Prairie Sky

Sky unfolds its

Heavenly beauty

Clear blue cloudless sky

Stretches for endless miles

Then slowly small clouds

Appear out of nowhere

Soft, fluffy clouds float by

Out of the west

Black threatening clouds appear

Very rapidly these clouds move

Covering the landscape

Very threatening


Can be sweet

Growing slowly

From a friendship


Can be bitter

Growing quickly

Like a bolt of lightening


Can be joyful

Very carefree

Also productive

Growing stronger every day

Love can hurt

Breaking a heart in two

Like a knife stabbing

Creating intense pain

Leaving wounds that never heal

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The Magical Flute

I snuggled in my cozy bed enjoying the warm sunshine. Pots and pans rattled in the kitchen and filtered up through the wooden grate in the floor. The smell of sausages, toast, and eggs made my stomach growl.

I turned my attention to a small tinkling near my head. I looked up to see Pip, as we called her. We had found Pip in the garden a few weeks ago after a violent storm. She had been huddled in the Hollyhocks close to the kitchen door. Pip was such a tiny little creature, no bigger than my thumb. Her clothes and wings had been torn. Mama had nursed her back to health and her wings were getting stronger. Pip still had no memory of how she got here or where she was from.

I smiled and tossed back my burgundy duvet eager to start another day full of adventures. I stood on my tiptoes while I brushed my waist-length reddish-blond hair. I took an elastic off my wrist and swooped it back into an unruly ponytail. I was only three feet tall and only came up to Mama’s shoulder. Would I ever grow? I tossed my hairbrush onto the dresser after I pulled on shorts and a T-shirt. I climbed down the ladder into the cozy old-fashioned kitchen.

“Morning Mama.”

“Good morning sleepyhead,” Mama said.

I had just sat on the smooth wooden bench behind the oak table when Papa came inside. “Gloria, what are your plans for today?”

“Possibly go down to the creek to practice my flute. I am learning a new song,” I answered as I helped myself to eggs, toast, and sausages.

“Well mind you don’t go further than the creek. The woods can be dangerous,” Papa said as he poured a cup of coffee.

“Yes, Papa,” I answered. “I like to hang out in my special spot in the old oak tree.”

We broke our fast in companionable silence. Mama had prepared a thimble of food for Pip after she gave her a new suit of clothing.

“Thank you,” Pip tinkled as she held up tiny jeans, sandals, and shirt all in lavender. “Love them.” She flew into the sewing room to change and then hovered in front of the hall mirror. Her eyes glittered with mischief when she flew across the room to land on my shoulder.

I helped myself to another piece of toast and slathered it with peanut butter. I stabbed a sausage with my fork while I watched Pip flutter her wings. “What’s up?”

“Take me along,” Pip said in her tinkly voice. ” I remember coming across the creek with my sisters. We were separated when the wind picked up. Our home was deep in the forest.”

“You heard Papa. He said it was too dangerous to enter the woods.” I whispered when Pipa landed on my shoulder. “Even for you.”

Pip pouted while she looked around the room. A tear landed on the table. “When I am sad, I lose a few of my powers.”

“Happy thoughts, then,” I said. “I will play a happy song on my flute.”

I reached behind me and took my flute case off the sideboard. I took my flute out and put it to my lips. I started to play a song that I knew from early childhood. Before long Pip was dancing on the table to the beat of the song. My toes tapped on the wooden floor. “There do you feel better?”

“Much,” Pip continued to dance and hum the happy song,” I will remember that song when I feel sad.”

When the dishes were washed and put away, I picked up my flute case. Pip landed on my shoulder before slipping into my shirt pocket.

We set off across the lush green lawn towards the creek that snaked its way through the rolling hills. Pip had her head stuck out and made me stop at each fairy garden and rearrange the rocks and little dwellings. When each one was done to her satisfaction, we continued. She tapped me on the cheek and made me stop and listen to the little birds that sang in the nearby bushes. She hid her head when we neared the creek bank where willow trees flourished.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Don’t know. I sense danger nearby,” Pip whispered.

