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Legiversary Drabble 1

The first of two drabbles featuring the Simta Fe Bradfords.  This was requested by tatdatcm. Rated PG for subject matter.

Katie sat on the front steps of the homestead, shelling peas for dinner.  Alex was at the newspaper, helping set the type for the weekly edition.  Isaac too was in town; after he’d walked Peter and Lenora to school he’d stayed there to work on the construction of the new railroad platform and station.  It was late afternoon, and the children would be home soon, and Katie knew that the men folk would soon follow.  She still had to put the biscuits for dinner in the oven, fry the salt pork, and make the gravy.  Now that the sun was starting to hang low in the sky, the air was taking on a bit of a chill.  Soon, Alex and Isaac would be taking a few days off from work to go hunting, laying in the winter’s supply of meat.  She smiled as she thought of fresh venison, wild hare, and the turkey that they’d get just before Thanksgiving.  This winter would have the additional treats of bacon, spare ribs, and tenderloin, as they were going to butcher one of the pigs in their possession.  All in all, they would be well fed over the winter.

She looked up to see two small figures making their way towards the farm.  One of them, the first, was moving faster than the other.  That was Peter; he always seemed to be moving a mile a minute.  He soon reached her, and greeted her with a smile.

“Why didn’t you walk with Lenora?” Katie asked, gently slapping away his hand as he tried to steal a pea pod.

Peter shrugged.  “She wanted to walk by herself.  She’s mad at me, ‘cause I punched Billy.”

“Peter,” she admonished.  “You know what your father and I told you about fighting.”

“But I had to!  He called Lenora a bad word.  All of the kids do, Mama.”

“What do they call her?”

Peter looked down and rubbed the toes of his boots against each other.  “I’m not supposed to say.  You got mad at Uncle Isaac when he said it once.”

“Peter,” she said, putting the basket of unshelled peas beside her, “You can say it just this once.  I shan’t punish you for it.”

Peter looked up and bit his lip.  His normally happy green eyes were full of worry.  “They called her a bastard,” he said in a whisper.

Katie sighed.  She had been afraid something like this might happen when Lenora started school.  Until then, they’d been able to shelter her from the scorn of the townsfolk who looked down upon her for the circumstances of her birth.  But now, she faced the children of the town, and children could be so cruel.  Katie knew that fact all too well.

“And that’s not all,” Peter continued.  “All the children are mean to her, ‘specially the girls.  They’ve hidden her milk bottle at lunch, poured her slate water down her neck, and put a tack on her seat.”

“Doesn’t the teacher do anything to stop them?” Katie asked, horrified.

Peter shook his head.  “Nah, he’s too busy making eyes at Pricilla Black.  He’s sweet on her, you know, and everyone says she’s setting her cap for him.  What’s that mean, Mama?”

“Nothing that you need to concern yourself with, Peter.”

The little boy shrugged.  “So you see I had to wallop Billy when he said that about Lenora.  She’s my cousin, and Papa says that family takes care of its own.”

“That’s very true, but you could have gotten hurt.”  She vaguely knew what the aforementioned Billy looked liked, and he was a large boy for his age.

“He only hit me in the nose once, and it did bleed for a little while, but I washed it up before I came home.  He hits harder, but I hit oftener, so I won.”

Katie sighed again.  “I suppose you’ve gone and ruined your new handkerchief by using it to mop up your face.”

“I didn’t mean to, Mama.”

“Go put it in the wash bucket to soak.  Hopefully I can get the worst of the stains out.  Then go start on your homework.  I’m sure your father will be wanting to have a talk with you when he gets home.”

“Aw, you’re not going to tell him, are you?”

“Of course I’ll be telling him,” she said, silently cursing herself for allowing her emotions to let her speech relapse into the brogue of her youth.  “Now inside with you!”

Peter scrambled up the steps, mumbling under his breath as he did so.  Katie watched him as he did so, then shook her head.  She began to shell the peas again, thinking of what she would say to Lenora when she arrived at the front steps, or if she should say anything at all.

Katie had yet to figure out what to do when Lenora dragged her feet up the path to the front of the house.  “’Lo, Aunt Katie.”

“Hello, Lenora.  Would you mind helping me shell peas for a few moments?  I’m afraid I’m horribly behind on what I wanted to have done.”

“Of course,” she said, dropping onto the step next to Katie and picking up a pea pod.  She sat silently shelling them as Katie did the same, watching the little girl all the while.

“Aunt Katie,” Lenora said, looking up from her work, “You used to be a school teacher, didn’t you?”

“That I did,” Katie said, “Not long after Peter was born I taught.  Why do you ask?”

Lenora looked up at Katie.  “Can you teach me, so I don’t have to go to school?”

