Chapter 2 - When the pain has passed.
Here's the newest installment to my novel in progress! Enjoy!
March 6, 1948
Day two of my new life... what a long day.
Last night was lonely sleeping in a new house by myself. And cold. I need to learn how to keep a fire burning all night. Not to mention the noise of the sheep! Don’t they ever shut up? Once I finally fell asleep the stupid rooster started crowing. There’s so much to get used to.
Everything’s in desperate need of a good cleaning. I swear the whole place smells like farm animals! I have so many things I would like to change about this place it’s hard to know where to start.
The former owner is a piece of work. Good looking, could probably be a real Casanova if he wanted, but he’s chosen to be spiteful and judgmental. It’s sad how the outside doesn’t match the inside.
I miss my girls, hope they are doing ok… I miss the days when they were tiny babies and everything seemed like a dream come true, I hope someday I can dream again.
From her room upstairs, Darby could hear the teapot screaming. Throwing her hairbrush onto the top of the oval-mirrored vanity, she gave her reflection one last glance before rushing down the stairs.
“Shush, I’m coming!” She scolded the angry pot as if it were a small child.
With deft movements she removed the pot from the stove and gathered the small tin of tea bags, a spoon, and a cup and saucer. Thankful she had thought ahead yesterday and unpacked her kitchen supplies first, Darby set to making herself a cup of tea to start the day.
Mack, ever full of kindness, had stayed long hours yesterday loading in her furniture and moving it around until it met with her approval. He’d even let her know he was available to work as a handyman if needed, promising he’d give her a discounted price. Seeing his company’s ad in the newspaper had been a lifesaver, without a trusted moving company and an easy person to work with, Darby’s move could have added a lot of stress to an already difficult situation. She would have to remember him because River certainly wasn’t going to be of much help for anything other than the sheep. Right after their meeting, instead of lending a hand to Mack and his helper, River had claimed he was in the middle lambing season and was much too busy in the barn. Then, after the declaration he had promptly left and she hadn’t seen a trace of him since.
"Lambing season...as if sheep can’t give birth on their own." Darby mumbled to herself, fixating on the stark difference between Mack’s helpfulness and River’s obvious irritation about her ownership of his ranch.
Unwillingly, her mind took her back to the times when Brennan had been loving and thoughtful and helpful; but it wasn’t long until his more recent attitude surfaced to taint her memories and fill her with renewed anger. For what seemed like the millionth time, she started down the path of “why.” Large tears gathered in her eyes as she wondered just what was wrong with her that had left him so discontent with life. And why in the world had he created the situation she was now in?
Taking a sip from her delicate china cup, she decided to push aside the unpleasant thoughts and focus on the day ahead.
“What’s more important; unpacking or cleaning?” Realizing she was talking to herself, Darby shook her head and sighed. She went to her satchel and pulled out a small writing tablet and a pencil. With a deep breath and a long look at her surroundings, she gathered her thoughts and began a list.
Organize kitchen, clean the bathroom, scrub all the floors, wash the windows, replace light bulb in the hall, install locks on doors, paint living room, put shelving in music room, enroll girls in school, have meeting with River to discuss running the ranch, go to the library and get books on sheep, remove sheep droppings from yard and front porch…
The list ran on and on. By the time she had finished, her tea was ice cold and she was overwhelmed. She sat at the table, tapping the pencil on the pad to restrain herself from adding even more to the already too long list. Finally, she decided she had done enough for now. Pushing against the table, she stood up suddenly, causing the wooden chair legs to rumble as they scraped across the well-worn, hardwood floor.
“Well, Darby, I would say you deserve a little break.” With a smile, she set off for the music room. Being the only bedroom on the main floor, it hadn’t taken Darby long to see it was the perfect place for her cello and all her sheet music. Now that her girls were getting older, she wanted to start teaching them to play as well, so it made sense to take one of the four bedrooms in the farmhouse and dedicate it to housing instruments.