“We will have to ask Mama and Papa to investigate,” I answered as I followed the bank towards my special spot. “My spot is safe. The storm didn’t hurt the oak tree. Mama said the oak was magical and would protect me.”

Pip quivered in my pocket. Gradually she calmed down and peeked over the brim of my pocket. “something looks familiar.”

We approached the old oak tree with a large hole in the bottom. I had planted ivy and different vines inside and covered the floor with moss. It was a cozy safe place where I could play my flute undisturbed. I put my flute to my lips and started to play a gay tune. I had only been playing for a short while when rabbits in every shape, size, and color gathered around the opening. They sat in a semi-circle listening. When Pip popped out of my pocket to look around one of the little bunnies started to jump up and down.

Pip climbed onto my shoulder and hide in my thick curly hair. Then the little bunny spoke “Fifi, where have you been? Everyone is worried. Why are you dressed so strangely?”

That was the first time the bunnies had spoken so that I could understand them. This spot was indeed magical. Maybe it wasn’t just my flute, after all.

I put my flute down when Pip or Fifi as the bunny had called her whispered in my ear. “The bunnies are my friends and help me with all the fairy gardens.”

The bunnies crowded around. The tiny bunny squeaked, “Play some more songs.”

“Why do you call Pip Fifi?” I asked.

“Fifi and her sisters disappeared from the fairy village a few days ago,” the bunny whispered.

“We found her huddled among our hollyhocks earlier this week. there had been a bad storm the night before. She was wet, cold, and frightened. Her clothes were ton into shreds. Mama made her new ones.”

“My sisters are Pipa and Holly-Cakes. We were picking daisies to make chains when a strong wind came up. The next thing I knew I was near a little cottage surrounded by hollyhocks and other flowers. I couldn’t remember how I got there or who I was. When you started to call me Pip it sounded natural.” Fifi answered as she peeked out shyly.

“We think an evil witch put a spell on you and your sisters. Pipa and Holly-Cakes made it back to the village safely, but they didn’t know what happened to you,” the little bunny squeaked.

“Is it safe to return?” Fifi asked.

“Stay with your new friends. A messenger will be sent to the Queen. See the robin has been listening and has started her journey deep into the forest. Now, will you play more tunes? Your flute must be magical. It brought us to you and Fifi,” the bunny said.

“I don’t usually hear what you say,” I answered as I picked up my flute to begin playing.

“You have been given the gift to understand animals,” the bunny answered.

I played until my fingers tingled and my lips became numb. Then I heard Papa ring the dinner bell. I put my flute away and straightened my stiff legs. “We have to go. Papa is letting me know dinner is ready. We live in a little cottage on top of the hill. Let us know if it’s safe for Fifi to go home. She is welcome to stay with us. We love her.”

When Fifi and I returned to the cottage for a meal of salad, soup, and sandwiches I told Mama and Papa what we had learned. “That explains why Fifi always wants to tidy the fairy gardens. We must wait to hear from the Fairy Queen. There could be evil lurking. Fifi could be in grave danger.” Mama said.

“Why would anyone want to hurt her?” I asked as I helped myself to a grilled cheese sandwich.

“The hunters are getting closer to our village. There are also woodchoppers cutting down the animal’s homes. Some birds and animals have lost their homes,” Fifi said. “Our Queen has been putting spells on the surrounding forest. Humans are starting to be afraid to enter. Only special ones are allowed a safe journey through our domain. Someone is trying to counteract the spell and make it safe once again for humans to travel through the forest.” Fifi answered as she took a dainty sandwich off her tiny saucer.

“Hopefully you will be safe here,” Mama said when she placed cookies on the table.

“My sisters and I were sent out to put a magical spell on your home. You have been good friends,” Fifi said while she sipped her thimble of tomato soup.

“Do you think you were successful?” Papa asked as he rubbed his round belly.

“Yes. A spell was put on Gloria’s flute. Every time she plays the spell of love, peace and joy surround her.” Fifi answered. “Gloria was also given the ability to hear what the little animals are saying. I am supposed to stay here until further notice. The robins and bunnies will let me know when it is safe to return home. I can feel my magic returning and can start putting a magic circle around your home.”

