At Last... Margreet!

Author:Alie Vogelaar
ISBN:978-0-9670728-4-5
Pages:123
Retail Price:$10.95
Grade Level:6-9

Margreet Series:

From the Back Cover:
Margreet is back again from Canada and, for the time being, lives at home with her parents.

She knows now what kind of work she wants to do. However, before she gets that far, she has many difficult moments to overcome, especially because of her extremely private character.

What happens, and how everything is resolved, is contained in this third book in the Margreet series.



Chapter 1

“Are you glad you’re home again, Mar?” Rianne asked, looking at her questioningly with her big eyes. Margreet pulled her close.

“Of course, Rianne.”

“I am, too,” her little sister said, nodding. “There was no one to tell me a story.”

Margreet chuckled. “You can read a little yourself now, can’t you, Rianne?”

Her little sister pulled up her nose. “Your stories are much nicer.” She stood there reflecting as she looked at her big sister. “We’re all happy that you’re home,” she said once more, and Margreet understood that this was to further explain her first comment.

Margreet got a lump in her throat. She wondered why Rianne had come to tell her this with so much emphasis. At times, children can be so observant. Or had she noticed something? Maybe she had heard a couple of words from her parents? She was getting to be quite wise. She stroked her youngest sister’s long, blonde hair and asked, “Exactly how old are you now, Rianne?”

“Don’t you even know? I’m almost seven already!” Margreet had to laugh at her big eyes and offended look.

“Oh, of course, but do you know what, Rianne? If you’ve been away for so long, you really have to think about certain things again. While I was in Canada, I nearly forgot how old you already are. I think it’s because it seems like such a long time to me, even though it was only half a year. I saw so much while I was there, and so many things have happened.”

“A half year is a long time, isn’t it? Verrrry long.” Rianne nodded again, especially to emphasize the last part. “Mama said that once, too, and one time when you sent her a letter, she said, ‘Finally another letter from Mar.’ Everyone was allowed to read it, and then Mama read part of it aloud to me, too. I couldn’t read your letters very well yet, because your writing is different from our reading book. Wim said once that it’s just chicken scratch. But they were real letters, weren’t they, Mar? Or did Wim say that just because he couldn’t read it very well either?”

“I think so,” Margreet said, grinning. It was so humorous to listen to Rianne tell everything so frankly, but then suddenly her sister’s attention was diverted. She had seen a friend through the window.

“Oh, there’s Susan. We’re going to play ball for a while.” Off she went. Margreet watched her run out to the shed. A little later the two girls were bouncing balls against the wall.

Margreet went to her room. It was all so very much as it had been six months before, just as if she hadn’t even been gone. She looked out the window and noticed how small and close together everything seemed to be. It was really noticeable after a person had become accustomed to the spaciousness of Canada for six months. Behind the house was the shed with the square patch of ground beside it, now brown and bare, and the prickly hedge surrounding it.

Behind that was the neighbors’ piece of property, then the rows of houses of the village, and in the distance the sharp outline of the dike that ran like a protective arm around the village. It was all so familiar. It really seemed as if she had never been away, or that she had suddenly awakened from a long dream. However, it had not been a dream, those six months in Canada. Because so much had happened in that time, it seemed much longer, and it had given her the feeling that she was suddenly much older. What a child she still had been when she hung her schoolbag on the flagpole outside the window, a half year ago!

Now she was back in Holland again. She felt tired and spent after the long trip and the emotions of the last few days. How was it going with Ralph? Well, I must not worry. She didn’t want to think about it now. It was just as well, as she knew that it could not be any other way. And yet, deep in her heart, there was a gnawing pain, an emptiness. After all, Ralph had been a good friend.

Her thoughts drifted back to the evening when Uncle Hans and Aunt Riek had unexpectedly come up with the idea of her going along with them to Canada for six months.* She had not known at the time what she wanted to do after her exams; and Aunt Riek, with her six children, could use some extra help when they would arrive in the new country.

It had been an enjoyable stay in Canada. Margreet had done a little bit of everything, like housekeeping and babysitting for Aunt Riek, and occasionally, she had even been a gardener and farmhand.

