Thanksgiving Day dawned with a bustle of excitement and as Alice had predicted, everything in the kitchen went smoothly. Rhianna helped wherever she could and found it easy to become swept away in the positive energy everyone seemed to have. Still, she couldn’t help feel lonely and sad at times. Jerrick seemed to sense her distress and tried to dispel it at every opportunity. Yet, she found it difficult to push away the fact that this would be her first Thanksgiving without Scott.
Early that morning, she awoke and cried in the shower, hoping to relieve the tension she may feel later during the day. It seemed to do the trick. At least she wasn’t so close to tears. That is, until everyone sat down at the long table in the dining room for the grand feast. Brent cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention. What had once been a room full of lively excitement was suddenly a room filled with silence.
“Since today is the day we celebrate this great land we live in and the freedoms we enjoy, it is only appropriate that we express the thanks we hold in our hearts. So, I’ll start.” Brent looked at everyone at the table in turn and smiled. “I’d first like to express my thankfulness for my wife and family and for our lovely additions this year.”
Rhianna knew Jerrick’s father said more but she heard nothing else. Though Thanksgiving was known as a day for giving thanks, she usually managed to forget the true purpose of the holiday. So much of the attention of the day focused on the meal and all the preparations for it. But the holiday was originally established for giving thanks; she simply neglected that part most years.
As Brent finish, Alice began to express her thankfulness. The thought occurred to Rhianna that every member at the table would be expressing their grateful feelings for the blessings they enjoyed. Silently she counted the people between her and Alice. There were two; Joseph and Jerrick. Could she ask if they could come back to her? No. Of course not. What should she say? What was she thankful for? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. What had life given her? Everything she had been given had been violently ripped out of her grasp. How could she possibly be thankful for that?
She held no one person responsible for her loneliness in life. She had resigned herself to being miserable long ago, but as she watched this family express gratitude for their blessings, she had a sudden desire to want to be thankful for something.
It was Joseph’s turn. “I’m thankful for the snow and fun uncles.”
She began to panic. She was next and had nothing to say. Her heart beat quickened with anxiety and beads of perspiration gathered on her neck.
“I’m thankful that Rhianna, Lark and Lavender agreed to come and share Thanksgiving with us,” Jerrick said.
“Me too!” exclaimed Lavender, who sat on Rhianna’s other side.
Jerrick chuckled and continued. “I’m also thankful for a good job and a wonderful family who supports me. Okay, Anna. Your turn.” Jerrick gave her an encouraging smile.
“Um,” she mumbled. “I really don’t know what to say. I haven’t given it much thought.”
“That’s alright.” Brent nodded with an understanding smile. As head of the family, Rhianna felt comforted by his fatherly attitude toward her. “We’ll come back to you.”
Rhianna turned to listen as Lavender spouted off a list of things she was thankful for; her mommy, her sister, her house, the food, her friends…. The list seemed to go on forever. When she was finally finished, everyone looked to Lark who sat very quietly, looking at her hands on her lap. “What are you thankful for, angel?” Brent asked in a grandfatherly way.
Lark hesitantly looked to her mother and then up at Brent and said, “Grandpa B? Do you believe in Jesus?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Is he nice?”
Lark nodded and looked back to her hands and Rhianna felt frustrated that she did not sit next to her oldest daughter. The need to comfort the four year old filled her until she nearly moved to her daughter’s side. But before she could, Lark spoke again; this time with tears in her eyes. “Sarah told me that since Daddy died, he went to live with Jesus. I think Daddy would like that. I’m thankful that Daddy’s safe with Jesus.”
Rhianna felt the tears fill her eyes and her jaw began to quiver at the simple faith of her daughter. She swallowed as her throat felt thick with emotion. She reached up and wiped away a tear that had somehow managed to escape onto her warm face. She thought no one noticed until she felt an arm around her shoulders and a slight squeeze. Looking over to Jerrick, he smiled at her with understanding and pulled her to him, kissing her forehead. Fortunately, no one else seemed to notice for it was now Sarah’s turn, then Mindy’s. As Rhianna continued to listen to the others, she thought hard of something to be thankful for. Surely she could think of something.
She’d had a rough childhood and lived with her great-aunt most of the time. Her father ran out on her mother when Rhianna was a baby and her mother and step-father died in a car accident about eight years ago. Rhianna then married Scott Rider, they had two beautiful daughters and then Scott died.
Were there any blessings in all that mess?
Yes, she realized. After Scott died, she had struggled with the decision to go back to work to support her children or become homeless so she could raise them herself. The last thing she wanted was for someone else to raise her girls, but she few other options. Then one day, an attorney contacted her and she had been given a sizeable sum of money from Scott’s life insurance policy. As a result, she had been able to publish her children’s books and still stay at home and raise her girls.
It was her turn again. This time she had something to be thankful for. “I’m thankful that all of you were willing to let me and my girls invade your family holiday.”
“It’s not an invasion,” Brent said.
“We’re thrilled to have you,” Alice agreed.
