Amy is a wife and mom to two wonderfully creative kids.  She had always wanted to write stories and books from the time she was a young girl.  She recently started writing again when she saw how much her children loved to create stories of their own.  She has lived in Texas for almost 30 years, but she is originally from Nebraska.  Amy and her family are currently getting ready to launch www.braceletsandballcaps.com , a family/lifestyle/travel blog they are working on together.

 

Bluebonnets, Bluebirds, and Blue Jeans by Amy Castillo

Scarlett Brennan knew two things.  She knew upcycling—how to take something old and make it beautiful again.  She also knew she did not know relationships—how to find a good one and make it work.  She had taken over her grandmother’s shop, The Little Bluebird, three years ago now.  She got by, but was by no means adding to her nest egg.  Not yet anyway.

Her sons, Ryder and Paxton, ran in the back door of the shop.  Just out of school, there was no doubt they would be hungry.  Their father breezed into town once a month to show them a fun time but in no way showed them what a father figure should look like.  An overgrown child himself, Matt and Scarlett split up four years ago.  The shop could not have entered her life at a better time.  Down, discouraged, and waiting tables to make ends meet was no way to bring up two boys with big dreams.

“Mama,” six year old Paxton interrupted Scarlett’s thoughts.  “Me and Ryder are hungry.”  Scarlett looked over at her boys as they entered the front of the shop.  She couldn’t help but smile.  They were the best part of her life.  The only things she had ever really done that didn’t seem like some kind of a mistake.

“Well, hello to you too.”  Scarlett said to both boys as she leaned down to kiss them on the foreheads.  “There is a bowl of fruit in the back.”

“We would much rather have the apple pie that is back there right next to the bowl of fruit” said eight year old Ryder with a lopsided grin, blonde hair hanging over one eye.

“Nice try.” Scarlett replied as she made a mental note to take the boys for a haircut sometime this week.  “I have a special customer coming in this afternoon and Gram made the pie for our meeting.  You can have a piece of fruit.  It won’t ruin your dinner.  If you’re lucky, there just might be some leftover pie for after dinner tonight.” 

Scarlett still could not believe her luck.  Last week she had gotten a phone call at the shop from Dawson McClintock, the new owner of the old Mason house down on Center Street.  He was planning on renovating the place and turning it into a bed and breakfast and wanted to meet with Scarlett to see if she would be interested in helping him with the design side of things.  Scarlett was pretty sure she was in over her head and had no idea where this guy had found out about her or got the crazy notion that she could be of any help to him.  She knew her business was very slowly picking up, but she made one-of-a-kind pieces, when time allowed between caring for the boys and running them to practices, games, and swim meets now that the soccer and swimming seasons had started up again.  The local paper had done an article about her, but surely that little article in a newspaper printed once a week wouldn’t have drawn the attention of someone like Dawson McClintock.

The meeting started in a little over an hour and somehow Scarlett figured her ripped, paint splattered jeans and t-shirt and messy ponytail would not be appropriate.  She had been working on restoring an old hutch she had found at an estate sale all day long.  She called Maggie, her mother, and asked if she wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on the shop while she ran home to freshen up.  Just as the boys finished up their after school snack, Maggie walked in, always eager to help.

“So did Mr. McClintock sound young when you spoke with him on the phone?” asked Maggie with a twinkle in her eye.  She was always ready to find someone to take care of Scarlett, although Scarlett tried like heck to convince her mother that she could take care of herself.

“Let’s not even go there today, Mom.  I don’t have time for it today of all days.” Scarlett gave her mom a quick hug before she dashed out the door and shouted over her shoulder, “I should be back in twenty minutes, thirty tops.”  As she passed the boys out back she reminded them that Gram was in charge and that they needed to stay near the shop.

Scarlett and the boys lived about two blocks from the shop and the walk was quick on a beautiful day like today.  Scarlett rushed in the house as she began to take down her ponytail and shake out her hair.  She dashed over to the vanity to run a brush through her hair and add a rose colored lace headband.  She added some fresh lip gloss, changed into a flowered sundress, grabbed her laptop bag, and was back out the door in twenty minutes.

As she walked back to the shop, she couldn’t help but think about her mom’s question—did Mr. McClintock sound young?  He definitely didn’t sound like an old man and actually had a really nice voice and southern accent.  Scarlett quickly dismissed the thought.  He would never be interested in someone like her and she didn’t need the added complication of someone new in her life right now anyway.  Her boys and the shop were her priority right now.  She was going to make a success of this shop.  She needed to be a good role model for her boys, since their father certainly wasn’t going to be one.  Scarlett also loved taking old things and turning it into something beautiful.  She had spent all of her spare time since she was ten years old doing it and having it develop into a career was a dream she would love to have come true.

