Love Is Enough
By Mabel Harmer
Geniel Whitworth, a schoolteacher from Denver, Colorado, takes a position at Blayney, Idaho, and lives at Mrs. Willett’s boarding house. She meets Christine Lacy and Marva Eberhart, fellow schoolteachers, Mrs. Willett’s nephew, Jeff burrows, a rancher, and Johnny Linford, who works for the forest service. These friends are quite different from Ernest Wood, Geniel’s friend who owns a shoe store in Denver. The schoolteachers and Mrs. Willett spend Thanksgiving at Jeff’s ranch. After the pageant presented by the school, Geniel goes to Denver for the Christmas holidays.
Geniel felt a wave of pleasure and excitement as she waited for the bus to arrive that would start her on the homeward trek. She had been too busy with the pageant and other Christmas preparations to think much about her vacation before. Now that she was actually on the way, she realized how very happy she was to be going home again.
She would travel with Marva and Christine as far as Ogden, where she would change to a bus going east and they would continue on to their Utah homes.
“This ride is going to take quite a bite out of your holiday,” said Christine. “Why didn’t you fly?”
“I think that bus travel is rather fun,” Geniel replied. “And it will give me a good chance to relax and think. Or maybe meditate is a better word. I’ll be home by morning. That isn’t too bad.”
“Maybe you’ll get stuck in a snowdrift or a blizzard in Wyoming and have a real adventure,” suggested Marva.
“Trust you to look on the shiniest side,” smiled Geniel.
When the bus drove up it was so full that each of the three had to take separate seats, but Geniel didn’t mind. She settled down and started her day off relaxing. The snowy landscape stretched away to the mountains, unbroken much of the way except for thin lines of fences. It had all the beauty of a Christmas card.
The passengers were chattering in a gay, carefree camaraderie. Geniel supposed that most of them were on their way home – or to spend the holidays with loved ones. I hope that they are all as happy as I am, she thought in a glow of Yuletide spirit.
It would be wonderful to see all of the family again. The three months she had been away had seemed like that any years sometimes. It would be especially wonderful to be home for Christmas. The folks would already have the tree all trimmed. There would be a dozen or so gay packages underneath, so beautifully wrapped that one hesitated ever to open them.
Her sister Marcie’s family would be there for the Christmas Eve party, when bright red stockings would be stuffed with small gifts for everyone.
Ernest would meet the bus in the morning, and there would be time to drive past the Civic Center with all its fabulous Christmas decorations before he had to be at the store. At least, he would meet her if the bus wasn’t late. If it was, maybe he would throw all caution to the winds and meet her anyway.
Of course, they would drive past his store so that she could see the window display. Last year it had been soft blue slippers hung upon a silver tree.
The miles slipped by quickly, and they arrived in Ogden just in time to see the bright lights go on. Geniel said goodbye to the other two girls and had time to eat her dinner before boarding the other bus. It was dark now, and after driving through the gaily decorated streets they started up the snow-packed canyon.
Even as the night wore on, no one seemed inclined to settle down. There was talking and laughing and, before long, there were Christmas carols with almost everyone joining in. It was midnight before the last of the passengers had finally quieted down and Geniel was able to drop off to sleep.
When the lights went on for the stop at Laramie, she looked out on a world of whirling snow and wind of almost blizzard proportions. The woman in the seat next to her said, “Well, if we’re snowed in, at least we’ll have a warm place to stay. It would have been much worse if we’d had to stop out there on the plains,.”
Geniel failed to find much comfort in the thought. Being warm wasn’t all she asked or expected of this holiday. The warmth she wanted was that of her own fireside.
They trudged inside the station to find it crowded with other stranded passengers. It was three o’clock in the morning. Geniel sat down by a young mother who was struggling with a two-year-old child while trying to hold a tiny baby on her lap. Lines of weariness etched her face.
“Let me take the baby,” Geniel offered.
“Oh, will you?” exclaimed the woman in relief. “I’m on my way to California to meet my husband. We’ve come from Chicago and Tammy here is already so tired and cross I don’t know how we’re ever going to make it.”
