Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kate’s Christmas Miracle by Allison Knight

Kate’s Christmas Miracle

            Kate hated Christmas time.
            Three long years ago, a week before Christmas, she’d wished her finance God speed and sent him off to join the war. Last year, a few days before the holiday, her father had taken ill and soon joined her mother who had died before Kate had reached her second birthday.
            Nor had she heard from Philip. The war between the states raged on and the news
filtered so slowly to the community. For almost two years there had been no word, no letter from Philip. When her limited fund were depleted, she had no choice but to move into Aunt Sophia’s house.
            Now, the war was over and people in the north seemed so much happier.
            Except for her! She was little more than a servant in her aunt's home. Not that it
mattered for without Philip...
            She sobered and remembered the tasks she had to accomplish this day. There was
still much to do. Aunt Sophia made that clear only this morning when she announced the
house had to be immaculate for her soiree. Kate wondered if Aunt Sophia even knew what a soiree was, because no one in Albany held soirees.
            She gazed at the pile of split logs nestled in the snow. They had to be stacked
beside the fireplaces or the women would freeze to death in their ball gowns. She grabbed
the hem of her long skirt and huddled into her woolen cloak. The sooner she got the wood
inside the faster she’d get warm.
            As she toted wood into the house she grimaced. Aunt Sophia had declared she could attend this evening’s entertainment, but Kate had nothing to wear.
            Sophia’s youngest daughter had offered one of her own gowns, but the two women were too different in size for the gown to fit properly. No, Kate wouldn’t be attending this party.
            After lunch, she grabbed her scrub brush and pail of water. The foyer floor needed
a good cleaning before she retreated to the kitchen to help cook.
            As she scrubbed she planned her own evening. Long before the guests began to
arrive, she’d prepare some warm soup, escape to her room and read one of her penny novels. With part of the floor cleaned, she leaned back to rest. She threw the brush into
the pail and rubbed the perspiration from her forehead. Much to her disgust, some hair from her bun had loosened. She twisted the strand back into the knot at the back of her head.  It reminded her of the times Philip had run his hands through her long curls. Now
there was no time to fix her hair into curls. Nor was there any need, for she had no place
to go.
            She sighed and her heart felt heavy. This war had robbed so many women of their
men. Of course, she and Philip never had the chance to marry and perhaps if they had, her
life would be different now.
            With no effort at all, she could still imagine his smiling face, hear his deep
laugh, picture his twinkling eyes as he described the escapades of the young soldiers under his command. She wondered if he’d known of her father’s death or because of it that she was alone and had to move to Aunt Sophia’s house.
            “Oh, Philip, I miss you so,” she whispered and whisked the moisture from her eyes with her apron.
            This won’t do, she told herself and grabbed for the scrub brush. Mooning over what might have been accomplished nothing.
             She had almost finished when the front door knocker sounded. With nothing but a
dirt path to the porch, whoever sought entrance would track mud and slush across the floor she’d just cleaned. Some unladylike words came to mind.
            She looked a sight, certainly in no condition to admit her aunt’s caller. With
escape her only option, she wiped at her damp hands, grabbed her pail and ran for the
kitchen. Polly was close at hand and could answer the door.           
            “I’ve nearly finished but there’s a visitor at the door,” she said, when Cook
glanced up from a pot of cinnamon apples with a questioning look. “I’ll have to finished
later. Now, what can I do to help you?” Kate asked retrieving the brush and pail she’d
emptied off the back porch.
            “You don’t have time to help anyone.” Polly’s voice announced from the door to the kitchen. “The visitor wants to see you.”
            A swell of fear clogged Kate’s throat. She knew it had to be someone coming to tell her where and how Philip had died. She’d rather the message go to another in the family. Of course, she was being cowardly, but with her afternoon memories still so fresh in her mind, hearing about Philip now would hurt all the more.
            “Can you ask the visitor to leave a message?” Kate asked.
            “No I can’t. He is demanding to speak to you. I told him to wait in the parlor. But
you’d best tidy up a bit.” Polly giggled. “You look like a scullery maid.” She trotted away before Kate could object.
            “Go on, child,” Cook nodded toward the back stairs.
            Kate took an inordinate amount of time to repair her appearance. She didn’t want to do this but when her aunt’s voice echoed through the stairwell, Kate knew she could delay no longer.
            When she reached the main floor her aunt was waiting.
            “In the parlor.” Aunt Sophia looked unhappy. She was a compassionate woman, so the news would be bad.
            With her heart in her mouth, her steps dragging, she made her way to the parlor,
now adorned in all it’s Christmas finery.
            A tall man stood at the window, his face hidden in the afternoon shadows. His
stance looked so familiar, Kate was certain her afternoon memories had conjured up the
image. Then he turned and her breath caught.
            No, it couldn't be. She was losing her mind.  Then he spoke.
            “I couldn’t find you. Why are you here?” he asked, his husky voice impatient.           
            “Oh, Philip, is it really you?” Kate took a step forward then hesitated  “I thought
you had died. I didn’t hear from you forever and then Father passed on. I had no other
place to go.”
            “I thought you had married someone else.”
            She moved closer until she was in arm's reach.
            “Only you,” she whispered and reached up to touch his face.
            “Then how does a Christmas wedding sound?” he asked, pulling her into his arms.
            “Like a miracle,” Kate said and laid her head against his shoulder. “A Christmas

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