Authors: Susanne Matthews
“You, too,” Leah said. “It’s good practice for when you’re a mommy.”
Krista smiled, her throat clogged with emotions. She placed a gentle kiss on the child’s cheek. “Goodnight, Leah. Pleasant dreams.”
“I’m going to dream of sugar plums and my new pony, and my surprise,” she said and yawned. Her eyes closed. Within seconds, the child was asleep.
They tiptoed out of the room.
“I wish I could fall asleep like that,” Krista said. “What did she mean by her surprise?”
“I don’t know, but I hope I got it. I went through that letter to Santa with a fine-toothed comb. Let me get the stuff I have hidden in my room, and I’ll meet you downstairs.”
“Sure. I’ll get the presents I bought and check on the bread.”
Krista went into her bedroom and picked up the packages she’d wrapped. About to leave the room, she was drawn to the small metal box. Since she had no plans to sign the documents as they were, there was no point in keeping them. Getting the box from her closet, she went downstairs, placed her gifts under the tree in the living room, and carried the box into the den. Ethan hadn’t arrived yet. Pressing the power button on the remote, she recognized the colorized version of Dickens,
A Christmas Carol
, with Alastair Sim. She watched as the Ghost of Christmas Past took Scrooge through the bittersweet memories of his youth.
As the movie played, she suddenly felt light-headed. The metal box called to her. Of their own volition, her hands reached for the box and pulled out the bundle of letters. Incapable of stopping herself, she opened the first letter and read.
Baby, I miss you. Why haven’t you returned my phone calls? Dad said he gave you my messages. Both times I’ve phoned you’ve been off gallivanting with your friends. I’m beginning to think you’ve changed your mind about being my girl, but I know you wouldn’t do that.
What a pain about the Internet. I just realized that the five messages I sent weren’t delivered. That explains why you didn’t answer those. Dad says the tower got damaged in last week’s electrical storm, so the service is down for at least a month. That sucks. Snail mail will have to do. I suppose it’s better than the Pony Express. One of the guys here has Skype on his computer and talks to his girl in real time. He can even see her. She’s not as pretty as you are. She doesn’t have fire in her hair and silver in her eyes. (That’s as poetic as I get). I doubt we can get Dad to spring for something like that, but one day, when I manage the ranch, I’ll make sure I can see you and talk to you every day, even if I’m half the world away.
The courses I’m taking are interesting, and I’m glad Dad suggested this, but I’d rather be with you. I’m happy I’ll only be here another six weeks, but baby girl, they’ll be the longest six weeks of my life. When I get back, I want us to be an official couple. Fingers are crossed you want that, too.
We have classes from eight until one each day, and then a break for lunch before we go out and visit local farms. I’ve never seen so many pigs in my life. We drove by Robert Pickton’s place the other day. He was that pig farmer turned serial killer in the news back in the late nineties. We read about him in my law classes. You probably did, too. Hard to believe people like that can be your neighbors and you don’t even know it.
I miss you. I wish you were here so I could show you some of the city. There’s Grouse Mountain—a ski hill right in downtown Vancouver. You’d love it. How would you like to come here for a couple of days? I can arrange airfare and a room for you in the ladies’ dorm. I’d love to take you on the ferry to Victoria and the Butchart Gardens. Give you some ideas for those flower beds you’re always talking about.
The idea of having to wait a week or more to hear from you is killing me.
Love you, babe. Can’t wait to take you in my arms again.
Unable to stop herself, she continued to read the letters. In each one, he repeated his love. She felt his anguish and the confusion that had matched her own.
Krista, I don’t know what went wrong or why you aren’t answering my letters. If you don’t reply to this one, it’ll be the last. Even I’m smart enough to know when to quit chasing my tail. I love you. I’ll always love you. When you’re ready to come home, I’ll be here waiting for you.
By the time she finished reading the last letter, Krista was a sobbing mess. How could Uncle Charles have done this? He’d lied to them both, forced them apart and for what?
She didn’t hear Ethan come into the room, but when he pulled her up off the couch and into his arms, she went willingly. He cradled her as she wept for all they’d lost. He held her to him, his lips caressing her hair, his hand rubbing small, comforting circles on her back. Eventually, her crying ebbed, and she heard Scrooge speaking to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”
“Our future doesn’t have to be the way my uncle made it,” Ethan said softly, his words agreeing with Scrooge’s. “I’ve loved you my whole life, Krista. I needed to get the business of the ranch out in the open before I spoke to you. I wasn’t going to speak to you about us tonight, but I can’t seem to stop myself from doing just that. Ten years ago, I bought you this.” He held out a silver ring with a tiny diamond chip in it. “I’d planned to give it to you when I came home from Vancouver. I’ve hung onto it all these years. Now, you’ve finally come back to Seven Oaks. Will you come back to me, too? Will you be my girl? I love you as much now as I did at twenty-three. I never stopped believing we belonged together here at Seven Oaks.”
Krista looked up at him tears still running down her cheeks, but these tears were tears of happiness. “Ethan, I’ve always loved you. I’d love to be your girl.”
She held up her hand, and he slipped the ring onto her finger, before bending to capture her lips in the kiss she’d dreamed of for ten years. His lips were soft against hers, and his tongue flitted against her mouth sending sensations pouring through her. She gasped and her kips parted admitting him and all of the yearning she’d suppressed for so long flooded her. The kiss made her feel alive for the first time in ten years.
Slowly, reluctantly, he pulled his lips away from hers.
“I came in and saw you reading the letters. I’m glad you changed your mind.”
“I couldn’t stop myself. It was as if I was under a compulsion to do so.” She glanced up at the angel on the tree whose wings seemed to be fluttering more quickly than ever. “Did you ever get around to making your wish?”
“I did. I wished for the words to show you how much I loved you and wanted you to be my partner, my wife, and Leah’s new mommy. Come to think of it, that kid has damn good instincts inviting you up to tuck her in, and look at this.” He held up a small package. Printed in Leah’s erratic letters were the words ‘for my new mommy.’
Tears filled her eyes again. “She’s one crafty little girl. How can I turn down a proposal like that one?” She looked down at the open letters on the coffee table. “You had the words, I just needed to open my heart and read them.”
He sat on the sofa and pulled her onto his lap.
“I’m so glad I came home for Christmas,” she said.
“So am I,” he answered before capturing her lips once more.
When she came up for air, she smiled. “We need to finish Santa’s milk and cookies and get to bed. We’ve got our work cut out for us. Leah’s expecting her new mommy to bring her a baby so she won’t be an ‘only’ anymore.”
He chuckled. “Well, we can get that job started anytime you like. Milk and cookies are done.”
She picked up the letters, put them back in the box and turned to him. “I’m ready whenever you are. I’ve waited ten years for this.” She looked over at the small tree, as the lights went it. It seemed as if the angel’s grin was broader than ever. “We should name our first baby Angela.”
Ethan picked her up as if she weighed no more than Leah and carried her up the stairs. Downstairs, the grandfather clock rang once. It was going to be a very merry Christmas at Seven Oaks, and for the first time in a long time, Krista was looking forward to the New Year.