She had worked part-time in a floral shop and, after that, in a home for handicapped children, where she really enjoyed it. This work had given her so much satisfaction. Then, there had been also the occasional outings with Ralph, who wanted to show her something of Canada. It was just too bad they had such extremely different opinions. She had decided, however, not to brood over it, and her family must not know anything about it either. That was something she would keep hidden deep inside.

With a sigh Margreet turned around. She would first go and help serve coffee. She heard Willie call Rianne inside to get ready for bed. It was difficult for her to fall back into the old routine again. She set the milk on the stove and put the cups on a tray. In the meantime she tried to answer Willie’s questions. Willie thought it very interesting that her sister had been so far away.

A little later they were all sitting around the table, eating cake and drinking steaming cups of coffee. There was lemonade for the two youngest. The pictures were spread out in the middle of the table, just as they had been the evening before, and they were examined closely again. Margreet told them about everything - how the days went in Uncle Hans and Aunt Riek’s family, and about the farm. Yes, they even had some acres with real woods. “You could never imagine how much open space they have,” she told Jan, who was listening wide-eyed. He was still so interested in everything that had to do with farm-life. She told them about her work in the floral shop, about the children in the children’s home, and about the trips through that enormous land.

Yes, she had seen nice things in Canada, in particular Toronto and Niagara Falls, and she had taken trips through scenic areas with countless lakes.

“Whom did you go with, then? You didn’t go alone, did you?” Father asked.

“No, of course not. Once we went with the whole family to Niagara Falls, but most of the time I went with the neighbors, who knew where to find nice places.”

“What kind of people are they?”

“Polish, I think.” Margreet didn’t want to go into it any further, so she picked up a picture of the children’s home. “Look, here in the corner is the room where I usually worked. There were four boys in the room, from eight to ten years old.” She also had a couple of pictures of the children. She talked about them enthusiastically. Rianne sat looking at them with big eyes.

“Mar,” she pressed on, “are all those children sick?”

Margreet shook her head. “No, but their mothers cannot take care of them because they can’t walk or talk. Some of them can’t see or hear either, and some can hardly sit. Then they have a special wheelchair, see?” She talked on and on about this and that and everything else, but she made sure she didn’t mention Ralph’s name. This she kept to herself.

“Did you have any friends?” Willie asked suddenly. “There aren’t any on the pictures.”

“Oh, yes, I went to some youth group meetings. There were two girls who came to pick me up.”

“Did you go anywhere with them?”

“No.” Margreet hesitated for a moment. “They lived quite a distance. You have no idea how far away everything is over there. Some people have to drive for more than an hour to get to church, but you get used to that. Come, I will bring Rianne to bed. It must be her bedtime, right?” She looked at her mother, who nodded.

“Yes, why don’t you do that? She has had to miss her bedtime stories for so long.” Margreet laughed and heaved a sigh of relief when she got upstairs. Boy, it’s hard when you have to watch everything you say and have to avoid mentioning certain names. I will have to be very careful. (Mother had already looked so inquisitively at her.) Mother... What would be wrong with her?

“She’s not feeling well,” Father had said when he called. She was so tired and didn’t look well. What did he mean by “not well”? Margreet felt a vague sense of uneasiness. No, she must not immediately think the worst, although that was understandable after all that she had gone through with Tineke. *

Rianne was quickly finished with undressing and washing herself and now lay anxiously waiting for her story. Margreet told about the raccoon that had tried to open her window, and how they had caught him with a cage.

“Did that really happen, Mar?”

“Yes, that really did happen.”

“Do they bite?”

“Oh, yes, they can bite. You must not tease them, but keep your distance. They are fun to watch though.”

Rianne had a lot more questions, but Margreet had to put an end to it. “It’s time, Rianne, otherwise you will not be able to get out of bed tomorrow morning and will be late for school. Just think what the teacher will say.”

“Oh, she knows that you just came back from Canada, and I will tell her everything.”

Margreet chuckled. “You’re a little smarty, but now I have to say goodnight. See you in the morning.”

