Tayna's brothers were crafty and raced out to play in the barn before their mother could order them to do more chores. She and Tayna were left alone, concealed by the hanging bed sheet like they had their own room to themselves, sitting on the low stools opposite each other, Tayna washing plates and utensils, her mother scrubbing clothes.
'It's later, I want to know what happened at Higgins' farm, miss,' her mother said crudely.
Tayna looked up, taken by surprise, 'we just had tea together, it's nothing. He asked me how I was doing at school and how it was here, and then he offered me the flowers. They're called snapdragons, look.' She stretched out and pulled a flower from the basket, 'if you press down like this, it looks like they're talking. Hello, I am a snapdragon, see? Higgins said he thought I'd like them because they match my eyes.'
Despite Tayna's spirit, her mother didn't look impressed. 'You should stay away from him, Tayna.'
Her brow furrowed, dropping the snapdragon onto her lap, 'why? Because he doesn't talk to many people, or because he likes his privacy up at his farm. Just because somebody's a recluse doesn't mean they have something to hide.'
'He's lived up in that farm for almost twenty years, alone and grouchy, he doesn't talk to anybody except to take money for his meat from us.'
Tayna swilled out cups loudly, murmuring, 'he talks to me.'
'That,' she said, 'is not always a good thing. Call me supercilious if you want, but a lonely, old man looking for friendship with a young girl gives me the shivers each time I think about it.'
'It isn't like that! And even if it was, don't you think I could protect myself when the time came?'
'You "protecting" yourself is precisely what I'm worried about,' she snapped.