Katie’s heart broke at the simple request.  “Now, Lenora, it’s been a long time since I taught.  Besides, your teacher has a lot more schooling than I ever did.  I’m sure he can teach you far more than I can.”

“But I don’t like him!  He’s not fair!”

“This is the first I’m hearing of it,” Katie said, sensing that she might be able to coax Lenora into telling her troubles.

“He’s always talking to Prissy, so he never notices anything!  Like when the other girls are mean to each other, pulling their hair or stealing their slate pencils so they can’t do their sums.  And he lets them say such horrible things.”

“To each other?”

Lenora nodded slowly, then shook her head.  “I must not tell you a falsehood, Aunt Katie.  It’s mostly me they’re mean to.  They do all that and worse.  They call me such names.”

Katie looked at her with empathy, knowing that sometimes words could not offer enough comfort.

“Aunt Katie, what’s a bastard?”

Katie put down the pea pod she was holding.  “It’s a very vulgar way of referring to a person who’s Ma and Pa weren’t married when that person was born.”

Lenora frowned.  “Oh.”  She began shelling peas again while Katie watched her.  “Is that what I am?”

Katie shrugged.  “I suppose so.  Your Pa and Ma were not married when you were born, but it’s not a polite thing to say.”

“They say things about my mother, too.  They say she was a whore and she deserved the fate she got.  Are they true?”

“You should be talking to your Pa about that, Lenora,” Katie replied.

“But he doesn’t talk about her.  Not ever.  The only thing I know about her is that she had red hair and blue eyes like mine.  He always says he’ll tell me when I’m older, but I am older.”

Katie mentally cursed Isaac for his lack of courage in dealing with his daughter.  “It is true that she was what most would call a whore, yes,” she admitted.  “But that does not mean that she was not a good person.  I am told that woman such as her have ways of keeping babies from coming, but she chose to have you.  That tells me she had a kind heart.”

Lenora pouted.  “Papa should have married her when he found out she was having me.”

“Lenora, I’m not sure your Ma told him about you.  If she had, I’m sure he would have done the right thing.  But you cannot let your past define your future.”

“What do you know about that?” Lenora said.  “You’re so happy with Uncle Alex and Peter.”

“Lenora, it’s not nice to sass like that,” Katie said.  “And I wasn’t always so happy.  My childhood back in Portsimouth was miserable.  We were poor, my Pa died when I was young, and many people looked down on us because we were of SimIrish descent.  Marrying Alex was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“I didn’t know that,” Lenora muttered.  “I’m sorry I sassed you, Aunt Katie.”

“That’s quite all right.  Only your Uncle Alex knows about my past, and even he doesn’t know all of the details.  But I felt you should know, Lenora, because we have both suffered because of things that are not our fault.”

“I wish I lived somewhere else, somewhere where no one knew my past.”  Lenora looked up at Katie.  “Is that why you and Uncle Alex moved here?  So no one would know your past?”

“It is a part of it,” Katie admitted, “Though it was more about the cheap land than anything else.  Perhaps when you’re older you’ll move somewhere else.  I believe your Pa would like to send you back east for school when you’re older.”

“I’d like that.  I could be a lady and no one would be able to say otherwise.”

“Lenora, you are a lady.  Don’t you ever let anyone tell you otherwise.  Now, why don’t you go in and do whatever schoolwork your teacher gave you?  The peas are just about done, and I need to start supper.”

“Yes, Aunt Katie,” she said, scrambling up from where she sat.  Just before she went in the front door, she turned.  “Thank you,” she said before she hurried inside.

Katie smiled at the closed door.  “You’re welcome,” she replied, though she knew Lenora would not hear her.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 2nd, 2011 01:16 am (UTC)
This was awesome!! I love your Kaylynn and I totally want to give Lenora a huge hug. Peter is great too, standing up for his family. This was a nice glimpse at them. Of course, it really makes Matthew and Jan seem even more villainous knowing how they treated Alex and Kate.
Dec. 2nd, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Kaylynn turned out to be even more awesome than I could ever have imagined when I decided to give her a backstory. I don't know if I'll ever be able to see her as just a maid again. I feel horrible for Lenora, but her being bullied explains a lot of who she became and why she did what she did. And Peter, being an awesome cousin and beating up the mean boys, is pretty great, yeah. I'm glad you liked it.

It does make Matthew and Jan seem that much worse, because of what happened to the Western branch of the family.

I still have a drabble about this branch to write for Jo, so you'll get to see them again soon (hopefully before the end of the weekend). :D
Dec. 2nd, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
Awwww, poor Lenora. I'm glad Katie can help her, though!
Dec. 2nd, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
Poor Lenora indeed. Katie is the perfect person to help her though, because she knows what it's like to be bullied for something beyond your control.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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