The Widow’s Rancher – 32

THE knock on the kitchen door startled Nadia as she filled the sink with hot water to wash the dirty supper dishes. Everyone had retired to the parlour to read or play cards, except for Sissy, who Nadia sent up to bed.

After walking all the way to the cabin, she barely managed to stay awake to eat her supper.

Nadia opened the kitchen door and started at the old woman standing there dressed in black from feet to head, grey wiry hair sticking out in all directions beneath a black headscarf, and a wide smile of pink gums and very few teeth.

“Grandma Mary,” Nadia greeted with surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“Come visiting my grandson, Dawnie. Heard you had a child here who might need checking over after wandering through the countryside tonight.”

“But,” Nadia hesitated to ask the old woman in.

More rumours circulated the area about this woman than they did Nadia. Some called her a witch, others crazy. She was positively not your usual kind of grandmother.

“Upstairs, is she?” Grandma Mary bustled past her and walked halfway across the kitchen before Nadia thought to answer.

“Umm . .  yes. But . . .”

“Best follow me so I don’t get lost in this big old house. Diggory Rorke always did have fancy plans for himself. Built himself a house to go with them.”

Nadia shut the door and rushed after the old woman.

When she stepped into the hallway, she discovered her almost at the top of the staircase. For an old person she moved with the speed of a child.

“Did I hear Grandma Mary?” Diggory asked, stepping out of the parlour.

“Grandma Mary?” Tynan repeated behind his father.

Nadia turned to them both.

“Apparently she wants to check on Sissy.”

Diggory nodded, not looking a bit concerned that a crazy old woman wandered around his home uninvited.

“That’s good.”

“Good?” Nadia repeated. She glanced up the stairs, then leaned towards Diggory and whispered, “Isn’t she batty?”

“A little,” Diggory agreed. “But she has the best nursing skills in the county. It won’t hurt to have her check Sissy.”

Tynan moved past his father and reached for his hat hanging on one of the hooks near the door.

“I think I’ll head over to the bunk house. See if anyone needs anything.”

“Did someone say Grandma Mary is here?” Both Zachariah and Ed stood in the parlour doorway, each with worried expressions.

Tynan nodded as he opened the front door.

“Make your escape before she finds you. Last time she visited she insisted on checking Alfie’s feet and Jacob’s ears.”

The two boys headed after their brother, not stopping to collect their hats in their rush to leave the house.

“Nadia Rorke!”

Nadia jumped as Grandma Mary yelled her name down the staircase.

“You get yourself up here and tell me which door I need to open. Last thing I want is to walk in on one of those young Rorke boys naked as the day I helped birth them.”

“Goodness, is she as bad as your sons are making out?”

Diggory wrapped an arm around her waist and guided her up the stairs, his hold reassuring and strong.

“Take a deep breath, darling. I’ll get you through it.”

“You had better,” she said. “The woman terrifies me.”

Diggory laughed.

“Funny, you remind me of her.”

“Take that remark back, Diggory Rorke,” she ordered. “Or you can sleep in the barn for the rest of our marriage.”

He grinned.

“I take it back. No way I want to miss sharing your night-time cuddles. I waited too long to have you in my arms to give them up.”

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!