h1

The Cabin 5

                 Michael sat in front of the blue Christmas tree gazing at the lights. Its glow helped stop his thoughts, force them to evaporate as the heat from his now lukewarm peppermint tea. He’d done his best to keep those thoughts at bay throughout the day, but occasionally it had crept forward demanding to be heard. He had gone to be alone during those times. He told himself that Abbey didn’t notice, but he knew better. She wasn’t the little girl listening to her daddy’s stories anymore; she’d become a young woman.

                 “How are you doing?”

Michael heard Trish, his wife, ask. He nodded numbly.

“Liar.”

Michael took a deep breath. Trish knew him better than he knew himself. As always, she never pushed him for an answer. She understood it would come.

“It’s just so hard,” Michael said. He fought the urge to swear. Really fought. “I’m trying to be everything and…” His leg shook, just like his mother’s had when she was anxious. He wanted to throw something but all he had in his hand was a cup of tea. He couldn’t throw that. His hand tensed and gripped the handle as if it were a lifeline. It’d been their cup.

“Dad?”

Michael jumped, having to blink to clear his vision.

“Who are you talking to?” Abbey asked as she entered the room.

He took a deep breath. “Just myself.”

Abbey looked down. She’d done a lot of that since coming home for Christmas break. She was starting her life, but doing so without a mother.

The silence stretched, Abbey taking on part of her mom’s personality – never pushing Michael for a true answer. Trish always knew he would come around and talk when he was ready. Michael wasn’t sure he’d ever be ready to talk about losing Trish.

“Dad,” Abbey interrupted the silence, “you’d never believe what I found in my room.” She held up a book.

It was… what, twenty years old now? The pages were yellowed and the binding was threadbare. Michael recognized it immediately and smiled as tears welled up in his eyes. For years, it’d been his prop as he told Abbey the story of the three children in the world of the cabin. Like a never-ending story, he’d weaved one yarn after another full of adventure, friendship and as she’d gotten a bit older, even romance, though he’d never really felt that he was good at those parts. Abbey hadn’t minded, and Trish had always thought he was a hopeless romantic, but then again she’d always found it romantic how they’d shared a single cup of tea. It was the small things, she’d always said.

“Do you remember the last story you told me?” Abbey asked.

Michael wanted to tell her he did, but he was so numb.

“It was after Chester’d been freed but everyone was trying to get out of Kaine’s forest.”

“And Fanny professed her love for Chester just as Kaine’s monsters crested the hill,” Michael added. “They got out of that when a star shone so bright that it disoriented Kaine.”

“That was when you’d told me about the Christmas Truce of 1914. How the Germans put up Christmas decorations and sang carols, shortly joined by their enemies among the French and English.”

Michael shrugged. “I knew you were becoming more interested in history.” History, Michael pondered, floating to him waiting at the altar for his soon to be wife to appear. His palms were sweaty. No, rainforest wet. His mind wandered to Abbey only an hour old. He looked into her eyes and cried, telling her how he knew he wasn’t the man for the job of being her father, but he’d do his best. He blinked hard, trying to rejoin the present. He took a deep breath. Abbey was beside him. It was Christmas night. One thought ricocheted through his mind like an echo – his whole life was becoming history.

“Dad,” Abbey interrupted, “what happened next?” She reached the weathered book to him.

Michael shook his head. “I don’t think I can.” He just couldn’t go on, not alone, not without Trish.

Abbey looked away. Again. The book lowered to her side. “It’s ok,” she said. She bit her lower lip just like her mother.

He knew Abbey was lying to protect him, just like he would’ve done. Of course, Trish would’ve called him on it. He couldn’t do the same to Abbey. Michael closed his eyes. “I don’t think I can tell the story,” he repeated then reached his half cup of tea toward Abbey, “without a fresh cup of peppermint tea.”

She took the cup as he took the book.

————————————————–

Chester had to look away. His mind reeled with the possibilities. Was it an army of snow fairies sent to rescue Seraphina? Heavenly hosts like what the shepherds witnessed on that blessed Christmas morn? Chester squinted into the brightness.

“What is it?” Amos asked.

“Our best chance at getting out of here!” Fanny said.

Everyone ran away from the light. Except Amos. And then Fanny. And then Chester who turned around to find Amos staring at Seraphina, shaking his head as if responding to inaudible words. He’d been willing to die for her, and now as he stared at this snow fairy, Chester wondered if it was the same love Fanny had expressed to him.

“What are you doing?” Fanny shouted.

Amos turned to her. “We’re going the wrong way.”

“Kaine is back there!” Chester shouted.

Amos turned to Chester. His eyes looked so much older than when he entered the Cabin’s world, like Uncle Bobby Ray after he returned from the war. France had changed Bobby Ray. The Cabin had changed Amos.

“The light is between us,” Amos said. “Kaine’ll have to go through the light to get to us.” Amos took a deep breath. “And we have to go through the light to get away from Kaine.”

Chester knew that Seraphina had told Amos. He knew that she had never lied to them, but going back to where Kaine was seemed as crazy as going over the top into No Man’s Land. He wondered how his Pa could do it, how Uncle Bobby had felt when his last time over didn’t go so well. And he wondered how they could do it knowing what awaited them.

Seraphina flittered toward the light, her own glittering trail easily becoming overwhelmed by the star’s brilliance. Amos followed her. Fanny took a step back and took Chester’s hand, their fingers knitting together as easily as Ma crocheting a blanket. Fanny took a step forward. Then Chester wasn’t so scared to step either.

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