Story Excerpt From “Second Helpings” ~~ Cookies Without by JJ Dare

Second Helpings
An Anthology of Holiday Recipes and
Short Stories
From Authors of
Second Wind Publishing

Second Helpings

A perfect gift for short story lovers and food connoisseurs!

From sweet childhood remembrances to fanciful solutions of family dramas to romantic relationships that begin–or end–during the holidays, Second Helpings is an anthology of stories and memories, but most especially of recipes. Our end-of-year celebrations are occasions that bring reunions with unforgettable feasts and that one special, treasured dish. At the end of each story, vignette, reminiscence, you’ll find a recipe or collection of recipes that will make your next holiday memorable as well.


Cookies Without
JJ Dare

This would be the third Christmas without Marie’s husband. It was the second Christmas without her brother and the first without her mother. This holiday had all the markings of a celebration with ghosts as the main guests.

Three loved ones gone in three years. Marie dreaded the next year. Who would leave next?

No Paul, no Eddie, no Mom. The days were always heavy with their absence, but holidays were worse. The emptiness pressed against her soul. She was barely making it through the normal days let alone the times when her family gathered to celebrate life.
. . .

Marie pulled out cans of sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, and, from the very back of the cabinet, an expired can of very young peas. She held the can in her hands as fresh tears fell. No holiday meal had been complete without very young peas, Paul had said. There were a few holidays when he went to the store the day of the meal because Marie had forgotten to pick up a can of his favorite vegetable.

Gathering her wits, Marie set the cans on the counter and looked around. What else, what else? Something important was escaping her. What was missing?

The cookies! How could she forget the desert the family had expected the past two Christmases but Marie had been too heartbroken to make. The bon-bon cookies had been a joint effort between Marie and Paul. She would roll the cookies into balls and he would stuff them with chocolate chip pieces. It was the one of their few collaborations in cooking.

Roll and stuff. Marie could not remember when they had started the tradition, but the kids had early on nicknamed the cookies “Mom-Pop cookies.” Maybe she and Paul had started doing it to speed up the holiday dinner long ago when restless children wanted to hurry and eat so they could play with their new toys.

It did not matter now. There was no hurry anymore. There was only time stretching out ahead of her and no end in sight. She washed her hands, sat back down at the table and drifted off in thoughts of bygone holidays.

A bell dinging broke her from her reverie. As she pushed against to table to rise from her chair, she felt something strange on her hands. Buttery dough was sticking to her fingertips. Her heart raced as she looked at the metal cooking tray in front of her.

Neatly laid out were the traditional cookies she had purposely not made for the past two seasons. She picked one up with a shaking hand. Breaking the dough open, three chocolate chips nestled inside. The perfect number.

No more, no less. Paul had been adamant to the point of silliness about the number of chocolate pieces he stuffed inside each cookie. So adamant that one Christmas when they were short of money, he had meticulously removed the chips from the half he had finished and delicately sliced the pieces in half.

The hair on Marie’s neck stood on end.


Second Helpings is available in print and all ebook formats from Second Wind Publishing.