Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Ruby Christmas Chapter Seven

UPDATE: A Ruby Christmas is FREE on Kindle 
Friday, December 13 through Monday, December 16. 

Read Chapter One here.
Read Chapter Two here.
Read Chapter Three here.
Read Chapter Four here.
Read Chapter Five here. 
Read Chapter Six here.

A Ruby Christmas
Chapter Seven
by Marji Laine

As excited as she was about visiting Paris, Ruby couldn't shed a foreboding that tensed her neck and back. It started at the airport, with its absence of any English whatsoever. Thank heaven, Arno Brideau had a sign with her name on it, or she'd still be wandering around. Wearing straight jeans and a stylish scarf, the slender Arno helped her gather her luggage and the dog crate. He seemed pleasant enough, chatting in a heavy nasal as they took a thirty-minute subway ride, or as Arno called it—the Metro. They emerged from the Metro onto the tree-lined streets of the historic city. Yet her nerves persisted. The gawking of the folks on the street didn't help much. Yippee took it in stride, but Ruby hated feeling like a carnival clown.

“Dis eez de place.” Arno shifted her bags to one side and opened the door of the blue painted store front. Coiffure de Bleu. She'd Googled the name online before the flight, so the upscale beauty salon didn’t surprise her, but the name still sounded funny.

Several customers sat caped in spinning chairs, their hairdos in various stages. “Why Hair of Blue?” She waited until Arno led her to a back room before asking.

“Ah. It is a chic name, no? Aimee uses a special technique. She adds a bluing agent to make hair very black.” He led her to a set of stairs.

Arno's own stormy hair probably came from his wife's technique. “So it's blue hair 'cause it's black?” Ruby shook her head but followed Yippie upward. Confusion compounded her former nerves. Maybe this jaunt hadn't been such a sweet idea after all.

Her boots echoed on the hollow stairs no matter how soft she tried to step. Her heart pulsed the echo by the time she hit the second flight. Still Arno led her upward. Who ever heard of an eight-story building without an elevator? The simple bag she'd hung on her shoulder felt like it contained old bricks by the time Arno finally stopped, somewhere between level four and the top.

Ruby lost count but joined him on the narrow landing, puffing away. No wonder the man was skinny as a fencepost if he climbed this mountain every day.

He smiled, slipping a key in the bolt. “It eez a workout, no?”

“Yes.” She'd have to cut out all the rich food and get back to normal eating when she got back home. And maybe take in them new-fangled Zumba classes.

“Have a seat.” He carried her bags through a door to the right.

The fear niggled again. She scratched under Yippee's chin, whispering more to calm herself than him. “This is silly to feel nervous. What a sweet couple to take in a complete stranger like this.”

Well, not complete stranger. Aimee's mom and Ruby's mom had been college roommates. Still that seemed a pretty thin connection.

She had little time to think about it, though. Shoes clicked on the steps outside seconds before Aimee burst into the room.

Yippee jumped up and gave a short bark.

“Ah. You must be precious Ruby?” The petite woman grabbed Ruby's face and pulled it close, making a kissing sound on each side of her cheeks. She looked over Ruby’s shoulder. “Arno, you have an errand, no?”

Arno smiled and bowed in grand fashion. “I will return.”

Before Ruby could wonder about his secretive mission, Arno left. She pulled on her right braid, twisting it around her fingers.

“Ah. And this is Yippee. Aw, chien doux. Sweet puppy.” She knelt and scratched Yippee, who, of course, ate up every bit of the attention. The black hair spread to Aimee as well, though her original color had been a sandy blond like Ruby's. At least that was the way she'd looked in the picture her dad showed her. The bluing made a difference though. Gave an exotic, almost Asian look to her features.

Aimee rose and gave Ruby another hug. “I am so glad to have you here.” She released her, holding her at arms' length. “How was your flight? Eezee?”

“Uh, yeah.” She felt like a ten-year-old who couldn't loose her own tongue.

