David ground his teeth in frustration. As she’d talked, he’d been able to look beyond Julia’s words and see an eager child always waiting for her parents’ affection and never receiving it. Recalling the love he’d received from his parents and Granny, he realized what a void that must have left in Julia’s heart.
“That’s the main reason I enlisted in the WAC. I was still trying to do something to make them proud of me, but when I notified them about my promotions, they didn’t seem impressed.”
“What was in the letter today that upset you so much?”
“Grandmother is better, so Mother and Dad are taking her on a trip to California. Mother said that she was sure I wouldn’t mind looking after Bobby for a few more weeks. She told me I could stay at Mistletoe or go back to Maryland. In other words, it still doesn’t make any difference to them what I do.”
Although sensitive to Julia’s problem, David wondered momentarily about Bobby’s future. If her parents didn’t want the responsibility of Bobby either, what would happen to the child? His paternal grandparents wouldn’t accept him, so he would grow up feeling the same way Julia did.
“You can stay here,” he assured her. “We’ll help you take care of Bobby.”
Julia moved out of his embrace, and he wiped her tears with his handkerchief.
“No, I won’t stay. Nellie has told me that the roads are sometimes impassable for weeks during the winter. It would drive me crazy to be penned up in this hollow. I’ve learned to love Bobby, and I won’t neglect him. Soon after Christmas I’ll take him back to Maryland and give him the kind of love I’ve always wanted.”
David’s heart swelled at her selflessness, her kindness. He took a deep breath. “I shouldn’t tell you this, but I want you to know that I love you, Julia. I’ve loved you from the first moment I lifted you into my arms in Buffalo Creek and carried you to safety. My love has only grown stronger the more I’ve gotten to know you. So whether you’re in Maryland or in Mistletoe, you can always know that someone loves you—even if it is a poor schoolteacher in the mountains of Kentucky. I can’t promise you anything more than that, but I do love you.”
David was amazed by the change in Julia. Joy spread across her face, and in one quick motion, she was in his arms again. His grip tightened around her.
“Oh, David!” Her voice was muffled against his shoulder. “Thank you.” She pulled back to look at him. “Thank you for telling me. It’s wonderful to know no matter where I am or what trouble I’m having, someone cares about me. I can’t change the past, but with God’s help—and your love—I can face the future.”
Softly she touched her lips to his. He knew instinctively that he shouldn’t respond to her, but David’s love overcame his common sense. His lips brushed her brow and her eyes, which had closed when he pulled her into a tight embrace. He kissed the tip of her nose, and then their lips met in a hungry kiss that lingered until Julia pulled away and buried her head on his chest. Although he knew he couldn’t have a future with Julia, David had sealed his love for time and eternity.