Link back to Chapter 5
This is a work of fiction; I haven’t yet finished it, and it will probably get revised after it’s finished. It tells the story of Tom and Kelly’s marriage; readers of A Time to Mend will know that it will have a sad ending, but hopefully it will be a good story.
Kelly came over to my house for coffee in the middle of the morning on the day after Boxing Day; she had arrived in Meadowvale about seven o’clock the night before, and had called me a little later in the evening to arrange to come over for a visit.The weather had turned even colder the week before Christmas; the mercury had dropped to around minus twenty-five, and by Christmas Day there was about two feet of snow accumulated on the ground. I had bought my first down parka and winter boots, and I was gradually getting used to putting on wind pants when I went out for my early morning walk.
The sky was clear and the sun was shining on the snow outside as Kelly sat by the window in my living room and sipped at the cup of coffee I had poured for her. She was wearing jeans and a thick wool sweater, and her blond hair was hanging loose down her back; I thought she looked absolutely beautiful, and it was all I could do to stop staring at her as I put a plate of muffins on the coffee table. “Would you like something to eat?” I asked.
“Well – who’s been making muffins for you?”
“I’ll have you know, Kelly Reimer, that I am quite capable of making muffins for myself!” I replied in mock indignation.
“No way! You’ll make some woman a good house-husband one of these days!”
“I’m counting on it. Help yourself”.
I took my seat across from her, and she leaned forward to pick out a muffin and butter it. “I hear you’ve been spending Christmas in dignified solitude”, she said with a mischievous grin.
“You hear, do you? Have you got a spy network?”
“What else have they told you about my activities in the last few days?”
“I’m told that you went to church Christmas Eve”.
“I’m a little surprised to hear that”, she said, sitting back in her chair with her plate on her lap.
“I was a little surprised to find myself there”.
She took a bite of the muffin, smiled, and said, “Mmm! This is delicious!”
“Glad you like it”.
She chewed slowly and thoughtfully for a moment, and then said, “You are a talented man, Tom Masefield”.
“So – church on Christmas Eve?”
“Yes”. I sipped at my coffee; “I haven’t been to church for about five years, but Joe invited me, and I thought about it for a few days and then decided to go”.
“How was it?”
I leaned forward in my chair, picked up a knife and cut a muffin in half. “Well, what do you know about the Church of England?”
“Only what I’ve read in English novels”.
I began to butter the muffin. “They’re a lot more formal than you Mennonites. They use a service book with printed prayers, and people read them together, or follow along while the priest reads them. And the priest wears robes, and there’s a lot more ceremony, so, yes, I found church here different”.
“In a good way?”
“I didn’t dislike it. You know that I’m not at the point of believing in it yet – at least, not all of it. But I knew the Christmas carols, or most of them, and I enjoyed singing with the people, and I thought the minister did a good job of preaching. I understood him, anyway, which is more than I can say for some of the ministers I’ve heard at midnight communion services in Northwood”.
“That’s still Rob Neufeld, right?”
“I like him a lot. And so, you’ve been hibernating since Christmas Eve?”
I nodded; “I have. I don’t mind my own company, Kelly”.
She took another bite of her muffin and chewed it slowly, looking at me.
“What?” I said.
She shrugged her shoulders and continued to scrutinize me, until I grinned awkwardly and said, “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Weren’t you just the teeniest bit sad?”
“Why would I be sad?”
“Tom, I know you and your dad don’t get along, but I’m pretty sure you must have missed your mom, and your little sister”.
I looked away from her for a moment, trying to collect my thoughts, while she sat there quietly, waiting for me to speak. I picked up my coffee, sipped it in silence for a few minutes and then spoke quietly: “Christmas around our house has been complicated for some time now, Kelly”.
“Tell me, if you want to”.
For a moment I didn’t answer, and she finished her muffin and sat back in her chair, cradling her coffee mug in her hands.
“Where to start”, I mused.
“Start with Becca”, she suggested softly.
“What would you like to know about her?”
“You were what, about twelve when she was born?”
“Were you always close to her?”
“Yes, and I realize that’s a bit unusual, for a boy of twelve to be so taken with a new baby sister, but it never even occurred to me that there was anything unusual about it. I’d always wanted a sister, and right from the start I really enjoyed holding her and playing with her; my mum says I’m the one who taught her to walk and talk. I used to call her ‘Little Becs’, and she would call me ‘Tommy’ – she’s the only person who’s ever called me that and got away with it”.
