Kristina's hand shook slightly as she ate her breakfast. Barkley breakfasts were still an oddity to her. She had never seen so much food in her life. The second reason for her discomfort was seated next to her; her 46-year-old father, Jarrod Barkley.
4 months before Kristina were born her mother, Beth Barkley had run away and had taken Jaddy, Kristina's brother and the unborn baby to a town called Pinewood. For 12 years they lived there peacefully. The simple, carefree life had ended when Kristina came down with diphtheria 2 months ago. Beth came down with it shortly afterwards.
Kristina's 16-year old brother was eating his eggs with apparent ease. If Uncle Nick's announcement didn't scare him, nothing will, Kristina thought with amusement.
Jarrod Thomas Barkley Jr., affectionately called Jaddy by his sister, was the exact image of his father. He had black hair and blue eyes and a charming grin. But that was where the similarities ended.
While Jarrod had gone to college and became a successful lawyer, Jaddy's education had stopped at the age of ten. Kristina was really the only one out of Jarrod and Beth's children that was smart and more closely resembled her father.
Kristina and Jaddy both had Jarrod's staidness, but Jaddy had more fire in him.
Also while Jarrod wore nicer clothing, Jaddy was content with what his uncles and grandfather wore around the ranch. Jaddy often said he was not Jarrod. That at times was the truth
Jarrod said he loved them both, but Kristina fought that love at first. When he hugged and kissed her before she went to bed and told her that he loved her, Kristina felt like a traitor to her mother's memory in the beginning.
She slowly started to like him and call him "Father," but she didn't know yet if she loved him.
The morning had basically started on Nick's question. "So Pappy, you ready for your birthday tomorrow?" Nick asked.
Kristina nearly choked on her bacon and took a quick drink of milk. She turned to her father. His big hand covered her little one as she was eating.
"Is tomorrow your birthday, Father?" Kristina asked.
"Yes, but I'm not looking for any gifts, Honey. I got my birthday gifts two months ago," Jarrod said, smiling slightly at his daughter.
Kristina blushed, slightly embarrassed by her father's show of affection. When he said things like that Kristina didn't know what to say or think. Everyone would stare at her, expecting her to say something. Kristina stared at her plate and started to eat again.
Jarrod swallowed the lump in his throat. While he and Kristina were talking to each other, there was always coolness in her tone or eyes. His daughter was slowly coming out of her shell, though. But one day I'm going to see her smile at me as she does at Jarrod or her grandmother, Jarrod thought.
Kristina picked up her last piece of bacon and ate it quickly. She grabbed her schoolbooks and stood up, brushing the crumbs off the sleeves of her shirt. She went around the table to Jaddy. She leaned over and kissed his cheek.
"I'm gonna walk out with ya, Sis," Jaddy said, wiping his mouth on his sleeve; a habit that Jarrod hated.
Jaddy walked out with his sister before Jarrod could lecture his son on good manners at the breakfast table. At times my son can be ill-mannered doing that. If he continues to wipe his mouth like that on his sleeve he'll eat outside, Jarrod thought.
"You were awefully rude to Father in there, Sis," Jaddy said, as he helped her saddle her horse Midnight.
"I know, I know Jaddy. It's just that I'm not used to having a father," Kristina said, pulling the reins over the horse's head.
"I thought it was kinda sweet that Father would say that," Jaddy said.
"It is, but it kind of embarrasses me a little when he talks like that. You may like the idea of living as a rich boy, but I'm not used to being rich," Kristina said.
"Why don't you buy Father a gift for his birthday? He says he don't need one, but you can buy him one and see what he says," Jaddy said.
"What would buying a gift prove? It will just give Father another excuse to play the melodramatic and sappy lawyer," Kristina said.
'Well, who knows? You might like getting a gift for him and not mind getting embarrassed," Jaddy said.
"I won't even know what to get him," Kristina said.
"I know what he'd like. You see, the only game that we play is billiards. He usually smokes a cigar. Why don't you buy him a cigar trimmer?" Jaddy asked.
"Would he love that? Really?" Kristina asked.
