Calista rushed around behind the counter. In the lull between the time following lunch and the after-school rush, she had to get her supply restocked. Pretzels to make, dipping sauces to replenish, and she had to retrieve more cups from the backroom.
Her busy little shop was her pride and joy. Her realization of a long-held dream to own this business. One day she hoped it would be successful enough that she would have to hire employees. Until then, she had to do everything.
Emerging from the backroom, arms full of paper cups, she saw two little girls standing in the opening between the mall and her shop.
She smiled. “Can I help you?”
The two leaned into each other and giggled. They looked to be about six-years-old, with pink cheeks and blond curls to their shoulders. Twins, Calista thought. They looked identical.
“We want to buy something,” one said as the two in unison stepped into the shop.
“You’ve come to the right place,” Calista smiled at her young customers. “My specialty is pretzels. Do you like pretzels?”
“Yes,” they chimed together. “But that’s not what we want to buy,” said the second little girl.
“What does that sign say?” the first said pointing toward the writing next to the shop’s logo on the wall.
Calista reeled around to look. “It says Little Shop of Hope,” she grinned. Looking back at them, she said, “If you don’t want pretzels, I have candy or popcorn or . . . “
“I told you that’s what it said,” said the second.
“We’re not hungry,” said the first.
“Oh, I get it,” Calista said, “You want something to drink? I have about every flavor of soda you could want.”
The two girls’ eyes grew wide, and they looked at each other. “You tell her.” “No, you tell her.” The two traded the demand back and forth.
“Somebody tell me,” Calista finally said.
“We want to buy some hope,” the first said looking at Calista earnestly.
“For our Daddy,” the second said.
Calista, startled, said, “Hope?”
The girls, with renewed fervor in their step, came closer to Calista. “We don’t have a momma,” the first said.
“So, last night, we asked Daddy if he could find us a momma,” the second said. “And, he said that someday he hoped we would have a momma to come live with us.”
“But he didn’t think it would be soon,” said the first.
“So, we thought we would get him some hope to help with that,” said the second.
“And your shop sign said ‘hope’,” said the first.
Calista stifled a laugh as best she could. Looking at the earnest little faces she said, “Come sit down a minute.”
The three took seats at the little table in front of the counter. As Calista sat down, she noticed an exasperated, but attractive looking man standing just outside the shop entrance. He was staring at the girls, “So, this is where you went.”
“Daddy,” the two girls sang in unison, jumping from their chairs to run to their father’s side. As they hugged him, he looked down at them and said, “You’ve given me quite a scare. I’ve told you before not to run off like that. I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“Hi, I’m Calista,” she extended a hand toward the man, “I own this shop.”
“Hi,” he said reaching toward her hand, “I’m Declan. And these are my two daughters, Maisy and Daisy.”
Not only was he easy to look at, he seemed to have a friendly, easy-going manner. No wonder his daughters were so charming and outgoing.
“Please, come in and sit for a moment,” Calista said. “I was just about to explain something to Maisy and Daisy.”
“We don’t want to bother you any further,” he said, but guided the girls back to their chairs and pulled one up for himself.
“How about a few pretzels and something to drink?” Calista said, “On me.”
Declan looked at her earnestly, “You are too kind.”
After munching on their snacks for a few minutes, Calista cleared her throat. “It seems your daughters were searching my shop out to buy hope.” Then, looking at the girls, she said, “Hope is something you have inside of you, not something you buy. Like sadness and joy.”
The girls looked at her with wide eyes. “We know what hope means,” said Maisy.
“We just thought we should see if you had any to share,” said Daisy.
Declan closed his eyes briefly before looking directly into Calista’s. “As you can see, my daughters have a very vivid imagination.” He held her gaze a little longer.
Calista blushed. They were a charming trio. So innocent, but compelling. She longed to spend the rest of the night talking to them, but the after-school rush was beginning and she had to go take care of customers. “Please stay as long as you like,” she said, “I am the only one here so I have to go attend to business.”
“Calista, Calista,” Maisy and Daisy called out to her as they ran behind the counter. Normally, she didn’t let anyone behind the counter, but these were her special girls. Followed, of course, by their irresistible father.
Since their first meeting, they had visited her two to three times a week. Now, weeks later, she had gotten to know the little family and spent many hours talking with Declan during their long visits. She had learned that he was a web entrepreneur who worked out of his home, so he could spend time with his children. Her heart ached for them when she found out that the girls’ mother died when they were two years old.
Calista wrapped her arms around the girls, “How are my two favorite girls in the world?”
“We’ve got something to ask you,” said Maisy.
“Do you like spaghetti?” said Daisy.
“Girls,” Declan said, “You were going to let me do the talking – right?”
Maisy and Daisy turned uncharacteristically bashful. “Yes, Daddy.”
“Calista,” he said looking intently at her, “The girls and I would like to invite you to dinner. Our family favorite is spaghetti, and the girls help prepare it. We know your early evening is Sunday. How about it?
Her heart swelled with happiness. This could be the beginning of something wonderful. “Yes, I’d love to. And I’ll bring the pretzels for dessert.”
Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson