The Widow’s Rancher – 24

THE cabin felt strange when Nadia returned later that morning. How was it possible after one night away to feel so differently about the place that had been her home for so many years?

She stepped inside, leaving the door open as she decided where to start. So much needed sorting out.

First her belongings and then any perishables in the larder. She would take them back to the ranch. No reason to waste good food − not when she intended taking over cooking the meals. And with so many people to feed, she’d require plenty of ingredients.

She removed her hat and placed it down on the kitchen table, her mind busy with everything she planned to do.

First, change her dress and pack up her belongings. Not that she had much to take − a few personal items such as the quilts she’d made over the years and the set of novels she saved all year to afford last Christmas. She’d hidden away a little extra money here and there, careful not to leave it any place Henry might find it.

She made her way to the bedroom, stepped inside and opened the lid of the trunk at the end of the bed. Stale lavender scent and mothballs tickled her nose.

One neatly folded white cotton sheet and two pillowcases lay inside, embroidered with hearts and birds along the edges. Sadly, she had never used them once in five years of marriage. Perhaps she would find a reason to now.

She walked over to the brass bed Henry had brought home after one of his disappearing jaunts. He had regularly taken off, often not returning for several weeks. For some reason guilt must have eaten at his conscience that one time, because normally all he returned with was a hangover and a bad mood he used on her. But on that occasion, he’d arrived with this bed as a gift.

In truth, his help around the homestead instead of an empty present might have meant more, but he never offered − all he did offer was cruel, spiteful words. But not once had he worked by her side, or cared about her feelings, unlike Diggory, who appeared to care about her views and wishes as though they were of utmost importance to him.

He might not always agree with her, but he did regard her with pride in his eyes and something else she’d yet to figure out. It scared and warmed her soul.

She gathered her few pieces of clothing and stored them in the trunk. She added the jug and bowl, despite Diggory having a far superior one in their bedroom already. But she liked the blue and white earthenware, with its large chrysanthemum flower decoration. Next, she stripped and folded the quilt and sheets from the bed and finally lifted her five precious books from the shelf and placed them on top of the other items.

She then changed into a clean dress, this time a blue one, old and worn, but the colour matched her eyes.

She shook her head at her silly musing. Diggory would never notice an unimportant thing like her eye colour.

She closed the lid with a thud and dragged the trunk out of the bedroom and into the other room. She left it by the door and set about packing up the rest of the things she wanted to take.

None of the furniture was as good as Diggory’s so there was no point in taking any of it. His kitchen was also well stocked and supplied with every utensil, bowl and pan required.

She glanced out of the open door at the flowers close to the porch and decided to return at the right time and collect the seeds as each plant finished flowering. Ideas for borders in front of the porch at the ranch began to form in her mind.

After she had sorted through the cupboards and larder and stored what she wanted in a crate, she fixed a plate of food to take over to Sissy − bread, cold cuts of meat and some vegetables from the garden.

She had so much to tell her young friend and she wanted to check on her wound. She’d done her best to tend it, but the injury still gave her concern with the length of time it was taking to heal.

She stacked her possessions out on the porch, and returned for the plate of food. After she called on Sissy, she’d hitch the wagon to Joey.

She glanced at the sky and checked the position of the sun, relieved to see plenty of time left in the day to do everything she needed to do before she returned to Rorke Ranch.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!