Excerpts from European Stone Vacation

The women go shopping

AJ set down her coffee and a platter of mixed bakery treats. Stella had given AJ and Maire the job of getting anything they wanted so long as it came with coffee. She’d found a window seat, and AJ took a seat next to her. Maire followed with a mug of tea and Stella’s coffee.

“How are your feet?” AJ cut each bakery item into three pieces, placed one of each on a napkin, then pushed it in front of Stella. “You look like a zombie.”

Maire took her portion. “That’s not true.” She licked frosting off her finger. “I’d say more like one of those half-lifeless crabs that crawl out of the tidal pools on a sunny day.”

“Well, it’s good to know who your friends are.” Stella rubbed her stomach. “I knew better than to get on that boat.”

“You should have gotten ginger herbal tea instead of coffee, or peppermint if you don’t like ginger.” Maire had already finished off a sample of cheesecake and apple strudel. “I don’t have anything with me, but I have something at the villa that will help.”

“If I can wait that long.”

AJ pushed the desserts closer to Stella. She’d only gotten seasick once, and that had been on the Daphne when they’d got caught in the storm off Ireland. So, she could commiserate.

Stella tasted the cheesecake, waited ten seconds, then finished it. She shrugged. “That seemed to go down fine.”

“That wasn’t long enough for a proper test.” Maire laughed.

“Well, now it’s been what, almost thirty seconds since I ate that. Long enough to try the next piece.” Stella plopped a chunk of oatmeal cookie into her mouth, and halfway through chewing, gave them a thumbs-up.

AJ snorted. “Looks like she’s getting her stamina back.” She broke off a piece of strudel. “So what did you get Ethan for Christmas?” AJ hadn’t bought anything for Finn yet, but she’d seen something at the antique shop she couldn’t stop thinking about.

“I found two Celtic language books at the antique store.” Maire played with a lock of hair, sharing a tentative smile.

“Was that for Ethan or for you?” Stella laughed. “I like those types of gifts. A two for one deal.”

“It’s not like that.” Maire blushed with a lift of her shoulder. “Ethan is interested in learning Celtic.”

“I didn’t know that.” Although it didn’t surprise AJ that Ethan would want to share Maire’s interests.

“Until now, he’s only learned private words.” Maire’s blush deepened, and she gave them a wicked grin. “But that’s not the point.”

Stella and AJ laughed.

“I think it’s a marvelous gift,” AJ said. “It will show him how much it means to you that he’s trying.”

“Yeah, guys like that as much as women.” Stella glanced out the window. “Speak of the devil. Isn’t that Finn and Ethan leaving the general store?”

The women leaned over to stare out the window. Finn and Ethan juggled large bags in both hands as they hurried down the street before disappearing into the crowd of shoppers.

“What do you think were in those bags?” Maire asked, still watching the crowd.