Five more sleeps and then…Christmas! Do you still get excited? Do you remember Christmases past as better or sadder? Do you pull the covers over your head and wish the holiday were over?
I confess, I’m a lover of Christmas. As a child I could barely contain myself as the house filled with scent of cinnamon and nutmeg, pine and spruce. We shopped from the catalogue in those days and my brothers and I wore the pages to shreds as we debated and decided and debated again on which gift to give each member of our family. Christmas morning was the most joyful time of the year.
I’m older now. The family has spread far and wide. Christmas dinner is a small affair, but I still love the season. I love to put up the tree, to sing carols, to bake goodies that only appear in my cookie tins in December. I love having friends come in to share a piece of Christmas cake.
And I love to read Christmas stories. I hope you do too, because I have a new on for you. It’s titled “The Neighbour.” Here’s a sample. To read the complete story, sign up for my newsletter and receive your free copy.
Who Is My Neighbour?
Isobel Jordan drew a pan of shortbread out of the oven and set it on a rack to cool. With the edge of a spatula she lifted one cookie to peer at the bottom. Not black. An improvement on her last effort, but still not the perfectly golden rounds that Bella Barclay turned out.
She sighed and sat down at the kitchen table. She wished for a cup of tea but felt too defeated to fill the kettle from the pump, let alone add more wood to the stove. Instead, she nibbled on an over-done shortbread and stared out the window. Under a brilliant blue sky, the flat prairie lay smothered beneath a layer of deep snow, the surface marred only by the occasional rabbit track or bird scratch. Closer to the house, the sharply pitched roof of the barn drew a straight line against the sky. Johnny was out there now, coddling his team of big Clydesdales and mending their harnesses. At the edge of her vision, stretched the long rope running from house to barn. Johnny put it up every fall, even before the first snowstorm.
“A man can get lost in a blizzard three steps from his own door,” he’d said when she questioned him.
Her spirits lifted a little as she remembered last Christmas, her first as Mrs. Johnny Jordan. What a flurry it had all been. A mail-order bride. She shook her head in wonder. She’d been so desperate to escape the gold rush town of Prospect and her job as its school teacher, she’d answered a letter from Johnny Jordan in the Western Home Monthly. A husband, even one with a scarred face, seemed preferable to another minute of trying to keep order among the restless pupils in Prospect’s one room schoolhouse.
She bit into another cookie and made a face as the taste of charred sugar filled her mouth. Gloom descended once more. Before she left town, Prospect’s best cook, Bella Barclay, had given her a sheaf of recipes. Yet Isobel’s efforts never produced the desired results. Had Bella deliberately sabotaged the recipes?
She jumped to her feet and set about washing the mixing bowls. Bella would never do anything so underhanded. It was just her own bad mood that had produced such thoughts. And why was she in a bad mood? She scrubbed hard at a bit of stuck-on dough. Because she was a foolish, ungrateful woman, that’s why.
She set the bowl on the draining board with a sharp thump. She’d chosen to marry Johnny because she wanted peace and quiet and a kind husband. Which was exactly what she’d got – and a little more besides. She felt her cheeks warm and knew she blushed.
She looked out at the silent, white world and banged a pot hard against the stove, just to hear the clang. She wouldn’t have believed a body could get too much peace and quiet, but . . .
The kitchen door opened and Johnny surged in, bringing with him a shower of snow, and the smell of out-of-doors and horses. Her mood lifted. The sight of her broad-shouldered, handsome husband never failed to move her. Despite the disfiguring scar on one side of his face where a snapped chain had struck him as a child, he was handsome. The other side of his face was perfect. And his heart was large and kind, and to her amazement and delight, full of love for her. Just because he didn’t relish the sound of his own voice didn’t mean he was indifferent or neglectful. He was just Johnny, a man who preferred action to words.
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Have a Merry Christmas. I’ll be back at this site in the new year.