Scents of hope follow the sweet taste of gingerbread victory

Editor’s note: This is the ninth chapter of a 12-part continuing, fictional holiday tale that is running daily through Christmas. Parents are encouraged to read it aloud to their children.

Angelica Sweet could hardly watch as the judges went from table-to-table, making notes on their clipboards as they leaned in close to study every detail about the structures.

They joined the other contestants by the table of sandwiches and snacks provided by the competition heads, although Angelica was too nervous to do more than nibble. So much was riding on the outcome of this contest. The $10,000 grand prize could do so much. It would pay off the debts and allow her mom to keep their Sweet Treat Bakery. Everything would be OK again if they won.

Her stomach was in knots the entire time the judges deliberated. She couldn’t even look when they stood in front of the Sweets’ gingerbread house.

After what felt like an eternity, the judges stood in front of the tables, and the announcer picked up a microphone. Everything he said was a blur to Angelica. She fidgeted, waiting to hear the decision.

Finally, the judges handed him a piece of paper and he smiled out at the crowd.

“It looks like our judges have made their decision. Although it was undoubtedly a tough decision, with a total of 40 entrants, they’ve managed to narrow it down to three winners. Third place, with a prize of a $250 gift certificate to Baking Unlimited, goes to James and Rhonda Lawrence.”

The couple accepted their prize to loud applause, then the announcer continued.

“In second place, winning a stunning new set of gourmet bakeware along with a cash prize of $2,500, we have Sarah and Penelope Waterford.”

Angelica’s mom gripped her hand and squeezed it, and the knots in her stomach had only grown larger.

“And finally, the grand prize winner. First place takes home a lovely gourmet baking set and earns a feature in Baking Today magazine, as well as a cash prize of $10,000. The lucky grand prize winner is … Faith and Angelica Sweet! The judges were thoroughly impressed by the incredible and precise detailing you added to your piece.”

“Oh,” was all Angelica could say, holding a hand to her heart. She turned to her mom. “Did he really just say what I think he just said?”

Tears glistened in Faith’s eyes and she gave her daughter a tight hug. “Yes, Angel baby, he did. I can’t believe we did it! We won!”

As they accepted their prize, applause ringing in their ears, Angelica finally let herself believe it. They’d done it. All their hard work had paid off, and the check in her mother’s hand was the proof.

Excitement buzzed through her as she realized that her mother was holding the answer to all of their problems. Everything was going to be OK now, she just knew it.

They smiled into the crowd, and Angelica noticed Mr. and Mrs. Coleman leaving, pushing their young daughter in her wheelchair, no doubt wanting to beat the crowd out. It touched her heart that they’d made the trip out to see them, especially when Lucy was so sick.

Faith was watching them too, and she squeezed Angelica’s hand. They looked at each other, and Angelica wondered if she wished they could help Lucy as much as Angelica did.

Unfortunately, all the cookies in the world wouldn’t be enough to make her better. But maybe a stocking full of Christmas cutouts would at least make her smile. She would suggest it once they got home.

They raised their clasped hands in victory. They did it.

Read Part 10 of “Mixing Up Some Holiday Magic” in tomorrow’s Tribune Chronicle.

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