“We need more taps.”
“Tell me something I don’t know Tad,” Gid growled in irritation. “How I let you talk me into this …”
“So you could build up some coin and you know it. It was what you planned anyway … just more of it. Uncle Gerry said there’re merchants trading real gold for any kind of sweetening whether it is in bulk or small quantities. The drought has been so bad that tree syrups are getting low in stock.”
Gid muttered, “Wouldn’t trade for gold, too hard to trade for what I need. Silvers and coppers only and you better make sure he understands that.”
Tad snorted. “Oh trust me, he understands. Ain’t happy but he understands. He doesn’t want to be left with only gold for trading either.”
I walked the rest of the way into the clearing. “Brew anyone?”
I was nearly bowled over and would have wound up wearing what I carried if Gid and the rest of his brothers hadn’t wanted what was in the pot so badly. “Mmmmm.”
They said very little that was sensible before their mugs were mostly empty and then when they saw that I had also brought out some fruited cake I was almost afraid they were going to take my hands as well. As it was I nearly lost my mittens three times.
Gid was the last to leave my side and he asked, “Are you feeling better?”
I bit my lip and turned my head away. “The … the Sisters and Old Annie … they’d all tell me it happens more than most women realize.”
“Don’t care what they might’ve said then. I’m asking how you’re feeling now.”
I shook my head. “I’ll live … so long as you aren’t disappointed in me.”
“Disappointed?!” He fought to keep his voice low. “It’s not you I’m disappointed in, it’s me. I knew you needed more time before catching. I … I should have been more careful of you. What if … what if you’d been further along? I …” He stopped and shook his head.
I was sure that I was carrying. But then I woke in the night with cramps and … and then I wasn’t. I wasn’t even far enough along to have said anything to anyone and I wished Gid had just let me suffer alone and keep it between us but he’s a man and had been shocked at the blood. He’d fetched Lurna and then Vaniece and Lolly found out and then everyone knew. Lurna said she lost two early on with her first husband and that you had to grieve to go on but all I feel is that I have another small hole in my heart that lies beside the ones for Papa and Mam and Jubal and Old Annie and the rest of them that have gone away with the angels. At least I’ve gotten to the point that it doesn’t hurt to breathe.
I know I did naught wrong … nor Gid either though it is taking me some time to convince him of it. I know God has a reason for this somewhere in His plan. I just have to have faith … though in the dark of the night after Gid has fallen asleep my courage and faith sometimes fail me. For now I try and not let anyone see how deep the cut is, especially not Vaniece or Jace. Jace is already nearly sick with worry.
Strange that it is Vaniece that is the strong one between them now. In her slow way – some better than it was but likely she’ll always have some speaking problems as she’s gotten no better in a while – she tells me that she had to have everything stripped away so that she could learn to appreciate what she once had, and then take double care to be grateful for what she has now. She’s still Vaniece – but it is a Vaniece that has had the shiny and new knocked off; and beneath the surface it seems there is a fine polished stone that has more beauty to it than what she once had to claim.
Lurna sometimes looks between them and doesn’t know whether to crow that she was right in putting them together or wrong and they’ve survived despite what all she did to try and order their lives. She still holds herself back from Gid and I but I don’t think it is intentional so much as it is a reaction to her confusion over how we could choose our own way over hers. Gid says not to mind it and I try not to but I know he’d rather the distance wasn’t there if she’d just stop trying to pick his path for him. She yet compares town life to what we’ve been leading these many months. Gid ignores her. He’s made up his mind and I’ve vowed to follow him whether it be staying here or town or even traveling the land from ocean to ocean. I didn’t tell him that she keeps saying that there are midwifes in town that might have been able to help me. Lurna means well; she just doesn’t always sound well-meaning.
Gid assures me he has all he wants right here but he’s also begun to wonder if perhaps the next time I catch we shouldn’t go find the woman Justine just to be sure that all is right. It makes me wonder if someone hasn’t said something to him too. Personally I feel no pull to search any other doctoring out but perhaps that will change if this happens another time.
“You’re wooling again. You’d best go back to the cabin and sit in front of the fire a bit. I’ll send one of the boys if we need something.”
I sighed and shook my head. “I was just thinking but they weren’t bad thoughts. And I needed the air. I’d forgotten how hard it was to be watched all the time, waiting for me to do something I shouldn’t.”
“They mean no harm … and it isn’t wrong they’re watching for but need. Even knowing how strong you are they worry same as me. You scared me worse than you did that time with the ants and I didn’t think that was possible.”
I looked at him from beneath my lashes and said, “Then perhaps when I do catch and it sticks I should just send you off to hunt when I suspect my time has come. It might be better if you are just presented with a little jackthumper rather than be around for the birthing.”
He grimaced. “You’ll tell me or else and I mean it Yulee. Maybe I’ll feel like passing out but I won’t leave you alone. Father always passed out but he had the decency to wait until after he’d been presented with the latest addition, named them, and then gave them back for bathing and such. There’s more than a few dents in their bedroom floor in the block house to prove it.”
I managed a small smile remembering the stories that Lurna had begun telling. Then my smile slipped when I remembered they’d stop their stories when I walked into the room. “Tell them there’s no need Gid.”
“No need for what?”
“No need to treat me like I’m a piece of pre-Great War glass. I’m not going to shatter just because someone else has something I don’t.”
His thickly gloved hand brushed a holly leaf from my hair where it had caught as I’d come down the path. “I’ll tell them but for now, go sit and warm a spell. You’ve grown pale again. Listen to Ned lesson the children; you always enjoy that.”
I tried to bring another smile to my lips but felt it falter and tried to turn before he could see it.
“If I could make this better I would Yulee.”
I patted his arm. “It’s just what Old Annie called the womanlies going back the way they are supposed to be. I’ll be fine but perhaps … perhaps if you’ve no objection … I’ll lay down a bit.”
“You do that. I’ll send one of the boys to light the brazier.”
“No … no I …”
“You’ll let me do this woman. I can’t fix your sorry … I share it but can’t fix it. But I can and will do what I’m able to see to your comfort. Wish I could do it myself but I can’t leave or they’ll scorch the syrup and ruin the work.”
I patted his arm again. “I know. Just don’t stay so late your fingertips start going numb again.”
“Nay, we’ve learned our lesson on that one.”
“Good,” I told him before drifting back towards the cabin and to some time to read the Good Book. That and Gid holding me seem to be the only two things that really comfort me and even those two boons sometimes still leave me untouched and miserable.