Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Fifty Eight

Written offline on 4 and 5 October 2006

Go to the second part
Tor stormed up the steps, followed by an anxious-looking pair of twins.

"Gilly!" he bellowed, striding vigorously through the front room and pushing the kitchen door open.

Gilly turned from the stove, her spoon held in front of her like a weapon.

It took a moment to register who was in the room...

Then she was swept up in his embrace, laughing and crying. The twins stood aside, looking uncomfortable.

Nan sat at the table, fidgeting, and trying to be very quiet.

Finally, Tor let Gilly go and looked around the room.

Spying Nan, he went down on his knees and put his hand gently on her cheek.

"Well, darlin'! You've grown a bit since I saw you last. Feeling any better?" he asked gently.

"Yes, thank you Uncle," Nan replied.

"Well!" he boomed, standing suddenly, " Where is that low-life husband of yours?"

Paul came in the back door with a load of wood.

Tor didn't even wait for him to set it down.

His fist lashed out and sent Paul staggering. Otto and Owain leapt forward and each grabbed one arm, while Gilly swiftly moved to Nan's side and helped her out of the way.

Whump! Paul hit the door and the wood went flying.

"Tor!" commanded Gilly in a voice that could stop a tornado in its tracks, "You will not be violent in my house, in front of my children!"

Tor struggled free of the twins and glowered at Paul, who was lying in the corner under the wood, rubbing his face.

"Let me guess," Paul slurred through his fat lip, "I did something you don't like?"

Gilly nodded at Otto, who helped Nan into the back room. Owain hovered, close enough to stop Tor from hitting again, but out of sight.

Gilly helped Paul up and into a chair, all the while glaring at Tor.

"The least you can do, is pick up my wood, Tor. Then you can explain yourself."

He stooped to grab the wood, muttering under his breath. Shortly, the wood was neatly stacked and he was hulking by the stove, watching Gilly tend to Paul's bruised face.

Otto was sent next door, and Owain set to work finishing the chores his father had been about doing.

Finally, Gilly was done with Paul and turned to her brother. "Sit!" she commanded, pointing at a chair on the opposite side of the table.

She looked at the pot on the stove and moved it, shaking her head at its overly-brown contents.

She filled the kettle and put it on the hottest burner, and sat down next to Paul, resting her forehead wearily in her hand.

Part B

Back to first part of the chapter

Ava came dashing up the steps, an anxious look on her face, followed closely by Cathy, Adam and Otto.

"TOR!" she shrieked, "What have you done?"

She rushed to Paul's side and checked him carefully. Paul smiled painfully out of the working side of his face, trying to reassure her. It didn't work, she saw him wince. His jaw was swollen, and had turned bright pink in the shape of Tor's fist.

Adam stood off the to the side, Otto behind him like a shadow, their arms akimbo.

Cathy shook her finger at Tor, but couldn't make sounds come out of her mouth. She finally quit in disgust.

Tor shrank, smaller and smaller in his chair, looking ashamed. His face fell and he looked around the room, avoiding everyone's gaze in turn. But everywhere he turned, there was someone.

This was going to take some major explaining.

"I heard Paul was back," he began. And petered out.

"I heard Nan was injured..." Still no good.

"Aw piffle!" That was about right. He stopped and looked pleadingly at his mother.

Paul laughed, and Gilly's face relaxed.

Tor smiled ruefully.

"Well!" declared Cathy, "We'd best be about fixing supper. I suppose you were in the middle of cooking when Tor arrived?" she asked her sister as she moved to make some tea from the now-hot water in the kettle.

Nan's voice came from the back room, "Is it safe to come out now?"

Just then, the front door opened. Andy and the other girls were home.

"Uncle Tor!" Andy hollered as he came into the kitchen, dropping his books on a chair.

Tor turned in surprise and scooped up his nephew, tickling him with his rough mustache.

Nan slipped in, and stood by her mother and Aunt, watching soberly.

Suddenly, Polly's voice rang out, "Father! What have you done to your face?" Andy and the girls turned toward Paul, realized how crowded the kitchen was, and quickly figured it out.

Andy's hands balled up into fists, but he stood there, waiting for answers.

Tor shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'll let your folks tell you kids -- I'm pretty ashamed of myself right now, jumping to conclusions and all. Probably best if I just head out."

But of course Gilly and Cathy replied, "Nonsense!" with Cathy continuing, "You'll come and have supper with us and let Paul rest, and we'll be back later for explanations and tales of your travels."

She looked pointedly at Paul, "Both of your travels... been too long since we heard more of your time in that mysterious valley, Paul!"

And with that, Adam took his son firmly by the elbow and pushed him out the door. Ava gave Gilly a quick kiss, and they were out the door.

Nan walked up to her father with a small vial in her hand, smiling shyly.

"Father, I looked in my book and realized this is good for bruises. Would you like to use it? I made it up just last week."

Gilly clapped her hands and smiled broadly, "Well, looks like you're in good hands, dear." She turned to the older girls, "Girls, please help me fix dinner. It's going to be a bit later than I had planned..."

Otto and Andy slipped outside and helped Owain finish the chores, enjoying the cool winter evening. They talked about the market, school, and their plans for the winter festival.

One thing was sure, their family was far from dull!