“What do you suggest?”
“That’s a loaded question,” Callie answered, smiling as she took a sip of her tea before placing it back down on the table. “I don’t think you’re reading for skiing or snowboarding.”
“No, definitely not,” Dax says quickly.
She let out a low ‘hmm’,’ drawing her bottom lip between her teeth. She fought a grin as Dax’s eyes were drawn to the motion for a fleeting second.
Her mind raced with all their options.
Snowshoeing? No, not yet.
Ice skating? Potentially. I’ll have to check with their arena.
Her eyes widened as the thought came to her.
“Uh oh. I don’t like that look.”
“There’s nothing to be scared of, I promise.”
“Famous last words,” Dax grumbled into his coffee cup.
“Here’s your food,” Mindy said as she put their plates in front of them. “Let me know what you think, Callie.”
“I’m sure it’s delicious,” Callie replied, grabbing her cutlery and removing it from the rolled up napkin.
She wasn’t lying, either. The smell of the bacon mixed with the poutine’s gravy and cheese made her mouth water.
“Let me know if there’s anything else I can get for you,” Mindy added before walking off.
Stabbing her fork into the poutine, she speared the fries, making sure to have them covered in the gravy and cheese before bringing them to her mouth.
“Oh my goodness,” she said. “This is so good.”
“You can’t really go wrong with anything from here. It’s honestly the only thing I miss when I’m back home.”
The dreaded word that reminded her Dax doesn’t live in Cedar Valley Falls, and neither does she. This was all just a lie until he can go back to Vancouver and they end things quietly, going back to a world where they didn’t know of each other.
They ate their meals in silence. Callie was deep in thought, eating mindlessly, no longer tasting her food. She was too focused on how quickly she’d stopped thinking of Dax as her fake boyfriend.
Everything felt so real with him. So natural. She couldn’t remember a single time she’d felt like that with her ex, Maxwell. A time where she’d felt so happy. So carefree.
Looking across the table, she thought of how different he was compared to her ex. He’s quiet—reserved. He’s not trying to be the man with the most money, cars, or toys. Not like Maxwell. Dax seemed like the kind of man that wanted more out of life than material wealth. Someone who truly listened when you spoke to them. Who would remember the little things.
“Hey, are you okay?” Dax asked, breaking Callie’s spiralling thoughts.
“Yeah,” she replied, putting her fork down on her nearly empty plate.
“Did I say something?” His cheeks redden as he glanced up at her.
“No, not at all. Just…” she stopped, trying to find a way to express what she had been thinking about without lying to him. “Just thinking about the time we have left and what we should do.”
He held her gaze for a moment before giving her a slight nod. He wiped his mouth with his napkin and placed it on his empty plate. “There are a few more events for the festival, but we don’t have to do them.”
“Let’s hear it. What’s left?” Callie pushed her plate toward the centre of the table and wrapped her hands around her now-cooled mug of tea.
“There’s a snowman building contest tomorrow afternoon, but I’ll be at the shop, so that’s out.”
“That’s okay, I’m sure you’ve built a snowman before.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “You have, right?”
“Of course I have.” He rolled his eyes. “There’s also a snowball fight.”
“Oh!” Callie perked up, sitting straighter in the booth.
“But it’s for kids and teens.”
“Oh,” she said quieter, slumping her shoulders.
“But…” He smiled when Callie’s interest heightened again. “There’s the final event. The sugar cookie contest.”
“What’s that?” she asked wearily.
“Think of it like a gingerbread contest, but with sugar cookies. You need to build a structure that best represents Cedar Valley Falls.”
“You seem almost—excited about that.”
His blush comes back, and Callie thinks it’s the most adorable thing she’s ever seen.
“Well—I am. I mean, I’ve never done this exact competition, obviously with it being the first year of the festival, but I always loved the gingerbread ones growing up. It was the one Christmas event I always looked forward to.”
“That’s really cute, Dax. I love that about you.”
She smiled as she pictures him with his hands covered in different coloured icing, trying to construct a cookie building. She was startled from her endearing mental picture when her gaze met his, finding a blank expression on his face.
“What did I say?”
He shook his head and looked down at his coffee mug, and then it hit her.
Love. She said she loved that about him.
“I—uh—so this sugar cookie contest. When is it?” She knew there wasn’t a way to take back what she’d said, so she hoped that she could redirect the conversation.
“Friday night,” he said, clearing his throat and shifting in his seat. “It’s after the store closes, but I could probably close it a little early, too, so we can get ready.”
“Plan. Prepare. Strategize,” he says, getting more enthusiastic the more he speaks.
“Strategize? For building a gingerbread house?”
“Sugar cookie,” he huffs. “But it’s not just any house. It has to represent the town.”
“How about the well?” I ask.
“Shh.” He crouches lower to the table as his eye frantically look around the diner. “No one but locals are supposed to know about that, remember? I’m technically breaking Cedar Valley Falls rules by having you know about it.”
“But I’m your girlfriend,” she said before realizing the word ‘fake’ should have been included in that.
“Still. Until you belong to the town, you can’t know about it.” He raised to sitting again, looking confident no one overheard my fatal slip. “But you might be on to something. We might not be able to do that, but we can do something close to it.”
“Like the town square. I think I should be able to replicate the gazebo. It would be a lot of work, and a lot of faith, but I think I can do it.”
She couldn’t help but smile at his enthusiasm.
“Whatever you’ve got planned, I’m on board.” His smile widened. “If…”
“Uh oh.” His smile faded.
“If you go along with what I have planned for tomorrow night.”
“Our next adventure?”
“You’ve got it.”
He huffs and crossed his arms over his chest. She wanted to laugh at how much he looked like a pouting toddler but didn’t dare bring it up, especially when she was trying to get him on board with her plan.
“Fine. But no more falling down mountains at fast speeds.”
“We didn’t fall down the mountain. We slid.” He narrowed his eyes at her, and she couldn’t contain the laugh any longer. “Fine. No falling, sliding, tumbling, or catapulting down a mountain. I promise.”
He looked at her for a long moment and sighed. “Fine. Let me know where and when.”