I woke up to the feeling of someone watching me. I inhaled a quick breath and looked down feeling disorientated, I felt my hand was resting on something and was relieved to see a little head lying underneath it, on my lap. I began to remember where I was. I stroked my hand down the back of Graces head and thought it felt quite stiff and gritty, with having been washed the day before in the salty water of the ocean. I would have to wash her thoroughly, when I finally get her home. She was asleep still. I reached my hand up to massage the back of my neck. I had slept upright on a bench in the doctor’s waiting room. And now I was discovering that it wasn’t a terribly bright idea for my necks sake. I settled Grace on my lap in the corner of the room, and my head had been leaning to the side against the wall. I know I hadn’t been asleep for long. I had tried to put Grace to sleep earlier in the night, but she kept shaking. I wasn’t sure if it were in fear, cold or sorrow. But she wouldn’t stop until I had laid her head on my lap. It was at that time, I must have dozed off. I looked to my left. Ashley had spread her body out on the other end of the narrow bench I was on. Her legs were pulled up, and her feet were touching Graces. From what I remember she was still up when I sat down for the last time with Grace.
I then looked ahead; Charlie was sitting on the bench that had been placed along the wall my head was resting on whist sleeping. And, he was looking at me, with his hands clasped together, in his lap. One leg tucked under the chair and one spread out before him.
“Good morning.” He said flatly.
“Morning, Charlie. Have you been there the whole time?”
“No, not long, been waiting for you to wake up.”
“Oh.” I sat up a little straighter. The movement stirred Grace, and she started to rub her eyes. Charlie looked down at Grace and then back up to me.
“You, bringing her home?”
“Yes, she has no one Charlie, so she’s ours now.” I watched Charlie raise his scarred eyebrow and say.
“Yes Charlie you heard me.” I moved a little to position Graces head better. She rolled onto her back and looked at me.
“I’m hungry Payton.” I smoothed the tangle of light brown hair away that had fallen across her matching eyes. She was a very pretty little girl. With a scrubbing, she was going to charm the whole house. Because even looking like a rag doll that was dragged through the mud, she was doing an admirable job of it with me already.
“Yes let’s go the outhouse, and then I’ll get you some food ok.” I smiled gently at her.
“Payt your Pa wants to go home soon. The Townshends are taking Will back to their house later today. And we have work to be done. I’ve been waiting for you to wake up so we can leave.” Charlie said. I kept looking at him while trying to process what he just said in my foggy, sleep deprived mind. It made sense, to go home. I needed to get Grace settled somewhere, and I was exhausted, if I were being honest with myself. And there wasn’t anything else I could do here anyway. One of the men from the ship wreck agreed to stay with us. Pa said he would pay him to help out around the farm. We were heading into harvest season, and also Charlie wanted help to build his house. The other men had it in their heads that they wanted to work for the logging group. And the other women, was employed in town at the laundry. The three other men In with Will were still too beaten up to do anything, yet. Yes, it would be better getting everyone home and properly fed. I could ride over to see Will tomorrow.
“Ok, let me see to Grace first.” Charlie nodded his head in agreement and stood up. After I sat Grace up Charlie held out his hand to help me rise, then I turned and held out my hand for Grace. Last night she told me she was six years old. She was quite tall for her age I thought. Or it could have been that I was only used to smaller children. Charlie left through the front door, and I led Grace out through the kitchen.
When we finished in the outhouse we went back to into the kitchen, and I sat Grace down on a chair near the table. I poured her a cup of milk and spread some preserves on a scone from the night before for her, to fill her belly till I got her home. Charlie came through the door and sat down next to Grace.
“Your Pa has the horses out front, and we are ready to leave when you are.” I gave him a cup of milk also. I knew he liked to have fresh milk in the mornings. He gave me a half smile and took the cup from my hand.