Hello all! Can you believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve?! Like wutttt?? XD
Today I have the first part of a short Christmas story I'm writing. The second half will be up tomorrow. I'd love to hear some feedback! Hope you enjoy!! :)
Christmas Eve, 1944
"James!" Emma called through the house, leaning out the kitchen doorway. "They're expecting us at six o'clock, sweetheart. We should have left already."
"I'm coming," came the quick reply, followed by the becoming-familiar shuffle of her husband's crutches.
Emma crossed the room for the last time and added a plate of cookies to the smaller of the two wicker baskets on the table – both which already overflowed with food.
James entered the room just then, looking especially handsome in his forest green sweater and khaki slacks. Emma noted that the empty leg of his pants still hung loose, nearly touching the floor.
He cleared his throat and Emma’s gaze lifted to the large safety pin he extended towards her in his left hand.
“Would you mind fixing this? I can't make it stay straight when I sit down.”
“Of course.” As she reached out her hand to accept the pin, Emma paused to take in the peacefulness in his eyes. He didn't enjoy asking for her help and he never would. But he accepted it; he acknowledged that he needed it...for right now anyway. It was quite the change from the James that had returned home three weeks ago after spending several months in various army hospitals. Noting this did her heart good, although she knew they both has a ways to go.
She didn't speak any of these thoughts though as she knelt to fold his pants leg and then held it in place in preparation to pin it up over his stump.
Just as she inserted the safety pin into the fabric, James jerked.
“Ow! Em, you pricked me.”
Emma rolled her eyes and sat back on her heels to look up at him. “Survives Mussolini’s finest and is killed by the prick of a straight pin. What's this world coming to?”
“Ha. Ha,” James joked sarcastically, his eyes sparkling with merriment. “Just fix it, please.”
Emma laughed. “Okay, I am!” She carefully readjusted the pants leg and quickly pinned in place – straight and neat.
When she returned to full height, James leaned forward and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Thanks, sugar. You did much better than I could, even if I am in need of a transfusion now.” He winked and Emma knew he was kidding her again.
“Oh, you jokester.” She stood on tiptoe to kiss him back.
He grinned and slipped his left arm around her waist, holding himself upright with his right crutch. He landed a sweet kiss on her lips. “Who needs mistletoe?”
“Apparently not you.”
Emma stayed in his embrace for a few moments before gently pulling back. “Sweetheart, we've got to get moving or they're going to send out a search party for us.”
“And that would be catastrophic, especially to Mom’s health.”
“Oh, stop it,” Emma swatted at his arm. “She's nearly made herself sick worrying about you and Titus.”
James’ face turned serious. “I know she has, and I didn't mean it that way. She'll probably always worry about her kids though.”
“Mamas are like that.” Emma stepped over to the kitchen table and closed the top of the large picnic basket.
“I wouldn't know anything about that side of it...” James’ eyes widened, brows on the rise, as he gaped at the two bulging baskets of food. “We're taking all that?! Didn't Mom cook anything?”
“Of course she did,” Emma said, inspecting the smaller baskets contents. “This is just the stuff she allowed me to bring.”
James shrugged. “All this food may take me and Dad all night to work through without Titus around to lend a fork and a belly.”
His face became somber, his mind likely filled with thoughts and memories of his MIA younger brother. James and Titus had joined up together the weekend after Pearl Harbor and both shipped out a few months later. Emma had only known Titus briefly during her and James’ whirlwind relationship – from first look to the altar in five sweet months. But she knew it hurt James deeply to know he was home and safe with his loved ones this Christmas, when his little brother could be lying dead on a bloody battlefield somewhere.
She stepped closer and cupped her hand around his forearm. “I know, James. We're all thinking of Titus this Christmas.”
A shadow of a smile flickered across his face and he cleared his throat, before the moment was broken by the clanging of pot lids. James turned with a start and leaned to the side to look around Emma. He visibly relaxed when he could see the patch of linoleum where the couple's two year-old son sat, amusing himself by slobbering on a wooden spoon and pounding pot lids together.
“He's going to start his own band one day, daddy.” Emma grinned.
James shook his head. “Not so sure that will work out too well.” His gaze lifted to the clock on the wall across the kitchen. “We really are going to be late if we don't get a move on, Em. Do you want me to get Jamie?”
“Sure, hon. You two go ahead and get our coats from the closet,” Emma replied, moving across the kitchen. “I'll bring the food to the door. We really do need to go; your mother will be fit to be tied if we don't show up there soon.”
“C’mon, Jamie. Let's go find your shoes and coat.” The little boy hopped up from his spot on the floor and scampered out of the room, jabbering about something or other. Jamie's little feet pattered on the wooden floor, followed by the three-beat shuffling of his father.
Emma paused and closed her eyes in the quiet kitchen. Thank You, Lord, for these two sweet fellows in my life. You are so good to me – bringing James home safe. Please be with Titus this Christmas...wherever he is, and grant us all the peace of knowing Your will is always best.
Emma entered the foyer a few moments behind her husband and son, to find that James had retrieved each of their coats from the closet and was helping Jamie into his outerwear.
After sitting the baskets of food in the floor, she grabbed her coat and scarf from the stack of such items on the arm of the couch and quickly put them on. Peeking through the window curtains, she noticed how much more snow had fallen in the last couple hours. A few inches of fluffy whiteness again covered the walkway out to the truck – a path the neighbor boy had shoveled just before lunch. Not too much that she was worried about making the half-a-mile drive to her in-laws, but enough so that Jamie probably couldn't walk through it without holding to her hand.
