Chapter Twenty-Three

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Port Croft, Nova Scotia, 

"I'm seeing spots," Dorothy groaned as she stretched.

Her spine crackled, but the ache was in her lower back. She may have been working on her feet from the time she was fourteen years old, but she'd never worked as hard as she had at the post office leading up to Christmas -- and on her rump, sitting on that stool, which she found far more exhausting than being upright all day. She still had a few days left of this before things got back to normal.

"You think this is bad?" Trudy said from where she stood sorting through stamps at the counter. "You ought to have been here with every mother, sister, and wife sending sweets and wooly things to their men."

Dorothy chuckled and climbed back into the stool. "I was terrible for that. I rarely sent Ian anything. I can't knit and I was never one for baking, but every so often I sent him some candies or magazines. Once I sent him some fudge I managed to make without turning it to pudding. He probably got better from the Red Cross."

"Ah, but I'll bet he loved getting yours more. Nothing like a taste of home, Don said. He loved it when the girls would send him cookies. God love them, they made terrible cookies, dry as kindling and always with raisins. Don hated raisins, but he loved getting them because they made him think of the way the house smelled when the girls were left to their own devices in the kitchen."

As always, Trudy finished with a long sigh. Even though he had been gone for almost three years, it was obvious she still loved her husband very much and talking about him brought more joy and pain.

Dorothy envied this about Trudy. She'd tried this a few times, but it never worked. Even the good memories opened wounds. Whenever they would push against the thick membrane her grief had left, she would stop whatever it was she was doing that had brought them up and point her thoughts elsewhere.

"Will you be going home this year to see any of your people?" Trudy asked.

"Here is home now. I don't have anything left in Halifax except for headstones."

Though just ten years older than Dorothy, Trudy had a mothering way about her. She moved up behind her and gave her shoulders a quick squeeze. "You'll have the wild child, won't you?"

"For the last time, I expect," Dorothy said testily.

"Is it serious?"

"Nothing is serious with Charlie. You know what he's like: big man now that he's got his big money, and now he's got his woman. Don't get me wrong, I like Fiona, but he's just sixteen."

"Is he coming to get you?"

"Not tonight. If I wait around for him, I'll be waiting all night."

Charlie sometimes rode from their house at the edge of town to get her, especially on chilly days like this, but the last few weeks he'd been spending more and more time at the kitchen table of Fiona Green's mother.

Trudy giggled. "God, to think I'll be worrying about ones like Charlie in just a couple of years, though I expect that Heather will surpass Rhonda when it comes to boys, what with Rhonda being so shy. I ought to be glad that Charlie is getting serious with Fiona -- Rhonda thinks he hung the moon, and given a bit more time she'll be chasing after him like all the others."

Even after all this time, Dorothy found it hard to believe that Charlie's destiny had been to become the heartthrob of Port Croft. Mothers actually warned their daughters about him, the scamp. Just a few months after they'd arrived in Tidnish, he'd shot up like a beanstalk and his voice deepened. Working on the farm had broadened his wiry frame. By the time he'd reached sixteen, he had become quite the handsome rascal. As predicted, he'd grown to look like just Abel as a young man.

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