“I can clean, cook, tend to Orlena, make beds and wash clothes. I’m not sure but I could feed chickens or gather eggs though never have I done so before.”
Jenelle was speechless. The thought of having someone to talk to who wouldn’t always be complaining, not to mention the help she would have, was a relief so wonderful that she couldn’t say a word for a full minute. Then she laughed. Rising she said with another laugh, “I’m delighted to have you here, Mrs. O’Connor, really. I wasn’t expecting help and—” her eyes filled suddenly with tears of joy and relief. Blinking them back she smiled and turned to her husband. “Norman take Mrs. O’Connor’s trunk up to the west corner room. I haven’t had a chance to dust it today and the bed needs aired and--”
Shouldering the trunk, Norman interrupted Jenelle. “See what I mean?” he chuckled to Mrs. O’Connor. “Trying to plan more work already.”
Laughing, the ladies followed Norman up the stairs and down the hall. Orlena’s voice could be heard calling for Jenelle.
Once they reached the west corner room and Norman had set the trunk down, remarking that he would go unhitch the team, Mrs. O’Connor glanced about her with an approving smile and said, “Now, Mrs. Mavrich, which would you be liking me to do first, see to Miss Orlena or unpack my trunk?”
Jenelle paused in the doorway and spoke somewhat hesitatingly, for she was not used to giving orders regarding the house to strangers. “If you wouldn’t mind stepping in to see Orlena, it might be pleasant for her to see a familiar face. I could dust your room and air the sheets. But,” she added, hearing Orlena’s raised voice calling her, “perhaps I should go to Orlena. . .” Without thinking, her hand moved to her aching head at the thought of her fractious young sister.
“No, I’ll see to Orlena,” Mrs. O’Connor said briskly, noticing the tired look on Jenelle’s face. “I am used to her and will settle her quickly and then come back and settle this room. Why don’t you sit down and rest, Child?” And Mrs. O’Connor bustled down the hall to answer Orlena’s demands.
Left alone, Jenelle gave a sigh and smiled faintly. “I have a feeling Norman brought me an angel. With her to help, perhaps I won’t be so tired by the middle of the day.” She meant to start dusting the room, but instead sat down for just a moment, in a low rocker, and when Mrs. O’Connor returned some fifteen minutes later she started up in surprise.
“I must have fallen asleep,” Jenelle yawned. “I almost never sleep during the day unless I have a sick headache.” She started to get up but her new housekeeper waved her back.
“No, Mrs. Mavrich, just sit there and if you feel up to it, we can talk. This room can wait till tomorrow to be dusted and it won’t take long to unpack my trunk entirely.” She was busy as she spoke, unlocking the trunk and raising the lid. “If those few minutes were enough time for you to sleep in, it is tired you are.”
“But I shouldn’t be tired,” Jenelle protested. “I’ve hardly done any real work this morning for Orlena has needed . . .” she paused to consider what it was that Orlena really had needed and ended at last with a soft, “me.”
Mrs. O’Connor nodded wisely. “And how often was it that she sent you for a drink this morning when the pitcher of water was beside her bed?”
“Maybe half a dozen times, but the water in the pitcher wasn’t as cool as—”
“As Miss Orlena would like,” finished Mrs. O’Connor dryly. “I know. I’ve lived with her most of her life.”
Norman remained at the house for the noonday meal, and while they ate he explained that Orlena was not the one giving orders about the ranch and Mrs. O’Connor needn’t give in to her every whim.
“Jenelle,” Norman turned to his wife, “I saw Dr. French in town this morning and he said he’d be out this evening unless he receives a call elsewhere.”
Jenelle nodded. Perhaps the doctor would say that Orlena should get up. Would it be easier then or more difficult to deal with her?
“—Mrs. O’Connor. Won’t you, Dear?”
Jenelle turned a blank face to her husband. “Won’t I want?” she asked. “I’m afraid I wasn’t listening.”
“I really should send you to bed,” Norman smiled at her. “Or I could have Dr. French look at you.”
Jenelle shook her head, returning the smile. “I was only thinking. What did you say?”
“I said you were going to go lie down and rest this afternoon and leave Orlena to Mrs. O’Connor. Won’t you?”
Looking astonished, Jenelle shook her head. “Why Norman, Mrs. O’Connor only arrived this morning! I wouldn’t dream of pushing Orlena off on her. She should be the one to rest.”
A rich chuckle sounded across the table and Mrs. O’Connor spoke, “Ah, Norman, you have a thoughtful wife, indeed. But Deary,” and she turned to Jenelle, “I’m not the least bit tired and I imagine a good long rest would do you good. Orlena can tell me all about what has happened since I last saw her and you needn’t fret a wee bit about it.”
“Darling,” Norman said gently, placing a hand tenderly on her arm, “please. For my sake, get some rest and don’t worry about Orlena or Mrs. O’Connor. Tonight, after the doctor comes, we can have a long talk it you want and plan everything, but this afternoon . . .” His grey eyes were soft and pleading as they gazed into his wife’s tired face.
Giving a sigh, Jenelle closed her eyes a moment and then looked up to say with a slight laugh, “I am out numbered, so I’ll rest. If,” she looked at Mrs. O’Connor, “you are sure you feel up to it.”
Thoughts on the story so far?