Mail Order Carol by Elissa Strati

Prologue

Carol

Carol Schulz was a toddler when she was brought to Our Lady of Mercy Home for Girls by a frazzled neighbor. Carol’s father and mother had died in one of the epidemics and the woman already had six children of her own and could not feed another. The nun who entered her information into the register noted: “Father-Thomas Schulz, dockworker; Mother-Clara Wittheimer Schulz, homemaker.”

Usable clothing and diapers were boiled and disinfected for use and everything else burned. Carol was rushed off to a warm bath—the first she had ever had, not that she remembered—and kept isolated with other survivors from this current scourge until it was determined she was not ill. No note was made of what epidemic, Carol discovered, when she was old enough to be curious.

When she was eight, Sister Evangeline Flanagan had given her a Bible. It was old and rather shabby, but when Carol opened the flyleaf she found her mother’s name, the date of her marriage, and the date of Carol’s birth, carefully printed. She had also written, “My Christmas Carol.” Tracing her finger over the names, she moved her lips as she whispered them to herself.

“Thank you, Sister,” she had said, politely, and then, putting the Bible down on the desk carefully, she had jumped up and thrown her arms around the nun’s neck. Many of the children who came to the orphanage were foundlings, but she had had a family!

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