I wanted to post more this week, but besides posting on Monday, it just didn't happen. I was much too busy trying to get other things done and fighting a bad cold. My cold is almost gone now, for which I'm very thankful. (It's hard to sing in a choir when you have a cold.) And I've gotten a lot of my bigger things done. For now at least. :P Maybe next week I can post more often. ;) Though you can check out my posts on Read Another Page as I'm posting reviews on Christmas stories and movies on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Now, before you start this story, I need to tell you a little of the history of it.
It all started last autumn. It wasn't Thanksgiving yet and I was trying really hard to get a quilt done for a someone who had asked me to make them one. (Believe me, it's not a usual project to make an entire quilt. Doing the hand quilting, sure, but not the rest.) Anyway, I was sewing the binding on and my sister had the radio playing. We were listening to WCPE with their lovely classical music. A song came on, and I have no idea who wrote it or what it was, but I could hear words. (It was all instrumental.) Someone was calling Peter! I could hear it as clearly as though it were written out. "Peter! Peee–ter!" Then some other lovely music would fill the air before the call came again. And again. When I told my sister, she gave me that look. The one that says, "You're crazy." But I heard it. And I wondered why they were calling for Peter, and and who was calling.
So, a few days later, with that call still in my mind, I sat down and wrote "Peter's Christmas" and discovered the answers to my questions.
I hope you enjoy it.
I heard the call as I shut off the engine and opened the door of my truck. “What are they listening to on the radio?” I thought, glancing towards the house. It was a warm December evening, not the kind of weather you think of when you know that tomorrow will be Christmas Eve.
Mounting the steps to the long front porch, I heard the call again.
That’s when I realized that the call didn’t come from the house but from the woods. Turning, I scanned the tree line in every direction but saw nothing. Who was Peter and why was he being called?
“Peter! Pe–ter! The second call had a rising inflection in it, almost as though the name were being sung.
“Strange,” I thought, opening the screen door. “I don’t remember anyone named Peter living around here.” I racked my brain trying to think of a family with someone of that name, but every time I came up blank. There just weren’t any Peters unless one was new to the area.
“Peter. Pe–” The name was interrupted by a slight cry as though of pain.
Quickly opening the door, I stepped inside. “John, Charles,” I called my sons. “Get the lantern and a flashlight. I think someone’s in the woods and needs help.”
“Can I come too, Daddy,” my fifteen-year-old daughter, Dorothy, begged.
Knowing that the one who had been calling was probably a girl, I nodded. “Get your jacket, the sun’s going down.”
In less than ten minutes the four of us were crossing the road and entering the dark woods beyond.
“Hello!” I called, hoping the woman would answer.
We plunged deeper into the woods toward the sound of the voice, and soon our lights fell on the form of a young woman half lying on the ground.
“Ma’am, what happened?” I asked.
The young woman lifted a pain filled face. I could see a large scrape down one side of it. “I can’t find Peter,” she sniffed. “And then I stepped in a hole or something, and my ankle turned. Help me find Peter!”
John had knelt beside her. “Did you get that scratch when you fell?”
“I suppose so,” replied the woman, putting a hand up and gingerly touching her face. “I don’t know. I’m been searching the woods for over an hour.” There was a whimper in her voice, a sound of defeat and despair.
“My name’s John Hampton. That’s my father, my brother Charles, and my sister Dorothy. Can you walk?”
The girl shook her head. “I can’t get up. My name is Virginia Stone. But I have to find Peter. Could you help me up? Maybe I can walk if I can just get to my feet.”
When John glanced up at me, I silently shook my head and nodded back towards the house. If the woman had injured her ankle, it needed proper attention. Besides, she only had on a light jacket and, even if the weather was unusually warm for the twenty-third of December, it was getting colder now that the sun had fully set.
“Virginia,” I said, “we’re going to take you back to our house; it’s not far, and then you can tell us about Peter, and we’ll look for him.”
For a moment I thought the woman would refuse, for she closed her eyes and stiffened. “I suppose it would help if I had a few more people looking for him.” She put an arm about John’s neck without a protest and let him lift her.
John was in the army. He’d been called up just after Pearl Harbor but hadn’t been sent overseas. Instead he’d been stationed at the camp near our home as an instructor. Since he lived so close to home, he had managed to get a four day leave to spend the holidays at home, and now, as he easily lifted and carried the young woman with no apparent effort, I was thankful he was home. I missed having my eldest son around all the time.
Back at the house, John set Virginia on the couch and then moved back so his mother could attend to our guest. It took but a moment before my wife looked around. “John, run next door and phone Dr. Brown. This ankle is badly wrenched.”
“Yes, ma’am.” John started at once for the door, and I followed him to the porch.
“John,” I said, lowering my voice, “phone the sheriff as well and let him know we’ve got a missing person. It wouldn’t hurt to round up a few more men either. I’ll see if I can find out more about Peter before you get back.”
John nodded, took the steps in a single bound, and started off at a rapid dog trot down the road. I knew it wouldn’t take him long to reach the neighbor’s, and I wished again that our telephone line had been repaired. A storm five days ago had knocked it out, and there weren’t a lot of repair men in our area.
Stepping inside again, I was accosted by the agitated voice of our visitor. “Please,” she begged, “we have to find Peter!”
I nodded. “We will. How old is he and what does he look like?” I perched on the arm of a chair and glanced about the room. All the children were there except John; Charles, Dorothy, Ruth and Alice. My wife, Mary, sat beside the young woman and dabbed away the blood from her scraped face.
“Peter is only six,” Virginia said. “He’s all I have left. You see, Mama died when Peter was just a baby, and Papa was sent overseas–he was a member of the reserves and got called up after Pearl Harbor.” She flinched. “He was killed in action three months ago. Peter’s all I have left,” she repeated in a whisper.
Though my heart went out to the young woman who was no more than a girl herself, I kept my focus on the missing boy. “Where do you live?” I hoped this might help us in finding Peter.
Where is Peter?
Have you ever helped look for a missing child?