Since Kate was leaving in a couple days, she, Jen and Kelly made plans to have dinner at the Olive Garden in Fairview Heights. Mrs. P would watch Sarah since Spencer had to work that evening.
Kate drove on her own so she could get some stocking stuffers after dinner. Tonight flurries were falling and the forecast called for two inches of snow by morning. She pulled into the restaurant parking lot and went inside to see if either of her friends had arrived yet. She added her name to the list when she learned neither of them were there yet. She sat on a bench holding her gift bags.
During their flight home Kate fretted about her upcoming deployment. She made a mental list of things to do. She needed to write out a plan for Sarah’s routine and leave contact information, etc for Spencer. It hadn’t been that long ago she went on her last TDY when she went to Germany, so she had all her shots, but had to update her will (now Spencer was named legal guardian) if anything happened to her. Spencer would keep Buttons for her and would check on Sarah on weekends when he could.
That night’s dinner had been by candle light and very simple. Kate had made a meatloaf and baked potatoes while Spencer made a Romaine salad. Now relaxing by the fire, they sat close, lost in their own thoughts.
Kate tried not to worry about leaving the safety and security of her beloved country, but found it difficult to say the least. She had to leave Sarah behind with Spencer, Mrs. P and other friends. She sat in front of the movie, but her thoughts and worries played around in her head.
The fireplace glowed tangerine orange and crackled like miniature firecrackers. The night outside was cold and black as ink. Northern winds blew against the windows, but inside the log cabin, Kate and Spencer kept warm.
They nestled under a blanket on the sofa and watched a Christmas movie. It was just as Kate imagined the other day when she took the tour of the cabin. The two of them were comfy and it was quiet. She was wearing blue flannel pajamas with a miniature snowflakes pattern and her new robe Spencer gave her for her birthday.
That night, Timothy and Judy joined them for dinner. It was good to see Judy again, and Sarah remembered her when she and Lauren cleared out John’s apartment. Sarah chatted away about her first time playing in the snow, talking about the snowman she and her grandpa and Spencer made together.
Later that afternoon, Spencer and Dale took Sarah outside to play in the snow and Lauren offered Kate some hot tea. She had accepted and they had a nice visit in the formal living room by themselves. Lauren right away told Kate not to feel awkward under the circumstances.
“Sure thing, Mrs. K.” He pulled their coats from the closet and they were soon walking along the edge of the woods. The temperature was near 40, and Kate could hear the crunching of their boots on the older snow. The scent of pine was heavy from the trees all around the property. “I have a feeling that she wanted Sarah to herself,” Kate said once they were out of listening distance from the house. Not that she worried about being heard.
Spencer drove down a rocky driveway and pulled in front of a sprawling ranch home with pine trees on three sides and smoke coming from a chimney. Kate didn’t think it would take her long to settle in. Just the setting was peaceful to look at. A long porch ran along the front of the house where a porch swing and several chairs with flowered cushions made it look inviting, even in winter.
A few days after getting their tree decorated with popcorn strings, courtesy of Mrs. P, and the other decorations Kate had, she made the decision that they would travel north since Spencer offered to go with them. Kate didn’t want to deny Sarah or the Kern’s the chance to visit. They would be gone for five days and when they got back, they would still be some time to prepare for their early Christmas before Kate had to deploy. There was no way Kate would have made the trip with Sarah by herself at that time of year, in that kind of weather otherwise.