Characters: Cindy, Mrs. Selby
Rating: PG. Minor language and violence.
Summary: A peek at why Cindy is the person she is today.
Notes: Canon. Cindy is about 15 or 16 in this piece. I figure she was 17 when she ran away from home, and tried to make it in the big city for a year or two before she went back, found out everyone was dead, went to Portsimouth, and met James.
Word Count: 941
She really should have been feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs, but Cindy felt she deserved a little break. It was just past one o’clock in the afternoon, and she’d already put in a full day’s work. She’d helped her mother cook breakfast for the family and the hired men who were there to bring in the harvest, milked the cows and put them out to pasture for the day, made lunches for her little sisters to take with them to school, churned two batches of butter, ironed the clothes that she’d washed the day before, helped her mother prepare lunch, prepared the ham for dinner that night, and set up the bread for the next day. Now that the lunch dishes were washed and put away, she felt she deserved a few minutes to herself.
Checking to make sure that her mother was weeding the garden and that her little sisters were not yet home from school, Cindy went to the hutch in the dining room where her mother kept the good china and withdrew a copy of Vogue magazine, hidden deep within one of the drawers. She return to the kitchen, poured herself a glass of apple cider, and prepared to get lost in the glamour of life in the city.
She flipped through the pages, dreamily gazing at the pretty dresses. Nothing she owned was anything like them, so soft and delicate. Her clothes were cut for practicality, not fashion. Someday, she thought, I’m going to own something even prettier than what’s in here.
“What are you doing?” A demanding voice broke through Cindy’s daydreams. She tried to hide the magazine, but a small, work-worn hand snatched it away from her.
“I’m sorry, Ma,” Cindy stuttered, trying desperately to think of a reasonable excuse for her actions.
“Sorry don’t get the chores done, Cindy. You know that.”
“I’ve already done more than a day’s share already!”
“And there’s still more work to be done. Hens don’t feed themselves, and the eggs don’t collect themselves either.”
Cindy put her now empty glass in the wash bucket, and went to get the chicken feed and the egg basket.
“Where’d you get this?”
“Bought it with my egg money.”
“That’s supposed to be for you to save. For setting out when you get married. Not for you to spend on trash.”
“I’m never getting married,” Cindy retorted. “And you buy and read magazines like this all the time.”
“Oh, you’ll get married. Nothing else for women to do but marry and have babies. And I don’t sneak about reading my magazines when I should be working.”
Cindy looked at her mother. She was not very old, perhaps in her mid-thirties, but she looked like she was much older. Years of hard labor on the family farm had hardened her looks, and the silent but constant disapproval from her husband for not producing a son had worn her down. Cindy and her mother didn’t see eye to eye on much, and Cindy’s future was a hot point of contention between them. The older woman thought that Cindy should settle down with the son of the man who owned the farm abutting theirs, and that their children would inherit both properties. Cindy wanted nothing more than to get out of the small farming town in western Massimchusetts and never look back, and marriage was at the very bottom of her priority list.
“There’s plenty of other things a woman can do besides marry,” Cindy spat, figuring she might as well earn the punishment that was more than likely coming her way. “I’m going to be famous.”
“No, you ain’t. You’re going to marry one of the boys from the township, push out a passel of brats, hopefully at least one healthy boy among them, and nothing more than that. No one from here ever goes anywhere, ‘cepting those that are trash that go looking for more trash.”
“I’m not trash! And I will get out of here.”
Mrs. Selby’s hand went out and slapped her daughter hard across the face.
“Don’t you sass me, missy. Now, get going on your afternoon chores. I expect to see this house spotless when I get back in, or you’ll have to answer to your Pa. And don’t forget to take him and the men some more water in little while.”
Mrs. Selby turned and made her way towards the back door. At she passed the cook stove, she paused and opened the door to the compartment that the coal fuel went, and stuffed the magazine in. Cindy made a cry of protest as her mother did so, but instantly fought back any more protests when she saw the dark expression on her mother’s face.
“Next time I catch you spending your egg money on junk like that I’ma tell your Pa. Save it for a rainy day.”
As soon as her mother stormed out of the kitchen, Cindy hurried to the stove. She watched as the cover of her magazine crinkled and folded as the flames licked the glossy pages and turned them black before they ignited into angry orange flames. She wiped away a tear she didn’t realize had formed, and slammed the door to the stove shut.
“I’ll save my egg money, all right. Save it for a one-way ticket out of this Hellhole,” she muttered in a solemn promise to the empty room.
She picked up the basket to go out and feed the chickens before she took her father and the hired men their water, giving the kitchen one last look of contempt before she slammed the screen door behind her.