Today, I'm excited to join the 12 Days of Christmas hosted by Faith!
So, today through Christmas Day, I will (hopefully) be posting something every day, including a new story, a couple of reviews, songs, and more. Today I will start my new story, Katie's Christmas. Yes, this is a sequel to Katie's War.
So, here's part 1, and I hope you enjoy!
December 23, 1950
Katie raced home, breathless with excitement. She dashed down the cracked sidewalk, turned into her family’s yard with grass covered in sparkling snow, bounded up the porch steps, and burst through the front door. “Mom, are they here yet?” She shouted.
Mom appeared from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. “Hush, Katie; not so loud,” she scolded, though her eyes sparkled. “And no, they’re not here; didn’t you notice their car isn’t outside?”
Katie grinned sheepishly, dumping her skates on the blue sofa beside her. “Well, no… I forgot.”
“Aha. No surprise there.” Mom smiled to let her daughter know that she was only teasing, then picked up the footwear from the couch. “Skates don’t go there, Kathryn.”
Katie cringed at the use of her full name. “Yes, Mom.” Her voice quickly took on an excited tone. “I can’t wait to go skating with Jerry! We haven’t been skating together in… years!” She took the skates, then hearing a car enter the driveway, rushed to the window. “They’re here!” She threw her skates back on the couch, racing for the door.
Mom stepped in front of her and pointed to the footwear. “Kathryn Paige. Put them away. Now.” All trace of playfulness was lost in her stern voice; Mom’s voice could change as suddenly as the unpredictable Kansas weather.
Katie’s shoulders drooped, and she grudgingly but quickly grabbed the skates from her mother’s hands and raced to the mudroom, her feet urged faster by the knocking on the door.
Once the skates were in their rightful place on a shelf, Katie dashed into the living room. From the kitchen doorway, she had a full view of the living room, including the front door: the door had opened and Jerry was there, deftly taking off his coat, despite the use of only one hand. His wife Martha had shed her own coat and was helping their son Isaac with his mittens; their three-year-old son sat on the floor, waiting for attention.
The little boy looked up when he heard Katie’s feet pounding on the floor. “Aunt Katie!” He shouted. Barely waiting for his mother to take his mittens off, the three-year-old and Isaac rushed to meet Katie and gave her a tight squeeze from each side.
Katie returned the hug, reminded again how much she loved her nephews. “Hey there Isaac! How’s my favorite five-year-old nephew?”
Isaac giggled. “I’m your only five-year-old nephew, Aunt Katie.”
Katie’s jaw dropped and she fell back in mock surprise. “Well, how did you figure that out?”
Isaac giggled again. “I’m smart, aren’t I?”
“You sure are!” Katie gave Isaac another hug, then turned to his little brother. “Jason, I declare, you grow five inches every day!” She tickled his stomach, bringing a bout of giggles from the boy until his mother whisked him away to shed his coat.
Katie turned to the coat rack stashed in a corner next to the door. She quickly shed the coat that she hadn’t taken the time to take off before, then was grabbed from behind in a one-armed hug. She gave a squeal of surprise, though she knew exactly who it was.
Katie turned around and engulfed her big brother in a hug. “Jerry, it’s so good to see you!” She exclaimed. “It seems like forever since you’ve visited!”
Jerry pretended to think hard. “Hmm, let’s see… I visited last month; yep, I’d say that it’s been forever.” He smirked, eyes twinkling.
Katie rolled her eyes and punched his arm, but she was smiling. “Yeah, yeah, I can always count on you to correct me, brother.” She turned to her sister-in-law with a hug. “Martha, how are you?”
Martha returned Katie’s hug, then smiled. Katie had always loved Martha’s smile; her white teeth shone in a face that featured large brown eyes, a petite nose, and an ever-smiling mouth, all surrounded by locks of curly, almost-black hair. “Oh, the boys are so energetic these days, and that makes me exhausted, but I wouldn’t trade this for the world!” She smiled as she watched her sons give their grandmother a hug and wet kisses.
“Well, you’re here now, and you’ll stay here for a couple of weeks; I’ll take care of the boys the whole time for you.”
“Oh, that’s nice of you Katie, but I couldn’t ask-” Martha began, but Katie held up her hand.
“This is a vacation for you. Tomorrow is Christmas eve, and I can’t think of any better a present than to spend the day with Isaac and Jason.”
Martha opened her mouth to protest again, but Jerry cut her off, putting his arm around her shoulders. “Thank you Kate, we appreciate it,” He said, putting emphasis on the word ‘we’.
Isaac ran over to Katie and tugged on the hem of her sweater, followed closely by his little brother. “Aunt Katie, will you play a game with me?”
“No, play a game with me!” Jason demanded.
Katie smiled down at them. “I’ll play with both of you together. What would you like to play?”
Isaac though for a moment. “I don’t know; you pick, Auntie.”
“Well then, let’s go upstairs, shall we?” Katie took her nephews’ hands and led them patiently up the stairs to her bedroom, not minding in the least that it took Jason’s little legs twice as long to maneuver the steps. She walked to the closet and pulled out a checkerboard and a small box. “Do you know how to play Checkers?”
Isaac shook his head. “Huh-uh. How do you play, Aunt Katie?”
“Well, let me show you.” She opened the box and pulled out black and red pieces and, flopping down on the floor arranged them on the black squares on the board. “Now, you can only move one square at a time diagonally, or…” she continued explaining, pointing the the board and making hand gestures. Isaac stared at her with his large, unblinking blue eyes. Once Katie was done explaining, she sat back with a sigh. “You have no idea what I just said, do you?”
