Franky pressed his forehead to the train window and watched the fog from his breath shroud his reflection. A lazy river of farmsteads and villages rolled by, tucked under a cozy layer of snow, but Franky didn’t notice. He could see the reflection of his classmates sitting across the aisle laughing and eating sweets from their overstuffed pockets. His own pocket concealed a bit of leftover biscuit, but he didn’t take it out even though his stomach was chewing on itself. Instead, his hand slipped into his other pocket and wrapped around his greatest treasure in the world: a little silver whistle.
It had arrived in time for Christmas last year, wrapped in a French newspaper and tied with a broken shoelace. The note from Franky’s father said, “To my best young man, Merry Christmas and all my love.”
The whistle made the most lovely, clear sound and Franky blew it so much his mother wouldn’t let him use it in the house anymore. “It makes my ears ring, Franky. Outside only.”
Franky returned to school after the Christmas break, always keeping the whistle in his pocket. He didn’t play with it at school; he liked it to be his secret. He only took it out to look at it when he was alone, and he never blew it.
In April the letter came.
His father had been killed.
Franky was sent home early for the summer break – a bleak, grey fog of condolences and weeping, huddled in the apartment with his mother while the world around them celebrated the end of the horrific war with fireworks and parties. He couldn’t even remember the train back to school in the fall, and the trials and triumphs of the semester had moved around him like scenes sliding past a train window, untouched.
Now he was returning home for Christmas again. The other children chattered about the gifts they hoped to receive and the holiday foods they would enjoy. Franky clutched his whistle more tightly.
When Franky got off the train, his mother was waiting for him. She offered him a weak smile, which he returned with a nod. She took his hand and led him to the car. They didn’t speak on the way home.
When she opened the door to their apartment, Franky was surprised to see that she had set up a small Christmas tree, and there were a few presents under it. He looked at her, and she pulled him into a tight embrace for a long time. Finally, she let go and brushed the tears from her cheeks. “Franky, we have to try. Your father – he would want us to try. Not to give up.”
Franky nodded again. He understood what she meant. That night, after his mother went to bed, Franky crept out of his room and grabbed some newspaper. He carefully wrapped the whistle and tied it with a piece of string. He wrote a note on a little scrap of paper, tucked it under the string. and placed his gift beneath the tree.
“To Mother, with all the love I have left.”
Athena lives and writes in Colorado Springs, where she can look up at the mountains and be reminded of the nearness of God. Hiking, reading, and spending time with her family are her passions. She and her husband, Jon, are actively involved in the Anselm Society, and they also run a ministry for blended families at their church. Whether through fiction, nonfiction or poetry, Athena loves to use words to paint portraits that display the work that God does within each person.