As she walked back to the shop, she couldn’t help but let her mind drift back to Matt.  She always has this small voice in the back of her mind that she couldn’t do something and Matt was the one that had planted that voice there.  In the beginning of their relationship in high school, Matt was so sweet and caring, but as the years went by and Scarlett became more independent, Matt started trying to convince her that she couldn’t do things.  When Scarlett looked at is rationally she realized that Matt was just scared that Scarlett would become too independent and wouldn’t need him anymore, but it was ultimately his insecurity that drove her away.  Scarlett left Matt when Scarlett’s grandmother realized that she was too old to run the shop by herself.  In order for Scarlett to help her grandmother with the shop, they would have to move to New Hope, two hours away from where they lived.  Matt refused to go, even though the move would probably be a positive one for them financially.

“I can do this,” thought Scarlett.  She had to get through this meeting this afternoon with Dawson McClintock because it could mean big things for her family and her business.  As Scarlett reached the back door of the shop, she had almost convinced herself she was ready for this meeting, her first official business meeting, and possibly the most important meeting she had ever had.

“Scarlett,” said her mother as she walked back into the shop.  “You look beautiful.  Mr. McClintock just called and said that he would be about thirty minutes late because of a problem with his movers.  He apologized a zillion times or so.  He sounds completely adorable….. and he’s single.”

Panic stricken, Scarlett said, “Mother, you didn’t ask him if he was single, did you?”  Although Scarlett knew she didn’t need to ask that question.  Of course Maggie Brennan had asked the mortifying question.  Fortunately for Scarlett, it was only mortifying for her, as her mom always seemed to ask those questions in a way that everyone else on the planet seemed to see as endearing.  Maggie Brennan just had a way about her that everyone loved.

“Dear, I simply asked how his wife was handling the move, and Mr. McClintock told me that he wasn’t married.”  Maggie smiled.  “I, of course, did not pry any further, but was about to do an online search to see if I could dig up anything.  You never know how many skeletons, or ex-wives, someone may have in their closet!”

“Mom, you most certainly are not going to do an online search on this poor man.  Let’s at least see what this man could potentially do for the business before we go snooping.”  Scarlett was tidying up the small meeting area as she spoke.  Scarlett could not help but be proud of the meeting area she had recently set up to consult with customers.  The walls were a pale gray with bright and eclectic art pieces on the wall.  The navy velvet couch had bright throw pillows and sat next to Scarlett’s large workspace made of reclaimed lumber from the old barn on her grandmother’s property.  “I am going to start some coffee.  Would you mind taking the boys home and getting them started on their homework?  Paxton has writing homework tonight and is supposed to write at least three sentences about his favorite thing to do.  Ryder has reading and math.”

“Oh Scarlett, can’t I stick around to meet Mr. McClintock?”  Maggie grinned.  “Or at least sneak a peek from the back room?”  Somehow Maggie knew the answer to this question, but she couldn’t resist.  It was completely worth it to see the look on Scarlett’s face.  “Kidding.  Just kidding.  Of course, I would love to take Paxton and Ryder home and spend some time with them.  Take your time, honey.  I can get them dinner, a bath, and ready for bed if the meeting runs long.”  Maggie walked over and gave Scarlett a quick hug and then went out back to round up the boys.

A few minutes after her mom and the boys left, she saw a navy jeep pull up in front of the shop.  Scarlett took a step back behind the curtain in the front window so she could watch without being seen.  Tall, dark, and handsome did not even begin to describe the man that stepped out of the jeep.  Dressed in a pair of jeans and a dark blue long sleeved button down, he was probably the most handsome man Scarlett had ever seen.  If this was Dawson McClintock, she may be in trouble.  How would she ever be able to remain professional if she couldn’t manage to pick her jaw up off the floor?  As Scarlett watched, the man pulled out a cell phone from his pocket and stopped just outside the door to answer a call.  This gave Scarlett a few minutes to gather her thoughts and get over to her small meeting area just in time to appear busy as he walked in the door.

“Hi, I’m looking for Scarlett Brennan,” he said.  Scarlett’s nervous fears were confirmed.  This had to be Dawson McClintock.

“Hi, I’m Scarlett.  You must be Mr. McClintock.”  Scarlett said as she extended her hand.  He took her hand and gave her a firm shake, not one of those flimsy shakes she sometimes got from guys, who, for some reason, thought women couldn’t handle or didn’t like a firm handshake.  

