“Rachel Nordstrom! What in the world did you do to your dress!” was the first thing that came out of Alice's mouth.
“What I normally do at school.” Rachel said plainly.
“I don't think you can get a dress that dirty by reading books.” she said, planting her hands on her hips. “Now tell me what you really did.”
“I played a game at recess.” Rachel said, mimicking her Mother's stance.
“I guess I'll have to...
“Alice can you come here?” interrupted Papa from the living room.
Alice gave a impatient sigh and left the kitchen. Their muffled voices came through the closed door, Rachel walked to the door slowly and place her ear to it.
“...go to school in them, I couldn't let her go like that, knowing she's under my influences, so I told her to change into a dress.” said Alice, sighing angrily.
“She's been going to school like that, ever since her mama died. This is hard for her to have you replacing her mama. could you please go easy on on her.” Papa said gently.
There was a silence, so Rachel thought it best to stop listening. She left through the back door, and the started to head for the barn when someone called her name, Rachel stopped and looked back to see Alice standing in the entrance of the back door.
“Come here, Rachel” called Alice.
Rachel sighed and walked back.
“Your father wants to talk to you.” she said, when Rachel came back in.
Rachel went to the living room, her papa was sitting in the rocking chair, news paper folded in his lap.
“Come over here.” Papa said,
Rachel walked over and sat down at his feet.
“What's bothering you, Rachel?” Papa asked, as he rocked.
“Everything! First she come and bosses me around. I'm not allowed to do anything, she thinks everything I do is absurd, she keeps making me do absurd things like wearing a dress to school, and because she made me change I got to school late. You should have seen the kids faces when they saw I was in a dress, it was so humiliating!” Rachel said, getting choked up til she was crying.
“I know. Alice isn't use to being a mother yet, and she never had a Mother herself. So this is all new to her. Try not to harass her please.” Papa said gently, like he was talking to a frightened lamb.
“I'll try, Papa.” Rachel said,
“Good, Now go get changed into some overalls, and lets go check that wrist out at Dr. Benjamin's place.” Papa said,
“Yes sir.” Rachel said getting up, “Oh and papa?”
“Do I have to wear a dress to school?”
“I'll think about that and tell you when I've decided.” he said, “Now get going!”
The wagon rolled to a stop in front of Dr. Benjamin's house, it was a small and dreary place, weeds grew in the yard unnoticed, a sickly oak hung over the path to the door, the only thing pleasant was the light that came through the foggy windows. Papa knocked on the door, which was almost instantly opened by a skinny man with a bald head, almost gray eye that stared through spectacles, and a line for a mouth.
“What is it Martin?” asked the man, in a raspy voice.
“Rachel has hurt her wrist, I was wondering if you may look at it.” Papa said politely.
“Come in.” said Dr. Benjamin, opening the door wider.
Rachel followed her Papa into a room with medicine that covered shelves on the far wall, an other wall was books, a small fire was going in the fireplace, there was two chairs and a rocker. Papa took the rocking chair, Dr. Benjamin motioned Rachel to sit in the chair closest to the fire, Rachel took it and Dr. Benjamin squatted down in front of her.
“Which wrist is it?” He asked.
“Hmm.” Dr. Benjamin hummed while he gently examined Rachel's wrist, every now and then he'd put pressure on her wrist.
“What where you doing that made you hurt your wrist?” He finally asked,
“I was riding and me and the horse fell.”
Dr. Benjamin nodded and examined her wrist over again.
“It seems you have slightly fractured the bone in your arm right at your wrist.” He said taking off his spectacles.
“What can you do for it?” asked Papa.
“I'm going to make a splint at her wrist so she can't move it.” Dr. Benjamin said, getting up. “Will you excuse me while I get some supplies?”
Dr. Benjamin was gone a minute, then came back with two thin boards and a long bandage rap.
“I don't want you to remove this at all.” He instructed, as he situated one board underneath Rachel's wrist, and the other on top, then he rapped the bandage around several time to hold the boards in place.
“You won't be able to pick anything up with that hand, and also I don't think you'll be able to write either.” Dr. Benjamin turn to Papa, “I want you to bring her back in a week.”
“Thanks Andrew.” Papa said shaking Dr. Benjamin hand.
The next morning Alice wasn't feeling well, so Rachel had to make breakfast. While she was trying to slice some bread, Papa come in.
“You need some help?” Papa asked,
“No, I'm doing fine.”
“No your not,” Papa said. “look at that slice of bread it's twice the size it should be.”
“Pa-pa!” Rachel said giggling.
“I came in here to tell you that; Your mother and I would like you to wear a dress to school, but we're only going to make you wear one twice a week. So if you'd prefer to play baseball, I'd say play it when you're not in a dress.” Papa said.
“How'd you know I was playing baseball?” Rachel asked,
“No girl can get only the front of her dress dirty, except if she fell face first or was diving for home base.”
“You didn't tell Alice did you?”
Papa shock his head,
“Thanks Papa.” Rachel said, hugging him.
The days past by. Mr. Hanson didn't like it that Rachel couldn't write with her right hand, so Rachel had to use her left. Alice was in her and papa's bedroom most afternoon's, which Rachel didn't mind, except that she had to make dinner. Since the snow had melted so fast that year and rained earlier then usual, Papa was able to help Rachel with dinners and chores, instead of getting the field ready for planting. It was a Friday the day before Rachel turned thirteen. Rachel skipped outside to find Matthew and tell him to get ready for school, but he wasn't in the barn. Rachel walked around to the back of the barn to the wood shed, still no sign of Matthew. Rachel went back to the front of the barn.
“Looking for something?” asked Papa's voice,
Rachel turned around to see Papa stroking Penny's neck.
