Monday, December 24, 2018

A New Kind of Gingerbread The End!


Chapter 6
December 1887

   Riley came in later that day. He held a covered tray in his hands. “Your mother made you a dandy supper,” he said, forcing cheerfulness into his voice. “She told me to keep you company and make sure you eat at least a little.”
            Andi shook her head. “I’m not hungry.” Her stomach was tied in knots. Her fingers played with the coverlet. “Don’t make me eat anything, Riley, please.”
            “Oh, c’mon, now.” Riley sat down in the overstuffed bedside chair. “Do as the doctor says—rest, eat, and stay strong.”
   Yes, so if I do get sick, I can fight it off? Andi thought. Dr. Weaver doesn’t believe I’ll be spared. She cringed and looked up. “What’d Mother make?”
   “A nice, stick-to-the-ribs kind of meal,” Riley returned. He grinned and pulled back the cloth. “Potato soup and fresh bread with butter. How about being a good girl for this husband of yours and taking a bite or two? You wouldn’t want me to go back to your mother and say I failed in my mission, would you?”
   Andi gave a small smile. “I reckon not.” She sat up and took the tray onto her lap. “Thanks.”
   “No problem.” Riley snitched a slice of bread and sat back in his seat. For a few minutes, the two ate in silence. Then Riley popped the question: “How you feelin’?”
   Andi shrugged. “Fine.” Almost too scared to ask, she murmured, “Any change in Tucker?”
    Riley fiddled with his slice of bread. “None. I checked. All he wants is to be released from the barn—and his rope.”
   “I bet.” Andi dropped her spoon into her bowl. “I wish I could get out of this bed.”
   Riley laughed, but it sounded forced. “You’ve only been in bed for a few hours, Andi.”
   “What I don’t understand is why I have to stay in bed. If I’m gonna get sick, I’m gonna get sick. Might as well enjoy a healthy life while I can. I want to bake some more, and decorate the fireplace, and—”
   “You’ll do no such thing,” Riley admonished. “You’ll stay in bed.”
   “But Christmas is this Sunday, Riley!” she cried out. “Surely I can get out of bed for that?”
   “Absolutely not,” a new voice joined in. Mother came into the room, a fussy Jared in her arms. “You’ll stay in bed until the doctor says you can get up. Not one day less.”
   Turning to Riley and ignoring Andi’s sigh of complaint, she asked, “Did you convince her to eat?”
   “Yes, ma’am.”
   “Good.” Mother took the tray and laid Jared on Andi’s lap. “He’s hungry. C’mon, Riley,” she said, gesturing, “help me with these dishes. We’ll let Andrea feed her baby in peace.”
   “Yes, ma’am,” Riley said again. He stood and kissed Andi’s forehead. “Call me if you need anything.”
Andi nodded, and Riley and Mother left.
Tears unexpectedly came to her eyes. What if I really get sick? And…die? I’ve never realized just how much I take Jared, and Riley, and the house…all for granted. God, I’m sorry. Please, keep us all safe.
Andi laid back against the pillows and cuddled the baby close. “I love you, Jared.”
***
Thursday and Friday crawled by at a snail’s pace, even though Andi’s family did their best to help keep her mind off of the current predicament.
Mitch rode up and dropped off a stack of brand-new dime novels. Chad came and filled Andi’s ears with news on the Circle C Ranch’s happenings. Lucy left Gracie and Sammy with Justin for an evening, so she could spend time chatting with Andi.
Riley left for only a few hours each day to get some work done. Most of the time, however, he was at Andi’s bedside, sharing stories and keeping her spirits up. Finally, there was Mother, who never once stepped foot from the ranch. She did all of the housework and cared for Jared whenever need be.
Saturday came. It was Christmas Eve.
“Please, Riley,” Andi begged. “I feel fine. Absolutely fine. Let me go into town for the Christmas Eve service at the church.”
Riley shook his head and grabbed her hand. “We’ll have a service right here at home, all right? Your mother is all for it. She’s already prepared the candles and opened up the Bible to Luke chapter one.”
They knew I was going to ask. And heaved a sigh. “All right.”
Riley squeezed her hand. “I think I’ll go see if your mother plans to make some hot chocolate for tonight’s service.” He then rose and winked. “Love you.”
“Love you too.”
***
   As darkness fell and the moon went up, the house at Memory Creek Ranch was a beautiful sight.
   In Andi and Riley’s bedroom, there was not much light. Three candles burned, but otherwise it was pitch black. The door was shut and the window shutters closed. But the candles were light enough to read by, and that’s what Riley did. Strongly and clearly, he read aloud Luke 1 and afterwards lifted a heartfelt prayer.
   Just as he said, “Amen,” frantic barking from outside erupted. Panic settled over Riley’s face. Mother’s hand tightened its grip on Andi’s shoulder.
   Riley set his candle down and opened the shutters. The occupants of the bedroom had a clear view of Tucker.
The collie-type dog was growling. He yipped and jumped. His paws flailed.
   “Oh, no.” Mother lowered her head. Her knuckles were white from holding onto Andi’s shoulder. “Please, God, no.”
   “It’s been almost eight days,” Riley said. His voice was choked. He looked as if he was fighting back tears. “It’s been almost eight days.”
   Andi could hardly breathe. Her fingers closed tight around her baby. She held him close.
   “He can’t have rabies!” Riley cried out. He raked his fingers though his hair. “He can’t.”
   Yet, the dog continued his strange antics. “He never acts this way,” Riley murmured. “He’s been calm over the past few days.” He glanced at Mother, who nodded and squeezed her eyes shut. “It is,” she barely whispered.
   Riley left the room.
   “Mother!” Andi exclaimed, scared, “What’s he doing?”
   Mother shook her head, but her face said she knew. Andi had a funny feeling that she knew too.
   Tucker really has rabies. Riley is going out to shoot him.
   “No, Mother!” Andi grabbed her mother’s arm. “Don’t let him shoot Tucker! Don’t let him! He loves Tucker—”
   “He loves you, too,” Mother answered. She was crying. “There’s no cure for rabies in the animals. If Tucker lives, he’ll only spread the disease. There’s no cure for him…or for you.”
   “No, Mother, no!” Andi burst into tears. “This is all my fault! All my fault!”
   “No, sweetheart.” Mother pulled her daughter into a strong hug. “It was an accident. That’s all it was. An accident.”
   Andi buried her face into Mother’s shoulder and sobbed. Jared bawled, and no wonder. Andi was clutching him to her chest as if her life depended upon it.
   Is this my last Christmas with Riley and Jared? Am I rabies’ next victim? Andi’s stomach clenched. She felt sick. Oh, please! Let this all be a horrid nightmare that I’ll wake from at any moment. But even she knew—this was all too real.
   Suddenly, hurried footsteps sounded from outside the bedroom. Riley entered and flung himself down on the bed beside Andi and her mother. Tears were pouring from his eyes, and he threw his arms around both Andi and his mother-in-law.
   “It’s all right! It’s all right!” he cried. “It really is.”
   “What?” Mother demanded. “What—?”
            “There was two raccoons,” Riley blurted. He held his wife close. “The rabid one was not Gingerbread. When I went out there, the familiar sight of a raccoon standing on his hind legs and covering his eyes made relief wash over me in huge waves. Tucker had caught the raccoon’s scent, and that is why he was barking. Neither one of them are rabid.”
   “You mean—?” Andi couldn’t go on.
   “Yes, yes.” Riley nodded. “I do mean. Gingerbread is back, and he’s fine. Tucker is fine. I’m fine. You’re fine.”
            “Oh, Riley!”
   “Praise God!” Mother murmured. She clasped her hands and blinked back tears. “He is good. This is truly a miracle, Andrea.”
   “Truly, it is!” Andi agreed. She didn’t even try to hold back her own tears of joy. They coursed down her cheeks in steady rivers. “Thank you, God.”
***
   Andi sat beside Riley in the front pew. Her heart was singing. Her face was aglow. Jared sat in her lap, looking about with wide hazel eyes.
   It was Christmas morning, and the Prescotts were attending the morning service. Andi couldn’t think of a better way to spend that Christmas Day. In the hymns that led up to the sermon, her voice rang the loudest. Is it any wonder, considering all God had done for her?         
   When Reverend Harris opened his Bible and read aloud Luke 2, Andi listened attentively. She drank in every word. But it was only then that it finally hit her.
   Riley read the first chapter of Luke yesterday, right before Gingerbread showed up.
   Nine years before, Andi had recited Mary’s “Song of Praise” in a play. After a dreadful bout of scarlet fever, she had been able to put true feeling into her words as she repeated The Magnificat. Now, it again entered her mind…right along with a fresh rush of gratitude:
   “…’My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble state of his servant…for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.’”
(Luke 1:46-47, 49)



