KATE'S RAINY DAY
by Judy Nickles
Five-year-old Kate Forrester sat on the third step from the bottom of the staircase leading to the second floor of her Galveston’ home. It was Saturday afternoon, the time specifically set aside for her family to do something special together—but not today. Today Papa wasn’t coming home early as he usually did on Saturdays. There was a meeting at his office with someone very important who wouldn’t be here tomorrow or the next day and wanted his business concluded right away. So Papa had to stay.
Kate rested her chin on her hands and sighed. Papa wasn’t coming home early, and it was raining, too, so she and Mother couldn’t go out to the market where Isabel had said there was a man weaving Spanish shawls on a loom set up right on the spot. Mother had hinted at a very small, very colorful shawl just Kate’s size.
Now everything was spoiled. Papa wasn’t here, and the rain had imprisoned her in the house. Even Isabel had deserted her—Saturday afternoon being one of her half-days off. Kate sighed again as she considered that sometimes life could be very unfair.
“Why, Kate, whatever are you doing?” Olivia Forrester materialized from the parlor.
“I see. What are you thinking about?”
“That it’s not fair that Papa can’t come home for our special time, and it’s raining so we can’t go out and see the man weaving.”
Olivia sat down on the step below her daughter. “Yes, it’s too bad.”
“I think I feel sad.”
“I’m very sorry, Kate, but it can’t be helped. You know that.”
“I know, but I feel sad anyway.”
Olivia succeeded in hiding her smile. “Well, I feel a little sad, too.”
“Yes, I look forward to your Papa’s Saturday afternoons off as much as you do.”
“Will you and Papa go out for dinner tonight? You always do on Saturdays.”
“I expect so. Are you going to sit here on the stairs all afternoon?”
“I don’t know.”
“You could play with your dolls—goodness knows you have enough of them!”
Olivia shook her head. “If your Papa continues to bring home dolls, there won’t be space for you in your own room!”
“We could read a book.”
“No, thank you.”
Olivia searched her mind. “Well, then, suppose we go upstairs and clean out my armoire?”
Kate frowned. “Clean out your armoire?”
“Yes—that’s the very thing that needs doing, and I’ve been putting it off.” Olivia stood up and held out her hand. “Come along, Kate.”
Kate’s expression just missed a scowl. Cleaning out an armoire didn’t sound like much fun. It didn’t sound like any fun at all. However, she’d been
taught that well-brought-up-little girls didn’t argue, so she rose obediently and slipped her small hand into her mother’s.
In her bedroom, Olivia threw open the doors of the walnut wardrobe. “I have more clothes than I need, even though I leave so many things at the ranch.”
“You have beautiful clothes, Mother.”
“As do you. Your father likes for his ladies to dress well. Here, Kate, you carry all my waists to the bed and lay them out. Perhaps I’ll dispose of some.” She took a silk and lace creation from its place and handed it to Kate.
“This is your very best,” Kate observed, carrying it to the bed. She held it up in front of her and checked her reflection in the full-length oval mirror in the corner.
Olivia turned around. “It’s almost long enough to be a dress for you!”
Kate pirouetted on her toes. “It’s so pretty!”
Olivia’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Here, Kate, let’s put it on you.”
“Take off your dress.” Olivia rummaged in a drawer for her best petticoat, also silk with lace edging.
In a few minutes, Kate had been transformed from a rather sulky five-year-old into a vision of loveliness in white silk and lace.
“It’s almost like Regina when she got married!” Kate caught her breath as she caught sight of herself in the mirror.
“All you need is a veil.” Olivia whipped the lace cover from the round table beside the fireplace and draped it expertly over Kate’s auburn curls. “There—that’s perfect!”
“Oh, yes!” Kate whispered. “Oh, Mother!” She stood transfixed.
“Now, as the mother of the bride, I must be suitably clad also.” She went back to the armoire. “I’ll wear my blue silk.”
Once Olivia was changed, the two sat at her dressing table and inspected the contents of her jewelry case. “Here, Kate, what do you like?”
“Regina wore your pearls,” the child said softly.
“And so shall you!” Olivia fastened them around her neck. “And I’ll choose the sapphire pendant that your father gave me when we married.”
“Before I came.”
“Not so long before,” Olivia laughed. “Now, how do we look?”
“I think so, too!”
“Mother, when I get married, will Papa walk down the aisle with me like Carey walked with Regina?”
“Yes, of course! He’ll be so very proud of you, Kate darling!”
“Papa’s very handsome, isn’t he?”
“Very handsome indeed.”
“He’s the handsomest man in the whole world! And the best Papa, too!”
“He tries very hard to be the best for you.” Olivia gazed at her small daughter with mixed emotions. Kate would be grown up all too soon—a bride in real life. Would she and Dan be here then? She shook the thought away. “You’ll be a beautiful bride, Kate.”
“As beautiful as Regina?”
By the end of the afternoon, the armoire was almost empty, the bureau drawers open and rummaged through, and the bed a shambles—but Kate had been, in turn, a bride, a fairy princess, a fearful witch, and finally, a colorful gypsy. Olivia looked around the room. “Oh, my, Kate, what a mess we’ve made! Your papa will come home and think we’ve been very useless this afternoon!”
