Hard Time Marrying Part 7

spring-beauty-splashHe checked on the woman and children several times always finding them asleep.  The children’s breathing was regular and less shallow.  The pink of their cheeks faded as the fever dropped.  Twice more he fed and diapered them and assisted the woman to the pot.  The next two days were much the same, more feeding, more dosing with Dr. Marvel, more changing, and always, more washing.  The little boy rallied first, trailing Joe.  From time to time, he called for Mama, but overall seemed contented.  Joe looked forward to the woman regaining her strength and assuming her responsibilities.  She was attentive to the baby girl who still lay abed with her.  Thankfully, the baby finally got hungry enough to accept the bottle after a few tries.  It made it easier to get the Dr. Marvel’s in her, anyway.  The woman could barely stay awake long enough to feed the baby but kept it at her side.  On the fourth day, the woman began to eat regular food, though she mashed it first.  One day, she coughed and spit a cracked molar into her palm, increasing Joe’s guilt about burying her alive, though he still didn’t remember hitting her with the shovel.  Joe had hopes when she’d learn some English soon, since he didn’t understand a word she said when she did speak to the baby or cry out in pain upon moving.  She had picked up on coffee, milk, baby, hurt, boy, pot, and a few other words, but there was no conversation yet.  She never called him “Joe.”

Though there was no real talking between, Joe sensed a change.  The woman was able to leave the bed for longer and longer periods, and kept the baby on her hip as she padded around the cabin. Her bruises were fading and she was able to hold the baby with her left arm and feed it with her right. She was turning out to be a beauty, but looked so young to be a mother.  It warmed him to see the tiny girl laugh at her mother, though the boy clearly preferred Joe.  Joe had expected him to show more interest in his mother once she was out of bed, but he didn’t.  Maybe boys just liked men. Joe rigged a rough rope bed in the corner near the fireplace for the boy, thinking he could make a trundle when the girl was older. He was starting to think of her as “Anna” instead of “the woman.”  Anna only referred to the girl as “Baby” and the boy as “Boy.”  One day, he brought her the first Spring Beauty and she called him “Joe.”  Joe was glad of her and the children, glad of the life opening up to him.

That night the coyotes woke him.