It was later than usual when Norman came back to the house. Jenelle went down to him as soon as she heard his footsteps.
“I thought you had decided to stay out there all night,” she told him with a smile.
“Nope.” Norman hung up his hat, “Alden, Scott and I were fixing a fence in the back pasture and it took longer than I thought. Didn’t St. John or Hearter stop by?”
Slowly Jenelle shook her head. “I don’t think so, but they could have come in softly and I didn’t hear.”
“Fretful. The doctor said she is no worse.”
Mr. and Mrs. Mavrich had mounted the stairs as they talked and entered their room. Noticing the paleness of his wife’s face, Norman frowned.
“What is it?” Jenelle asked him, sinking into her rocking chair with a slight sigh.
“You,” was the unexpected answer.
“Me?” Blinking in surprise, Jenelle stared in astonishment at Norman’s reflection in the mirror.
For a minute only the splashing of water was heard, but when Norman could speak again he replied, “Yes, you. You are pale and look tired. As soon as St. John rings the bell, I’m sending you over to eat. I’ll remain here with Orlena until you return. Then I’ll go eat.”
“Norman—” she began.
“Sweetheart,” Norman interrupted her, “have you eaten anything since breakfast?”
Jenelle nodded. It hadn’t been much, but it was something. “It’s the heat,” she began her protest again. “I just don’t feel like eating anything.” She looked pleadingly at her husband.
Suddenly a rumble of thunder was heard and Norman dashed to the window with Jenelle close behind him. “Look at those storm clouds, Jenelle!” he exclaimed. “Those weren’t there when I came home. Thank God! We need rain,” he added fervently.
The trees around the house began to sway in the wind, and the curtains, which had hung so still and motionless for so many days, danced on the breeze. Jenelle dropped to her knees before the open window and closed her eyes, letting the refreshing air stir her dress, whip her hair and cool her hot cheeks. Another rumble of thunder sounded, closer this time and Norman, who was watching the sky, saw the fork of lightning in the dark clouds.
The sound of the dinner bell from the bunk house followed the thunder and caused Norman to step back from the window as Jenelle reluctantly rose to her feet.
“Norman,” she pleaded. “I don’t want to be stuck out in the bunk house when the rain comes. Suppose you go over and bring me a plate of supper and then you can go eat with the men. I’ll just eat with Orlena and try to get her to eat some more.”
Before he replied, Norman brushed his hand caressingly down Jenelle’s face and cupping her small chin in his hand lifted her face. “You’re tired,” he remarked. “All right,” he added. “But you have to promise to eat,” and he tried to look stern but failed completely.
Jenelle did eat when Lloyd brought a plate, heaped with St. John’s wonderful cooking, to her, but her appetite was poor and feeling the need to be with Orlena since she was awake, made it more difficult to settle down to an empty kitchen and dining room for a large meal.
Orlena lay silent, watching the brilliant lightning streak across the sky in jagged paths, lighting up the clouds, and listening to the thunder rumble and roll now in the distance, now close at hand while the wind, as though trying to make up for the stillness of the past days, bowed the tree tops, lashed the branches and whipped the leaves about; it was a fascinating display and Jenelle, sitting beside Orlena’s bed, watched out the windows with her. It was there that Norman found them just as the clouds seemed to split wide open and the rains poured down on the dry, thirsty earth.
“Quite a storm, isn’t it?” he remarked in a lull between crashes of thunder.
Jenelle turned. “I was afraid you had gotten caught in the bunk house when it began to rain.”
“No, I made it back before it let loose, but I rather think that Hearter and Scott may be stuck in the barn a while unless they don’t mind being drenched.” He stepped across to a window and tried to look out, but it was only when the lightning flashed that he could see much. “This rain ought to cool things off a bit,” he remarked after several minutes, as the thunder lessened and the wind calmed down somewhat.
There was no answer from the other occupants of the room and Norman turned.
Orlena, lulled by the sound of the rain, had fallen asleep and Jenelle had leaned her head on the back of the chair and was staring vacantly at the ceiling.
“Come on,” he said, touching his wife’s arm, “Orlena shouldn’t need you until morning.”
It rained all night and the air felt clean and fresh instead of hot, dry and dusty. Jenelle felt more rested than she had in days and, since there were many things that needed done, she was grateful for the cooler weather.
The day was a busy one for Mrs. Mavrich. There was laundry to wash, bread to make, rooms to dust, chickens to feed, as well as trying to amuse and nurse Miss Orlena. Jenelle didn’t know why, but after ten minutes spent in her sister’s room, she felt more tired then after washing a tub full of clothes. “Perhaps,” she mused, “it is because I can think when I wash clothes, while in Orlena’s room, she scarcely gives one time to think,” and Jenelle began kneading her bread. “I wonder if Orlena would enjoy making the beds? Dusting? Taking care of the chickens?” At every chore she shook her head. She couldn’t imagine Orlena enjoying any thing that looked like work.
What do you think now?