Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Sixty Two

Written offline on 14 October 2006

The next afternoon, it began to snow. At first, it was a gentle kiss of frost, then a more passionate embrace. The earth sank into a reverie -- wisps of smoke drifted lazily around the village and lingered in the branches.

Polly, Meg, Doris and Andy came home early from school. It was traditional to let the schoolchildren take off the first day of snow, and this close to the winter festival, the teacher decided to let them off until the new year. Otto and Owain met them on the way, driving the little cart out from the market with a load of wood and a few cuts of meat their mother had ordered from the butcher.

Gilly met them out front, wiping flour onto her apron.

"Well hello, children! Glad you're home. Polly, will you let Aunt Cathy know you're home early? I think she had a project she wanted your help on."

Otto and Owain trotted the cart around the back, and Owain brought the meat inside while Otto made sure the donkey was comfortable. Then they helped their father stack the wood before coming inside.

Doris and Andy went immediately to Nan's room, their arms loaded with books the teacher had sent home. An atlas, a history of the villages on the mountain, a collection of old songs and legends, a book with questions on a thousand different topics. Nan's happy voice could be heard, exclaiming over the riches, and asking about their day and their own homework.

Meg came and sat down in the kitchen, setting her books on the table with a sigh. Gilly looked up from the pie crust she was rolling out. She brushed a strand of hair back with the back of her wrist and smiled at her pretty daughter.

Meg smiled back wanly.

"Mother, how old were you when you and Father decided to get married? I mean, when did you know you were in love?"

Gilly lifted the crust and set it in the pan, carefully trimming the edges and reaching for the bowl of fruit filling.

"Oh, about your age. We were betrothed at midwinter when I was Polly's age. " She paused and looked sidelong at Meg, "Why, dear?"

She started cutting strips of the leftover crust, and wove them neatly into a lattice on top of the filling. She crimped the edges and slipped it into the hot closest to the fire.

Meg sighed again, putting a bit of the uncooked pie crust in her mouth, she chewed slowly, enjoying the salty taste. "I guess I just don't know why Polly is getting betrothed and no one even looks at me."

Gilly nodded, and started to spread jam on the remaining crust, setting the pieces in the bottom of an extra tin. "It will happen, Meg, it will. Your Aunt Nancy was almost 18 before she wed, and Aunt Helena was 19. Be patient, and enjoy the time you have." Meg stood and started to wash the bowls.

Her mother hummed a quiet little song as they cleaned the kitchen together.

By the time Paul and the twins had come in from outside, the pie was ready. Nan, Doris and Andy popped into the kitchen just in time to snag the first plates.

As the snow continued falling, Polly came home beaming, with a sack bulging with fabric scraps. Her aunt and grandmother had cut all the pieces for a quilt, and arranged for a bee the following week.

The light dimmed in the sky, and the snow stopped. Soon, the clouds lifted and cleared, and the stars twinkled gaily over the mountain. The moons lit up the landscape and the village shone with the peace of a still night.