Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter 107

written 12 November 2007

Paul slept fitfully.

Gilly finally gave up and went into the kitchen, stoked the fire in the stove and got the kettle on. While she waited, she played with flour and water and made biscuits. They were just about the most satisfying food for a morning in Autumn, she thought. She liked the feel of the dough as she cut it into neat little diamond shapes, soft and smooth against her fingers.

She let them rest on the sideboard while the oven finished warming up, and made her tea. Something bracing this morning, there was a crispness to the air. Ah! Just the thing in the cupboard, some of Nan's special tea. It tasted like pies and warm fires and cozy evenings. That would be tasty with the fancy honey she had infused with spiceroot. A good treat after a difficult night.

It wasn't very often any more that Paul kept them both up with his dreams. At first he had tossed and turned every night, eventually moving into the small bedroom behind the kitchen so Gilly could sleep. By the time Nan came home after her accident, he was sleeping most nights, though he was often up long before Gilly.

They all seemed to be about his travels. From what little he would tell her of the dreams, she surmised that more had happened than he spoke of during the days. The bird people, the people of the valley, the sailors who plied the seas between the lands -- there were deeper levels of meaning in the stories, and she hadn't figured it out yet.

She slipped the biscuits into the oven and let the dog in and the cat out. The sunlight was starting to color the tops of the barn and the outbuildings, glinting off the icy eaves and scattering a thousand tiny rainbows about the yard.

Paul shuffled into the kitchen with a yawn and gave her a big hug.

"Hello darling! I guess you didn't sleep very well either," It was a statement, an apology more than a question.

Gilly smiled and kissed him back, the pulled the biscuits out of the oven.

"You go get Andy and the girls and I'll set out the rest of breakfast. It froze again last night." That last was more question than statement; Gilly wondered if Paul would be rushing out to tend animals or the last of the orchard crop.

Paul grimaced, "I'll be working here today, the freeze will have taken out the rest of the tree fruit so there's no hurry there. I'll go see if Ava and Cathy need more wood. Andy can help me if you don't need him for anything else?"

Gilly reminded him gently about school, and Paul smiled, "Well, at the rate he's learning, it won't take him much longer." He disappeared up the stairs and Gilly set out the plates and tableware.

After breakfast, with the cat let in and the dog let out, Gilly cleaned the house, mended Andy's pants (again) and let out the hems (again again), and sat down in the front room to work on a fancy edge for a pillowcase. Meg and Doris were getting older, and Gilly wanted to have their trousseaus ready.

Soon, Paul came home and sat down wearily by the fire, warming his hands. Ava and Cathy were fine, their house was staying cozy and he had made sure their supply of firewood would last through the week. He put his head in his hands, and sighed.

Gilly waited patiently, working the center of a flower.

"I had a dream last night, Gilly," Paul began.

"I was standing in the back, by the stable door and I looked back at the house. I was happy. So glad to be home."

Gilly put her work in her lap and looked at him, listening intently.

"There was a strange light on the house, like the sunset in the autumn, but from the wrong direction. It shimmered, waxing and waning as if a tree were bending in the sunlight.

"I turned and saw the fields on fire. The hedgerows were smouldering, and the snow on the lane had melted. I couldn't see the tree..."

Paul looked at her desolately.

"It was a dream, Paul -- not real," whispered Gilly, "We are fine."

Paul's look said otherwise. Standing, he moved toward the door, "I think I'll just meet with Peter and talk about those firebreaks we started last Spring. It would be a good idea to check them over once more."

Gilly nodded, and turned back to her work thoughtfully, while the cat reclaimed its chair by the fire.