by Laura Hamby
At least it was warm by the fire where Beth bent over a spider to fry the potatoes and homecured bacon. The rain continued to drip into the largest pot she'd been able to locate, with a smaller one standing by for when the large one needed to be emptied. At least Caleb took care of that while she cooked their dinner.
"I think it's ready. Looks ready. Smells ready." She crinkled her nose at the cooking odors combining with the freshly falling rain scent, trying hard not to sneeze. She dished the meal out onto two wooden plates.
The bench groaned when Caleb sat down. Beth put his plate before him, then took her own seat. Moments later after the blessing, she took the first bite of the only meal she'd ever cooked over an open fire.
"Goodwife Merriwether, I doubt we'll starve over the next month. Grow tired of the fare, but no hardship eating this."
Beth flushed. It did taste rather good, even if she did say so herself. "Thank you."
"Have you done anything like this before?"
She shook her head as her mouth was otherwise occupied, chewing.
"This is the third time for me. First time in the Merriwether cabin, though. It's a step up from the stable."
Beth's heart fluttered. Oh, great. Just great. She was paired with an experienced living history actor. He'd have an edge on her there, knowing what to expect. "Sounds fascinating. Three times this year?"
"No. This is my third year. I like November here. It's peaceful. We get a steady stream of onlookers, but not like in the summer. Makes it easier to enjoy what you're doing here." Caleb speared the last potato chunk on his plate, dragging it around to mop up any excess bacon grease.
"Your family miss you on Thanksgiving?"
"Family's out on the other coast. We're not all that close." Caleb shrugged and stretched. "It's going to be fully dark soon. With only candles to light our way, we'd best get a move on."
Disappointment set in---Beth had more questions to ask. Not personal ones, but procedural ones. She gathered their dinner dishes. The utensils, like the plates, were wooden. She stuck those into a small pot of water she'd left heating while they ate. The plates got scrubbed clean with a dry rag, as did the iron skillet.
"I'll bank the fire while you toss the sleeping bags onto the bed. Then I suggest we call it a night. Morning arrives very early," Caleb said. He grasped her shoulders to steady her as they passed in very close quarters.
Half an hour later, she lay shivering in her sleeping bag. The straw "mattress" beneath her made odd noises every time she or Caleb moved, but wasn't all that uncomfortable as she'd feared.
"Why did you apply for this, Beth?" Caleb's voice floated on the darkness, and she felt less alone for hearing him.
"To prove that I could do something hard." Wow. That was blunt. Raw and honest, too.
To be continued...