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 »
Coughs, Cod Liver Oil and Colds!Tuesday, November 27th, 1917 - (This entry is marked secret. Only for the eyes of Stephanie Aaron Bates)
A letter from Hugh today! I will paste it here.
I just wanted to say thank you for the socks that you have been sending. The other soldiers in my battalion always envy my socks. They ask if you could knit them some. They are probably kidding, but could you slip in a few extra? Stephanie, I have something to confess. I have a lover. Yes, I am in a relationship. Her name is Anna and she is a nurse. Stephanie, I really love her and now she has asked me to marry her! I know that it is very unusual for the girl to do it, but I said yes and now I am wondering if I am making a mistake. What would you do Stephanie? Would you send me a letter telling me what to do? Please? I know you will know. How is everyone doing? Good I hope. Has Colleen been flirting with sailors? How much has Emily Belle grown? I heard Mother is pregnant! How are she and Father? Are the twins up to anything mischievous? Are you and Aaron getting along? How is Abby? Are you giving Cassie a lot of exercise? Give her a pat for me. Oh, so many questions. I love you Steph and hope to be home as soon as I can.
P.S. Please do not tell Mother and Father just yet, about Anna.
A lover? He is going to get married? What would I do? I do not know Hugh! I am going to have to do a lot of thinking then write him a VERY long letter, lecturing him first and then saying I love him. But does he really have to put the future of his relationship on my shoulders? Oh Hugh, you do not know how much of a worrier I have become!
Wednesday, November 28th, 1917
Hello, dear and faithful friend. It sure has been a while since I started this diary. I was just reading it over and Susannah asked if she could read it. I said that this was my personal diary and if she wanted to she could bother somebody else. Now, I am starting to feel bad. I mean she was, after all, just admiring her big sister. But would she tell Charlie, and would everyone now want to read my diary? I do not think so. I mean, she is very good at keeping secrets. She kept Emily Belle’s secret about the cod liver oil after I told her and Mother asked if she had anything to do with it and she said no. But would she tell her friends at school? No, I must not worry – this is Susannah we are talking about here – VERY annoying, but cute and mature. But if I let her read this diary, have I said anything nasty about her? Well, there is only one way to find out.
Earlier today I was talking to Mother about the War and said I felt so helpless just sitting on my butt doing nothing while Hugh is fighting out in the trenches! She said I could come to her Red Cross meeting with her on Friday and help roll some bandages or make care packets for the soldiers. Then she knelt down so we were eye to eye and said in a very quiet, serious voice, ‘The best you can do, Stephanie, is to keep praying and writing letters to Hugh. I know you are his favourite.’ Well, clearly nothing gets by Mother’s eyes!
Thursday, November 29th, 1917
I did it dear friend! I let Susannah read my diary! Right after I put it away last night, Susannah came into the room and eyed me enviously. I handed her my diary and winked at her. I did tell her not to read the entries marked secret though. I do not want her finding out that Hugh has proposed and then she go and tell Mother! Well, lo and behold! She read straight through supper all the way to bed time! When I was getting on my nightgown she came up to me and hugged me and said, ‘Stephanie, the way you put words on a page is just a wonder! Keep writing and you ought to show that to Mother.’ Well, I really did not think it was that good, but I may consider showing Mother.
Did I tell you that Aaron and I are in a fight? Oh dear friend, I am MISERABLE. Try having your SOUL MATE ignore you! I feel terrible, but whenever I try to tell him I am sorry he just gets up and leaves. Here is what happened. After school today, Abby, Alexis and I were all going to go into town to go shopping. Well, I was just about to leave to meet them at Abby’s house when Aaron confronted me and said, ‘But Stephanie, you promised to go fishing with me since all my friends have the flu.’ I admit that it had just flown out of my mind! I apologized and thought nothing of it. Well, at supper tonight I asked Aaron if he would mind getting me a glass of water. He looked at me and said, ‘Well sure, Stephanie.’ He got it for me and before you know it he had splashed the water all over me! I started yelling at him and I pushed him into the beef stew. He got beef all over his face. Well, Father stood up, yanked us apart and each gave us a slap on the cheek.
‘Behave or go upstairs!’ he yelled.
Well, ‘smart’ old Aaron stood up and just waltzed out of the room and up the stairs. Father then crossed his arms and looked at me.
‘Stephanie, go upstairs with your brother and when you think you are old enough to act appropriately you may join us.’
Well, I stomped upstairs and we have not spoken to each other since then. I think I will say sorry again. Good night dear friend.
Friday, November 30th, 1917
I went with Mother to her Red Cross meeting tonight and boy oh boy! Lobsters and a kettle o’ fish, that was tiring. We rolled bandages, made up care packets for the soldiers, wrote letters to the ones who have no relatives, then we knitted socks, the women chatted and FINALLY we went home! I am too tuckered to write much but I must tell you, Aaron is so mean! He has pretty much Colleen, Emily Belle, Susannah and Charlie against me! NO ONE will talk to me and when I told Susannah how pretty she looked in her Sunday best, she just sniffed and walked away. I better say sorry before everything gets worse!
