If you are just tuning in, go to Chapter One here. I shared this story last year and thought it was time to share again. It will be in my next book, a short story collection.
The True Meaning of Christmas
While her mother slept Clarinda kept the children busy as she read several books to them. At least they had books that she managed to get from the library that were going to be thrown away. They were tattered just like the rest of the things in her life.
It was nearly noon and her mother still had not woken up. She would have to feed the children their lunch and then tackle the clothes. Clarinda knew that if she didn’t get the clothes over to the Antonelli’s today they would not get paid full price for the wash. She put together the last two slices of bread to make a bread and butter sandwich and split it between the children. While they were busy eating she would start the wash.
There was a small basket in the laundry area which was filled with their clothes and the larger basket was the Antonelli’s. Clarinda put in the first load and added the detergent which was getting low. She made sure to use it sparingly so she would have enough to finish all the clothes. While the machine was going she hurried back to check on her brother and sister. Andrew and Brenda were just finishing up the last of their sandwiches and looking for more. Clarinda checked the cabinets once again for anything to fill their little stomachs before her own. She found a few crackers which she doled out to them and ate one herself. That would be the only lunch she would have. She wasn’t a large person but she felt she could afford to lose weight but not her younger siblings who needed the nourishment more. She gave them each a full glass of water to fill them up more before putting them both down for a nap. After tucking them into their beds she hurried back to the clothes to transfer the clean ones to the dryer and the dirty ones into the washer. At this rate it would take all day to finish washing the clothes besides having to iron them too.
Clarinda worked tirelessly for two hours without stopping until she heard Brenda crying. She rushed through the last bit of ironing and shut off the iron. As she headed into the children’s room she was greeted by smiles and happy jumping as Brenda put her arms out to her from her crib and Andrew got out of bed and snuggled close to her side. Clarinda wrapped them both in her arms and held them tightly wanting only to protect and keep them safe – if only she could. She was getting concerned about her mother since she still hadn’t woken up yet.
With the children by her side she guided them to their mother’s room to see if she was ready to get up now. Clarinda needed for her mother to watch the children while she took the clothes to the Antonelli’s.
When she opened the bedroom door she noticed her mother’s arm was hanging over the side of the bed. She moved closer and turned on the light on the night stand. What she saw made her cry out in alarm. Her mother was still and not breathing. Clarinda shook her mother’s shoulder and called out to her. Clarinda was afraid that her mother might be gone. The children started to cry as they felt something was wrong when Clarinda cried out and only clung tighter to their sister.
Clarinda picked up the phone on the night stand and called Dr. Harvey who was their family physician. When his secretary, Denise, answered Clarinda couldn’t speak as tears kept flooding her eyes and chocking up her speech. The children only cried louder making it even more difficult for Clarinda to hear Denise as she asked what was wrong. Denise waved at Dr. Harvey as he came into the office and pointed to the phone mouthing that it was Clarinda. He picked up the extension and asked, “Clarinda, what’s wrong sweetheart?” Dr. Harvey yelled into the phone to try to be heard over all the crying. “Where is your mother, dear?”
“Sss….she is in bed, Dr. Harvey. She is not moving and I can’t wake her up. I don’t know what to do. I have to take the clothes to the Antonelli’s or Mommy will be angry and she won’t get paid. Can you come over and help me?” Clarinda sniffled and wiped her eyes and nose on her sleeves as she tried to hold onto the children at the same time. They were so frightened they wouldn’t let go of her anyway.
“Of course, Clarinda, I will be right over. Just sit tight and I’ll come and check on your mother and stay with the children while you take over the clothes. Okay, dear? Please don’t cry now. I will be right there.” Dr. Harvey put down the phone his hands were shaking as he took in what the poor child must be dealing with. He needed to get over to her house immediately. He told his secretary to hold all calls and postpone his afternoon appointments and that he would not be in the office the rest of the day. Denise nodded sadly, “Of course, Dr. Harvey. Is there anything I can do?”
“No, Denise, but thank you. I need to find out if Miranda is okay and stay with the young ones. Clarinda is in such a state over the Antonelli’s clothes. I didn’t realize how bad things had gotten for the family. I feel terrible that I could have helped the Davis’ in some way and didn’t. Could you please lock up after you contact all the patients? Go home early, Denise, you work too hard and need a break. Thank you for everything.”
“No problem, Dr. Harvey. I hope Mrs. Davis is okay. If you need a babysitter I can go over there after I leave here. Call me on my cell. Okay?”
“That is very kind of you, Denise, but I think I can manage. But it is good to know that you are available in case I need you. Thank you. I will see you tomorrow.”
Dr. Harvey left his office and waved at some arriving patients who looked a little concerned that he was going out when they were coming in. All he could think about was what he would find when he got to the Davis’ house.
Clarinda paced back and forth with Brenda in her arms and Andrew hanging onto her right leg. She kept looking out the window hoping to see Dr. Harvey’s car. It had only be twenty minutes since she spoke to him. He did say he was coming. But she was worried because her mother still hadn’t woken up.
Dr. Harvey pulled into the Davis’ drive and got out of his car. He looked up and saw Clarinda in the window waving at him to come in. He could see she was still crying and the children were upset too. He carried his medical bag with him as he stepped up to the door. He didn’t get to knock as the door was pulled open and Clarinda ran into his arms choking back more tears.
Dr. Harvey patted her on the back and held her as she cried uncontrollably. He moved into the living room with Clarinda hanging onto him while the little ones hung onto her. He wanted to console her but needed to get into Miranda’s room to check her out. He was concerned that she was close to comatose if what Clarinda said was true about not being able to wake her up. He only hoped he wasn’t too late to help her.
If you are just tuning in please go to Chapter One to begin the story. Chapter Three coming in next post.
Thank you for stopping by!
Blessings of the season to you and yours!