Isaac shook his head and blinked. Jason just squirmed where he sat, up on his knees, back on the floor cross-legged, over and over.
Katie sighed. “Let’s go downstairs and see if your daddy can explain it better than I can.”
Isaac nodded and gave her a toothy grin, then ran out of the room. Katie quickly picked up the pieces and board and followed, Jason close behind.
Katie descended the stairs and walked to her brother. “Jerry, would you please teach Isaac to play checkers? You know how awful I am at explaining things.”
Jerry grinned and held out his hand for the supplies. “Sure.” He walked over to the couch, sat down, and set the game on the coffee table. “Isaac, come here.” He motioned with his hand. “Now, each of these disks are checkers. They can only move on the black squares, not the red…”
Katie watched as father lovingly taught son, their heads close together.
“Daddy,” Isaac interrupted his lesson, “When do we get to play?”
Jerry laughed. “You’ll play as soon as you’re quiet enough to let me finish explaining things.”
That quickly calmed Isaac down, and soon the game was explained. “Are you ready to play, Aunt Katie?” Isaac asked excitedly.
Katie nodded and smiled. “Yes, are you ready?” At Isaac’s nod, she sat down next to Jerry. As the game progressed, Katie quickly gained the upper hand, and she almost laughed at the intense look on her nephew’s face. The game lasted for about five minutes, and then Isaac sighed.
“You won, Aunt Katie,” he said with a sigh. “I don’t like this game. Let’s play something else.”
Katie chuckled. “You don’t like it just because-” she was interrupted by another knock at the door. She shot up and dashed to the door. “I’ll get it!” She opened it and was soon kneeling beside her brother’s wheelchair, enveloping him in a hug.
Joey returned her hug with his strong arms. “Oh, Kate, it’s been way too long.” He pulled away and smirked. “May I come in, or is the house only open to certain people?”
Katie giggled and, standing up, moved to the side and for the first time looked behind Joey. Her smile froze on her face, and was replaced with a look of wary confusion. “Joey?” Her eyes darted back and forth between her brother and the young woman standing behind him. “Uh… who is your friend?”
Joey winced. “Yeah… I meant to tell you about that. Um, let’s go inside and I’ll explain.” Without waiting for an answer, he pushed past the bewildered Katie and into the house, greeted by shouts of joy and laughter. The woman followed him, and Katie was left standing shivering on the porch. Finally she was shaken from her daze when the snow seeped through her now-soaked socks. Squealing, she dashed inside in time to hear Joey finish a short speech.
“...Hope, my fiancée.”
Katie froze in the doorway. “What?”
Joey looked up. “Katie, meet Hope. She's a student at the university I work at, and… well, to put it bluntly, we fell in love, and within a few months were engaged.”
Katie glanced at Hope, who was standing awkwardly to the side, with her pale blonde hair hanging loosely on her shoulders and intense green eyes that now looked shy and nervous. Then she looked at everyone else in the room. They shifted awkwardly. Finally her eyes locked accusingly on her brother’s face. “You’re engaged.” It wasn’t a question, or even an exclamation. All the emotion had vacated her voice, leaving it sounding hollow and empty.
“I was afraid you’d see it that way.” Joey sighed.
“How come you never told us?” Katie’s voice carried a tone of hurt.
Joey frowned in confusion. “I did. I talked about her in my letters. I even wrote to say that we were engaged.”
“Oh, that Hope.” Katie raised an eyebrow. “You said she was simply a student of yours.”
Joey chuckled. “Simply a student that I couldn’t stop talking about in my letters?”
“But what letter are you talking about, that you wrote to say you’re engaged? We never received any letter.”
Mom cleared her throat. “Well, actually… we got the letter. When you were at Lillian’s sleepover last week.”
Katie sighed and stared at her feet, tears pricking her eyelids. She took a deep breath and gave a half-hearted smile to Hope. “Congratulations. I… excuse me.” With that she hurried out of the room.
She stood outside the backdoor, shivering, thankful she had at least thought to slip some shoes on before rushing outside.
Katie heard the door creak open, then wheels crunching on the snow. She knew who it was without turning around.
"Katie, I'm sorry I upset you." Joey's voice was quiet.
Katie sighed. "I'm sorry, too. I should have been more polite to Hope. It's just… such a surprise."
Joey nodded. "Yes, I suppose it is." He hesitated, then said, "I really think you'll like her, Kate, when you get to know her."
"Yes, I know. I just… it's hard to imagine you married, y'know?"
A hint of a smile appeared on Joey's face. "I'll hopefully not be a bachelor for my whole life."
"Yeah, I guess you wouldn't like that so much." She smiled slightly. "I'll try to like her, Joey, I really will; she's just… she weaseled her way into your affections and, well, I guess I'm just afraid she'll take my place."
Joey wheeled to Katie. "I promise, Kate, no one, and I mean no one will ever take your place." He wrapped an arm around his sister. "You're my little sis, and someday you'll understand what it's like to have someone else that you really care about."
Katie squinted doubtfully at him, then shrugged. "If you say so." She bit her lip, then hesitantly asked, "Do you think she'd like to go skating sometime?"
Joey's face broke into a grin. "I know she would; she loves ice skating." His smile faded. "I just wish I could skate with her."
Katie wrapped her arms around him. "No, Joey, you're just right the way you are!" She exclaimed. "I wouldn't want you any other way, and if Hope is anything like you say she is, I know she'll agree with me."
Joey gave her a smile, eyes moist. "Thanks, sis. I thank God for you."
Part 2 coming Saturday!