be miles away. I can do it from right here.” Miranda pushed a long strand of auburn hair away from her face, then scowled at her house next door. “Well, maybe not from
here
,
here
. . . but wherever it is that I move to, I can do it from there.”

“So you really are moving?” Joy felt concerned. Miranda's life had been turned upside down for a while now. Had things gotten worse? “Where will you go?”

“I'm not sure yet, but I might move back with my parents. Temporarily. For sure—I will not live with my sister. Although she'd love to have me as her live-in nanny.” Miranda let out a weary sigh. “No way.”

Joy reached over and placed her hand on Miranda's shoulder. “So the bank's not working out that deal for you to stay in your house and refinance?”

“The house is scheduled for foreclosure in February.”

Joy sadly shook her head. Poor Miranda. Ever since her no-good husband had left her for another woman—and after less than two years of marriage—Miranda had been through the wringer. “I'm so sorry, dear.”

Miranda made what seemed a forced smile. “It's okay. I'm ready to go. And besides, the neighborhood won't be the same when you're gone. Time for new beginnings for both of us.”

“Exactly.” Joy nodded firmly. “Time to move on.”

Miranda pointed at the large RV in Joy's driveway. “Speaking of moving on, whose motor home is that? Do you have company visiting or something?”

Joy gave Miranda a sly smile. “That just happens to be
my
motor home.”

Miranda cocked her head to one side. “Huh?”

“It's been in storage for the past eight years . . . ever since George passed on. I couldn't part with it, but I just didn't have the heart to take it out on my own either.”

“So what's it doing here? Are you selling it too?”

“No.” Joy studied her friend closely, hoping it was the right time to tell her. “I'm taking it on a little trip.”

Miranda looked slightly horrified. “You cannot be serious, Joy.”

“I'm very serious.”

Miranda frowned up at the motor home. “You're actually going to drive
that
?”

“Sure. Why not?”

Miranda stared at Joy. “No offense, Joy, but you're, uh, no spring chicken. I mean, you're like eighty-five, aren't you?”

“Soon to be eighty-six.” Joy held her head high. Age had always been
just a number
to her, although that number had seemed to increase rather rapidly in recent years.

“That's right. You have a Christmas birthday.” Miranda smiled, but just as quickly her smile faded, and she pointed back at the RV. “You honestly think you can maneuver that monster?”

“Sure. I drove it this morning. Picked it up from Rolland's RV where they've gone over everything from bumper to bumper. She's as good as new and ready to roll.”

“You drove that thing clear across town and out here all by yourself?”

“Of course. I was the main driver whenever George and I took it out.”

“Really?”
Miranda's expression was a mixture of disbelief and admiration.

“Poor George never really got the hang of it. Said he wasn't cut out to be a ‘truck driver.' But then he never really loved to drive—not like I did. He did enjoy road trips though—he would spend his time gazing out the window, studying the architecture and landscape—meanwhile, my eyes stayed fixed on the road. I was very diligent. It was a nice arrangement for us. And we had just been getting ready to take it on Route 66 . . . that last summer . . .” Joy sadly shook her head. “But then it was too late.”

“So where do you plan to drive it now?” Miranda peered up at the sky. “Just a short trip for old time's sake? While the weather's still good?”

“Actually I was planning a rather lengthy trip.” Joy was a bit unsure, but she'd decided to trust Miranda with this. Really, what could it hurt? She'd be gone by tomorrow anyway.

“But I thought you were flying out to Phoenix next week. Moving into that assisted living facility that your sons set up for you. So handy to be near both of them. I thought they wanted you to be all settled in time for Christmas.”

“Well, yes, that was the general plan. I still plan to be in Phoenix before Christmas. Except that I won't be flying. I'll be driving myself there—in my motor home.”

Miranda looked stunned. “No way, Joy! You can't possibly make a trip like that—from Chicago to Phoenix? Not by yourself and not driving that. I'm sorry, but that's certifiably nuts.”

Joy pointed to the plastic boxes and bins. “I'm going on a mission, Miranda. I'm going out to spread some Christmas joy along Route 66. And no one is going to stop me.”

“But you can't go driving across the entire country in the middle of winter and—”

“I can and I will,” Joy declared stubbornly.

“But your sons? What will Rob and Rick say?” Miranda demanded. “You told me how they were worried about your health already—that was why they insisted you sell your home and relocate close to them. They couldn't have possibly agreed to this.”

“I do not
need
their permission. And they do not need to know about my means of transportation. I plan to arrive in Phoenix in time for Christmas.” Joy looked intently into Miranda's turquoise eyes. “And you, my dear friend, better not betray my confidence on this.”

“But I—”

“Give me your word, Miranda.” Joy narrowed her eyes. “I trusted you with this disclosure. Please, don't let me down.”

Joy waited as Miranda took in a long, deep breath, then slowly released it. “Okay . . . but I think it's a totally outrageous plan. And I can't bear the thought of you being out there by yourself—and at your age too. I'll be scared sick about you being on the road—and in winter too. Already I'm worried.”

Joy had an idea, and she knew this was her chance. She had to give it one good try. “And that is exactly why I want you to come along with me, Miranda.”

“But I couldn't possibly—”

“You just told me I can't go by myself,” Joy reminded her.

“That's true, but I can't—”

“You pointed out that I'm too old and it's winter and—”

“Joy Jorgenson, are you trying to
guilt
me into going with you?” Miranda gave her a crooked half smile. “Is this some kind of
guilt
trip
?”

Joy clapped her hands together. “As a matter of fact it is!
But it's not
that
kind of guilt trip. It's spelled G-I-L-T. I plan to share gilt and glitter wherever I go.” Joy laughed as she reached into a bin by the motor home, extracted a strand of glittery silver garland, and wrapped it around Miranda's neck. “These bins and boxes are all filled with Christmas decorations that I plan to share along Route 66. I have a short list of deserving folks who wrote to my blog last month. People who have nearly given up, people in desperate need of some Christmas joy in their lives. And I plan to deliver it to them personally. I've been preparing for two weeks now, and I would be ever so grateful if you would go with me, my friend. Come with me on a Christmas Joy Ride.”

Miranda held up her hands in a helpless gesture. “I know I should run in the opposite direction, Joy. But I can't say no to you.”

“Then say yes! And join me—on our Christmas Joy Ride. Together we'll help others to rediscover the real joy of Christmas! It will be fun!”

“Okay . . . I will go to Phoenix with you.” Miranda's mouth twisted to one side. “That is, unless we break down in the middle of nowhere, or get stuck in a blizzard, or find ourselves hopelessly lost, or get hijacked or kidnapped or—”

“Oh my dear girl!” Joy patted her pessimistic friend's shoulder. “Just have a little faith. God will watch over us. And we will have a great adventure. You'll see!”

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