Day One Hundred Twenty Five
“Let them knock,” I said. “How important can it be?”
“You never know.” He kissed me and pulled on his shirt, covering up the scars on his chest. “Go back to sleep if you like.”
“No, I need to check on my horse and feed the animals. It should’ve been done hours ago.”
While I padded to my room, wrapped in a quilt, he went to the door. It was only Rachel. When I came into the kitchen a few minutes later, she was sitting at the table talking about chicken ailments while Charles set some coffee to boil. She smirked when she saw me, still sleepy-eyed and braiding my hair at such a late hour. She looked from Charles to me, and back again, but only asked how Flecha was doing.
“Much better,” I said. “I bet she’ll be ready to travel again in a few days.”
“But of course you’re going to be conservative and wait to make absolutely sure,” Charles said.
After we had our coffee, Rachel and I went to the barn. She didn’t comment on the fact that no chores had been done, and pretended like it was the most ordinary thing in the world for the stalls to not be mucked out and there be no fresh hay or water, even though the sky had already turned from gold to blue.
As we led Flecha outside, Rachel said, “I heard you went to the festival yesterday. Did you have a good time?”
I told her that I had.
“People are wondering about you. Don’t be surprised if you get a few more visitors than you’re used to for the next few days.”
“I don’t care what people think.”
“Good.” She met my eyes. “I’ve known Charles all his life, and I like to see him happy. It’s been a long time for him.”
I murmured something noncommittal and turned the conversation to Flecha. I wasn’t ready yet to talk about what was going on between me and Charles. I had no intention of staying forever, and I didn’t want to think about the hurt I might do him.
After Rachel left, Charles and I worked in the garden for awhile. True to Rachel’s prediction, we were soon interrupted by a neighbor dropping off a cheese which she said was payment for some rabbit hides Charles had given her during the winter. A little while later, a girl came by with her younger siblings in tow, asking if we could spare any food. Charles gave her the basket of early peas we had just finished picking and I had to suppress my annoyance, lest the girl go home and tell everyone I was ungracious.
“That’s a lot of hard work to give away like that,” I said after the girl had gone. “Especially since the only reason she came was to get information for the rumor mill.”
“I know, but we aren’t going to go hungry. She’s just a child, and you want to be a good neighbor, don’t you?”
“Besides, I thought we’d go hunting tomorrow morning, early, when the rabbits are out. And I’ll show you some good places to gather wild plants and herbs.”
I had been digging holes to plant sweet corn, and now I sat back on my heels and looked at him in surprise. “You’re going to finally let me go hunting with you?”
“If you think you can keep from scaring the animals away,” he teased.
“Just you wait. I bet I’ll bag three to every two of anything you get.”
“It’s a deal. What does the winner get?”
“What would be a worthy prize?”
“How about I show you?”
I put down my tools, brushed the dirt off myself and let him lead me back into the house, back to his bed.
I spent the afternoon working on my gear, re-fletching some of my arrows, checking all the tips and making sure none of the shafts had become warped. Then I set to cleaning and oiling my guns. I hadn’t done a thorough maintenance on my weapons since I had arrived, and they needed it.
I was so busy with my work that I hardly noticed it was nearly supper time until I smelled the stew cooking. When I went into the kitchen, the pot was simmering nicely, but the room was warm, in spite of the open windows. “I suppose it’s about time to start cooking outside again,” Charles said.
“I didn’t know you had an outdoor oven.”
“I don’t, but I have a couple of solar cookers.”
I glanced out the kitchen window. I had used solar cookers back home, where they worked wonderfully, but that was in the desert. “They work out here?” I asked. “With so many trees, it seems like it would be hard to find a spot that got sun all day.”
“I’ve been doing it for years, and haven’t starved yet. Don’t you trust me?”
I looked into his kind, honest face. “Of course I do.”
He turned back to his meal preparations. “Since it’s too hot to eat in here tonight, what do you say we have a picnic?”
So we did. After we ate, I lay in his arms, looking out over the water and letting my mind drift, thinking of nothing in particular. It was almost too beautiful and peaceful to be real.
Charles kissed me. “What are you thinking of?”
“You’re not daydreaming about Kentucky, are you?”
I hadn’t given Kentucky much thought for a couple of days, and I told him so.
His arms tightened around my waist and he kissed me again. “Good.”
His hands moved to the buttons on my shirt, and I let him undress me in the cool of the spring night. There was something magical about being by the water with the darkening sky above and his warm hands on my skin. For awhile it seemed that Kentucky and all my earlier dreams didn’t matter at all.
But now that we’re back in the house, the lamp glowing on the bedside table, and Charles sleeping softly by my side, I’m not so sure. It would be easy to stay here, safe and loved. Why should I take to the uncertainties of the road again? What right do I have to think I would find anything better out there than what I have here— a moderately prosperous farm and a kind man who seems to think the world of me?
It’s a good thing I don’t have to decide tonight. I would make myself crazy.
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