SelfSame by Melissa Conway Read Free Book Online

Book: SelfSame by Melissa Conway Read Free Book Online
Authors: Melissa Conway
came the sound of low chanting and the repetitive shoosh-shoosh of Bear Talker’s rattle. She closed her eyes and prayed that Elizabeth would find peace before her suffering ended. A creak of the floorboards alerted her and she opened them again.
    Bess and Aggie hovered in the doorway from the kitchen. The children were practically hidden in Aggie’s skirts; they had probably informed her of Enid’s arrival with their unusual guests.
    Enid set the needlework aside and rose to her feet, unsure of the proper etiquette. Sorcha would introduce everyone and expect them all to get along as if class wasn’t a distinction. Enid was all for that, but the rest of them would find it odd to say the least.
    Bess said, “They’s a stew on, Miss.”
    Enid glanced at Joseph, who definitely looked interested. Ah, to hell with it , she thought.
    “Why don’t we all eat, then?” she said.
    They had no table in the common room – Enid’s father had only ever invited into the house the kind of hard men who ate with their fingers and wiped their hands on their clothes. She’d served them at the small kitchen table as they drank ale and talked of the rebellion, staying well clear of their wandering hands.
    There were only four chairs that were soon occupied by Enid and Joseph on one side, and Sarah and Ezekiel, whose chins barely cleared the height of the table, on the other. Bess and Aggie made sure Enid had everything she needed and left to eat their meal on the back porch.
    The children ate quietly and with perfect manners, except for the fact that they stared at Joseph with wide, blinking blue eyes the entire time. He ate rapidly, ignoring them. Enid twice attempted to start a conversation, but the children were too shy to even reply and Joseph only offered monosyllabic responses. It was a very awkward dynamic.
    When Bear Talker came into the kitchen, Enid excused herself and took the stairs two at a time, unconcerned that she’d essentially abandoned the children with two strange Indian men.
    Elizabeth was asleep; her stringy grey hair spread over the pillow and her breathing as labored and rough as it had been that morning. The room smelled of burnt sage. Whatever the medicine man had accomplished, it wasn’t a cure. Enid held her grandmother’s limp, arthritic hand, crying softly for an hour or so as memory after happy memory played vividly in her mind. When she ventured back downstairs, Bear Talker and his nephew were gone and the children and servants waited for their instructions.

Chapter Five
    For perhaps the first time since she’d been aware of the differences between her worlds, Sorcha didn’t want to be in this one. As soon as she opened her eyes she wanted to go back to Elizabeth. Her last glimpse of Enid’s grandmother had been when she left her sleeping fitfully, drugged into unconsciousness by something Bear Talker had left for her. Enid hadn’t wanted to frighten Aggie and Bess if they tried and couldn’t wake her, so she confessed to them that she was afflicted with a sleeping sickness and that they should respond if Elizabeth needed help in the night. She left them with instructions to keep water in the iron kettle hanging over the fire, and told them how to aid her grandmother should she suffer a fit. Since the children were sleeping in her room, she’d retired to her father’s freshly made bed reluctantly, afraid that on the morrow Elizabeth would be gone.
    Sorcha took a long, listless shower, trying hard not to cry. For some reason, her fragmented thoughts kept returning to Joseph and how much he reminded her of Ben even though the two were nothing alike physically. Joseph was around the same height, but stockier than Ben, his muscles more compact; and Ben’s facial features were more refined, especially the narrow curve of his jaw. Compared to Ben, Joseph was…blunt, was the most accurate word that came to mind – like comparing a hammer to a knife. The only thing the

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