She smiled; “I’ll keep that in mind”.
“I remember when I came home for Christmas the first year I was in university. Christmas Eve night she woke up in the middle of the night and she couldn’t get back to sleep, so she came into my room; she would have been seven at the time. I wasn’t very pleased to be woken up, but she sat on my bed and we whispered to each other for a while, and eventually we snuck downstairs and I made hot chocolate for us both. Then we went into the living room and sat by the Christmas tree for an hour or so; I plugged in the lights, and we sat and talked until finally she fell asleep again, and I carried her back upstairs and put her to bed”.
“Tom, that’s so sweet!”
“I never thought anything of it, Kelly. Even after Dad and I started having our differences, I still tried to get home regularly so I could see Becca – and Mum of course – and sometimes Mum brought her into Oxford to spend a day with me. And ever since that Christmas Eve we’ve had a tradition over the Christmas holidays that before she goes to bed she and I have a cup of hot chocolate together by the tree. We’ve been doing it for the past six years, every night of the holidays”.
“But not this year”.
“Not this year”.
“You miss her, don’t you?”
“Of course I miss her!” I replied forcefully. “But the thing is, even if I’d gone back to Northwood for Christmas, I don’t think it would have been the same”.
I was quiet for a long time, and she waited patiently while I sipped steadily at my coffee until I finished it. Then I got up, stretched, and walked over to the other window.
“Like I told you, I’ve had a complicated relationship with my dad for many years”, I said with my back to her. “He’s a lawyer and a very good one, and his whole life has been about success in his profession. He’s achieved it, and he’s made a lot of money”.
“Not so good on relationships, though?”
“Not so good”, I agreed, turning back to face her. “Long hours, six days a week, and not much in the way of fatherly attention to his children, except when he found something to get angry about. And also”, I added, “like I told you, he was determined from day one that I should follow him, and become a lawyer, which I’ve never wanted to do”.
“How long have you known that you wanted to be a teacher?”
“From about my first year in high school, when Owen’s dad started teaching my English class”.
“He inspired you?”
“I couldn’t think of anything finer than doing what he did. He helped me fall in love with English literature, and he had a way of communicating that love to the class that was just infectious. He didn’t just read Shakespeare with us – he had us acting out scenes, and he helped us get inside the parts and understand the language, so that we not only knew what we were talking about – we felt it too. It wasn’t just staid and respectable and stuffy – he taught us how to feel Hamlet’s desire for revenge, or Richard III’s lust for power. I know it sounds lame, but I looked forward to his classes more than anything else I did at high school”.
She shook her head slowly. “It doesn’t sound lame”, she said softly; “It sounds amazing. I never had a teacher like that, even though I had some good ones. You were lucky”.
“I still am; we’re still in touch. Now he insists on me calling him ‘George’, and I write to him about how things are going and I ask his advice about things, and he always writes back and tells me what he thinks, as well as asking me what I’m reading”.
“That’s wonderful, Tom”.
“Yes, but that’s not how my dad saw it. He and I started fighting about my future career when I was about fifteen. Like I told you in my letter, Owen called it ‘the Great War’. Our first fight was at the family supper table one night. Dad had been going on and on about me going up to college and doing a pre-Law degree and then reading Law and joining the family firm, and eventually I got sick of it and I said I didn’t want to read Law, I wanted to teach English. He dismissed that idea completely – he ridiculed it, in fact – and that’s when we had our first argument about it, with Mum and Rick and Becca sitting right there”.
“How long did the Great War last?”
“About three years. We had our last shouting match about it when I was in the upper sixth, my last year of high school before university. It seemed like it lasted for hours. We were in the living room at home; Rick and Becca had gone to bed, but they heard every word, because Dad and I were shouting so loud. I remember Mum tried to quieten us down, but we both ignored her. Eventually, after we’d been yelling at each other for ages, he turned to her and asked her to talk some sense into me, and then an amazing thing happened: she stood up to him. She said, ‘Frank, I think you should let him do what he wants’. Honestly, Kelly, I thought he was going to have a stroke or a heart attack. His face turned purple and he started breathing heavily, and eventually he went out and slammed the door. And that’s when I knew I’d won and I was going to be able to do my English degree”.
