The woman we called Mam shivered like she did, not from cold, but more like it was a thing that crept along the edges, fearsome in ways me ‘n Sammie ne’er could comprehend.
Not by a lick.
What Pa seen in the ole hag escaped me, even with my newfound knowing the way of things. Pa’d made do but I wasn’t him, I had standards now.
Sammie, well I wasn’t sure about her, not being right in the head ‘n all.
“Your chores done, boy, or do ya think ya gots all day long to tend to ‘em?” She brandished the willow stick, the one what cuts sharpish. We both had our fair share, Sammie more on her behind than me, her being broad beamed, like our boat useta be. Back when we lived by the sea and Pa still laughed and joked and teased.
I asked, like I did most days, “Will he be home soon, do ya think?” That got a shrug. The ole bat didn’t much care. She had a roof and a fire and us to tend to her whims, of which she had aplenty.
I’m coming seventeen so they’d be after me next. Cannon fodder Pa’d called it, but he’d gone to do his duty, leaving me to see to my sister.
Our ridge was prickly with skinny shadows that laced the fresh snow, dark, light, dark. Sammie was at the rear window, looking out to the sun like it was a promise.
She smiled so bright it hurt to look and nodded to the tracks.
He’d come again. To give her hope and that gentle bulge to her belly.
I fingered the blade, content now that he’d see to her, mayhap bring back light to her eyes.
For that, I need do just this last thing…