“Maybe we could put the baby down on the bench here and Tammy would let me hold her while you go and get something to eat and a bit of rest.” She held out her arms. “I know a song,” she said, smiling.
Tammy hesitated for a moment and then allowed Geniel to take her.
The mother stood up. “Oh, thank you so much,” she sighed. “It will be wonderful just to be able to take a few steps by myself.” She walked over to the lunch counter and sat down.
Geniel sang softly to the little girl and by the time the mother returned, some twenty minutes later, she had dropped off to sleep.
“Now, if I could just find some place to lay her down.” The mother looked around at the crowded waiting room where almost every available space was filled with the stranded passengers.
“Never mind,” said Geniel quickly. “She might awaken. I would just as soon hold her. I have nothing else to do. Maybe you can get a catnap somewhere.”
“I’m so tired I could sleep standing up,” the mother answered with a wry smile.
“Why don’t you take a hotel room and rest over for a day?” asked Geniel sympathetically.
“Oh, I couldn’t!” was the quick reply. “We have to get there by Christmas. Tom would be terribly disappointed.”
“Of course. Well, go into the rest room and see if there is a spare sofa or chair. I’ll call you if my bus decides to go.”
The mother left, and Geniel sat there – for hours, it seemed. If I wanted time to relax and meditate I certainly have it, she thought grimly. Her mind started playing a game to help pass away the time. What would Ernest do under these circumstances – or Jeff, or Johnny, if either one were the driver of the bus, of course? Otherwise, he would do exactly the same thing as she was doing. Simply wait it out.
Ernest would wait it out, too. He was cautious and would never dream of taking an unnecessary risk. Jeff would do something. If he couldn’t change the weather he would change the transportation. Johnny – she was almost sure – would take a chance on getting through and would more than likely make it.
The minutes ticked slowly on until the hour hand had dragged around to six A.M. before the announcer called that the bus for Denver would be departing in ten minutes. Geniel hated to disturb the mother, but there was nothing else to do. She couldn’t leave a couple of children sleeping alone on a bus station bench. She took Tammy into the rest room and laid her down by her mother, and then the baby, and left them all sleeping.
Snow was still falling as she went outside, but the wind had died down and no longer whipped the icy flakes into one’s face. By the time they reached the outskirts of the city, even that had stopped and the landscape glistened under an ermine mantle.
It was her father who met the bus. “Ernest phoned that he would have to open the store,” he explained, giving her a bear hug and kiss. “You know how it is this close to Christmas. He’ll be around tonight.”
“I’d much rather have you anyway,” said Geniel brightly. “You always were my best beau. And you can tell me everything about everybody. Start with the family.”
As they drove away from the station, he said, “Ernest is really doing a fine business. He’s put on two more clerks. He’s talking now about opening another store.”
“I said the family,” Geniel reminded him. “Who picked out the tree this year? Can Trudie say more than six words? Did Mom bake fruit cakes for the entire county, as usual?”
“Certainly Trudie talks,” replied her father proudly. “She even sings and recites poems. Kevin is the star of the kindergarten set and all the little girls are in love with him. He says so himself.”
Geniel laughed. “Everyone sounds utterly delicious! It’s wonderful to be home – and to have a family like ours.”
There was a big wreath on the front door and a snowman in the front yard, the joint project of Kevin and himself, her father explained. Inside, there were hugs and kisses and a welcome that made Geniel exclaim, “You’d think I’d been gone for years and across a couple of oceans!”
Her own room looked so comfortable and inviting that for a moment she thought, why did I ever leave? And how can I ever go back?
She had to leave almost at once, however, to do her own Christmas shopping. When her mother deplored the fact that she would have to jostle the last minute crowds, Geniel answered, “Oh, but I love it. It’s much more exciting than to buy months ahead. I like the decorations, the chimes, even the crowds are fun.”