She got up slowly, came over to where I was standing, and put her hand on my arm. “Why don’t you come and sit down?” she said softly.
“Okay”. I crossed the floor and sat down again by the coffee table; “Do you want some more coffee?” she asked.
“Yes, but let me…”
She shook her head; “You sit tight; I’ll get it”.
She took our mugs out to the kitchen, refilled them, brought them through to the living room and set them down on the coffee table between us. “So what happened next?” she asked as she sat down across from me again.
“Well, I did a three-year English degree and then a two-year PGCE”.
“Postgraduate certificate in education”.
“Fortunately for Dad, Rick was quite willing to step into my shoes, and he’s now just about finished university and all set to join the family firm. But that didn’t mean that Dad gave up; he kept pressuring me while I was in university. It wasn’t too late, he said; I could still change to Law, and he’d be glad to pay my way. And gradually I realized that this was never going to end; if I stayed anywhere near him, he’d continue to try to control me – not just my choice of career, but my whole life”.
“So you decided to get away”.
“Yeah. I found out that there was a need for teachers over here, and I secretly began applying for jobs. I lied to my family – to all of them, not just Dad, but Mum and Becca too”. I shook my head; “I just couldn’t tell her what was going on, Kelly. I told them all that I was following a job opportunity in Reading, which isn’t that far from Oxford. But eventually, when I heard that I’d got this job, I had to tell them the truth”.
“That must have been pretty ugly”, she said quietly.
“You could say that”.
“When did you tell them?”
“A week before I flew over here – late July. We were all in the living room, and I told them I was very sorry, I hadn’t been honest with them, I’d applied for a job in Canada and I’d got it, and I’d be moving in a week. There was this long silence; Rick didn’t say a word, but Mum started to cry, and Becca started to cry, and then Dad started to yell. He called me a fool and an idiot and a sneaking liar, and then he picked up his walking cane and he started to hit me across the back with it”.
Her hand flew to her mouth; “Oh my God!” she exclaimed.
I nodded; “You can cause a lot of pain with a walking cane, and my dad’s a strong man. Mum was sobbing and begging him to stop; fortunately I was able to get away from him before he did any serious damage; I went over to Owen’s dad’s house, and that’s where I stayed until I left. I went back a couple of days later while Dad was at work, picked up all the remaining stuff I had at Northwood and got Mum to drive me back with it. That was the last time I went back to their house. Mum came over to Owen’s the day before I left to say goodbye”.
I suddenly found I couldn’t speak; I got up again and went back to the window, struggling to control my emotions. After a moment, with my back still turned to her, I said, “I’ll never forget the look on her face that night; she was absolutely stricken. She had absolutely no idea what I was going to do, and I know she was devastated. Since then, she hasn’t spoken to me; she’s so angry and hurt that I deceived her. She thinks I betrayed her; I know this, because she talks to my mum about it, and Mum’s passed some of it on to me. I write to her regularly, but she won’t read my letters; she just rips them up and throws them away”.
I heard her get up again, and I felt her hand on my shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Tom”, she said quietly.
I shook my head and turned toward her, feeling the constriction in my throat again. “No-one’s to blame but me”, I said.
“It was a difficult situation; you were probably afraid that if your dad knew what you were planning, he’d find a way to stop you”.
I nodded; “That’s exactly what I was afraid of”.
“So you felt trapped”.
“Completely. But…” I stopped, feeling the tears starting to run down my face, and wanting desperately not to break down in front of her.
“Come here”, she said, and before I knew what she was doing she was putting her arms around me. “You’ve been keeping this locked up for a long time, haven’t you?”
I nodded, unable to speak, and then it was as if a dam burst inside me, and I felt my body beginning to shake with sobs, and she pulled my head gently down against her shoulder, one hand rubbing my back as if I was a child she was soothing, and for a few minutes we just stood there together, with her holding me and me crying in her arms.
Eventually I disengaged myself, gave her an awkward smile, and then turned and slipped out to the bathroom. Closing the door behind me I bent over the sink, splashed cold water over my face, wiped it with a towel, and then straightened up and stood there for a moment, taking several deep breaths and avoiding my reflection in the mirror. I turned and put my hand on the door handle, then hesitated and took it away again. After a minute I shook my head, opened the door and went back to the living room; Kelly was still standing by the window, looking at me with concern in her eyes as I came back into the room. “Are you okay?” she asked.