The End

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Island Mystery

A third book with Bess and Megan.

Bess and Megan had just turned thirteen. A gift to the girls is an invitation to take riding lessons on Zeus Island.

They travel to Zeus Island and settle into their cabin. A long the way, they meet their roommates. Frankie, Gloria, and Briana. These girls are unfriendly right from the start, pulling pranks hoping Bess, Megan, and Miranda will leave the island or the cabin. Bess and her friends are determined not to let these girls spoil their stay on Zeus Island. Bess feels homesick and misses her cat, Pumpkin and decides to make daily entries in her new diary.

Wondering why the roommates are so horrible, Bess hides her diary from the mean roommates.

The mystery deepens as the adventures begin. Who is leaving Origami Birds on their bunks? Why has Bess started to have visions of a young, mournful woman? Who are the shabbily dressed children they see? How does everything connect?

Learning to ride their ponies and exploring Zeus Island is only the start of their adventures. M.E. Hembroff has written another wonderful story. It is set in Canada during the mid-1950s, showing us what life is like without today’s technologies.

This book is available on Amazon.

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Cherry Hill Farm

It’s 1809, and Shannon and Daniel Healy are about to embark on their new life in the New World with their many friends and family after a turbulent voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from their Irish homeland. Their adventure begins as their ship docks in Quebec, Lower Canada. From there, they begin the long bateau trip up the St. Lawrence to Upper Canada.

When the bateau finally reaches its destination, they continue on foot to her parents’ homestead near New Dublin, Upper Canada, all the while experiencing sights, sounds, and terrors never before faced. Then Shannon rejoices when she is reunited with her parents and siblings after years of separation. But their journey doesn’t end there. After finding and claiming their own land, they travel by foot even farther inland through miles of dense, wild forest with carts of cargo, animals. and Shannon’s wee baby in tow. Once at their chosen destination, they begin the arduous work of building a cabin, a barn and a life.

Will Shannon and Daniel make a success of their new lives? How will they endure the hardships they’ll inevitably encounter along the way? How will they overcome the obstacles thrown in their path? And will all the joy and blessings they receive along the way be enough to counter the heartbreak?

About the author M.E. Hembroff

M.E. Hembroff created many games and activities during her childhood. In later years after moving from Manitoba to Alberta she joined the Crescent View Artists Association. During that time, she learned new techniques using different mediums. M. E, Hembroff was still a member of the art group when the idea for two children’s books came to the surface. She did the illustrations for a picture book, Gramma Mouse Tells a Story at art meetings she attended. Her books are Gramma Mouse Tells a Story, Bess’s Magical Garden and sequel The Mystery of the Hidden Cabin and Voices of yesterday. A third Bess book The Island Mystery will be coming soon. Another picture book The Pen Inspector will also be published soon. She is presently working on another chapter book The Flight of Fantasy and illustration for a picture book about a little mouse who crosses the garden to see his Grandma. The picture book The Giant and The Lens will be published soon.

M.E. Hembroff books can be purchased on Amazon.

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There you were poking your head out from the crawl space,

while your mother ate on a straw bale near the crawl space.

You stood beside your brothers and squinted in the light,

You pounced on some loose pieces of straw with your entire mite.

A stranger scooped you up in her arms,

you quivered nervously and peeked up in alarm.

She gave you a gentle kiss and set you down,

you scampered away until you were a long ways down,

under the crawl space,

where you felt safe.

You sighed in relief when she left and you ventured out,

you ventured further and found many adventuresome routes.

You saw the stranger several times from a safe distance,

you maintained a safe distance.

One day she picked you up and tucked you into her jacket,

you made an awful racket,

then you found yourself a long ways away,

you were transported straight away,

to a small room.

You scurried under the bed to cuddle with a teddy bear,

you were as cross as a bear.

You crept out from under the bed to play with a wiggling string,

and attacked it with zing.

You had a feisty spirit underneath that sweet face,

you were more than a pretty face.

You began to explore,

all over the floor.

Then one day one of your brothers joined you,

you ran and hid behind a shoe.

You hissed angrily,

as he fled.

