“Thanksgiving?” Matthew looked at his wife, standing with both her hands deep in an oversized pumpkin.
“Yup. Puritan tradition – should go down well with a Presbyterian such as you.” She grinned and picked up a second pumpkin.
Matthew raised his brows. “There’s a difference.”
“I’m sure there is. Compared to the Puritans, you Presbyterians are the life and soul of the party.”
Matthew snorted. Discussing theology with his strange time-traveller of a wife was an exhausting endeavour. While surprisingly uneducated about religion and faith, she held strong opinions and tended to be quite vociferous in her condemnation of “narrow-minded bigots” – a definition he sometimes suspected she also applied to him. Not that he considered himself to be a bigot – if nothing else, twenty years with this remarkable woman as his wife had broadened his outlook.
“Party?” he therefore said, ignoring her little jibe. “Are we to have a celebration?”
“A big one, tomorrow.” Alex wiped her hands on her apron. “All of us round one table.” She looked at the kitchen table. “Not sure if we will fit, though.”
“Aye, we will.” He would, at any rate, as no one would dare to take his chair. She would, as he’d never tolerate anyone taking her chair. And as to their bairns, they’d just have to make do on the long benches. “So what are we celebrating?”
“I just told you: Thanksgiving. Major American holiday – even three centuries from now.” Alex nodded at the two plucked turkeys that were hanging from a hook. “God’s gift to all those starving pilgrims who made it across on the Mayflower.”
“Aye.” He smiled at her. “As was the pumpkin pie.”
“Not so sure they had any pie.” She wiped her hands on her apron. “But they were grateful all the same.”
“God takes care of his own,” Matthew said.
“Twenty years ago, I’d have laughed at that statement,” Alex replied. “Now…” She shrugged. “Everything I have is because of Him – and you.”
“Me?” A warm sensation filled his belly.
“You.” She moved towards him. “God I thank for bringing me to you. You, I thank for my life, my kids.”
He tapped her nose. “You should thank the good Lord for that as well, lass.” He brushed a wayward curl off her face. “And aren’t there days when you miss everything you left behind?” She would tell him, at times, of her life in that distant future, a life defined by far more comfort than what he could give her. A life full of things, as Alex herself said, a constant competition to amass more and more. Sometimes, he’d watch her pull on her worn skirts, and there’d be a moment when her hands would linger over her hips, over her thighs, and he knew she was thinking of her “djeens”. Other times, he’d find her singing and dancing in the woods, and sometimes she’d be crying, and he knew it was for the people she’d lost, for a world she would never see again.
“There are days when I’d murder for some chocolate,” she replied, and he shook his head: that wasn’t what he meant. Alex stroked his arm, linked her fingers through his. “Of course, there are. But I can live without what I lost. I couldn’t live without you.”
“Or me without you, lass.”
For an instant, she rested her face against his chest, scrubbing her cheek against the rough fabric of his shirt. He placed his hand on her hair, a silent benediction, an even more heartfelt prayer of thanks to the Lord for having brought him this marvellous gift, this woman without whom his life would have been so devoid of colour and joy.
Alex cleared her throat and straightened up. “So it seems we have a lot of stuff to celebrate, right?”
From outside came a loud holler. Matthew winced at the sound of his youngest daughter’s voice – and even more so at what she was saying.
“Scumbags?” He looked at Alex. “What is a scumbag?”
“Hmm?” she gave him an innocent look. “I have no idea, Mr Graham.”
“Aye, you do.” He was already on his way to the door. “That wee lass needs to have her mouth washed.”
“Rather you than me.”
Matthew yanked open the door and bit back on a curse when a dollop of mud hit him full on the chest.
“What is this?” he roared, and his three youngest sons scurried off, leaving Sarah to face his wrath alone.
“Gratitude, remember?” Alex sneaked her arms round his waist, her voice full of laughter. “Thank God they’re all healthy and full of energy – too much energy at times, but still.”
“Hmph!” But she was right, his wife. Matthew stretched and took in their home, all the way from the house behind them to the sturdy barn, the stables and the huge oak that had pride of place in the centre of the yard. His home, his bairns – albeit that sometimes they were too loud and wild – truly things to be grateful for.
“That doesn’t mean you let her get off with throwing mud at you,” Alex murmured as Sarah took the opportunity to flee, dirty skirts bunched in her hands.
“Oh, I won’t.” He grinned. “Seeing as she enjoys the mud, I’ll set her to repairing the pig sty.”
He disengaged himself from Alex’s arms and strode off to find his daughter, whistling under his breath. The short November day was already shifting into dusk, the air cold enough to carry the promise of frost. Matthew stopped midway across the yard and looked up at the sky, where a fat moon was already visible, a few stars twinkling into existence towards the east. Somewhere up there were his Mam and his Da – and his beloved scamp of a daughter, little Rachel. A short and stunted life, but where once he’d been angry with God for taking her from him, these days he was mostly grateful for having had her for all of four years.
“Thank you,” he said out loud, taking off his hat. “Thank you for everything.” In response, a chilly breeze lifted his hair and tickled the skin of his neck.
Matthew and his Alex are the protagonists of The Graham Saga, which tells the story of Alex Lind, who has the misfortune (or not) of being dragged back through time to a new life, a new world, and a new man. As Alex quickly discovers, life in the 17th century is no walk in the park, being a time of political upheaval and religious persecution – and determined avengers. Adventure follows upon adventure for Alex – from the moors of Scotland to the untamed wilderness of the New World – always side by side with her Matthew, the man she was destined for long before she was born!
All the books in the Graham Saga have been awarded the BRAG Medallion. Several have been HNS Editor’s Choices, and one is an HNS Indie Award Winner.
About the author: Had Anna Belfrage been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Other than her acclaimed time-slip series The Graham Saga, she is also hard at work with a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The second book in the series, Days of Sun and Glory, was published in July 2016.
Anna is a member of the Historical Novel Society, of the Romantic Novelist of Society, of the Alliance of Independent Authors and of the Society of Authors. She reviews regularly for HNS and is an editor for the EHFA (English Historical Fiction Authors) blog.
For more information about Anna visit her website, her blog or her Amazon page. Anna is also on Twitter (@abelfrageauthor) and on Facebook.