Saturday, September 1, 2007

Thirty Four

Diana slept late, comfortable for the first time in weeks in a complex wadding of quilts. She opened her eyes on a room full of sunshine and for a moment was reminded of the sunny bedroom of her childhood. Rested and peaceful, she felt like a girl again until a sharp kick in her belly brought her back to the present.

She had already sensed she was alone, so she wasn't surprised to find Will gone. She put on the robe and slippers Amalia had left for her and padded into the kitchen where she found Amalia sitting at the kitchen table helping a small black-haired girl to read. "Good morning," Diana said.

"More like noon," Amalia said. "I can fix you some breakfast, or you can wait until lunch, if you prefer."

"Maybe just some coffee for now." Her gaze fell on the girl. "Who's this? An early student?"

"This is Kitta." Amalia turned to the girl. "Kitta, this is your Aunt Diana."

Kitta looked at Diana with serious gray eyes. "Nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you, too." Diana looked at Amalia curiously. "She's got good manners. Who is she, and when did I become her aunt?"

Amalia began preparing a pot of coffee. "A couple months ago, a stranger showed up. He said this girl was an orphan and he'd heard about our school. We explained we don't take them so young. She says she’s four. But James said the child wasn't his and he didn't know what else to do with her. We let them stay the night, and in the morning he was gone." She made a helpless gesture. "We couldn't just toss her off the mountain."

Kitta looked up as if startled at such a notion.

"So she's yours now."

"It would seem."

"How does this make me her aunt? I mean, if I call you my aunt, and you’re her mother. . ."

“Actually, I’ve asked her to call me Grandma.”

“Well, I surely can’t be her aunt, if that’s the case.”

"But it sounds good, don't you think?"

"I guess it’s no more weird than the rest of our family relationships, but what kind of name is Kitta?"

"We thought at first she was trying to say her name was Catherine or Katie, but she's pretty emphatic that it's Kitta."

Diana eased herself into a chair. "What is that you're working on, Kitta?" The girl pushed a book toward her. "Curious George? That’s a great book. Do you like it?"

Kitta nodded. "We don't have monkeys here."

"No, I wouldn't think so." She accepted a cup of coffee from Amalia and looked around. "Where is everyone?"

"Will and Coyote went with Miguel to look at an irrigation line. Macy is in the library. You created a monster by teaching that young lady to read."

"She was halfway there, already. She just needed books and motivation."

"Maybe you'd like to work with Kitta."

"I don't know much about kids."

"You're a married woman, Diana. You'll need to know."

Before she could answer, a door slammed and Macy came into the room, struggling under a stack of books. "You've got a gold mine here, Ms. Channing. How'd you get all these up the mountain?"

"I think the more important question is how you intend on getting them all back down. I said you could borrow a few, not the entire library."

Macy giggled. "I'm going to narrow this down to just two or three. But they all looked good, and I read so slow, I figured I'd need to spend some time figuring out which ones I really wanted. I brought them in here so I wouldn’t be distracted by all the other ones."

"Take your time. There's never any rush around here."

"Actually," Macy sighed, "Joseph wants to leave tomorrow."

"So soon?"

"He's got some things he wants to before we go back to camp."

"What crazy idea does he have this time?" Diana asked.

"He thinks we should go back a different way and check out some of the towns along the rail line."

"Don't tell me he's planning another derailment."

"No, nothing like that." She ducked her head shyly. "He thinks the wars will be over soon and when they are, he wants to buy us a house and get a job with the railway."

Diana frowned. "No one’s going to pay him to blow up their trains."

"Stop that." Macy slapped her on the arm. "He figures since he knows all the best ways to destroy trains, he'll be a good person to tell them how to keep them safe."

"There may be something to that," Amalia said.

"What will you do if he gets a job in town?" Diana asked. When Macy motioned to the books by way of answer, Diana inspected them more closely. "You're going to try and be a doctor?"

"A midwife. Why not?"

"You aren't going to learn it just from books."

"I know. I've got money to pay for training, once we settle somewhere. What do you think I did with all those dollars Joseph used to pay me to go to bed with him?"

Amalia gave a little jerk of her head to indicate Kitta, who was listening to their conversation with rapt attention. "Little pitchers have big ears."

"My ears aren't big," Kitta said.

Diana laughed. "She's got you there, Auntie."

"She's too clever for her own good." Amalia opened a cupboard and began pulling out containers. "And now if you girls don't mind, I'm going to prepare some lunch. Macy, why don't you get some cheese out of the root cellar, and a few vegetables. Any kind."

"How can I help?" Diana struggled to her feet.

Amalia looked at her belly. "You can help by staying out of the way. Keep Kitta occupied."

"She's already occupied."

"Diana. . ."

"Okay." She sat down again and scooted closer to Kitta. "Let's see what's going on with the Man in the Yellow Hat."

1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

I like this glimpse into the future.