Molly kindled the fire. It snapped and crackled in the glass-sided fireplace set right in the middle of the cozy roadside restaurant. Josh baked fresh bread and a huge pan of baked beans, while Molly baked pumpkin and mince pies.
The day had dawned clear and bright. All the early-morning preparations had gone smoothly, a sign, Molly and Josh thought, of a busy and prosperous Christmas Eve. The mountain highway on which their cherished restaurant sat, had been quiet that fall, Thanksgiving week being the only exception. There wasn't much snow yet, so no skiers stopped on their way to and from the slopes.
But a week ago things picked up. Christmas Eve day was always an especially big day. There were the people on the road to be with their loved ones. Customers who came just for pies. And the bus. The Christmas Eve bus, which would be filled to capacity, made its early supper stop at four p.m.
When it first started to snow, Molly and Josh were delighted. If it snowed enough, it might bring skiers. And their first baby would experience a white Christmas, though from the vantage point of the snug safety of Molly's womb. Their dream of a life in the log cabin just up the hill from the restaurant was a fragile one. A good Christmas Eve could help uphold that dream.
But by mid-morning the outside world was smothered under a thick coating of whipped-cream white. The wind howled. The windows were a frosty blur of swirling snow. Every time Josh opened the front door, hoping to spot a customer, snow blew in. Finally he stopped looking.