Chapter 22: Change of Seasons
I felt old. Well older anyway. Of course we had four kids, two of them were fifteen so it was fair to say that I was older; older than I was when we'd arrived here and made this place our home. But still, I felt old.
The more I looked in the mirror, the more I convinced myself that I was looking older and older every day. I'd like to believe it was all in my head of course.
Wesley, the same age as I was, did not appear to be feeling the affects of aging though. In fact, I'm convinced he did not feel old like I did. He was almost childlike at times - which simply made me feel a tad older.
"Sweetheart! Watch this!" Wesley exclaimed as I emerged from the bedroom. He flipped a piece of fish into the air and I cringed as I watched it fly, absolutely certain it was going to land on the ground.
Of course he caught it perfectly and turned to give me a sparkling smile. "Good huh?" he said with a childish grin on his face.
I chuckled, I couldn't help it. His smile was completely infectious. "Yes darling, very good." I said giving him a peck on the cheek. "Smells wonderful." I added.
He wrapped his arm around my waist as I started to walk away to get some vegetables to go with his fish dinner. He spun me around to face him and claimed a much longer kiss than my simple peck. "I love you Lizzie." he whispered.
I could never get tired of hearing those simple words. I sighed happily in his arms. "I love you too Wesley."
In the months following the drought and the epidemic, I was afraid our little town would not recover. So many people had moved away and things had simply changed. But more recently we'd had many happy times thankfully. Although not many of those that left returned; many new families arrived and after awhile we started to feel like a town again. One other happy change was my dear sister, Catherine.
She brought my nieces and nephew over often and I was happy that my children had cousins they could play with. But more than that, she'd decided to stay in Sheardin after all. The weight she'd born following John's death had finally seemed to lift.
Allen started joining Wesley in the field when he came with his family and often he came alone just to help out. They had a small garden at their house that Catherine and the girls kept but it had no real place for Allen. With John's death, he'd lost another father and had latched onto Wesley. Wesley, for his part, was glad to have his help.
"Do you think it's wise Lizzie?" Catherine asked me one afternoon while we were watching the children play and then boys work.
"What?" I asked startled, looking around for the source of her question.
"Sarah is clearly attached to the lad..." she replied, looking across the yard to where Sarah and Rachel stood.
"Yes, well Luke a good lad." I replied. I turned toward her surprised. "You don't think it's inappropriate because he's..."
She cut me off before I could finish. "No of course not. It has nothing to do with that. I just know he's a bit....odd." she said softly.
"He can be, but he's very sweet to the girls, and very protective of them." I said.
"I'm just concerned is all, she's so very young. And well...look at her..." Catherine pointed her out for effect.
I smiled fondly. "I remember having that look as a girl." I said. "I remember YOU having that look as well I might add."
"Yes and see how that turned out." Catherine said with a touch of bitterness in her voice.
Sarah was looking across the field to watch Luke help Wesley harvest apples. Like Allen, Luke had lost his father and, though he never said it, seemed to enjoy being able to help around the farm. I watched Sarah for several moments, remembering my own girlhood - when I would seek Wesley out while he work just so that I might watch him.
I returned my attention to Catherine and slipped my arm in hers. "That man was a cad Catherine, you know that. It wasn't all your fault. But your life turned out fairly well I think."
"Well it wasn't all his fault either Lizzie you know. I could have said no - if I were smarter I would have." Catherine said sadly. "But then so many
things would not have happened."
"Come now, let's get some tea. Let Sarah have her young girl's crush - as far as I know Sierra and Luke may leave town soon." I said with a frown. "It will crush Sarah I'm afraid." I added as we walked inside the house.
Catherine's concerns about Luke's behavior were well founded, and proven that night at supper. Everyone had stayed for dinner and the table was quite crowded. Luke had eaten quickly and stood to make room for someone else. But instead of clearing his plate, he started to mutter incoherently and made sweeping hand motions as if speaking to someone.
Sarah was startled at first and backed away from him but mostly looked sad by the time he'd finished his small outburst. I cleared the rest of the plates away and watch them walk out onto the back porch together. As far as I know, Luke didn't say another word all night, he simply gazed across the yard silently while Sarah tried to come up with topics of conversation to engage him.
"Why is Luke like that Ma?" Sarah asked me later that evening, after everyone had gone home.
"Hmm?" I asked, looking up from my book to give her my attention. "Oh, I don't know dear." I said sadly. "He's a good lad though. I can tell he like this family very much."
Sarah pulled her legs up under her and sat thinking for several minutes. I thought we might be done so turned back to my book finally. "I like him Ma." she confessed.
I closed the book and placed it on the table. "I know." I said with a smile. But the smile faded as I took her hand in mind. "You should know that Ms. Sierra has talked about moving away from Sheardin."
"What?! No! They can't leave!" Sarah shouted. She certainly had a flair for the dramatics. "This is horrible! You must convince them to stay Ma!" and with that final pronouncement, she flew up the stairs and I imagine she flung herself on her bed, probably waking her sisters in the process.
Sarah and Rachel were passing the telegraph office on their way home one afternoon when Mr. Michel stepped out of the office. "Oh Ms Rachel! Ms Sarah!" he called to them.
They turned together and smiled at him. "Yes Mr. Michel?" Rachel said cheerfully.
"I have a telegraph here for your Ma, can you get it to her for me please?" he said, holding out a folded piece of paper.
"Of course." Rachel said taking the paper. "Good day!" they called to him as he departed.
"Who is it from?" Sarah asked, straining to see the paper in her sister's hand. Rachel laughed and held it out of sight for a moment. "Rachel!" she screeched with a giggle.
Rachel finally relented and looked at the paper. "It's from England!" she exclaimed.
Sarah looked over her shoulder to get a look at the telegraph. Confusion crossed both the girls' faces at the same time. "Who is Lord Umbridge?" Sarah asked.