A Love Brighter than Light – Extended Epilogue

Carrie bent over the child’s writing tablet and squinted at his letters. He had copied the Bible verse well enough, but some of his letters were difficult to read.

“Can you tell me what it says?” she asked.

The little boy pointed to each word as he said it. “When…I…am…uhh.”

“Afraid,” Carrie supplied.

“Afraid, I…put…my t-t-true—”

“Trust.”

“Trust…in…you.”

“Excellent,” Carrie told him, patting him on the shoulder. “I want you to write it one more time and make sure that your a’s look like circles with sticks leaning on them.”

The boy nodded and set to work. Carrie moved on to the next desk, placing a hand on her stomach to protect it from bumping into someone.

“Mrs. Carrie!” one of the kids on the other side of the schoolhouse called. “He keeps humming a song, and I can’t work when he’s humming that song!”

Carrie turned at her name and approached the two who weren’t getting along. “Clara, remember what I said about staying quiet when others are working?”

“But I finished, Mrs. Carrie! I just wanted to practice my humming while I was waiting.”

Carrie had to smile, because the six-year-old looked incredibly cute as she blinked up at Carrie.

“Well, you may be done, Clara, but Arnold isn’t. We need to be considerate of others.”

“What’s that considdy word?”

“Considerate. It means that we think about others—what others want or need.”

“Now I can’t focus ‘cause you two are talking!” Arnold complained.

Carrie knew that he was being disrespectful, so she tried to hide her grin. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Clara, if you’re all done, why don’t you come up and help me clean the chalkboard?”

Clara’s eyes lit up, and she pattered after Carrie to the front of the room. Carrie showed her what to do and left the girl to her job. There were only five minutes left in the school day, so Carrie sat in her chair behind the larger desk at the front of the room and heaved a huge sigh of relief. With her stomach ever expanding to accommodate her child, she felt her ankles swelling with every long day. Finley had told her to sit down as much as possible, but he didn’t understand how many kids needed her throughout the day.

One child in the back, one of the older students, raised his hand. “Can I recite my poem to you?”

Carrie nodded and motioned him forward. “Come to my desk so we don’t disturb everyone else.”

The student stood in front of her and began belting the poem out at a rapid pace, so quickly that Carrie could barely distinguish where one word stopped and the next began. She smiled as he reached the end and looked to her hopefully for her response.

“You really know the poem,” she told him. “When you say it in front of the parents next month, make sure that you slow it down. Pretend that you’re telling it to a young child three or four years old, so you need to keep it slow.”

Once the student had returned to his seat, Carrie rang the bell at her desk. The students knew what that meant, and they instantly started cleaning off their writing tablets and straightening their desks before they rushed out of the schoolhouse, leaving Carrie alone with Clara.

“You can go, too,” Carrie told Clara.

“But I didn’t finish.” She pointed to the chalkboard. She was so short that she had only cleaned the bottom half.

“I’ll do the other part,” Carrie assured her, and Clara rushed out the door after the others. Carrie slowly got to her feet, took the wet rag, and wiped at the board. By the time she finished, her breath was coming more rapidly.

“Are you okay?” Finley’s voice asked behind her.

Carrie turned around and saw her husband filling the schoolhouse doorway.

“I saw all the children come running out, but you weren’t right behind them.”

Carrie sank into the chair. “I feel exhausted today,” she said. “I’m not sure why.”

“Maybe you should take a day off.” Finley stepped further into the classroom.

“Mama!” Carrie’s son squealed, and Carrie grinned as he toddled over.

“Well, hello to you too, Jacob. How are you doing today?”

Jacob babbled an answer like he always did, pretending that he spoke more than he did. He came over to Carrie and lifted his arms to be held, but Carrie pointed to her stomach. “Remember, Jacob, I can’t hold you right now. Your baby brother or sister is taking up the space on my lap.”

Jacob patted Carrie’s stomach as well, babbling to it. Carrie watched in wonder as he had a full one-sided conversation with the baby-to-come. She looked up at Finley, and he laughed.

“I think he’s really excited about the baby,” Finley commented.

“We’ll see once the baby actually arrives.” She looked over at the fireplace. It wasn’t as chilly as it had been a few months ago, but she liked to keep a fire burning for some of the more cold-natured students. “Can you put out the fire? Then we can go.”

Finley dealt with the fire as Carrie ran a hand through Jacob’s dark hair, the hair that looked exactly like hers and grew just as rapidly. Jacob raised his hands for her to pick him up again, and Carrie bent down instead to kiss him.

“I love you, baby,” she said to Jacob.

“Wub ooh!” Jacob echoed, and Carrie smiled.

“Thank you.” She touched her heart, and Jacob copied the motion.

“I think we’re ready to go then,” Finley said, standing up from the smoking fireplace. “Let me help you to the carriage.”