You met an old cat, who, reminded you of mother,

she became your foster mother.

You ruled the roost until the very end.

The End

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A Cold Day

Gloria and Rose snuggled under the heavy rug behind their father in the open sleigh on the way to school. The only sounds were the clip clop of horses hooves on the snowy road. Occasionally there was the sound of the reins hitting the front of the sleigh and Father saying Getty up.

“Look at the fox,” Rose pointed to the little animal burrowing its nose in the fluffy snow.

“How cute.” Gloria’s voice was muffled. She tightened the frosty scarf around her nose. At least my hideous red hair is hidden.

“Look there is another one,” Rose pointed towards the snow covered bluff.

“Wish I had a camera,” Gloria responded. “IT’s so pretty. I’ll draw a picture.”

The red brick school house came into view when they rounded the corner. Wisps of smoke went up into the pale blue sky. In a few minutes Father brought the team of black Clydesdales to a stop. “Whoa. See you girls after school. It’s to cold to walk home.”

“Bye father.” The girls pushed the heavy rug aside.

They hoped out of the sleigh just as their friends Matilda and Audrey Heinze approached in their father’s sleigh.

Gloria and Rose opened the heavy wooden door as a gust of wind tried to pull it out of their hands. Gloria rubbed Rose’s hands and stumped her feet after she succeeded to close the door behind her. Her scarf was white with frost and stiff. She loosened her scarf and undid her parka. Gloria paused to help her little sister loosen her outer wraps and pull off her snow boots. Together they trudged to the back of the room and the girls cloakroom.

Gloria paused to see what the commotion was. Grade six boys Joe and John were wrestling near the pot bellied stove. An unusual, shaped log was the object of their dispute. From a distance it looked like an owl. She looked over her shoulder at the rows of wooden desks. She noticed someone standing in front of the large black board that covered the entire front wall. There were two chairs in front of the large wooden desk instead of the usual one. Who was that stranger?

Rose paused at the large wooden stove where a couple of older boys were putting in wood. The wood crackled and flames erupted creating much welcome heat. She held her hands near the stove to warm them before turning towards the cloakroom and started to take off her outer garments. “Gosh, sure is cold.”

“Thank goodness Father drove us to school today.” Gloria replied. “We would have been frozen if we’d walked.”

“I don’t think I will ever warm up,” Rose hung her ski pants on a hook.

“You will. Mrs. White will get us doing exercises first thing.”: Gloria answered. “We’d better hurry. Classes will start soon.”

Gloria paused to look at the long rows of desks. The younger kids sat close to the front while the older students sat close to the back. This was her last year before she went into town for high school. The long row of windows were frosted making it difficult to see outside. The black pot bellied stove was now throwing out heat making the room warm and cozy. She set her book bag on the floor beside her desk and sat down. There was another girl and two boys in her class.

Gloria turned around when Audrey pulled one of her red pigtails.

“Pst. Have something to show you.” Audrey took an envelope out of her book bag. “Father finished the film and got the pictures developed. The ones from our picnic are among them.”

“Oh look. There’s one of your birthday party.” Gloria looked through the stack of photos. My freckles are horrid and my red hair looks even redder in these photos.

Mrs. White rang the bell to call the students to attention. ” I would like to introduce everyone to Miss Gerard who will be working with me for two weeks. She’s a student teacher. You will like her.”

“Good morning Miss Gerard.” the students all sang out together.” There was the sound of drawers opening and closing as the students got out their text books, notebooks and pencils. Youthful voices could be heard as they talked amongst themselves.

“I would like everyone to stand to sing O’Canada and recite the Lords Prayer,” Mrs. White said. “Then we will gather in small groups to do exercises.”

The air was filled with the sounds of youthful voices as Mrs. White played the piano. When the students were seated again Mrs. White took the attendance. The students gathered in small groups to exercise. Within half an hour the room was silent other than the sound of scrapping pencils as the children started working on their arithmetic. Mrs. White came around to instruct the older children while Miss Gerard worked with the younger children.

The day progressed and soon it was time to bundle up and head for home. The room erupted with excited voices as everyone dressed warmly for the long journey home.

