Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Forty Four

Storytime began at 9:07 pm on 13 September 2006

Helena and Esmeralda kept their vigil in the front room until it was very late. Finally, Helena acquiesced to the urgings of the doctor and went to bed.

Esmeralda peeked in at Nan, saw she was still resting comfortably, and woke Gilly just enough to get her to lie down on the other bed in the room.

Then Esmeralda stretched out on the divan in the front room and considered her options for the morning.

She could leave Nan at Helena's, where she would be comfortable enough, but a drain on Peter's family which was already emotionally over-wrought.

She could wrap Nan securely so she could be transported across the fields to home.

The first option would allow any physical healing that had begun to continue.

The second option would certainly be uncomfortable and might set Nan back in her healing, but no more than a day.

She sighed. Ideally, Nan would have been taken home right away...

She sighed again and let the question float in the air above her head as she went to sleep.

Meanwhile Nan, relieved of the pain, was sleeping deeply and dreaming...

She walked through a swirling green and red mist that smelled of winter spices and sweet fruits.

Gradually, the mist grew lighter, and she was walking in a white fog so dense that she couldn't see her feet.

She might have been walking in a cloud, so complete was the illusion that all had been left behind.

Occasionally, a thread of the mist would beckon her, looking like a face, or a plant --

Some of the mist threads were threatening -- large animals with big teeth that looked like her cat, but much more fierce.

She walked on, breathing in the white fog.

It got lighter and lighter, and she soon found her head on top of the mist and her body below.

It was a strange feeling, to be a body-less head.

Nan put her hands up out of the mist so at least she had some company.

In front rose a hill. She made her way to it, and found herself climbing out on a ledge.

She peered over the edge, and froze.

There was no mist -- and she was on the mountain, very close to the top.

She looked around. She was alone.

Far out on the horizon, she could see a line of birds, flying, flying...

She had to get there. Again, she lifted her arms and the wind caught her.

Up, up! she willed, and up she soared.

She flew away from the mountain, over her village (it looked so small) and her mother's house.

She flew over Uncle Peter's fields, and saw the workers bringing in the harvest.

Some of the workers looked up and pointed at her, and she retreated.

Higher and higher she flew, further and further.

In no time, there was nothing familiar.

The land gave way to water -- an ocean, and on she flew.

The ocean grew wild, and winds pushed her this way and that.

So she flew higher.

Islands appeared in the ocean and brilliantly colored birds called to her to stop and visit, but she kept going.

Finally, land appeared once more, and she dipped and swirled and danced in the play between land air and water air.

A broad plain, bisected by a river, then a forest appeared.

The trees in the forest huddled together, dark and menacing, and no birds flew there.

Past the forest, up a valley and into a mountain pass.

She landed, and walked forward along the trail, newly cut and freshly paved.

Nan was getting tired, but kept on until she heard the birds ahead of her.

They were massed around a pool of water so clear that even the air above it seemed cleansed.

Silently, they parted to let her through.

She looked down in the water, and saw a woman, beautiful, asleep.

Nan knelt by the pool and reached her hand into the water...

The woman opened her eyes. Eyes so dark the light seemed to be drawn into them.

She smiled at Nan, and the girl fell slowly forward...

She woke to sunlight streaming in the window and a warm brick at her feet.

Nan could hear the sound of people busy in the kitchen next to her room; and turned her head toward the door.

Gilly was standing there, her back to Nan, talking in hushed tones.

Esmeralda peeked in, and saw Nan watching.

"Well, well," joked the doctor, "So you finally woke up! I bet you had some interesting dreams?"

Nan nodded and Gilly stepped aside to let Esmeralda in.

Swiftly, she unwrapped Nan from the pile of blankets, and slowly undid the bandages that had been holding her arms tight on her chest.

Nan gasped at the sudden release, and the pain that ensued.

Esmeralda grimaced. This was not going to be easy or pleasant.

"Nan, we need to move you a little and change your clothes and the bedding. It is going to hurt. I can give you something to numb the pain, but it will still be uncomfortable. Do you understand?"

"Yes," affirmed Nan, her mouth dry.

Esmeralda put three drops from a vial in her bag under Nan's tongue. Then she carefully lifted Nan's legs while Gilly pulled the old sheets off and put a new sheet on.

She placed some long cloth strips under a hard board next to Nan on the opposite side of the bed, then carefully leaned Nan forward.

As promised, in spite of the pain relief, Nan cried out as Gilly slid the board and strips behind her.

Then in a swift move -- too quick for Nan to question it, Gilly cut off the little girl's shift from behind.

Esmeralda set Nan back against the board, now propped up on pillows, and together she and Gilly took off Nan's clothes and gave her a gentle sponge bath, exclaiming under their breaths at the many bruises where the cart had rolled over her.

Nan whimpered a little and Esmeralda gave her a stern look. "We have to do this, Nan, be patient a little more and it'll be done and you can rest."

Nan counted dust motes above her mother's head while some padding was put around the sides of her torso and the strips secured, gently but firmly, in front.

She counted gray hairs on Esmeralda's head while they rolled the rest of the bedding off and neatened the new bedding.

Finally, she was secure and reclining at a comfortable enough angle, her arms free and fresh sheets and blankets on top.

Esmeralda smiled at her, "Brave girl! I knew you could do it."

"Now I will let your mother bring in some broth and then you need to sleep again."

Nan sighed, not too deeply, and smiled.

Esmeralda and Gilly faded out, and went to discuss the "what next" out of hearing.