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By Gilbert Morris
ZondervanCopyright © 2007 Gilbert Morris
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Chapter OneA grinding cold had settled down over Stone County and most of northern Arkansas. As Lanie Freeman hurried to slip into her dress, she noted the frost on the windowpanes and shivered. Her upstairs bedroom had a small wood-burning fireplace, but she only used it when she stayed up late reading or writing. Her dress was made of gray lightweight wool with long sleeves, a high neckline, and a fringe of black lace around the edges. Even so, it did not provide enough warmth against the early morning chill.
Moving over to the mirror above her dresser, she studied herself with a critical eye. A faint memory brushed the edges of her mind, pulling the corners of her lips into a smile. The memory brought back a day when she had cried because she was so skinny. One of the boys at school had called her "Rake handle," and she had flown at him in a rage. Only Davis had been able to pull her off of the boy.
"Well, I'm not skinny anymore." The young woman gazing back at her from the mirror certainly was no rake handle! As Lanie considered the lissome curves clearly outlined by the dress, she remembered an entry she had made in her journal when she was much younger.
Moving to the pine chest of drawers against the wall, she opened the bottom drawer and pulled out one of many notebooks concealed beneath her folded clothing. She opened the book and, ignoring her shivers, read the entry dated April the twelfth, 1928:
I had to kill Lucille today, and it broke my heart. I hated to do it, but I had to admit she was delicious. I fried her for supper, and we ate all of her. Mama only ate a little bit of the breast and some of the gravy. I'll be glad when the baby comes and Mama's strong again, and I'll be glad if I ever fatten up a little bit.
Lanie felt a keen sense of pain as she remembered her mother, who had, at the time, only a short time left on earth. She was carrying Corliss and would give her life to bring the baby girl into the world.
She leafed through the journal, sometimes smiling as her words brought touching memories, sometimes frowning as her words brought with them pangs of sorrow. When she came to an entry where a letter marked the place, she smoothed back the page and read her words again, just as she had many times before.
They're going to put us in a foster home if something don't happen. But I've heard about my daddy's aunt who's in a nursing home in Oklahoma. We're going to try to get her to come and live with us so the government won't break our family up.
Lanie next opened the letter, which was from her Aunt Kezia to her father.
Forrest, my husband has died and the fool spent all his money on a hussy from Muskogee. I'd have shot him if I had caught him and her too. He didn't leave a cent, and I'm living in a room in a rundown boarding house full of idiots! Got a little money, but when that plays out, they'll put me in some kind of old folks' home. Bah! I'll shoot myself before I put up with that.
A wave of affection for Aunt Kezia filled Lanie. In spite of her advanced age, the old woman had brought safety to the Freeman household. With Lanie's mother dead and her father in prison, the state had almost broken up the family, but Aunt Kezia had provided a safe haven for them all. Her sharp tongue was sometimes difficult to live with, but Lanie loved her.
She thumbed through the pages and stopped abruptly at the entry marked July the fourth, 1931. That had been the last Fourth of July, and the memory of it was etched clearly on her memory. As she read her words, her cheeks turned warm.
At the fair today I was standing at the Ferris wheel afraid to get in because it reminded me of the day Mama died. Suddenly Owen was there, and he teased me into getting on the Ferris wheel with him. We got in and I hung on, but I was scared. He put his arm around me, and when the car started rocking I just threw myself against him and hung on as if I was a little girl and he was my daddy. But it wasn't like that. As I was pressed against him, I knew he was aware I wasn't the little girl he always thinks of when he thinks of Lanie Freeman. And I knew he wasn't the father figure either. I could have let go but I didn't want to. I just held onto him and pretended I was frightened. I know it was wrong, but it'll never come to anything else. He's engaged to Louise now, and I've had to put that dream away.
For a long moment Lanie stood in the center of the room staring down at the words. She had written things in this journal she would never share with anyone else. The thought drew her to her writing desk. Still shivering against the cold, she pulled on a sweater and rubbed her hands together to warm her fingers. Then she opened the notebook, picked up a pen, and began to write:
December 27, 1931 Owen is not married to Louise Langley. That's the biggest thing in my life right now. She broke their engagement, and when I heard of it my heart nearly jumped out of my chest.
Excerpted from The Miracle by Gilbert Morris Copyright © 2007 by Gilbert Morris. Excerpted by permission.
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