Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter 5

I was thinking about the night as I cut out biscuits and thought that Hannah's books were totally off the mark. I'd never participated in something so embarrassing and strange in my entire life. I'm a farm girl so it isn't like I didn't know the facts of life but I'd honestly never really associated what I knew with what my personal reality would be. It didn't look like it brought too much peace of mind to Hannah who alternated between sighing over some boy to crying over some boy. And after Mom and Hannah died I just didn't have the time to worry about it; certainly didn't have any scope to experience any of it.

Sloan on the other hand seemed to get a lot out of it even though I just wasn't seeing the attraction myself. I think he tried to get me into the spirit of things but to be honest I kept getting caught between being totally wiggy and totally humiliated. Although there were a few times I was tempted to give into a fit of the giggles at the noises Sloan made. It sounded like a cross between the way a man sounds when he's been throwing hay bails all day and like our old bull sounded when he was getting lovesick for the company of one of the heifers.

I was wondering what the look on his face would have been if he had known what I was thinking when the man himself walked into the room and stopped short. Neither one of us knew quite what to say so of course my mouth took on a mind of its own. "The doctors must not have been very good at their job because I didn't notice that you had any flexibility problems last night."

As soon as the words left my lips I would have gladly jumped off the train trestle that crossed Armstrong Gulch. But apparently it wound up being the perfect thing to say because Sloan relaxed and smiled ... a real smile not just a teasing one to hide what he was thinking. He nodded and then sniffed the air. "Smells like ... wait, is that coffee?"

"Sort of. It's my grandmother's recipe. There's some real coffee beans in there but there's also parched and roasted roots and acorns. You might like it. Dad and my brothers did even after drinking that real stuff you can still get overseas. Breakfast will be ready in a minute. If you don't like it then we'll figure something else out. Are the boys up yet?"

"Actually ... well I left them sleeping until we ... er ... had a few minutes."

"For what?"

"Just ... just wanted to make sure ... oh hell, I feel like a twelve year old that's snuck into a look-and-see for the first time. Just tell me you're ok ... after last night."

"Oh. That. Well ... hmmm ... I've got a few kinks in places I didn't think you could get kinks in but they'll work out as the day goes by. Why? Do you have kinks too? I can get that liniment. You were breathing kinda hard last night. I never knew that it was supposed to be such a lot of work."

He looked at me then kinda flopped down on a bench at the breakfast table and put his head in his hands and started laughing. I asked, "What?"

"Nothing. Just ... are you always this blunt?"

"Well for heaven's sake ... you don't think I go around talking about this stuff to just anyone do you? And the only reason I'm talking about it with you now because you asked and well I thought ... I mean ... I've never been married. I don't know what is supposed to be off limits and what isn't. I guess I didn't ask but should have. Have you ever been married? Do you know what the rules are?"

He got serious and said, "Was once, when I was still young and stupid. It didn't work out and she left."


Quietly he said, "It was a long time ago Teaghan. I was barely twenty when it ended."

"You were still older than I am now."

He winced. "Don't remind me. I wasn't too happy when I found out how young you were. I can live with it though so long as you don't get all ..."

"All what?" I asked when he acted like he was rethinking what he had been going to say.

"Well ... silly, flighty, bored and wanting something else in life."

I thought about it for a moment and then said, "Hannah ... you know my sister. Anyway she used to get like that because she was cooped up on the farm after having already experienced dances and dating and things like that. She'd already had boys ask Dad if they could come sit on the porch with her or walk with her after church to get ice cream on the corner. She even worked in town for a bit and had a serious boyfriend before he got drafted. Mom noticed me watching her and wondering what was going on and she explained to me how it might have been better if Hannah hadn't had those experiences and then she wouldn't have realized she was missing anything when it had to be taken away for her own good. Well, I never had those experience so ... I don't guess you can miss what you've never had, or so they say. And if I do get bored all I have to do is look around and find something to do ... it's not like we've got a shortage of chores that need doing. And if I do start to annoy you all you have to do is say something. I'd rather know and have a chance to fix it than not and suddenly have it blow up in my face. And stop looking at me like I'm some sort of puzzle ... I've got all my pieces, they sometimes just get a little rearranged."

He continued to look at me strangely for a moment and then nodded like he'd made up his mind about something. "You're alright, you know that Teaghan?"

"Well I hope I am. Why would you think I wasn't? You usually have to get to know someone before you can decide whether they're alright or not."

Sloan shook his head. "A man gets suspicious when things go too easy. You're making this a lot easier on me than I expected."

"Well, I agreed to the bargain. You agreed to the bargain. Kinda wrong of us to start complaining at this late date don't you think? I guess last night means we're really married and have to deal with all that comes with it. I don't know that we'll ever have things like my parents did giving how and why we're starting out but I don't see any reason why we have to be too much worse off. You seem mostly nice and you've admitted that I'm alright too. So if we work at getting along ..." I ended with a shrug.

Sloan opened his mouth to say something but looked to the ceiling when it sounded like a herd of hogs had gotten upstairs somehow. Sloan shook his head and sighed. "They've been pulled pillar to post and it is going to take a while for them to come around. I'd hoped otherwise but after last night ..."

"Like I told you, my brothers could be awful hard headed too. Dad used to put them to work to exercise out the worst of it. Do you have chores for them?"

"Well that depends, what do you have to work on today?"


"Yep. If I get something out of this marriage you should too. And the sooner those two trouble makers realize how things are going to be from here on out the better for both of us. And that's a lot of biscuits."