Carrie appreciated that over the last three months as her stomach had begun to show her pregnancy, Finley had taken a break from running the farm to come pick her up every day after school.

She placed an arm around his waist and took Jacob’s tiny hand. Together, they descended the three steps at the front of the schoolhouse and meandered over to the carriage. Climbing into it took a lot more work than it used to, but finally, she was in the carriage, breathing hard, and Jacob sat snuggled between the two of them.

Carrie held on to the bench as the carriage rattled forward.

“How was the farm today?” she asked. “Did our neighbor say anything about Jacob’s behavior?”

“She said that he took a long nap today.” Finley smiled. “You know what that means.”

Carrie touched Jacob’s nose. “You better sleep well tonight, mister. None of your antics in the middle of the night.”

Jacob chattered to her in some baby language she didn’t understand before patting Carrie’s leg.

“I think he just told me not to worry, and that he was planning to be a good little boy.”

“Good,” Finley responded. “I’m tired.” He yawned.

When Carrie next looked over at Finley, he looked serious. His mind was clearly elsewhere, probably on the big planting season that was coming up, and she didn’t want to distract him from his thoughts. She remained silent and watched as they neared their farm. It was almost as big as the one his parents owned in Dallas, and they had plenty of room for three large fields for planting as well as some cattle. They hadn’t yet bought any other animals, but they planned to expand when they could.

“Carrie,” Finley finally said. “I need to tell you something.”

Carrie frowned. Whatever he was about to say was definitely something bad. She braced herself.

“When I was going into town today to see if there was any update on when the auction would be taking place, I ran into your father.”

Carrie pressed her lips together and nodded, knowing her father must have said something inappropriate toward Finley.

“We talked cordially for a couple of minutes, and I…I invited him for supper tonight.”

“You what?” Carrie asked, her mouth dropping open.

“I’m sorry. It just sort of slipped out. He was acting so friendly, and we can’t avoid him forever. He hasn’t picked a fight with us since a couple months after we got married. And he seemed in such a good mood.”

“Mama!” Jacob said, tapping her knee repeatedly.

Carrie turned to him. Whatever he wanted had to be easier to address than what Finley had just said.

“Mama,” Jacob said cheerfully when he saw her turn to look at him. She tickled him, and he giggled.

Finley pulled up in front of their house. “I can’t very well uninvite him now.”

“I need to start making dinner,” Carrie said, ignoring his comment about the invitation. Her feet were hurting, but everyone still had to be fed. This was the most difficult part about working at the schoolhouse. Still, she knew that she only had a couple more months. Once this second child came, she would pass the schoolhouse on to the next promising young woman in White Rock. She had fulfilled her duty by getting it back in working order and teaching for several years. Now, it was time to let someone else take over.

Carrie sat in a chair at the table as she peeled potatoes, imagining what her father might have to say that evening at dinner. Would he pick a fight? Cause an argument? She just wanted a peaceful evening that did not include entertainment, but Finley had invited her father without speaking to her first.

Jacob happily played with his wooden animals at Carrie’s feet as she worked. He seemed content enough. He barely knew his grandfather. Finley’s parents came to visit once a month and stayed a week or so. Jacob ran to them when he saw them coming into the house. Carrie smiled as she thought of Jacob’s relationship with Finley’s parents, but with her father? That was a different story.

“Mama!” Jacob said.

“What?”

“Wub ooh!”

Carrie blew her baby a kiss. “I love you, too.”

Jacob grabbed her leg and hugged it hard as Carrie tried to take the peeled potatoes to the boiling pot. “Now, Jacob, you stay back,” Carrie told him. “This is hot, hot, dangerous. You can’t come close.”

Jacob nodded solemnly and watched from the table.

A knock sounded at the door, and Carrie’s heart seized. Had her father arrived already? She had barely begun cooking. Now, she would need to talk to him for the next hour or so until the food was ready. Maybe she could get Finley involved since it had been his idea to invite her father anyway.

Carrie slowly approached the front door and opened it. Her father looked different. Did he have more gray in his beard than before? He still stood as strong and tall as always, but for the first time, he definitely looked old.

“Come in,” Carrie said, remembering that staring wasn’t polite.

“You’re pretty far along with your second one,” her father said as greeting, pointing to her stomach.

Carrie placed a hand protectively around it. “Yes, another month or two, and we’ll have a little brother or sister for Jacob.”

“Jacob, how are you doing?” her father bent over, leaning on his knees, and Jacob studied him carefully from the table.

“I need to sit down,” Carrie said, falling into the chair at the table and beginning to chop the onions and the carrots.

“How have you been doing lately?” her father asked, coming to the table and taking another one of the four chairs.

“Fine,” Carrie responded.

“How about the schoolhouse? I’ve heard you have a lot of students now.”

“Forty-two,” Carrie told him. “If I didn’t have some of the older ones helping me out, then I’m not sure how I would do it. It’s the younger ones who need the most help.”