"I know he would," Jaddy said.
"I guess I can get it later today. I have $50 dollars that Father gave me. I've been saving all the allowances that he's given me since I got here," Kristina said.
"Sounds okay. I'd get to school if I was you. Father would be furious if he knew you was cuttin' Jaddy said, his blue eyes twinkling.
Kristina grinned slightly and pulled herself into the saddle of the horse
Kristina rode into the schoolyard and dismounted. Kristina picked up her schoolbooks and walked into the school eagerly. It was common knowledge that Kristina Barkley loved school and was going to be valedictorian when she graduated lie Jarrod was.
Miss Molton, the schoolteacher, walked up to Kristina. "Hello Kristina. How are you today?" The kindly lady asked.
"I'm all right, Ma'am. Tomorrow is my father's birthday," Kristina said."Oh, that's good. Are you buying him a gift?" Miss Molton asked.
"Yes. I'm buying him a cigar trimmer," Kristina said.
"Are you going to buy it after school?" Miss Molton asked.
"I don't know. I'm going to see if I can buy it during lunch. Maybe I can avoid running into Jaddy, Grandmother, and Aunt Audra. Jaddy told me before breakfast that they had to go to the general store," Kristina said.
Kristina sat at her desk and opened her history book to the first colonies of America.
Kristina sat there, trying to hold her impatience inside. Her biggest dread was if she bought the gift her father would say something. If he said he loved it she could not be as embarrassed as she was this morning.
Then again if he says he loves me and kisses my head, Ill say that I have too much to do and go to Islas del Cielo, Kristina thought.
Islas del Cielo was her favorite place on the ranch. She often went there to think or read. The water was as soft as velvet and twice as warm, as Kristina often stuck her bare feet in the water.
When school let out for lunch Kristina ran out and went to the general store. Kristina pushed a stray lock of her black hair out of her eyes and opened the doors.
An awkward silence filled the air. She was not the only member of the Barkley family there. Aunt Audra, Jaddy, and Grandmother were there buying gifts.
When Kristina entered they stared at each other in uncomfortable silence
Jaddy was the one who broke the silence first. "So Sis, what are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be in school?" Jaddy asked.
"No way, Nimrod. It's lunchtime," Kristina said.
"Are you buying what we talked about in the barn?" Jaddy asked.
"Yes. Are you?" Kristina asked back.
"No. I bought mine yesterday. I'm here for Grandmother and Aunt Audra. Aunt Audra wanted to get a dress for the birthday party for Father tomorrow night," Jaddy said.
"There's going to be a party tomorrow night?" Kristina asked, her face paling slightly. Since Jaddy and Kristina had moved to Stockton, Kristina's temper had gotten her into a few scrapes with the members of the town. Often her temper was provoked about derogatory comments about her mother. Kristina had gotten into a huge fight with a town busybody and Jarrod had gotten upset. She hated to have that happen again.
"Of course there is, Dear. One of us must have neglected to mention it to you. We usually invite our closest friends to every birthday out at the ranch. The reason I came was to buy you a dress," Victoria said, laying her hand on Kristina's thin cheek.
"Grandmother, you don't have to buy me a dress. You and Father have already gotten me a lot of stuff since I got here," Kristina said.
Victoria placed her thin fingers over Kristina's mouth. Don't argue with your letters. Anyway it's a lost cause to. Now what are you doing here?" Victoria asked.
"I'm buying Father's gift?" Kristina said.
"Do you need any money to purchase it?" Audra asked.
"No Aunt Audra. I've saved all the allowances that Father gave me since David's trial. I have about $50.00 saved up," Kristina said.
"What are you buying for him?" Audra asked.
"Sorry. Wish I could tell you, Aunt Audra and Grandmother, but you have to wait until tomorrow. I want it to be a surprise. But Jaddy did say that he'd love anything I got him," Kristina said.
"He would, but Kristina if I were you I'd go back to the schoolhouse now. You can buy the gift after school. If you're late coming home, I'll tell Jarrod that you are running a family errand," Victoria said.
"Thanks Grandmother!" Kristina said.