“Well we are going to make your visit très magnifique. Your first time to Paree ... it must be extra special.”
Ruby could warm up to this subject. “I've been so looking forward to this stop. I love history and all of the architecture. It's gorgeous.”

“You have seen nothing yet. But first we will take care of the important matters.” She took her by the hand and grabbed the leash that Ruby had set down beside her. “Come, Yippee. We have much to do.”

“The Nativity piece. I've been trying to get the feel of a place before choosing that.”

“No-no. We will help you choose that on your last day. First we must get you ready.”

She trotted down the stairs, keeping pace with Yippee without effort. Even going down, Ruby began breathing rather hard at such a run. “What do you mean I have to get ready? I have a Sunday dress if I need it.”

Aimee laughed. “Chère amie. You are a grown woman, no?” The smaller woman stopped at the bottom stair and looked up at Ruby, several inches taller. She seemed to be waiting for an answer, but the facts made it obvious.

“Yes, I'm fully grown. What does that have to do with anything?”

“You are like a little girl. How long have you worn plaited hair?”

She didn't understand the word plaited, but anything referring to Ruby's hair must have been about her braids. “I've always worn it in braids. Just easier that way.”

“Is not eezee like what I will do. You see.”

Truth dawned. “Wait. You're not talkin' 'bout cuttin' my hair?”

“Mais oui, chéri. Yes, of course.” Aimee pulled her along. “Your father did not tell you about his request?”

No way! Daddy asked her to do this? How could he? “N-no.”

“Ruby, you have learned much from your voyage, yes? You have changes on the inside.”

Ruby nodded.

“Let them show on the outside.”

“It's just sorta sudden-like. I never really thought about it.” Not that thinking about it would change her mind one iota.

“Well, why don't you think about it? Go outside, walk Yippie, and breathe some fresh air. You'll see that I am right.”

Aimee opened the door for Ruby, and a thin woman in a skimpy skirt entered. She halted in the doorway, a stunned look on her face and stared at Ruby from horn to hoof and backed up again. She spouted something in French, and Aimee jumped with an apologetic look on her face. Ruby caught a few words, no-no and something about her just being a friend, but Ruby scooted before the lady could turn the tirade in her direction.


The blue door shut behind her, and she stared at her reflection in the darkened glass inset in the door. She earned glances from the people who passed behind her. Maybe her braids did look misplaced in this high-fashion city. Though her figure sure didn't look like that of a little girl, she stood out among the pedestrians on the street. She latched the leash to the collar and chose a direction.

Yippee's paws clipped the pavement beside her, and her own boot clomps echoed. They sounded about as empty as she felt, though she couldn't put her finger on why she felt that way. Maybe because she'd reached a path that she didn't want to venture down. Disappointing her dad. Yeah, that was what she felt. All through this journey, she'd followed his wishes. But how could he want her to cut her hair?

Ruby walked the pleasant Parisian streets with their mixture of modern shops and old architecture. Yippee loved the tree-lined thoroughfares and sidewalk cafes. The November air was cold, if not brisk. When the wind whipped just a bit, Ruby almost wanted to turn back to the warmth of the shop or to at least get a jacket, but she pressed on with the walk and her decision. On her flight, she had Googled Paris and discovered that the city was divided into sections called arrondissements—each with its own distinct personality. Arno and Aimee lived in the 15th arrondissement, which was awfully close to the 7th where she would find the Eiffel Tower. Despite the cold, Ruby and Yippee continued their trek toward the Seine.

Ruby and the Parisians had one thing in common—a love for canines. Many two legged pedestrians had their four-legged friends either tugging ahead, pulling behind, or feigning tiredness and being carried through the streets.

Remembering the lesson she’d learned in New York, Ruby smiled and said hello as she passed. The greetings were returned in a variety of languages, but Yippee’s language was always returned in kind—a bark, a sniff, and a wag of the tail.

