Summary: Christmas wishes do come true for the brothers.
Rating: K (760 words)
Inspired by the December 1st Pinecone Challenge — “Who am I? You sure you want to know?”
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
“Who am I? You sure you want to know?” the man cautiously asked of the small voice belonging to the youngest member of the family as the boy paused on the staircase mid-landing.
Shaking his head sideways, recently turned five-year-old Little Joe Cartwright held tight to his tattered blanket with one hand while the other held onto a spindle. His eyes were wide in amazement at the stranger in the great room of his home.
He’d stolen into the house during the middle of the night; his return unheralded. He paused, inhaling deeply of the scent of pine cones and boughs of evergreens which permeated the room. Taking in the comforting sights of the room, including the small fir-tree decorated with strings of popcorn and cranberries placed to the far side of the staircase. Standing in front of the fireplace, he basked in the warmth from the heat radiating from the stones and the still-glowing embers.
Slowly turning, the man’s eyes twinkled above his rosy-red cheeks and bearded face. “I’m known by many names to many people.”
The man’s kind voice enticed Joe to hesitantly ask, “Are you…. an outlaw?”
“No.” He rubbed his hands together, a movement to warm them.
Coming down the last of the steps with his blanket dragging behind, Joe climbed into the chair and made himself comfortable. “Whatcha doin’?”
The man, dressed for the cold weather outside, took a few short steps toward the child, placing his hands on his hips. “It is Christmas Eve, young man, and I believe you should be asleep.”
“I gots woked up.” Cocking his head sideways, Joe asked, “Are you Saint Nicholas?”
The man smiled at the trusting innocence.
Interpreting the smile as confirmation, worrying hands twisted the blanket in his lap, “Mister Saint Nicholas, am I gettin’ lumps a coal?”
Concerned, he knelt in front of the child. “Why would you think you’re getting lumps of coal?”
With tears threatening to fall, his chin quivering, the boy whispered, “You didn’t bring my wish.” Little Joe pointed to the small carpet bag on the floor. “So I must be bad.”
His heart pounding, the man answered, “Come now, a child as precious as you?” He reached forward, tilting up the innocent face.
Emotions turned into heaving sobs as Little Joe explained, “My mama went away. She’s in heaven with the angels, that’s what Adam and Hoss say. And Papa… Papa went away, too. He’s been gone a long time. They musta not liked me.”
Pulling the child to his chest, the man replied, “Oh Joseph, your mother didn’t want to leave you. And your father,” swallowing past the lump in his throat, “he loves you very much.”
“Can you make Papa come home? That’s all I wanted for Christmas. Please? I promise ta be good.” Joe’s tears streamed down his face as he slipped the thumb, of the hand that still held the blanket, into his mouth.
Words were hard to express. He hadn’t fully given thought to the consequences of his leaving. Sitting there, rocking the boy who eventually returned to the land of slumber, grief stirred once more; he’d left his sons alone to face their grief over Marie’s death. “Joseph, I’m so sorry.” Placing a kiss on unruly brown curls, the sound of footfalls padding at the top of the stairs drew his attention. Above, he saw a set of incredulous brown eyes looking down.
“Pa?” Adam mouthed, his voice silently pled.
Lifting his youngest, he carried the sleeping child up the staircase, pausing as he came face to face with his eldest.
“Pa, you came home.”
“Don’t you think it’s about time?” Ben asked.
“Yes sir.” Adam reached out to touch him, to confirm that his father truly stood before him, and wasn’t one of the ghosts Charles Dickens wrote about in The Christmas Carol. “I… We all missed you.”
“I’m home, son. And I missed you. And your brothers.” Tears welled in Ben’s eyes.
In an uncharacteristic display, Adam unashamedly wrapped his arms around his father and cried.
Guilt ate at Ben as he came to realize how much his grief and unexpected departure had affected his sons. He had a lot to make up for, and for so much more to give thanks.
When his oldest regained his composure, Ben asked, “Do you think your brothers will enjoy receiving their father as a Christmas present?”
“I know I will.”
“Come on.” Shifting his youngest into one arm, the boy’s head resting on Ben’s shoulder, he wrapped an arm around Adam and said, “Let’s get this one, and you, back to bed. Christmas morning will be here soon enough.”
“Welcome home, Pa.”
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!
Tags: Adam Cartwright, APM, Ben Cartwright, Joe / Little Joe Cartwright, JPM
Other Stories by this Author
- One Special Night (by BluewindFarm)
- Christmas Tradition (by BluewindFarm)
- The Christmas Visitor (by BluewindFarm)
- Silent Night (by BluewindFarm)
- Christmas Wishes (by BluewindFarm)