She ran out of the store and rushed back to the school before the bell rang.
When school let out at 3:00, Kristina ran all the way to the general store to purchase Jarrod's gift. The store was almost empty. Mrs. Whitehall was helping a young man in a fancy linen suit.
Mrs. Whitehall looked over in Kristina's direction.
"Kristina, Victoria said that you would be back for your father's gift," Mrs. Whitehall said.
"I'm just looking for the gift. You can help that man out. He was here first," Kristina said politely.
Eugene Barkley was surprised at the politeness of the girl in front of him. He found himself staring at Kristina as she examined the cigar trimmers in front of her.
"Mrs. Whitehall, who's the girl?" Eugene asked.
"Mr. Barkley, that's your brother Jarrod's little girl," Mrs. Whitehall said.
"That's Jarrod's little girl? The resemblance to Jarrod is amazing!" Eugene exclaimed.
"Didn't you know that Jarrod had another child?" Mrs. Whitehall asked.
"Mother wrote and told me, but I didn't believe here," Eugene said.
Eugene stared at Kristina a little longer. She picked out a cigar trimmer with a marble-white handle. She walked over to the counter and laid it down.
Mrs. Whitehall approached Kristina and helped her prepare Jarrod's gift.
"Mrs. Whitehall, can I have this engraved?" Kristina asked.
"Of course. What do you want engraved on it?" Mrs. Whitehall asked.
"My father's initials J.T.B.," Kristina said.
Mrs. Whitehall took the engraving pen and put Jarrod's initials on the gift. Mrs. Whitehall then handed the gift to Kristina.
"How much do I owe you?" Kristina asked.
"$20.00," Mrs. Whitehall said.
Kristina pulled out the money and laid it on the counter.
"Mrs. Whitehall, is there a place in town where I can gift-wrap it?" Kristina asked.
"You can gift wrap it at the dressmaker's across the street," Mrs. Whitehall said.
"Thank you Mrs. Whitehall,"" Kristina said, pushing a lock of black hair behind her ear.
Kristina ran out of the store to the dressmaker's. Eugene following. She turned to Eugene. "Yes?" Kristina asked.
"May I escort you to the dressmaker?" Eugene asked.
"Why?" Kristina asked.
"Because your father would break my arm if I let you get hurt," Eugene said.
"Why would he do that?" Kristina asked.
"Because I'm your Uncle Eugene," Eugene said.
Eugene escorted her into the shop and both watched the dressmaker wrap Jarrod's gift.
When Kristina and Eugene arrived at the ranch it was past dinnertime. Kristina handed her gift to Silas before she went into the billiard room.
Uncle Heath was playing pool against Jarrod, Jaddy, and Uncle Nick. Uncle Eugene waited outside the room, as a part of a surprise greeting.
Kristina picked up a cuestick and on her father's turn, struck the eight ball in the corner pocket.
"Kristina!" Jaddy exclaimed.
Jarrod Barkley turned to his daughter, amusement and disgust written all over his face. Jarrod reached out and cupped his hands on both sides of her face.
"Kristina Elizabeth Barkley, where were you?" Jarrod asked.
"Out for awhile running an errand. Didn't Grandmother tell you, Father?" Kristina asked innocently.
I expected you to be home in time for dinner, young lady," Jarrod said, his tone sharp.
Kristina flinched slightly at her father's tone. Yep, he's still angry at me for what happened at that reception a few weeks ago, Kristina thought.
It was at a party for one of Jarrod's lawyer friends that Jarrod was angry with her for. It was at this party that Kristina had gotten into a huge fight with a member of town.
Kristina had stood at the punchbowl in that room and heard every word that sounded like slander to her young ears.
"I don't know why Jarrod Barkley brings those two children of his to this party," Mrs. Emberly said.
"Because they are his children and you know the Barkleys. When a friend get's honored they are the first to celebrate it," Mr. Bromley said.
"Oh please. Beth Barkley didn't teach those two brats any manners. No decent girl would stand in a court of law and yell like a lawyer," Mrs. Emberly said.
