Today's Reading

A hunched figure hurried up the sidewalk toward Eve—Mrs. Herder, bundled against the cold and the gently falling snow, walking her dog. Eve smiled as they passed. "Hello. Lovely evening, isn't it?"

"If you like snow." Her words were muffled by the thick scarf wrapped around her neck and chin. Mrs. Herder continued past, her rambunctious yellow Labrador stopping to sniff at mailbox posts one minute, then tugging on his lead the next. They seemed a mismatched pair, the young dog too large and energetic for the small, white-haired woman who reminded Eve of her granny.

Eve quickened her steps, gazing at the houses she passed, wishing she had a home of her own for her and her son. What would that be like? Lights glowed from behind her neighbors' windows, revealing glimpses of their lives, as if peering at distant television screens. She knew very little about her neighbors, including Mrs. Herder, even though she passed the older woman and her dog nearly every day. Eve only assumed her name was Herder because it was printed on her mailbox out front. She lived in an historic house with a wide front porch that stood at the very edge of Eve's neighborhood of new, postwar bungalows. Mrs. Herder still displayed a gold star in her window six years after the war had ended, as if she didn't want anyone to forget that she had lost a loved one. The star stirred memories of Alfie Clarkson, Eve's first love, who had also died in the war. Alfie and Mum and Granny—Eve wished she could hang gold stars somewhere to tell the world how much she missed them.

She turned to watch Mrs. Herder and her dog walk up the steps and enter their house and felt a wave of homesickness for the English village of Wellingford, where she'd grown up. Her neighbors had known each other's names and had watched out for each other, their brick and stone cottages sitting shoulder to shoulder as if closing ranks against the outside world, not separated by private lawns and picket fences as they were here in America. The cottage in the village that she'd shared with Granny, and the nearby woods where she'd loved to roam, were the only true homes Eve could recall. But she had needed a new start for herself and Harry after the war, in a place where no one knew the shame of Harry's birth. While she wasn't proud of the way she had maneuvered that fresh start, things had turned out better than she deserved, for both her and her son. They lived with Eve's widowed friend, Audrey Barrett, paying rent every month, and the four of them had become a family of sorts. But if Eve could wish for any gift this Christmas, it would be a home of her own.

Harry wasn't in his usual place, watching for Eve from the front window as she walked up the driveway to Audrey's bungalow. She went inside through the kitchen door, stomping snow off her boots. She pulled off her hat, then smoothed down her hair. "It's snowing again," she told Audrey.

"The boys will be happy about that." Audrey stood at the kitchen stove, mashing a pot of potatoes into gooey submission. "Personally, I don't much like driving in snow."

"We drove our ambulances on some rather slippery roads during the war, remember?"

"At breakneck speed. With bombs falling. But it had to be done."

Eve hung up her coat and followed the happy sound of Harry's voice as he played with Audrey's son, Bobby. She found them sprawled on the rug in the living room, paging through a brightly colored catalogue. The boys were the same age and nearly the same size and might have been twins in their corduroy pants and plaid flannel shirts, except that Harry had ginger hair—a redhead, the Americans would say—and was friendly and talkative and boisterous. Bobby had inherited his father's ebony hair and his mother's shy reserve.

"What has you so charmed that you can't even say hello to your mum?" Eve asked.

"Hi, Mommy." Eve sighed inwardly at her son's American accent and wording. It was her own fault, since she had brought him to the States as an infant. Bobby, having been here for a year and a half, was starting to adopt the same type of speech, but at least he still called Audrey "Mummy."

Harry barely glanced up, as if he might miss something if he looked away for too long. "We're picking out all the toys we want Santa to bring us from the Christmas Wish Book." He pointed to the page, saying, "I want that airplane. Oooh, and that submarine, too! And I want this army truck and this tank and this motorcycle... We could play army, right, Bobby?"

"That would be fun!" Bobby laid his hand on the page for a moment as if claiming territory. "I want all of the trucks on this page—and especially this motorbus!" Harry waited until his friend lifted his hand, then flipped to the next page. "I want this pickup truck. Look, it has lights that really light up! And wow, look at this steam shovel! We could dig holes with it!"

"I want one," Bobby said. "This army jeep has real lights, too!"

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...