The Sit ’n Knit was Anna Thomas’s
world. Her definition of family had widened to embrace the women who came into
her yarn shop—especially the regulars.
Some days that was enough.
Anna inhaled the scent of coffee
that always perked on the counter behind her. She tore open her UPS package—a
high-grade merino-nylon blend of yarn—and smiled. Warm and versatile, the yarn
was a great choice for sock knitting. Some people grabbed cheap yarns off the
shelf of a department store with no idea of the difference quality yarn could
make in a project. She looked around her shop at the bins filled with colored
textiles, some bulky, some intricate and thin for lace projects, and gave a contented
sigh. She offered quality—and a piece of herself—with every sale. The women in
her shop, there for the lesson on picking up stitches, milled around,
commenting to one another on their projects, laughing together. Anna’s business
also offered a place where women could encourage one another in their
creativity and with life in general. Who could ask for more?
The bell on the shop door jangled
as someone stepped inside. Anna gathered her ball of cotton yarn, knitting
needles, and half-finished peach-colored dishcloth, then bent over and tossed
them into the bulging bag where she kept her current projects. She stood
upright and stretched a bit. It was then she spotted a man of about fifty. He
had a firm, strong jaw; a trim, fit body; and salt-and-pepper hair that looked
good on him. His smile was warm and welcoming, and his blue eyes sparkled.
He looked familiar. The lopsided
grin on his face told her he knew she was trying to place him. Her heart gave a
funny leap as he walked toward her and stretched out his hand. “Michael
Conners,” he said. “That’s my mom, Emma.” He pointed her way.
His hand was strong and warm. It
shamed Anna that she didn’t want to let go.
“Oh, Emma is one of my best
customers. A lovely lady.” She’d spoken of her newly-retired-from-the-Marines
son often and fondly. “Nice to meet you. I’m Anna Thomas.”
“Yes, I know.” He paused. “We’re
neighbors.” There was a teasing glint in his eyes that caught her a little off
“Oh, so that’s where I’ve seen you.
He raised his hand. “No need to
apologize. I’ve only lived there about six months. Came back to Smitten to help
Emma had cancer. Her body grew more
fragile with every passing day, but she still managed to come to the Sit ’n
Knit. When Michael looked away, Anna studied him. It was noble of him to come
to his mother’s side. Still, Anna would be careful. Clearly, he didn’t plan to
settle down in Smitten. Not that she wanted him to. So why was her hand still
She nodded, trying to calm the
unsettled feeling in her stomach.
“Well, good to see you.” He walked
over to his mom. Anna watched his every step, her heart pounding as though
she’d been running. What was the matter with her?
When the knitting class was over,
the ladies spilled into the other rooms, pouring cups of coffee from the
brewing pot, browsing through knitting books, touching cashmere yarns. Anna
walked around the chairs and scooped up yarn debris, then dropped it into the
trash can. Arms elbow-deep into the sofa, then the chair cushions, she dug around
for lost hooks and needles. Her efforts were always rewarded. She found several
crochet hooks and threw them into a large plastic container with other strays.
Michael, who had suddenly appeared
beside her, winced.
“Something wrong?” she asked.
“Would you like a rubber band for
those hooks? That would keep them all together so you wouldn’t have to dig
around for them.”
“I—well, uh, yeah, I guess.” Embarrassment
warmed her cheeks. Did he think her incompetent?
Michael walked over to her counter,
picked up a rubber band, then playfully stretched it in front of him, acting as
though he would snap her with it. She smiled in spite of herself.
He picked the hooks up one by one
from the container in her hand, bunched them together in a single bouquet,
wrapped the rubber band tightly around it, and offered it to Anna with a slight
bow. “For you, ma’am.”
Was that supposed to make her feel
better? Was he hitting on her? Did this work with other women? Was that what
they taught him in the military? Please. Her husband had been a military man.
She wasn’t going back there.
“Thanks,” she said, tossing the bundled
hooks back into the container and snapping it shut. She forced a grin, then
picked up her load.
“Can I help you carry that?”
“No, I’m fine, thank you.” She was
a woman, not a weakling. Her feet moved faster than the rest of her, and she
nearly lost her balance. What was wrong with her? She turned for one last
glance at Michael and saw him helping his mother out of the shop.
Once inside the sanctity of her office,
Anna closed the door and tried to calm her pounding heart. She couldn’t imagine
why Michael had unnerved her so. Maybe because he was a man of uniform—or had
been. She’d been there, done that.
When she regained her composure,
she went back into the store and walked over to Sally Sanderson. Sally was one
of Anna’s dearest customers and friends. “I’m going to the bakery, Sally. I’ll
be right back. Will you watch the shop?”
“Will do,” the older woman said.
Anna would rather walk down to
Mountain Perks, say hello to her niece Natalie, and grab a mocha, but she
thought her customers might enjoy some cookies.
After a quick trip to the bakery,
Anna stepped back inside the Sit ’n Knit, brushed the snow from her shoulders,
and pulled off her coat. “I’m back.” She hung her coat on the wooden rack, then
walked over to the group of knitters sitting in the circle, needles clacking
away. She waved her bag through the air. “I got some cookies from next door.”
