Cara checked the bread in the oven as Callie tapped her fingers impatiently on the kitchen table. “I’ve figured out how to get Hank a day off, but not what he can do with it.”

Cara came back to the cable and sat down. “He likes keeping busy.”

“I know,” Callie said with a wry smile, “maybe I should arrange for him to have twice as much work on his birthday.”

Cara laughed and shook her head. “Normally I would let you figure this out, but it’s so obvious I just can’t stand waiting on you.”

“Obvious?” Callie echoed, mystified.

“Child, there’s only one thing that man wants in this world,” Cara replied impatiently. “To be with you.”

“But he is with me, except when he’s working, and – oh!” Callie smiled sheepishly. “I see what you mean. If he’s not working, then we could spend that time together.”

Cara patted her hand. “We don’t take enough time to see things through their eyes. We’re used to putting them first, and that makes it hard to remember how important we are to them.”

Callie tried looking at things from Hank’s point of view. He was more relaxed these days when he was around her now. But he still looked after her, as if she were -

“Now you’re getting the idea,” Cara approved.

She followed that thought, although she had a hard time seeing herself as something precious.

Her thoughts drifted back to the two days after their wedding. Hank’s dad had paid for a two-day honeymoon at a fancy European-style hotel in Kansas City. It was enjoyable but after two days they were both anxious to get back home to Ware. She just didn’t think another trip to Kansas City would be that special.

She tried to think of when she saw Hank was most happy. Gramma was right; it was when he was beside her. And not just when they were in bed, though that definitely qualified, she thought as her cheeks grew hot. It was other times too … when they sat together on the porch and she lay back against him, with his arms around her; when she took his hand while they were walking; and whenever he was able to do something for her that she really needed.

When what he considered precious was entrusted to him and he was able to keep her safe.

She frowned. How could she entrust herself to her again? Wait – maybe all she needed to do was to remind him of all the times she had trusted him to take care of her and he had been there for her. When she fell apart after her mother’s funeral – when she was overcome with joy at her birthday party – when she went through her mother’s things – their marriage night, when she truly gave herself to him – and all the other times when he had done something to protect her or make her happy. Of course! “Gramma, do you know how to knit?”

Cara smiled. “Good girl, I knew you’d figure it out. Yes, I do, and we’d better get started right away if you’re going to have it finished for his birthday.”

Callie dove into knitting her multi-colored scarf for Hank. She could only work on it when he was not around, but she discovered she had a talent for knitting. That helped the work go faster. She finished the morning of his birthday. Quickly wrapping it in sparkly tissue paper, she tucked it away in their attic room and then hurried downstairs to help her grandmother in the kitchen.

Cara gave her a big hug when Callie announced the scarf was done. Then Callie was immediately put to work on making the birthday cake.

That night, the McDonalds, Mina, and Daniel came over to the farmhouse for Hank’s birthday party. Hank was suitably impressed by Callie’s cake and pleased with all the presents he was given. They swapped stories about Hank growing up, laughing and joking, and Callie basked in the warmth of being surrounded by family. Hank glanced over at her, smiling because he knew exactly what she was feeling. She said, soundlessly, “Thank you,” and his smile broadened. Callie glowed – Gramma had been right about him.

After the guests had gone home, Hank and Callie went upstairs to their attic room. As a wedding gift, Phoebe had furnished the room as if it were a small apartment. Hank stretched out on the loveseat while Callie went over to a small oak chest to get the scarf, tucked in a bottom drawer.

“What are you doing?” he asked curiously.

“Didn’t you notice that I hadn’t given you a present yet?” Callie asked, bringing the tissue-wrapped gift over to the loveseat.

“I was hoping you were saving it for a more private moment,” he said in a sultry voice, pulling her down onto the loveseat. “Maybe a sexy little nightie?”

She arched an eyebrow. “How about no nightie at all?”

His eyes widened.

“Later,” she promised. “This is something else.”

He took the present and tore off the tissue paper. He smiled when he saw the scarf, stripe after stripe of bright colors. “Did you make this?”

“I did,” she nodded. “Each stripe represents a time that you did something to protect me or keep me safe.”

He touched the soft wool. “There are a lot of stripes here.”

“I couldn’t include everything,” she said seriously, “just the more important ones.” She pointed to the gold stripe at each end of the long scarf. “This is for the time you saved my life, that night after my mom’s funeral. This blue stripe is for helping me to accept Christ – you don’t know, but you were key to my making that decision. This green one is for when you looked after me on my birthday.

“The scarlet one is for everything you did when I wanted to go through my mother’s things. The pink one is for the first kiss you gave me, on Christmas Eve. The white one is for your giving me yourself.” She looked up with a teasing smile. “Best Christmas present ever!”

Then she turned back to the scarf, serious again. “The yellow one is for making me the promise that you would always be there for me, and your insisting I must ask you if I need something. This one, the sky blue one, is for our wedding night, when I stood before you at my most vulnerable – and you made me feel safe, and precious.” She looked up. “Every time you see this scarf, I want you to be reminded of all the times you kept me safe, and how happy you have made me.”

He touched her face gently, tracing the curve of her check, and then he kissed her slowly, letting that tell her what he could not put in words.

