A thick layer of snow was covering the entire country. It had been snowing for almost two weeks and summer was nothing but a faraway memory.
Springwood Falls was festively decorated to celebrate the season. In the middle of the Town, where the festively decorated gazebo defied the cold weather, stood a life sized nativity scene, neatly presented as it always had been and fairy lights strung up along the entire Main Street.
It was Christmas Day and the streets lay still in holy peace as families gathered underneath their Christmas trees.
In the big town house near the centre, Tanner sipped on a cup of hot cocoa as he looked out the window. It had just stopped snowing again and his grandchildren sat underneath the Christmas Tree. Another year was coming to a close and he thought about the active past few weeks in the run up to the festivities.
Later they would get ready to go to church as every year and he thought about the new additions in the community and those that were dearly missed. With a wandering gaze Tanner affixed the mountains at the outskirts of town and smiled.
At the far end of town, up ahead a snowy hill kneeled a young woman in the deep snow and lit an eternal flame at her mother’s grave before she wiped snow of the engraving.
“Merry Christmas mommy” her voice was grabbed by grief.
“Gosh, where do I start. I have avoided for so long to come up here, I feel terrible.”
Jeannie paused to wipe away some tears.
“I’m sure daddy will visit you later. The way up is quite tricky at the moment though. You should see the snow! I think we haven’t had that much for years. Not since I have been back, that’s for sure.” She gazed across to the Town that looked like a picture perfect post card. She could imagine all the families and her friends gathered around festive decorated rooms while smoke ascended from the chimneys into the crisp air.
Jeannie could feel an icy cold sting in her lungs when she inhaled.
“Now what would you like to hear? Oh, you would like to hear this. Tanner had one of his moments again during the Christmas Fair. You should have seen it, it was so funny. Someone had forgotten to tighten the Christmas Star above the gazebo and a gush of wind carried it all the way up the Tower clock and got stuck in it. He still insists that it was Nathan’s fault but if you ask me that was sheer bad luck. But, seeing Tanner running after a flying star in his Magi costume was something else! I know mom, I should not laugh. But it definitely brightened up our mood. The whole nativity paly had to be rearranged under the Tower Clock! Oh it was so much fun.
I think he wasn’t best pleased with us anyway. Well, with me and Alex that is. He desperately wanted Andrew to be part of the nativity. Can you imagine that! Alex put his foot down and told Tanner right where he can go. He is far too young. Especially, with the weather being so terribly cold. No idea what came over Tanner. Alex made a right scene. You should see how protective he is of his little boy. He has grown so much in the past three months. Andrew is a right character, I can tell you. Just like his father.
And Dad couldn’t be prouder if he tried. It is good to see him that happy again ever since…” Jeannie paused again.
as her eyes wandered across the old land. The mountains, that had been their home for generations.
“I am so sorry mom. I should have never left you all. I so desperately wish for one more day with you. One more hug. I never understood what it means to be a mother until now. And it pains me that I never could see how much you loved us. I never had the chance to say goodbye” Jeannie quietly wiped more tears from her face before she got back up to her feet.
Her Jeans were soaked from the snow. She blew her mother a kiss and said her farewell.
Thoughtful, she treaded in her own footsteps downhill when the she saw smoke rising up from chimneys.
A few steps further and the snow covered rooftops came into view and Jeannie smiled in content.
The festive decorated homestead lay in peace amongst the stable and further down the hill stood proud Jillian’s Guest House. Even over the Christmas period all rooms had been booked. Ever since it’s opening almost 2 years ago they had been busy with guests and the horse riding lessons had been a hit with the wider community of the county.
Jeannie had even taken on some Rodeos again until she had to stop on Alexanders wish when they found out that they were expecting Andrew.
She couldn’t wait to get back into the house and took up her pace.
The wonderful smell of coffee and the crackling heat of the fireplace greeted her already in the hallway. Despite her thick gloves, her fingers were freezing cold and she desperately wanted to sit down on the sofa with her family. As she walked over to the living room, Alexander came down the steps, cradling Andrew in his arms. The little baby boy was happily nestled against his father’s shoulder and widened his eyes as soon as he heard his mother’s voice. “Hey, mommy’s back.” Alexander piped and gave his wife a loving kiss.
“Is everything ok up there?” he asked.
Jeannie nodded with a smile and wanted to take Andrew but Alex pulled a face, like a child would have done if something precious would be taken of them.
“Not just yet. It’s still daddy time” he replied and proudly walked through to the living room.
Tom was sitting in his chair with Darleen on his lap, who was already too tall to do so but still insisted on Tom was reading her a story, like he had done ever since she was a baby.
Parker and the others were playing underneath the tree with their toys when Jeannie and Alex came and sat down with them. Lorna and Joshua were handing out hot cocoa for the children and coffee for the adults and sat down on the floor in front of the fireplace.
As Jeannie nestled close against Alexanders shoulder she looked across the room. Nothing had changed. The furniture still stood in the same spot as they always had been. The only additions to this haven were the pictures on the sideboard and her husband’s desk in the office. Amongst their childhood pictures stood proudly framed memories of the opening of the Guest House with the entire family. One showed Jeannie, wearing her mothers’ wedding dress, and Alexander on their wedding day and several others of Baby Andrew with his dad and grandad. But the one in the middle was still proudly watching over them all. The one Jeannie had tried to hide for so many years, with her mother and father at her side.
When Jeannie looked across to her father she caught him deep in thought as he lovingly looked at his late wife and rose his cup.
“To Jillian!” he toasted and everyone joined in. She finally had arrived.
Her heart belonged here, right amongst these crazy, stubborn, heart-on-the-sleeve people and didn’t want them ever to change.
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