“A bit frayed around the edges”, I replied, my voice a little shakier than I wanted it to be. I sat down in my chair again, and she took her seat on the couch across from me, leaning forward across the coffee table and putting her hand on mine. I nodded, wiping the back of my hand across my eyes again; “Thanks”, I said.
“No need”, she replied softly.
I was quiet for a moment, my eyes down. Eventually I spoke: “I gave up on achieving any sort of positive relationship with my dad a long time ago, but I wish I could have found a way to tell Becca. I was just afraid that if she knew, whenever I told her, she would be so upset that she wouldn’t be able to keep it to herself, and I knew I had to keep it secret from my dad until all the arrangements were in place”.
“But I was wrong; I know I was. No matter what it cost, I shouldn’t have lied to her; she didn’t deserve that. I just wish I could talk to her, so I could tell her I’m sorry”.
“One day you will. She won’t be mad at you forever”.
“It seems like forever already, Kelly”.
“I know, but it’s not – it’s only five months”.
“I know”, I said, “but every week that goes by with no word from her makes it seem even less likely that I’ll ever hear from her again”.
“You will, Tom”, she said again, squeezing my hand; “It might be a long time, but you will”.
“I hope so”.
She sat back and looked at me for a moment, and I saw the concern on her face. “Thank you, Kelly”, I said.
She shook her head; “Well, I guess I’ve got the answer to the question I asked you back at Thanksgiving”, she replied.
“Why an Oxford university grad would move to a place like Meadowvale”.
“Yeah – I can’t deny that when I first came here, it was more to do with getting away from the mess at home than any sort of attraction to Meadowvale. But I can already feel that changing. Your mum and dad and your whole family have been so kind to me, Kelly – I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. I’m already starting to feel glad that I moved here; I like the people, and I like having my own place and being accepted for who I am, even though the old timers think I’m an English hippy with long hair and a beard”.
“Don’t worry about that; lots of the guys I went to school with had long hair and tried to grow beards”.
“‘Tried’ being the operative word?”
She grinned; “Some of them were successful, at least when they got to Grade Twelve!”
“Have they all moved away?”
We both laughed, and she said, “I guess a lot of them have”. She drank some of her coffee, set it down on the table, and looked at me seriously again. “So, the reason you didn’t accept Mom and Dad’s invitation to join them for Christmas was because you didn’t want to be reminded of your mom and Becca”.
“Something like that; I don’t know if I’ve even clearly articulated it to myself. Your family are so close and warm and loving, and honestly, Kelly, I’ve been such a wreck for the last couple of days that I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep it together and act cheerful in the middle of all that”.
“So what have you been doing all by yourself?”
“Oh, I’ve been for a couple of long walks at Myers Lake…”
“That sounds like a good tonic for the soul”.
“Yes, it’s been very cold, but sunny and bright, too. And I’ve read a lot, and listened to some music, and played old folk songs…”
“Reminding yourself of the friends you used to play music with, too”.
I grinned ruefully; “Sounds pretty maudlin, doesn’t it?”
“No, it doesn’t. I’m glad you like Meadowvale, Tom, but it’s going to take a long time before it feels like your home”.
“I suppose so”. I took a deep breath, smiled at her and said with all the brightness I could muster, “So, on a more cheerful subject, how long are you here for?”
“I go back on January 3rd”.
“Wow – eight days’ holiday! That’s luxurious!”
“Yes, mister teacher!” she replied in a mocking voice.
“I walked into that one, didn’t I?”
“You sure did!”
“So what are you going to do with yourself?”
“Oh, spend time with my family, and go out to the farm and spoil my horse, and play Scrabble with my big brother, and help my future sister-in-law plan her wedding, and hopefully spend some time with my favourite Englishman!”
“I’m your favourite Englishman?”
“Well, you’re the only one I know, so I admit the competition isn’t exactly fierce, but if I knew any others, you’d still be my favourite Englishman”.
“Ah, be still my beating heart!”
We laughed, and then she made a sweeping gesture toward my bookshelves and said, “And I might just look through some of your books, if that’s okay with you?”
“Of course it is”.
“And I’d like to join you in a couple of walks at Myers Lake, and listen to you sing me some of those old folk songs, and maybe, if you feel interested in it, we could talk some more about Christianity”.