“Call me Dawson, please.  It’s nice to meet you Scarlett.”  He smiled before continuing.  “I am really excited to talk to you about my plans for the new bed and breakfast.  I read the article about you and your work in the local paper awhile back and I think you would be perfect as a design consultant.”

“I would love to hear a little bit more about what you have in mind.” Scarlett began.  “May I ask how you got your hands on the New Hope Gazette?  I am pretty sure you aren’t from around here.”

“Not anymore, but I used to be.”  Dawson began.  “I grew up here and my uncle, Todd Maxwell, runs the paper and keeps me informed on all the events in New Hope by having the Gazette delivered to me in Austin.  When I saw your article, I looked you up online and saw some of your other work on your website.  I think your unique refinishing of old furniture pieces is just what I envision for the bed and breakfast.  Do you have a portfolio I could look over?”

Scarlett's face reddened slightly at the question.  Her mother had been telling her nonstop for the past few months that a portfolio was a must, but she just hadn’t gotten around to putting one together yet.  She didn’t want this to be the end of this wonderful opportunity.  “Well, Mr. McClintock, I mean Dawson, I haven’t exactly gotten one together yet.  I could show you some pictures of my home, since I have completely redone it on my own and could also show you some of the pieces I am working on now.”  Scarlett reached into one of her desk drawers and pulled out an envelope of pictures.  “Could I get you some coffee?”  Scarlett offered.  She was trying her best not to start rambling on and on about her recent projects for fear of boring Dawson.  “I also have homemade apple pie.”

“That actually sounds wonderful if it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”  Dawson replied with a grin.  “I want to get started on remodeling and furnishing the Mason house right away.  I haven’t thought of a name yet and figured your designs may inspire me to come up with a great name.  The pieces on your website definitely peaked my interest and were exactly the type of things I had in mind.  We have six rooms with private baths that we would like to get done in the next six months when I plan on opening for guests.  I also need to have the main rooms like the seating area and dining area ready to go as well.  There is a room on the lower level that I think would be perfect to set up as an office complete with a computer or two that guests can utilize when needed.  I think with your input, we could make this place a real tourist attraction for New Hope. “

“That’s sounds great.”  Scarlett began.  “With New Hope being so close to all of the antiquing in the nearby towns, the location of your new bed and breakfast couldn’t be better.  It sounds like you are looking for shabby chic with a bit of a twist?”

“If that’s what you call it.  I definitely do not have the knowledge that you do for these things.  I feel that I can offer you a competitive salary while we are working together.  What do you think?”  Dawson asked Scarlett.

Scarlett could hardly believe her ears.  A competitive salary?  Was he serious right now?  Any salary at all would be competitive.  Scarlett barely broke even after paying for the expenses of maintaining the building, keeping it lit, air conditioned in the summer, and heated in the winter.  That was on top of scouring garage sales, estate sales, and craigslist for unique finds that just needed some love and attention.  “It definitely sounds like we could probably work something out.”  said Scarlett, trying desperately to stay calm and act cool.  “Maybe I should start by having a look at the place to see what needs to be done?”

“That sounds great.”  Dawson started.  “Could we meet day after tomorrow at about 2:00?  The electricity was supposed to be turned on today, but apparently the electric company gave the technician the wrong address and he didn’t make it out today before 5:00.  They should have it on sometime tomorrow, although they couldn’t guarantee a time.  Would you be able to get away from the shop at that time?”

“I am sure I can.  I will have to ask my mom if she can cover the shop.  I haven’t hired any help yet.  Can I give you a definite answer in the morning?”

“Not a problem.  I will be in the area tomorrow morning.  I am meeting with Uncle Todd tomorrow mid-morning to discuss advertising in the gazette.  I’ll stop by the shop about 9:00 to get your answer, and this time the coffee is on me.”  Dawson said.  “Thanks so much for meeting with me and for being patient about my tardiness.  I assure you, this is not how things normally are working with me.”

“Not a problem at all Dawson.  Thanks for stopping by.  I’ll walk you out.”  Scarlett said.  Scarlett walked in front of Dawson to unlock the shop’s front door, since it was now after hours.  Trying desperately to keep cool until Dawson left, she opened the door for Dawson.  He paused briefly, looked into her eyes, with those amazing eyes, and told her good night.  It could have been her imagination, but she was almost sure that Dawson started to say something and then changed his mind.

*****

Dawson walked to his jeep and climbed inside.  He had a feeling Scarlett was going to be difficult to work with, not because she seemed to be a difficult person, but because Dawson found her to be absolutely beautiful.  He never imagined her hair would be the color of wheat growing in the fields and that her eyes would be so amazingly blue.  Funny how those things were hidden in the grainy black and white print of the New Hope Gazette.  