She left right after lunch and by evening she was thoroughly tired, not only from the jostling crowds but from having missed most of her sleep the night before. When Ernest phoned that he would be late she was very much tempted to tell him not to come at all, but decided that wouldn’t do.
It was half past nine when he finally arrived and she quickly decided that she was glad she had let him come. He looked so well-groomed, so self-assured, so sort of substantial. Even his slightly thinning hair seemed to give him a look of distinction.
They talked briefly of her experiences and at considerable length of his present set-up and future plans. “I’m going to buy Buford out the first of the year,” said Ernest. “I’m sure I can do better going it alone. Eventually, I hope to open up additional stores out in the suburb shopping centers.”
“I’m very proud of you,” said Geniel sincerely. “You have done remarkably well in a comparatively short time.”
“Considering that I started as a clerk, I haven’t done too badly,” he agreed.
He left early, since both of them were tired and needed a night’s rest more than visiting.
The next day Geniel took her part in filling the red felt stockings. Her mother stuffed them, for the most part, with small items she had collected all through the year, but others in the family did their share, too. There were ten of them this year, Marcie, her husband, and three children, the elder Whitworths, two aunts who lived alone, and Ernest.
Geniel had picked up a few items while doing her other shopping and had a cunning jack rabbit that hopped crazily along at the end of a tiny rubber hose. She slipped it in Ernest’s stocking, then took it out again and put it in her own. Johnny would love this, she thought, just a trifle guiltily, and Ernest will think it is silly.
Just before they sat down to dinner, a florist delivered a box containing a dozen deep red roses. Sid, her brother-in-law, had answered the door and he made the most of the occasion. “Now don’t tell us that these are from Santa Claus,” he begged, handing them over to Geniel.
She gasped in surprise and some confusion as she read the card, “Happy Holidays. Jeff.”
“Come on – give …” Sid continued. “Who is the secret admirer?”
“Why – it’s my landlady’s nephew,” replied Geniel, her cheeks flushing. “What an extraordinary thing for him to do.”
She hadn’t consciously intended to make it sound as if the nephew were about nineteen years old – an irresponsible nineteen at that, who did impulsive things like sending roses to a schoolteacher. Yet, from the remarks that followed she knew that was exactly what they all thought.
She was still in something of a rose-colored daze when the gifts from beneath the tree were handed around to be opened. As her father dropped Ernest’s gift into her lap, the others looked at her expectantly. It was a small box with the wrapping of a well-known jeweler. She tried to open it casually and was charmed when she found a pin, fashioned of exquisite gold leaf with a single emerald in the center.
Soon afterwards the children went off to their own home, leaving willingly, so that Santa would find them in bed.
“You’d better leave the loot here that you collected in that stocking,” Ernest advised Kevin, “if you hope to get a refill.”
The boy was not at all alarmed. “I’ve asked for a sled, and it won’t go in my stocking anyway,” he answered calmly.
On Christmas day they made the usual rounds to the homes of friends and relatives. Just before leaving the night before, her Aunt Nina had said, “You must be sure and come to my open house tomorrow. It will be the last one. I’m selling the big place and moving to an apartment.”
As they drove up to the big, almost mansion-size house, Geniel wondered, “So Aunt Nina is really going to give up her home! It will seem strange not to come here any more. As long as I can remember this has seemed almost like a second home to me.”
“Yes,” said her mother. “It does seem rather too bad to have to give it up. But Nina can’t live here alone any longer. It’s more of a burden than a pleasure now.”
Geniel wandered through some of the rooms, looking at them with a feeling of deep nostalgia. In the library she paused and studied the cases filled with books, many of them rather choice. Going back into the dining room, she asked, “What are you going to do with all of your books, Auntie?”
“Sell them to the secondhand dealers for the most part, I suppose,” was the answer. “If there are any you would like, you’re more than welcome to take them.”
“Thanks.” Geniel’s face lighted up as a very intriguing idea hit her consciousness. “Just how far does that invitation extend?”
“Why, all the way. I can take only a small number to the apartment. You’re really quite welcome to take any you can use. They bring such a small price on the market anyway.”