Margreet stood in front of the window. The sky was so somber and gray. When she thought about the clear, blue sky in Canada.... Of course, they occasionally had rain there, too. Rain? It could better be called a downpour, but then a couple of hours later the sun would be shining beautifully again! It had really been nice by Uncle Hans and Aunt Riek. Living with them for a while had also been a good solution for her after she had finished her exams. After all, she really hadn’t known what she wanted to do after graduation. And now? Do I know now? I did enjoy working with handicapped children in the children’s home. Will I be able to do something like that here?

Margreet didn’t have to make a decision yet, because she was needed at home first. How long though? That was still very uncertain. She had to talk with Father sometime. With all the activity, she hadn’t had the chance yet. She wanted to know what the doctor had said about Mom. Then she would know, at least, what she was dealing with. She yawned. Should I go to bed already? She looked at her watch: ten o’clock. It’s only four o’clock in the afternoon in Canada. It’s actually not time to go to bed yet. I still have to get used to the time difference. She heard the telephone downstairs.

“Mar!”

For me? Who could it be? She ran down the stairs.

“Hi, Margreet? Back in the old fatherland again?”

“Oh, yes. Hi, Rik. Yes, I’m back again. I got back the day before yesterday. How did you know?”

“The grapevine still works very well over here. How was your stay in Canada?”

“Oh, it was nice.”

“I hope to come home Saturday. Do you have an hour or so for me in the afternoon?”

“What for?”

“What for? What kind of question is that? To talk... look at your pictures, maybe. Do you have any pictures?”

“Y... yes... of course... but....”

“But what?”

“I’m so busy. Mother is sick, and uh....”

“Well, if I’m not welcome, then you can tell me right away.” Rik’s voice sounded sharp. Margreet sought desperately for a good excuse. I don’t want to be rude, but I can’t talk with him... not now... no, I can’t do that yet.

“Maybe another time.” Her voice trembled a little.

It remained silent on the other end of the line. Then Rik answered slowly, “I’ll wait until you call me. Then you can decide for yourself when you have some time. Okay?”

“Okay... goodbye, Rik.” Margreet heaved a sigh of relief as she hung up the phone. Peering around the door, she quickly said goodnight to her parents. To avoid any questions, she went upstairs immediately. But, once in bed, sleep would not come.

Rik... I’m surprised he still called. Lately, we haven’t written to each other very much, and to be truthful, I didn’t think about him very often in Canada either, especially not after I met Ralph.

Now it appeared that Rik was still thinking about her. As soon as he heard that she had come home unexpectedly, he went to the phone right away. Was it wrong of me to brush him off like that? We can still be good friends. That’s what we’ve been all these years, but I may not give him false expectations. Rik wanted it to be more than just friends, she sensed that, but it wouldn’t be possible. She thought he was nice, but with Ralph it had been totally different. If Rik only knew....

Margreet tossed and turned. She was so tired and yet sleep would not come. She lay there staring into the darkness. All kinds of thoughts came back to her, of her and Ralph in Toronto, walking along Lake Ontario, and then suddenly of her standing with Rik by Tineke’s casket. He had understood her fear so well. Then there was the ride in the rowboat with Ralph. They had talked together so often, but Ralph had understood very little of what she had said. But then there also had been the last bike ride together with Rik. At that time she had felt so close to him. Then her thoughts went back to Ralph, and she saw him when he came to look at Uncle Hans’s sick cow. She thought he would probably become an excellent veterinarian.

But Rik had come breathlessly running into the Schiphol airport when Margreet had left to go to Canada. It had been at the last moment, but he wanted to say goodbye to her. He had not liked it at all that she was going to Canada. And Ralph? He had looked so shocked when she told him that she would be going back to the Netherlands in another week.

Rik-

Ralph-

Margreet heard Father and Mother go to bed. If only she could sleep now and forget everything for a while. Her head was spinning. Finally she dozed off, but then suddenly she was wide awake again. Ralph was looking at her with big, accusing eyes: “Margaret, you don’t mean that!” It couldn’t go any differently, Ralph, really....

Now she saw Rik again with his honest, boyishly jolly face, and she heard the hurt in his voice this evening. “I will wait until you call me, Margreet.” She knew him well enough to guess that he would keep his promise, but she also knew that she would not call him. Finally, exhausted, Margreet fell asleep.