As Dawson was eating dinner alone that night, he couldn’t help but wonder what things could be like if he had just met Scarlett around town instead of during a business meeting, which probably meant the beginning of their business relationship.  It’s only six months, he thought.  As Dawson drifted off to sleep that night, his last thoughts were of a night six months in the future when he planned on asking Scarlett out for dinner.  

*****

Scarlett got home just as Ryder and Paxton were finishing up their baths and getting ready for bed.  Her mother, Maggie, was waiting patiently on the living room couch.  It was obvious that she wasn’t really reading the magazine she had in her hands and was actually waiting for Scarlett.  She seemed ready to pounce as soon as Scarlett came out of the boys’ room after checking on them.  “So….” said Maggie.  “What was he like?  Was he attractive?”

“If by ‘he’ you mean Mr. McClintock, then ‘he’ is very nice.”  Scarlett said with a grin.  “I am going to look at the Mason house on Wednesday at 2:00.  I was hoping you could watch the shop for a little while.  He has assured me that he can offer me a competitive salary and would like to hire me as a design consultant for the remodeling of his soon to be bed and breakfast.  Can you believe it?”

“Honey, that is wonderful news!”  exclaimed Maggie.  “Can you imagine the publicity this could give you?  Future guests will love the décor and will be dying to get a Scarlett Brennan original piece for their home?  So…was he cute?”

“Yes mother, if you must know, Dawson is an extremely attractive man.  Definitely meets the criteria for tall, dark, and handsome.”  Scarlett confided.  “And also completely off limits.  There is no way I would even think about getting involved with someone I am working with.”

“Well, Scarlett, this project will have an end date.  You won’t be working with him forever.” Maggie said as she gave her daughter a quick hug and dashed out the door.  Scarlett rolled her eyes before closing the door behind her mother.  Her mother was always thinking ahead, but in this case, Scarlett was surprised by how close her own thoughts were to her mother’s.

Scarlett locked the door and set the alarm for the evening before walking back to the boys’ room to see how their evening had been, check over their homework, and tuck them into bed herself.  “Mama,” Paxton said.  “Did you bring the apple pie Gram made home with you?  You did say we could have the leftovers.”

Scarlett smiled and kissed the boys’ foreheads before responding.  “There is some pie left, but it is too late tonight for pie.  I also have a feeling that Gram fed you quite well and gave you dessert earlier.  You can have a piece after school tomorrow.  Now it’s time to go to sleep.  Close your eyes and have sweet dreams.  I love you.”

Both boys melted her heart as they gave her big hugs and kisses and told her they loved her to the moon and back.  Scarlett walked to the kitchen to check Shakespeare’s food bowl before going back to her room to change and get ready to relax and wind down.  Shakespeare was her beloved yorkie she had gotten about eight years ago.

While she was getting ready for bed, Scarlett’s thoughts kept drifting back to Dawson.  He seemed so nice and attractive.  He also loved her work, which was something she never heard from Matt.  It was always something he considered to be a silly hobby.  Upcycling to him was always considered to be nothing more than reusing someone else’s old junk.  Dawson seemed to appreciate that she could take something people no longer wanted and change it into something beautiful.

*****

The next morning, Scarlett woke up happy and well-rested.  She was excited to get the day started and to see Dawson again.  She smiled and sang along with the radio as she got Ryder and Paxton’s breakfast ready and packed their lunches.  Somehow everyone was ahead of schedule and she even had time to sit and visit with the boys about their upcoming swim meet and their plans for the weekend.  The bus arrived just as the boys got their backpacks on and Scarlett gave them each a quick kiss on the head as they raced out the door.

It was a beautiful morning, but Scarlett decided to drive to work since she had also decided she would be heading over to see the old Mason house later that day on her own in hopes of finding some design inspiration.  Scarlett got to the shop at 8:30, which gave her thirty minutes to mentally prepare for the day before Dawson arrived with coffee and that amazing smile.  Dawson arrived promptly at 9:00 with coffee.  When he walked in the door, their eyes met and they both smiled.

*****

The sun was just beginning to shine in through the gap in the curtains.  It was early morning and the sun was just beginning to rise.  Scarlett held a tiny baby close to her.  “And that, my sweet Emmalyn, is how your father and I met.”

“I am sure she will hear that story more times than she can count as the years go by.”  Dawson smiled as he walked into the room.  “And I love you and your mom more than all the bluebonnets in Texas.”