This month’s story is True Love’s Wish, by Meagan Myhren-Bennett. To download a printable .pdf file of the story, please click here.
True Love’s Wish
by Meagan Myhren-Bennett
The Night Before:
Ashley cast a longing glance at the Christmas tree. Her brother had hung his gift for her best
friend front and center on the tree. The jeweler’s box was a pretty good sign of just what Holly
would get for this year. Letting out a soft sigh, she flipped the switch, plunging the room into
“Someday, maybe that will be my wish coming true.”
Padding across the room in her slippered feet, she slid the door to the porch open. Stepping out into the winter cold, she lifted her eyes to the sky. The black velvet was covered with the most sparkling of gems, the brightest being the Christmas star. The star upon which countless
wishes were cast.
“Upon this star, I make my wish.” Closing her eyes, Ashley whispered, “True love is my
desire.” As she wrapped her arms around her chest, she murmured, “I hope you’re right about
the Christmas star, Grandma. I hope you’re right.”
Christmas morning found my family and me gathered around the tree.
“Hey, sis, this envelope has your name on it.” Carter pulled a red, sparkling envelope from the tree. Accepting it, I noted the decorative script that covered the front.
“Are you going to open it, Ash?”
“I’m almost scared to,” I admitted. “It looks too pretty to open. It feels important.” I looked at Carter as my parents leaned in to look at it.
“You’ll never know until you open it, Honey,” Dad said.
“Go ahead, Ashley, we’re all wondering who left it for you,” Mom said, squeezing my knee.
Sliding my finger under the flap, I opened the envelope. With a deep breath and a quick glance around the room, I withdrew a piece of paper that was folded, with a wax seal holding the edges together. I read the words written on the paper aloud.
“A Christmas wish fulfilled will be, if the rules within you follow and obey. Unless the seal is broken beneath the Christmas moon, the magic of this gift, dormant shall remain.”
“That’s cryptic,” Carter said. “Is that it?”
I shook out the envelope, then looked up. “That’s it. Nothing saying who it’s from. I guess I’ll save this for tonight when the moon is out.”
“Did you recognize the writing?” Daddy asked.
“No, it is elegant, and it looks like it could have been written a long time ago.”
“A mystery,” Mom’s eyes sparkled.
“I’m sticking with cryptic,” Carter said as he got to his feet. “Well, I’m off to Holly’s for breakfast with her family. We’ll be back in time for dinner.”
“Exchanging gifts here or there?” I called after him, but all I got was an over-the-shoulder wave bye.
Looking at the envelope, I asked at no one in particular, “I wonder how I missed this last night?”
“Last night?” Daddy asked.
“Well, yeah, no one saw it last night when we opened gifts. I turned everything off last night and was the first up this morning. I didn’t see it when I turned the tree lights on.”
“Santa?” was Mom’s dubious reply.
With a laugh, I headed to my room.
Night found me sitting in my darkened bedroom, waiting for the moon to shine through my window. Was I grasping at bubbles? Would this gift be a bubble that would break as soon as I opened it? Or would the promised magic be real? As I sat in the dark, I hoped that the magic was real, and I wasn’t just very gullible.
My room lit up as the moon began its trek across the sky. At 11:45 pm I moved closer to the window. The envelope reflected the moonlight, glowing red. I pulled out the folded paper. The seal began glowing in the moonlight and, with a whoosh, it popped open.
“Yup, definitely some Christmas magic. Carter would come up with some scientific gobbledygook to explain it away.”
A shiver coursed through my body as I lifted the folded edge. I took a breath and laid it fl at. A small, rose gold heart lay nestled within. I lifted it by the delicate thread that it hung from. Holding it up to my window, I could see it was a woven design. It twirled, winking at me as it caught the moonlight. The play of light and dark was almost mesmerizing, making me momentarily forget the letter before me.
