Title: Winter Afternoon
This story is part of the Glimpses of Ben Series.
The bitterly cold wind blew the drifting snow across the village streets. The village's only store had smoke streaming skyward from its chimney. The figure bent over in the wind carried a large bundle. Dressed in a warm parka and mukluks the lone figure trudged up the steps to the front door and butting the door open, entered the store. Inside, the room was warm and dark and lit only by the light from the warming stove in the middle of the store. The shopkeeper sat on a chair close to the stove surrounded by several of the village women who held their children on their laps. The stores occupants turned towards the newcomer in the room. Their dark eyes reflected the light from the warming stoves fire. Without exception their faces turned into smiles as the newcomer put down the bundle and shook off the hood of the parka.
The woman's dark, curly hair framed her face as she smiled back at her friends. She leaned over and began unwrapping the bundle she had carried. Three layers down inside the wrappings a child's head covered in dark curls began to emerge, as the child was unwrapped. Large, blue eyes surveyed the room as the three year old boy held up his arms for his mother. She picked up him and held him close to her chest. Turning around she went to sit in the only vacant chair left in the room.
Several of the other mothers gave her sad looks and shook their heads. It was impolite to stare, but one of them, the youngest, could not help it. She leaned towards her own mother and whispered. "What an ugly child." Caroline Fraser pretended not to hear. Then she brushed her hand along her son's beautiful curled hair and brushed her lips against the curls. She looked up proudly and said, "his eyes are like mine, his hair is like his father's. He will grow straight and strong. In our village he is beautiful."
The young woman, who had called the child ugly, hung her head. She was shamed, her words had been heard and she was guilty of offense.
The curly-haired child watched and his body shook as he heard all the words. His mother thought he was cold and hugged him tightly to her. But the child never forgot, he had been called 'ugly'.