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Sara: A Christmas Story

Emma descended the mountain, her mind full and her heart lightened. and though the signal was weak, she sent this text: Mom, I want to come home.

The phone buzzed a while later; a voice message. Emma listened to her mother's scratchy voice while refueling. "Oh, Emma, you are welcome home anytime! I was just, well, " her mother paused, sniffed and sighed, "We can talk about it when you get here. You just drive safe." There was another longer pause and a hesitant good-bye. Emma knew what her mother had wanted to say.

The gas pump clicked.

Still holding on to the handle, Emma took the phone down from her ear and whispered, "I love you too, Mom" before tapping the end call button and finishing up her purchase.

Thanksgiving dinner consisted of the usual - turkey and dressing frozen dinners, canned cranberry sauce sloshed out on Grandma Nancy's six inch glass dish and sweet tea. Emma and her mother spooned in food mechanically as they watched this year's Cowboys game.

It had been weeks since Emma moved back home.

Henry, Emma's step-father, was working the Black Friday sales again. "Sorry, kid, gotta get back to it, " Henry announced as he returned to the kitchen only an hour after lunch, Emma washing dishes as her mother finished clearing the table. Henry pecked her mother on the cheek. "Don't keep the light on, Sara. Just wastes power."

Her mother had just feigned a smile, "Wouldn't think of it, dear." And it had been silence ever since. Now Emma sneaked a glance in her mother's direction then chose to sip on her tea and return her attention to the game.

"Mom?"

"Hum?" her mother replied.

"We haven't talked." Emma's mother put down her fork and dabbed her tiny lips with her napkin before folding it in half and placing it with her paper plate on the end table.

"Okay, " Emma's mother leaned back in the couch, looking at Emma.

"Well, you, " Emma took another sip of tea, swallowed, then another. "You never asked me what happened up in the mountains."

"Why should I? I know what you saw. If not, you wouldn't of come home." Sara smiled.

"Oh, " Emma thought aloud. "But what if I hadn't? I could a..."

"Could have what, Emma? Not come home? No, you were ready. You just didn't know it yet."

"Yeah, but what made you so sure about that? I mean, how?"

"Cause you'd lost your dreams, just like I did." Emma turned her face back toward the Cowboys. The Dallas running back made a twenty yard run, breaking through the defensive line effortlessly. First and goal. The next play was a pass into the end zone. Interception. Emma's heart felt a twinge. "Emma, dear, you weren't the first one to see what Momma wrote." Emma faced her mother looking intently this time. Sara continued.

"It was after we left your father, " Emma's mother stated matter-of-factly."You were seventeen then. I had been sick; you know, in the hospital for three, four weeks."

"That's what you call it? Sick? I called it selfish, Ma, " Emma's nostril's flared. "You were safe while you were sick. I was at home with him, remember?"

Sara looked away from Emma's glare. Even today she couldn't face her own daughter's hatred. She knew Emma had felt abandoned. "I know. I'm sorry. You know I'd take it all back if I could, dear."

"Whatever, " Emma shifted, pulling her legs up onto the couch and tucking them close to her breast.

"Guess I deserve that, but this is hard on me too." Sara waited.

"Sorry, " Emma frowned. "Go ahead, really."

Sara explained how her sickness resulted from years of abuse from Emma's father. Her father was quick-tempered and would throw things on occasion, but it was from what happened behind closed doors that her mother had shielded Emma. Most of Emma's childhood memories included her mother bolting up from a cat nap, frantically cleaning the house or cooking in a panic before her father came home from work.

Emma had snippets of happy memories. There was the summer vacation to the beach when she was ten. Her father had earned a bonus as top salesman. It was the best week of Emma's life. Her father was happy. Her mother was smiling. they had been a normal family.

The next week her father got angry at work, punched another salesman in the nose for stealing a client.

The next week her father was fired.

Emma had spent the rest of the summer pouting in her room. Her mother too busy cleaning house and taking care of the one acre yard to take Emma to the pool. And playing outside with friends was dangerous. Never know when a car will go flying through the neighborhood streets, her mother had said. They lived at the end of a cul-d-sac on the quietest street in the neighborhood. School couldn't start again too soon that summer.

"That Christmas, your Aunt Laura took us in, remember?" Emma's mother continued. Emma remembered having to leave her friends behind when they moved into Laura's two bedroom house in another school district. Her mother got the spare bedroom; she got the sleeper sofa in the den.

"It was Aunt Laura who took Grandma Nancy up to that mountain chapel. And even though we never talked about it, we both knew she was dying from a broken heart."

Emma's mother stood up and walked past the TV to the wall bookcase and pulled out the old brown photo album. Finding the page she wanted, Sara returned and offered the open album to Emma. Emma unfolded herself and laid it in her lap.

"What's this?" Her mother said nothing. Instead, she pointed to the picture plastered to the right page. It was a picture of Grandma Nancy's signature and note in the chapel visitor registry.

"Aunt Laura brought this back for me to see. It was one of my Christmas presents that year. The other one's on the next page." Emma turned the page. On it was a faded handwritten letter from Grandma Nancy to her mother, dated the year Sara was born. "Momma wrote one to both of us; me, Laura. She had them tucked away in a shoe box under her bed. Laura found the box after we buried Momma."

"So why didn't she give you yours then? Why wait till Christmas five years later?"

"I wasn't ready to read it yet. But, well, after I got sick and Laura convinced me to leave your father and move in with her, she knew it was time." Emma squinted at her mother. "Go ahead, read it."

So Emma began to read. It was a struggle; not because of the letter's age, but its message. Grandma Nancy had poured out her heart for her daughter with each word. She told of her dreams for Sara, her hopes for her future, but also of her fears of being a young mother. It ended with a prayer and a scripture Emma had been told herself many times as a child.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. - Jeremiah 29:11

"Emma, I know I haven't been the best mother, but I love you just like Momma loved me and Laura. He wasn't through with me then, and He's still working on me." Emma could only nod her head. Sara sat down beside her daughter and slid her arms around her. Sara let Emma lay her head on Sara's shoulder, shaking as she tried not to cry for Emma had never let Sara hold her this close before. "Emma, He's not through with you either."

"But, what do I do now, Ma? I..." Emma began to sob, broken in her mother's arms.

"I don't know the plans He has for you, but I know they're good."

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION:The Contributor has no connection to nor was paid by the brand or product described in this content.By Robin Nicole - I m a former HS/MS English teacher writing full-time on the internet. My most recent writing accomplishment is the publication of my debut novel entitled FOR THE SAKE OF APPEARANCES.  

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