“I’d like that. And oh yes, you’ve just reminded me of something”. I got to my feet, slipped into my bedroom, came back out again a moment later and handed her a flat parcel wrapped in Christmas paper. “Merry Christmas, Kelly”, I said.
“You got me a Christmas present?” She held the parcel for a minute, and then I saw the realization beginning to dawn on her face. “Oh, I know what this is!” she exclaimed.
“Well then, open it!”
I had never seen anyone, not even Becca when she was young, rip into a parcel that quickly. The paper was flying everywhere for a few seconds, and then she was holding the two Nic Jones LP records in her hands. “Thank you!” she said; “I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to hearing these!”
“Well, that’s good!”
“I’ve got a Christmas present for you, too, but it’s back at Mom and Dad’s. Which reminds me: Mom told me to ask you if you could please, please, come over to their place for supper tonight. She’s been a little worried about you, Tom. But now that I know what’s going on, if you’d rather just stay home, I’ll make excuses”.
I shook my head; “No, I think I’ll be all right now, thanks to you”.
“Who’s going to be there?”
“Well, Krista’s home, with a new boyfriend”.
“I heard about that. He’s from here, right?”
“Yeah, he is. Joe and Ellie will be there too, and Ellie’s bringing her fiddle, so Dad told me to ask you to bring your guitar if you came”.
“Good. And when you get there, I’ll give you your present”.
“I’ll look forward to that”. I frowned; “I forgot to ask Joe on Christmas Eve whether or not Ellie got the job she interviewed for – the one with the local dentist?”
“Yes, she did. She starts on January 15th”.
“So she’ll be moving to Meadowvale, then?”
“But she’s not moving in with Joe yet”.
“No, that’s not their style. They’re both pretty strong Christians”.
“Yes, I know. So they won’t live together until after the wedding?”
“I bet the next five months are going to go very, very slowly for them!”
She grinned; “I’m guessing so!”
I got to my feet. “So, music, or Myers Lake?”
“Do I have to choose?”
I laughed. “Music, and Myers Lake, then! Shall we do Myers Lake first while the sun’s shining?”
Kelly and I spent pretty well all day together; we walked the trails at Myers Lake for a couple of hours until we were frozen, and then went back to my place to thaw out over a bowl of soup and some more hot coffee. I played her a few songs on my guitar, and she was impressed enough to draw me into another long conversation about traditional folk music. In the middle of the afternoon she coaxed me into walking over with her to visit her cousin Don Robinson and his wife Lynda; I knew Don and Lynda, of course, as they were both teachers, but I had never spent much social time with them. They had two little girls, Amy who was seven and Beth who was four, and that was when I discovered that Kelly loved kids with a passion. She played with Amy and Beth and read to them, while Don and Lynda poured us coffee and told me stories about the Arctic. It seemed that right after they were married they had spent five years as teachers in Coppermine on the Arctic coast, and both their girls had been born in Yellowknife. “Great place, the Arctic”, Don observed, “and we had a great time there. But we were just having our adventure; we always planned to move back to Saskatchewan in the end”.
“Didn’t think it would be Meadowvale, though”, Lynda added; “That was a piece of luck”.
“You were glad to come home?” I asked.
“We were”, Don replied.
“So you’re both from here, then? Wait a minute – I know you are, Don, because your mum’s Sally’s sister, right?”
“Yeah, they’re both from the Wiens family originally; my mom’s the oldest girl, and Aunt Sally comes next. It’s a big family, as you might have heard”.
“But your dad isn’t a Mennonite?”
“No – Dad was born in England, but my grandparents brought him to Meadowvale when he was one. They were homesteaders; their farm’s about eight miles out of town”.
“Your dad didn’t take it over, though?”
“No – Dad always liked building things, so he taught himself the carpentry trade. He’s got his own business now – construction, home renovations, that sort of thing”.
“What about you, Lynda?” I asked.
“I was born a Miller; my mom and dad are George and Hazel Miller. They farm about six miles south of town. They were both born here, but their parents were immigrants from the old country”.
“It seems like everyone here is from somewhere else originally”.
“I guess that’s true, unless you’re Cree”, Don observed. “How about you; is your family all pretty well from the place where you grew up?”
“Yes, we’re from Oxford on both sides of the family, but we weren’t especially close. My dad’s one of four siblings but the other three all moved to London, and we’ve never seen very much of them. My mum only has the one sister, and she’s stayed in Oxford; they’re pretty close, too, but Auntie Brenda and Uncle Roy don’t have any children, so I grew up without much contact with cousins”.
