A Child's Christmas Wish(10)

By: Erica Vetsch



“I don’t like doing hair. It tugs.” Liesl handed him the hairbrush, a scowl on her face.

“Can I help?”

The question had both Oscar and Liesl turning to the door.

Kate Amaker, dressed and ready for the day.

Oscar sucked in a breath, his heart knocking against his ribs, staring at her rounded middle that the voluminous coat had covered last night. He was no judge, but was she ready to deliver soon?

Liesl looked their guest over, and Oscar waited. The little girl could be quite definite in her likes and dislikes.

Evidently, Mrs. Amaker fell into the “likes” category, for Liesl smiled and handed her the hairbrush.

“What happened to your tummy?” She pointed at Mrs. Amaker’s middle.

A flush crept up her cheeks, and Oscar cleared his throat. “Liesl, that’s not polite.”

His daughter looked up at him with puzzled brown eyes. “Why, Daddy?”

“It’s all right.” Mrs. Amaker smiled, her face kind. “I’m going to have a baby. He’s growing in my tummy right now, and when the time is right, he’ll be born.”

Liesl’s face lit up. “A baby. In your tummy? When will the time be right? Today?”

Mrs. Amaker laughed. “No, sweetling. Not for a couple of months. Around Christmas.”

Oscar’s gut clenched. He’d lost his wife and second child around Christmas.

Liesl had a different reaction. She clapped her hands, bouncing on her toes. “That’s it, Daddy. That’s what I wish for this Christmas. A baby. Can I have a baby for Christmas?”





CHAPTER THREE

Kate took the hairbrush from Oscar and sat on the side of the bed, not meeting his eyes. The poor man looked stricken. She should change the subject. “You have lovely hair.” She smiled at Liesl. “I love to brush and braid hair. Is it all right if I help you?”

Liesl, eyes round, nodded and turned, backing up until she rested against Kate’s knees. Oscar stood, jamming his hands into his pants’ pockets, looming, a frown on his bearded face. Kate wondered if she’d overstepped by offering to brush and braid Liesl’s hair, but it was too late to recall her offer.

“Are you a princess?” Liesl asked, breathless.

Kate laughed. “No, darlin’, but bless you for asking.” She wanted to hug the little sprite. “You’re Liesl, right? My name is Kate.”

Drawing the brush through Liesl’s hair, Kate remembered her mama doing the same thing for her. “Do you have ribbons for your braids, or do you use thread? My mama used to use thread for every day, and ribbons on Sunday for church.” Liesl’s hair fell almost to her waist, thick and glossy brown. It would be easy to braid.

“Daddy uses these.” She held up two strips of soft leather. “He calls it whang leather. He made it from a deer.”

Leather to tie up a little girl’s hair. Still, it probably worked well. She parted Liesl’s hair and quickly fashioned two braids, wrapping the leather around the ends and tying it. “There you go. You look sweet.”

“Thank you. Daddy says I am pretty like my mama, but it’s how I act that is important.”

“Your daddy is right.” She caught “Daddy’s” eye and smiled.

“Can we go eat breakfast now?” Liesl hopped on her toes.

“Absolutely. Right after we turn down your covers to air the bed. Shall we do it together?” Kate pushed herself up awkwardly, and before she got upright, Oscar was there at her elbow, helping her. His hand was warm on her arm, and she was grateful for his assistance. “Thank you. It’s getting harder to maneuver these days.”

He stepped back, his eyes wary, and she laughed. “Don’t look so worried. I told Liesl the truth. I have a couple of months yet. Until Christmas.”

He didn’t laugh with her.

* * *

Breakfast was an ordeal. Kate had little appetite in the mornings these days, and especially not for oatmeal so sticky it clung to the roof of her mouth and tasted of damp newspaper. Grossmutter would have made a coffee cake for breakfast today, using her sourdough starter from the crock that always sat on the shelf behind the stove. Now the shelf, the crock and the stove were gone.

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