The phone rang and they both jumped. Jack! Sara answered the call with a breathless hello.
"Oh, Sara, I'm so glad you're home. It's Father Jeffries. I need your help."
Father Jeffries? Sara's expectations crashed. She was sure she'd hear Jack's voice on the line. She caught David's eye and shook her head.
"Hello, Father Jeffries. What can I do for you? Surely Midnight Mass is canceled. I doubt anyone will venture out in this weather."
"Oh, of course we canceled Midnight Mass. It's too dangerous out there." The old priest sounded frazzled.
"What have you heard, Father? Are the bridges still open?"
"As far as I know they're open, but the roads are horrendous. That's why I'm calling. You see, Sara, I have a family here in need of assistance."
"Oh?" He had her complete attention. "What can I do to help?"
"An Eastham mother and her two children were on their way to Brockton to celebrate the holiday with family. The storm was well underway before they could leave. The mother had to work today. She's a nurse on the day shift at some nursing home down there." He paused to take a breath. He tended to ramble and lost his way in even simple conversations. She waited for him to continue.
"The snow's not too bad further down the Cape," he went on, "and she thought she could make it in her Volkswagen Bug, but as soon as she got to Hyannis the car broke down, perhaps the alternator gave way, or the starter, or something, you know I understand little about these mechanical things. Anyway, I was on my way back from my hospital rounds when I happened upon them, and I couldn't just leave them there on the side of the road."
"Of course not."
"I drove them to a phone booth to call for a tow truck but they're all busy plowing the roads. No one would come out for their car for hours. So, I brought them back to the rectory with me, but I can't keep them here overnight. It wouldn't be proper. So, I'm calling around to find out if one of you innkeepers can take them in. You're the last on my list, Sara. I would be happy to pay you."
Sara knew Father Jeffries had a flair for the dramatic, still, she was breathless following his story. There was only one answer.
"Of course, I can accommodate them. Oh, those poor dears. What a terrible night to be stranded. And on Christmas Eve. I can have a room ready in minutes. And I'll accept no money, Father, not a penny."
"Sara, you're an angel," he exclaimed. "I'm so relieved. I'll bring them there right away."
"That will be fine, Father."
"And how is everything with you? I trust everyone is home safe and sound."
"I'm afraid not, Father. Jack had to go to New York for a legal matter and hasn't come home yet. That's why I asked about the bridges. I heard they might close."
"Sara, are you alone?"
"No, my son David is here with his girlfriend, Anne. We're waiting for Jack. He should be home shortly."
"Well, I'm sure he's taking it very slowly. I will say a quick prayer for his safe return. Now, I must tell this little family the news. The mother will be so thankful. She's a widow. Did I mention that?"
"No, Father, the poor woman." She pitied the young mother she had yet to meet.
"It's an awful story, a sad story. I'll let her give you the details. Right now, I need to see them settled for the night. I'm expected to dine at a parishioner's home within the hour, and I can't have them tagging along. See you momentarily." He hung up.
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