Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Shepherd


I started this story in Dec 2008 and completed it this year. It is my 2009 Gift of Writing to my fellow Saskatchwan Romance Writers.

The concept of this story came when I thought of miracles happening to people who don't have loved ones to share the Christmas season.

***
The Shepherd by Anita Mae Draper

“Maybe I won’t feel a thing,” Sarah whispered. Entombed in a world of white, whirling snow, she leaned back against the headrest and closed her eyes. Just minutes ago she’d turned off the ignition to her Ford Focus after it slid down an embankment into a snow-filled ditch. Already the bitter cold filled the interior of her small car.

It was a fitting end on this Christmas Eve. Exactly four years ago, she’d fallen into a world of living hell and now, finally, it looked like her dark time was ending and peace, blessed peace, awaited.

The howling wind rocked the Focus. Sarah closed her eyes. Maybe she could fall sleep before her body numbed from the freezing cold. Her mind skipped back over the past years of misery to a time of laughter with Mike and their kids. Memories of their last Christmas together swirled in her head much like the snow danced around her vehicle. They’d been so happy. The kids had coerced them into opening a gift each before they left for the Christmas Eve candlelight service. She’d cried when she opened the twin’s badly-wrapped package and seen the locket with their similar photos. Within minutes, Mike had fastened it at her nape.

Sarah breathed in the frigid air. It hit the back of her throat and she coughed in protest. The movement jiggled the locket nestled against her skin. More memories assailed her. They’d sang carols on the way to the service, at the service, and on the way home. At least until the car hit the patch of black ice and suddenly, they were going sideways on the wrong side of the highway while large white lights bore down on them. Sarah screamed, waited for the impact of fifty thousand pounds of metal and glass to plow into them once again. Her never-ending nightmare.

Rap, rap, rap. Metal groaned in the thundering silence and a tempestuous wind blew over her. Her eyes flew open. She gasped as frigid air blew in from the open door and clamped onto her eyeballs. Tears flooded her eyes, lessened the pain.

“Are you okay, lady?”

She shrieked.

“Are you hurt?”

Sarah stared at the man. Only his eyes were visible through the balaclava that covered his skin.

“I-I’m o-k-kay,” she chattered.

“Come on, let’s get you out of here,” he shouted in her ear.

He helped her move cautiously as if aware of her numb limbs. A roar reached her ears overpowering the howling wind and she noticed a huge farm tractor idling several feet away. But the man didn’t lead her to the cab. Instead, he guided her behind it to a looming trailer. “It’s the best I can do under the circumstances,” he yelled above the noise. He pulled open a small door and practically pushed her inside. “At least you’ll be warmer in here. Hang on and we’ll be home, soon.”

The door creaked and clanged behind her.

Sarah stilled. She couldn’t see a thing. She blinked. Yup, her eyes were open but blackness surrounded her. And, something else. Something or someone shared the space with her. She sucked in a breath and gagged.

The tractor roared and lurched forward.

Off balance, Sarah fell sideways against a mound of...something. It baa’d and moved. “Eek!” It shot away and she dropped to the straw-covered floor. The scent of manure assailed her. Stuck in a trailer with a bunch of smelly sheep. Could it get any worse? An image of sitting in her cold car flashed. Yes. Yes, it could. She sat, waited and listened to the animal sounds on the other side of the trailer. Apparently, the sheep were just as wary of her as she was of them.

When the tractor stopped a few minutes later, Sarah stood waiting by the door. It opened but she had to jump back as a sheep sprung in the opening along with the wind and cold. The door slammed shut behind it. The tractor chugged on and the same scenario was repeated over the next couple hours. After a while, Sarah sank into a front corner and ignored the sounds around her.

“Lady!”

Someone shook her shoulder. Sarah became aware of the man beside her.

“I’d carry you in but I don’t think we’d fit through the door.” He helped her through the small opening into the raging wind where specks of ice hurled at her face. She turned into his shoulder. He lifted her, ignored her protests, and carried her the twenty feet to the stairs. At the top, he put her down before a heavy wood door. A flick of the latch and warmth flooded out to greet her.

“Make yourself comfy and I’ll be back soon.”

His soothing words were a relief. Fine by her. She didn’t want to socialize, just wallow in the heat. But a glance around the room nudged her brain into action. This couldn’t be right. Every table and shelf surface held nativity sets. Different sizes. Different sets. Different sheep. Sheep? Yup, sheep were everywhere
Sarah hobbled to the nearest chair and dropped into it, dazed. Maybe she had died in her car, after all. Long minutes passed while she sat there, unmoving before she became aware of the man’s entrance from another room.

