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“Come find me, Caleb!” called my little sister, Cassie.
She ran out the door and down the steps. Lottie barked and followed her. Nick was older than Lottie. He stayed on the porch and watched.
“I don't have time. I mean it, Cassie!”
Cassie ignored me the way she always did when she wanted something.
“And don't look!” she called.
I sighed and walked after her. I covered my eyes with my hand, but through my fingers I could see Cassie run to the barn.
“One, two, three,” I counted.
“Slower,” she cried.
“Four . . . five . . . five and a half.”
Papa was hitching Bess to the wagon.
“Don't be long,” he said. “Anna's almost ready to leave.”
“Don't worry. This won't take long, Papa.”
“I don't know, Caleb. Cassie's getting better at hiding.”
“At least you don't see her feet sticking out anymore. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,” I called.
I could hear Cassie laughing, but I couldn't see her. I walked into the barn. It was cool and dark and quiet. A winter sharp smell filled the space.
There was no answer. There was a time when Cassie would answer me and give away her hiding place -- she couldn't help it. Not today.
May, my favorite of all our horses, was in her stall. I reached over and touched her nose, and she nickered at me. I could see her breath in the cold air. There was silence, the only sound the sound of May's breathing. Then I heard Lottie's bark outside, and Cassie's voice.
“Cassie? I hear you!”
I turned. Cassie tried to run by the barn door, and I rushed out and caught her, making her squeal.
“I've got you,Pal!”
Cassie laughed and we began to walk back to the house, Lottie leaping and jumping in front of us. Cassie reached up and took my hand, her face suddenly serious.
“There's a man.”
“Behind the barn,” said Cassie. “He's wrapped in a green blanket. He asked me about Papa.”
“You and your imaginary friends, Cassie.”
She scowled at me.
“There's a man,” she insisted.
“You're stubborn,” I told her. “Like Sarah.”
“Like Mama,” Cassie corrected me. “You could call her Mama.”
“I could,” I said. “But you know the story, Cassie. When she first came here Anna and I called her Sarah. We will always call her Sarah.”
“I will call her Mama,” said Cassie.
I picked her up -- she was so light -- and Cassie put her head on my shoulder as we walked to the house.
“A man,” she whispered in my ear."
“Do you have everything, Anna?”
Sarah wrapped biscuits in a towel.
“Give these to Sam.”
Papa looked over Sarah's shoulder.
“Some,” he said. “Not all.”
“Papa never gets enough biscuits,” said Anna.
Anna tied up some letters with a long ribbon. Min, our orange cat, leaped up, trying to catch the ends. Her mother, Seal, slept in a basket by the fire, opening her eyes every so often to check on all of us.
“Justin's letters?” asked Sarah.
“I read them over and over,” she said softly. “Sometimes I feel he's standing next to me.”
Everyone was quiet. I used to tease Anna about her boyfriend, Justin. I called him Just-In-Time. But not anymore. Justin had gone to Europe to fight in the war. And no one teased Anna now. I think she worked for Doctor Sam because Justin was his son. It made her feel closer to Justin.
“Letters,” said Papa, his voice low.
“You were the masters of letter writing, you and Sarah,” said Anna.
“What does that mean?” asked Cassie.
“It means that they wrote letters to each other before they loved each other,” said Anna.
“I never got to write letters,” complained Cassie.
Papa smiled at her.
“No, you came much later.”
“You came during an early snowstorm,” I told Cassie, “with wind and snow and cold. I remember.”
“We all remember!” said Anna, laughing.
“Did I come with letters?” asked Cassie.
“No,” said Anna. “But you can write letters to me in town.”
“I will,” said Cassie, excited. “I will write you a hundred plus seven letters!”
“Here, Caleb,” said Anna. She handed me some books.
“What is this?” I asked.
“My journals,” said Anna. “And new ones. It is your job now.”
“Mine?! I'm not a writer like you, Anna,” I said.
“You'll figure it out, Caleb. One page at a time.”
“Everyone's not a writer, Caleb,” said Anna. “But everyone can write.”
Sarah looked out of the kitchen window.
“What is it, Sarah?” asked Papa.
“I thought I saw something. Someone, maybe. Over there.”
Papa looked out, too.
“I don't see anyone. But I do see the beginnings of snow. And the wind is picking up. Let's go!”
“Snow!” said Cassie. “And wind! Will someone be born?”
Sarah and Papa laughed.
“Not here,” Sarah said. “Not tonight.”
We picked up Anna's suitcase and packages and went out the door.
“She saw the man,” whispered Cassie.
“Come on, Cass. There's no man,” I said.
I took Cassie's hand and we went out where snow was coming down. Sarah looked worried.
“Anna? I want you to be careful. There's so much sickness.”
“I know you worry about the influenza,” said Anna.
“So many are sick,” said Sarah, putting her arm around Anna. “So many have died. And you see the worst of it.”
“I love working with Sam,” said Anna. “You told me once that it is important to do what you love.”
“I said that, did I?” said Sarah.
“You did,” said Anna.
“You did,” said Cassie, making Sarah laugh.
The snow was falling harder now, so that we couldn't see the clouds anymore. Caleb's Story. Copyright © by Patricia MacLachlan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.