Kate, still wearing her bright red petticoat-skirt and wrapped in a multi-colored scarf from Olivia’s trunk, climbed onto the bed and followed her mother’s gaze. “But we’ve done something,” she said slowly. “We’ve done a lot.”
Olivia threw back her head and laughed. “We’ve made a lot of a mess!”
Kate snuggled against her mother. “We’ve played.”
“We’ve certainly done that!”
“Annette’s mother never plays with her. Neither does her nurse.”
“Annette’s mother would never let Annette wear her best waist or petticoats or her pearls.”
“No?” Olivia asked absently, beginning to fold the discarded petticoats.
“No. Annette’s mother makes us play in the nursery, and the nurse won’t let us play with but one toy at a time. And Annette can’t muss her clothes or her hair.”
Olivia glanced at Kate. “Your hair is certainly mussed, but never mind. I’ll brush it when I clear up in here, and you’ll be all ready for Papa.”
“Annette’s mother never brushes her hair. Her nurse does, and she pulls.”
Kate yawned and stretched out among the jumbled garments on the bed. “Mother, did you play with Regina?”
“Well, not as much as I wish, Kate darling.”
“Regina didn’t like to play that much. She liked to be outside with her brothers and her father.”
“You play very good, Mother.”
Thank you, darling. I’ve had fun, too.”
Kate yawned again. “I don’t think I feel sad anymore.”
“Oh, I’m glad, Kate! I feel happier, too!” Olivia walked to the bed and looked down at the little girl’s drooping eyelids. Suddenly hers felt heavy as well, so she lay down and cuddled the child in her arms.
“I love you, Mother,” Kate murmured.
“Oh, Kate, I love you, too! So very, very much!” Olivia closed her eyes and inhaled the warm, clean scent of the small miracle snuggled against her.
Dan Forrester had a fleeting moment of anxiety as he entered the house just at five o’clock and found the downstairs deserted. “Olivia? Kate?” he called. There was no answer. He frowned. It wasn’t like them to be away when he came home. He was accustomed to their immediate appearance whenever he opened the door.
“Olivia? Where are you?” When only more silence answered his call, a knot of fear formed in his chest.
He took the stairs two at a time and rushed to the half-open door of his bedroom, then stopped dead still at the sight of the room strewn with articles of clothing, hats, gloves, and handbags. In the middle of the roomy four-
poster bed, lay Olivia and Kate curled together with their arms around each other.
He caught his breath, still not really sure what had happened, but relieved to see the two people closest to his heart. “Olivia?” he whispered, crossing the carpet.
Her eyes fluttered open. “Oh! Oh, Dan!”
He smiled. “What happened in here?”
She smiled back. “We were playing.”
“Umm.” She turned her head to look at Kate’s small face framed by the varicolored scarf. “This is Madame Fifi Lefloosy. For two shiny pennies she’ll tell your fortune.”
“The two of you are my fortune.” He sat down on the bed and caressed her hair, then Kate’s.
“We felt sad without you this afternoon, so we had to occupy ourselves somehow. Was the meeting successful?”
“Oh, yes. Forbes signed the contract. It will mean a tidy increase in profits.”
“I’m so glad.”
He leaned over and kissed her. “Isabel will be back this evening to look after Kate while we go out for dinner?”
“She said so.”
“Tomorrow afternoon I’ll make it up to Kate.”
“She wanted to go to the market and see the weaver.”
“We’ll do that right after church then.”
Kate stirred. “Papa?”
“Yes, I’m home, Kate precious—or should I say, Madame Fifi?”
Kate rolled over on her back and giggled. “I was a bride and a fairy princess—and a witch, too!”
“Were you, precious?”
“But now I’m Kate again.”
“I think I like Kate best.”
Kate reached to touch his cheek with the tips of her fingers. “Do you know what, Papa?”
“Mother plays very good.”
“Does she now?”
“And you know what else?”
He kissed her fingers. “No, what?”
“You and Mother are my very best friends in the whole world.”
Dan had to look away a moment before he answered. “Thank you, Kate.” He kissed Olivia again. “Perhaps since we’re very best friends, we should all go out to dinner tonight.”
Olivia smiled up at him. “I agree.”
Kate’s head rested against Dan’s shoulder as he carried her upstairs shortly after ten o’clock. “I think Madame Fifi has kept later hours than she’s accustomed to,” he murmured to Olivia.
“I hope she doesn’t fall asleep in church tomorrow.”
“I suppose it won’t scandalize anyone if she does.”
Kate never woke as Olivia slipped her nightdress over her head. Dan drew the covers under her chin. “You are loved,” he whispered in her small ear.
They paused at the door for a last look at their sleeping daughter. “She thinks her Papa is the handsomest man in the world,” Olivia said softly.
“And what does Kate’s mother think?”
“Oh, she agrees wholeheartedly!”
Dan slipped his arm around her shoulders. “Well, I’m the most blessed anyway.”
“We all are,” Olivia murmured. “We are all so very blessed.”
From the journal of Dr. Katherine Bancroft Forrester: My parents were indeed my best friends for as long as they lived. We were content with each other and shared so much joy. As she lay dying, Mother said that she tried to make a new memory for me each day of my life because she knew that, in view of their ages, our time together was limited. Her smile, when I assured her that she had succeeded beyond her wildest dreams, is the best memory of all.