I am in a dilemma about the contest. I had stated that the winner would be the 4th person to email, but only 3 emailed me... I think to be fair we should run the contest again. So starting Monday we will try again. Sorry for the delay, but I do believe this is the best way to proceed. Thank you - those of you who did participate.
So now on to some more Winter Wheat - chapter 11 cont's
Within a week of the blizzard that had blown thirteen inches of snow across the open prairie and recorded forty below temperatures, all was as it should be in Karl Wright’s small home. Conversation turned from the perils of winters in Manitoba to the celebration of Christmas.
Emilie’s days grew longer than normal as she worked tirelessly towards her promise to give all the children in her care the best Christmas ever.
She wasn’t the only one who was occupied with the coming of Christmas. Every evening the children gathered around the large kitchen table to make decorations for Karl’s home. The younger children made paper streamers and flowers, while the older children wove pieces of straw together into shapes of stars, angels, crosses and bells and then decorated the shapes with small pieces of colored wool and ribbon.
The Bell children wrote long letters to their father; telling him of their days spent with their friends and the kind loving adults who were taking such good care of them. They told him of their excitement that Christmas was coming, and their sadness that he would not be there to share the special day with them. They made no mention of their mother, or their lost home, or the fact that even though it looked like Santa Claus would be coming to visit after all, the two most important people in their young lives would be noticeably absent this year. They ended each letter with their hope that he was getting stronger every day and their wish that he could come home to them very soon.
Some evenings the older children and Karl took turns reading stories to the family. Emilie sat close by and listened just as attentively as the little ones. She followed the adventures of an aging rabbit in Uncle Wigglie’s Travels; and developed a particular fondness for another story; Two and Again.
It was a tale of a group of animals living on a place called Bean Farm, in New York State. She had heard of New York City, but not of Bean Farm, and not of New York State. In the story a clever young pig by the name of Freddie, tired of the long hard winters, decides to take a vacation trip to somewhere called Florida. Emilie doubted that such a place even existed as apparently this place called Florida didn’t have snow in the winter; but the escapades of Freddie the Pig and his animal cohorts were so entertaining she found herself laughing aloud right along with the children most evenings.
On those long cold winter nights just days before Christmas it mattered not that some of the occupants of Karl’s home were not related, the bond of family had been formed and it became stronger and stronger with each passing day.
With every evening that passed Emilie grew to love her brood more and more. Their constant chatter, laughter, and even their squabbles gave new meaning to her life. She no longer had the time or energy to dwell on her own problems and sorrows, instead all her energies surrounded her new family, and because of them the pain of her own loss lessened daily.
Karl was ever present - always sitting off to one side or joining them as on story nights, but never far enough away to miss a special moment with his newly expanded family. He listened, he instructed and when he could – he laughed right along with them all. He silently admired all the children – The Bell’s for their ability to remain strong together as a family and his own children for opening their hearts and their home to those in need. He admired Emilie the most – a childless young woman who was raising other women’s offspring as if they were her own – a woman who was coming to mean so much to them all.
He marveled at Emilie’s ability to love all the children equally. She was the best mother that Karl had ever seen, and in his mind he came to regard her as such. He forgot that she belonged to none of them; he forgot that she could leave any time she chose; and he forgot that he had no intentions of ever letting a woman into his heart again. He thrived on her love and attention as much as the children did, and he knew that his life without her in it would be as bleak and barren as the burned out shell of his neighbor’s home, four miles away.
Many nights Emilie worked long into the night after everyone else had retired, sewing and knitting and creating clothing and toys for all of the children. She used the material that Martha had sent along with her to make new outfits for Raymond and Anne-Marie. Leftover scraps of material were sewn into soft cloth toys – a small doll for Anne-Marie, a horse for Raymond.
She took advantage of the quiet solitude to create gifts for all the family and on one such night was startled to realize that she was not the only one still awake.
“You should go to bed, Emilie,” Karl’s deep voice misted across the silent kitchen to where Emilie sat at Annie’s treadle sewing machine.
“Oh Karl; you scared me . . .!” Emilie jumped slightly and knocked the sleeve of the small garment she was constructing to the floor.
Karl crossed the room silently and bent to retrieve the material from the floor.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” he handed the material to her and lowered himself to the nearest chair.
She fit the sleeve carefully into the shoulder of the garment and stitched it in place, all the while aware of Karl’s close proximity.
“Who is that for?” he indicated the garment she was working on with a nudge of his head.
“Oh . . . this is a new shirt for Warren. I took apart one of the larger shirts from the box from the church and re-made it into one to fit Warren. The material has plenty of wear yet . . .”
“But Warren lives with Annie! Why can’t she make him a shirt?”
“I have her machine, Karl!” Emilie answered in a tone that suggested that he ought to have figured it out on his own.
“Will all the children have something then?” his eyes met hers across the small space that separated them.
“Ja . . .”
Karl shook his head in amazement. “Are you aware that there are many families that will not have Christmas this year, Emilie? We should not spoil these children and allow them to think that we have riches that we do not have!”
“How can one possibly spoil Kinder who have no Mutter!” Emily hissed across the space at him. She would have liked to yell the words but remembered just in time that everyone else in the house was asleep. Still it did not stop her irritation towards him. “Karl, do you honestly believe that any of those Kinder upstairs, are spoiled? No!” she answered her own question before he could. “They are hurt and sad and afraid . . . and if making sure they each get something under the tree is spoiling them,” she stuck her face in front of his, “Then I’ll be happy to spoil them!”
He kissed her. He kissed her to shut her up, and it did; but nothing could have prepared him for the taste of Emilie Freiheit on his lips, nor the feeling that for once in his life he had done the right thing.
“Karl Wright!” Emilie’s cheeks were aflame from what Karl was sure was the shortest kiss on record. “How dare you kiss me when I’m mad!”
“So, I should only kiss you when you are not angry with me then?” he chuckled at the crimson rising up her neck.
“No, you should not kiss me at all, Karl Wright - and don’t you ever do it again!”
As tempting as she was, he merrily made his way to the doorway of his bedroom. Before he left the kitchen completely he turned and gazed at her one last time.
“It was a good kiss, Emilie!” he said and then he turned and left her alone.