Ralph stood gazing out the dining room window at the side of the house facing the barn. He and Marnie had finished the dishes. The turkey once more had been delightful with a little change in the dressing thanks to the yams.

He could see his wife behind him in the window's reflection as she fluffed up the den with cushions and stirred the fire to renewed life, throwing on another log.

The barnyard pole light threw an interesting cone of brilliance down upon the crystalline clearing. No wind disturbed the drifts. The sky was beautifully dark with the moon in first quarter, partially obscured by cloud.

"Hon, come on over for coffee and fruit cake." He was reluctant to leave his reverie.

Most of the dinner's conversation had concerned daughter Trina's family, moved to Alberta four months prior. The three year-old Benjy would be into full swing around the Christmas tree. The four month old Sarah and her somewhat delicate condition, the reason that there had been no reunion this winter. But Derek's promotion had made the whole thing seem most sensible. How they were missed.

Ralph would begin his second series of chemotherapy January 23rd, but there was every reason not to discuss it on this day in particular. He was banking on another remission, and praying.

The last letter from Ken in Kandahar had arrived five days ago and it had been read and re-read that afternoon. A promotion to Sergeant, and a mission extended by another fifteen months. An old school chum had fallen victim to an IED four days before writing. Nothing left of him but a belt. The device had been hidden in an abandoned bicycle. Ken had tried very hard in the letter to emphasize the good things that were being accomplished over there. But he was shaken. The medicine and supplies. The clothing. The new buildings. The Kids' Activity Centre. The training and grooming of peace officers.

Now it was time for his wife on the sofa, the waiting cups, the plate of treats, the thick photo album, the easy sound of Christmas Strings in the background. Thirty-eight years and she was still the one. There would be recollections, laughter, a review of the to-do list for Boxing Day dinner at her sister's.

Then fairly early to bed...


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