Ruby came upon the Pont de Grenelle, a bridge to a man-made island in the Siene. On the island, facing away from the beautiful city, was the replica of the Statute of Liberty gifted by the United States to France after the French had bestowed the larger Grand Lady to America.

On the bridge, Ruby stopped. “Yippee, look.” She pointed upriver. “The Eiffel Tower.” The steel structure was fully visible in the distance. Ruby leaned on the railing of the bridge and sighed. The Eiffel Tower was meant for romance. If only Jonathan were here. What a romantic place for their very first kiss. That is, if he wanted to kiss her.

He had her so addlebrained. She always thought of love as a whirlwind, taking her up and lifting her high so that she would think her feet could never touch the ground again.

What she was experiencing was a gentle breeze that lifted her spirits and made her dream of what was to come.

She didn’t know which was better.

Of course she’d never really been in love before.

She swallowed hard. She could just imagine Jonathan on the tower with her. She closed her eyes and almost prayed aloud. Instead, she let the dream evaporate. She didn’t want what could have been to ruin what truly was in front of her. “Come on, Yippee.” They’d visit the tower another time.

Not far from the bridge was Parc Andrew Citroën, a symmetrical wonderland of cement, trees, fountains, manmade waterway, glass greenhouses, and open space. The park was named after the automaker who’d had a factory in that very spot. Ruby thought she’d died and gone to heaven. Yippee thought so, too, but they were stopped by a well-meaning man who told her that pets were only welcome in one area of the park. Ruby thanked the kind gentleman and found the White Garden where, sure enough, people and pets romped. “Hey, Yip, let's see what friends you can make here.”

After Yippee sniffed around a bit, he jumped up and tugged on Ruby's right braid. Well that was one thing that would change if she actually went through with hacking her hair off. She couldn't rationalize using it as a good excuse not to cut it, though.

“Okay, Yippee. Showtime.” She unlatched the collar and led Wonder Dog in his best tricks. People laughed and a couple of kids clapped at his antics.

One smiling lady tried to hand her some paper money. Ruby laughed. “Oh, no, thank you. Uh ... merci.”
At that moment, an older fellow in a uniform strolled down the sidewalk and started shouting something at her in French. Ruby straightened. Had she done something wrong? “No comprende. Shoot-fire, that's Spanish.”

The man neared, but his volume didn't lower. Though her smile faded, the lady who offered her money chimed in, also in French. She seemed sincere but gave no help until she reached out and tugged on Yippee's leash.

“I get it.” Ruby reattached it to the dog's collar, and the man stopped yelling, said a few more words, and turned his back on her.

Ruby smiled at the older lady. “Merci, again.”

She retraced her steps toward the salon. Why did she want to keep her hair like this, anyway? She liked her braids okay, but Yippee was the only one who would really miss them. Still, something held her back. She'd worn them for as long as she could remember. Could that be part of the problem, her desire to hang on to the past? Maybe Daddy had been right all along about her. She was afraid to move forward with her life.

But look how far she'd come. She'd not been able to imagine actually traveling to all of these amazing places yet here she was in the city of light.

“Such a silly thing to worry about my hair, God.” He'd carried her so well thus far. Ignoring the wishes of her earthly daddy echoed lack of faith in her heavenly one. Both of them only wanted the best for her.

By the time she neared Coiffure de Bleu salon, she'd made her decision.

“Eez tres chic.”

Ruby had been unable to look while Aimee snipped away. Now, she opened one eye and then the other. She hadn’t known exactly what her new friend meant, but she got the gist. Ruby swallowed. Was that grown woman looking back at her from the mirror really her?

“And the natural curl in your hair makes it effèminè.”

Yes, it was her, and Ruby liked the new look. “Makes it sorta fluff out, too.” The mirror across the room reflected the declaration. Her sandy-blonde hair framed her face with rounded waves that stacked up just under her ears. The effect was stinkin' cute.

“Your beau, he will find you …” Aimee waved her hand in cirlces. “… irresistible, I think.”

