After the Storm: Part Thirty-Five

Photo by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho.
Photo by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho.

Just tuning in? Start here.

Listen my children and you shall hear

of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

What is it about walking in the dark alone after dark that made long-forgotten pieces of childhood bubble to the surface?

The moon was full and bright, and as much as Daphne was looking forward to going back into her warm house she savoured these moments of quiet solitude.

“I wonder where Paul was going?” she said to no one in particular. She’d only ever heard bits and pieces of his odyssey, and much of what she knew seemed nonsensical. Who had ever heard of floating on water for days and days without drowning? There was a time when she hadn’t believed that anyone would run away from invaders either, although these days that decision was beginning to make more sense.

“Oma, what’s an arse?” The small boy sitting at the table should be sleeping by now. And how on earth did he figure out how to turn the tablet on? It was slowly becoming more and more difficult to rouse even for those who’d once found it easy to use.

“It’s another word for donkey.”

“Oh. Why wouldn’t you want to sit on one?” The corner of Daphne’s mouth twitched.

“Well, would you like it if someone else sat on you?”

“Oh.”

“Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

“I’m not sleepy anymore.  I got scared when I woke up and you weren’t here.”

“I’m here now. Go lie down and I’ll tell you one more story.” The child was getting attached to her. Daphne wasn’t entirely convinced this was a good thing. She’d raised her family and never would have thought she’d start over almost from the beginning of it. A year ago she was thrilled to be finished cooking, cleaning, and sewing for two small people as well as herself, and yet there was a small corner of her heart that tugged every time Felix called her Oma.

This time, at least, she wouldn’t be doing it alone. They still had their actual great-grandmother, and at nearly 15 her sons were old enough to take over much of the physical labour of running a farm. If the boy and his sister stayed longterm at least the responsibility of raising them would be pooled among several adults. She didn’t regret keeping her sons, but Daphne understood now why so many people thought the job of raising them shouldn’t belong to her alone. It wasn’t that she was incapable of doing a good job. They simply thought – and she agreed – that no one should be forced to work around the clock.

Having siblings and parents around to help out mitigated the pressure in most families. Daphne’s situation had been an unique one.

Isaac and Ephraim returned half an hour later barehanded. There would be no last-minute dinner tonight. As soon as they’d taken off their coats she explained the troubling conversation she’d just had with Sean and Raquel. She still didn’t know if Mariposa was willing to help them, but from what she’d observed about the younger woman she wouldn’t be surprised if the answer was yes.

“It’s not safe here,” she said, motioning to the bedroom where the boy slept. “I hope the fervour blows over soon, but in the meantime I don’t know if we can keep Felix safe as long as we’re living in Mingus.”

“Does Peoria want us, though?” Ephraim asked. It was a a fair question.

“They’re larger but less well organized,” she replied. Due to a quirk in the geography of the land Peoria was less likely to run into water shortages. Several of the creeks in surrounding communities poured into larger bodies of water that ran through their land. The soil was no better or worse than could be found anywhere else, but the relative lack of competition over water supplies made their court system much quieter. Mariposa and the other ombudsmen spent most of their time fielding inheritance and custody cases. Even those were rare.

“I think we’re less likely to run into trouble if Mariposa is on our side,” Isaac said. “If I take the mule I can be there and back before sunrise. Stay here, and don’t answer the door for anyone but me.”

It was a long, tense night until his return. Daphne and Ephraim took turns keeping watch and packing the bare minimum of supplies while the rest of the family slept. He insisted on taking the first watch, so when Daphne woke up and replaced him she purposefully kept working until nearly sunrise. It didn’t feel right to expect her own child to protect her, and with as little physical labour as she’d been physically able to do over the past few months Daphne thought she could finally pull her own weight by allowing her son to have the lion’s share of the rest.

When the sun began peeking up over the foothills Daphne started boiling water for the morning breakfast tea. If nothing else they needed to be well hydrated for the journey ahead. Two small children and two adult who had trouble walking long distances would certain stretch this trip out over the course of two days. Perhaps even longer.

Just as the water began boiling over she heard a knock at the door. Lemon barked a friendly hello as Daphne hurried over to see who was there.

Isaac.

“I have good news,” He said as soon as she opened the door. “Mariposa wants us to stay with her, and she borrowed a mule from a neighbour so you don’t have to walk the whole way there alone.”

A dark brown creature stood in the centre of the yard flicking his ears. Daphne had never seen a content mule before, but if such a creature existed she had no doubt he’d look just like this one. After removing the water from the fire and spooning herbs and hot water into each mug she walked into the yard to greet him.

Lemon snuck out of the house before Daphne could grab him, but to her surprise the new mule leaned over and sniffed the dog. Lemon responded with a friendly lick before walking over to offer the same treatment to Daphne’s mule.

She was still incredibly wary of his drooling affection, but at least she didn’t run away quite as quickly as she had last time. Isaac cursed under his breath before grabbing her halter and leading her into the storage shed. It was better to keep them apart until the trek truly began.

 

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