2016 has finally come to a close, and I cannot say that I am upset about that. There were some great highs to the year, but there were some unbelievable lows. I look forward to a fresh start for the coming year, and all of the opportunities that may present themselves.
I have decided that this year, I will not be making any resolutions. For me, they do not work. Every year I promise to lose weight, work a little less, spend more time with family and friends, and write more. The unfortunate truth is that I work two jobs, so doing any of the above is difficult. However, in the past, I simply lamented that they were nearly impossible and moved on after a few days. This year I am accepting that they are difficult; but each of them is achievable, if on a smaller scale than I would l like. So, tonight, I write.
Bernadette Durand peered out the window of her mother’s estate. Well, her mother called it her estate. In reality, it was a tiny villa outside of Verona. It was small, housing three small rooms. Those rooms were filled to capacity by Madame Durand and her four children. As the eldest, Bernadette occupied the central room that served as bedroom to both her and her mother, as well as serving as kitchen, dining, and bathing area. Papa had left, long ago, taking any job that he could find. Any money he made was sent directly to Mama.
A hand rested on her shoulder. Bernadette turned her head and smiled at her mother. “Are the boys sleeping?”
“Yes, my sweet. You should be, too.” Mama gave her a stern look, which worked well with her younger brothers. It had once worked on Bernadette as well. But that was long ago. At ten years old, she had outgrown the childish fears of her mother’s wrath. That was simply because Louise Nicolette Durand was incapable of exhibiting wrath. The best she could muster was mild annoyance. She was a lady, after all. A true lady is never wrathful.
Bernadette sniffed, and returned her attention to the window. “I’m not tired, Mama.”
Madame Durand sighed. “Dette, you are the most difficult of my children. I don’t know why I allow you to misbehave so!” She gave up any remaining pretense of disciplining her daughter and walked away. Left to herself, Bernadette glanced at the clock ticking away on the mantle.
Mama returned with a chair from the dining table, and sat beside her daughter. “It is a beautiful night.” She looked up, the night sky spread above the tiny villa, a giant purple-black canvas, painted with swirls of cloud, and points of light. The cold of winter had chased much of the traffic in the skies away. She had heard, long ago, that airship crews would freeze to death, if they did not take a southerly route during the winter months. She was certain that couldn’t possibly be true, but the sky was unblemished by any man-made device.”
“My sweet,” she said, turning her attention to her daughter, “Why are you awake so late this evening?”
Little Dette faced her mother. Her eyes shone brightly, with both tears and wonder. “Mama, can you not know?”
Madame Durand thought. There was something. It was tapping away at the back of her mind. There was something about the evening…but she could not remember what it was. “No, Dette, my sweet. I do not know.”
Bernadette shook her head, her blonde curls bobbing about her face. “Mama, you are so silly. At midnight, it will be the new year!”
Madame Durand threw her head back and laughed. It was a beautiful, and all too rare sound these last several months. There was once a time when Mama laughed freely. Everything changed when they moved to this place, so far from their large home in France.
Mama calmed herself, and said, with a smile, “My goodness. I cannot believe that I forgot the day! Dette, we must do something special for you and your brothers in the morning. It is a special occasion.”
“Oui, Mama,” Dette said, her little face beaming. “We must. The new year is a chance to start fresh.” She crawled into her mother’s lap, much to the surprise of the both of them. Madame Durand overcame her surprise and embraced her daughter.
“And what do you wish for the new year to bring, My sweet?” She kissed the top of her little girl’s head, gazing dreamily out the window.
“I want Papa to come home.”
Madame Durand frowned. Although that was her fondest wish, she knew that what her daughter wished was not possible. Her dear husband was so far away, sailing to locations unknown. She could not promise this to her daughter, no matter how much she wished it.
“Unfortunately, Dette, that is one wish I cannot guarantee. He must travel to find work. It takes him far away from here. It may take him some time to return.”
Her daughter pondered this. She possessed her father’s shrewd mind. Finally, she smiled and said, “I will give him one year to return home. If he does not come home by then, I will go find him!”
Madame Durand laughed for the second time that night. “Oh, my dear girl. I almost believe that you would go and search the entire world, just to find Papa.” Dette looked up at her and scowled. “Dette,” she said, her voice soothing, “Papa will be home as soon as he can. And when he does return, we will have a wonderful party. We will invite all of our friends, and we shall have a grand feast. This past year will be a distant memory; It will be like a bad dream, soon forgotten.”
Dette laid her head against her mother’s bosom. As she drifted off to sleep, she whispered, “One year. If he is not back by then, I am going to search for him.” Madame Durand remembered that moment, her daughter sleeping quietly in her lap, when a year later, her daughter left the villa in the middle of the night, making good on her promise to find her beloved Papa.