Day 5 of Rose's 25 Days of Christmas Cheer from Spring for Susannah by Cathy Richmond
Christmas morning dawned clear, a definite improvement over the murky overcast of December in Detroit. Susannah popped the corn the Volds had given them, strung it, and hung the strings from the rafters. She longed for a Christmas tree, but didn’t mention it. The nearest pine might be hundreds of miles away, and there was no room in the soddy, anyway. After a breakfast of cinnamon pancakes, baked apples, and sausage, Jesse read the story of the first Christmas from the Gospel of Luke.
When he got to the part about Mary giving birth to Jesus, Susannah found herself fighting her emotion. No tears on Christmas, she reprimanded herself. It’s a time for joy and celebration.
From her trunk, Susannah brought out three packages wrapped in brown paper.
“All this?” Jesse leaned over and whispered to the dog curled under the table, “Maybe she does like me.” He opened the first two: a red woolen stocking cap and a matching scarf. The third package contained one gray knee length sock, a skein of matching yarn, and a pair of knitting needles.
Susannah explained, “With me getting sick and you spending so much time in the house, I didn't finish the second sock.”
Jesse’s eyes twinkled. “That’s a relief. Figured the first one was a pattern and you expected me to make the second-- revenge for me teaching you to play by ear.”
“Since it’s no longer a surprise, I can work on it now.” Susannah reached for the yarn.
“Not so fast.” Jesse kissed her hand, then slid a narrow silver band on her ring finger. “I should have given this to you sooner, but I wanted something special for our first Christmas.”
Susannah gasped. Jesse, who kept track of every penny, who wouldn’t spend more on the soddy than absolutely necessary, who wore his clothes until they fell apart, had bought a wedding ring for her. Tears filled her eyes. “I can’t believe it. Thank you!”
He grinned. “One more present. Close your eyes.”
He rustled and pounded, then said, “Merry Christmas!”
Her mirror stood over the washstand on a hand-carved pine shelf. Jesse had arranged her comb and brush on either side.
“It’s wonderful! Merry Christmas to you, too.” She rose up on tiptoes, aiming for his cheek. He turned and caught her kiss with his lips.
“My sisters fill their houses with doodads and geegaws.” He swept the soddy with a grand gesture, almost knocking over the new shelf. “Our house is clean, and there’s your trunks, but nothing else of you here. You need to leave a mark, besides the one you’ve left on my heart.”
“I wouldn’t want to clutter--”
“Halt right there. None of this practical stuff on Christmas.” Pulling on the stocking cap, Jesse posed in front of the mirror. “I am ze famous French fur trader, Pierre Chouteau.”
“Joyeux Nöel, Monsieur Chouteau.” Susannah curtsied.
“And you are ze first woman I’ve seen in a decade.” He swept her into his arms.
“But Monsieur, I am married.” Susannah held up her hand, displaying her new ring.
“You are so beautiful, I cannot restrain myself.” He waggled his eyebrows.
“Monsieur!” Susannah giggled as he nuzzled her ear. “Stop! Your beard is ticklish!”
“Stop? What is ze meaning of zat word?”
Susannah dug her fingers into his ribs. Jumping back, Jesse grabbed her wrist. “Ah, I zee you are full of fire.”
“Speaking of fire, Monsieur, we are nearly out of firewood.”
“So, where is zis husband of yours when ze wood bin needs filling?” He kissed the back of her wrist. “Madame, I will embrace you later.”
Susannah yanked his hat down. “If you can find me.”
Catherine Richmond lives in Nebraska, where it's easy to imagine being snowed in at Christmas. Her website is http://www.catherinerichmond.com/