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The Baby's Christmas Blessing

By Meghann Whistler

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Copyright @ 2022 by Meghann Whistler

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotes embodied in critical articles and reviews.


Chloe Richardson gazed down at the baby in her arms. She wanted this job. She REALLY wanted this job.

For one thing, the baby was adorable, with his downy hair, silken skin, sweet little lips and teeny-tiny eyelashes. He smelled good, too. Sweet and clean. Like fabric softener for the soul.

Plus, she needed the money. Her student teaching placement was starting in just a few weeks—in Boston, where the cost of living was sky-high—and the restaurant she and her brother, Brett, had inherited from their parents had just closed for renovations.

Which meant Chloe had no money coming in, and no way to save up for an apartment in Boston.

“He likes you,” Mabel pronounced, smiling, her voice quavery, her cane leaning against the side of her armchair.

Chloe looked up. The older woman had short hair that hadn’t gone completely gray, glasses that hung around her neck on a chain, and swollen, arthritic knuckles. She was wearing a pink cardigan set over a pair of black slacks, with a bejeweled cat brooch attached to her lapel.

Chloe herself—who was dressed much more casually in jeans and a red Christmas sweater with faux fur trim—would have worn that brooch. Although she didn’t wear it much anymore, she’d always liked costume jewelry.

Smoothing her finger over the baby’s soft cheek, she told Mabel, “I like him, too.”

“Does that mean you’ll take the job?” Mabel leaned forward in her seat, an expectant look on her face.

Chloe sighed. “You know I’m only here for another few weeks, right, Mabel? I’m leaving right after Christmas. You’ll hire me just to turn around and have to hire someone else.”

Although she definitely wanted the job, she didn’t want the baby to suffer because he got attached to her when she wasn’t going to be around long. Poor little guy was only two weeks old and he’d already lost his mother to a stroke during childbirth. Chloe had honestly never realized that strokes happened to young people. She’d always thought they only struck the elderly.

For the baby’s sake, she wished she’d been right about that.

“Yes, dear. Irene told me about those online classes you’ve been taking. I just don’t understand why you have to go to Boston to finish your teaching degree.”

After backing out of her student teaching placement at the last minute this past semester at the request of her then boyfriend, Dan, Chloe had felt fortunate to get any placement for January at all. She’d never aspired to city living, but she’d been struggling with depression since the breakup, and she was hopeful that a change of scenery would help. “It’s just— I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, and I’ve put it off for so long. I’m finally in a place where I can chase that dream. It’s now or never, Mabel. I have to go.”

“Fair enough, sweetheart. Fair enough.”

Mabel leaned forward to lift her glass of water from the coffee table. Her hand shook as she brought it to her mouth. When she tried to place it back down on the coaster, the glass tipped, spilling its contents on the floor. “Oh, no,” she said, her brow creasing.

Chloe stood smoothly so as not to jostle the baby. “Don’t worry. I’ll put Aiden in his bassinet and then clean it up for you.”

Mabel smiled gratefully as Chloe proceeded to mop up the spill. “Do you see why we need you, dear? Even if it’s just for a few weeks while we search for someone who can take the job on a permanent basis, we need help now.”

“And the baby’s father…?”

Mabel shook her head. “Not his father. His uncle.”

“Oh,” Chloe said. “Where’s his father?”

Mabel gave her a rueful glance. “We don’t know, sweetheart. Eloise never told any of us his name. I’m not sure she even knew who the father was.”

Chloe winged up a quick prayer. Not only had the kid lost his mother, but he was fatherless, too. God, help this baby. Protect this baby. Let him know love.

Mabel kept talking. “But Steven’s a good man. He’ll be a good father to Aiden.”

“And he and the baby will live with you here?” Chloe asked skeptically, glancing around the cozy interior of Mabel’s beachfront cottage. It was hard to imagine that a grown man would be comfortable staying here for any length of time.

For one thing, it was small. The four-foot-tall, silver-tinsel Christmas tree in the corner swallowed up about half the open space in the little living room. For another, it was…frilly. Mabel had lace curtains, hand-crocheted table toppers and a souvenir spoon collection mounted on the wall.

“Oh, no, no. He has his own place out on Frog Pond. He had a meeting with the bank today. He just dropped Aiden off for an hour so he could take care of that.”

“Frog Pond?” Chloe repeated, an icy feeling coming over her.

Once upon a time, she’d known a guy named Steve who’d spent the summer at a cottage on Frog Pond.

Once upon a time, she’d thought she was in love with a guy named Steve who’d spent the summer at a cottage on Frog Pond.

How young and naïve she’d been, letting him kiss her at that farewell bonfire under the stars. Her first kiss. Her most memorable kiss.

And then he’d never called.

“What’s the matter, dear?” Mabel asked. “You seem worried all of a sudden.”

“Won’t your…um, Steven want to interview the nanny candidates himself?”

Mabel chuckled. “That boy has no idea what to look for in a nanny. Besides, he’s completely overwhelmed right now, between caring for Aiden all night long and trying to get his new physical therapy practice up and running. Believe me, he doesn’t care who I hire. He just wants help.”

“All right,” Chloe said slowly. “If you’re okay with this being a temporary arrangement, you know I need the work now that the restaurant’s closed.”

Mabel put a shaky, dramatic hand to her heart, and Chloe wondered how desperate this Steven guy had to be to leave the baby with Mabel, whose arthritis was so bad she could barely walk let alone hold a baby. “Oh, I’m so relieved.”

Aiden started crying and Chloe retrieved him from his bassinet. “Don’t cry, little guy,” she said, rocking him, her voice going high, the way it always did when she spoke to young children. “What’s the matter? Are you hungry?”

“His formula’s in the kitchen,” Mabel said. “Everything you’ll need is in his diaper bag.”

Chloe nodded, holding Aiden in one arm and snatching up his bouncy chair with the other so she’d have a place to put him while she made his bottle. She wondered how much he weighed. He felt so tiny.

She set the bouncy chair down on the floor in Mabel’s little kitchen. Aiden cried harder when she clipped him into the seat. “I’m sorry, baby. It’s just for a second, okay?”

She quickly located the diaper bag and extracted a can of powdered formula, a clean bottle and a two-ounce vial of nursery water. “Hmm,” she said to herself over the crying, “you need more than two ounces, don’t you?” She rooted around in the diaper bag and found a second vial. “Let’s try four and see what happens.”

She poured the water into the bottle and added two scoops of formula. Then she screwed a cap on the bottle and proceeded to shake the mixture up.
Aiden was really crying now, his face red and tear-streaked. “Just one more second, sweetie,” she cooed as she put the fancy venting tube into the bottle and then affixed the nipple to the top. “Hold on one…more…second.”

Setting the bottle on the counter, she plucked Aiden from his chair and settled him in her arms, which was a challenge, since he was squirming while he screamed. Once she had a firm hold of him, she grabbed the bottle and tipped it into his mouth.

But she must not have fastened the top of the bottle properly, because the formula didn’t trickle gently into his mouth—it dumped out all over his face.
He screamed louder, absolutely irate.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Chloe gasped, desperately searching for the paper towels. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“Um, excuse me,” a deep voice male sounded from the entrance to the kitchen, “but what exactly are you doing to my baby?”

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