Jonathan? Oh, no. He’d liked her braid. Would he like this?

Ruby bowed her head. What had she done?

The door to the salon opened, and Yipee gave a joyous bark.

“Here is Arno, and he has a special someone with him,” Aimee’s voice carried a playful lilt.

But Ruby concentrated on the single teardrop that fell on her hand. She wiped it away. This was silly. She’d just made a big change, and she didn’t realize how nervous she would be. If Jonathan …

“Is she not irresistible, Jon-a-than?”

Ruby let Aimee’s words seep in. She lifted her gaze to the mirror.

Jonathan stood, cowboy hat in hand, his mouth parted in surprise.

Ruby stood, turning toward him. And then with a big unladylike whoop, she was in his arms.

“I’ve missed you,” he whispered against her ear. “And you are beautiful, as always.”

Ruby couldn’t help it. The tears flowed, and she cried against him, feeling at home in his embrace.


Her last day in Paris—with Jonathan—and Ruby had saved the best for last. After they’d spent several days sightseeing, today they had two locations on their itinerary: the art district for Nativity shopping and the Eiffel Tower for what Ruby hoped would be a romantic temporary farewell.

Jonathan arrived at the Brideaus’ for breakfast, a meal they had both agreed was their favorite and not to be missed together, if they could help it. They spent some time with Arno and Aimee before heading out.

No one pointed at her. No weird stares for her, but Jonathan and Yippee did seem to catch the eyes of the women in the crowd. Ruby had to admit, he cut a dashing figure in his Levis, shirt and jacket, and Stetson. He would be en vogue anywhere on Earth.

Ruby had found a cute new sweater to exchange for her flannel plaid shirt. She bought a puppy sweater of the same royal color for Yippee.

The new style felt good.

“You look happy.” Jonathan laced his hand in hers. “This trip agrees with you.”

“I guess I am. Funny, I felt kinda nervous at first but not anymore.”

He stopped and tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. “You are never alone and should always have joy.”

Wow. Jonathan’s time out on the waves had brought clarity to him. He spoke the truth with such boldness, and his words stabbed her heart with conviction. Not like she'd forgotten her heavenly Father had been with her all along. But she'd let her nerves get to her instead of bringing her burden to the throne. “You're right. I know better. I guess I still have a lot to learn about life.”

He winked. “Just something I had to learn after my dad’s death. I’d spent so much time alone when he was with us, I shouldn’t have felt so abandoned. God had to gently remind me that He has never left me. Now, let’s find the piece for your daddy’s Nativity. Aimee said we’d find it here.”

The shop across the street from a beautiful fountain seemed to overflow with gorgeous Santon figurines. Ruby, and a patient Jonathan, spent a happy couple of hours narrowing down her choice to one. A porcelain Mary who looked more girl than woman, yet held a protective hand out toward her newborn. She held it up for Jonathan’s approval.

He never took his eyes off her. “Perfect.”


After their shopping, Jonathan left Ruby at the Brideaus’ and went to his hotel to change. Ruby hurried to get ready, throwing on a pair of jeans and a sweater top.

“Oh, no-no.” Aimee rocked her index finger back and forth. “You want this boy—this man—to commit, do you not?”

How in the world had she figured that out? Ruby could only nod.

“Well, he is not going to do so with …” Aimee held her arms out, palms up, and moved them up and then down. “… with these ordinary clothes.”

“I don’t have anything else,” Ruby advised.

“Oh, that is not so. Your poppa, he planned ahead.”

“He knew Jonathan was coming here?”

Aimee giggled. “From what I understand he did not. Until Jon-a-than asked your poppa’s permission. And this is why we have saved this for tonight.” Aimee clapped her hands, and Arno entered carrying a garment bag and the cutest little boots and hat Ruby Joy Buckner had ever seen. She gave a whoop and ran to him, retrieving her prizes.

“You go.” Aimee kissed Arno and closed the door. “Now, Ruby, let’s create a masterpiece for this wonderful cowboy so he will find his way to Texas and into your heart.”


