Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chapter 10

I woke up to an exasperated Sloan snapping, "I don't know Dan. The subject hasn't exactly come up you know."

"Well if she hasn't had a tetanus shot she needs one asap."

"Don't you think I know that?!"

My head was splitting. "Shhhh. If it will make you two be quiet you can go find my records in the office in the drawer marked MEDICAL. Dad made sure all of us ... animals and kids ... always had our shots. Now go away. You're too loud."

There was some feet shuffling and then a minute or two later I felt a cool, damp cloth across the back of my neck and I finally oriented myself enough to figure out I was laying face down on a bed. I felt the sheet being pulled down and that woke me up because there was nothing between me and it like there should have been. "Easy there Feisty. Lay still. I'm the only one in here."

"Don't care. I'm not going to be laid out like a side of beef on the butcher's block. I can take care ..."

"Teaghan. After everything else I really don't want to fight with you but you are going to lay still and I mean it."

I knew that tone. It was the same one Dad would use when he'd had all he was going to take. Embarrassed or not I stopped moving and the sheet stopped at my waist. Then I felt something dribbled on my back.


"Fine comment when you are about to be treated to my world famous cure."

"World famous cure for what? Absolute and total humiliation?"

"No, for that headache you've got."

"How'd you know ...?"

"You were rubbing her head in your sleep and whimpering."

He was speaking quiet like you do to someone you don't want to spook. Then I felt him rubbing the stuff into my back. The odor of it finally reached my nose. "Rosemary?"

"Uh huh. And a few other little things. Dr. Williams happens to know a thing or three and you'll let him take care of you."

"Why on earth are you talking in the third person? Only crazy people or those goofy actors on the radio talk like that."

He snorted. "OK, then how about this Miz Literal. I really do know a few things that might surprise you. I've been on my own a long time and learned what helped and what hurt."

"Because of your back?"

He paused and then answered, "Partially."

He kept massaging the oil into my back and after a while I felt like all my bones had gone on vacation.



I heard a chair scuff on the floor as it was pulled close to the bed and then a squeak as he sat down in it. "Teaghan I didn't mean for you to fall."

"I know that. I never thought you did. It was just a stupid accident. I'm sorry I made such a scene."

He was quiet for a moment then I felt the cloth lifted off and a fresh one take its place. "I'm ... I'm just as sorry about what the boys said. I'm a lot of things - hot tempered is one of them - but I've never stooped to hitting a female. I might have been born a bastard but I try like hell not to act like one."

I turned my head to look at him. "OK, so maybe we can just call it even. My mouth gets stuck in neutral or overdrive at the worst times and you like to slam doors instead of slam people. I can handle that if you can."

Sloan shook his head and said, "You're still toasted from the 'shine."

"Maybe, but I thought this was Marriage Rule #1 ... if the other person hurts we have a duty to be there for them. You're upset I got hurt and feel bad because you think you had something to do with it. Well I don't want you to feel bad 'cause I think it was just an accident so Rule #1 ... right?"

He swallowed and said, "Right."

I was about to fall asleep again when I thought, "Oh no. I hate to ask but do you think Charlie or Duncan would mind cooking for you? I ... I just ... can't ..."

"Shhhh. Everything is under control."

"And ... and I'll apologize to the boys. I shouldn't have been so nasty. Just because they are is no excuse for me to be that way."