But soon the letter demanded my attention as the words began a throbbing glow in time with the rhythm of my heart. I lay down the golden heart and lifted the letter to better catch the moonlight.
To the Bearer is granted a single wish—True Love and perhaps a Kiss.
This heart upon which lies the power to grant your wish must be guarded and tended until the appointed hour.
In your window, where you lay your head, hang this to remember. The night before True Love’s greatest date, clasp this heart while in the moon’s glow as you cast this simple request—Grant to me upon the morrow the wish to find the desire of my heart’s quest—a love pure and true, bound forever with this wish.
P.S. Every night before you sleep, polish this heart with a gentle touch. Keeping your heart’s true wish ever near. Upon the appointed night, your dreams will be sweet and lead your steps sure and true to your first clue.
As I read the words, I pondered their meaning. Was I to be granted the gift of true love with a wish? And was my appointed hour on Valentine’s Day? To my mind, True Love’s greatest date could be no other. I lifted the heart, slipping its delicate thread over the latch on my window. Taking a soft cloth, I followed the letter’s instructions. The heart gleamed, my fingerprints wiped from its surface.
Lying down, I watched the heart. I felt a smile spread across my face. My last thought as sleep took me, was: who is my true love?
The next seven weeks seemed to drag and yet fly by as I tended my heart. My dreams were sweet but filled with questions. I dreamt of my true love, but I never saw his face; he was always in shadow, so even the color of his hair was an unknown. My dreams would offer no clues. As the days went by, I wondered if I was daily passing my true love. Would he recognize me as his? As Valentine’s Day drew nearer, my questions grew more insistent.
With two more days to wait, I told Holly everything, but only after swearing her to secrecy concerning Carter. I did not want my brother to know everything. I’d only shared the heart with my family, not the letter. But I needed to talk, and Holly was the only one I trusted to understand my feelings.
“Ash, that letter is just so perfect.” As she flopped onto my bed, Holly exclaimed, “I can’t believe you waited so long to share it.”
“You know, I wanted to show you, but Carter has been very possessive of his time with you.”
“Tell me about it,” she laughed. “He’s still in shock that I said yes and worried that I might change my mind.”
“I was so glad the guys got him to play snow golf this afternoon. I may have hinted to Brandon that Carter needed a break from wedding planning.”
“Smart call, Ash. So, any idea about who your true love is?” Her eyebrows lifted in question.
“None,” I sighed. “There are no clues. And no one makes me think, ‘maybe.’”
“It is,” I admitted as I reached out to the heart. “But I have this as a reminder.”
“It’s beautiful,” Holly admitted. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.”
“I know. It’s like it’s made of two sheets of gold. And if you look at it closely, it’s like someone has etched designs into it. And,” I lowered my voice to a whisper, “none of these etchings were there on Christmas night when I opened it.”
“What?” Holly’s shocked expression lifted to mine.
“It’s true. Every night as I polish away the dust, a square shape starts to glow, and an etching appears. If you look, there are still a couple open. I think this will spell out True Love’s Wish when the last letter appears.”
“So exciting,” she sighed. “Any idea what you are supposed to do on Valentine’s Day?”
“Not a clue. Maybe I’ll know more tomorrow night.”
“Speaking of tomorrow night, are you going to give yourself the full treatment?”
“I hadn’t planned to,” I admitted.
“Ash, you need to look your best for Valentine’s! You only get one chance to make a first impression.” She looked me over. “We are going shopping,” she declared.
“I’ve seen your closet. You truly have nothing to wear.” At my look of disbelief, she added, “Not for meeting your true love!”
“Fine, but nothing too extreme.” I knew Holly, and she would keep at me until I agreed.
Three hours later, I was the proud owner of a vintage-looking dress. The bodice was red, beaded with a sweetheart neckline. The skirt was black, fitted before flaring out at the knees. The pumps Holly talked me into were a red velvet with a short-wedged heel.
“So, I’ll be over tomorrow night around 7:30,” Holly informed me.
