Chapter One one
MIRACLES HAPPEN in Gladiola, Texas, population 3,421.
And since Grams is responsible for thirty-nine so far, I’m counting on her gift to run in the family. After all, she always says, “Have audacious expectations.”
I want a miracle of my very own.
You see, my grams is the best matchmaker in the county. Her Wall of Fame proves it. Thirty-nine gold-framed photos of couples on their wedding days, including Mama and Daddy, fill our study wall. That averages out to one per year since she and Grandpa walked down the aisle. Some folks say it’s a hobby. Grams says it’s a calling.
Even though I’m only in fifth grade, and I don’t know much about boys, and I’ve never made a match, I am positive that my best friend, Ruby Jane Pfluger, needs my help.
After all, she asked.
Call it destiny. Call it crazy. I answered the call.
Glory Bea Bennett, matchmaker extraordinaire, was born.
“Happily ever after,” says Ruby Jane as we amble up the red carpet at the end of the Saturday picture show. She twists a lock of her cinnamon-colored hair around her finger. “That’s how Ben Truman and I will live. Right?”
Once Daddy comes home, my family will too.
Ruby Jane’s seen more movies than anyone else I know, and her favorites always end that way. Which is why today’s feature didn’t make her top ten. Ruby Jane’s big dream makes sense. Can I guarantee it? I don’t think Grams dares to make that whopper of a promise. “Wouldn’t that be great?” I reply.
My answer must be good enough, because I swear I can see all of the braces in my best friend’s mouth.
I can imagine Ruby Jane and Ben, my next-door neighbor, together, with their photograph displayed on my own Wall of Fame in my bedroom. Except her request is not without its challenges.
“Shy” doesn’t begin to explain my naive friend.
Ben was king of his sixth-grade back-to-school dance this fall and Delilah Wallingham was the queen. Now Ruby Jane aims to take Delilah’s place.
“Let me ask you something,” I say as I catch a whiff of fruity bubble gum while we pass the next row of seats. “Have you talked to Ben? I mean, had a real conversation with him?”
“Of course. Every time… almost every time I see him.”
“?‘Hi, Ben’ is not a conversation, Ruby Jane.”
“I know,” she says, her forehead all wrinkly. “Now it’s our first day of Christmas break, and I won’t have a chance for more than two weeks.”
“Don’t worry. I believe in you and your sixth-grade heartthrob. I already have a plan. It starts right now. Today is Ben’s first day at the soda fountain.”
“I knew I could count on you, Glory Bea,” says my closest friend, and she sprints ahead.
Miracle number forty, here we come.
And, I hope, a top-secret forty-first miracle too.
I stop halfway up the red carpet and clutch the charm bracelet Daddy handed me at the train station before he left.
I rub its shamrock for luck, close my eyes, and picture Daddy’s big smile.
I refuse to believe what they say about him.
When you love someone, you never give up hope.
“Hurry up, Glory Bea,” hollers Ruby Jane, and I open my eyes. My friend is only two steps away from the lobby. The smell of warm buttery popcorn fills the theater from the concession stand out front.
“On my way,” I say.
But not before I pray for the umpteenth time for my family’s happily ever after.
All the men in our town who went to the war came back.
They say my daddy was lost in France on a beach called Omaha.
I am still waiting for him to be found.