The Fillies are happy to welcome back Lena Nelson Dooley. It’s always a thrill to have her visit. She has a new Christmas e-book out and has posted this Christmas short story for your enjoyment today. She’s giving away one e-book version of 24 Christmases. Just leave a comment to get your name in the hat.
Alone on Christmas Eve
by Lena Nelson Dooley
“Is Christmas here yet?” Five-year-old Andy stood on his tiptoes and tried to reach the knothole in the wooden shutter covering the inside of the window. “Is it still snowing?”
Marsha Hastert had a bad case of cabin fever, along with her four children. And if that boy didn’t stop asking so many questions, she just might scream at him. She huffed out a harsh breath. Screaming would just add to the desolation she’d experienced since Drake left over two weeks ago.
I need to get us more supplies, and I want something for the children this year for Christmas. His strong words sounded reasonable back then. They didn’t anymore.
What if her husband was lost in the blizzard that started soon after he left and had only let up for short stretches of time since then. So much snow had fallen that Marsha was sure he wouldn’t be able to find the log cabin, hidden beneath the deep mantle of white, even if he was able to make his way home.
“Ma! You didn’t answer my question.”
“Which one, Andy.” She really didn’t want to ignore her oldest son, but so often her mind wandered.
“About Christmas.” His tone sounded at the same time he stamped his foot, something she’d never before allowed him to do.
Charlotte, her ten-year-old daughter, picked up her brother and hugged him tight. “It’s Christmas Eve, Silly.”
“I thought Daddy’d be home by Christmas Eve.” His whine grated on Marsha’s nerves.
She’d thought Drake would, too, but she didn’t want to share her misgivings with the children. No use to scare them, too.
After leaning across the side of the wood box, she picked up an armload of the larger pieces. Not many of them left either. What would she do for fuel when this was gone? They couldn’t venture out to look for more. With all the drifts humped up over the cabin, the only way out was through the snow tunnel she and Charlotte dug to get to the outhouse. And she was really thankful for that. All they needed was having to deal with the smell of their waste in the cabin.
Her thoughts were taking darker and darker paths. What am I going to do?
She’d pulled out all the sweaters and caps she’d knitted the kids for Christmas, and they wore them when they ventured down the tunnel. So nothing else was hidden from them. . .except the fact that their food supply was dwindling at an alarming rate.
Why hadn’t she and Drake stocked the storeroom with more food?
Perhaps they shouldn’t have come to this godforsaken place to make a home. The promise of land and a possibility of gold had brought them to the wilds of the Colorado Rockies, but now Marsha believed they’d made a terrible mistake.
Yes, they had land and a snug log cabin, but Drake hadn’t found any trace of gold in the mine he bought with a large chunk of their savings. They might not make it through their first winter, and they didn’t have any family nearby as they did back in Missouri. No close neighbors. No church family. No one. Just Marsha, four children, and an absentee husband this Christmas.
The only way she knew today was Christmas Eve was by counting the marks she’d started making on the wall when Drake left. Could her life get any worse? She doubted it.
“Mom!” Seven-year-old Thomas’s voice sounded a little muffled.
“Where are you?” Marsha’s gaze darted to every corner of the room. She rushed into the bedroom of the cabin and searched there. Where could that boy be hiding?
When she went back into the main room, Charlotte crept in through the back door and slammed it behind her. Thomas shivered in her arms.
Marsha gathered him against her chest and grabbed up a knitted afghan that lay across the back of the rocking chair. She wrapped it around him and stood beside the fireplace, thankful that the new wood she added had burst into flames.
“Where were you?” She wiped moisture from his face while his teeth chattered.
Marsha wasn’t sure whether it was made by tears or the snow.
Charlotte stood beside them, shivering. “Part of the tunnel caved in on him, I had to pull him out.”
What was that question she’d asked herself only moments ago? When would she ever learn not to tempt fate?
A loud thump hit the front door. The kid’s eyes widened, and two-year-old Annette clutched Marsha’s skirt, almost pulling it from around her waist.
Since she’d been giving the children most of the food, she’d lost more weight and the waistband was too loose. She set Thomas on the floor beside Charlotte and grabbed the rifle. If it was a bear, Marsha hoped the door was strong enough to keep the animal out.
“I’ve found it.” The muffled words were harder to understand than Thomas had been, but definitely human. “I think it’s the front door.”
Now she recognized the voice, but what was her brother doing in the mountains of Colorado? Marsha was afraid to try to open the door, because the snow would fall inside, and when it melted, it would flood the room.
Metal scraped against the wood more than once.
She leaned close to the door and shouted. “Is that you, Bryan?”
“Marsha.” Her husband’s voice shook her heart. “Are you and the kids O. K.?”
Tears streamed down her face, and she almost crumpled to the floor. “Yes.”
“We’re digging the snow away from the door. Keep the kids back.” Another long scrape accompanied his words.
Now her legs could no longer hold her. She dropped into the rocking chair as her kids danced around her, yelling at the top of their voices.
Hours later, after all the celebrating, welcoming her brother for a visit, eating dinner, and sharing gifts with the children, Marsha and Drake finally had privacy beside the fireplace. Bryan was sharing a bed with the boys, and they and the girls were fast asleep.
Marsha leaned her head on her husband’s shoulder while his arms cradled her against his strength. “I’m so glad you got home. I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to find us under all the snow.”
His lips caressed her temple before he spoke. “We couldn’t find the cabin. All the trees looked alike, and I’d about given up hope completely. Then a strange thing happened.”
She leaned her head back far enough to see his beautiful brown eyes. “Strange? How?”
“We saw someone walking in front of us. Too far away for us to see his face. And a glow surrounded him, like a beacon.” For a moment Drake seemed to be pondering something. “When we reached the place where we first saw him, there were no footprints in the snow. We looked back up at him, and he motioned us forward. Finally, we saw the smoke from the chimney, and he completely disappeared.”
Marsha considered his words. “Do you think God sent you an angel?”
He nodded and pulled her close again. “Who else could it be?”
©2010 Lena Nelson Dooley. All rights reserved.