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The Lawrence Children: Chapter 8

 A Friendly Visit

Fred-O ran into the house leaving the front door wide open. Wind rushed in after him and the snow followed his footsteps.
“Tom and Mary are coming! I saw their wagon on the down the hill.”
Lucy was bending over a pile of dough, kneading it on the table, “Fred-O, the door.”
He acted as if he didn't hear, “Shall I go and meet them?”
“No,” answered Lucy, punching her bread dough. “They will be here soon enough. In the meanwhile close that door and clean up your wet mess.”
Fred-O stood still half a moment as if deciding whether or not to obey. He chose to listen, first closing the door against the wind.
Noah was not here, but at the mines with Vern today. Ann helped Lucy with the kitchen, cutting and washing a pile of potatoes Fred-O had brought up from the cellar. Julie sat at a corner of the table, scribbling on a piece of scrap paper.
“Noah will be disappointed about missing out on seeing the O'Rallies,” Ann said.
Lucy punched her floury hands into the dough, “Maybe we should invite them to stay for supper. That way he won't have to miss out.”
Ann smiled, approving of the idea.
By the time Tom and Mary arrived Lucy had her hands washed and the dough rising by the oven.
“Hello, Lucy!” Tom and Mary greeted Lucy as she held the door wide open for them. Mary carried a pail of milk in each hand. “I hope you all want milk.”
Fred-O ran forward, “Of course we do!”
Tom laughed, giving Fred-O a pat on his head. Fred-O took the pails of milk from Mary and put them away.
“Thank you,” Lucy said. “We can always drink plenty of this – especially Noah.”
“That's good! Because we have plenty,” Tom said.
Mary laughed, and her eyes searched the room, “The boys must be at the mines?”
Lucy nodded, “Noah is almost always down there all day Saturday to help Vern.”
“Good boy,” Tom said.
“But I know Noah will be so disappointed to not see you,” Lucy added, directing her words to Tom. “Why don't you all stay awhile? And have supper with us?”
Mary nodded, first looking to Tom before replying.“I think we can do that – there's something we needed to talk about with you children, anyways. And we need Vern to be here.”
“Oh,” Lucy said, her tone indicating she wasn't sure how to take Mary's words.
Mary didn't say anything further to put Lucy's mind at ease.
Ann rose from her pile of potatoes. Obviously something was up – both girls knew it. But there was nothing to be done, and worrying wouldn't help. They tried to silence their questioning thoughts.
“Fred-O, why don't you show me the wood pile?” Tom said. “We'll see about refilling it and bringing more kindling inside for your sisters. Save some work for your brothers.”
“OK!” Fred-O still had his coat on from previously. He slipped on his overshoes and followed Tom out.
“I supposed there's something I can do to help?” Mary said.
She went over to Julie and picked up the baby, kissing her right on the forehead. Julie let her and hugged Mary back.
“We were just cooking – supper and for tomorrow. Not too much left.” Lucy said.
Mary sat on the bench at the table, “Well, I'll just hold the baby and talk with you girls as you finish up your things.”
Ann smiled, sitting back in front of her potatoes, “That sounds nice – Lucy is hard to talk to as she's full of directions.”
Mary laughed as Lucy stuck her tongue out at her younger sister.

