Everyone wondered, and no one knew. Knew who Mr. Pemberton was, that is. Oh, they all knew of the Pemberton family. The older residents, at least. The crotchety old man who used to throw things at them as kids. And just for passing his house! Not because they’d stolen his apples or anything. They never dared to!
And so the talk circled, filtering down from old to young, and back to the old folks again. They all longed to know who had come to live in The Manor. At least that’s what the townspeople called it. Not that the kids cared about the house. They were only thinking of the boulevard. That quarter-mile driveway made an ideal racetrack for bikes and roller blades. Or sledding. Why there wasn’t a better hill for sliding anywhere about. Kansas towns weren’t known for hills, and Quibley stretched out even flatter than most.
And that had them worried. If Mr. Pemberton was like his crabby ancestor, their fun could be over. The village police were strict about racing in the streets, no matter the reason. Although who knew why. It’s not like Quibley had tons of traffic. But then, grown ups could be so silly. But still, fingers crossed, they listened to their elders discussing Mr. Pemberton. And with the undying optimism of children, readied their sleds for the first snowfall.
But there was one odd thing about this Pemberton affair.
Angela Brimm, they noted, wasn’t saying anything at all. And she’d never kept quiet about anything. Never, for as far back as they remembered! Kids observe such things, you know. They had been sure that even if stricken with laryngitis Angela Brimm would manage to talk!
Yet strangely enough, most of it made sense. She talked too much, ’tis true, but that was good, since she was sometimes the only one around with any sense. But while the town speculated on Mr. Pemberton, Angela Brimm went about her business as usual.
Miss Parker, who’d been postmistress since the Revolutionary War – or so it seemed to the kids – had the most to say. “I remember old Pemberton. We called him The Crow. Had a drinking problem, he did. He’d wander about town for hours sometimes, before finding his way home. I was nothing but a girl then, but I remember that raucous singing and the clanging as he tripped over trash cans. Perhaps that accounted for his bad odor. Always rolling around in that trash.”
“I remember that too,” Mr. Crawford piped up cackling. “Happy as a lark, he was, stumbling about after an evening at the bar. But a mean old snake the rest of the time, shaking his cane, and squawking at everyone!”
“And then one day, didn’t he up and disappear?” asked Henry Bates. “But where and why, I never did hear. And they say no one, except the banker, ever heard from him again! Seemed mighty fishy to me.”
“Good riddance, that’s what I said,” and Mr. Crawford shook his head.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” reasoned Miss Parker, the oldest among them. “Seems I remember he started drinking like that after his wife died. Drove him to it, I guess. I remember my mother saying she’d never seen anyone suffer as much as Mrs. Pemberton had. I guess it broke the old man.”
“Well, I don’t know,” Mr. Crawford grumbled. “But I’m none too happy about having any of them Pembertons back in town. What kind of man can he be, with a father like that? And it’s two weeks since he moved in here, and neither sight nor sound of him at all. Now tell me there isn’t something fishy about that!”
But no one had an answer. Not even Angela Brimm, who always had an answer for everything. And that’s what had the kids worried. What kind of man was he, and how would he treat them? Did he drink too? But most of all they worried because their folks had forbidden them to go near the Pemberton place. It seemed they’d all judged the man, sight unseen.
But even the kids hadn’t noticed Stella’s unusual silence. Silent as her sister was vociferous, she’d been quieter than normal. At least that’s how they would have put it. “Quieter than ever!” But with a sister like Angela, she likely didn’t get a chance to talk much, even as a kid,” they reasoned.
Yet even they failed to see that Stella wasn’t her usual happy, care-free self. She seemed downright uncomfortable about it all.
I was the only to notice. But then as their niece I knew The Sisters, as everyone called them, better than most. And I knew that their names fit them well. Folks said Angela talked too much, and she did. But they also admitted that she never spoke a bad word about anyone, but always saw the good and tried to help. And oddly enough, in spite of such profusion of speech, her words were gems of wisdom. Angelic she was, and no mistake about it!
Light-hearted and full of joy, that’s how I thought of Stella, at least before her trip to the city. Something must have happened. For though she seemed the same, I sensed a sadness lurking beneath the surface. But Stella didn’t talk about it, not even at home.
So worried over Stella, I retreated to the kitchen and my Christmas preparations. Not that we did much. Usually nothing but a special dinner with whatever needy or lonely souls we could find to join us.
But cooking and sewing are my therapies. Solace in times of trouble, and outlets of joy in happy times. Which is only natural, seeing as how I’m named Taylor. You see, I place great stock in names. To me they’re more than words attached to faces. They define the person.
Everyone, even Angela, says that’s crazy a notion. But they’ll never convince me! Why, my aunts embody their names! Why else are people drawn to them, as they are to angels and stars? And why else would I, though 10 years younger, do most of the cooking and crafty things? Nope, no one will ever convince me!
There wasn’t much left to do. The toys, hats, and mittens we make each year for the orphans were ready to wrap and deliver. We never bother with gifts among ourselves. We prefer keeping things simple, without a lot of clutter around.
But this year, I decided to bake a little more, and plan an extra special dinner. Who knows, I thought. Might even cheer Stella up. Snap her out of this lull, or whatever she was in.
Good thing only one guest was coming this year. A crowd might overwhelm Stella. Could be she needs time alone after the hectic city. She’s never liked crowds. “Yep, that’s it,” I decided, “and here I was imagining depression over her best friend’s wedding. I mean, it can’t have been easy, since she’d never having had a beau.”
But things did not go according to plan.
Things have a way of doing that, much to my consternation. I like things neat, orderly, and well planned. Tailor made days, to fit my Taylor-made life. Yet I’m glad God stepped in and messed up my plans, to give us the best Christmas ever! And not only us, but the whole town!
You see, we never planned anything for Christmas Eve, but kept it for the candle light service at church. It was the highlight of our year, and we wouldn’t missed it for the world! We don’t have many special events in Quibbley. Which explains why the kids fretted so over their sledding hill.
I never expected the evening to end as it did.
But it’s a good thing I did all that extra baking and cooking, seeing as how an extra guest showed up. And I must admit it all turned out well! Stella is now more radiant than any star in the sky. Her name means Star, you know.
But still, I’d like to know why such true love was so long separated. I doubt I’ll ever find out though, because Stella’s still not talking much more than she ever did.
I did learn one thing, however. When Angela Brimm’s not talking, you can be sure she knows even more than usual. And when that’s the case, don’t ever expect her to spill the beans. Like I told you: she’s angelic, the soul of discretion.
And John Pemberton? Well, I’m sure he’s a likable chap. But I’ll like him a lot more once he wipes off that silly grin he wore all through the meal.
But all’s well that end’s well. And the kids can stop fretting over their hill. All they need now is a good heavy snow!
Disclaimer: The characters portrayed in this fictional story are not based on real people. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or used in a fictitious manner. Images are shown for illustrative purpose only and are not intended to represent real places or people.