Earlier in the evening the Fairview Heights Police Department were notified by an unidentified Good Samaritan of an accident on the highway not far from the mall exit. One car was in the ditch. Officers Taylor and Griffith were dispatched to the scene.
An unconscious Kate was picked up by emergency personnel and transported to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in downtown Belleville. She was assessed and put into a room to await an X-ray on her arm.
Spencer was worried. He knew it wasn’t like Kate to be incommunicado on purpose. An airman was supposed to be reachable at all times, in case something happened and they had to report in or leave immediately.
Something happened to Kate and he had to find out what. He found Sergeant James and explained the situation. Before Spencer could finish, James said, “Go, go. We got it. Call us when you find out what’s going on. I’ll leave a message for Thompson.”
Mrs. P and Sarah were having a great time, listening to Christmas carols and making a card for Kate. Then Mrs. P brought out the sugar cookies she made at home and the items needed to frost and decorate them. Sarah had fun eating as many decorations as those that made it on the cookies. Buttons made himself useful by eating the crumbs off the floor.
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.
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.