 

~~~

Hank came into the farmhouse kitchen for lunch, and his grandfather looked up from the kitchen table. “You see the weather report, Hank?”

He nodded. A snowstorm had been predicted for days, and today the weather report warned it could turn into a blizzard. “Where’s Callie?”

“She went into town to see Daniel and Stacey about her business,” Grandpa answered.

Hank pulled his phone out and started typing. “Okay, I’ll check the barn. Told Dad I’d go over to his house and finish up that weatherproofing.”

His phone chirped and a smile flitted across his face as he looked down. He slipped the phone back in his pocket and said, “We just got the LP tank filled and I checked the emergency boxes in the car and the trucks yesterday. When I get back from Dad’s, I’ll move a stack of wood onto the front porch. Can you think of anything else?”

Grandpa smiled wryly. “Cara will check the feed and water for her chickens.” Grandpa didn’t think much of the chickens, but they were Gramma’s pride and joy.

“Okay,” he chuckled. “I’ll put the snowblade on my truck when I get back.”

“Stay careful,” Grandpa told him soberly.

“Always,” Hank grinned. “I’ll be back in a few hours.”

~~~

 

Callie was just leaving Daniel’s office when she got Hank’s text. Keep eye on weather – blizzard possible – get home as soon as you can

She immediately answered: Will do

Then she sent a text to Gramma.  Leaving town now, do you need anything?

Got everything yesterday, come on home

On my way

She dashed out to the car through the heavy rain. The temperature didn’t seem that bad – hard to believe it would even snow. She turned on the radio in the car to check on the weather. It didn’t sound good. Heavy snow was forecast; blizzard conditions likely. Blizzard warnings were already up for the neighboring counties. Ware was directly in the storm’s path. She took out her phone again to check the weather radar. Her breath caught – the snow line was just west of Ware.

She took a deep breath and backed out of her parking space.

~~~

Hank had just finished the first floor windows when his dad came into the room. “Son, you better get going if you’re going back to the farmhouse. That storm is moving faster than they expected.”

Hank looked out the window. It had been snowing for a while but now, as he watched, the wind was starting to pick up. “I think you’re right, Dad,” he said, picking up his tools and supplies. “I better get going. Downstairs windows are done, that should get you through the storm.” He picked up his toolbox and followed his dad out to the entryway. “Mom!” he called out. “I’m leaving!”

Anne came out of the kitchen with a thermos and small paper bag. “Take these with you and let us know when you get to the farmhouse.”

Tom embraced his son and gave him three pats on the back. “Get there safe, son.”

“Will do, Dad,” he promised and gave his mother a quick kiss on the cheek. “Love you guys – stay safe!”

 

~~~

 

Snow covered the ground by the time Callie turned at the dirt road to the farmhouse. She parked near the back door and hurried inside. Grandpa was sitting at the kitchen table and he picked up his phone. “I’ll let Hank know you’re home.”

She’d been taking off her coat and she stopped midway. “Hank’s not here?”

Grandpa shook his head. “He went over to Tom and Anne’s. If it’s bad, he’ll probably stay there.”

She finished taking off her coat. Of course. She was just being silly. He’d be fine.

Gramma put a cup of coffee on the table as Grandpa typed in another message. “Sit down and have something hot to drink.”

She smiled gratefully and sat down. They sat at the kitchen table, watching the snow fall and talking about the weather reports. Grandpa’s phone beeped and she saw him frown as he read the text. “What is it?”

He glanced over at Gramma. “Hank just left Tom and Anne’s. He’s on his way home.”

Callie looked out through the mudroom. The snow was coming down at a slant now and she could hear the wind push against the house. He’d be fine. He was a smart, practical man.

Gramma sat down between Grandpa and Callie, and reached out for their hands. Grandpa gripped her left hand and Callie held on to her right hand. Gramma said firmly, “Lord, we need You right now. We know You have created all things and control all things. We know we are unworthy to ask anything of You. But we are concerned about Your child Hank, and we ask Your protection for him. We ask You to please watch over him, keep him safe, and bring him home safe to us. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Grandpa and Callie chorused, “Amen.”

She gazed out at the falling snow. What if God had other plans for Hank, plans that didn’t include her?  She closed her eyes. I trust You, Lord, I trust that whatever You do is best. But Lord I beg You – please let those plans include letting Hank come back safe to me!

~~~

Hank had the window wipers going full speed but it was getting difficult to see through the thick wind-driven snowfall. He should be to Dairy Road by now.

He almost missed his turn, seeing the sign at the last moment. He turned the wheel quickly and the truck started to make the turn. Suddenly the tires skidded and the truck was moving out of control. He had no time to react before the truck slammed into a stand of trees by the road.

 

~~~

 

Callie was taking a sip of coffee at the kitchen table when a sharp wave of panic slammed into her. The cup slammed down on the table, coffee sloshing over the edge. Seconds later, the panic stopped. She felt nothing. And then a terrible feeling of something being really wrong seeped into her. This feeling didn’t go away. It just kept intensifying. The blood drained from her face and an awful chill run over her. She looked up at Grandpa and Gramma, struggling to breathe. “It’s Hank. Something’s happened to Hank.”

 

⇐ Chapter Twenty-Four   Chapter Twenty-Six

 

"That Little Thing" Copyright © 2020 by Susan Stafford