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Authors: T. Davis Bunn

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Tidings of Comfort and Joy (23 page)

BOOK: Tidings of Comfort and Joy
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His dark vicar's suit was shiny with wear, and the cuff of the arm holding out the gift was frayed. I found myself swallowing a lump in my throat before I could manage, "This is the sweetest thing anyone has ever given me."

"You don't even know what it is yet."

"That doesn't matter." I accepted the gift, unwrapped the small bottle of perfume, and gave him a smile from the depths of a very full heart. "I will treasure this always, Colin. This and everything behind it. Thank you so much."

Then it was the most natural thing in the world to reach out and embrace him. I wrapped my arms around his neck, not caring who saw me or what they said. Not then. I felt Colin hesitate, then relax and return my embrace. His arms felt so strong. So good and so solid and so
right.

Finally we released one another and shared a quiet intimate smile. Then we began the process of herding everyone into the church.

There were nowhere near enough seats for everyone, but the grand old structure had volumes of room in the alcoves and crannies. As I helped gather the orphanage's little choir at the front, I could not keep them from turning and staring at the Christmas tree and the sign that hung high overhead.

Colin and the local schoolmistress had designed a huge Christmas card, which the village school had then painted for the orphans. With silver angels blowing trumpets from the two top corners, towering letters shouted out the message, To
Us a Savior Is Born.
The words had been translated into Russian, Polish, German, Czech, Romanian, and Hungarian. We had to stop and let the children laugh and point and read out the words, before we could finally turn them around, focus their attention upon Rachel with her little baton, and start them singing.

When those bell-like voices rang out with "Joy to the World," I thought my heart would positively burst.

TWENTY-FOUR

The fire had burned down to glowing embers by the time Gran stopped talking. Marissa stayed seated by the window, trying not to search the front yard every thirty seconds. The silence was pleasant, complete. They had shared something that went far beyond the story and the words.

Finally Marissa said, "So you and Granpa got married and lived happily ever after."

"Something like that," Gran said, smiling at her. It was not the smile Marissa remembered from before the funeral. This was something new. There was a joining of the soft and welcoming way she had been before Granpa's death with a new depth, a different wisdom. "Colin took quite a while to recover from his illness. I kept postponing my own departure, using his sickness as an excuse. My parents wrote every week, pressing me to set a date for my return. One day, Colin declared it was time to stop pretending he wasn't well in order to keep me from leaving England."

Marissa risked another glance through the front window. The driveway remained as empty as the last time she looked. "And then?"

"Then he proposed to me. And I accepted. Three weeks later, while I was still trying to write the letter telling my parents I wasn't coming home after all, Colin received a letter of his own. The former chaplain of the Arden airbase had become friends with Colin. He had gone home to America and suffered a stroke. He was writing to ask Colin if he would come over and help out.

"Colin's folks were long gone, he was an only child, and did not have any close relatives. The villagers were sorry to see us go, of course, but I was ready to go home. We said it would be just for a year or so, but the Philadelphia church asked Colin to stay on, and we did. And every summer we would go out and visit with our friends in Indiana, and we watched them grow into wonderful adults with families of their own."

"It's a wonderful story, Gran." Marissa tried to put as much feeling as she could into her words. "Thank you for sharing it with me."

"You're welcome, child." Gran cocked her head to one side. "Now can you please tell me why you're either watching the clock or staring out the window?"

"Nothing," Marissa sighed. Two hours late. She felt as if she had been waiting there for years.

"Well, I must say it is wonderful to see you so dressed up." Gran cast an admiring glance over Marissa's freshly washed hair and her white pullover and red plaid skirt. "If I didn't know better, I would say you were completely healed."

"I am much better." She would not try to mask the truth. Not from Gran. Not after everything they had shared. "I just wish I didn't feel so weak."

"That will pass." At the sound of scrunching gravel, Gran raised up to peer over Marissa's shoulder. "Who on earth is that pulling into my drive?"

Marissa looked and squealed and leaped up. "They've come!"

Gran followed her toward the front door. "Who, child?"

"Your Christmas present!" Marissa flung back the door, and waved with both hands over her head as the car flashed its headlights toward her.

Gran joined her at the window and watched the car doors open and two figures tumble out. Laughing, shouting, waving and running down the front walk. "What in heaven's name . . . "

"Merry Christmas!" A dark-haired woman with shimmering black eyes came racing up. She enveloped a tremendously startled Gran in a warm embrace. "Oooh, Andiel Emily, it is so wonderful to see you!"

"We're late, sorry, sorry." The man was tall and square-jawed, and had never lost the last traces of his accent. "But the Indianapolis airport was crazy with snow and people." He reached out his arms, and gave a smile that twisted Marissa's heart. "Hello, Emily. How are you?"

Gran released the dark-haired woman only so she could step toward the man. "Henryk, is it really you?"

"It is indeed." He winked at Marissa over Gran's shoulder. "Hello, my newfound friend."

The woman with the sparkling dark eyes stepped toward Marissa. "You don't remember me, do you?"

"Oh yes, Aunt Annique," Marissa said, accepting the embrace with a grand smile. "I've just been hearing all about you."

Gran looked from one to the other. "But what are you doing here?"

"We're going to sweep you away," Annique said.

"Tomorrow morning at first light," Henryk declared. "We have six hundred miles to cover, and almost a thousand people waiting to greet you."

"Friends and children and grandchildren," Annique agreed merrily.

"Such a circus I can't even imagine," Henryk went on. "It reminds me of the celebration in Arden, before we came to America. But you wouldn't remember that, would you, Emily?"

"Oh, she remembers, all right," Marissa said.

"I can't go anywhere," Gran protested. "Marissa isn't well enough—"

"Look behind you," Henryk said. "A people carrier, that is what they call those things."

"The seats fold down," Annique explained. "We can lay the mattress from your rollaway bed in the back. Marissa can rest and sleep just as much as she likes."

"How did you know about my bed?" Gran focused on Marissa. "You! You planned this!"

Annique's hold on her shoulder tightened. "She is a wonderful young lady, your grandchild."

"Such a time we had," Henryk said around his grin. "First the calls to tell people you could not come, then the calls to say yes, we will gather for Christmas, on New Year's Eve."

"But, but . . . " Gran searched for some protest against the tide of events pulling her along. She said feebly, "Christmas is over and done with."

"Ah, Emily, you will have to do better than that," Henryk said.

Annique smiled at Marissa. There were lines streaming out from her face and eyes, but within the sparkling gaze the pixie could still be found. "Your grandmother gave us the first Christmas of our new lives not three days late, but three months."

"Ach, the young these days," Henryk said, "what do they care of the past?"

"A lot," Marissa said quietly.

Annique smiled her approval, then said, "She taught us two important lessons on that day. First, that the Lord's most wonderful gift knows no season, just as His love knows no bounds."

"I know the other lesson," Marissa declared. She smiled at her grandmother, and said, "When you accept His gift, all is well."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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 novels include
The Lazarus Trap, Drummer in the Dark,
and bestsellers
Elixir, The Great Divide, Winner Take All, The Meeting Place, The Book of Hours,
and
The Quilt.
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.

BOOK: Tidings of Comfort and Joy
6.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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