Chapter 2: Contemplation

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"Helena? Is 'at ye?" Momma asks, her voice echoing in the distance.

"Yes, it's me, Momma. How are you feeling?"

I set the small vase down on the table and head into the kitchen. Curling my fingers around the water pump's handle, I pump water into the bucket, eager to wash away some of the day's grime. Once the bucket is full, I stop pumping water and grab the bucket's handle. I carry it in the direction of the dish basin and pour as much of the water into it. With a flick of my hand, I grab the bar of soap and lather my arms, face, and neck.

A slight shuffle behind me draws my attention. I look up to find Momma leaning against the doorjamb.

"You should be resting."

Momma waves a hand in the air. "I'm feelin' much better, dear. What have ye been up to?"

I rinse the soap's lather away. "Finished cleaning the paddock. Fed the chickens and the horses while I was at it. All while trying to keep Berenger from his mischievous ways."

She chuckles and slowly walks toward the table. "I'm sorry about 'at. If Joren hadn't—"

I click my tongue against the back of my teeth. "Ack, 'tis no trouble. I assure you. Granted, his leaving came at a bad time, but we will do the best we can with what we have."

Momma smiles and nods. "Aye. I've been thinking."

I grab the small hand towel and pat my neck, arms, and face dry. "What about?"

"Per'aps I should make me way to yer aunt's house. At least until yer brother comes back home."

Sadness fills every inch of me. The thought of her leaving is something I don't want to consider.

"How long will you be gone?" I ask, hanging the towel across the bar above the sink.

She shrugs and plays with a hang nail on her left index finger. "I'm not sure, dearest. I've been quite a burden on ye. Yer aunt . . . she came by earlier. Suggested it might be best I stay wit' her. I think it might be the right solution fer now."

"But Momma—"

She holds a hand up to silence me. "Yoo'll use less resources, Lena. All yoo'd have to concentrate on are the chickens and the horses. If Joren comes back soon, then ye can send fer me. Fer the time being, though, I'll be stayin' wit' yer aunt, Mol."

Momma nods. Her mind is made up. Nothing I can say or do will ever change it.

I think about the quest Evalastra has given me. Momma's staying with Aunt Mol is a blessing in disguise. I'd be able to venture forth without having to worry about taking care of her. Aunt Mol would see to her every need, thus allowing me to complete the task I've been given.

"Okay," I say, several minutes later. "If it's what you want."

She grimaces. "It isn't, but it's what must be done. I'm just thinkin' of ye and yer brother."

"Yes, I know."

A soft knock on the door draws our attention. We both glance in its direction.

"Mind seein' to it?" Momma asks, and stands.

"Sure."

She shuffles back to her bedroom.

I hurry down the hall to answer the door. Flinging it open, I find myself face-to-face with Peytr.

"Hey," he says, and smiles.

"What are you doing here?"

He holds up a small wooden basket. "Thought we could have a picnic. If you're okay with that, of course."

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