Dusk had fallen as they approached the Eiffel Tower from Champ de Mars. Lights illuminated the structure, making it appear golden. Jonathan stopped and stared upward. “It’s something, isn’t it?”

“You could say that.” Ruby laced her fingers with his.

He looked down and smiled.

She shivered at the look of desire in his sapphire blue eyes. If only she could be sure it wasn’t his excitement over the adventure. He had yet to tell her how he really felt, and she longed for a single hint.

They threaded through the crowd near the tower. Ruby paused when she saw the sign that said no more tickets were available for the top level. Her heart fell. Only someone with a fear of heights would visit Paris and not make a trip to the top, but here they were. It was the second level or nothin’.

Jonathan tugged her forward. “You afraid?” He offered her a mischievous smile.

“No. I was just hopin’ we’d be able to go all the way up.”

He pulled out his wallet and slipped out two tickets. That smile was wicked in its ability to melt Ruby’s knees.

Jonathan slipped his arm around her shoulder, and she didn’t care if they stayed on the ground. The gentle breeze lifted her heart, and she soared atop the tower already.

Once they did make it to the top, Ruby stared out into the night sky. “Jonathan have you ever seen anything so beautiful?” She turned to look at him.

His blue-eyed gaze was on her. “Uh-uh.” He smiled.

She folded her arms. “I’ve been meanin’ to ask you since you got here. Why’d you come all this way?”

“Don’t you know, Ruby Joy?” He stepped closer to the wire and looked out.

“Well, I was told you asked Daddy for his permission.”

“I didn’t want to show up in Paris without it. I happen to know he can shoot the rattle off a diamondback at fifty yards.” He tilted the brim of her leather hat backward. “I was just tired of texting you on a hit or miss. As I said when I arrived, I missed you.”

She had to admit, she’d missed him something awful, too. Funny, when he left Texas, she’d been glad to see him go. Now, she’d die if he changed his mind and didn’t move back home.

“Well, aren’t you going to kiss me or something?” As soon as the words left her mouth, she slapped her hands over her lips. Kind of backward, since she’d already said what she shouldn’t have.

A smile teased his lips again. He stared out toward the Passerelle Debilly, placing his hands on the fence. “No, Ruby, I’m not going to kiss you in Paris.”

Sorrow worked its way from Ruby’s heart and lodged in her throat. She couldn’t breathe. He was here, but he didn’t feel the same way she’d come to feel about him.

He leaned toward her. “Because I’m saving our first kiss for a place much more special.”

Ruby held to the fence as the gentle breeze of love gained speed and swirled around her.

“Come here, Ruby Joy.” Jonathan slipped his arm around her, and she released her hold on the barrier preventing her from being whisked away by the feelings surrounding her. She decided she liked this love that Jonathan offered her. She didn’t need a whirlwind, not with him to keep her grounded.

“I sure am glad that we made this first trip here together,” he whispered against her hair. “I’m happy for the time we’ve had here, and”—he turned her toward him and brushed his hand tenderly against her cheek—”I can’t wait to see you back home in Texas. I love what this trip is doing for you. I can see the confidence you’ve gained.”

She did feel confident, even the next day, as she bid au revoir to Jonathan, who had a later flight back to the States, and to her new friends. The non-English signs all over the airport didn't bother her so much.

Settling in her window seat on the plane, she pulled out her itinerary and the information pamphlet for South Africa. 

Check back tomorrow for Chapter Eight of A Ruby Christmas.

Our authors are blogging all sorts of fun posts, interviews, articles, devotions and more during the next couple of weeks too, so we'll try to keep an updated list so you can visit. Most of them are changing posts as often as we are, so if you see their names listed more than once, check out all the links, because it's a different post.