“I’m Jake Edwards by the way and here, this should warm you up.” He offered her a steaming mug.

Sarah took it and thanked him. He wore a woolen sweater with a Christmas motif which would have seemed ludicrous on any other man but somehow it suited him. He smiled with his eyes, laugh lines crinkling at the corners. His whole package oozed comfort.

“Sarah Wheeler. Where am I?”

He sank onto the close end of the sofa. “This is my home, The Manger.”

“The Manger?” she scoffed.

“Yes, The Manger. I’m a shepherd. The storm caught me by surprise and I was out gathering the last of my flock when I saw your car.” He gestured to her and winced. “Sorry.”

She glanced down. Her clothes were decorated with bits of golden straw and brown smudges. “Eeewh!”

Shards of long frozen ice chipped off Sarah’s heart when he threw back his head and let out a hearty laugh.


The End

***

It's Christmas Eve and I'm busy with family today but I'll stop by later on.

Don't forget to leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win a fabulous gift basket in the Prairie Chicks Anniversary Contest. Comment every day for an even better chance to win, but don’t forget to use ‘dot’ and ‘at’ in your e-mail address to fool those E-mail spammers.

From our house to yours, have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

Anita Mae Draper.

12 comments:

Debra E Marvin said...

Thanks Anita Mae,

That story was a nice little gift and I appreciate it.

Our h/h are supposed to start out seeming wrong for each other. It reminds me of how God gives us what we need but we are often sure it's not right for us. Because no one wants change, or difficulty, or pain even though what comes of it is better for us than we could ever imagine.

Thanks for a beautiful story. It's nice to sit here this morning and think about the journey God takes us on.

Karyn Good said...

Merry Christmas, Anita. Thanks for a lovely story to read on Christmas Eve!

Have a wonderful time with all your kids home for Christmas!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Morning, Deb. You're right about book length stories needing conflict between the H/h. Which is why I like these short fiction pieces. I'd like to call it a short story but it's not...more like a story starter since I may extend it. Of course if I do that, I will develop a conflict between them. Hmmm - give her hayfever or something. LOL

Or, I could make him a widower with a child or two, possibly one with a health condition. She doesn't want to get involved but is attracted to The Shepherd.

And you're right about the journey God takes us on because in this story, Sarah doesn't have a relationship with God. Yet.

There are so many possibilities, which is exactly why I like this type of story starter.

Merry Christmas my Inky sister. Thanks for visiting my Prairie Chick home. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Happy Christmas to you, too, Karyn.

Hubby just drove up so we're off on a mad last minute dash to the city. If we make it through the drifts the first 2 miles, we're on our way. :D

Heather said...

i really enjoyed your story. It was the perfect length between trays of cookies that are in the oven.

heatherdpear at hotmail dot com

Kammie said...

I'm about to head outside for some last minute errands and the weather is bad. I hope that someone just like Jake is there to rescue me if something happens. Wonderful story! kammie2u at ameritech dot net

Janet said...

Great story, Anita. And one that has great potential to be developed into something bigger. Thanks for sharing it with us :)

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

connie said...

Thanks Anita
I am sitting at the computer nicely stuffed with Christmas dinner. Joel has to work tomorrow and Mike is going away so we all congregated and had Christmas today. We will do it all again tomorrow with Rob and Tiff.
Lovely story. I am going to call Tiff down to read it shortly
And speaking of shortly, I long to read more of this story. Please, please, another chapter.
Have a lovely Xmas day with your kids all home
connie

Anita Mae Draper said...

Heather - thank you. Mmm - cookies sound wonderful. Have a blessed Christmas.

Kammie - Did you need rescuing? We almost did yesterday! I'm writing this at 2 am Christmas morning. :)Thanks for leaving our email address. I pray your Christmas is everything you hope for.

Janet and Connie - Thanks for the encouragement. I'll see what I can do. Merry Christmas.

DebH said...

heya anita
just got back to computer access. been itching to read your story since last week and knew i wouldn't get to it until today.

good hook. i want to know more about both characters. the story as is was a great read and a heart tugger at that. you are so talented.

Silver James said...

Happy Holidays, Anita! What a heart-warming story and I want so much more of it! I hope you'll add to it next year (if not before!)

And for my friendly spambots: silverjames @ swbell period net

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
I'm catching up on a week's worth of Christmas stories while I was away from Internet access.

Thanks for the lovely story with the unexpected elements. A shepherd? Your story was touching and amusing at the same time.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Happy New Year!
Jana