After a sleigh ride in the brisk air they entered the cozy kitchen. The girls stomped their feet and removed their snow boots. A fire crackled in the white wood burning stove.

“Do you girls have homework?” Mother opened the oven to check on the roast chicken.

“A bit. I got most of my work done in school,” Gloria answered. “It was too cold at recess so Audrey and I did our extra work then. I also painted a winter landscape at lunch time. I captured the scene I’d seen on the way to school with a fox burrowing into the snow.”

“I still have a little bit of arithmetic to do.” Rose sat on the wooden stool beside the stove.

“Finish up your work before supper.” Mather smiled at her daughters as she checked on the potatoes and vegetables. She continued to stir the gravy that simmered on the back of the stove.

An hour later Gloria, Rose, their older brother Jack, Mother and Father were just finishing supper when Rose asked. “Will you play the violin tonight Father?”

Father rubbed his bushy beard. “Well now. Let me see. You girls need to help Mother with the dishes.” He hooked his thumbs in his suspenders.

“I helped last night.” Rose stuck her tongue out at her sister.”

“Did not.” Gloria scowled at her sister her brown eyes becoming as dark as chocolate. She always gets out of doing chores.

“Did too.”

“You had your nose stuck in a book.”

“I had to finish Anne of Green Gables.”

Father crossed his arms across his chest and frowned before speaking in a deep gravely voice. “You will both help. No arguments. No excuses.”

Mother started to stack the plates. She scraped leftovers into a large metal bowl for the family dog Laddie who laid behind the stove. She pulled the heavy kettle of hot water off the wood burning stove to fill the metal basin before adding more wood to the fire.

A couple of hours later the family gathered around the pot bellied stove in the living room. Mother sat in her rocker with her knitting while Father read his newspaper. Jack stretched out on the narrow cot in the the corner beside the stove. He pulled the patchwork quilt up partially covering his face. His curly coal black hair was tousled.

Rose looked up from her coloring, “Father will you play for us?”

“Love to ,” Father folded his newspaper and stood up. He took his violin off the wall and tuned it. In a few minutes the bow glided over the strings as he played tune after tune.

Gloria sat with her chin in her hands as the music transported her into another time and place. Her feet started to tap keeping time with the lively tunes.

When Mother gave Father a stern look he started to play a quiet tune that lulled everyone into a quieter mood. “Girls bedtime.” Mother set her knitting to one side and started to unwind her braids that were wound around the top of her head. She started to brush her white waist length hair.

Rose looked at the wedding portrait of their parents that hung on the far wall. Father looked so handsome in his navy suit. His beard and mustache were neatly trimmed. Mother was beautiful with her wavy fashionable hair style and pale blue dress. Mothers’ hair had been as red as Gloria’s. With a sigh she followed her sister up the stairs into the warmest bedroom over the kitchen.

The End

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Cherry Hill Farm

Here is an except from Cherry Hill Farm a historical novel taking place in Upper Canada during the 18th century.

The sun was sinking low in the sky when they stopped in a small clearing, “How much further?” Daniel asked, looking around. “This is a pretty spot.”

“Not far,” Jack answered. “Just over the rise. Shannon, maybe you should ride for a while.”

“Aye,” Shannon answered. Her hair stuck to the back of her neck and felt damp under her straw hat. The roads were worse than anything she had ever seen, and the climate was so different than Ireland, where it was cool and rainy much of the times. They moved on after Shannon had mounted the donkey.

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Cherry Hill Farm

It’s 1809, and Shannon and Daniel Healy are about to embark on their new life in the New World with their many friends and family after a turbulent voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from their Irish homeland. Their adventure begins as their ship docks in Quebec, Lower Canada. From there, they begin the long bateau trip up the St, Lawrence to Upper Canada.

When the bateau finally reaches its destination, they continue on foot to her parents’ homestead near New Dublin, Upper Canada, all the while experiencing sights, sounds and terrors never before faced. Then Shannon rejoices when she is reunited with her parents and siblings after years of separation. But their journey doesn’t end there. After finding and claiming their own land, they travel by foot even farther inland through miles of dense, wild forest with carts of cargo, animals, and Shannon’s wee baby in tow. Once at their chosen destination, they begin the arduous work of building a cabin, a barn and a life.

