“Aw, don’t start that again. It’s just a steal nut that I filed down and soldered a little piece of pyrite to. You could probably get something nicer out of one of those bubble gum machines they used to have at the pizza place in town.”
I glanced at Jude; his face was bright red. And while he was trying not to show it I know he was hoping that I would like what he’d made. Which I most definitely did. Mom didn’t believe in girls getting expensive jewelry when they were still “little girls” as they weren’t “responsible enough.” The closest thing to nice jewelry I had were the nickel-free stud earrings that I wore out of habit in my pierced ear holes and I was lucky to have that.
I slid the “ring” on my left finger and was amazed that it fit. “How did you know what size to make it?”
“I didn’t … well, not exactly … just sorta. You carry the house keys on that loop you put your finger through. I just looked at it and measured it by eye. I guess I did get close didn’t I?”
“Yes you did,” I told him before reaching over and giving him a kiss. “I’m … I’m sorry I …”
“Don’t start Dovie … I can hear the wheels turning in your head … you don’t need to do whatever it is you are thinking, I like you just fine the way you are. I got frustrated … and you know good and well what I’m talking about … and tried to push a little harder than I should have. Let’s just call it even … and have some great make up make out.”
“Oh honestly …” In the end however Jude was the one that called a halt and sent us both off to our respective – and cold – bedrooms. It isn’t that I enjoyed the teasing because that knife cut both ways, but I’m not sure that I’m all that eager to take the next step.
We woke up to the first real snow of the season. We’d had dustings before but nothing that hung around long once the sun came up. When the kids saw the snow they were very excited. By contrast I groaned.
“Why Dovie?” Paulie laughed. “Afraid you’re too old for sledding and playing in the snow?”
“Brat,” I muttered under my breath. To Paulie I said “Let’s see how much you like this stuff when you are doing your chores in it all day.”
“Chores?! But … but it’s new snow!”
“You promised to go help Uncle Roe today. You need to sit down and eat, get the boys, and get going.”
“But what?” I asked giving him a look that dared him to try and get out of it.
“Don’t ‘Aw Dovie’ me. Playtime comes after work time, not before or instead of.”
“Mom wouldn’t make us miss the fun after all the work we’ve been doing,” he grumped morosely.
I swallowed my feelings and said, “I’m not Mom. I’m me. You made a promise. You aren’t little like Corey anymore. It is your choice whether you are gonna honor that, but I’m not going to protect you from the consequences if you don’t. You know what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Paulie didn’t stomp but it was in his voice when he told me, “That’s not fair.”
Jude startled us all by putting his mug down with a snap. “That’s enough. Paulie get your butt in gear or miss your chance at breakfast. And while we walk down to the main house you can explain to me why your feelings are more important than Dovie’s.”
A confused Paulie said, “Huh?”
“You just guilted her for not being your mom. You did it because you know it would hurt her. You try to say it’s her fault Aunt Malissa is dead and she’s all you got left that is willing to look after you?”
“Jude,” I tried to interject softly.
“No Dovie. We all gotta live here and get along. We do that by being honorable and keeping our word when we give it. We don’t try and get our way being nasty to each other.”
Immediately sorry Paulie turned to me and said, “I … I didn’t really mean to make you feel bad Dovie. I just don’t want to miss the first real snow.”
I sighed. “I know Paulie and in your shoes I might feel the same way. But I can’t do that anymore. I got responsibilities. And today it just so happens so do you boys because you made a promise. Now hurry up, Jude’s not fooling.”
I handed him his plate of breakfast – grits, cornmeal biscuits with busted down gravy – and he wolfed it to catch up with everyone else. Indeed, Jude wasn’t fooling. He was no more looking forward to his day of working in the snow than I was and keeping promises was one of his hot buttons. If anyone had written one of those bodice-ripper romances about Jude they would have called him a reformed rake. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant completely but I had a generally good idea though. Jude used to be a scallywag and a drunk and a ladies man … all the things a rake is supposed to be. Only he isn’t anymore and is reformed so takes on a little more sharply when people step out of line. I’d never call him a rake to his face, reformed or not, because I didn’t want him to think I was completely loony.
Turning to the man in question I said, “I packed you some lunch and I hope it stays warm. When you drop the boys off can you give this other bag to Aunt Frankie? I know the boys are supposed to take their noonday meal down there and hopefully this will help.”
He took both, the one to the main house held hickory nut stuff eggs. Jude asked me, “You really set on doing laundry today? It’s looking gray and likely to get grayer.”
“Yeah though like Paulie I’d give a lot to be able to put it off. I’d also give a lot if Mom’s old barrel agitator was electric and inside.” When he looked concerned I told him, “Don’t mind me, it’s just laundry day blues. I couldn’t wash last Saturday because the wood pile got wet when the tarp blew off. We have two weeks’ worth piled up. Until I get everyone wool socks knitted we’ll have to use the old store bought socks that have to be boiled to get clean. And I could make a sail for the Titanic with all the dirty underwear that needs washing. I don’t even want to talk about the jeans and bedding.”
Jule snickered. “Do what Clewis does … go commando.”
“Ew! TMI Jude!”
He snickered again and then looked around trying to get us a little privacy to say good bye with. Unfortunately it wasn’t happening. He was momentarily grumpy but then smiled when I surreptitiously placed a hand over the “ring” I was wearing under my long john shirt.
“Plan on being back before dark,” he said. “But if I’m not don’t worry. Might snow later, can’t say for sure, so while I know you want to get your washing done, don’t let the wood boxes inside or on the back porch get empty.”
“Yes Jude,” I answered meekly. I wasn’t being a smart mouth either; I know how to live in the winter with snow but I’d never had to do it for more than a week or two at a time for vacation. Doing it full time was a real learning experience. Wood had always just magically appeared when it was needed. At worst Dad or Jack or Jay had split some but being responsible for keeping the wood pile full – and using it responsibly – was definitely something that I was having to learn quickly.
I watched Jude and the boys until they were on the other side of the gully then shook myself. There wasn’t time for day dreaming. A dump truck full of dirty laundry awaited my attention.