“All the same, I thankful for it,” Rhianna smiled humbly. “The girls have loved it and you have taught me so much about myself and life. And for that I will be forever grateful, so thank you.”
That was all she said, but she felt the emotions close to the surface again, ready to explode and she fought to keep them under control. She would not think on the things she had discovered this day. It was easier to just allow things to happen around her and not dwell on them.
“Andy,” Brent said. “Will you please bless this food and then we’ll have us our feast?”
“Certainly.” During the prayer, Rhianna found it difficult to keep her tears from falling and did her best to pull herself together before the prayer’s end. To her relief, however, when she brought her head up after the close of the prayer, she realized there were several others at the table with damp faces and red eyes too. She smiled and as everyone wiped their faces, the meal began and the noise level escalated. Everyone laughed and talked jovially, enjoying the meal and each other’s company.
~ * ~
That evening, after everyone retired for the night and Rhianna had Lark and Lavender tucked in, she found herself sitting in the living room alone with Jerrick sipping a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
“Can I ask you something?” Jerrick mumbled as they sat side by side on the old, worn-out, brown leather sofa and watched the fire burning in the fire place.
“Sure,” Rhianna answered without the slightest hesitation. Years of knowing him had taught her that no matter the question he would ask, she had nothing to fear from him.
“Have you ever considered marrying again?” She looked over at him with an expression of skepticism. “Seriously, Anna. Have you ever thought about it?”
“I guess.” She shrugged and turned her gaze to the fire. If she did not meet him eye to eye, she would be better able to keep her emotions under better control. “I mean, who wants to be fifty and have no one to warm their bed on a cold winter’s night?”
“What’s holding you back?”
She was uncertain how to put her thoughts and feelings into words. Glancing at him, she knew he would never laugh. He merely wanted to help her be happy. Looking down at her hands, she took a deep breath and spoke again. “I’m scared, for one.”
“Rejection. Or loving someone only to loose them.”
“But, that’s a natural thing in life.”
“I know,” Rhianna whispered. She brushed a tear from her cheek with her finger. “But it was so hard. Some days…it is still hard. And the girls….” She shook her head.
Jerrick lifted her chin until her eyes met his. “Don’t you want your girls to grow up with a father?”
“Yes,” she cried in a whisper. “It’s just so…hard! It’s hard to let go of the past, and with two girls…. No one wants to be saddled to a young widow with two babies. That’s a big commitment and the prospects are slim enough as it is.” She felt his arm go around her shoulders in a consoling way and she fell against him, hungry and eager for the comfort he offered.
“Not all men are as shallow as they appear.”
“Name one,” she said through her tears.
“Me. But don’t tell anyone. I don’t want the girls beating down my door when I get home,” he said and she giggled.
After a few minutes, she pulled away to look at him as a thought struck her. Suddenly very serious, she asked him the question he had posed to her the night before. “You’re not applying for the position, are you?”
He looked at her for a moment with something akin to sadness visibly etched in his eyes. “Anna, I have always been fond of you and want you to be happy. If marrying you would make you happy, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Despite that, I also have to listen to my heart.”
“And your heart won’t allow you to love someone like me?” She knew men wanted to be the loved by the woman they married, just like a woman would. Yet she still loved Scott. How could she possibly turn her entire heart over to another man?
“That’s not what I said, Anna. But I need to make sure it will make me happy too.”
Knowing Jerrick, that answer had probably been formed in his mind ages ago.
She turned at the sound of the small voice.
“What’s the matter, honey?” Lark came to stand by her and Rhianna picked her daughter up.
“When’s Daddy coming home?” Lark was half asleep and the tears in the girl’s eyes made it difficult for Rhianna to restrain her own tears.
They had this talk nearly hourly right after Scott’s death but now these conversations were few and far between. “Well, honey….” This had never been an easy question for Rhianna to answer. Usually she tried to change the subject or say that Scott had to go away for a while. But as she sat next to Jerrick, she wondered if he might have something to say that would be of comfort to the Lark.
When Rhainna looked to him, he smiled and she knew he would not let her down. “Lark, do you remember talking to Sarah about your daddy being with Jesus?” The girl nodded and he continued. “Well, your daddy’s with Jesus. They are watching over you, making sure you’re being a good girl and helping your mommy?”
Lark looked up at the ceiling as if expecting to see her father and Jesus. “I don’t see him.”
“You can’t see him, angel. But he’s there. And he’ll always be in here.” He pointed to her heart.
Lark looked into her mother’s eyes. “Do you believe him, Mommy? Do you believe that Daddy is safe with Jesus and watching me?”
Rhianna could not find her voice. Her throat had swollen shut with emotion, and so she meagerly nodded in an affirmative fashion. After she had tucked Lark back into bed a short while later and lay upon her own bed, she discovered that a part of her did believe Jerrick’s explanation to her daughter. It was such a wonderful thought – Scott in heaven and watching over her and the girls. With this thought came the realization that Scott would want her to be happy, too. He would want her to move on and find his girls a daddy. Though frightening, the thought somehow brought her peace.
This is the final enstallment of A Season for Love on Wednesday Romances. If you would like to read the entire story, find it here.