Watching Luke nibble candy cotton from Carrie’s lips caused Tonya’s heart to crack another crevice. She dropped the black lace she’d considered purchasing from a crafter and meandered through the Weston Octoberfest crowd, alone.
All her friends were now married or engaged. She was the sad friend who hadn’t found her soulmate and tagged along with the happy couples.
Ping. Pong. Ting. Dong.
The musical heavenly sounds immediately eased Tonya’s angst. Then as if someone tugged on her scarf, leading her, she was drawn to where dozens of windchimes hung from rails and pumpkins filled the booth’s counter top. The unique chimes were beautifully crafted. She touched the copper butterfly windcatcher and an elderly voice drifted toward her. “It’s you.”
Surprised by the old woman sitting among the cardboard boxes that protected her from the chilly October evening, Tonya said, “Pardon me?”
The woman’s shawl slipped from her shoulders as she pushed herself up from her lawn chair and her back creaked loudly as she straightened.
Slowly she shuffled to the counter. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
Tonya touched the zipper of hoodie and smiled at the woman whose wrinkles had wrinkles. “Me? You’ve been waiting for me?”
“I’m Brigid,” she said as if they were long lost friends. “You came for a pumpkin, didn’t you?”
“Actually, it was the windchimes that caught my attention. They’re beautiful.”
“Thank you. My grandson makes them.”
“I really like this one. I love butterflies.”
“You’re a free spirit and often send messages on their wings to your love ones in heaven.”
Tonya’s eyes widened in disbelief. “How did you know I did that?”
“Kindness and love are in your heart.”
“That is sweet of you.” Brigid’s warm blue eyes truly made her feel like she spoke to an old friend. “I’ll take this one.”
Brigid worked to reach up with a hooked pole and retrieve the windchime. Tonya wanted to help her, but she felt the woman would consider her help an insult, so patiently she waited.
After the chimes were wrapped in paper, Brigid looked up at her. “So the pumpkin. You must pick the right one.”
The old woman was confused. “I don’t want a pumpkin.”
“You want to find your soulmate, right?”
Tonya blinked. How had she read her thoughts?
“I’ve learn to read people over ninety odd years. I saw you watch your friends. It’s written all over your face— sadness, loneliness, desire. And the deeper I look into your pretty brown eyes, the darker they become. You need light in them, child. Love will put it there, so pick. There is no charge. True love is free.”
Tonya thought she should believe the woman was one acorn shy of a bushel, but she didn’t. Her pulse kicked up at the possibility that finding love could be as easy as picking out a pumpkin. She admired the rich shades of orange, letting her palm drift over the pumpkins. Near the end of the grouping, one caused her pause. It looked as if silver candle wax had been dripped over it. “I love this one.”
“The fairytale pumpkin.” A smile bloomed on Brigid’s face. “Love will be yours if you listen closely and do as you are told. Are you ready?”
Tonya raised up on her toes. Her heart fluttered wildly.
“Only under a blanket of a thousand stars will your soulmate be revealed,” the woman whispered, pointing to the dark sky above. “Do not let the shame of others shake your faith. Release to the heavens your open heart and then look inside. Understand?”
Tonya nodded as she took the pumpkin. “I think so.”
“The answer must be unlocked and your love found before the sun releases the Gate Night otherwise the spirits will wing him away forever.”
Tonya’s breath caught in her lungs. Gate Night was October 30th, tomorrow. She had tonight to unlock the sign and find her love in twenty-four hours.
“Go child and find him.”
“I will.” With the paper bag containing the windchimes tucked under her arm, Tonya held the weight of the heavy pumpkin against her rib cage. There was no time to lose. She had to go home and carve the pumpkin.
She turned to search the crowd for Carrie and Luke. She wanted to let them know she was leaving, but couldn’t see them anywhere. Maybe it better if she didn’t find them and just left. Carrie would label Brigid crazy and Luke would definitely make fun of her for believing in the fable’s truth.
Her heart felt larger and lighter than it had been before she’d met Brigid.
She didn’t care what anyone thought, she was going to do as the woman had instructed her, and she’d find the clue to her soulmate.
Tonya turned. Her shoulder connected with a rock-hard bicep. Her grasp released the pumpkin and it tumbled to the ground.
“Sorry,” said the fullback for the Black Moose’s varsity team over his shoulder, and then he sauntered away with his tribe not realizing he’d ruined her life.
Staring down at the opportunity to find true love, pain slashed through Tonya’s heart. Tears threatened her vison. Her chest constricted.
Quickly, she closed her eyes and found that shimmer of hope that always kept her going. She stooped to clean up the mess and noticed the rind glistened from within. The voices of the people who wound around her faded as she poked the pumpkin with a finger. A chuck toppled away. Staring into the gooey, interwinding threads three white seeds stood out among the mass of hundreds. Were they magical? Surely she wouldn’t need to plant them and wait.
She blinked away her tears. Her breath stilled as she focused and prayed for her sign to appear.
Shoes edged into her vision.
“Oh my,” Carrie exclaimed. “What happened?”
Her spirits plummeted. She’d seen nothing. “I bought wind chimes,” Tonya replied, rising to her feet.
“That looks like a pumpkin, not wind chimes.” Luke chuckled.
“Funny.” She narrowed her eyes at him before she bent down and scooped up the bag containing the chimes and held it out. “You got a free pumpkin when you purchased something.”
“Do you need help?” A masculine voice drifted over her shoulder. Its thick Irish brogue, tickling her ear.
She turned. The shape of the white three seeds and the threads surrounding them caught her eye.
“Do you like my necklace? It’s the Celtic symbol for strength.”
Her gaze lifted from the amulet and connected with the most gorgeous emerald eyes she’d ever fallen into.
“Tonya, this is my cousin, Coilm McQuire, from Galway, Ireland,” Luke said, behind her. “He just arrived in town. I didn’t know he planned to visit.”
“If I’d known there was such a pretty lass amongst your Green Mountains,” Coilm replied smiling down at her. “I would’ve jumped the pond moons ago.”
Happiness clogged her throat and her words came out barely a whisper, “I almost didn’t believe.”
Coilm bent down and spoke only to her, “Never lose ’er faith, Lass.” He took her hand in his warm one.
Recognized by the Romance Writers of America as a Golden Heart Finalist and a Kindle Book Reviewers ‘Best Indie Romance’ finalist, award-winning author Autumn Jordon writes romantic suspense, romantic mystery, romantic thrillers, and contemporary romance. She is known for writing compelling emotional stories with characters so realistic you’d swear you knew them.