I took the abrupt change in subject with grace and answered, "Well, we've still got flour from last year's wheat and just to be honest ... I'm no good at sweet talking and you said you don't like it anyway, and I'm no salesman, but I can cook and Dad and my brothers were usually less surly if their stomachs were full. I figure this is just my part to make things more peaceful around here. And on that subject, will your men be back anytime soon?"

"By lunch; they're meeting up with my other crew that just finished a job and will lead them here with the remainder of my stuff."

I swallowed. "How many?"

"Men? Call it an even two dozen." At the look on my face he smiled. "You won't have to do all of the cooking. Each team has a cook and they'll set up camp ... anything growing in that open field to the side of the road in?"

"No, it's fallow this year."

"OK, they'll set up their camps there and ... what is your face scrunched up about? Is there a problem?"

"No. Just trying to think what all they'll need. There's a bathroom out in the barn and there are the two in the house ..."

"They can use the one in the barn or ... er ... "

"Find a tree?"

"Yeah, something to that effect."

"OK, just make sure it isn't anywhere near the wells or pumps. And ..."

"Dan was saying something that there were several of both around but he didn't know if they worked. He tried to check but it looked like they were intentionally disconnected."

His statement was also a question so I explained, "We kept them that way unless we needed them, to keep people from stealing ... or spiking them."

"Trouble with vagrants?"

"On occasion. Or vagabond families or former soldiers looking for a place to land for a few days free of room and board. Dad always left the outer most rows of anything for people to glean but they sometimes decide they are owed more than what they have any right to. You probably know by now that the farm is surrounded by deep gullies on two sides, and backs up to a ridge on a third. Only easy way on and off the farm is by the front road. We've never had near the problem that that some have had but it does happen. It's also why we were mostly left alone during the War Between the States."

"Uh huh, telling me which side your family was on," he said with a grin.

"Actually according to the ledgers all the family wanted by then was to be left in peace by both sides but that obviously didn't happen. So anyway, what about cobblers?"

"Excuse me?"

"If I don't need to fix a full meal I can fix pans of cobblers. It would actually help me use up some of the fruit that is too ripe to can outright that I don't have room for in the freezers because of the meat in there ... there's rhubarb of course, but I also have peaches, cherries, and boysenberries that are getting soft. I mean ... I mean you have."

"Now don't get sensitive. You don't have to stop saying it a certain way just because things have changed. You do still live here."

"I just don't want to make a foolish mistake. I don't know what will set you off."

His brows drew down and he said, "Wondering what is going to set me off will for one. I'm not a monster."

"Of course not, you went out of your way to not scare me last night so that proves it. I just mean I don't know what your buttons are and I'd rather not find them out the wrong way and create a mess that didn't need making. If someone is going to push 'em let it be someone else and I'll sit back and observe so I don't make the same mistake."

He gave me another strange look and a chuckle and said, "And do you have any buttons?"

"Trampling things down that don't need to be trampled. Mud being drug in the house when boots could be taken off at the door. People turning their nose up at food or being wasteful of it."

"Well that was quick."

"Better that you know. I don't have a particularly bad temper, and for the life of me I can't imagine why I've talked so freely with you when I never have with anyone else ever, but Dad used to say that when I got busy I could be a little hard to have a conversation with because either I was stringing too many words together or only spitting out one or two at a time. I'll have to get used to you and ... oh my gosh ... what are their names? I haven't even asked a thing about them. You must think my wits have gone begging. Oh Lord, I really am losing my mind ... and the biscuits are burning on top of it."

I remembered to grab the oven mitt before I did serious damage and sighed in relief to see the bottom of the biscuits were golden instead of dark. While Sloan ate a biscuit that was legitimately too hot to handle and told me the boys' names were Silas and Sid and that they were nine and eleven, I slid the rest of the finished biscuits on a platter, put them in the warming tray and put the next two sheets of biscuits to cook. I also tested the skillet I had on the stove top and it was ready to be greased and the scrambled eggs poured in. In another skillet I set slices of country ham to cook. I also poured Sloan a cup of what we called coffee and asked him if he doctored his or drank it black.

"Black usually." He took a careful sip of the hot brew and then tip the cup in my direction to let me know it was good enough as is.

I was relieved. I'd made coffee that way my whole life and was thankful that would be one less thing I would have to change and learn to do a new way.

I finished breakfast and plated it up while Sloan argued with the boys about washing their hands after they had made a sullen appearance. When it looked like they were set on making a scene I told them, "Your hands may look clean to you but germs are so small you can't see them with the naked eye and they still manage to kill people every day. So if you want to eat, you'll go wash. I do not think your uncle wants to spoil his meal thinking about all the nasties that could be flowing down your throat while he is trying to eat like a civilized man." I got a lot of eye rolling but won the battle when I set Sloan's plate before him and continued to refuse to serve them. They didn't do it with any grace but at least they did it which I figured was a point for me.

Sloan went back to discussing what we'd been on about before. "What's on the list to be done today?"

"More than I can get done. I'm running behind."

Silas sat back down at the table and asked, "Are you lazy that you can't get your work done?"

Sloan growled under his breath but I asked Silas, "No. Are you?"


"Hmmm. I'll guess we'll see if that is true or not because your uncle says you'll have jobs today."

Both boys turned to Sloan in comical horror. Sloan grinned evilly and said, "Yep."


  1. Ok I just read what ya got here and it's good really good! ;) I look forward to MOAR!!!!!

    :) thanks!

  2. This is my favorite new story so far, probably because it already has 5 chapters and Im getting attached to the main characters. Poor girl, no fireworks :( But thats what happens before love has a chance to grow. Hopefully that part of her life will get better with time.

  3. I do hope you explain how she got "sold" along with her farm. ;) thanks again