“I didn't think about this,” Emma mumbled, more to herself than to her husband.
“What is it?” James asked, looking up from buttoning his coat.
“Oh, it's nothing to worry over,” she smiled quickly. “I'm just going to take the food out to the truck real quick, and then I'll come back for Jamie.”
He shook his head. “You don't need to do that. I can carry him.” As he spoke, he held the little boy on his knee and kissed his head while he worked on Jamie’s second shoe.
Emma hesitated, chewing her lip. “James, how…?”
“I'll show you.” He scooped up the little boy off his lap and held him up to her.
Emma took the little boy and sat on the couch at James’ side. As she watched, he quickly unbuttoned his coat and then again reached for Jamie.
“What are you doing?” she asked, brows knit in confusion.
“Watch and be amazed,” James winked at her as he took Jamie from her lap. He sat the little boy on his lap, face tucked into his father's shirt, and then began buttoning his coat up with Jamie inside.
“That is how you're going to carry him to the truck?” Emma asked, her voice tainted with disbelief and hesitation. “What's to stop him from sliding out of your coat when you move around?”
“Em…” James’ eyes widened as he attempted to draw a deep breath in the now-overly-snug coat. “Just believe me when I say that's not possible.”
Emma snickered at the exaggerated look on his face. “If you say so.”
“I do.” James grinned back, leaning over to kiss her cheek. “But... You may have to help me up.”
“Gladly.” She stood and held out her hand to help him to stand, smiling as she did so.
"What's with the grin?" James demanded as he took his crutches from her and stood upright on his own.
Emma shook her head, unable to explain the feeling. He looked so funny with a toddler stuffed down in his wool coat, about to bust the buttons off the front with his chubby weight, that she wanted to laugh until the cows came home. And at the same time she was so overcome with thankfulness that James was home with them this Christmas that she could have sank to her knees right there by the couch and praised God for years to come for His amazing goodness.
When she failed to answer, James didn't push her for a reply to his now-forgotten question. He only smiled, seeming to know and even understand her private thoughts, and shuffled towards the door.
"We're going to be eating Mom's turkey for breakfast if we don't get moving," he called over his shoulder as he crossed the threshold.
Emma laughed as she yanked on her boots and grabbed up the two baskets of food, following closely behind him out the door. She paused to hurriedly close and lock the door. She really didn't want James to attempt to navigate the snowy – and possibly icy – porch steps without her there.
“Be careful,” she cautioned, fighting the deadbolt. “I didn't feel anything when I was out earlier, but there could still be ice beneath all this snow.”
As she turned around, Emma gasped upon seeing her husband teetering on the edge of the second step.
At her scream, James caught himself on the next step with his crutch. Stopping for only a second, he eased on down the remaining two steps and halted.
Emma rushed to his side. “James, are you alright? You almost fell. I thought you were going to fall!”
“It's terribly slick out here so it's no wonder. I think that–”
Her endless flow of words halted and she tilted her head to look up at him. “What?”
“Stop it.” His eyes were soft, but frustrated, and his voice low and serious.
She took a step back, a bit hurt by his sharp tone. “Stop what?”
“You're smothering me, Emma,” James replied bluntly, his grey eyes finding hers over the top of Jamie's head. “You're… you're mothering me, and I don't need it. It frustrates me enough to not be able to do certain things on my own, but when…” He trailed off and exhaled, rubbing his hand across his mouth and clean shaven face before bringing it to rest on Jamie's head.
“Emma, if I didn't think I could manage the steps on my own, do you think I would chance it while carrying Jamie? Put him in jeopardy?”
Her brow furrowed as she quickly answered the question that caught her so unprepared. “Of course not, James. You would never do that.”
James nodded, edging closer to her. “No. I wouldn't – and I know you didn't mean it that way. So believe me when I say I'm alright, Em.”
“I believe you, James, I just…worry.” Emma sat the smaller of the two baskets at her feet and placed her hand next to James’ on Jamie’s cheek. “I didn't mean to imply that you're incapable. I'm sorry. I'll try to do better.”
James smiled and moved his hand to cover her bare – and very cold – fingers. “I'm sorry too. I don't like disagreeing with you. I'll try to do better too.”
“So…” Emma stepped back and retrieved the other basket. “If you two can make it alone, I'll go ahead and put this stuff in the truck.”
James nodded, grinning. “We can handle it. Thanks, hon.”
She flashed him a grin in reply, and trudged on through the snow to the truck. She put the baskets in middle seat, spending longer than necessary to make sure they were scotched and wouldn't slide around to give James adequate time to get to the truck.
The passenger's door opened and Emma straightened up, pulling on gloves from her pocket. By the time she had gotten into the driver's seat and started the engine, Jamie and James were safely in the other seat, with James’ crutches stowed in the back.
“Brr, it's cold in this old thing,” Emma shivered as she carefully backed out their driveway.
James nodded his agreement, unbuttoning his coat to give Jamie some wiggle room. He kissed the little boy’s head while snuggling their son inside the warmth of his own coat.
The truck rattled and creaked in protest as Emma guided it onto the adjacent street. The family was finally on their way to spend Christmas Eve with their loved ones.
Other stops in the linkup...
>> Visit Living in Faith and Fun for Christmas traditions in France ... and England (yup, two links here again!)
Have a good day! I'm off to do some baking... :)