That was when Kristina got angry. Kristina yelled and managed to stop every conversation in the room. By the time her anger had run out Kristina looked at her father.
Jarrod's blue eyes were cold like ice and his mouth was thin and hard. The disappointment in her father's eye hurt, so Kristina ran out and hid on the porch for the rest of the evening.
"It was not my fault! Uncle Eugene and I didn't leave the town until 5:00!" Kristina protested, coming back to the present.
As soon as she said it, she clapped her hand to her mouth in shock. "Eugene? He's here?" Victoria asked.
"We wanted to surprise you, Grandmother," Kristina said.
"Well, get him in here, Girl," Nick said.
"Wait a moment. Father, are you angry with me for being late? I was with a member of the family," Kristina said.
"No. I'm not angry. I was just worried about losing you. I lost you once before you were born. I didn't want to lose you again," Jarrod said.
Kristina turned away from her father and walked to the billiard room door. She opened it and smiled at Eugene. Inwardly she was breathing a sigh of relief that Jarrod was not angry with her. That incident at the party had already put her on Jarrod's bad side for a week. She didn't want to be in that position again.
"Jarrod don't worry! I took real good care of Kristina! After going to the dressmaker's I drove her home!"Those were Eugene Barkley's first words to his big brother when Jarrod greeted him.
"I know, Baby brother. I know. I just worry about her sometimes. Since she's been here, she's been sick, kidnapped and beat up. She's like her Uncle Heath gets into trouble a lot,"Jarrod said, his eyes twinkling at his
Kristina grinned back at her father, then switched her gaze to her Uncle Eugene.
"Is it my fault that I get into trouble a lot? I can't help I'm a walking disaster,"Kristina joked.
"Sis, don't tease like that. Remember what Mama used to say. If you say things like that bad things will happen to you,"Jaddy said, laying his cuestick on the table.
"Well she was right. I shouldn't tease like that,"Kristina said.
Eugene took a look at his oldest nephew.
"Is that Jarrod? You couldn't be my youngest nephew. He was a kid who liked to make mud pies in your Grandmother's rose garden,"Eugene said.
Jaddy grinned at his uncle's words.
"It's me Uncle Eugene. And I still like playing in the mud. I work outside a lot. Tomorrow I have to break a horse even though Uncle Nick's growling at me not to,"Jaddy said, teasing his dark-haired uncle.
"Jarrod Barkley, I don't growl!"Nick exclaimed.
"Of course you do Uncle Nick. Like a bear,"Jaddy teased, his face a mirror of innocence.
Everyone was practically choking trying not to laugh at Jaddy's teasing.
Kristina took a deep breath and turned to her father.
"Father I have some errands to do up in my room and then I'll join Silas in the kitchen for dinner. You might not see me until Breakfast so I'll say goodnight now,"Kristina said.
"Well then, good night, Honey,"Jarrod said, brushing his daughter's forehead with his lips. Kristina reached up and kissed his cheek gently.
She said good night to everyone and left them to their cigars and brandy. She ran to the kitchen, collected Jarrod's gift from Silas, and ran up the back kitchen stairs to her room.
Jarrod's 45th birthday came on a sunny September day in 1891. Kristina woke up early, put on a yellow dress, and grabbed her gift.
She put the cigar trimmer in the deep pocket of her dress and skipped down the stairs.
When she entered the dining room, the table was covered with gifts. Kristina laid hers next to a big package, and slid into her seat that was next to her father's.
Jarrod was too busy to notice when Kristina entered the room. He was laughing with his son, when Kristina sat down.
Kristina bit her lip nervously, when the rest of the family entered the room. Victoria smiled warmly at Kristina, while Tom's whiskers brushed Kristina's cheek gently.
Victoria called the room to order and Jarrod started to open all of his gifts. Jaddy's was first.
Jarrod gently pulled out a new string tie, while his son had a smug look on his face.
"Jarrod, are you teasing me?" Jarrod asked.
"Father I wouldn't do that. I was only remembering the last gift I got you before Mama found out about Kristina coming and we left. How's this for a memory, 'Does Papa like?" Jaddy asked, his voice breaking.
