"Get up, lazybones," Josef said. He shook his sister's shoulder and then moved on to the next bed where two of his little brothers slept, warm and sloppy from a good night's sleep. "Get up, boys, there's work to do.
"I'm not lazy," Karolina said, stretching her scrawny arms and legs.
"Prove it," Josef said. "You and Eva are supposed to be at Maraček's Dairy by sun-up."
"What time is it?" Karolina asked.
But Josef had already jumped down from the sleeping loft and was out the door. Karolina tripped on her frayed blanket as she pulled her skirt and work jacket over the shift she'd slept in. She couldn't find the comb, so she wrapped a scarf around her head to hide her tangled, straw-colored hair. After she'd finished tying the scarf beneath her chin, she climbed down the ladder. Her mother handed her a thick piece of bread.
"Is there anything else?" Karolina asked.
"I'm afraid not," her mother said. "I've got to save the rest for the little ones."
Karolina sighed. "Where's Eva?"
"She left with Josef just a minute ago," her mother said.
"What? She didn't wait for me?" Karolina kissed her mother so fast that she missed her cheek and got a piece of blonde hair stuck between her lips.
Karolina ran out the door into the darkness. She tried to spit the hair out from between her lips and then ran down the road toward Maraček's Dairy. It was cold, and she'd forgotten her shawl, so she rubbed her arms as she ran. She could see Josef and Eva up ahead, and they turned around when they heard her bare feet pounding the hard dirt road.
"Why didn't you wait for me?" Karolina asked.
"We couldn't be late, could we?" Eva said. "Last time we were late, Maraček docked half a day's wages."
"Why didn't you try to wake me up?" Karolina asked.
Eva stopped in her tracks. "You can't be serious," she said. After Karolina didn't respond she said, "I woke you up twice. You would sit up, look around, pick up your skirt, and then lay back down and go to sleep."
"You're making that up," Karolina said with her mouth full of bread.
"I don't think so, Karolina," Josef said. "I tried to wake you up, too. Why do you stay up so late anyway?"
"You know why," Karolina said. "Are you working at the dairy this morning, Josef?"
"I'm doing deliveries for Mr. Maraček." Now that they were closer to the village, they began to see other people, tired people, shuffling here and there. The bottom of the sky was lightening up, and the stars began to disappear.
"Let's hurry," Eva said. She ran toward the dairy, and Karolina followed.
Panting, they walked through the side door to the main barn and each picked up a metal bucket and a wooden stool. Marcus, Mr. Maraček's apprentice, stood just beyond the stack of stools, his feet apart, arms folded in front of him.
"Good morning, girls," he said.
"Morning," they replied.
"Let's see. Where should we put you two this morning? Already so tall, he made a show of standing on his tiptoes and peering into the milking quarters. The cows had already been led to the stalls. "Eva, go to Stall 1, and Karolina, um. . ." he smiled wrily, "let's have you go to Stall 6 with Moucha." Eva giggled and walked obediently to Stall 1.
"Oh, come on, Marcus. I had to milk Moucha yesterday. She's as ornery as, well, as ornery as you are," Karolina said.
"That so?" Marcus said. He lifted his eyebrows playfully.
YOU ARE READING
The Noble Ladies' OrphanageHistorical Fiction
It's 1674, and the Hapsburg family has been ruling much of Europe for the better part of 700 years. But the dynasty is weakening, and alliances must be formed with local, less-regal people. An orphanage is created to house 12 hand-picked orphan girl...