The Christmas Sisters

The Christmas Sisters by Annie Jones Read Free Book Online

Book: The Christmas Sisters by Annie Jones Read Free Book Online
Authors: Annie Jones
without so much as batting an eye or spilling a drop. Drama had its place, she supposed, but it had nothing on the calm determination of a mother doing what she must for her child's well-being. “Yes, that's right. Leave. Hit the road. Don't let the door smack ya from behind on the way out. So long. Good riddance. Buh -bye.”
    “But...” Nan's mouth hung open.
    “But...” Fran's did, too.
    “We never could....” Lula wrung her hands.
    Bert puffed up her already sizable chest and huffed. “No.”
    “Excuse me?” Nic sat the coffee down with a thunk .
    “We're not going to do that, Nicolette.” Bert scowled. “Now, I'm sorry if that interferes with some plan of yours, but we've made a promise, and if it's one thing The Duets do not do, it's go back on a promise.”
    “If it's one thang tha dyuettes do nawt do, it's go bayck on a promise.” Willa held the ceramic pigs up belly to belly, smiling snout to smiling snout as she parroted Aunt Bert's drawl.
    Nic wanted to wring her sisters' necks for leaving her to deal with this alone. Like she didn't have enough already on her plate with worries over Willa and money and... She shut her eyes and put her head in her hands.
    “You know something, Willa, honey?” Aunt Lula's grandma-sweet but gravel-throated voice flowed over Nic's frazzled nerves like the warmth of a fire-lit hearth on a rainy winter night. “Here it is just three weeks from Christmas and we haven't even got the decorations out of the back bedroom closet. What say you and me and Nan and Fran go see if we can't dig them out and see what's what?”
    “Dig ' em ouyt and see whut's whut !” Willa echoed, clapping her hands and all but bouncing off her chair.
    Nic mouthed a thank-you to the three women creating a lovely distraction for her child. And for her, too, truth be told.
    Just the mention of the deep, dark, cedar-scented closet that kept hidden away the wonderful treasures of her childhood like the photo albums, beach umbrella, and Christmas decorations flooded Nic with emotions and memories. The thrill of birthday parties, the tranquility of sitting on the porch swing on a summer night, the joy of catching fireflies in a jar, and the marvels of many, many Christmases spent in this very home with everyone she loved close at hand warmed her thoughts.
    By selling the house she would be taking all that away from her child. She was no fool. She knew that.
    But what would Willa reap in return? That's what Nic had to focus on. Yes, she would have to sacrifice something of the past, of Willa's roots and her own, but she would give her child a better future. Or so she hoped.
    “I see how this troubles you, child.” Aunt Bert heaved a weary sigh. “But you have to understand, we've given our word. We can't toss someone out on the street because you got a bee in your bonnet.”
    A sudden surge of frustration, anger, and apprehension pushed Nic to her feet, her voice louder than she intended. “I don't have a bee in my bonnet, Aunt Bert! I have a child! A wonderful, precious child who has got all these needs and I… I…”
    The words strangled in the back of her throat. They always did as if saying it aloud somehow made her a bad mother and a woman too small in her faith. As if admitting the truth of Willa's problems sounded too close to giving up on her baby girl. Nic blinked back the tears and swallowed before going on, softly. “She has these needs...these special needs, and I have got to find some way to provide for her.”
    “Then I reckon you'd welcome the extra rent money.”
    “It won't be enough, Aunt Bert.” She pictured the file in her suitcase with the bill for the first year's tuition. “Not nearly enough.”
    “Then perhaps you need to think about other resources—”
    “Don't you think I've used every resource available already? I have prayed and I have prayed. I have prayed until my throat was almost as raw as the ache in my heart for that fragile, innocent angel I brought into

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