The True Gift Chapter One
Liam and I sit on the backseat of Papa’s old car. The car heater isn’t working, so Liam and I share a blanket. We can see our breath in the air.
“How many books did you bring?” whispers Liam.
Liam and I share a worry. Our school closes for ten days, and we’re going to Grandpa and Gran’s house. We always go
there in December, waiting for Christmas and Mama and Papa to come Christmas Day. We worry about not taking as many books as we’ll need.
“I brought fifteen books,” I say.
“I brought thirty-seven,” says Liam.
I burst out laughing.
“Don’t worry, Lily. There is the stone library if you run out.”
Liam runs out of books all the time. Sometimes he reads three chapter books in one day.
We love that stone library, our second home at Grandpa and Gran’s farm.
“The lilac library,” Liam says.
It’s true. No matter what time of year—winter or summer or fall or spring—that library smells like lilacs.
Liam takes a book out of the bag at his feet. I smile. I am three years older than Liam, and I have a sudden sweet memory of teaching him how to read. He was four years old and he grinned for two weeks when he figured out the mystery of words.
“We’ll have snow,” says Papa, looking up at the sky. Liam and I laugh, and Mama laughs too. We call Papa the Weather Man.
And suddenly, as if his words bring it on, snow begins to fall; flakes one by one, slowly at first, then harder. Papa turns on
the windshield wipers, and we watch the back-and-forthing of them.
“I hope the library stays open if it snows,” says Liam.
“That library is always open,” says Mama. “That library has been open ever since I was a little girl.”
We turn into the long dirt driveway to Grandpa and Gran’s house, past the meadow where White Cow turns her head to watch us go by.
“Where’s Rosie?” asks Liam. “Where’s the donkey?”
“Don’t know,” says Mama. “Can’t see her.”
The snow is coming harder now and is
beginning to stick to the road. It is almost dusk.
“Did you bring your money?” asks Liam.
We have worked weekends and after school to earn money for Christmas presents. I babysat for the three Cooper children across the street. Liam and I both mowed lawns and shoveled snow when it came. Once he painted a shed. There are only two stores in Gran and Grandpa’s small town. But that is enough for us to buy presents for everyone.
Liam holds up a red sock with a gray stripe. It is fat with his money.
I smile. The car passes the barn and pulls up to the front porch of the big white house. There are Christmas lights in every window. Gran and Grandpa come out to wave. Their terriers, Emmet and Charlie, bark fiercely at us, then race down the porch steps happily for jumping and licking.
Snow falls harder.