Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Eighty Five

Cathy looked up from her needlework briefly as her mother left the house with a basket of cakes on her arm. She was off to Esmeralda's, to check on her cousin and see that Nan was comfortable. Ava worried so about Nan, thought Cathy, and more so since Adam had died.

The cat was curled up on the other chair next to the fire, a bit miffed that Adam's chair was presently occupied. And the dog stood by the door, whining to be let out. Cathy chirped to him -- if she let him out, he would either follow Ava and be a nuisance, or want back in immediately. Either way, he would truly be happier stuck inside by the warm fire.

Cathy glanced out the window. The sun was just coming up behind the trees, and making the layer of ice and snow glisten. It wouldn't melt today...

The stockings she was making were going to be very pretty, she thought. It had been a while since she made something for herself, and it felt good to sit and rest, knowing that for now at least everything was taken care of.

She paused a moment again, and picked up her cup of tea, relishing the warmth on her fingertips. What would it take, she mused, to make a mitten that would work for close work? When it got this cold outside, even the cozy fire wasn't enough to keep fingertips from the chill.

She looked again at the stocking, now getting close to the ankle, and put her arm through to check the length.

And paused, an idea forming, built on decades of experience and the moment of opportunity.

What if she closed off just a part of the stocking, as if it were a mitten without fingers?

Excitedly, she set to work, humming and breaking into quiet exclamations as it took shape. The first stocking complete, she pulled it on and began the next, working through lunch and forgetting everything else she had planned for the afternoon. By the time Ava returned there were two "hand cosies" in fine, soft wool waiting for her as well.

"Your father would be so proud, Cathy," murmured Ava, as she examined them, "Just the sort of inventing he enjoyed!" And she pulled on her pair while Cathy excitedly told how much warmer the whole house felt.

The cat grouchily slunk ahead of them into the kitchen, and they set about making dinner, first letting out the dog who scampered off toward Gilly's.

Tor came through the door just as Cathy was setting the table, with a load of wood in one arm and a small bundle of fur in his other hand. It mewed, and Ava rolled her eyes.

"Tor, what have you drug home now?" Ava exclaimed, holding out her hands for the small creature. It just fit in her two hands, filling them like a soft clump of wool ready for spinning. Except this ball of wool vibrated and had sharp, prickly claws.

Ava set the kitten down on a pile of used rags and Cathy put a small dish of watered cream beside it. The wide, bright eyes of the kitten surveyed the kitchen, pausing briefly as it saw the older cat perched warily on the rocking chair. Then it hungrily turned to the saucer, yawned and curled up asleep in its nest.

"Well!" said Tor, as he swept up the trail of mud and wood from the floor, "Looks like that's that! What are you going to call him, Mother?"

"Oh no you don't, Tor Adamsson! This one is yours, and you will name it and take care of it."

"But Mother..."

"No buts this time, young man! You bring home animals every time you visit, then you wander off on your travels. It is a cunning little thing, and sweet, and I don't mind looking after it during the days while you stay, but when you go, the cat goes too!"

Ava paused for a breath, and Cathy put her hand on her mother's arm, distracting her while she set a dish of vegetables on the table. "Mother, let's discuss this after supper. It is going to get cold otherwise."

Hmph! Ava expelled her gathered breath and sat down, pointing Tor to the sink. "Then wash up, and come eat. And tell me what you and Paul got up to today."

Turned out, Paul and Tor -- and Peter and Daniel too -- had been up to quite a lot. Daniel had spoken to the parents of his intended, and they had agreed on a betrothal date.

Ava leaned forward in her chair, "And?"

And so, Peter and Helena had agreed to let Daniel put a small addition on their house, into which Peter and Helena would move, leaving the upstairs for Daniel's new family and Inge. They had spent the day walking the woods, marking the trees they would need and meeting with the town elders about using the large milling saws when the thaw came.

Ava's day had been eventful also. Esmeralda and Nan had shown her the shop, completely renewed, with fresh, painted shelves replacing the sagging bare old ones, new bright curtains at the windows and even a new stair/ladder to the cellar. Nan's eyes had been bright with excitement as she showed her grandmother all the changes they had made, and explained what every bottle, vial, box and jar contained.

The girl happily chattered about this and that, flitting from one side of the shop to another, her feet barely touching the floor. Ava had caught Esmeralda's eye, and the old doctor pointed at Nan's back.

The brace the girl had been wearing only two weeks ago was gone, and Nan stood straight, moving easily and gracefully. Moving without pain.

"Nan," Ava had prompted, "Tell me about your back. Is it healed? Are you well now?"

The girl turned from her task, "Oh grandmother! I am well! Did Otto forget to tell you?" she stomped her foot emphatically, in unconscious imitation of her mother and grandmother, "I told him to tell you I was better and that Esmeralda's friend sent me a special exercise to do and that I was going to show you too because he said it's good for old people."

Esmeralda snorted, "Old people, indeed!" but Nan rambled on, "But it hurt a lot at first to do the exercise, so Esmeralda remembered a tea her grandmother used to make, and that helped me do the exercises until it didn't hurt any more."

She jumped down from the stool she was on, and ran to hug Ava. "I am so much better, now!" she concluded.

And so Ava, Esmeralda and Nan had sat upstairs, having cakes and tea and talking until the light began to fade. Nan had walked Ava partway home, delivering a packet of medicine to a family with a sick goat...

And then Tor noticed his mother's and sister's hands.

"What have you there," he boomed, reaching out to examine Cathy's handiwork.

All in all, it had been busy day, Cathy considered as she finished cleaning the kitchen in the evening. The hand cosies had worked, and -- as Tor had quickly pointed out -- would sell well in most places. He had offered to check with his contacts when the market reopened, and Cathy had accepted. She never considered she might be able to earn much on her own, resigned as she was to living with her parents and taking on housework as they aged, but the thought of being able to provide some extra comfort to them all pleased her.

It would be a good project until it warmed up and she was needed outside.