Melody sat up in bed, a look of pain and surprise distorting the once peaceful contours of her face. Had she been dreaming, or was that a contraction she felt? She turned towards the window, thick with new-fallen snow. Only a pale streak of moonlight made its way through. Rising with difficulty, but trying not to disturb Mark, her husband, she toddled towards the door and groped her way through the darkened hallway to the kitchen.
“A cup of hot cocoa would be good”, she told herself. But there, it came again--a pang so sharp it stole her breath away. She gasped but continued on her way and was in the process of heating milk in the microwave when Mark appeared in the doorway, eyes filled with sleep.
“I woke and found you gone. What’s up?” he demanded, blue eyes fixed upon the full mound in front of her.
“I’m having birth contractions, I think,” she admitted and just then another hit her so hard she fell backward into the chair she’d pulled out from the table. She sat there stroking her tummy while Mark went to the door and leaned out into the night.
“Oh, no,” he moaned. “There must be three feet of snow piled up against the barn and it’s still falling.” Slamming the door shut, he glanced at the clock. “ It’s only 2:00 am. Mel, are you sure it‘s the baby? He isn’t due for another week.”
“How do I know? It’s the first one,” she wailed as another contraction hit, brief but powerful.
Mark’s face blanched and he hurried to dress and warm up the truck. When he returned, Melody was still sitting where he left her, staring at the clock. “Don’t bother to dress,” he ordered. “I’ll get your coat and slippers. It’s a long drive but we’ll make it in time.”
* * * * * *
Forty minutes later found them sitting in their truck on a darkened country road, wondering what to do next. Their pickup had made it through the unplowed snow without too much trouble, but now their route was blocked by a fallen tree that lay across the road, it’s dark branches reaching through the night like ominous demons intent on turning them back.
“There may be a farmhouse nearby,” he said, without much confidence. “I’ll get out and walk a ways and look.”
Melody was left shivering in the car and growing more fearful by the minute. Tears splashed her cheeks as she lifted her voice to Heaven in desperate prayer.
Soon Mark was back, his voice filled with excitement while he announced, “There is a farmhouse nearby. Light’s coming through the windows so I know it’s occupied. Come on.”
Mark half dragged her through the mounting drifts while her breath came in short puffs. The contractions were coming every few minutes now and, with every step, a growing fear that she wouldn’t make it in time.
Before they could ring the bell and catch their breath, the door flew open and a burly old farmer helped them inside. His wife sat by a roaring fireplace, rocking gently, while the comforting smell of cinnamon and pine scented the air. Sizing up the situation at once , the old woman hustled Melody into a room where she helped her out of her wet coat. Then she pulled back the bedcovers and gently laid the young mother down, humming softly.
“Try to relax,” the woman ordered. “I’ve done this many times before.” Melanie gazed into the motherly face, creased with age, and peace enveloped her.
It wasn’t long before Mark, seated now before the fireplace with a steaming cup of cocoa in his hands, heard the cries of a new-born babe. Tears of relief streamed down his face. “Thank God,” he murmured.
* * * * * *
It was 8:00 am, Christmas Day, when their pickup pulled into a rural medical center four miles from the farmhouse. In tired arms Melody held the newborn babe, wrapped in a soft blue blanket provided by the midwife. They were greeted by cries of welcome from the nursing staff. But a look of wonderment crossed the young couple’s face when told that the farmhouse had long been deserted. “Maybe twenty years or so,” said the troubled nurse, shaking her head.
Mark and Melody exchanged glances. “She did seem almost too good to be true,” Melody whispered. “Do you believe in angels, Mark?”
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