Ooos and ahhs followed.
“You’re too good to us,” Sally
said. “But I like it.” Her needles paused long enough for her to pluck a cookie
from the bag. “Mm, they’re still warm.”
“Count yourself lucky,” Anna said,
straightening her checkout station. “It’s getting colder outside. Wind gusts up
to thirty miles an hour.”
“Brrr,” Debbie Matney said with a
shiver. “That’s why I love being in here where it’s warm, knitting with my
The others nodded while munching on
Anna smiled and counted herself
blessed. How many people could say they had a job they could hardly wait to get
to in the mornings? When Joe left her ten years ago, she didn’t know if she’d
ever be able to smile again, let alone own a business. But with the
encouragement of her girls, she’d invested her divorce settlement money into
her dream business: a yarn shop where women of the Smitten community could
gather to craft, create, and share life. Anna loved the feel of the yarn
between her fingers. It gave her pleasure when a customer brought in a finished
masterpiece: a sweater, a hat, a blanket. She rejoiced in their creation. When
a customer brought in a project gone bad, Anna enjoyed that too. She loved
helping them get their stitches back on track, bringing hope to the project.
It had occurred to Anna more than
once that God did the same for her when she got off track . . .
The bell on the door jangled. Zoe,
Anna’s youngest, stepped inside, stomped her feet on the mat, and walked toward
her mother. “It’s freezing outside.”
“I’ve got some cookies and hot
chocolate or coffee, if you have a minute,” Anna said.
“No thanks, Mom. I just wanted to
pick up another skein of yarn. I underestimated what I would need for Will’s
“Hi, Zoe,” the ladies called out.
“Hello, everyone.” She bent down to
look at Sally’s knitting. “Beautiful scarf.”
“Thanks, sweetie,” Sally said,
winding her yarn around the needles.
Anna couldn’t be happier that God
had brought William Singer into Zoe’s life. He was a wonderful young man. The
future looked bright for her youngest daughter.
“Let me see. What dye lot have you
got there?” Anna took the wrapper from Zoe and matched it with the wool blends
in the appropriate wooden bin. “You lucked out. One such animal left.” She
waved the coveted skein and walked it over to the cash register.
“I love this stuff. It’s so soft.
It will make a nice sweater. I’m getting Will ready for his first Vermont
winter.” She leaned in to her mom and whispered, “Hopefully the first of many.”
“How’s the dating business coming
along?” Sally asked.
“It’s a little slow, but I believe
it will catch on,” Zoe said.
“I still say you need to find
romance through the normal course of life. You can’t force these things,” Anna
said, ringing up Zoe’s purchase. She tucked it into a pretty bag and closed it
with a raffia bow.
“I don’t force things at Cupid’s
Arrow, Mom. People have to fill out information. No one makes them date anyone
they don’t want to date.” Zoe shook her head and smiled at Sally.
“This world, she is a changin’,” said
a woman named Betty. “What with the Internet and all, people are finding each
other who never would have the chance otherwise.”
“Exactly.” Zoe grabbed a cookie
after all and nibbled at it. “I just want to spread a little love in Smitten.”
Anna poured a cup of hot chocolate
and held it out to Zoe.
“Oh, I really don’t have time. But how
about I take it with me? Thanks, Mom.” She pulled on the blue woolen scarf,
mittens, and hat that her mom had made her last Christmas. “See you, ladies.”
Drink in one hand, handbag and purchase dangling from her other arm while she
held onto her cookie, Zoe kissed her mother’s cheek and sped out the door.
“Kids, they never have time these
days to sit and smell the roses.” Anna shook her head and threw away a
customer’s forgotten receipt.
“You still doing Sunday afternoon
meals with your girls?” Sally asked.
“Yes, thankfully. I love those
“You’re lucky to have them. Most
kids don’t even live around their families anymore. We live in a mobile society.”
“So true,” Anna said, feeling sorry
she had complained. Sally’s boys lived in another state.
Anna didn’t know what she would do
without her girls, her mom, and her aunties. She loved how they took turns
hosting Sunday dinners, the hubbub of family, the chaos and the peace, all of
it. She prayed it would never change.
The doorbell jangled again. Anna
looked up, and her heart caught in her throat. She couldn’t imagine what
Michael Conners would be doing back at her yarn shop.
“Well, well, we meet again.”
All smiles and brawn. Mr.
“Michael Conners. Back so soon?”
Anna gazed around her station to make sure it looked tidy.
“Yeah, but not for long. I’m headed
to Sugarcreek Ski Resort.”
“Oh, yes, your mom mentioned you
worked there part-time.”
“I do, but I’m off today. Just want
to get in a little skiing.”
“I see.” Anna knew very little
about skiing, so she didn’t comment. “So do you knit?”
His laughter rattled the windows.
“The boys back on the base would
have a good laugh over the thought of me knitting.”
“Some men do,” she said, her tone a
little sharper than she’d intended.
“Some men. Not me.” He lifted his
calloused palms. “See these hands? They were built for man’s work. I’ll leave
the knitting to you women.” He looked toward the circle of women and winked,
and they all smiled.