“I’ll be over first thing tomorrow,” Geniel promised.
She could hardly wait to get over to her aunt’s home the next day. There were books – hundreds of them – and hers for the taking. She could start a library for the Blayney school children. For that matter, it would make a wonderful start for a town library.
It was just a few minutes after nine when she arrived at the house. “Merciful goodness, child!” exclaimed Nina. “Do you realize that this is the first day after Christmas and that you are home on a vacation?”
“Oh, sure,” she smiled. “I also realize that I have just found a gold mine, and I’ll have to make the most of my opportunity to get some pay dirt. I’ll start sorting the books today and arrange for some packing boxes as soon as I can. Ernest will probably help me out with those. Then all I have to do is find a way to get them up to Blayney and we’ll have a grand start towards a library.”
“It all sounds very simple. Do you mind if I sit here and watch you slave away your holiday?”
“Please do. Then you can check on what I take. There must be some of these you’ll want to keep.”
“I’ve already packed them away. You have an open hand now on whatever is left.”
For a wild moment Geniel wondered if there wasn’t some way she could ship the entire library to Blayney, but she quickly realized that was neither feasible nor even desirable. She wished that there were more children’s books. There was little, quite naturally, that could be considered below the fifth grade reading level.
She hesitated over an encyclopedia set that was twenty years old, and finally decided that it was better than none at all. “There must be a few facts that haven’t changed in the past twenty years,” she observed.
She pulled out books and stacked them until her arms ached, with only a brief stop for lunch.
That evening she went to the Ballet de Russe with Ernest. It seemed so wonderful to be in a real theatre again. There was no doubt about it, a city had a great many advantages to offer. Just to be able to walk into a fine, large library was one she had never fully appreciated before.
How glad she was that she had agreed to come! At first she had felt she might be too tired after the exertions of the day, but now all weariness dropped away. She felt as if she could almost join in the dance.
In the exhilaration of watching the lovely “Sleeping Beauty” ballet, she smiled at Ernest and slipped her hand into his.
The next day he sent half a dozen large cardboard boxes over to Nina’s house and Geniel began packing her loot, as she called it. “I’ll just have to store them in Dad’s basement until I find some way of getting them over to Blayney,” she said. “Unless, that is, I decide to rent one of those ‘Drive it yourself’ trucks and take them back along with me.”
“I wouldn’t put it past you one iota,” declared her aunt. “Something up in that country has certainly taken hold of you.”
“As a matter of fact, I don’t know what I’d do with them, if I did take them over now. I still have the problem of finding a place for them. But if I can rustle the books, the rest of the population ought to be able to find some place to put them.”
She stuck to her task until all the books she had chosen were stored in the basement of her father’s home. She was so excited about the project that she felt she had to tell someone, so she dropped a note to Mrs. Willett, mentioning at the same time that she would be returning by plane.
The rest of the week passed swiftly. There were holiday parties with friends, a day at Marcie’s with the children, and a symphony concert with Ernest.
“You’re sure that you don’t want to turn this ticket in for one on the bus?” he teased as he took her to the airport.
“Oh, I’ll get a bus ride, too,” she answered quickly. “The plane lands at Idaho Falls. I’ll still have another forty miles to go on the ground. That will have to do for this time,” she assured Ernest as she went through the gate.
The day was clear and the ride over the snowy mountains was sheer delight. Almost too soon they swooped down on the airfield and she walked down the landing steps.
At the railing stood Jeff, bare-headed in the wintry breeze, eyes smiling.
“Oh, Jeff!” she exclaimed. “You shouldn’t have come all this way to meet me! Did Mrs. Willett …?”
“Nope. She didn’t send me. All she did was to mention that you were flying in today and since I had to come over one day this week on business anyway, I decided it might as well be today.”
“Then I’ll welcome you with open arms …”
“Come along,” she laughed. “Let’s get my bags and find out what kind of pie Mrs. Willett has for supper tonight.”