“What’s tomorrow night?”
“I’m giving you a wet set and we’ll figure out your makeup.”
“I don’t do makeup. You know that, Holly.”
“You will when you meet your True Love,” she smiled at me. “I promise it will be subtle.”
“Fine.” I flopped dramatically onto my bed, imitating Holly’s earlier actions, as I answered her smile with a fake pout. “Torture me if you must.”
Leaning close, she whispered, “You’re welcome.”
“I’m so glad you’re my best friend and my soon-to-be sister, Holly. Seriously, I couldn’t have done this on my own,” I gestured to my new dress.
“That’s what sisters are for! I’m heading out now.” Holly gave me a quick hug.
“Not if Carter sees you.”
“Night, Ash.” My door closed behind her.
Stepping towards the window, I gently touched the heart. “Two more nights,” I murmured.
“Who is he? Do you know?” I set the heart into a gentle spin as it caught and reflected the light from my lamp. Tomorrow night I make my wish, I thought, as I readied for bed.
Morning came too soon. My dreams had yielded no answers. If the dream had lasted just a couple minutes more, I might have gotten a glimpse of something. His smile. His eyes. Something.
How would I know him? I could honestly say I had no preconceived expectations or ideas of what he’d look like.
True to her word, Holly was waiting for me when I got home from work.
“As much as I like freshly baked cookies and cakes, you need to shower, Ash. And just leave your hair in a towel. Don’t touch it after you wash it.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I smiled as I saluted.
“That’s Captain to you,” she shot back.
Thirty minutes later, I was getting Holly’s magic touch. She was brushing out my hair while lightly drying it. “The trick with a wet set is your hair is not dripping. It needs to be dry enough that it will be dry when you take it down tomorrow. If it’s at all damp, you won’t have curls or even waves that will last. So,” she paused, putting the hair dryer and brush down.
“I got you this.” Something bright fl ashed before me. “I realize a turban isn’t your thing, but you can keep your hair set while you work tomorrow and keep your hair smelling nice.”
“Are you saying you don’t like ‘Eau de Bakery’?”
“Only in the bakery.”
“Just imagine if I actually fried the donuts.” I shuddered at the thought.
“You’d be so greasy smelling! Ugh.”
“Right! I feel for Josh when I go in to start icing. The fried oil smell is so strong.”
“Exactly. Wear the turban tomorrow. And if you get asked about it, just smile and reply, ‘Don’t you like it?’” Holly gave me one of her looks.
Soon my hair was up in fat foam rollers and Holly was working over my face. “I hope you aren’t expecting me to recreate whatever you’re doing to me.”
“Nope, I’m experimenting tonight. Tomorrow, when you’re done with work, it will be the real deal.”
“So, what are you going for?”
“I’m seeing what works best with your coloring.”
After more than an hour, Holly had decided on my look. Of course, she didn’t let me see it.
I waited for the moon to rise high enough to cast its glow across my bed. While I waited, I watched the heart spin. When the moonlight touched the heart, I took it from the window. After I unfolded my letter, I grasped the heart with both hands, pulled it close and made my wish.
“Grant to me upon the morrow the wish to find the desire of my heart’s quest—a love pure and true, bound forever with this wish.” Lifting the heart, I placed a kiss upon it to seal my wish.
That night I held my heart as I slept, wishing my dreams would give me what I needed for tomorrow. My dreams were sweet–not of true love, but of cake.
As I pulled on the turban, I hoped all of Holly’s work would be worth it because I never wanted to sleep in a wet set ever again!
“How did people do this every night? The Dark Ages weren’t that long ago,” I muttered.
Somehow, I managed to make it through the day without ripping the turban or the curlers from my head. And the looks I got when customers picked up their orders! Well, priceless was the only thing I could think of as they stared at my head. But Josh was the ultimate.
“New look?” His raised brows said it all.
