The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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DaleL

 

 

Star Bright

STAR BRIGHT

 

Tears threatened but after a steadying breath she finished smoothing the piece of paper before slipping it back into the box at her feet.

She cupped the homemade ornament in her hands; the bent twig star Daddy had surprised her with all those years ago. Then it had filled both her hands; now it fit into the palm of one. That such a small thing should be the receptacle of so many happy memories of Christmases past.

Flecks of paint still clung to the rough bark. She turned it over examining it closely. The twine was still tight for the most part though she did notice a place or two where it was beginning to fray a bit. And the ribbon did look the worse for wear. Laying it in her lap she rummaged in her sewing basket for the red plaid ribbon she remembered tucking in there after the last sewing bee.

She paused, the ribbon momentarily forgotten.

How long ago had that been? A lifetime ago. Before the high riders. Before Day Pardee. Before Daddy…

A second steadying breath later she found the ribbon and carefully threaded it between two narrow openings and tied it with a jaunty bow. Holding it up to admire her handiwork she couldn’t help smiling at the humble ornament.

It certainly didn’t compare to the glass confections brought from Boston by Catherine Lancer or the colorful etched tin creations used by Johnny’s mother. Like her it was plain and simple.

Even so it meant the world to her. She didn’t have many physical reminders of her father. Paul O’Brien had been a man of few possessions. She had loved hearing the stories of how he had arrived in America with everything he owned in the haversack slung over his shoulder. How he had worked his way west, learning as he went until finally settling in the San Joaquin. Despite Murdoch’s prompting he never even sat for a photographer. She did have some mementoes; treasured items kept in the carved wooden box on her dresser—his mother’s rosary, the locket that once belonged to her own mother with a snippet of her baby hair, the leather wallet she had made for his birthday when she was eight and which he always carried with him even on that day.

She stood, slipping the star into the pocket of her skirt. She didn’t have time to feel sorry for herself she had too much to do. Already the mouthwatering aroma of cinnamon, citrus and nutmeg was filling the Great Room mingling with the crisp, clean scent of pine. It was time to begin decorating in earnest.

The tree had been set in pride of place; the boys having brought it down from the high hills the day before. Strands of strung popped corn and berries were coiled in bowls on the dining table ready for the tree along with tiny candles and their polished holders. Baskets of holly and evergreen boughs had been carried in to drape the mantle and windows and poinsettias had been set on the side tables.

She stood on tiptoe to hang one of Catherine’s ornaments, her fingers lingering turning it so it caught and reflected the light from the hearth. Scott had told her of winters in Boston; the bone-chilling cold and mounds of snow, the sledding and sleigh rides and mugs of hot chocolate by the fire. It had seemed so marvelous and ever so much fun. Then she had noticed Johnny’s expression or rather lack of one as he stood in the shadows by the French doors. He did that at times; closed himself off and it was at those times she found herself hating Maria Lancer for what she had done. Behind the rough exterior she had glimpsed the tender heart so easily hurt.

Like Johnny and Scott she was feeling her way. Even though she had told them to think of her as a sister where did she really fit in? She had been born on Lancer, she knew no other home but she wasn’t kin. And while Murdoch was happy his sons were home it hadn’t been easy for him either. The months since they returned had often been hard and frustrating ones with raised voices and slamming doors or brooding silences. And once Johnny had actually left and she feared the fragile ties binding them as a family had been irrevocably broken.

But Johnny had come home. The ties had been strained but not severed.

She pulled the star from her pocket trying to choose just the right place to hang it. This was the Lancer’s first holiday season as a family and she wanted them to create their own special memories not compete with old ones. This first Christmas had to be perfect.

“I remember when Paul made that.”

She almost jumped not having noticed Murdoch entering the room so lost was she in her thoughts.

“It was the time that new heifer got loose.” Murdoch gently taking the star from her and holding it in his large calloused hand. “She was near her time and broke out of the paddock. Took us nearly two days to track her down. Then the weather turned and we were forced to hole up. Your father was never one to sit idle. He found some twigs and set to work while sitting by the fire and lo and behold.” Murdoch held up the star. It slowly rotated on its ribbon, firelight glittering off the remaining bits of paint.

He reached up and hung it from one of the upper branches toward the top of the tree.

“It’s almost like Paul is still with us.” His hand settled on her shoulder, a comforting weight. “There are days I wish I could talk with him, ask his advice.” He squeezed her shoulder gently. “In a way he is here. You are a lot like him, darling. I’m lucky to have you. If only the circumstances had been different.”

She lay a likewise comforting hand on his. A sense of peace enveloped her. All the reservations and concerns that had been troubling her the last few weeks melted away. Family meant more than blood. It was what you made of it; people who cared and loved one another. The promise and hope embodied in Christmas suddenly seemed to offer the same for the future.

 

 

~ end ~
Christmas 2018

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