Will Shannon and Daniel make a success of their new lives? How will they endure the hardships they’ll inevitably encounter along the way? How will they overcome the obstacles thrown in their path? And will all the joy and blessings they receive along the way be enough to counter the heartbreak?

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Enchanted Cottage, continued

The sun was streaming in the window when Anna woke the next morning with the journal leaning against her chest. Anna wondered why it was so quiet this morning. Usually, the courtyard was buzzing with children wanting a story. Then there was the sound of the door opening and closing and voices below. Wondering what was happening Anna dressed and scurried down the ladder into the kitchen.

Laddie wagged his tail when he greeted her at the door. Great Uncle Henry was visiting with a middle-aged man dressed in a pinstriped suit. Anna’s brow wrinkled as she approached.

“Good morning.” Great Uncle Henry said. “I want you to meet our family lawyer, Mr. Travis. There was a section in your Mama’s will that you wouldn’t have known about,” Great Uncle Henry motioned to a wooden chair. “Come join us.”

“Mama’s will was easy to understand,” Ann answered as her brow wrinkled.

“She kept a separate will with the family lawyer,” Great Uncle Henry reached down and patted Laddie’s head with his gnarled fingers.

“Your grandparents purchased a cottage before their last trip,” Mr. Travis opened his brown briefcase.

“Mama never mentioned it,” Anna answered as she stood in the doorway.

“The cottage has been rented all these years with the money going into the estate. You inherit the cottage and the money.” Mr. Travis took out a legal document from his briefcase. “There is a substantial amount of money, over a million dollars.”

Anna realized she had been standing with her mouth open while they talked. “Fell asleep reading the old journals but hadn’t seen any mention of a cottage. At least not yet.”

“Your grandparents bought the cottage with the intention of one last trip and then settling down to raise your mother, but that wasn’t meant to happen. They left their young daughter in your great uncle’s care making him legal guardian just in case.” Mr. Travis said.

Anna sat with a thump on the vacant chair not knowing what to think. It would appear that she was an heiress. Now, what was she going to do? Anna thought about the emerald ring in the blue velvet case. Johnny, one of the teachers, had proposed to her before Mama passed away but she hadn’t given him an answer. Anna still didn’t know if she wanted to marry him. They wanted separate things. He wanted to see the world while Anna wanted to teach and eventually have a family. He tried to convince Anna that he would be all the family she needed. The sound of her great uncle and Mr. Travis talking brought her mind back to the present.

“You will be given a substantial allowance and will inherit the bulk of the money when you turn twenty-five.” Mr. Travis looked through his notes. “Young Patrick Fitzgerald lives there with his parents and grandparents.”

“That is a lot to take in,” Great Uncle Henry said. “I have made sure the cottage was kept in good shape and so have the Fitzgerald’s. It is a large upgraded lot on the edge of the village. There are now two cottages, one for the elder Fitzgerald’s and one for Patrick and his parents. There is also a small stable.”

“Well, don’t know what to think,” Anna glanced from one to the other. Anna’s mind drifted back to her other problem. She always felt at home here. They came every summer until five years ago when Mama began the biggest fight of her life and one she lost. Anna would have to tell Johnny that she didn’t want to marry him. Anna was tired of the same old routine. Her life had revolved around Mama and her students who she loved. Without Mama, it all seemed pointless. They were a family of teachers. Anna’s Grandparents, Great Uncle Henry and her parents. Anna’s dad had died too young and she didn’t have much of a memory of him. The sound of Great Uncle Henry’s voice brought her mind back to the present.

“Well, I have to go. I will let you think about what I just told you,” Mr. Travis said, as he stood up. “I will come in a few days to sort out the rest of the details.”

“What do you want to do?” Great Uncle Henry asked after their guest left.

“Don’t know,” Anna answered. “One thing is for certain; Patrick’s family can’t be evicted. That would be too mean.”