“This,” I pointed to my head, “is all Holly’s doing. That explains it.”
“That explains it,” he chuckled. His laugh crinkled his eyes, lighting up his entire face.
“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you laugh before.”
“Really?” a surprised expression crossed his face. “Must be because our work crossover is so short. You’re early today.” He glanced at the clock.
“Well, we have ‘extra’ special orders today. Nobody understands, ‘Get your orders in early’.”
“Tell me about it. I’ve got at least another two hours of baking to go.”
“What do you have done?” I moved closer to see what he had cooling.
“All the chocolate cakes and cupcakes. The heart sugar cookies are on the racks. The donuts are all done.”
“Great.” I smiled up at him. “I’ll leave the cakes. Some are mixed flavors, so I’ll need them before I can get started.”
“So, cupcakes or cakes?”
Pursing my lips, I thought, “Maybe the cakes. They’ll take longer to decorate. So while you bake, I’ll get started with what you have for me.”
“Hey Josh, mind if I ask you a question?”
“Go for it.”
“Why baking? Is it a family thing?”
“Actually, this was my grandmother’s bakery. But when she died, the family sold it. Some of my best memories of her took place here. So, I got the schooling and worked to save up for this place. When I heard the Goff s were considering retirement, I made them an off er and they accepted it.”
“Do you enjoy it?”
“The baking part of it, definitely. The financial part, not so much, but that’s what accountants are for.” He fl ashed that elusive smile at me.
“So, what about you? Why cake decorating?” His eyes studied me.
I felt my face grow hot and I looked down at the trays of cupcakes I was filling. “I like art, and this is my creative outlet.”
“Do you have a favorite cake you’ve done?”
“Yes. I did a Starry, Starry Night variation with a Christmas touch.”
“Really?” he started the mixer. “How did you change it up?”
“Well, naturally, the Starry Night sky, but I added a couple of snow-covered trees with some Cardinals and mistletoe sprigs on the trees.” Closing my eyes, I felt as if the cake I just described was in front of me.
“I loved that cake. I hated selling it.”
“Do you have pictures?”
“I do on my laptop at home.”
“Could you share them?”
“I could email you. I just need your address.”
“I’ll get that to you before I leave. I don’t remember a cake like that here, so I’m guessing you did it somewhere else?”
“Yeah, when I was in school, I paid part of my way by helping at the local bakery, Lori’s Cakery. I couldn’t claim credit for it because everything was a unique Lori Fowler design.”
“You’re kidding? She took credit for your work?”
“Yes. I learned early if I wanted to work there, I was only the front counter help. Technically, it was a unique Lori Fowler design because I created it in her bakery.
“What a bunch of baloney juice!”
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never used baloney juice in any of my work.”
Josh barked out a laugh so loud I jumped. “Sorry. Can’t say it’s an ingredient I’ve ever used either.”
“Good, I’d never look at your cupcakes the same way ever again,” I sighed dramatically.
“So,” he hesitated, “do you have plans for tonight?”
“That’s an interesting question. And I can only answer with, maybe?”
“Sounds like me.”
“To work and maybes.” I lifted a cupcake in Josh’s direction before adding it to the tray.
For the next hour, Josh and I worked in companionable silence. With the cupcakes done, I started on the cakes while Josh finished the last of the donuts.
“Any special cakes planned?”
“Well, I have a design I want to try out on a cake for the front display case. But I’m still trying to plan out how to do it.”
“What are you thinking?”
“A woven heart. I’m trying to decide if I should sketch it in the icing. Or maybe I should pipe it all onto the cake.”
“Well, if we have enough cakes and you have the time, you could do both. I personally would be interested in seeing them side-by-side.”
“I could do that.”
“Why a woven heart?”
“Oh, um, well, I have one hanging in my window at home. It is so gorgeous, delicate, and intricate. I just feel drawn to it.”
“If you don’t finish before I leave, don’t sell them.”