A fire kindled in Anna’s belly. “Are
you implying a man can’t be manly and knit?”
He shrugged. “To each his own, I
guess. Just don’t expect you’ll ever see me doing it.”
The fire in her belly grew. Did he
think it would be beneath his dignity to knit? That these women were frivolous
time-wasters to do such a thing?
“Then what brings you here?” she
asked, folding her arms across her chest and tapping her foot.
“Mom wanted some new yarn, and she
forgot to get it when she was here.” He gave her a smile. “Knitting here with
the ladies seems to calm her. I have you to thank for that.”
The words humbled Anna. If she
could play a small part in encouraging Mrs. Conners, she was privileged to do
Suddenly the deafening sound of
needles gone quiet filled the air. Anna looked at the circle of knitters, and
they were all staring at her.
She ignored them. Well, she tried
to anyway. “What is your mother making?” Anna said in her most professional
“Uh, I don’t know.”
“Then how do you know how much yarn
“I don’t know.”
“Do you know what type of yarn she
“The fuzzy kind?” He grinned. When
she didn’t smile back, he cleared his throat. “I thought you would tell me all
“Well, I can hardly do that if I
don’t know what she’s making.”
“She finished those tricky slippers
she was working on this week,” Sally interjected. “Why don’t you give him some
of those pretty new cotton shades that you have for making dishcloths? That
would give her something easy to work on for a change.”
There was a definite twinkle in her
friend’s eye as she spoke. A twinkle that Anna didn’t like one little bit.
“That’s a good idea.” With her chin
hiked, Anna walked over to the cotton bin and showed Michael the different
colors. She refused to look up at him, but she felt sure he was watching her
and not the yarn.
“Yes, these will work,” he said,
plucking a couple of skeins out of the bin without so much as a second glance.
Did he have any idea the work that
went into making these yarns? Did he touch them to get a feel for them?
Consider the perfect color? Of course not. What was he doing here anyway?
He tossed the skeins of durable
worsted weight yarn in the air and began to juggle them. Anna glanced at the women
in the circle, and their hands were still quiet. He had them mesmerized. She
wanted to bop every single one of them—or at the very least take back her
She rang up the yarn and announced
His eyes widened. “Wow. Yarn
doesn’t come cheap.”
“You get what you pay for, Mr.
Conners,” she said.
“Please, call me Michael.”
The way he said that made her guard
drop a little. She put his purchase into a pretty bag and took great delight in
winding the raffia into an especially elegant, feminine bow. He rewarded her
with a frown.
“Thank you. I’m sure Mom will enjoy
this.” He turned to the group and tipped his head. “Ladies.” With that he
headed out the door, pretty little package dangling softly from his big,
Anna covered her mouth to stop the
giggles until the door closed, then let her laughter out.
“Why did you do that?” Debbie
“Well, you weren’t exactly
friendly,” Sally piped up.
“That man just irritates me.”
“Or not,” Sally said.
Her words boiled in Anna’s
midsection. “He’s just so full of himself.” She busied herself straightening
some of the bins. When she got to the cotton bin, she noticed it was already
straightened. “Well, of all the nerve.”
“What is it?” Beth wanted to know.
“He straightened this bin.”
“Wow. Gorgeous, and he cleans too?
Grab him.” One look at Anna, and Sally’s smile left her face. Without another
word she swept her needles into full running motion.
Michael Conners may have these
women fooled, but he didn’t fool Anna. She knew his type all too well.
“Not the friendliest sort around,”
Michael said in answer to his mother’s question.
“Don’t be too hard on her, dear. She’s
been through a lot. Her husband up and left her awhile ago. Her three grown daughters
all live in town, thankfully. They’re a fine family.” Emma Conners’s soft,
age-spotted hand patted Michael’s hand the way she had when he was a boy.
“Now don’t you go getting any
ideas,” Michael said. “I’m just fine living on my own.” Though he had to admit,
the spark in Anna’s gray eyes and melting smile made this woman a definite
“Sure you are.” Another pat.
“That’s what all men think. But we women know better.” This time she squeezed
his palm lightly, and Michael laughed.
With his mother settled in her room
at the Smitten Assisted Living Center, Michael stopped by the church to see if
they needed help with the set for the Christmas program. Pastor Walden assured
him they had plenty of helpers, so he headed on to the ski slopes. The snow was
sticking to the ground and seemed to be heavy enough to pack. Good news for the
He the wipers on to brush away the
falling snow. Try as he might, he couldn’t get over Anna Thomas’s reaction to
him. Not rude exactly, but he obviously had irritated her. He couldn’t imagine
why. Maybe his presence intimidated her for some reason.
Not that it mattered. He was in
Smitten to help his mom. Period. He had no intention of getting involved with a
woman. Once his mom was gone, there was still more of the world he wanted to see,
and he couldn’t do that holed up in a small town.
The turn signal clicked off time
while Michael waited for a car to pass, then he maneuvered his car into the Sugarcreek
He shook off his mental ramblings.
This was going to be a good day. He hefted his skis from the backseat. A very
good day indeed.