few moments, then she decided she didn’t care. She wasn’t a town girl to worry over reputation and besides, when she and Harry married, it would quiet any talk. Maude indulged in a few daydreams about a wedding, then laughed at herself. There wouldn’t be any big do, just the vows and a lifetime together. And it would be good enough.
We should get to bed—it’ll be another long, hard day tomorrow. Before Maude could act on her thought, Harry stirred. He stretched out his leg and winced. She’d noticed earlier he’d favored it but said nothing because he didn’t like the fuss. He’d told her once he didn’t want to feel like a cripple, not ever. But now, familiar enough to ask, she said, “Does your leg pain you?”
Harry wrinkled his nose. “A little.”
Maude abandoned her chair to kneel on the floor. “There’s still some of Granny’s liniment left if you want me to fetch it.” As she spoke, her hands rubbed up and down his calf in hopes she could work out some of the pain. She could feel the bump of the badly healed break.
He grimaced. “All right, I guess. It’s smarting more than usual.”
She brought the homemade tincture his grandmother made and poured some into her hands. The aroma burned her nose with its’ mixture of alcohol, wintergreen, cayenne pepper, witch hazel, and herbs, including what she’d swear was sage. Maude rubbed into his leg with slow, deliberate movement. Judging by the grunts he made, it must help at least a little. When she finished, she put up the bottle and washed her hands. “Let’s get some sleep,” she said, and he nodded with a yawn before he banked the fire for the night.
Stiff in body, Maude curled up behind Harry once they retired. Little of the heat from the fireplace ever made it up the stairs so she shivered, cold, until their body heat warmed them both. She drifted to sleep making a mental list of all the things she had to do come morning and a time line to have dinner ready to serve by one or so. Once fast asleep, she dreamed…
Her footsteps echoed as she walked through the house, loud and somehow ominous. Maude shivered with cold, too, and she wept, tears trailing down both her cheeks. Loneliness and sadness filled her with a deep ache, and as she wandered she called out for Harry but he didn’t answer. She could scarcely see in the black rooms where dark shadows consumed what little light remained. There wasn’t any fire in the hearth and none of the lamps were lit. Maude climbed the stairs, her tread heavy and her heart weighed down with grief. She couldn’t locate Harry or her son. Her voice rang too loud in the empty rooms.
Then she found herself outside, wandering in circles. Crows squawked in the sky above her, although she didn’t see them. Their caws rang out and reverberated from the hills. Low clouds hung heavy over the countryside and loomed dark, heavy with rain or pregnant with snow. One way or another, a storm approached. Her frantic need to find George and Harry sent her running into the woods. Limbs lashed at her, branches slapped her face, and she lost her footing when she tripped over a rock. Maude impacted the ground hard and her knees stung. She groped to find her footing without success and screamed Harry’s name but no answer came. Far in the distance she thought she heard George crying, the thin high wail of fatigue tempered with fear. Head cocked, Maude tried to determine what direction the sound issued from but she couldn’t tell. Her maternal instinct urged her to find her boy, but she didn’t know where to turn or what way to go.
Confused and afraid, she hesitated. One more time she shouted for Harry, no longer expecting an answer but driven by desperation. She called his name three times and she thought she heard him cry out. Maude wasn’t certain, though, and she took several steps forward.
“Harry?” she called. A
Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen
Lauren Barnholdt, Aaron Gorvine