Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Spring (as in the season) (11/28/05)
TITLE: Ellie’s Hope
By Benjamin Stephens
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The larder had been fully stocked before Chetâ€™s departure and there was enough firewood to last many cold nights, but it was not enough. Ellie held back on meals and resorted to wrapping herself in quilts to stave off the chill.
When skies were blue and the winds ceased their angry howling, Ellie would venture into the nearby woods to gather fuel for the fire. She was also forced to learn to handle the carbine Chet left for her although she was getting weary of rabbit stew which generally held random bits of buckshot in the choicest pieces of meat. Ellie was learning by an inborn preservation instinct how to dress rabbit hide and she had pieced together a serviceable coat that provided warmth despite its vaguely unpleasant aroma.
Nights were spent on a variety of knitting endeavors. She kept busy as she planned for Chetâ€™s return. Ellie was good at lofting prayers heavenward. She imagined angels winging the prayers to the presence of God. He would know what to do.
Ellie hadnâ€™t seen her husband in almost six months. There was something sheâ€™d planned to tell him before he left, but then she hadnâ€™t expected him to be gone so long.
A journal sat beside her rocking chair bearing the accounts of a woman with a sharp wit and a deep faith. In recent days it seemed the humor and trust were fading, but she had no choice, she must endure.
* * * * *
Chet had donned show shoes and the determination of a mule on more than one occasion, but the mountain would not let him pass. He spoke with men well acquainted with the mountain and they provided no reasonable hope of reaching Ellie.
Some rambled on about the stupidity of building so high in the Rocky Mountains. Being wrong held no comfort for Chet.
His mind wrestled with the unknown. These thoughts betrayed the panic he fought to confine. How could any good husband sit in a warm bunkhouse while his wife braved a mountain winter alone? Even mail was being held in Bentâ€™s Fort waiting for spring to send winter into hasty retreat.
Chet may have died on the mountain trying to reach his bride but for the wisdom of his friend, Kit.
Nights were spent railing against the agony of helplessness. What good was a job if he could not take proper care of Ellie?
* * * * *
It had been an especially hard night for Ellie. She could do little more than rest. The flour was nearly gone and she hadnâ€™t been able to claim a Snowshoe, Cottontail or Jack Rabbit in many days. If she was careful, the wood might last a couple of days. Maybe her strength would return.
She drifted off to sleep, her rabbit coat draped over her torso.
â€śGet up,â€ť a voice spoke.
Who was talking?
â€śYour redemption draws near,â€ť the voice answered.
How long had she been asleep?
She wrapped the coat and placed it carefully on the bed. There was a little flour and some lard left, so Ellie slowly worked at making a small loaf of bread to eat. The smell of the bread aroused her hunger and revived her senses.
Ellie opened the cabin door, looked at the beautiful mountains and wept. Spring had finally made its presence known. A few flowers dotted those areas claimed by the warming season. There was still plenty of snow, but for the first time in so very long Ellie saw the ground.
Ellie devoured the bread before resting again. She thanked God for the promise of spring.
Suddenly the door opened and she heard feet scraping on the floor. â€śEllie,â€ť Chet called.
She rose quietly from her bed and walked around the corner with eyes wide and tearing, â€śYou came.â€ť
The two collapsed in a deluge of raw emotion. Suddenly another sound pierced the air causing Chet to reach for his rifle. Ellie raced to the bedroom and picked up her coat. She uncovered the source of the noise and looked at her husband, â€śChet, Iâ€™d like you to meet your daughter, Hope.â€ť
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