Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: TRIP (10/18/18)
TITLE: Hand in Hand
By Annette Griffin
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Esther sighed and uncoiled the wool scarf from her face as she lumbered to his room. “Just running into town to pick up some fabric. Little Sarah Mayfield is here if you need anything.”
“You going out in this weather?” The old man’s brow crinkled.
“Now Papa, stop worrying.” She clunked to his bedside in her snow boots and tucked a quilt around his burly form. “I’ll be back soon. It’s just a short trip into town—not to the moon and back.” She pecked a kiss on her father’s cheek and made a quick get-away before he could convince her to stay.
The frigid air stung her nose and cheeks, but Esther welcomed the reprieve from the stuffy cabin. Papa’s winter cold had progressed into pneumonia and for two weeks she had done nothing but sit by his bedside and pray. When his fever broke and he began fussing over her again, she knew the Good Lord had answered her prayers for healing. But now, the restless thoughts she’d mulled during those secluded days and nights needed a good airing out—like a musty rug, stored in the attic too long.
She maneuvered the small, horse-pulled rig from the barn and treated the old mare to an apple before they set out to Coopers General Store. The quiet stillness of the white terrain stretched before her. She closed her eyes and breathed in the crisp air mingled with firewood smoke and pine. How long had it been since she’d had a moment to herself?
After Mother passed last year, Esther had decided to decline her first teaching post and look after Papa for a while. Not that he truly needed a caregiver. In fact, before he took ill, her father could outwork most of the farmers in town who were half his age. But Mother had been his constant companion for the better part of forty years and the thought of Papa grieving her all alone … well, Esther couldn’t bear it.
She had never regretted her decision, especially after Papa got sick. But still, there were times she wondered if she had missed God’s plan. While all her friends were busy marrying or working, Esther seemed to be stuck in limbo—somewhere between childhood dreams and God given destiny.
“Whoa, Milly.” Esther tugged the reins and eased the carriage to the side of the snow banked trail. “What’s that sound?”
The shrill yelping repeated--then evaporated into the howling wind.
She searched the landscape until she spotted the source of the commotion. “Sadie?” Esther leapt from the carriage and crunched her way into the snowy field. “Come here, girl.” she called to her neighbor’s husky.
The dog lunged but remained anchored in place, whimpering.
“What on earth?” Esther sludged her way to shivering animal. “Poor thing. Let’s get you untangled.” With numb fingers she wrestled the leather strap of Sadie’s leash from the grip of the brier bush.
The grateful hound rewarded her rescuer with pouncing dogie-kisses.
Esther giggled. “Ugh—you’re welcome, sweet Sadie. Time to get you home. I’m sure Miss Gracie is worried.”
Miss Gracie met them on her front lawn. “Oh Esther, I was frantic. Wherever did you find my Sadie?”
“I just happened upon her. Her leash was stuck in a brier bush.”
“Well, I can’t thank you enough, my dear. You go right into the house and get warmed up and have some cider. You look a fright. I’ll get Sadie squared away.”
Esther smiled as she approached Miss Gracie’s front door. The dear lady could be rather blunt, but had a heart of gold. She scrubbed her boots against the mat and reached for the knob.
A tall, young man swished the door open. “Hello, may I help you?”
Heat prickled across Esther’s cheeks. “I … uh. Miss Gracie—"
“Robert, stop teasing the poor girl and show her to the fireplace. She’s cold to the bone.” Miss Gracie called to her son, who had just returned from college.
The twinkle in his steel blue eyes held her captive. “Won’t you come in,” Robert said, offering her his hand.
It was the first time Esther placed her trembling hand into his. But it would not be the last. A year later they would join hands again—before a flower arrayed altar and repeat their wedding vows.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV)
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