AWAY FOR CHRISTMAS
The magnolia-painted window-sill in the hotel bedroom was wide enough for
‘I'll be home before you know it,’ he said when he rang to break the news.
Would he? Or would he be maimed or killed.
She stared through the window, looking beyond her own reflection at the white hedgerow where houses now glowed, transformed by fairy lights twinkling in the descending gloom.
Christmas Eve. It wasn't a time for sadness, but how could she not be sad when Greg's regiment was this very day flying to war zones, where God only knew what might transpire. She ran a finger over a slat in the wooden shutter, suddenly driven to check the whole thing for dust as though some sort of action would make things right.
Then, for the first time, anger swelled within her and she pounded the shutter with her fist. How dare they whisk a young man into danger without any regard for his tender age. She sucked her knuckle, grateful for the hurt yet moderately stronger for having released some of her fury. In the corridor, the maid loaded her trolley with discarded glasses; remnants of celebrations.
The snow fell steadily during the night and by morning the landscape was an unsullied wonderland. Christmas Day. A day of celebration. A day to give thanks for life's blessings.
Outside the hotel,
During the ceremony she joined in the carols and intently listened to sermons and messages. She prayed with others for compassion, for liberation, and good will, as well as for
With the closing carol sung, she felt in her pocket for her sheepskin gloves. A few couples rose to depart, but the minister held up his hand and they sat down again.
A small group advanced towards the altar as the minister announced that a christening was to take place; he invited the congregation to attend.
The christening was soon over, a quiet service which could barely be heard at the back. After a final hymn, the minister toured the entire church with the child in his arms, her fingers clutching the stole around his neck, her shawl draping the front of his surplice, her residence in his arms making him beam with pride as he introduced her to everyone as
'How do you do,'
Blindly, as the baby was carried away, charged with a sense of supreme well-being Hilary groped for Ted's hand. 'All will be well,' she whispered as a quivering smile crept over her face.
For the first time since