Tuesday, December 10

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter Seven's Pinterest image and Marji Laine's blog
PHEE PARADISE hosts MARJI LAINE for guest devotional on Delighted Meditations

From Monday, December 9

From Friday, December 6

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter Five's Pinterest image and Jerusha Agen's blog
MARJI LAINE Chapter 5 Devotionon Faith~Driven Fiction
MARJI LAINE Devotional about Light on A Woman Like Me Blog
PHEE PARADISE on Delighted Meditations

From Thursday, December 5

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter Four's Pinterest image and Ruth O'Neil's blog
MARJI LAINE Chapter 4 Devotion on Faith-Driven Fiction
PHEE PARADISE hosts Tracy Ruckman at Delighted Meditations

From Wednesday, December 4

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter Three's Pinterest image and Fay Lamb's blog
MARJI LAINE Chapter 3 Devotionon Faith~Driven Fiction
FAY LAMB guest devotional at Phee Paradise's Delighted Meditations

From Tuesday, December 3

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter Two's Pinterest image and Dianne E. Butts' blog
MARJI LAINE Chapter 2 Devotion on Faith~Driven Fiction
DIANNE E. BUTTS guest article about Christmas at Embattled Spirits
DIANNE E. BUTTS guest devotional at Phee Paradise's Delighted Meditations

From Monday, December 2

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter One's Pinterest image and J.A.'s blog to compare photos
Marji Laine hosts Sheryl Holmes
Dianne Butts
Fay Lamb
Marji Laine - Chapter 1 Devotional
Phee Paradise

About Marji Laine

Marji is a home-schooling mom of four with the oldest at UT Dallas. When she can't indulge in her passion for storytelling, she's transporting teenage volleyball players, teaching writing classes at a local co-op, and directing the children’s music program at her church. She loves acting in musical comedy, has directed many stage productions, leads a worship team, sings in her church choir, coordinates high school classes for a large home-school group, scrap-books, crochets, and designs Love Story books for newlyweds. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all.
Visit Marji's website: Marji Laine

Contributing Author to The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt
** Amazon Bestseller **

Grace takes delivery of a package and her life is turned upside down by nine sealed mystery envelopes from her late grandmother. Grammie’s instructions require Grace to take the journey of her lifetime, not only to far off places, but also into the deepest parts of her heart. As she follows the trail laid out for her and uncovers her family’s darkest secrets, Grace is forced to confront the loss and betrayal that has scarred her past and seek the greatest Christmas Treasure of all.

What do stories about a high school principal with a mean reputation, a doctor searching for his dream car, an ad executive still in love with his ex-wife, a clueless husband, a graduating grad student trying to buy a cup of coffee for his ladylove, and a missionary on furlough have in common? Romance.

Authors Marji Laine, Jennifer Fromke, Lynda Schab, Stephanie Craig, Traci Tyne Hilton, and Peggy Cunningham, each give you a unique story: their Heart Bouquets especially for you.

A Dozen Apologies
Coming Valentine's Day

Mara Adkins, a promising fashion designer, has fallen off the ladder of success, and she can’t seem to get up.

In college, Mara and her sorority sisters played an ugly game, and Mara was usually the winner. She’d date men she considered geeks, win their confidence, and then she’d dump them publicly. When Mara begins work for a prestigious clothing designer in New York, she gets her comeuppance. Her boyfriend steals her designs and wins a coveted position. He fires her, and she returns in shame to her home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where life for others has changed for the better.

Mara’s parents, always seemingly one step from a divorce, have rediscovered their love for each other, but more importantly they have placed Christ in the center of that love. The changes Mara sees in their lives cause her to seek Christ. Mara’s heart is pierced by her actions toward the twelve men she’d wronged in college, and she sets out to apologize to each of them. A girl with that many amends to make, though, needs money for travel, and Mara finds more ways to lose a job that she ever thought possible.

Mara stumbles, bumbles, and humbles her way toward employment and toward possible reconciliation with the twelve men she humiliated to find that God truly does look upon the heart, and that He has chosen the heart of one of the men for her to have and to hold.