Sarah's Phoenix: Being Female (Part 2)

       Many of the chores were the same as it had been on her parents farm. Water and feed the livestock. Gather the eggs. Milk the cow. Sarah was glad her farm hadn’t been the most up-to-date. And that meant she knew how to do it all, without Rebecca or Elizabeth needing to teach her. Of course these were the men’s chores; the chores that Ted and Brent would take over when they got back from town. It was the woman’s work that Sarah found she had to learn; a fact that puzzled both Rebecca and Elizabeth.

‘Why don’t you know how to use a Dutch Oven?’ Elizabeth asked as Rebecca was trying to explain to Sarah how it was done.

‘We didn’t have one.’ It was the simplest answer Sarah could think of.

Why not?’

‘We didn’t need one.’

‘How did you make your bread?’

‘ ‘Lizbeth!’ Rebecca scolded, though Sarah could see she was curious herself.

‘I come from a very different world,’ Sarah said. She turned from them and walked out the door to fetch more wood. Wood used to make things, wood used to cook on, wood used to heat a home, Sarah’s mind listed. She loaded her arms up and brought her load to the wood box. It took two trips to top it off. The sun was nearly set when all the daily tasks were done. It still amazed her all the work that went into keeping house. It also exhausted her. She barely had time for a single thought before sleep overtook her each night.

Sarah brought in more wood the next afternoon while Elizabeth brought in water from the well. ‘What’s that?’ she asked as movement along the road caught her eye. Rebecca stepped outside and shaded her eyes.

‘Looks like the boys are home at last.’ Rebecca stated and returned inside. Sarah continued watching as Elizabeth passed her with the empty bucket. Elizabeth stopped and looked in the same direction.

‘Papa!’ she screamed and took off across the fields, the bucket strewn on the ground, completely forgotten.

‘I’ll never be able to tame that child.’ Rebecca shook her head. There was both regret and affection in her voice. Sarah began to deposit her load of wood in the wood box. Rebecca set her work down carefully and went to the door. ‘Not that her father helps,’ she walked out to meet her husband as the wagon pulled up in front of the barn, Elizabeth now on board.

Sarah suddenly felt like a fifth wheel. She walked cautiously outside watching the family reunion. The young man, whom Sarah supposed was Brent, deftly jumped off, to take the horses’ reins. As he started to unhitch them, Elizabeth jumped out to help. Ted climbed down with more dignity, greeting his wife with a hug and a kiss. He still had his arm about Rebecca’s waist when Sarah reached them.

'So you must be Sarah,’ he said taking his arm from his wife’s waist to touch his hat in greeting. Sarah nodded, uncertain of the proper response. ‘Matt and Lord Jason ran into me in town. Hope ‘Becca hasn’t been working you too hard.’

‘Not at all,’ Sarah replied, managing a smile. ‘It’s been good to keep busy.’

‘Well lets get this wagon unloaded before it gets too dark to see,’ and Rebecca put her words into action. Sarah and Elizabeth, now back from the barn, helped bring in the house goods. The men unloaded the rest.

The girls had a light dinner on the table when Brent and Ted finally came in. Ted had a package under his arm. ‘Almost forgot,’ he said handing it over to Sarah, ‘His Lordship asked me to give this to you.’

‘Thank you,’ Sarah said, wondering what Jason could have possibly sent her. She set the package aside as they sat down to eat. Elizabeth kept glancing at it.

Rebecca and Ted did most of the talking at dinner. They discussed his trip to town, the current news and the crops. When they started talking about livestock Elizabeth was prone to jump in. Once the table was cleared and everyone was sipping their evening drinks Sarah picked up the package. Elizabeth watched her with intense curiosity.

Sarah carefully unwrapped the package. Jay had picked up some of her favorite colors in yarn. He’d also supplied her with fabric to embroider. Sarah smiled; hand embroidery was something she did have experience with. As she pulled out the fabric something dropped. Sarah heard it hit the floor, but before she could react Elizabeth had picked it up. The girl held the object in her hand, as if she’d found something extremely precious. For once Elizabeth was at a loss for words as she looked at it.

Rebecca coughed and Elizabeth took a step toward Sarah. ‘He must really like you,’ she whispered as she carefully placed it into Sarah’s hand. Sarah looked at it for a moment before she slowly closed her hand around it. There was no way, no way it could be what she thought it was. Sarah squeezed it so tight she could feel the stone cut into her palm as she fought for control of her emotions. Slowly, setting the package back on the table, Sarah stood.

‘Look, there’s a chain too,’ Elizabeth exclaimed, seeing what Sarah could not. She pulled it out and handed it to Sarah.

‘Thank you,’ Sarah managed to say before turning to the door. Sobs threatened to burst from her, as she walked with deliberation out of the house. Sarah walked without knowing where she was going, until she found herself beneath the apple tree. She could feel the ring making an imprint into her palm. Opening her hand, Sarah stared at the ring. It gleamed in the moonlight. Slowly she sank down, her back against the tree. Where was Jason when she needed him now? Needed him to explain why this ring was here, in her hands. ‘Why!’ Sarah screamed and closed her hand again. Hugging her knees to her chest she let the sobs flow.

The End

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