Bitter snow violently covered the ground but only peppered the windows and dusted the window box planters. One in particular through which I gazed longingly outward into the rich foliage of pine and shrub. In my patient vigil, I observed how snow clothed pine tree branches and the curiously cautious peers of the occasional deer passing through the woods. Staccato hoots of owls as they snatch up their prey two feet below the snow moved around through the trees whilst wolves’ howls lilted above the woods. I do not know why I was starring out that window, for it was through the front door that would come the answer to settle my anxious heart. Fingering the end of the two letters in my lap I fretfully chewed my lip and tried to remember the happier moments here with Rivae. The tenacious log cabin in which I am to stay stands tucked away in the mountains. A strategic place to hide someone away from a war, but I suppose Rivae, lieutenant, would know this.
This three-story log cabin used to serve as our summer home when Rivae would be temporarily relieved of heavy duties to vacation away from the harsh military life. Now it serves as a comfortable luxurious hide out for me, his wife. During the summer days when Rivae was in his office attending to minor matters, I would busy myself by painting or baking when the cook was absent from the kitchen. On the occasional instances cook caught me, she would wave her favourite wooded spoon at me, scolding me for being in “her” kitchen. Her favourite line was, “I will never get super done if you’re constantly up to no good in my kitchen.”
I would always want to laugh at her haughty expressions. She was a short woman about twice my age with fine red hair and freckles that contrasted her uneven skin tone. Her sunken blue eyes told stories of the different experiences she lived through. She was a cook and nurse in World War One- as they call it now. That’s how Rivae knew her, but of course he was nowhere near the rank of lieutenant as a sixteen-year-old solider-he was barely a man. However, now that a new war has started with Germany, cook refuses to go back saying her days of serving are long over. Cook would report these little incidents to Rivae who resorted to getting me books written in Latin, German and French that I would read in the garden during the afternoons.
Oh, how I loved the Garden during summertime opposed to the plain blanket of Christmas snow that commits every artistic sin to the once blossoming colourful garden. The morning sun slanting through trees mixed with cool breeze always set a wonderful tone for the day. Painting early morning blue jays in the birdbath was one activity that Rivae said would keep me out of trouble or harms way for a brief moment. There was always some place new and exciting to explore whilst Rivae wasn’t keeping a keen eye out for me and my mischief; like the streams that led to mighty rivers and gentle ponds that served as beacons and refuge to ducks and animals alike. Yet, it was those times when Rivae seemed the businesses would he take me for strolls in the woods. He brought me to all the prettiest spots and sometimes had picnics with me there. On those stormy summer days, he would read the books he got to me and almost always surprise me with some pair of earrings or other jewellery article from France, a new silk dress or china doll from China or some jasmine oil from Japan.
Unfortunately, duty called. It was around the time the air was turning as crisp as the ground and the wind nipped at ones’ nose with a light frost kiss. Around the time the first set of leaves started to fall and the first time we discovered I was about three months along. I remember the last walk he took me on. It was when he told me the news. He picked up a pinecone to throw it at some unseen target but I quickly grabbed it. It was a small unpronounced pinecone dull enough to bore yet confuse the eye. He asked me why I kept it and honestly, I wondered the same thing.
Reluctantly, Rivae left leaving me behind but sent his brother, Louis, his wife and my beloved nephews to keep me company for a fortnight. Louis cut down one of the pine trees near the area Rivae found the pinecone. Louis’ wife and I picked it out and I decorated it with the children using delicately crafted ornaments. The rest of the cabin came alive with the scent of pine, beer brewing, cook’s delicious pastries and meals and reeves, candles and beautiful red bows. I was happy but for a brief moment. My head always wondered to dangers Rivae could be in and my heart would quickly catch up by conjuring emotions of fear. It did not help that my conscience would guilt trip me the moment pure joy of the season began to swirl in my body. In moments like that I would hold onto the pinecone as if it was the saviour, baby Jesus, himself. Due to this I now suffer with deep red marks in my hands.
The laughter of children which filled the cabin a few short weeks ago was only an empty echo that roamed the house like the ghost memories which lay dormant in every corner. Rivae wrote me often when he could. He always suggested to hire more staff to look after me now that he was away and I was with child but I assured him that cook would be enough company. A lie I know I would pay the price for when Rivae gets home. I sent cook away about a week ago to be with her family unannounced to Rivae. My eyes darted towards the tree. An angel stood majestically perched on top showing of its wings in the dim light that radiated from the fireplace. Under was a cluster of presents for me each wrapped in expensive paper and no doubt, knowing Rivae, came from some exotic place in the world. I didn’t care for them one bit. It made me realize how much I valued the affection coming from Rivae when he gave them rather than the actual tangible item itself. All I wanted was my husband back.
I re-read the first letter which announced Rivae’s homecoming but remembered the second one which said that there was a terrible bombing and most soldiers are still unaccounted for. Rivae being one of them. A solemn tear fell for all the wives and children who would be receiving the news of a dead father this Christmas eve. I unconsciously touched my growing stomach and waited for the sound of footsteps coming towards the door. It would either be him or the news bearer of horrific announcement. At about the third hour a metallic tide started to rise in my throat but seemed to commit suicide when the long-awaited sound of footsteps was in earshot. Each footstep pronounced the other until the front door opened. A bright lamp exploded the entrance like an angel when the door opened and I slowly slide from my chair onto the floor. The figure was unfamiliar so I assumed the worst. My heart dropped and the contents of my Christmas eve dinner was now all over the floor.
It was only until the figure rushed to my side and held me that I elapsed into tears of joy. It was him! He was alright and home!
“Where’s cook?” he queried with his head dashing to every corner of the house looking for the short stature of the woman.
I gave a guilty smile before embracing him.
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