"Yes, Little boy, Papa likes," Jarrod said, taking his son in a big embrace, while tears rolled down Jarrod's face into Jaddy's hair.
One by one Jarrod opened each gift, until the only gift on the table was Kristina's gift. Kristina's heart nearly stopped as her father was handed the gift and he started to open the gift.
Jarred pulled at the delicate paper covering the gift carefully. He opened the small box it was in and pulled out some tissue paper.
The marble of the cigar trimmer glowed like a moon in the Barkley dining room. Kristina held her breath for a long moment as her father turned the gift over in his hands.
Heath, Nick and Tom leaned over to stare at the gift.
"Boy howdy, that's the prettiest cigar trimmer I've ever seen!" Heath exclaimed.
Kristina blushed, red as a tomato over her Uncle's praise.
"Who got this? I don't see a name on it," Nick asked.
Kristina stared at her father's obvious delight with the gift.
The rest of the family denied getting the gift.
Kristina took a deep swallow and opened her mouth. "Father, I got it," Kristina said, in a tight restricted voice.
Jarrod looked surprised at his youngest daughter."Kristina you got this gift?" Jarrod asked.
"Yes Sir. I got it last night after school. That's why I was late," Kristina said, timidly.
"Kristina, why did you get me a gift? I said yesterday that you were the birthday gift I received two months ago," Jarrod said.
"I know, but I wanted to get you a gift. Jaddy got you a gift you liked. I wanted to do the same. You hate it, don't you?" Kristina asked.
"Honey, I don't hate it. It's very beautiful," Jarrod said.
He laid his hand on her thin shoulder.
"If you don't like it, I can return it," Kristina said.
"You don't have to do that, Honey. I love it. It must of cost you a lot," Jarrod said.
"Don't worry, I save all the allowances you gave me so I had enough. Then also Uncle Eugene insisted on paying for the gift wrapping at the dressmaker's shop," Kristina said.
Jarrod laid the gift aside and kissed his daughter's head. Jarrod unwrapped the rest of the gifts, and then they ate breakfast.
Later that night after Jarrod's party, Kristina walked into her father's study. He was seated at his desk, smoking a cigar.
"Father, can I talk to you?"Kristina asked.
Jarrod looked up at his daughter. The creme-colored silk dress she wore showed off her tanned skin. He smiled at her as she perched on the edge of his desk.
"I guess you can,"Jarrod said.
"Have you used the cigar trimmer yet?"Kristina asked.
"Yes actually I have,"Jarrod said.
"Do you like it?"Kristina asked.
Of course I do. You didn't come in here to just talk about the gift, did you?"Jarrod asked.
"Yes Father. Did you really like it? Or were you just trying to not make me look like an idiot in front of the family?"Kristina asked, timid as a kitten.
"Kristina I loved your gift. You put a lot of effort into getting it. You risked even my anger to purchase it. When I said I loved it, I loved it,"Jarrod said.
"I guess I still feel a little shy around you. I hope you're not hurt by that,"Kristina said, quietly.
"I'm not. This could take us a year for you to get used to living with me. But no matter how long it takes, I'll still be your father and I'll always love you. As much as I love your mother and also your brother,"Jarrod said.
"I almost didn't buy you a gift. I felt embarrassed by you yesterday. I'm sorry," Kristina said.
"It's all right. I've forgotten that 12-year-olds get embarrassed easily. I just love you so much I want everyone to know it," Jarrod said.
Kristina blushed again. While she felt flattered, she also felt she loved her father also for the first time ever.
Kristina and Jarrod hugged each other. Kristina's tears flowed freely down her face and onto her father's linen-gray jacket.
"I love you, Father," Kristina whispered into his ear for the first time. Kristina looked up into Jarrod's eyes and saw the pleased expression on his face.
"I love you too, Honey," Jarrod said, throwing his arms around her shoulders and hugging her again.
In the years to come the gift that Kristina Barkley got for her father for the first year she lived with him, became a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation of all the Barkley males. And each man of the family that got it was told the story of Kristina Barkley's gift of love to her father so long ago.
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