I spent most of the day supervising the girls from my rocker. Jennie dusted while Ella swept and straightened. Under my direction, Lucy baked bread. She triumphantly presented it at the evening meal and waited, fingers laced and thumbs twitching, for Hiram's reaction.
He slathered butter on a slice, bit into it, chewed, and swallowed.
When he said nothing, I prompted him. "It's the first bread Lucy's made on her own. It's delicious, isn't it?"
Hiram cast Lucy a dismissive glance. "Good enough. Maybe I don't need to waste time looking for Delia since Lucy's able to take on Delia's chores."
Lucy's hands dropped to her lap, and she stared at them. Finally, she picked at her food.
Now, I lay in bed listening to Hiram snoring, my mind whirling, keeping me from much-needed sleep.
Delia—my heart broke when I thought of her, the two halves in pain for opposite reasons. The one half because I did not know where she was or how she was doing, what horrible events might befall my child, grieving because I might never see her again. The other half was squeezed with fear she would be found and brought home and what Hiram would do to her if she were. I kept repeating a prayer for God to protect her.
And even as I prayed for Delia, I feared for my younger girls. Sitting in the rocker today, listening to their chatter, I realized what a dismal view they had of their lives. My girls saw growing to womanhood as a journey filled with heavy chores and no joys. They saw their futures as servants to the men they would marry. I had been so centered on my own problems I had not seen how the loss of so many babies had colored their view of motherhood.
Could I make them see their lives might be better than mine if they made better choices? After all, I'd had a good life until I met that green-eyed fur trapper, Justin, and gave my heart away to the scoundrel. I had shamed my family and brought myself and girls to the hard life we had now.
Sliding my hand to my belly, I felt for the life growing inside me, wondered if the child was the son Hiram eagerly anticipated or another girl he'd consider worthless. How could a girl feel she had value when her own father said she had none, that only boys were worthy of his love?
I closed my eyes and prayed again, this time for God to help all my girls. If I could not see the path to a better life, surely He could. Show me the path, I prayed.
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