“I'm looking for Matthew...” Rachel stopped midsentence, She looked around the barn, Papa's big black horse was no where to be seen. “Where's Lightning?”
“Matthew took him out for a ride, he said he had something to do and asked if he could ride Lighting to school, so he wouldn't be late.”
Rachel was stunned, Matthew never went riding without her, and for him to go without even telling her.
“You better get Jacob and get going to school.” Papa said,
Rachel nodded, How come Matthew just up and left me! Rachel thought as she walked to the house. He never does anything without me! He probably doesn't like me anymore! Rachel was nearly in tears when she entered the house through the back door.
“Jacob, it's time to go!” Rachel yelled, as she gathered up her books.
“Rachel, a young lady doesn't yell indoors.” said Alice, from the main room.
“That's great, but as you can see I'm not a lady.” Rachel said, pushing her emotion down.
“Yet.” Alice said, more to herself.
“Jacob, hurry up!” Rachel call up stairs.
“I'm coming.” Jacob said, running down the stairs.
“Alright lets go.” Rachel said, marching to the door.
“Where's Matthew?” Jacob asked, when they were outside on their way.
“He left on Lighting to go do something and then his riding to school.” Rachel said.
“What?” whined Jacob. “Why does Matthew get to ride to school?”
“How should I know? He didn't tell me!” Rachel said, losing her temper.
Jacob look down at the ground, kick a rock, and didn't say anything.
“I'm sorry Jacob, I didn't mean to yell at you.” Rachel said, “Race you to the big oak.”
Jacob grinned and dashed off ahead of Rachel.
“No far! You got a head start.” Rachel laughed as she ran after her brother.
School started and Matthew hadn't arrived on Lighting yet. Rachel wasn't angry at Matthew anymore, it had been replaced by nervousness. She glanced at the door, hoping her brother would burst though it.
“Is Matthew doing some errand for your father?” Mr. Hanson asked when he had came to Rachel's desk as he walked the aisles.
Rachel nodded, so she could save her brother the humiliation she had to go through a few days back. It wasn't totally true since Papa hadn't said whatever Matthew was doing was for him, so she added some truth.
“He was going to be here on time, but I guess he was delayed.”
“I see.” Mr. Hanson said, continuing down the aisle.
Hurry up Matthew! Rachel wanted to cry.
Mr. Hanson had just moved on to History, when there was hoof beats of a trotting horse that was approaching the schoolhouse, they stopped and moments later Matthew came in, and went to Mr. Hanson.
“Sorry, I'm later sir.” Matthew said respectfully.
“We'll talk after class.” Mr. Hanson said calmly. “Go to your desk.”
When Rachel and Jacob got home Alice was mending one of David's shirts, she glanced up from her work, noticing that Matthew wasn't present.
“Is Matthew already starting his chores?” she asked,
“No, he's still at school.” Jacob said, before he ran outside.
“Why's he still there?” Alice asked Rachel.
“Mr. Hanson wanted to talk to him.” Rachel said,
“Is he in trouble?” asked David, who had been sitting quietly on the floor by Alice.
“I need to do my school.” Rachel said, changing the subject.
“You just got back, don't you do your school after supper?”
“Yes, but I have a lot to do, and I want to get it done today.” that was a lie, Rachel didn't have a lot to do, she was almost done with it.
“Alright, I guess you should then.” Alice said, “I didn't know you had a lot to do, I'll make sure no one bothers you.”
Rachel went to her room, she finished her school work in less the an hour. Matthew had already came home and was starting on his chores. Rachel got out of the house without Alice seeing her. Matthew was doing the evening milking when Rachel came in.
“What did Mr. Hanson talk to you about?”
“He told me, that if I came late again even if I was doing something Pa that he'd lick me good.” Matthew said, “Did you tell him I was doing something for Pa?”
“That was a good idea,” Matthew said, shaking his head. “He said I need to be an example for the younger kids.”
“Have you gone in the house yet?” Rachel asked,
“Alice knows you had to stay after school, but I didn't tell her why, she'll probably ask you a hundred questions.”
“Great!” Matthew said, in a sarcastic voice.
Rachel waited for Matthew to finish his chores, then they went in the house for supper.
“Matthew may I have a word with you?” Alice asked calmly, as she wiped her hand on her apron. “Rachel will you watch the food on the stove while I talk to Matthew?”
Without an answer from either of us, she steered Matthew into the main room and closed the door. It was silent, no muffled voices floated through the door. Rachel quietly crept other to the door, she just had to know what was going on.
“....what did...Mr Hanson...after class for?” was what Rachel heard from Alice hushed voice.
“Why do we need to whisper? It's no secret, he wanted to talk to me that's all.” Mathew's voice came clear through the door.
“That's all?” Alice said, a bit annoyed.
“Fine you may go.”
Rachel then realized that something was burning, she dashed over to the stove to the smoking pan of chili, or what was chili. She coughed as she breathed in the smoke, looking for water to put it out with.
“My chili!” Alice yelled, as she rushed over to Rachel.
Alice grabbed the pan and rush it outside to the pump, where she started to pump water on it until there wasn't anymore smoke emerging.
“Can't you do anything right?” Alice yelled at Rachel, as she walked back in the house. “Now I'm going to have to make something ells!”
“It's not my fault! You should have had more water in it.” Rachel said. loosing her temper.
“You were the one I left to watch it.”
“You asked me, I didn't say I would!”
“Go to your room!” Alice said pointing a finger towards the stairs. “While your at it how about finishing all that homework you said you had.”
“Fine!” Rachel said, glaring at Alice. “Don't bother making me supper, I'm not hungry.”
Rachel stormed up to her room, flung herself across her bed, and sobbed into her pillow.