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An Unexpected Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Unwelcome Visitors

It began as a light snowfall, barely covering the black macadam of Cove Road in Covington. By four o’clock, visibility from the farmhouse windows was restricted to the front bumper of Amelia Declose’s car in the driveway. As the world beyond the house darkened, so did the interior of the house.

Amelia switched on the lights and glanced at the kitchen clock: five past four, ten past four, fifteen past four. What if her housemates, Grace Singleton and Hannah Parrish Maxwell, could not get home? What if the weather closed the roads or they had been in a serious traffic accident? Next door, the fast-falling snow obscured the cottage of Bob Richardson, Grace’s significant other, while across the road, George Maxwell’s farmhouse was blurred behind a screen of white.

Just glancing outside chilled her, and Amelia jerked the curtains across the kitchen window. Moving through the downstairs rooms, she lowered all the blinds and set the thermostat higher. Then she turned on the light in the living room and flipped the switch in the gas fireplace. Flames sprang to life behind the artificial logs, creating a sense of warmth and welcome.

The ringing of the doorbell, followed by someone knocking at the front door, startled her. Hannah? Grace? No, they wouldn’t ring or knock, nor would Max or Bob. They all have keys.

Amelia peered through the peephole. Standing beside the door, rubbing her bare hands together and blowing into them, stood a young woman with light brown hair. Pressing close and tugging the woman’s jacket, a pretty, blond-haired little girl appeared close to tears. The child wore neither hat nor gloves.

The doorbell rang again, shattering the silence in the house.

"Who is it?" Amelia called.

"My name is Miriam Declose-Smith and this is my daughter, Sadie. Is this the home of Amelia Declose?"

With the storm raging outside, Amelia was uncertain that she had heard correctly. "Who did you say you were?" Amelia pressed her ear to the doorjamb. "What did you say? Who did you say you were?"

"My name is Miriam, and I’m Thomas Declose’s daughter."

Amelia gasped and lurched back. Thomas’s daughter? Impossible. Our daughter, died when she was nine-years-old.

The woman’s voice was louder now and pleading. "Please, won’t you let us in? It’s terribly cold out here. I can explain everything."

Surely I heard her wrong. She must be Thomas’s cousin, someone he rarely saw, forgot to mention? Should I let them come inside? This could be a scam of some kind, and she could be using the child to gain my sympathy.

Amelia squinted through the peephole again. Through the blur of snowflakes, she saw Hannah’s husband, Max, stomp up the steps and stand beside the woman. She turned toward him, and they talked for a moment. Then he stamped snow from his boots and brushed the snow from his jacket and red scarf. The flaps of his red cap covered his ears almost to his chin. Max pulled off a leather glove, inserted his key in the lock, and entered the house, shepherding the woman and child before him.

Amelia retreated as if before an invading army. How dare Max escort this lying stranger into her house?

The little girl, no more than seven, walked unselfconsciously toward Amelia. Wide–eyed, she looked up at her. "You’re a very pretty lady," she said softly. "Just like in my mama’s picture." Her eyes were blue, the same blue as Thomas’s and Caroline’s. The child extended a small hand, red and chapped from the cold, and smiled. "I’m Sadie Declose-Smith."

Unwittingly, Amelia kneeled beside her, took her hands, and rubbed them gently between her own warm hands. "There, Sadie. That’s better, isn’t it?"

Sadie smiled. "Yes, thank you. Being in here is much, much warmer. It was so cold outside."

Amelia rose to her feet, gaze traveling first to the woman’s face and then to Max’s. What kind of mother takes a child out in weather like this without a hat and gloves?

"This young lady claims to be a relative of your husband, Thomas." Max nodded toward Miriam.

"I am his daughter."

Amelia noticed that Miriam’s chin quivered. "That’s a barefaced lie, if I ever heard one. Who are you? Why did you come here? What do you want?"
Sadie backed away from Amelia, looking frightened. She grasped her mother’s hand and snuggled against her.

Joan Medlicott
P.O. Box 355
Barnardsville, NC 28709

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Two Days After the Wedding


A COVINGTON CHRISTMAS


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