“Oh, they will move if you want to live there. Mr. Fitzgerald has leased property on the edge of the mountain that includes a pasture for the goats,” Great Uncle Henry leaned on his ornate cane and stood up. “Shall we go for a walk?”

Later that day Anna had reached a decision. She knew what she wanted, and it was right here on this mountain. Great Uncle Henry and Anna were sitting in the living room that contained a sofa, rocking chair and a few side tables scattered around the room. Anna sat cross-legged in front of the fireplace staring into the crackling fire.

“So serious my dear,” Grat Uncle Henry glanced up from his newspaper. “You have been quiet all evening.”

“Have been thinking things over all day and have reached a decision. Will go back to the city for awhile to settle things there. Then came back and live here. Maybe even get a job in the local school.”

“I was hoping you would,” Great Uncle Henry folded his newspaper. “When will you go?”

“In a couple of days. Have to sell our little house and resign from the school Then drive back.” Anna answered.

“Good, good. The next bus leaves in two days and goes early, ” Great Uncle Henry said with a smile. “You could teach art like your father.”

“Yes,” Anna said.

A couple of days later Anna was once again on a rickety old bus going away on the narrow winding road. The next month went by swiftly and she soon had everything in order. Anna had no difficulty selling the house she had shared with Mama. Anna left most of the furniture for the new owner. There was a stack of boxes in the back of the blue station wagon. Anna had a few special pieces of furniture shipped to Paradise. She tried to let Johnny down as gently as possible. When packing up the last few things Anna heard he had been seeing another girl who looked at him with googly eyes. Well, he sure recovered quickly. Anna took one last walk around the house and yard before setting the house keys on the grey counter. The sun was just rising in the sky when she climbed into the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition. From Anna’s grandmother’s journal she had learned that it was best to follow your heart and your dreams. That was what she was doing. Anna looked at the route she marked on the road map before she waved to her neighbor and drove out of the driveway for the last time.

The sun was just setting leaving the sky a rosy color when Anna turned in her Great Uncle Henry’s driveway two days later. Anna’ whole future lay ahead, and no matter what happened she wouldn’t have to worry about making ends meet. Anna had gone from being a schoolteacher to being an heiress. Anna had never told Johnny that for some reason or other. As far as anyone in the city knew, she was going to look after her great uncle.

The End

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Enchanted Cottage, continued

A dimple appeared in Anna’s cheeks when she smiled at the children. She listened to Great Uncle Henry’s story and wished she had brought her tape recorder. Mother and Anna recorded his stories each time they visited and transcribed them later. Anna and her mother made a book for Great Uncle Henry that included Anna’s sketches for each story. Anna had copies for the local library as well. As he talked, Anna took down the story in shorthand after she sketched and took pictures of the foxes.

An hour later they headed down the hill towards the cottage with the children scampering ahead as surefooted as goats. They would all disperse towards home for lunch and to do chores.

After lunch, Anna went up to the loft to put her things away and make the room tidy once more. Anna looked at the clothes scattered on the bed and wooden rocking chair. Anna hummed as she opened drawers and the wardrobe to put everything away. Then she spied her Grandmother’s small trunk beside the bed with an old-fashioned key pocking out. Great Henry always kept the trunk locked. Whenever Anna asked her mother she simply smiled and told her all would be revealed when the time was right. Anna would gain access to its contents and everything inside was hers to keep someday. Anna took the colorful afghan off to reveal a hand-carved lid. Who had carved all the animals? A memory came crowding back. Her mother said that she had gone to Africa with her parents a few times. The last time she stayed behind with her Uncle Henry. Her parents, Anna’s grandparents had died in a flood ravaged land. Anna knew Mother had grown up on this mountain and loved it dearly. It was the mountain and Great Uncle Henry that she remembered.