“I bet!” Her father bent down and started motioning to Jacob, but her son still watched his grandfather without moving.

Carrie swallowed the sob she felt rising in her throat. She and her father had been so close before everything had happened. Even though they had exchanged civil conversations over the last few years, she certainly hadn’t shared a meal with him. The truth was that she had never gotten over the lies he had told.

She didn’t think about them every day, but when they did come to her thoughts, she was still bothered by them.

“That’s right,” her father said, and Carrie bent down to see Jacob slowly making his way to his estranged grandfather, building trust with him step by step. He stopped just in front of Carrie’s father, and Carrie watched her father interact with Jacob.

“Aren’t you a big boy?” he said. “Look at you! You’re going to be a tall one, that’s for sure.”

Jacob started blabbering to her father, and Carrie knew they would be friends. She smiled just a little as she continued with dinner preparation. After a few minutes, Jacob became bored with the whole situation and turned to his wooden animals on the floor.

“Carrie,” her father said. “I would like to talk to you about something.”

Carrie picked up the sliced carrots and onions and dumped them into the rice pot. She walked back to the table and sat down, avoiding direct eye contact with her father. “Yes, what about?”

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking—a lot of introspective consideration—and I’ve come to the realization that many years ago when I hurt you the way I did, I was trying to do what I thought was best.”

Carrie already knew that. She pursed her lips and turned away from her father. Why did he want to bring up the past? She closed her eyes to keep any tears from escaping her eyes, even though they burned against the lids.

“The problem is that what I thought was best wasn’t necessarily best. Finley has treated you well, and he’s provided for you in his own way.”

Carrie nodded slowly, still careful to avoid eye contact with her father.

“I hope that you will accept my apology,” her father pleaded.

Carrie finally looked at her father, taking in every inch of his face. When she met his eyes, she couldn’t look away. They were so sincere, so honest. He really cared about her forgiveness. She opened her mouth to say the words, to tell him that she forgave him, but she couldn’t come to do it. The tears bubbled up from within and spilled over her cheeks. They dropped silently down to her chin where they plopped onto the table.

Her father reached over and squeezed her hand as he used to do when she was a child. He had never been very good about dealing with emotions, but Carrie knew that his hand-squeezing was his way of showing support.

“Thank you,” she finally said.

The pot on the fire began whining, calling her attention, and she remembered that a meal was being cooked. She shouldn’t let it burn. Carrie stood up and hurried over to the pot, the rest of her tears dripping into it as she tended the potatoes.

The back door slammed shut, and she heard Finley’s familiar tread.

“Ah, you’ve arrived,” Finley said, greeting her father. Jacob ran over to Finley, and Finley obligingly picked him up as Carrie turned to watch the scene. This was her family—both her family from long ago, and the new family that she was building with Finley.

“Is everything okay?” Finley asked when he saw her face. She swiped at it, wiping away the evidence of what had passed between herself and her father. She would tell Finley all about it later, of course, but for now, she wanted to remain strong.

“Another twenty minutes or so, and supper will be ready,” she told them.

“I’ve finished up with the work,” Finley said. “How about I wash Jacob’s hands and my own?”

Carrie nodded her permission, and Finley took their son out to the pump where he splashed water on him, making the boy squeal with delight. Carrie watched through the window as Jacob tried to drink the water dripping off his hands, and Finley swooped in with a towel to stop that from happening.

“He loves you very much,” her father commented.

Carrie started. For a moment, she had almost forgotten he was there.

“Oh, yes, he does,” she responded. “Do you see now, why…why we wanted to marry?”

“I see now.” Her fathered cleared his throat and swiped at his face. Was that a tear she had spotted sparkling on his cheek? But no, when she looked closer, there was nothing. It didn’t matter. What did matter was that she was rebuilding the relationship she had lost with her father. She not only got her father back, but Jacob got another grandfather.

Finley reentered the house with little Jacob, who wanted to show off his clean hands to anyone who would look.

“Do you need me to help with something?” Finley asked, wrapping his arms around her as he surveyed her cooking attempts so far.

“You know I always need help,” Carrie laughed. It was no secret that cooking had never been her favorite. Finley kissed her on the side of her head and stepped right in, adjusting the quantity of rice and water. Carrie gripped the edge of the table, her eyes flicking over the three people who meant so much to her—her husband, her son, and her father.

One happy family at last.

THE END


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9 thoughts on “A Love Brighter than Light – Extended Epilogue”

    1. I enjoyed this book and was glad when Carrie and Finley finally were married. Also enjoyed the extended epilogue happy she made peace with her father.

  1. A good story about love forgiveness and acceptance of others regardless of how much money they have A wonderfully written story

  2. What a nice story of a young couple getting know each other. I’m so glad her father asked for forgiveness for lying to her.

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