The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt

2012 December 11
by faylamb

If you’ve missed the chance to read the previous chapters, here are the links to take you there:

Chapter One by Joan Campbell

Chapter Two by Ruth O’Neil

Chapter Three by J.A. Marx

Chapter Four by Deanna Klingel

Chapter Five by Marji Laine

Chapter Six by Sheryl Holmes

Chapter Seven Part One

By Fay Lamb

The St. Augustine Lighthouse. Such a difference from all the mountains I’d seen lately. Wonder why Grammie sent me here? A briny breeze sent my skirt billowing.

Towering oaks surrounded the gift shop. I peered through crooked limbs to view the lighthouse, its brilliant red lens house sitting atop a barber pole striped tower.

I shut the door of my rental car before crossing the parking lot to the gift shop where the sunset tour would begin in less than five minutes. A gaunt man wearing suspenders, a twinkle in his aged blue-green eyes, opened the door for me. “Welcome.”

“Thank you.” I eased past him and stopped in front of a potted evergreen decorated for Christmas. A sign stated the nautical-themed ornaments had been donated by Friends of the Lighthouse. I touched one of the antique hand-painted lighthouses hanging on the tree. I’d seen an ornament like these before. Had Grammie sent me here for one?

I seemed to be the only visitor. “Where is everyone? Isn’t the tour about to start?”

His brows drew together. He nodded. “Matt will be your tour guide. He’s a bit cheeky, but he knows the history of the old place better’n I do. Should be back in a second. He’s running an errand.”

Beyond the French doors on the other side of the building, a white-haired woman approached. She shaded her eyes with a trembling hand against the glass and peered inside.

“That’s Mrs. S.” The man straightened a shelf of books on local history.

The woman searched the store until her gaze met mine. Then she smiled, waved, and walked away.

“Sorry I’m late.” A young man rushed into the shop. He skirted the display racks of souvenirs specially designed for lighthouse tourism. At the register, he stopped, took a deep breath, and gave me a lopsided smile. “Hello, Grace. I’m Matt, your guide.”

I blinked. “You know my name?”

He stared at me for a long moment, his gaze hinting of a secret known only to him. Then he looked down at the registry and ran his index finger along the only name. “Got it right here.”

“You stayed open for me?”

Matt furrowed his brows, and for a moment, with his similar puzzled look, I thought he and the older man could be related. “No, we kept it open for a group.” He half-chuckled. “You’re the best-looking group I’ve led in a while.”

Cheeky. The older man had it correct. I looked to find him, but he had left. Snarky. That’s what my generation would call Matt.

“Let’s get started.” Matt pretended to put something over his short-cropped blond hair. “Officially changing hats from errand boy-slash-cashier to tour guide.”

I smiled. How could I not. Matt was fun, and this was going to be an enjoyable treasure hunt. “Errant boy, maybe.”

Matt pointed to me as he opened the door. “I like you.”

As I exited the gift shop, I touched a poster for the lighthouse’s Dark of the Moon tour. “Do you lead this one as well?”

He nodded. “It’s our most popular event.”

“So tell me, Matt, do you believe in ghosts?”

Matt’s lopsided grin widened. “Of Christmases past, maybe. Though, there’s a crazy woman around here who claims the grounds are haunted by a ghostly pelican.”

I gave him my best smirk, unable to tell if he was joking. “A ghostly pelican? That’s unique.”

Matt led me down a sidewalk path hedged on each side by azaleas and oaks.

When I stepped outside, the fiery sun sat low on the horizon. I looked up at the spire of the lighthouse and caught my breath. Rays of brilliant light splayed from the lens house.

Matt stopped beside me. “Beautiful, isn’t it? Been here before?”

“No. Grammie told me she and Gramps honeymooned here.”

Matt led me to the base of the tower. He pulled a large ring of keys from his pocket and unlocked the door. “Ready for a workout? Two hundred nineteen steps to the top and what looks to be one of the prettiest sunsets I’ve seen.”

Another Christmas tree decorated in similar fashion as the one in the gift shop stood against the wall in the rotunda. I fingered the green branches. Would I find Grammie’s treasure on this tree? Or the one in the shop?

Matt drew my attention to a cistern in the middle of the room. With little interest, I leaned over the wrought-iron railing surrounding it. I didn’t expect the well to hold anything Grammie sent me to find. I wanted to get to the top.

Halfway up the spiraling steps, I wondered if Grammie sent me here to meet the Lord—personally. My legs wobbled like jelly outside the jar. I failed miserably in my attempt to breathe evenly. By the third landing, I was ready to stop.

As if he knew I needed the break, Matt halted by an opened window. A stiff sea breeze gusted against my face, providing a coolness not found on the grounds. I leaned through the narrow slit, taking a deep breath. The air was heavy with brine.

Down below, the old man and the white-haired woman stood on an open area of the path. The lady pointed up. They both waved.

I reached through the opening and sent them a wordless hello with a return wave.

Matt leaned out beside me, his arm nudging mine. He looked around then ducked back inside with a shake of his head. “Okay, lazy bones, are you ready to make it to the top?”

I nodded. I’d kept in good condition—but not in stair-climbing shape. I grasped the railing and lagged behind Matt as he regaled me with the history of the first lighthouse built by the Spaniards, and this, its sturdy replacement. He beat me to the top and waited before pushing open the door.

I stepped out onto the iron platform below the beacon and gawked at the panorama unfolding before me.

A wind gust tugged the door from Matt’s hand, pushing me sideways. “Careful there, clutz.” Matt reached out and grasped my arm, his touch gentle. And that twinkle in his eye captivated me. After all, old men who knew the mysteries of life—those were the eyes that twinkled, not someone my age.

“Hey, buster. Watch who you’re calling names.”

Matt’s laughter languished on the breeze. “Be careful. Hang on to the railing, and enjoy the sunset. I’ll share more history after the sun sets.”

I strolled the platform, enjoying the view of Anastasia Island to the south, the Matanzas River and old St. Augustine to the west, the historic homes dotting the landscape to the north of the lighthouse, and the white-capped Atlantic Ocean to the east. Completing the circle, I stood beside Matt. I still labored to breathe following our climb as the fiery ball slipped below the horizon, leaving behind splashes of amber and pink against the twilight blue sky. The rotating beam of light above us cut into the deepening darkness.

“The lens is a Fresnel…”

“It’s okay.” My words passed quivering lips. “This is enough.” I lifted my hand out to the beauty around me. “Grammie used to call us”—I cleared my throat of emotion— “my twin sister, Lauren and me, outside just to say good-bye to the daylight.” The wind whipped my skirt, and I clasped the fabric in my hands. Sometimes I missed Lauren as much as I missed my grandmother. “So, tell me, Matt. What makes someone as young as us hang out at a lighthouse?”

Matt leaned his hip against the railing and turned to face me. “Finding our way.”

I blinked at his too-perfect description of my journey.

“I took a detour and found trouble,” he continued.

Come back here tomorrow to read Chapter Seven Part Two.

The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt

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.

Read More:

Chapter One by Joan Campbell

Chapter Two by Ruth O’Neil

Chapter Three by J.A. Marx

Chapter Four by Deanna Klingel

Chapter Five by Marji Laine

Chapter Six by Sheryl Holmes

Learn more about this fun project at Write Integrity Press.

Fay Lamb is the Featured Author today at WIP, so drop by to read her Favorite Christmas Memory and Recipe.

She’s also the Featured Guest at Magnificent Hope’s Christmas Party so come over and join all the fun!

 

 

 

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