Royal peered out the window, barely able to see between the rivulets of water running down the pane. “Maybe it’s someone lost in the storm? Or now that he’s out of town, he can’t see to go on.”
“But whoever would start out in a night like this?”
“Maybe it’s thieves who just robbed a bank and need a place to hide out,” said Bluette.
“Just the thing we need to hear,” Mother said in a sharp, reproving tone.
A white zigzag arced across the heavens. “It’s a two-tone,” Bluette announced. “Light body, dark top.”
Royal had gotten a good look, too. “It’s a ‘56 Olds 88 — you can tell by the grille. It has one of those new Rocket V 8 engines,” he said with a superior air. He poked his sister. “Light and dark! You don’t know anything about cars.”
Bluette stuck her tongue out. “It’s cream with a tropical green roof, just like Uncle Nolan’s car. Who cares about engines? I do hope it’s them.”
“Yes,” Mother exclaimed with delight as the vehicle came to a halt near the front door. “It is Uncle Nolans.” She hurried to the door with the children right behind her.
The passengers spilled out of the car and dashed for the sheltering porch. Mother flung the door open. “Come in, come in!” she urged. “What brings you out in this storm?”
“Oh, just thought it would be a good time to pop in for a visit,” Uncle Nolan said as he peeled off his wet coat. “With the lights flickering off and on, we thought the electricity might go out altogether and things would get chilly at our place. Then, of course, we thought of you folks with your nice warm fireplace and decided that’s where we’d rather be if we have to sit in the dark.”
“I hope you don’t mind us coming over,” Aunt Stacey added. “I thought with Tom gone you might appreciate a little company on this miserable night anyway.”
“Oh, yes, we do!” Royal said as he helped hang their jackets over the kitchen chairs to dry.
Mother gave everyone a big hug, even Uncle Nolan. “Your timing is perfect,” she said. “Someone was just speculating that the house would be struck by lightening,” Mother gave Bluette a meaningful look, “while someone else was predicting a tornado would blow us half way across the country. You folks can help put paid to such gloomy thoughts.”
“My word! Well, I must say some thoughts like that were bouncing around at our house, too,” Aunt Stacey admitted, glancing at her own children. “So maybe we can cheer each other up.”
“We should make hot chocolate for everybody,” Bluette suggested.
“Yeah, and popcorn, too,” Azure added. She looked at her cousin Caroline, who nodded enthusiastically.
“That’s a great idea,” Mother said. “But, Royal, you need to bring in some more wood in case the power does go off.”
Royal grabbed a flashlight from the shelf beside the stove and turned to his cousin Michael. “Want to help me split some kindling and bring in the wood?”
“Sure, let’s get at it,” his teenage cousin replied.
“I’m so glad you came,” Bluette said to her cousin Darlene, who was the same age as her.“You’ve saved me from a really tough slog,” she added as the girls wandered back into the living room.
“Like what?” Darlene asked.
“Mom was just saying I had to write a letter to Great Aunt Opal thanking her for the handkerchiefs she sent. Did you get some for your birthday, too?” She rolled her eyes. “It’s hard to write some gushy ‘Thank you’ for a gift you’ll never use.”
“You know, Bleet, I found a really good use for Aunt Opal’s hankies. I use them for bookmarks.”
Bluette stared at her. “Bookmarks?”
“Yeah. I fold them up and iron them so they’re really flat and use them to mark my place. That way I don’t have to leave books cracked open like this.” She pointed to the book Bluette had left on the arm of the chair. “Then I can write and tell Aunt Opal that I’ve found her handkerchiefs ‘really useful.’ And everybody’s happy.”
“You know, that’s not such a bad idea.” Not being as neat and organized as Darlene, she’d have never thought of it herself. “At least it’ll give me something to say when I write her.”
She picked her book off the arm of the chair. “I’m really glad you all came over. Have you ever read Wuthering Heights?”
“Yes. Isn’t Heathcliffe a heartless brute!”
Soon Michael and Royal were carrying in armloads of firewood, Uncle Nolan was stoking the fire and the aroma of hot chocolate was scenting the air. Before long the corn was popped and everyone was sitting around by the fireside enjoying the visit even if the lights were apt to go off at any moment.
“Hey, everybody. Wouldn’t it be neat if the electricity did go off and we get to sit here in the dark?” Royal asked in between mouthfuls of popcorn. He grinned at Michael.“That’d make the evening just perfect.”