The New Year's Quilt (Elm Creek Quilts Novels)

Also by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Quilter’s Homecoming

Circle of Quilters

The Christmas Quilt

The Sugar Camp Quilt

The Master Quilter

The Quilter’s Legacy

The Runaway Quilt

The Cross-Country Quilters

Round Robin

The Quilter’s Apprentice

Elm Creek Quilts:
Quilt Projects Inspired by the Elm Creek Quilts Novels

Return to Elm Creek:
More Quilt Projects Inspired by the Elm Creek Quilts Novels

Simon & Schuster

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2007 by Jennifer Chiaverini

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Simon & Schuster Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

SIMON & SCHUSTER and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Designed by Davina Mock-Maniscalco

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Chiaverini, Jennifer.

The New Year’s quilt : an Elm Creeks quilts novel / Jennifer Chiaverini.

p. cm.

1. Compson, Sylvia (Fictitious character). 2. Quilting—Fiction. 3. Quiltmakers—Fiction. 4. Quilts—Fiction. 5. New Year—Fiction. 6. Domestic fiction. I. Title.

PS3553.H473N49 2007

813’.54—dc22

2007012948

ISBN-10: 1-4165-7551-0

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-7551-1

Visit us on the World Wide Web:

http://www.SimonSays.com

To Marlene and Leonard Chiaverini,
who know how to ring in the New Year in style

Acknowledgments

A bottle of fine champagne for Denise Roy, Maria Massie, Rebecca Davis, Annie Orr, Aileen Boyle, Honi Werner, Melanie Parks, David Rosenthal, and everyone at Simon & Schuster for supporting the Elm Creek Quilts series.

Party hats and noisemakers to Tara Shaughnessy, the world’s most wonderful nanny, who plays with my boys and allows me time to write.

A chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” to the friends and family who have encouraged me through the years, especially Geraldine Neidenbach, Heather Neidenbach, Nic Neidenbach, Virginia Riechman, and Leonard and Marlene Chiaverini.

A sky full of fireworks for my husband, Marty, and my sons, Nicholas and Michael, for making every New Year the happiest yet.

Chapter One

S
ylvia spun the radio dial through pop songs and talk shows until she came upon a station playing big band versions of holiday favorites. “We should break the news to her gently,” Sylvia said. “We should sit her down, give her a stiff drink, and tell her in calm, soothing voices what we’ve done.”

“You’re likely to find that drink thrown in your face,” Andrew retorted. “No, we should just tell her straight out, like tearing off a bandage. The sooner we tell her, the sooner she can start getting used to the idea.”

Andrew knew his daughter better than Sylvia, but she doubted the direct approach would work. “How about this?” she suggested. “We’ll say, ‘Amy, dear, we have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that we’ve gotten married. The good news is that since we got married on Christmas Eve, you won’t have to buy us a separate wedding present.’ ”

“I don’t like calling our marriage ‘bad news.’ ”

“I don’t either, but I’m sure that’s how Amy will look at it.”

“If she had any idea how happy I am that you finally consented to be my bride, I can’t believe she’d refuse to be happy for us.”

“Perhaps you should tell her how happy you are,” said Sylvia. “Perhaps it will be as simple as that.”

They considered that for a moment, and then in unison said, “I doubt it.” Andrew chuckled, and Sylvia caressed his cheek before returning her gaze to the passing scenery, to snow-covered hills alight with the thin sunshine of a late December morning. She could not remember the last time she had been so content. Her husband of nearly two days was by her side, the pleasures of a winter honeymoon awaited them, and dear friends—a second family—would welcome them home to Elm Creek Manor after the New Year.

If only Andrew’s daughter had not objected to the marriage, Sylvia’s happiness would be complete.

She muffled a sigh, reluctant to allow Amy’s perplexing disapproval to ruin her good spirits. If only she could rid her thoughts of Amy’s last visit to Elm Creek Manor, of her disappointed frown and the determined set to her shoulders when she reminded her father of Sylvia’s stroke two years earlier, of how deeply Andrew had grieved when Amy’s mother died of cancer. Sylvia and Andrew tried their best to put Amy’s concerns to rest, but she had made up her mind, and nothing they said could persuade her that their marriage would not inevitably end in sorrow. “We all would love for you to have many, many years together,” Amy had said, “but the end is going to be the same.”

Eventually Andrew had heard enough. “If being by your mother’s side throughout her illness taught me anything, it showed me that nothing matters but sharing your life with the people you love. Your mother had a great love of life. I’m ashamed that in her memory, you want me to curl up in a corner and wait to die.”