"No, you won't. If you want you can explain why what they said hurt but you won't apologize. But I guess I'm going to have to explain a few things." He was quiet for a few minutes then said, "I don't remember my father but he's why my back is like it is. It took him almost killing me before Mom would leave him. She moved in with her brother because my grandparents in town had disowned her for getting pregnant with my brother when she was just fourteen. I could make a lot of excuses for my mother but why she was like she was is complicated and not a nice story. When she got pregnant my grandmother's sister said she'd take her in. She lived in the city and had always loved my mom, warts and all. But she died right after Mom got her GED and my mother went right back to ... to making bad choices. One of those choices was my father. I'm told there wasn't a day that went by that my mother and brother didn't get beat on. My brother got put in foster care twice and Mom swore each time she'd leave him and straighten out her life. Didn't happen; she just made it look good for long enough to get my brother back. Then I did something ... no one is sure what but I was only a year old so it couldn't have been anything serious ... but it set my father off. He reached over and grabbed a boiling pot of pasta off the stove top and threw it at me where I was crawling on the floor. He wouldn't let my mother get help for me for three days. By that time she finally was more scared of me dying than she was of what he would do to her. My grandparents helped her get out of the city and back to Kiln Ridge but wouldn't do more than that until she found a job and kept it. Mom wound up working for my uncle. But by then my brother had already ... I don't know ... absorbed too much meanness. I didn't know how much until after he died and the boys were like they were."

"How ... how old were they when you got them?"

"They didn't come to me first ... they went to my mother whom they learned they could terrorize all too easily. I got them two years ago when she died. It's a mess. The family tried to help and whether you believe it or not the boys are better than they used to be but there is still a lot of work to be done. I was hoping a stable home life would ... would ..."

"I'm sorry Sloan. Now I feel really bad about what I said ... but it was the truth. But maybe I was acting like a baby and shouldn't have shouted at them like that just because I was freaking out."

"We'll just have to start over from scratch, not like I haven't had to do that a time or two. As hard as it is to admit, sometimes all those two understand is a spanking. I wish it wasn't like that but it is."

After a moment I told him quietly, "I'm also sorry for making Mr. Burdock mad. I should have said something about the Market Day. I was ... was just trying really hard not to think about it being exactly two weeks since ... since ..."

"Don't even worry about that Teaghan. Burdock can take his upset and shove it sideways. I had a lawyer from outside the county check over the papers before I arrived and everything, right down to the marriage contract, is legal and above board. Burdock was just acting that way because he doesn't have a thing to hold over me like he thought. A new state law went into effect the day before I signed the contract to take over the farm that says a piece of property can only be taken by imminent domain once in a ten year time period. That means that the government can't take the property, sell it, then take it back then sell it again over and over."

"Oh gawd. Do you think that is what Mr. Burdock is going to try and do?"

"Can't. And I don't think that was his plan to begin with ... I just think he thought it would be his ace in the hole if I didn't tow the line."

"Tow the line for what?"

"I wish I knew ... but I mean to find out. I don't like feeling like the only joker in a stack of fifty-two." He stood up and reached over and kissed me on my ear. "Rest for a while. I need to check on things."

I didn't expect to sleep but I sure did ... clean through to the middle of the night when I woke up having to go to the bathroom. Getting out of bed without waking Sloan was not easy. Neither was slithering into a night shirt. The very idea of trying to put anything else on made me green in the gills. And let me tell you, sitting down to take care of business was painful.

I was sweating bullets by the time I got out only to open the door to find Sloan standing there. "You ok?"

Giving up having any dignity at all I told him, "Does wishing I was a boy give you a clue?"

"Well I'm glad you aren't a boy ... and one of these days just to show you I understand I'll tell you about the time I got a load of birdshot in one of my cheeks. And trust me when I say it isn't the ones you smile with."

"Ooooo, don't. If I laugh things are gonna jiggle and I'm not up to jiggling right now."

"Hmmmm ... I'm a gonna have to see me some of that ... when you're feeling better."

I shook my head and decided to just be grateful he was willing to put off what he always seemed to be after when the lights went out ... and sometimes not bother waiting even that long.

The next morning was not fun but there was no way I was going to lay around feeling sorry for myself and give people more to talk about. I spent most of the day on my feet and if I did have to sit down I did it where no one could see or make a comment that I was sitting half on and half off the chair. The boys ignored me which was fine. I understood from Josiah that they were feeling sorry for themselves because they'd finally pushed their uncle so hard he'd called into town to make an appointment with a counselor. That was fine by me too. I wasn't sure what Sloan expected me to do about their schooling. Most girls in the area were homeschooled but most of the boys from what I understood still caught the bus up on the highway. I left that problem for another day.

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