When you read this (if you read it on Tuesday) I'll be sitting at the polls all day long. It will be a LONG day since I have to be there to set up at 5:30 am and then I have to help close the polls at 7:00 pm and then drive to Carthage to take the ballots before I can come home.
But I hope you all enjoy this next part of Triple Creek Ranch.
“Walk with me to the house.” Then aloud, “I need to get some tea and toast made for Jenelle, but—” he looked around rather helplessly.
“I’d make her some, but tea just isn’t in my line,” St. John apologized.
“I’ll go make it, sir, if it’s all right.” Lloyd shoved back his chair and stood up. “My mother always told me I made a good cup of tea.”
“I’d be much obliged if you would, Hearter,” Norman nodded. “I’ll meet you over at the house in a few minutes.”
“Mr. Mavrich, sir,” Alden said as Norman and Hardrich moved towards the door after the young ranch hand, “Please tell Mrs. Mavrich we’re all sorry to hear she’s feeling poorly.”
An echo seemed to go around the table at Alden’s words and Norman smiled a real smile for the first time that evening. “Thanks men. I’ll tell her.”
Walking slowly towards the ranch house, Norman poured out his trouble into the sympathetic ears of his older foreman. Somehow, just sharing his problem and feeling the pressure of his rough hand on his arm and hearing his quietly spoken words, “I’ll be praying for you,” lifted Norman’s spirit.
“Thanks for listening, Jim. You’ve been a real friend since my uncle passed away.”
Jim Hardrich smiled quietly. “I may not have the answers for you, but you know where to find them. And don’t think you’re in this alone. We’re praying for you and the missus out in the bunk house every night.”
There was no time for more words for Lloyd stepped from the kitchen door. “The tray is ready, Mr. Mavrich.”
“Thanks, Lloyd. I know Jenelle will be thankful I didn’t make it.” He held out his hand to each of the men and entered the house with lighter steps. He couldn’t ask for a better group of hands to work with.
Carrying the tray upstairs, he quietly entered the bedroom to find Jenelle awake. “How are you feeling?” he asked softly, setting down the tray.
“A little better. Don’t tell me you made the tea,” Jenelle half pleaded, half questioned.
“No, Hearter did. Made the toast too. And the men at the bunk house send their regards and hope you’re feeling better soon.”
Neither one spoke much as she ate her toast and drank her tea. Jenelle was too tired and Norman’s thoughts too occupied.
“Thank you, Norman,” Jenelle whispered as she lay back on her pillow after her simple repast was finished. “Now what are you going to do?”
“Do?” Norman bent and kissed his wife, picked up the tea tray and sighed. “Go and finish my talk with Orlena. At least,” he added, “if she hasn’t gone to bed yet.”
“How is it going?”
“I’m not sure, Darling, I’m not sure.”
No light had been turned on in the parlor and the light from the setting sun cast a rosy glow on the room. At first glance Norman thought his sister had gone up to her room, but upon a second look he noticed her curled up in the same chair with her face towards the window. He wondered what she was thinking. Could her mood have softened? How should he reopen the conversation?
Clearing his throat softly, Norman entered the room. Orlena didn’t move. “I’m sorry if I took a while, Sis,” he said gently. “I had to take Jenelle’s tea and toast up to her room.”
The voice that replied from the depths of the armchair was cool and calm, too calm, Norman thought. “No matter, just fetch my trunk from the attic. And if Jenelle isn’t up to packing my trunk tomorrow, you can ride over or send one of your men to fetch the girl who was here when I arrived. She probably doesn’t know much about packing, but I will supervise. I suppose you have a train schedule?” Without waiting for a reply nor turning her head from the window, the child continued, “Find out when the next train leaves for Stockton or Blank City. Perhaps it would be better to go to Blank City after all, for then I can get my wardrobe refurnished. I suppose all Grandmother’s money is in the bank in my name? I’ll have to use some for my clothes.”
When she at last paused for breath or perhaps because she had run out of the things she had planned to say, there was a brief moment when the ticking of the clock and the evening twitter of the birds could be heard.
Sighing, Norman leaned wearily back on the sofa. He wished he didn’t have to disturb the peace of the evening, but— and here he interrupted his own thoughts. It would be far better to interrupt one evening than to disrupt many days because he put off what needed to be said.
“Orlena, the money Grandmother left you is in a trust fund in my name and you won’t have access to it until you are of age. As for train schedules, there is no need of one for no one is going anywhere and I will not bring your trunk down. I told you once, but perhaps you didn’t hear me. You will not be going back to Madam Viscount’s Seminary, ever.” Norman had kept his voice calm but, as he went on, it became more and more firm and that last word had such a definite tone of finality to it that Orlena turned her head and stared at him.
“Not going back?” she managed to gasp in surprise. The thought of not going back had seemed so ridiculous that she had never taken her brother’s words seriously, until now. “What do you mean I’m not going back?” She demanded hotly, sitting up swiftly. “Why not?”
“There are several reasons. One is that it is too far away.” Norman knew he was not giving the real reason, and he felt half vexed with himself. Must he tell her everything?