Amy went scarlet as her father stormed off. Sylvia tried to reassure Amy that she had fully recovered from her stroke, she was in excellent health for her age, and she had sufficient resources to ensure that she would not become a burden to anyone, but Amy could not be appeased. Having failed to persuade her father, Amy appealed to Sylvia instead, but although Sylvia offered a sympathetic smile to soften her words, she resented the younger woman’s ridiculous implications that she was on her deathbed and spoke more bluntly than she should have. “I’m sure you mean well,” she said, “but we’ve made our decision, and I’m afraid you’re just going to have to live with it.”

Amy’s startled expression told Sylvia that Amy had never expected her concerns to be dismissed so quickly. How could she have expected anything else? She should have known that Andrew had too much honor to withdraw a marriage proposal merely to please stubborn children, especially when it went against his own wishes and all common sense.

Sylvia sighed as the winter scenery rushed past her window, dreading their arrival in Hartford and the unpleasant scene that was sure to unfold when Andrew broke the news that they had married on Christmas Eve. She was grateful for the reprieve their two-day honeymoon in New York City would provide, but she knew they were only delaying the inevitable. In her more optimistic moments, Sylvia hoped that Amy would set aside her foolish objections when she realized the deed was done, her father was married, and nothing would change that. More often, however, she feared that learning about the wedding after the fact would only inflame Amy’s anger, and the recent months of estrangement between father and daughter would become a permanent condition.

The wedding had been lovely, for all that it had been pulled together in a matter of weeks. Sylvia and Andrew had hoped Amy would attend with her husband and three children, and naturally, they had invited Andrew’s son, his wife, and their two daughters as well. Months earlier, Bob and Kathy had expressed misgivings when Andrew announced the engagement, but after the shock wore off, they seemed to accept his unexpected decision to remarry. Even Amy’s husband had privately told the couple that he wished his own widowed father had been fortunate enough to find a second love as they had.

Sylvia and Andrew had invited everyone to Elm Creek Manor for Christmas without mentioning the wedding, a secret they had divulged only to the young couple that would act as witnesses and the judge who would officiate at the ceremony. They had intended to tell Andrew’s children about the upcoming nuptials once they arrived at Elm Creek Manor, a few hours before Sylvia and Andrew would exchange their vows—enough time for them to get used to the idea but not enough for them to arrange flights home before the ceremony. Perhaps, Sylvia reluctantly admitted to herself, their plan had been misguided, even underhanded, and far more likely to backfire than to win the children over. Not that it mattered. Amy had turned down the invitation with a weak excuse about wanting to spend a quiet Christmas at home, and Bob, unwilling to risk angering his sister by appearing to take sides, had stayed away, too.

They had missed a beautiful wedding. Sarah McClure, Sylvia’s quilting apprentice and business partner, and her husband, Matt, had staged a holiday wonderland. The candlelit ballroom of Elm Creek Manor glimmered with poinsettias, ribbon, and evergreen boughs. Andrew had built a fire in the large fireplace, then added the nostalgic decoration of the nativity scene Sylvia’s father had brought back from a visit to the Bergstroms’ ancestral home in Baden-Baden, Germany. The youngest Elm Creek Quilter, Summer Sullivan, had taken charge of the musical entertainment, setting Christmas carols wafting on air fragrant with the scents of pine and cinnamon and roasted apples. Just across the dance floor, the cook and two assistants—his daughter and her best friend, or so Sylvia had overheard—placed silver trays of hors d’oeuvres and cookies on a long table and prepared the buffet for hot dishes still simmering in the kitchen. Someone had opened the curtains covering the floor to ceiling windows on the south wall, and snowflakes fell gently against the windowpanes.

Sylvia could not have imagined a more festive place to spend a Christmas Eve.

Soon guests began to fill the ballroom—the Elm Creek Quilters and their families, other friends from the nearby town of Waterford, college students Sylvia had befriended while participating in various research projects, and Katherine Quigley, the mayor, who was one of the few people in on Sylvia and Andrew’s secret. Cocktails were served, followed by a delicious meal of roasted Cornish game hen with cranberry walnut dressing that reminded Sylvia all over again why some quilters claimed they came to Elm Creek Quilt Camp for the food alone. Summer put some big band tunes on the CD player and led her boyfriend to the dance floor. Other couples joined them, and soon the room was alive with laughter, music, and the warmth of friendship.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a happier Christmas Eve,” said Sylvia as she danced with Andrew. “I hate to see it end.”

“Is that so?” He regarded her, eyebrows raised. “Does that mean you’ve changed your mind?”

“Of course not,” she said, lowering her voice as the song ended. “In fact, I was just about to suggest we get started.”

He brought her hands to his lips. “I was hoping you’d say that.”

Sylvia signaled to Sarah, who found Mayor Quigley in the crowd and told her that the time had come. Andrew smiled as Sylvia fidgeted with her bouquet. “Nervous?”

“Not at all,” she said. “I just hope our friends will forgive us.”

“They’ll have to, once we remind them that you and I never said anything about waiting until June.”