“I want to see them, Ashley. Your decorating skills are at least half our success!” Josh stepped closer; his eyes intense. “I really want to see them.”
“Alright,” I squeaked.
“Well, then.” Josh abruptly turned back to the donuts he was working on. “What color sprinkles should go on the cherry cake donuts? Pink and white, or pink and purple?”
“I’m partial to the pink and purple myself, so you should use the pink and white ones.” At his confused look, I explained. “The purple looks better on the chocolate icing.”
He nodded before taking the pink and white tub.
The front counter staff began to file in as I finished the cakes. Soon, the refrigerator was filled with treats that would sweeten someone’s day.
“So, are you going to do your special design now?”
“Not yet. I’m going to put together a couple of cakes for the front display case. For the people who forgot to make an order yesterday.”
Josh nodded as he pulled up a stool to watch me work. “I don’t remember ever seeing you decorate before.”
“Well, today’s a big day for you, then.” I flashed him a smile. “I’m going for quick with these two. It will look elaborate and time consuming, but it’s not.”
“Really?” He actually sounded interested.
“First, I put a small pat of icing in the center of the tray. This holds the cake in place. Then I spread a thin layer over the top. This one will be raspberry lemonade, so I add some of the jelly to the layer of icing, ice the bottom of the top layer and stack them.” I paused as I stacked layers. “Then I ice the sides a little thicker than the top. Now is the fun part, the actual decorating.”
As Josh watched, I created a ring of pale pink roses around the edge. “You make it look so easy.” The awe in his voice was obvious.
“This was one of the first techniques I learned, so it’s one of the fastest I can do. Now,” I whispered conspiratorially, “I put my creative passion to work.” I cleared the workspace before me and pulled several cakes over.
Two hours later, I had two cakes that were wholly unique. Both reminded me of my woven heart.
Pushing back, I stepped down from the stool I had been perched on.
“Well?” I looked over at Josh, who was still there.
Stepping over, Josh took my place at the table. He examined the cakes forever before turning to me. “I don’t know, Ashley. They both looked perfect. I honestly can’t pick one over the other.”
We stood side-by-side looking at the cakes. “I can’t pick one either,” I murmured. “Maybe we should post them on Facebook and Instagram and ask our customers to pick their favorite.”
“Maybe. Or we could put these aside and you could bring your heart in and we could compare them.”
“That sounds like a better idea. So when should I bring in my heart?”
“How about tonight after we close, since we both only have ‘maybes’ for tonight. Let’s say a little after six?”
I glanced over at Josh, who was looking intently at my cakes. “Six is doable.”
“Let’s get these cakes in the extra fridge.”
As I prepared to leave the house, I had to admit Holly did a great job on my hair and makeup. Though I still hated wet sets, they got the job done.
I had found a delicate chain on which to wear my heart. My upcoming meeting with Josh had made me more nervous than I expected. I attributed it to my ‘maybe’ meeting after.
When I got to the bakery, the front was dark, but the side entrance offered a gentle glow. I couldn’t tell if Josh was there already, so I pulled up my key to enter. As the door swung open, I saw Josh with his back to me. He was examining the cakes that he’d removed from the refrigerator.
“So,” I asked, “have you come to a conclusion yet?”
He turned my way as I stepped into the light. “Ashley,” he said, slowly, his voice low. “Did your maybe become a yes?”
“No, still a maybe.” Curiously, I asked, “Why do you think it changed?”
“You look beautiful, like you’re on your way to a party or a special date.”
“You really think so?” My mind caught on the fact that he thought I looked beautiful.
“Exquisitely.” He cleared his throat. “So you still don’t have plans for after?” he gestured to the cakes.
“Would you like to do something with me then?”
“What do you have in mind, Josh?” Josh had never crossed my mind as a possibility for being my True Love, but then before today I had never really spent time with him.
“Maybe dinner? I have a reservation at Casa’s for one. I think I could bring someone with me.”
