Here’s my holiday gift to you…a flash fiction story with magical realism overtones.
I hope you enjoy Best Wishes.
Star light, star bright …. Bethany stood in the upper pasture concentrating on her wishing star.
I wish I may, I wish I might …. She screwed her eyes tight shut and focused her plea. I need to be loved, send me someone to love.
The star’s afterimage pulsed behind her eyelids, and she knew her wish had been granted. She exhaled, opened her eyes, then raced across the pasture, anxious to prepare for her love’s arrival.
The meadow grass tugged at her nightgown, trying to hold her in the pasture. She pulled free, climbed the stile and skipped across the stepping stones to the garden gate.
Which elements of her life would change when her love arrived? Surely he’d appreciate the cabin’s solid squareness. Her father built it before she was born, a sturdy structure to shelter his family.
Bethany kept her home neat and well-scrubbed. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” Mom used to say as they worked side-by-side. When the sickness took Mom, Bethany continued to clean … a memorial in sweat and toil.
She ticked items from a mental list: the cabin — in good repair; the land — cleared for spring planting; the livestock — fat and healthy. She stopped in the enclosed back stoop, unlaced well-worn boots, and left them on the rag rug beside the door.
The cabin greeted her with warmth and light. Bethany crossed the kitchen, caressing the smooth surface of the scrubbed oak table as she passed. The sunny yellow walls and crisp white curtains cheered her; this would be the heart of their home when he came.
She danced through the living room and into the bathroom that divided the cabin’s two square bedrooms. Bethany studied her face in the mirror above the sink. She saw an unkempt young woman with dark, stringy hair and cool green eyes adrift in a winter-pale face. She grimaced. Her twenty-five-year-old body was lithe and firm — working the small farm provided plenty of exercise, but she’d neglected her looks.
Her attention snagged on rough fingers as she watched them comb through her long, dark hair. She pulled them free and scrutinized them. Work-hardened, chipped nails … but scrupulously clean. She sighed. He’d have to appreciate beauty born of hard work.
Still, she could mitigate her neglect with liberal application of the lotions her mother had loved, and her hair would respond to nightly brushing. Bethany resolved to begin her renewal that very night.
The registered letter lay heavy in Bethany’s hands. An attorney from Denver wanted to meet her at Clark Fork’s City Hall on the 18th — a week before Christmas. The letter mentioned John Henderson’s estate. Bethany hadn’t seen or heard from her older brother in over ten years, but the word “estate” choked her.
Her family no longer existed. Dad died before her twelfth birthday. John left home just before she turned fifteen. Mom passed away a year ago last September, and now a lawyer wanted to talk to her about John’s estate. Was this the reason the star promised her love? Because she had no one left?
The morning of the 18th dawned clear and cold. Bethany dressed with care. Despite his defection, John was her only brother and she loved him. She honored his memory with careful grooming. She chose the suit she’d worn to Mom’s service; a slim black wool skirt with a matching, fitted jacket. She pinned Mom’s favorite ruby-red brooch to her left lapel and wound her mahogany hair into a smooth French knot. Black leather pumps completed her outfit. If she hid her hands, she might pass for a city woman.
The clerk at City Hall directed her to a conference room on the second floor. The man’s sidelong glances and slight stammer told Bethany she’d cleaned up well.
When she reached the appointed room, she took a deep breath, pushed a wayward lock of hair behind her ear, and opened the door.
What she saw left her stunned. The Denver lawyer was easily the most handsome man she’d ever seen. Her star had worked overtime on this wish fulfillment.
“Miss Henderson?” he asked, extending his right hand as he crossed the room. “I’m Tom Davenport. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
The proffered hand felt smooth beneath her calloused fingers, while the white flash of his smile nearly blinded her. Bethany’s nostrils flared at the spicy scent of his aftershave, and the melody of his speech captivated her. Tom Davenport was overwhelming.
He was also married.
She felt the solid pressure of his wedding ring when he clapped his left hand over their joined right ones.
“I’m sorry we had to meet under these circumstances,” he said, leading her to the conference table. “Your brother’s will stipulates that you be contacted as executor.”
Bethany struggled to follow his words as they sat down; her mind wrestled with the fact that her dream man had a wife.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Executor? Don’t you mean beneficiary?”
Tom smiled, befuddling her again with those dazzlingly white teeth.
“Not in this instance. John named you executor of his estate and guardian of his beneficiary. You see, his wife died in the same accident that killed John.”
Bethany’s jaw dropped. “John was married?” Devastation rocked her. She’d had a sister … who’d been stolen before they even met.
“I know this is a lot to take in,” Tom said, “but, I’d like you to meet your ward … John and Tara’s son.”
He pulled a large rush basket from beneath the table, carried it to Bethany, placed it carefully on the table, then gently pulled back a thick blanket to reveal a sleeping infant.
“This is Josiah Henderson. He’ll be three months old on Christmas eve.”
“Josiah?” Her eyes filled with tears. John had named his son for their father. She stared at the pink-cheeked face of her sleeping nephew and her heart melted. Infatuation with the Denver lawyer dissolved in wonder over the peach-fuzz hair and dried-apricot ears of this tiny extension of her family tree.
An image filled her mind: herself, a few years older, standing in the upper pasture with a sturdy little boy. She smiled. She’d definitely tell Josiah how he fulfilled her best-ever wish.