Eventually Kelly joined us at the kitchen table, and we continued talk companionably for an hour or so before saying our goodbyes. We wandered back over to my house to pick up my guitar, and then made our way over to the Reimers’, where Kelly gave me my Christmas present, a thick wool tuque and a long knit scarf.
“Did you make the scarf?” I asked as I wound it around my neck.
“I did, but I didn’t make the tuque”.
“I didn’t know you were a knitter”.
“I don’t do it very often, but I enjoy it when I do”.
We had a long and relaxed meal with Will and Sally, Joe and Ellie, and Krista and her new boyfriend Steve Janzen. “He’s kind of related to us”, Kelly explained to me while we were all sitting around the supper table.
“Oh, how’s that?”
“Well, Don, who we were with this afternoon, is my first cousin”.
“I get that”.
“He’s the oldest of Auntie Rachel and Uncle Mike’s kids. The next one is Ruth, and she’s married to one of Uncle Mike’s carpenters, John Janzen”.
“And you’re related to him?” I asked Steve.
“I’m his youngest brother”, he explained.
“So he’s related to you by marriage?” I asked Kelly.
“But not by marriage to anyone in your immediate family?”
“What do you think we are”, Joe asked with a grin, “the British monarchy?”
After supper the three Reimer siblings and I had another game of Scrabble, which Kelly won handily. Then Will got his guitar out and asked if Ellie and I would like to jam with him for a while, so we went into the living room and played music for an hour or so. Ellie was a very good fiddler and she and Will were obviously used to playing together, but the tunes they played were not difficult to follow and I enjoyed filling in some lead guitar lines for them.
Later on, at about nine-thirty, Kelly went rummaging in the fridge, found a half-empty bottle of wine, and helped herself to a couple of glasses from the top cupboard. “Want to come down to the basement for a while?” she asked me.
“If you like, but I should get going before too long”.
“No hurry: you’re on holiday, right?”
I laughed; “I suppose I am!”
“Well, that’s good then”. She grinned at her dad; “Tom and I are going down to the den to keep company with a bottle of wine for a while”, she said.
“Lock the door behind him when he leaves”, Will replied.
There was a finished family room down in the basement, with an old couch and a couple of easy chairs, a coffee table, a TV, an old cabinet stereo system, and a whole wall of bookshelves. Kelly turned on a standing lamp, lit a candle on the coffee table, poured us each a glass of wine and then sat down in one of the easy chairs, putting her bare feet up on the coffee table. “Cheers”, she said, raising her glass toward me.
We both sipped at our wine for a moment, and then I said, “I’m flattered, but you don’t have to keep leaving the rest of your family behind to spend time with me”.
She grinned; “Are you afraid people are going to start talking, Tom Masefield?”
“No, of course not!” I replied awkwardly.
“Neither am I; I talk to anyone I like and I don’t take any notice of what people think of it”.
“I would never have guessed that about you!”
We laughed, and then she looked at me seriously and said, “So, has there ever been someone significant…?”
I shrugged; “I’ve dated girls. How about you?”
“We’re not done with you yet!” she teased.
“Not much more to tell, really”.
“You’re telling me your heart’s never been seriously threatened?”
I took a deep breath, looked at her, and said, “I wouldn’t say that”.
“Ah”, she replied triumphantly, “so there has been someone…!”
“Yes”, I replied firmly, “but despite the fact that you are a very open and honest person and I like you very much…”
“You’re not ready to talk about that yet?”
I shook my head; “No”.
“Fair enough. I’ve had a couple of boyfriends myself”.
“No – guys I met in university in Saskatoon”.
“The second one was. His name was Mike and he was studying to become a phys.ed. teacher”.
“You must have been playing sports of some kind when you met”.
“Funnily enough, although I love being outdoors and active, I’m not a big fan of sports”.
“Right – I should have noticed that”.
“Actually, we met because we were both doing part-time jobs at the same coffee shop on campus. We were an item for about a year, and then he broke my heart”.
“I’m sorry, Kelly; what happened?”
“He met someone else, and he liked her better”.
I shook my head; “That’s frankly unbelievable to me”.