As soon as she reached the doorway, Darby realized the room had nothing for her to sit on. Quickly turning around, she went back to the table and grabbed one of the dining chairs and lugged it across the house. Before sitting down, she set up her antique music stand and opened the box that held her sheet music. Upon opening the box, the scent that filled her nostrils was very similar to that of old books; but instead of carrying the anticipation of getting lost in an imaginary world, the smell carried an emotion Darby had yet been able to put into words. If she were pressed, she would have to say it was like her life was all black and white, much like the pages of the coloring books her daughters used to adore. And music was the paint that brought color, and light, and joy. Without music there would be no depth or beauty.
Lifting pages while reading titles of songs, she passed over many classical pieces. Darby had always loved the sophistication and challenge of those arrangements, but time and again she found herself choosing hymns instead.
Finding the hymn she was looking for, Darby pulled the paper out of the box and carefully arranged it on the music stand. Stooping low, she grasped the bow from the cello’s case. Before standing, she turned the knob on the end until the horsehair was tight and then reached back into the case to pull out the rosin. Opening the piece of black velvet that the square of hardened, processed pitch was adhered to, Darby smiled at the familiar beautiful amber hue and the tangy pine scent. Amazed at how long one piece of rosin could last a musician, Darby pulled the hair of her bow across the smooth center with long slow strokes. Once she felt satisfied with the amount of rosin on the bow, she tilted the velvet square back and forth and mused at how even the used rosin was a work of art. Smooth and shiny in the places that met with the bow, yet chipped and sharp along a few of the edges where it had hit the case a bit too hard.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, she settled into the dining chair with bow in hand and cello tucked firmly in place against her knees. With a few plucks on the strings, she checked to see how out of tune the instrument had become during the move. After striking her tuning fork on her knee cap, she laid the tool on top of the cello so the vibrations could be heard better as they worked through the wood of the hollow instrument. Several twists on the tuning peg, one more strike on the fork, a few more plucks of the strings and the beloved cello was ready to play. To warm up, she held the bow in her right hand and pulled it along the C string while placing the fingers of her left hand down on the neck one by one. Each time a new finger pushed the string onto the fretboard of the cello, the pitch of the note changed, climbing higher and higher. Then, as she removed her fingers one by one, releasing the string, the notes deepened back to the original pitch. Doing the exercise on each of the four strings, she started increasing the speed of placing her fingers. Faster and faster until she was playing the scales as quickly as possible.
Feeling limber and warmed up, she moved into the first notes of the hymn. Playing just a single note at a time, she embraced the simplicity and she sang along.
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way…”
Even though the music was written with no rest, she paused slightly before continuing. Praising God truly was easy when life was pleasant and peaceful. In those times of her life it had seemed as if words of worship flowed from her mind and lips without a second thought. But now; now she had to choose to embrace what her heart didn’t feel.
Wetting her lips, she filled her lungs and then sang with abandon even as her throat tightened and tears fell, “When sorrows like sea billows roll.”
Her fingers still coaxing the beautiful, yet almost mournful notes from the cello, she continued to sing even though her voice was now warbly and cracking. “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”
Unable to sing any longer, she let the emotions stream down her face as her fingers and instrument worked together to express the intensity of what was in her heart. For how long she played, she was uncertain, but when she finally ceased playing the same piece over and over, her fingertips were red and swollen, and her back ached from sitting in the same position for so long.
As if coming out of a trance, she suddenly became aware of several things all at once. Her face was a mess of tears and a dripping nose. There was moisture all over her cello from that dripping nose and tears. But the other thing she noticed caused her to catapult from the chair as a rush of adrenaline pulsed through her veins.
She wasn’t alone.
As he walked up the porch steps of his old home, the sound of music altered River to the fact that Darby was home. Feeling relieved, he gently knocked on the front door. Of all the days for a lamb to go missing, it had to be the day one of the ewes were having trouble giving birth. Since Darby was now part of the workings of the ranch, River decided he would put her in charge of finding the lamb while he helped with the birthing.
