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Authors: T. Davis Bunn

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Tidings of Comfort and Joy

BOOK: Tidings of Comfort and Joy
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DAVIS BUNN is an internationally-acclaimed author who has sold more than four million books in fifteen languages. Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include
Elixir, The Great Divide, Winner Take All, The Meeting Place, The book of Hours,The Quilt,
and T
he Lazarus
Trap.
A
sought-after lecturer in the art of writing, Bunn was named Novelist in Residence at Regent's Park College, Oxford University. Visit his Web site at www.davisbunn.com.

TIDINGS OF
COMFORT & JOY

DAVIS BUNN

"Now we both have a reason to bate Christmas,"
Marissa said.

I
t's a stormy beginning to a holiday visit when Marissa is carried crying and screaming into her grandmother's house. Angry because she's too weak and ill to go with the rest of the family on a long anticipated vacation, fourteen-year-old Marissa is convinced that this must be the most horrible and disappointing Christmas ever.

But Gran, who is grieving the recent loss of her beloved husband, decides to reveal a photo, yellowed with age, of herself as a young woman gazing with love into the eyes of a young man—a young man who was N O T Marissa's grandfather. And so Marissa learns the secret of a past that her grandmother Emily has held in her heart for all these years.

As Emily relives memories of a Christmas just after World War II had ended, the two discover that the most precious gift of the season is the tidings of comfort and joy that point us to the true meaning of Christmas.

TIDINGS OF
COMFORT & JOY

Copyright © 1997 by T . Davis Bunn

All rights reserved. Written permission must be secured from the publisher to use or reproduce any part of this book, except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles.

Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by WestBow Press, and distributed in Canada by Word Communications, Ltd., Richmond, British Columbia.

WestBow Publishing books may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fundraising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail: [email protected] com.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Bunn, T. Davis, 1952—
      Tidings of comfort and j o y / T . Davis Bunn.
            p. cm.
      ISBN 1 - 5955 - 4073 - 3 (repak)
      ISBN O - 7852 - 7203 - 8 (hc)
      I. Title.
      [PS3552.U4718T5 1997b]
      813 ' . 54—d c 2 i

97-24436
CIP

Printed in the United States of America.

05 06 07 08 09 QW 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Contents

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

GRAN'S STORY

SIX

SEVEN

GRAN'S STORY

EIGHT

NINE

GRAN'S STORY

TEN

GRAN'S STORY

ELEVEN

TWELVE

GRAN'S STORY

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

GRAN'S STORY

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

GRAN'S STORY

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

TWENTY-FOUR

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

To Jack and Jo Ann Bundy

For your guidance and

prayer support over the years,

And most of all

For enriching us with your friendship

ONE

Emily watched her daughter pull the station wagon into the drive. She stood by the twin fir trees, now dressed with Christmas lights. Patches of unmelted snow gave the front lawn a wintry freckled look. She gave her daughter Carol a little wave o f greeting, but neither smiled. Before the engine was cut off Emily's two grandsons had already tumbled out, moving as though sprung from ejector seats. Through the wagons open doors a continual high-pitched wailing could be heard.

Carol walked to where Emily stood in her shapeless cardigan. She kissed her mother's cheek, and said, "I can't believe I'm doing this to you."

"You don't have any choice," Emily replied, her gaze still upon the car. "Your entire family is desperately in need of this vacation."

"Mom, you'll never know how much this means—"

Emily Albright waved it aside. "Let's get this over with," she said, and started toward the car.

"Hello, Gran," George Junior, the elder of the two teenage boys, said. His brother, Buddy, mumbled something that might have been a greeting. But neither could manage to meet their grandmother's eyes.

She gave them both a smile, reached over, and ruffled George Junior's hair. "You've no need to feel guilty, neither one of you."

George resembled his father, with corn-silk hair and eyes like an early dawn sky. He winced at the cries coming from the car. "I wish she could come with us."

"Of course you do. But she can't, and that's that. Don't you worry. We'll have ourselves a grand old time here."

"No, we
won't,"
wailed the voice. "I'll never have any fun. I'm going to be miserable for the rest of my life!"

"She's been saying that for two days," Buddy said glumly.

"Come along, now. It's getting colder, and the weatherman's predicting snow. We can't just leave her out here."

"That's
exactly
what you're doing!" Through the wagon's side window an unkempt head of honey-brown hair rose into view. Normally Marissa was a buoyant fourteen year old who would never be caught dead in public unless perfectly groomed. Today, however, the car window framed a flushed and tear-streaked face. "You're leaving me and you're going off and you don't love me at
all.
Nobody does.
No body
cares about me!"

Emily's smile was gone now. She asked the boys, "Can you two manage her?"

"We got her in," George Junior said.

"But she didn't like it," Buddy added.

"Just be careful, especially on those front stairs. Last week's snow has melted, but they're still wet and slippery."

The two boys walked around to the back of the car, and were greeted with, "Don't you dare
touch
me!"

"I hate it when she talks like that," Buddy mumbled. He was looking nowhere but at his feet. "It's like she blames us for her being sick."

Carol opened the wagon's rear door, which only made the noise louder. The girl lying on the mattress in the back shrilled, "I hope you feel so guilty you shrivel up and die!"

Carol shot a worried glance at her mother, clearly concerned that she was doing the wrong thing. But Emily pointed the two boys forward. "Go on, now. Be careful."

"Come on, Buddy," George urged quietly. "It won't get any better if we wait."

The thin foam mattress had side straps, which the boys grasped and pulled out the back. As the blanket-clad figure came into view, she shouted, "I hope you have the most horrible time you've ever had in your whole rotten lives!"

Her two older brothers refused to look at their sister as they hefted the mattress and sidestepped down the walk. Emily moved in behind them. "Take her to the big bedroom at the top of the stairs."

Marissa flung out a feeble fist, which George Junior easily dodged. "I won't let you do this, I
won't!"

Emily caught sight of Buddy wincing in pain over the words. She frowned but said nothing.

The two boys carried Marissa into the front hall. Her pitiful wails and her energy were fading fast. By the time they had climbed the stairs, the cries had diminished to frail whimpers. The girl's eyes closed, the tears dried, the moans grew quieter still. The others breathed easier.

As Carol quietly lowered her cases, Emily pulled back the bedcovers. Together the two women lifted Marissa from the mattress and settled her onto the bed. Emily hesitated a moment before settling the sheet into place. She stared at her granddaughter and murmured, "She's still losing weight."

"Not that much," Carol whispered. "She's just growing so fast, two inches in the past six months. It makes her look skinnier."

"Fourteen is such a difficult age," Emily said, laying the sheet over her.

BOOK: Tidings of Comfort and Joy
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