Vern and Noah came home to find all their chores had been done by Tom and Fred-O. Noah grinned wide upon seeing the O'Rally horse. He ran past Vern, and inside to the aroma of the supper meal greeting.
“Hello!” Noah called out to everyone inside. He kicked off his boots and hung his jacket over a nail behind the stove. Vern entered just after Noah.
“You look happy,” Tom said.
“I am – you all are here,” Noah grinned.
“Sure it isn't just because of the milk?” Tom laughed.
“Partly,” Noah laughed, “Couldn't live without that stuff.”
“Well, you never know,” Vern said from behind as he shed his boots and coat. “With all these city people moving into town and trying to put their sophisticated ways on us, I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to make milk illegal or something.”
“Imagine that,” Lucy laughed, disbelief and sarcasm mixing. “They couldn't find anything wrong with milk.”
“Ignorant people can always find something wrong with everything,” Tom said. “Either it's wrong to take the mother's milk from the baby, or it wasn't designed for human consumption, or it carries some disease, or -”
“I don't care what people say,” Noah cut into Tom's words. “God promised us a land flowing with milk and honey – and I plan to embrace that truth. No one is taking away my milk.”
Everyone laughed. Vern and Noah sat at the table – already heaped with food. Potato chunks mixed with dried onions and peppers and venison, large, soft wheat rolls, and warm milk.
Tom prayed over the food, and then silence dwelt over the table as everyone began eating. Both Vern and Noah ate as ravenous beasts. Working in the mines always made certain their appetites were burning.
Mary spoke, “So, what have you children been up to in your free time.”
There was a slight pause. Everyone had agreed not to tell anyone about the mystery. Lucy had told some to Patty, but the children had decided to remain quiet on the matter here on out until something was discovered. Especially on anything to do with the murder.
“We don't really have much free time with school and chores,” Ann said.
“Any free time I have is spent studying books that Lucy and Mr Farrows think I should study,” Vern added.
“And that's hard to make happen as most the time he tries to sneak off and sleep,” Lucy teased Vern.
“I'm sure it's hard to keep up with both,” Tom said. “School takes a lot of mind-will. And the mines already drain one past the point of one's brain shutting off.”
“No kidding,” Vern replied.
“Have you had a chance to take up any ore to Norris?”
“No,” Vern said. “I have a couple wagons ready to go up. I just haven't been able to find the time to negotiate the horse around the kids going to school.”
“I plan to be taking mine up next week,” Tom said. “I'll need help – maybe we can arrange a day? Take all the loads up to the station, and help each other out?”
Vern nodded enthusiastically, “I'm for that!”
“Great,” Tom smiled.
Ann and Lucy fidgeted. All evening – actually, all afternoon – they'd been waiting to hear what Mary had to say to all of them. It would seem she had forgotten, though. But as soon and Vern and Tom finished making their plans for next week, Mary put her fork and knife down and began speaking slowly.
Vern didn't pick up the girls' uneasiness, but Mary's uncertainty was obvious.
“There's been some talk at town,” Mary started. “Some of the women are worried about you children living out here on your own.”
Vern laughed. Then stopped. “Seriously? I'm nearly eighteen.”
Tom kept his fork midair and looked to Vern, nodding.
“I've been trying to tell them you all are fine and don't want help. That Tom and I come down often.”
“But people are busybodies and think that their recommendation must be law,” Tom inserted.
“Not quite,” Mary tried to defend the town women. “They are just concerned.”
Lucy had been afraid of this for quite some time. She should have known that people with authority wouldn't allow them to take care of themselves. Lucy had Julie close to her. She wanted to hug her little sister – they were doing well.
“Concerned how?” Vern said.
“They don't say much about you Vern, but they don't like that Lucy is not finishing school with the girls her age. Or that Julie doesn't have a mother. Or that Lucy is having to take care of so much. And that there must be little supervision with the others.”
There was nothing the Lawrence children could say that wasn't already obvious. It wasn't like they had any other choice. And they were doing fine. Sure it wasn't ideal. But this was the life God had given them, and they were surviving.
“One of the women have volunteered to take Julie.”
Lucy laughed sarcastically wrapping her arms around her little sister, “Absolutely not. Concern or not no one is telling us what to do. This is our home, our land, our family. I am not letting anyone take her away.”
“I understand how you feel,” Mary said. “But we don't always have a choice when those above us make a decision.”
“And what makes these women above us? Because they happen to live in town? Are a part of the church? They have no say over our lives,” Even as Lucy said the words she felt a little silly knowing that these women did and could have a lot of say over her life in the government's eyes. But that didn't change the fact of what was right.
“I don't understand the worry,” Vern said. “Lucy and I are both doing well, and the children have great grades. No one has been sick or hurt.”
“Prevention – just because something hasn't happened doesn't mean it won't.”
“Are you on their side?” Ann questioned quietly.
At that moment every child felt very betrayed by the O'rallies. Even Noah.
“Actually, no,” Mary said. “I can can tell you children are doing a great job. And I volunteered to watch over you more often. But they think I am too old.”
“We are all trapped,” Tom said.
“No we aren't,” Vern said. “They may be trying to bully us – but we will not be victims just because our parents are dead.”
“It's not quite like that...” Mary said.
“It's exactly like that,” Lucy said, her voice crisp and clear. She did not mean to be rude to Mary and Tom. But she wanted to make sure everyone knew that she would not back down. No one would take her family away. “We have decided how our family is going to be run. And no one has any say in the matter. We do not mind friendly concern – but no one shall be dictating our lives.”
Vern nodded.
Noah and Ann agreed with quiet their yeah's.
Fred-O just stared, eyes darting back and forth. He barely understood what was being said except the town people were trying to interfere in their lives. He did not approve.
Julie was the only one that continued to eat uninterrupted and unaffected.
“We appreciate you telling us this,” Vern said. “It's hard to hear what is being gossiped or any rumor when we are snowed out of it all. So, it's good knowing this. But you may inform these busybodies that we aren't interested in their charity concerns. And we won't be complying under any circumstances.”
Tom answered, “Alrighty, Vern. I hope they accept your answer.”
“They haven't a choice.” Vern began eating signaling to the rest of his siblings to do the same. This conversation was over, and as far as the children were concerned, it was over forever.

Make sure to return the second Monday of next month for the continuing installment of the Lawrence Children! 

Father Tells a Story posted 10/9/17
No More Good-nights posted 11/13/17
Lucy Learns to Live posted 12/11/17
Never Know, Noah posted 1/8/18
Grandpa's Mystery  posted 2/12/18
Ann Finds Answers posted 3/12/18
Vern Lead's An Adventure posted 4/9/18
A Friendly Visit posted 5/14/18
A Real Clue? posted 6/11/18
Fred-O is Frightened  posted 7/9/18
Good Job, Julie! posted 8/13/18
Hello, Life posted 9/10/18


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