The lid creaked when Anna opened it. Laying on top were scrapbooks and notebooks with the name Angelina, who was her mother, written on the covers. The scrapbooks contained dried flowers, scraps of fabric and newspaper clippings with dainty handwritten notes. A couple of scrapbooks were marked Africa and were full of colorful drawings, fabrics, photos, and dried flowers. The name Maryanne was on the cover of both. That would have been her grandmother’s work. On the first page, there was a collage of photos centered around wedding photos. Anna found names written in gold ink. Two of the names that caught her attention were Maryanne and Samuel. Her grandmother was Great Uncle Henri’s twin sister. They had grown up in the village. What a treasure. Anna sat cross legged on the braided rug in the middle of the floor looking through the scrapbooks. The afternoon went quickly and before she knew it Great Uncle Henry was calling her for supper. Anna put the scrapbooks back into the trunk and set the journals aside to read later.

Before going down the ladder Anna picked up the books, with Great Uncle Henry’s storied to take down with her.

“You should have called sooner. Would have helped make supper,” Anna said as she entered the kitchen. “Have something to show you. It is a surprise Mother prepared. She taped all your stories. Each story has a sketch. The books have been published, and there are copies for the library and you.” Anna set the books on the corner of the table. “Think you’ll enjoy them and the children in the future will still have your delightful stories.”

“What a surprise. Did you open your Mother’s little trunk?” Great Uncle Henry ut the pitcher of cold goat’s milk on the table.”

“Yes. Who carved all the animals?” Anna buttered a crusty roll and filled her bowl with homemade soup.

“Your grandfather carved those before he married Maryanne. It was his wedding present to her. She always left it here when they were off on their trips. She gradually filled it over the years. She kept accurate records of their travels. They had several trips to Africa, India and other countries in the middle east. Maryanne had always been interested in faraway lands. After your mother was born, Maryanne stayed home for a couple of years but after that Maryanne left her baby here with Mrs. Sullivan and me. They died young, but they were happy. Your mother never wanted to travel that much but did see a few places before she became a mom. Then she said that you would come first, and she would do a bit more traveling later.”

“She never got the chance,” Anna ushed her bowl away.

“No, she didn’t but those were her choices, and she never regretted her decision. Your mother was always happy,” Great Uncle Hernry lit his pipe.

“Yes. She was always happy right up to the end,” Anna cleared the table. “Will do the dishes.”

“I want to take a look at those books you brought down. It will be nice to see my stories printed for everyone to read. Thank you for doing it,” Grat Uncle Henry opened a book. The room was silent other than the clink of dishes and rustling of paper as Great Uncle Henry read his printed stories. A grin crossed his face as he looked at the numerous illustrations.

Later that evening , they sat in the living room in front of the crackling fire. Even though it was summer, the cottage became chilly in the evening. The sun never reached the living room built in the hollowed out hillside, but in the middle of an extremely hot day, it was cool. The fire started to die down and was just the embers of red coals when Great Uncle Henry excused himself to go to bed. Anna stared at the fire until the last sparks disappeared leaving the room in total darkness. Anna’s mind wandered over the things her great uncle had said about her grandparents and their life in the village as they were growing up. It sounded like they had a happy childhood, but her grandmother and grandfather always wanted to see other parts of the world. Now with modern technology it was possible to learn about other cultures without traveling. Anna shivered when the air became chilly. She tiptoed across the hallway towards the ladder. When Anna reached the loft, she opened the shutters and gazed at the dark star filled sky. Anna curled up on the bed and took out her grandmother’s journals and began to read.

My dearest Baby,

I don’t know yet if you are a boy or a girl, but I am writing this for you to read someday. I have been staying at Henry’s quaint little cottage on the mountain. He was clever when he built this little place. He tunneled into the side of the hill and made use of hay bales to shore up the hillside. The walls are thick and covered with many layers of clay and plaster. It is warm and cozy in the winter and cool on those hot summer days. On these pages, I will try to tell you the reasons your father and I do what we do. We so long to see all those far away places we read about as children. Your grandfather also grew up on this mountain but finds it too confining. There is a whole lot more to the world. We intend to see as much of it as possible.

I am growing to love you more and more with each passing day. You are growing rapidly and kicking me every time I lay down for a nap. Your Great Uncle Henry loves you a great deal already., but for some reason or other, he has never married. He almost did. She left him standing at the alter. He never recovered form the shock and heartbreak she caused him. She met a traveling sales man and eloped with him hoping to see the world, but she didn’t. Unfortunately, she died in childbirth.

To be continued

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