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As the questions begin, an extraordinary story unfolds. A story of love and loss and caring, of separation and reunion. Of small acts of heroism in a distant and war-weary English village, now half a century ago.
As her grandmother shares this story with Marissa, the two discover that the most precious gift of Christmas is that of the present. And the season of giving is not limited to once a year.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.14(w) x 7.38(h) x 0.85(d)|
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TIDINGS OF COMFORT & JOY
By DAVIS BUNN
WestBow PressCopyright © 2007 Davis Bunn
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEmily 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 of 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 wagon's 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 four-teen 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. Nobody 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.
Carol picked up the quilt she had brought from Marissa's bed, and tucked it in and around her daughter. As she straightened, she found that Marissa's eyes were open and watching her solemnly.
They stood like that for a long moment, mother looking down at daughter, until Marissa's eyes again began to sink shut. With an overly quiet voice, she said, "You don't love me at all, do you, Momma?"
Buddy dropped his side of the empty mattress and fled from the room.
"Oh, darling, darling." Carol reached down and cradled Marissa's face with both hands. "I love you with all my heart, and that is the truth as best I know how to say it."
George pulled the mattress over to the doorway, stopped, and said quietly, "I'll miss you, Sis. Merry Christmas."
Marissa struggled to keep her eyes opened and fastened upon her mother. "Why is everybody going away and leaving me alone, Momma?"
"I would do anything if I could be lying there instead of you," Carol said, and a single tear escaped to trace its way down her cheek. But her daughter did not see it. Marissa's eyes had defeated her best efforts and closed on their own accord.
Carol sat there and stroked Marissa's face, then rose to her feet with a weary sigh. She turned to her mother and said quietly, "I don't know if I can let you do this."
"We'll be fine," Emily said.
But this time Carol was going to have it out and said, "This will be your first Christmas without Dad. You don't need this."
"I'm not so sure about that," Emily responded quietly.
Carol was too busy with her own worries to hear her mother. "You've been talking about this Indiana reunion for over a month. I hate to see you miss it on our account."
"She needs me, Carol. All those families can be seen another time."
Carol felt defeat crowding in. She tried once more with, "You've seen how she is, Mom."
"Yes. And I also see how tired you are. All of you. It's been an exhausting year for everyone. George's company almost going under, then my Colin passing on, now Marissa's illness." Emily's tone was flat and determined. "You have to go. We've been through this a dozen times. You have to. This vacation has been like a lifeline for all of you."
Carol's shoulders slumped. She rubbed her forehead, her cheek, the back of her neck. "I'm so tired I can't even think straight anymore."
Emily gave her a fierce hug, turned her around, and guided her out of the room and back down the stairs. "Go and start getting ready for the time of your lives."
At the front door, Carol halted once more. "Are you really sure about this, Mom?"
"I am," Emily replied calmly. "Who knows, this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise."
Excerpted from TIDINGS OF COMFORT & JOY by DAVIS BUNN Copyright © 2007 by Davis Bunn . Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Marissa is ill (& irritable)is staying with her Grandma while her family goes on vacation. To distract Marrisa, Grandma tells her a very interesting story of how she, against her parents wishes ,traveled to England to be with her fiance during WWII. Arriving there she finds her fiance...