The past summer was the longest I could ever remember, for all that it was relatively mild. Being the only one doing the chores kept me busy enough, thankfully. I didn’t have time to feel the crushing loneliness. Some days things didn’t get done, making the next day even harder. When Tom visited for harvest, I cried in relief. He helped me catch up and taught me how to plan my days better.
That was both good and bad. I was no longer as overwhelmed, but it gave me a moment to miss those I loved.
I set the now sharp blade aside and reached for the tack. It didn’t need any work because Tom oiled and repaired it before he left, but I checked again just in case.
The sound of a carriage in the yard broke through my reverie. “Mary,” Mother Upson called in a sing-song voice. “Where are you girl?”
I jumped up, dropping the tack in my haste, and rushed from the barn. “Mother Upson!” My voice broke at the end, the pleasure of seeing her loving face after so much lonesomeness brought tears to my eyes.
“Now why are you crying, child?” she asked as she clamored out of the wagon and ran to hug me. “I said I’d come visit again if the way was clear. Has Tom gone back up the mountain yet?”
I nodded. “He could feel the weather changing, so left a couple nights ago. Good thing, since it was sleeting last night, so more’n likely icy up his way. I’m surprised you were able to make it.”
“It was muddy, but we didn’t get any ice.” She turned to Father Upson who was coming up behind her, maintaining an arm around my waist. “Pa thought you’d need a few things and was fretting over you being alone all winter, so insisted we try.”
His face became slightly flushed. “Well, I still can’t believe I let you talk me into leaving you up here. I’ve half a mind to force you to return with us.” He held up his hands at the look on my face. “I’m not gonna fight with you more, Mary. Let’s get things unloaded while there’s still light.”
The wagon was full. Surely there wasn’t another quilt left anywhere in the county. “What is all this?” I asked, looking through the piles of cloth.
“Your walls were rather bare, so I asked the ladies at church to help me refurbish old quilts for you. They’ll line the walls and keep in insulated this winter.” She started unloading them from the wagon and into my arms. They were heavy. Father Upson was also pulling some out, loading up his own arms
“How many are there?” I asked, shocked at the pile in his arms.
“Just one more,” she said, laying on top of my pile. It was difficult to see around them. “I’ll get the other things.”
“What other things?” I asked, the question muffled by the topmost quilt.
“Get in the cabin before you drop them” she said, reaching into the wagon for something. Father Upson chuckled when he saw my face, but he knew better than to cross his wife when she set her mind to something.
It was all I could do to make it to Pa’s bed with my load before dropping it. The ropes squeaked with the weight, and groaned when Father Upson added his pile to mine. “When was the last time you tightened the bed?” he asked, lifting the mattress at the corner to examine it.
I shrugged. “Before Pa left. With no one sleeping on it, it seemed silly.”
“And why is no one sleeping on it?” Mother Upson asked as she hurried in, a can that rattled in one hand and an obviously heavy basket looped over her other arm. I looked down, my throat swelling. “Don’t be ridiculous, Mary. Your Pa expected you to use the bed when he left. It’ll be too cold in the winter to sleep anywhere else.”
She was right, I understood this. It didn’t make the transition any easier.
Father Upson began pounding nails partway into the walls, curving the ends around to make hooks. Mother Upson handed me a corner of a quilt, a loop was sewn into it. “These will keep you warmer. Pa has some new oil cloth for your window as well.”
Darkness was falling when Mother Upson decided I was set for winter. A southern wind blew warm across the yard as they climbed back on the wagon, a few clouds skirting across the bright, full moon. “It’ll snow in the morning,” Father Upson said as he gathered the reins. “You should have enough wood to see you through. We’ll be back come spring.”
Mother Upson dabbed at her eyes with her apron, so I purposefully didn’t look at her. “Thank you, for everything.”
He nodded and clicked at the horses. I waved at them both until they reached the road, and watched until they disappeared around the bend.