When she didn’t come to the door, he knocked again, harder this time. Still no answer. Mumbling his frustration, he turned the knob and stepped into the house.
Without the door muting the sound, he realized what he was hearing wasn’t coming from a radio. It was live. It was Darby.
With his curiosity piqued, he followed the sound. Making his way through boxes and oddly placed furniture, he came to stand in the doorway of what used to be his office.
The moment his eyes rested on her, he was mesmerized. He had never seen someone play that kind of instrument. They way her hands moved, her body swaying every so slightly as she played tugged on his heart. Of course, she happened to be playing one of his favorite hymns, so that could explain his reaction.
But instantly the spell was broken when he saw the streams of tears running down her face.
Great, an emotional dame. Just what this place needs.
The thought that he would have to deal with an overly expressive woman irked him. Hadn’t he dealt with enough of that? Wasn’t he still dealing with enough of it? And feeling totally ill-equipped to handle it all.
Uncertain of whether he should walk away or make his presence known, he chose to do neither. Instead, he looked around the room. That’s when it hit him. Unless Mack had lugged a desk up the stairs, Darby didn’t have one. And no man in his right mind would lug a desk up the stairs when there was a perfectly suitable place for an office on the main floor. River let the snippets of information come together. She didn’t have a desk. She was crying over a song. She was overly dressed with a painted face. She had played to Mack’s chivalrous side and with a bat of her long lashes had him following her every command. She didn’t have a husband around. Had she been too high maintenance for Mr. Weathers?
In less than one minute, River assessed what he knew about Darby and came to an irritating conclusion; she wasn’t going to take the ranch serious. He could feel it in his bones. After all, she was sitting here first thing in the morning, playing music when there was so much more she could be doing that would actually benefit the ranch.
When the song finally came to an end, she glanced up at him. He watched as fear registered in her eyes, followed by a lightning-quick flash of vulnerability. Then, as if putting on a mask, she was the collected, condescending woman he met yesterday.
“Put some shoes on, it’s time you did something useful around here.” The words were mean, even to his own ears. But he didn’t have time to coddle her. The sheep were waiting.
“Excuse me?” Her huffy reply and the way her shoulders rose to nearly meet her ears made him think of the chickens flapping their wings whenever they were disturbed.
“I said I need your help, there are more important things than playing a fiddle.”
“It’s a cello,” she glared. “Not that you would know any different.”
“I honestly don’t care.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” With her verbal jab thrown, she turned to put the cello in its case. “Now, what exactly do you need me to do?”
“I’m missing a lamb. You need to find her.”
“How do you expect me to find a lamb? There must be hundreds of them in the fields, how do you tell them apart?”
“They’re tagged on the ear.” He rolled his eyes. Could she be any more naive? “Besides, you’re not going to be looking for a lamb who is with its mother. You’ll be looking for one by itself. Sometimes when they are sick they go off and lay down. Just go look around the fields.”
“Fine, I’ll go get my shoes and a sweater.”
River looked her up and down. She was wearing the same blue and white polka dot dress as yesterday. The flimsy material was far more suited to wear to a tea party than to go tromping around in a field. “Don’t you have anything better to wear?”
Her chin lifted slightly. River wanted to laugh. She was shorter, but she could still give the impression she was looking down on him.
“I haven’t unpacked yet. Besides, I haven’t had the time to invest in any farm suitable clothes.”
“Ranch.” He corrected, then muttered under his breath. “Not that you would know any different.”
“Whatever.” She shrugged her shoulders, then used his own words to mock him. “I don’t really care.”
Glossing over the jab, he asked, “Do you want to borrow some of my clothes, or would you rather ruin yours?”
“I most certainly will not be wearing your clothes!” She gasped as if he’d suggested she share his bed.
“Suit yourself. Meet me in the barn when you’ve found the lamb. Her number is 182.”
Before she could answer, River rushed out the door.
She’s not gonna find that lamb and I’m going to have to go look anyway. But at least Mrs. fancy fiddle will get a taste of what real work is.
copyright(c)2018 by Rebecca Morgan