PostScripts from Blessing

The official blog of author Lauraine Snelling and the fictional town of Blessing, North Dakota

12-30-1903 The Unexpected Gift

The Unexpected Gift
By Danae Hiltner
Week: 4

The shrieking wind woke Andor early the next morning. He sat up glancing beside him. Ella wasn't there. Had she gotten up earlier than usual? He saw her clothes still draped neatly over the chair. What are her clothes still…? Realization hit him. He dressed in a flash and ran out into the hall.
No, no, no! Please God, please don't let it be…A blast of cold air hit him. Bright whiteness stared through the open front door.
"No!" he shouted without thinking, running to the door. Footprints in the snow attested to Ella's leaving. How long had she been gone? He kicked at the snow drifts, growling in frustration. He looked out, squinting. Snowflakes bit his cheeks and the wind blew his hair back. "Ella!"
"Andor, what happened?" Hanna and Carl raced into the hall.
Shut the door, you fool! Andor's mind screamed at him, barely audible over the wind. Between him and Carl, they both worked until they could shut the door. Andor leaned one hand against the wall, despair dragging him down.
"Son, what happened? Did someone leave?" Carl asked, worry written on his weathered face.
"Ella," Andor's voice cracked, as he shoved his arms into his coat sleeves. "She wandered off into the blizzard!" He pulled the door open again as he crammed his hands into his mittens.
"No!" Carl dragged him back. "You'll be lost before you get to the gate."
"I have to find Ella!"
"Andor," Carl clamped his arm around the younger man. "We can do nothing until dawn."

The blizzard died down as the sun rose. Andor dreaded going out searching, afraid of what he might find. Yet if he didn't, he'd hurt forever not knowing for sure what happened to Ella.
People wandered off in blizzards and were never seen again! Dear Lord, what happened to her? Is she alive? Oh Lord, oh Lord, please… Andor took a deep breath, feeling as if ice particles were embedded in his lungs. "We-we can begin searching now." His voice shook. Cold, he felt so cold! But Ella would be even colder!
"I'm getting some of the other folks in town to help us? The Knutsons, the Bjorklunds, Pastor Solberg. All of them."
"J-ja, of course," Andor shook his head. He couldn't think clearly at all. Dear God, oh dear God, please, please bring Ella home to us. He bowed over, his hands clasped together. Please dear God, heavenly Father. Bring her home. A small sound caused him to look up.
Steven, trailed by Josef and Freja, padded up and stared at him without saying a word. By the looks on their faces they were aware something was wrong. Steven finally spoke up and asked, "What's going on?" He paused, "What happened?" He looked around the room. "Where's Ella?"
"We-we don't know where she is," Andor replied. He knew that much. "We're going to look for her."
Steven looked toward the door, his eyes wide. "Did she…?"
Andor nodded. Steven's face fell. Freja and Josef stared up at their brother, confused.

Hay poked her in the face. In fact, hay poked her everywhere. She was burrowed into the hay, like the cat that snuggled beside her. Ella moaned and opened her eyes. Nothing but blurry images was all she could see.
What happened? I heard crying….But I can't seem to remember what happened. She rubbed her eyes with her cold fingers and became of aware of just how cold she really felt. She clutched her shawl closer, but it wasn't helping. Ella opened her eyes again and stared at the walls of the stall. I'm in the barn! What in the world am I doing in here? She racked her brain trying to think, but she couldn't get her mind to recall anything of the previous night's activities. She remembered the blizzard and gasped. I wandered off! But why? Abe, Abe was crying. She slowly shook her head. Abe was gone—dead and buried months ago. Yes, Abe has gone home to be with Jesus. but I am here. God has kept me alive and now I want to live.
She wanted to stand, but she couldn't move at all. Her teeth chattered. I'm too cold to move! I need to stay warm! She tried to move, but the attempt failed. But I am still alive! Someone will find me…. I am alive. Thank you, God. I am alive. She felt like she had no hands or feet at all. Would she freeze to death in the barn? Dear God, please, send me some help! I don't want to die in the barn!
"Please," she whispered hoarsely. "Please." Andor will be coming to milk the cow.
After what seemed like ages, footsteps broke into her thoughts. Her eyes still closed, Ella took a deep shaky breath. "Hello?" Her voice cracked. "Is anyone there?"
The footsteps stopped a moment then started back up. The person stopped outside the stall door. "Ella!" Steven stood in the doorway. He dashed in and dropped beside her. "Oh Ella, I was so scared! We've been searching and searching because we thought you'd wandered off onto the prairie!" He paused and looked down at her. "Are you ok?"
"Just frozen," Ella croaked, her voice frozen along with the rest of her. She'd never heard Steven say so many words before.
Steven tugged her shawl over her and then leaped to his feet. "I'll get Andor!" The boy turned and dashed back out the door. Ella smiled. I can still smile…and I can still praise you, God! Thank you!

Even wrapped in two quilts, Ella shivered uncontrollably. Andor had carried her inside and then Dr. Elizabeth Bjorklund had arrived and checked Ella over, searching for frostbite. "She has a spot here on her face, but that is all I can find. Are there any on her fingers?" Elizabeth asked her mother-in-law, who had accompanied her.
"Yes, but not bad," Ingeborg checked each of Ella's fingers. She touched the spot on Ella's face. "Can you feel my touch?"
"Y-yes," Ella nodded. It didn't take much effort for that motion.
"Only one spot on her toe," Elizabeth announced.
"Praise God," Ingeborg said softly.
"Amen to that." Andor agreed.
Elizabeth listened to Ella's breathing. "You be sure to rest up most of the day. You sound healthy, so there's another thing to be thankful for." She held a cup of warm tea to Ella's lips.
"Oh I-I am," Ella smiled and spoke around the rim of the mug.
"She's going to be fine!" Freja shouted out the bedroom door. Still clad in her nightgown, the little girl raced up and wrapped her arms around Ella. Steven and Josef joined her.
"We're glad you're back," all of them talked at once. The adults all chuckled.
"I'll b-be warm in no time now," Ella joked and everyone laughed. She hugged the three children. Andor stood with his hands on her shoulders. "Welcome home, El."
"Are you still going to come see me in the Christmas play?" Freja asked, bringing more chuckles.
"If Dr. Bjorklund s-says I may," Ella replied.
"Can she come to the play?" Freja turned to Elizabeth. "Please Dr. Bjo'klund?"
"As long as she rests all day and saves her energy. I'd say she'll be able to make it to the Christmas Eve service tonight just fine." Elizabeth winked at her.
"Christmas Eve?" Ella looked up. "Is it really Christmas Eve?"
"Yes dear," Andor said with a smile. "Is your mind frozen?"
"Ja, but not frozen off," Ella replied slyly between shudders.
"Danke, Dr. Bjo'klund!" Freja hugged Ella tighter. "Now Ella can see me be an angel!"
"I can't wait," Ella told her, stroking the girl's wispy hair.

Watch for the conclusion of The Unexpected Gift next week.