After Saying Sorry
Well, lo and behold … I said sorry. I went to find everyone and I peeked in the door to Colleen’s room. There were ALL my siblings crowded around a paper Colleen was holding up entitled, How to make Stephanie’s Life Miserable. I took a deep breath and walked in. Colleen turned to look at me and scrunched up her face.
‘What do you want?’
My other siblings glared back at me. I made my way to the front of the room and stood before their glaring faces. I took a deep breath and out came my apology. I told Aaron how sorry I was about forgetting to go fishing with him and how I just blew him off like that. I said I was sorry for pushing him into the beef stew. I told him life was miserable when we are not talking, and I tell you, by the end of it, I was blubbering like a baby. Aaron walked up to me and hugged me and said he was really sorry to turn everyone against me and then ordered everyone to hug me. We got together in a big group hug and I tell you, at that moment, when I was surrounded by all the people that I love, I felt a new spark inside of me glow and become stronger. I stood up on a chair and smiled and said, ‘I know Hugh is not here today, but I wish he were with us and I love him and hope he is okay!’
Everyone then sat in a circle and told funny stories about Hugh. I had so much fun! It is very rare that the six of us get together.
Did you like how I kind of made that like a story? I realize I do that a lot! Well, good night dear friend! Love you, Hugh!
Saturday, December 1st, 1917
I am almost too sick to write this, but I will keep going for you, dear friend. Let me just say that last night did not go too well. I was up all night with a headache and a sick tummy. I threw up six times and felt miserable. Today, Mother got everyone right to work making certain that someone was responsible for giving me cod liver oil and mustard plasters. Even still, I do not feel one bit better. That is all I can write, dear friend.
Sunday, December 2nd, 1917
Well, what do you know? Emily Belle has gotten it too! We are both side-by-side in bed coughing up a storm together. Susannah moved into Colleen’s room and Emily Belle moved into our room. I feel slightly better but am still not feeling well enough to write.
Monday, December 3rd, 1917
Last night, right after I put my diary away, Mother came in to see how I was doing (Emily Belle was asleep). I did not want to talk much, but Mother told me that Susannah had told her that she had read my diary and thought it was amazing. Well, before Mother could say anything more, I handed her my diary and said, ‘Enjoy, but please do not read the entry I marked as secret!’
This morning, when I was hobbling around, Mother came in with diary in hand and tears in her eyes. She gave me a hug.
‘Stephanie Aaron Bates, you sure do have a talent. Keep it up.’
Then she told me of how she had shared little bits with Father and they laughed and cried and just enjoyed every minute of it. I am glad I can make them happy.
Tuesday, December 4th, 1917
I feel so useless sitting on my butt and not going to school, helping with chores or anything! I hate to think about all the homework I have to catch up on. Mr. Mellows does not pity the sick, that is for sure. I did get up and walk around a bit today and Emily Belle feels a little better too. Sorry I am not writing much these days. Being sick takes away all the fun.
Wednesday, December 5th, 1917
I cannot write but I have to. It is the only thing that will keep me going. It is morning time, already 10am, but no one has had breakfast. The whole house is in gloom. Dear friend, my brother Hugh has been … I cannot write it… I cannot.
Maybe writing about it will help ease the sadness. We got a telegram from the war office today and it said … the tears are coming. I am trying, but I cannot write anymore.
Dear friend, you are probably dying of suspense. I am so sorry, but Mother made us all hot cocoa and everyone feels a bit better. Let me try this again. Okay, so we got a telegram from the war office today that said, ‘Hugh Bates, missing in action’. Yes, dear friend. What has happened to my Hugh? Why has God taken him away? Where are you Hugh? Are you up in Heaven safe and sound or are you lying somewhere in No Man’s Land calling out my name? I need you Hugh! Please, I need you! You promised you would never leave me. You promised! Why is there this terrible war? Why are our boys dying? Why is God not making us win? WHY? WHY? WHY?
I do not think I will ever sleep again. Susannah is back in our room but Emily Belle wanted to stay with us too. So I am in the middle of my two sleeping sisters. I feel like throwing this diary at the wall. I wish you were here, dear friend. I wish you could hug me and tell me everything will be all right … I wish.
Thursday, December 6th, 1917
I am the only one awake right now, besides Father who is reading the paper. The sun has not even risen fully in the sky yet. Well, dear friend, I did sleep. I actually fell asleep when my head hit my pillow, because all I remember is closing my eyes and ‘BAM’, I woke up and heard Father downstairs. I am snuggled up in the big comfy chair in the parlour and am under a wool blanket. The house is still freezing because the wood stove has not fully heated it up yet. I think I hear Emily Belle coughing upstairs. Time to pull out the COD LIVER OIL …