“Sounds tempting, I haven’t had dinner and have no plans as of yet. So,” my voice dropped as I stepped closer to our worktable. “Do you still want to see my heart?”
“I already have. Today watching you work showed it to me. These cakes are your heart. It’s in the attention you give to details, so our customers are more than pleased.”
“Thank you, Josh. But I meant this one.” I touched the heart that hung around my neck.
Josh’s eyes focused on my heart. “You’re right. Both cakes represent this heart perfectly. Neither is better than the other.”
After Josh returned the cakes to the cooler, he offered me his hand. “Shall we go to dinner?”
I accepted both his hand and his invitation.
I had never seen Casa look so lovely. Delicate filigree hearts were featured throughout the restaurant. If I hadn’t been sure about Josh before, I definitely was now. Tonight, my dreams and wishes had come true in a way I had never expected.
Cupid crossed his arms over his chest, satisfaction obvious on his face, as he watched the couple from the corner.
“Aren’t they going to kiss?”
Suppressing a growl of frustration, he turned to Father Christmas, who was at his side. “Can’t you just enjoy the moment?” he exclaimed. “Seriously, they found their true love thanks to me and my gifted wish.” He threw his arms up, making his arrows ping off one another.
Choking back a full-on, belly rolling laugh to a small chuckle, Father Christmas clasped Cupid’s shoulder. “You of all people should enjoy ending a heart quest with a kiss, my friend.”
Reaching into one of his deep pockets, Father Christmas pulled out some mistletoe, which he held over Ashley and Josh’s heads. With a gentle shake, he caused a couple of berries to fall, hitting them both, so they looked up.
Smiling, Josh gazed into Ashley’s eyes. “I think someone is trying to tell us something.” With a quick glance up, he smiled. “Mistletoe.” Pulling her closer, he kissed her.
Father Christmas let out his jolliest laugh as he slapped a hand to Cupid’s back. “Now that’s a happy ending, my friend!”
And Cupid couldn’t agree more.
© 2023 Meagan Myhren-Bennett. All rights reserved.
So I knew with February being my assigned month, I wanted to do something that focused on Valentine’s Day. But it was the Christmas season, and I thought a Christmas gift should be involved in the whole process. So I used one of my favorite holiday memories when it came to the gift in the tree; of course, my gift wasn’t a piece of jewelry in a jeweler’s box but rather a doll. But this allowed Ashley to make her own desires known, even if it was only to herself – she wanted what her brother and best friend had found – true love.
I’ll be honest when I started the story; I had no idea that a bakery would feature so prominently. In fact, until Holly and Ashley started talking about Ashley’s job, I had no idea she even worked in one. But I drew on my own experiences working part-time in our town’s local bakery. Yes, the baking takes place while the bakery is closed because it is too small to bake and do everything else involved at the same time. And yes, I did smell like a big walking donut, even though I wasn’t involved in the “baking” part of the bakery. I never did any of the intricate decorating, but I did help out with the cupcakes and cookies.
As for the heart that Ashley got, I actually love making woven paper hearts, but I thought something a little more elegant and intricate needed to be involved in the magic of a true love wish. And what could be more symbolic of what she was seeking than a heart made of gold?
I really enjoyed writing this story and hope that you, dear reader, will enjoy it too.
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Meagan’s love of words began at an early age – starting with bedtime stories read nightly. Her first foray into the printed word was a collection of poems and stories, which was limited to a rare, one-copy printing when she was 8 years old. Unfortunately, this copy was lost in a cross-country move denying the world a glimpse into the peculiar early workings of her mind.
This Northern California native now calls Wisconsin home after brief excursions in Florida and Illinois.
When not creating word magic, Meagan spends her working hours among the stacks of her local library, where she has been happily employed for years. Her home time is spent with anywhere from three to seven of her family’s fifteen Dachshunds trying to distract her with snuggles and toy time.
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