One Dark December
Author's note: This book for me was a joy to write as I got to know a special little girl named Stephanie and... Show full author's note »
An Escaped Rat!Wednesday, November 21st, 1917
Today was the most rotten day of my life! Mr. Mellows had to leave for a few minutes at school and he put me in charge. Well, everything was going great until this boy in my class, named Brian, started chanting, ‘Stephanie loves Bobby!’ I said that I thought no such thing and that he had best be quiet or I would give him the strap. Well, just at that moment Mr. Mellows walked in.
‘You would give who the strap, Ms. Bates?’
I looked down at my shoes.
I slowly walked to the front and Mr. Mellows brought out a ruler. ’Hold out your hand, Ms. Bates.’
My hands were shaking and sweating so much that when he brought the ruler down it hit my wrist instead of my hand. The whole class laughed. Well boy, did Mr. Mellows make up for it! He even slapped my face a few times! After that, he said something that made me turn red with shame. ‘I would never have expected this from you, Ms. Bates. No, I never would have, acting so rude to a young gentleman.’
Well the anger sure was boiling up and I turned and shouted out in a shaky voice, ‘Brian started it, really, it is not as it looks.’
Well, let us just say I had to write lines after school and take a note home to Mother and Father talking about my behaviour. Boy, do I hate Brian. I hid the note away but I think Susannah might tell on me so I better show my parents the note first.
Well, I did it. I showed Mother the note and she went and told Father. Father asked me to come into the study and Mother came out as I walked in. Father told me to sit down and he just stared at me. I burst into tears right then and there and Father hugged me and asked me to tell him the story. So I did, dear friend, word for word. Father told me I had no right to talk to the teacher that way, but what Brian did was wrong and he understands why I acted that way. He told me that it was up to me if I wanted to say sorry or not and he would drop it right then and there. Well, say sorry? That is something to think about.
Dear friend, I just cannot get to sleep. I wish you were here right now to talk to me and help me make a decision about whether I should apologize or not. If I do not apologize then Mr. Mellows might give me bad grades for the rest of the year. But if I do apologize, then he could hate me even more because he will think I am a suck up! Decisions, decisions!
Thursday, November 22nd, 1917
Well, I did it. I said sorry. Mr. Mellows smiled after I had said my speech. He smiled, dear friend. Smiled! He has never smiled before – ever, for as long as I have known him!
Friday, November 23rd, 1917
We have a class project – fill a Christmas stocking. The Red Cross is collecting thousands of stockings from all over Canada and sending them to the wounded Canadians who have to spend Christmas in hospitals in England and France. Halifax has to contribute one thousand stockings. The stocking is huge, but we can do it! After supper, Aaron, the twins and I collected a few things from our neighbours. Small things like candies, soap, a comb, some socks and such.
I am so excited because tomorrow is the sleepover with Abby and Alexis! Oh, I just remembered, Aaron found out about the rat. I started to tell him and he said that he had found out earlier that day when he was looking for something under the bed and came up with a rat. He told Charlie to get rid of that thing or else he would tell. Charlie said he would, but being stubborn Charlie, I do not think he will.
Sunday, November 25th, 1917
Well, lobsters and o’ kettle of fish! That sleepover was the best time I have ever had. I will tell you about it. Abby walked over to my house around noon and we walked together to Alexis’s house. She told us to all bring our dolls and we played house. We were all mothers who had children and we would come together every week and make up stories about our past. It was such fun telling about the past. I said that when I was young, my husband and I sailed around the world, but one cold night a huge wave came over the ship and he was flung into the sea. What fun we had! Then we made sandwiches and went to the creek for a picnic. Afterward, we all went for a walk into town and called on a bunch of friends from school. We all went to the pond and skated on the ice. We skated and skated and skated until every bone in my body ached. We ran home and got undressed and into our nightgowns by the wood stove. Then we went up to Alexis’s room to get ready for bed, Alexis in her bed and Abby and I on the floor with blankets. But did we go to sleep? Never! I tell you we talked and talked and talked. When the grandfather clock struck twelve we all crept down for a midnight snack of peanut butter cookies. Mmm mmm mmm! Then we went back upstairs and tried to sleep, but we just could not, so we got out our dolls and continued our game. I think we fell asleep just as the sun was coming up. Alexis’s mother let us sleep until the last minute. She woke us up just in time to get to church. After the service we went home with each of our families. I was so tired, I just went to sleep. Mother woke me up for supper and then I had some chores to do. Now it is time for bed and I sure am tuckered. Goodnight dear friend! Sleep tight.
Monday, November 26th, 1917
The funniest thing happened just seconds ago. I can still hear Mother scolding Charlie and Susannah. I was doing my homework in my room and Susannah was reading when Charlie ran in. He looked frantic, his eyes wild and searching the floor. Susannah put down her book.
‘Charlie what’s wrong?’
Charlie mouthed the words, but I knew and I jumped up almost instantly.
‘The rat escaped? How?’
‘He must have chewed through the box!’
Susannah and I started to help him search the floor. Aaron ran upstairs and said the rat was not in the parlour or the dining room.
’What about the kitchen?’ Susannah asked.
Just then we got our answer. A scream was sounded from the kitchen, a high-pitched, startled scream. All four of us ran downstairs and there was Mother, standing up on a chair yelling and screaming. The poor little rat was scurrying around under the chair. Charlie and Susannah ran over to him and picked him up. Father stormed in and saw Mother standing on the chair and Charlie holding the rat. Poor Charlie had to let the rat outside and then Father marched him and Susannah into the study for the strap. You can still hear poor Susannah wailing! I guess I am being a little bit mean. They were just trying to save a poor rat after all – were they not? Oh, Susannah just walked in the door now and she is bawling her eyes out. Bye!
After Calming Susannah Down
Well, I should not have thought that it was the least bit funny! Susannah started wailing when I asked if she was okay. I sat her on the bed. I told her Father loved her and that she did something wrong, so she got the strap and that there was nothing we could do about it. That was just the way Father was. Well, she calmed down a bit and said something that made my eyes water. ‘Stephanie don’t you see what this war does to people? It made Father into a bad man. It makes him angry and sad and scary. This war is killing Hugh. Stephanie, what is it like in a world with no war? Have you ever wondered? I always pray that this war will end – but it never does. What if we do not win Stephanie? What if we lose? Will the Huns kill us, or will God save us? Is there even a God? Sometimes when I read the names of the dead in the newspaper, I wonder if there is a God. I wonder if God wants Hugh to die.’
She paused and then said, ‘I wonder if Father even loves me anymore.’
Mother must have heard that speech because when I came down to get Susannah a glass of water, Mother gathered me in her arms and we cried together. Now I am starting to wonder. What if we do lose? What if Hugh dies? Does Father love us anymore? Oh stop it, Stephanie. This horrible, horrible war!