by Laura Hamby
The colonial era receded a bit once the door was closed, giving Beth and Caleb an opportunity to compare notes about the day.
"So that minor crowd is your family?" Caleb tended to the fire while Beth gathered up the ingredients for their evening meal.
"Yes. Shocking, but true. They were less than supportive about my decision to work here this month. I'm the baby of the family. Spoiled. Lazy. Spinning around, completely directionless in regards to my life."
Caleb brushed his hands on his trousers and shook his head as he straightened up from bending over the fire. "You? Lazy? You've woven more material than anyone I've seen here. The others are panting to keep up with you."
Beth diced the potatoes. "I love this. I could do this year 'round. Everything I've done here has filled a purpose. Had a reason."
"Oh, before I forget, I found a lonely onion in the garden." He pulled it from his pocket and set it on the table next to the cutting board she used. "It's a rather sad onion."
"It'll cook up nice and tasty," Beth said. Her mouth watered. Boy, she was hungry tonight.
A knock sounded on the door. Caleb answered it as Beth had gone from the chopping to the cooking. "I'd like to speak with my daughter."
"She's cooking. You are welcome to come inside." Caleb held the door wide open, surprised when a good number of others followed Beth's mother into the cabin.
"Enough is enough, Elizabeth. It's time for you to rejoin the real world."
No greeting, no 'how are you,' nothing. Abrupt and to the point, and it rubbed Caleb the wrong way, ten ways to Sunday. "Beth's fine, thank you for asking. Doing well, as you saw today."
The older woman glared at him, her thin lips set in disapproval. "If you'll excuse us, this is a family discussion."
"Looks more like a gang fight to me," Caleb returned.
"Mother," Beth said, still busy cooking. "I'm rather busy. I have joined the real world. This is a paying job. I did exactly what you and Dad ordered me to do last month."
"This is utterly ridiculous. Get your things together, girl. Your father is bringing the car around."
"Really, Beth. This has gone on long enough. You want us to be impressed with your dedication, fine. Consider us impressed."
"Yeah, you sound it, too, Nancy," Beth snapped. "I'm not leaving. I signed a legal, binding contract."
Beth's mother heaved a tremendous sigh. "You have proved your point. Your father will pay whatever penalty you'll be assessed for leaving this place before the month ends. We don't have all night, Elizabeth."
"Excuse me, but do you hear how you're talking to her?" Caleb interrupted when he saw Beth's shoulders slump. "You do realize Beth's an adult? A very intelligent, capable, dedicated and witty woman."
Nancy stared at him. "She's a lazy, spoiled rotten little brat. Clearly she has no regard for the feelings of others."
Caleb's eyebrows rose. He wasn't sure, but he suspected Beth cried into their dinner, bent over as she was now, and not speaking. His dislike for her relatives turned into active hatred, an unfamiliar emotion to him.
"It's time for you all to go home now. On the drive, I suggest you think about all you saw going on here today. I noticed you dogging her every step, so you did see what she's done all day long. Hardly lazy. Not close to being thoughtless, unless you missed the impromptu doll-making session this afternoon. You thought that was staged? Think again. That little girl really did drop her doll into the well."
"That's right. You never have taken the opportunity to appreciate Beth for just being Beth. She's a unique human being. My supper is ready. Good night." He herded the group of women out the door, using his size and a ferocious snarl.
To be continued...