Routine kept Sadie from thinking too much. Up early, help with the cooking, and then clean up. After that, work out in the fields, and after dinner, she was learning the way that these people spun, wove and made clothing. Especially baby clothing. Her belly began to swell, and the sickness went away.
It had been nearly a month since the Vortex gang had returned home. No one had said a thing when she kicked Ken out of the bedroom. She’d expected Nanny to at least scold or cajole her. Nothing. Sadie was slowly making friends with some of the women. She discovered that most of them had arrived in the valley the way she had. They’d settled down with their men, and all of them had at least two children.
“Ya know Sadie, that Ken isn’t a bad sort. Bit heavy handed, but really…” said Jean, a woman who’d been in the valley for eight years.
“Hell, I’ve known him since we were both knee high to the goats. You should talk to him Sadie. It can be lonely at night,” said Kirsty, Ken’s cousin.
“I asked him to leave and he hasn’t talked to me since. So how am I suppose to get to know him better if he won’t even come around?” Sadie was lonely. Frustrated, tired and missing her family as well.
“You want me to tell him to come by and be civil?” asked Nanny. She’d been listening from the door to the kitchen where the women sat chopping vegetables.
“Umm…” Sadie started.
“You won’t get nowhere with ‘umm’, or ignoring him,” Nanny said as she gave Sadie a look that spoke volumes.
Sadie looked up at her and nodded ever so slightly.
Dinner was hectic. Sadie was serving, and bumped into two men as she turned with a bowl of salad greens. “Sorry,” she started.
“Well, hello Sadie,” said George. “Good to see you.”
Sadie looked up to see George and Ken. “Umm… hi. I… I need to get this to the table.” She smiled weakly and then moved past them to the table.
“What the hell did you do?” George asked Ken.
“I made some assumptions.”
“So that’s why you’ve been working out in the back of beyond?”
“Knowing Nanny, and that she told you to be here, she thinks you should be fixing your wrongs.” George smiled as he sat down at the table.
“No. For once, you’re wrong, not me. Sadie’s a good woman. She put up with a hell of a lot of shit from us, and if you screwed up, then you should own up and make it right. You don’t want Sadie disappearing like that girl Lilla. Or worse yet hang herself like Jerrica.”
Ken gave George a hard look. “I don’t think Sadie is crazy enough to do anything like that.”
“No, but she sure don’t look happy. Still too thin too, when she should be getting nice and fat. No lack of food, so what else could it be?”
Ken felt like punching George, but he knew that the man was right. He’d screwed up and it was time to fix it. Especially with Nanny sending out a runner to make sure he was at dinner. Normally, she didn’t seem to care where he was, and hadn’t since he was six. “Fine. I’ll talk to her.”
Sadie sat next to Kirsty. She didn’t have much appetite, but wasn’t sure if that was because she was upset about Ken being here, just being here or if she was still afraid of being sick. She picked at her food and didn’t eat much.
“You need to feed that baby,” said Kirsty.
“Just not hungry.”
“Not hungry for what’s on the plate or because of who’s down the table?”
Sadie looked at Kirsty. “I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to be here or even have this baby. Everything has just moved so fast and no one ever asked me a damn thing.”
Kirsty patted Sadie’s hand. “It would be better if you talked to someone. Maybe give Ken a chance?”
Sadie sighed, nodded her head and then excused herself from the table.
“Ken, you get your ass out there and make things right.” Nanny had her hands on her hips, and was using that tone that meant you’d better listen. “And take this bowl of cobbler out to her. She doesn’t eat enough to keep herself let alone that baby alive.”
Ken took the warm bowl of peach cobbler drizzled with custard and whipping cream from Nanny and headed outside to where Sadie sat on the porch. To be honest, he’d been grouchy and unhappy, and was taking it out on anyone stupid enough to cross him. The foreman out at the sawmill had threatened to put him on the saw table if he didn’t lighten up and start acting human. He took a deep breath and stopped next to Sadie.
“Nanny sent this out to you. Mind if I sit down?”
Sadie looked up. She could smell the cobbler and it made her stomach growl. “Thanks. Go ahead and sit, it’s your porch.”
“No, it’s the family’s, and that includes you.”
Sadie didn’t reply, but began to eat.
“Sadie, I… We need to start over.” He looked up at the sky as the stars began to appear.
Sadie just ate, trying to decide if she really wanted to talk to him.
“I don’t often say this, but I was wrong. I was a right bastard and should have been a bit better to you.”
Sadie looked at him. “Oh, and what do those pretty words really mean?” She ate another bite.
“Dammit Sadie! I’m trying to apologize, and you’re making it damn hard!”
“You think one sentence is going to make up for what you did?”
“No. But what can I do to show you that I mean what I said?”
Sadie ate another bite. She was hungry. “I don’t know.”
“Sadie, I am sorry. I should have asked a lot of things, and not just figured it was alright. Yes, we are bastards on the road, but if we weren’t tough, others would kill us and take what we hold dear.”
Sadie nodded. She knew that things were rougher in places than they had been. “But, you could have asked.”
Ken started to say something crass, but shut his mouth. He took a deep breath. “Yeah, I could have.”
“You could of asked me if I wanted to leave my home too, instead of just ordering people around!”
Ken nodded. “I’m use to being in charge. Doing what I want. I am part of the council here, and when I’m on the road, I’m boss.”
“You? Part of a council here?” Sadie almost laughed.
“I am. Not the oldest or best, but I’m on it.”
“I figured that Nanny ruled here.”
Ken did laugh. “She does. She’s one of the oldest of us, and probably knows the most except for Jethro or Paul.”
“Who are they?” Sadie at the last of the cobbler and then set the bowl down.
“My uncles. You’ve seen them. One looks like he’s been hung by his ears a few times and the other runs the dairy.”
Sadie thought. “Oh, okay. I think I do. Big men.”
“Yes. The original Vortex riders. Owned this land, and farmed it in the summer. Sort of like we do now. Only difference is that we need to be better about people.”
“What do you mean?” Sadie looked puzzled.
“We have to find partners. People who’ll stay, or fit.” Ken stopped for a moment. “Like I hoped you would.”
Sadie looked at him not knowing what to say next.
“Sadie, will you give me another chance?”
From the darkened doorway, Nanny smiled.