13 comments:

  1. That was an awesome story! Thank you! Merry Christmas Everybody!
    Didi

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  2. Merry Christmas everyone!!
    -HRG

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  3. Wonderful story! Merry Christmas!
    -HANNAH

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  4. Oh! Mrs. Marlow, this is an awesome story! Andi has the best/most realistic family I've ever read about in my whole history of reading, and Riley is just amazing. Thank you so much!
    Emily

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  5. AMAZING!!! Merry Christmas everyone!!

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  6. I love it!!! So did gingerbread augury still bite her tho, right? But gingerbread wasn’t rabied right?
    Oh and merry Christmas everyone! Remember to keep Jesus in all the Christmas fun! 😊

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    1. Sorry, I meant to say *actually*

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    2. Yep. Savannah, Gingerbread did bite her, but he didn't have rabies (thank goodness!). :)

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    3. Oh ok! Thank you Martha!

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  7. Yes!! I KNEW it wasn't Gingerbread that was rabid. And poor Tucker! He was about to get shot! (Tucker is my favorite animal in ALL of the series . . no offense to Taffy-lovers. :) ) Merry Christmas, one and all!

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  8. Thank you so much for a wonderful
    story! (I think I know where the idea for it came from, but don't worry, my lips are sealed ;)
    Have a very Merry Christmas!

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    1. Yep I totally know where it came from!!

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  9. This story reminded me of a little house on the prairie episode with Laura and Jasper the raccoon.~Brie~

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Let Andi know what you think!