“May I have everyone’s attention, please?” called Sarah over the noise of the crowd. Someone turned down the volume on the stereo. “On behalf of Sylvia and Andrew and everyone who considers Elm Creek Manor a home away from home, thank you for joining us on this very special Christmas Eve.”

Everyone applauded, except Andrew, who straightened his tie, and Sylvia, who took the arm of her groom.

“It is also my honor and great pleasure,” said Sarah, “to inform you that you are here not only to celebrate Christmas, but also the wedding of our two dear friends, Sylvia Compson and Andrew Cooper.”

Gasps of surprise and excitement quickly gave way to cheers. Sylvia felt her cheeks growing hot as their many friends turned to them, applauding and calling their names.

“You said June,” one of the Elm Creek Quilters protested.

“No,
you
said June,” retorted Sylvia.

“But I already bought my dress and picked out your gown!”

All present burst into laughter, and, joining in as loudly as anyone, Sarah held up her hands for quiet. “If you would all gather around, Andrew would like to escort his beautiful bride down the aisle.”

The crowd parted to make way for the couple, and Summer slipped away to the CD player. As the first strains of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” filled the air, Sylvia and Andrew walked among their guests to where the mayor waited.

To Sylvia, every moment of the simple ceremony rang as true as a crystal chime. They pledged to be true, faithful, respectful, and loving to each other until the end of their days. They listened, hand in hand, as the mayor reminded them of the significance and irrevocability of their promises. They exchanged rings, and when they kissed, the room erupted in cheers and applause. As Sarah and Matt came forward to sign the marriage license, Sylvia looked out upon the assembled friends wiping their eyes and smiling, and she knew that she and Andrew had wed surrounded by love, exactly as they knew they should.

If only Andrew’s children and grandchildren had come to share this moment. If only they could be as happy for Sylvia and Andrew as their friends were. Sylvia looked up at her new husband and saw in his eyes that he shared her wistful thoughts.

She reached up to touch his cheek. He put his hand over hers, and smiled.

I
T HAD TRULY BEEN
a marvelous wedding, exactly the celebration she and Andrew had wanted. Even the Elm Creek Quilters had enjoyed themselves too much to complain that they would have to abandon their own plans for a June wedding.

The only shadow cast upon their happiness was the absence of Andrew’s family.

Sylvia, who considered herself something of an expert on the subject of familial estrangement and its consequences, knew that Amy was the key. If they could win her over, the others would follow, relieved to see family harmony restored. Amy had clearly inherited her father’s stubbornness, but with any luck, she had also inherited his kind heart.

As Bing Crosby crooned “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Sylvia forced her worries aside and reached into the back seat for her tote bag. Mindful of Andrew’s travel mug in the cup holder between them, still half-full of coffee from the Bear’s Paw Inn, she took out her current work-in-progress, a patchwork quilt in blues, golds, and whites with touches of black scattered here and there wherever the whim had struck her. The quilt had a wintry feel to it, or so she had always thought, and it had suited her to work on it when the days were short and the nights long and cold. In recent months, she had decided to finish the quilt once and for all, and not only for the satisfaction of crossing another item off her Unfinished Fabric Object list. The one task that remained was to sew on the binding, the outermost strip of fabric that concealed the raw edges of the quilt top, batting, and lining. Usually Sylvia found such simple handwork tedious, the least creative and enjoyable task of the quilting art, but today she welcomed the distraction.

Andrew glanced over as she threaded her needle. “Is that our wedding quilt?”

“I’m sorry, dear, but it isn’t.” Deftly Sylvia drew her needle through the raw edge of the quilt, hid the knot within the batting, and began sewing the binding to the back of the quilt with small, barely visible ladder stitches. “It’s only a lap quilt, not big enough for our bed. You’ll have to wait a few months if you want a wedding quilt from me.”

“Maybe the Elm Creek Quilters will make us one.”

They were her dearest, closest friends, so perhaps they would. On the other hand…“After they’ve had a chance to recover from their surprise, they might.”

Andrew grinned. “And if they forgive us for denying them the wedding of their dreams?”

“Precisely.” In sharp contrast to Andrew’s children, the Elm Creek Quilters had been so delighted by the announcement of their engagement that they had been carried away with wedding-planning enthusiasm. Sylvia felt a twinge of guilt for spoiling their plans after her friends had gone to the trouble of choosing the wedding cake, finding the perfect wedding gown in a bridal magazine, and setting the date for the ceremony after a comparison of their schedules ruled out half the Saturdays in June, but it had to be done. Sylvia and Andrew couldn’t bear the thought of putting on an enormous production knowing that his children would refuse to attend. This way, they could make themselves believe that Amy and Bob and their families would have come for Christmas if they had known that a wedding would take place. This way, in the years to come, Andrew’s children would not be haunted by guilt for refusing to attend their father’s wedding.

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