“Thank you!” she replied with a grin; “However, it surely isn’t hard for you to understand how a person might decide, after a year with me, that they’d like a quieter life with someone who didn’t talk so much!”
We laughed again. “So what are you going to do?” I asked; “Are you planning on staying in Jasper?”
She shook her head. “It’s not that I don’t love the place”, she replied; “It’s a dream come true for me to have the chance to live there. But I don’t want to be a ward nurse for the rest of my career”.
“What do you want to do?”
“You want to work with old people?”
“Because I really like old people”.
I drank some of my wine and then put the glass down on the coffee table. “Now that”, I said, “is not something you hear very often”.
“I guess not, but it’s true. I love it when my grandmother tells stories about what it was like when they came over here from Russia in the 1920s; I really admire that generation for all the hardships they went through. And I don’t like the way in our society we push old people off to one side and make decisions about their future based on our convenience, not theirs”.
“You feel really strongly about this, don’t you?”
“I do. I think old people deserve to keep their freedom and dignity for as long as possible, and I think we should be preserving their stories and passing them on, so that the next generation knows what life was like in harder times”.
“So what are you going to do?”
“Well, since you ask, as soon as the snow is off the ground in the spring, there’s a new seniors’ home being built here in Meadowvale”.
“A seniors’ home?”
“Yeah – that might not be the name it’s eventually given, but you get the idea. It’ll have space for sixty rooms, some of them self-catering, and there’ll be staff, including an R.N.”.
“That’s where you come in?”
“Hopefully. They’ll be advertising for the positions in the spring, and I’ll be putting my name in”.
“When will the centre be finished?”
“Hopefully by late Fall”.
“So you might be moving back to Meadowvale by Thanksgiving”.
“If all goes according to plan, yes”.
“Well”, I said, picking up my wine glass, “Let’s drink to that”.
We both raised our glasses, smiled at each other, and sipped at our wine. “Now” she said, “are you ready to listen to some Bruce Cockburn music?”
“Sounds like a good idea”.
“Good!” she replied, getting to her feet and going over to the stereo. “I just happen to have some of my LPs down here”.
Kelly and I spent a lot of time together that week. Most days, she came over to my house for a cup of coffee in the mornings; sometimes she browsed my bookshelves and we talked about books for a while, and sometimes she listened to my records, or I played some songs for her. We went for a couple of walks at Myers Lake, and she gave me my first ever cross-country skiing lesson, which I quite enjoyed, once I got over my fear of losing control and falling. One day we drove out to Hugo and Millie’s farm so that she could visit with her horse; it turned out that Joe and Corey were there as well, and the four of us bundled up against the cold and went riding for a while. Afterwards Joe and Kelly rubbed the horses down and made a hot mash for them, and then we went into the house and had coffee with Hugo and Millie. And a couple of times at Will and Sally’s we went down to the basement again and talked far into the night about Christianity.
She had brought a photograph album with her, and I was captivated by her pictures of Jasper. On the last night before she went back, she and I were sitting on the couch in Will and Sally’s basement looking through the album again, and she said, “You should come and visit me, and I’ll take you out and show you some of the scenery”.
“I would really like that” I replied.
“Well, you have holidays at Easter, right?”
“Come then. It won’t be the best time, with the spring melt and everything, but it could still be really enjoyable”.
I looked at her as she sat beside me on the couch; she was dressed as usual in jeans and a sweater, and her hair was tied back in a thick braid. “I’d stay at your place, then?” I asked.
“Yeah – that is, if you don’t mind”. She paused for a moment, giving me an awkward glance, and then added, “I have a spare room”.
I nodded; “I’ll let you know, but right now it’s sounding pretty good”.
“I’ll look forward to that. I don’t think I’ll be back here until Joe and Ellie’s wedding”.
“That’s May, right?”
“Victoria Day weekend, toward the end of May”.
“Are you a bridesmaid?”
“I am, actually”. She frowned; “When is Easter this year? Do you know?”
“Early April, I think; I remember looking at it on the school calendar when I started”.
“Okay, so it’ll be springtime in Meadowvale, but you’ll need to remember that Jasper’s a lot higher, so there’ll still be a lot of snow on the mountains, and maybe even some in town too”.
“Right, so I’ll need to bring some warmer clothes with me”.
She grinned; “You’re going to come, then?”
“As I said, I’m not absolutely sure, but it sounds pretty good”.
Link to Chapter 7