"Stacia has turning into quite a little lady hasn't she?" I said with a laugh. Stacia was playing with Hannah in the backyard while Tessa, Sierra and I had a cup of afternoon tea.
"Yes she has." Tessa said with a look of motherly affection. She finished her tea and sighed. "But I think it's time we head on home."
Tessa poked her head out the back door and called for the girls while Sierra and I chatted about Luke and Sarah. They were both fond of each other; or it was obvious that Sarah was fond of Luke anyway. I could only assume from what Sierra said that Luke was also fond of Sarah - the boy rarely showed any outward emotion.
"Lance was just the opposite" she had confided in me one evening while they'd stayed with us. "Very prone to outbursts.." I'd handed her a tissue as her eyes welled with tears.
"Ma!" Sarah ran inside excitedly; pulling me from my memory. "Oh my Ma! You won't hardly believe it!"
Rachel fell in behind her and I saw her roll her eyes. I gave her a quick look of reproach before turning my attention back to Sarah. "Well tell me dearest!" I said with an encouraging smile.
"Ms. Isabelle asked me to write the little play we'll do at the picnic!" Sarah was practically jumping around as she told me. "Me! Oh Ma I'm so very happy!"
"That's wonderful Sarah! What will the play be about?" I asked.
"Oh dear I don't know! Can we go to into town so I can go to the library?" Sarah was now bordering on fretting.
Luke strolled into the house then and stood beside his mother. "I suppose" I said thinking about making a trip in a few days.
"Oh wonderful!" she bounced toward Luke and grabbed his hand happily. "Will you come with us? I would so love for you to be in the play as well!"
Sierra looked troubled then. "Sarah, Luke doesn't go to the town school, I don't think..."
"Oh but it's not a school play - I mean it is...but it's for the town picnic! And you are part of our town." Sarah cut her off. Luke, for his part, said nothing. "Come on Rachel!" she grabbed Rachel's hand with her free hand and kept a firm grip on Luke's and pulled them out toward the barn.
"Wait!" I called realizing she meant to go now; but it was too late; they were across the yard and Luke was already hitching the horses to the wagon.
Wesley came in looking confused and look to me for explanation. "Apparently we're going into town. Would you like to come?"
"I'd rather not" he said with a grin, holding out his dirty shirt. In fact most of him was covered in dirt and grime as he'd just come in from the field.
I smiled and nodded. "Well Hannah is painting," Rachel had bought Hannah her own paint set after Hannah had just about destroyed hers. Then she'd spent hours helping Hannah.
"And Alexander there needs to get to bed, can you..."
Wesley cut me off with a nod. "I think I can handle it. You go on with the girls." he said.
We made it to town with enough time for the girls to have a quick look around the library before closing. Rachel wanted to go over to the store but Sarah kept a firm hold on both her and Luke - insisting that she would need them both.
"What's HE doin' here?" a teen boy said, disgusted. I looked over toward the source of the voice and recognized him as one of the Flynn boys but couldn't remember his name. I was both proud and anxious as I watched my daughters close in ranks behind Luke, the source of the young Flynn's disgust.
Luke, who was never prone to emotional outbursts, looked at the boy with an almost blank stare on his face. The only reason I knew he'd heard the boy was because he was looking right at him.
Young Flynn started hurling all manner of disgusting words at Luke to provoke him but Luke didn't so much as flinch. I waited with stilled breath to see what would happen next, prepare to step in if need arose. When Young Flynn stepped forward, Luke quickly stepped into his path, between him and the girls and my heart swelled.
"Oh so that's what it takes, are they your wh..." Young Flynn leered.
He didn't have a chance to say any other horrible things as Luke screamed and lunged for young Flynn.
The two boys started brawling and I quickly pulled the girls back and then looked toward Sierra feeling helpless. "Luke no!" Sarah screeched, pulling against me to try to get to him.
It wasn't long before the boys broke it up, Mr. Flynn showed up and scowled in Sierra's direction as he took his boy home. Young Flynn had some quickly forming bruises and a few cuts.
Luke's lip had already begun to swell where young Flynn had gotten a hit in. The blood was already starting to clot though and he seemed mostly unscathed. His former serenity had returned.
Back at the homestead, Sarah went into nursing mode; though he wasn't really in need of much tending.
Luke barely flinched as she tended to his wounds. She knelt beside him and he stared into her eyes, although no apparent emotion crossed his face, I wondered what he was thinking as he gazed at her.
Sierra, on the other hand, was showing much of her emotion as she slumped against the wall. She was so tired and weary. Ever since Lance had died, she'd been forced to come into town more often. This shouldn't have been a problem except half the townspeople eyed her with distrust while most of the other half whispered about her behind her back. The fact that she'd been living with - as none of them wanted to believe that they were really married - a white man fueled their fire.
I moved next to her and put my arm around her shoulder. "I think we ought to move on Elizabeth. This town...there's just too much history."
"Oh no, they'll come around!" I said with more conviction than I felt.
Sierra shook her head. "No, no I don't think they will. You and Ms. Tessa seem to be the only ones around here that don't recoil from us. Somewhere else...." she looked over at Sarah and Luke and sighed. "We could make a clean start. Where no one knew us...."
"Oh Sierra." I said hugging her. She'd never been much for personal touch but over the intervening months, I felt like we'd become closer. "I do wish you would stay....but I understand."
Sierra and Luke left not long after and I sent the children up to bed. Alex, for some reason I imagine had to do with the candy Wesley had given him, was up later than he ought to have been. Wesley yawned and stood to go to bed. "Oh no you don't!" I said grabbing his arm and pulling him back onto the couch with me. "This." I pointed to Alex who was playing with his bear, "is your doing and you will stay up with the boy until he's ready for bed."
Wesley groaned and muttered protests until I snuggled into his arm. I fell asleep laying on his chest but he must have stayed up with little Alex because the next morning he was in his crib and I was tucked warmly into our bed.
Sarah spent as much time as she could working on her little play. It was only going to be about ten minutes long and was to include a song of some sort so it didn't take her long to finish the script. Sierra was still talking of leaving town but in the mean time, Sarah claimed Luke's free time. She absolutely insisted that Luke was necessary to the play and no one could argue with her.
The morning of the picnic, Sarah was in a near frenzy as she paced the green meadow. More and more people had arrived and were settling in for the picnic but Sierra and Luke had not arrived yet. "Where is he?!" she cried at Rachel. I saw Rachel roll her eyes again as she shrugged.
Sarah corralled her sisters, her cousins and even one of the younger Flynn children toward the small area they'd selected to perform. At the last minute, Luke showed up and slipped in between her and Rachel. For a fraction of a second, I thought I saw him smile at her before his normal passive gaze returned. The little Flynn eyed him nervously for most of the skit but it went off without further problems. Catherine's triplet girls had beautiful voices and lend them to Sarah's song, wowing the crowd with their skill at such a tender age. I smiled at Catherine and she smiled back - one of the first I'd seen from her since John's death. I was so glad she'd stayed in Sheardin so far.
As the little play ended and the children returned to their own families, the gathered crowd clapped and cheered. I saw Luke garner several looks, but I noticed many of them seemed more curious than hateful. I looked around for Sierra and saw her lingering on the far side of the meadow, clearly weary of the time she'd spent with the towns people. I tried to wave her over but she either didn't see me or ignored me. Luke nodded to Sarah and then toward our family gathering before he left to join his mother. They left the picnic without eating anything.
Sarah, despite her successful play, was glum as we ate our lunch.