After laying awake, aching for Isaack’s touch again, Emily rose early, trudging about her chores. Going out to the barn, she found that the cow had already been milked. Isaack. He’d been following her more obviously since their stolen moment under the stars, and she resented it. He was everywhere, even when he wasn’t. Her eyes darted around, looking for him, maybe standing behind a barn pillar watching her, but she couldn’t see him. She knew he was somewhere though. He was always watching.
She longed to get away, out from under his piercing gray eyes. Emily couldn’t explain herself. But she hated him for kissing her like that. He had no right to her, no right to make her feel the feelings that betrayed everything she’d ever known. Isaack had no right to make her want things she couldn’t have.
Abe and Nathan still snored in the barn. She told herself they worked into the night, but she knew better. They worked hard during the day, but never rose before daylight. By contrast, Mr. Potter was probably already out in the fields. He’d taken a vested interest in the running of the fields, and had spent the last few days trying to make sure the grounds were drying at an appropriate rate. If the ground around the corn didn’t dry quickly enough, the roots would rot. If it dried too fast, it developed a crust that was equally as bad. Mr. Breck had taken to sleeping in town, Emily suspected he’d found one of the ‘ladies’ at the saloon to keep him company. Sometimes, he showed up, sometimes, not.
Which left Isaack. He was close by. She could feel it. It was like there was an invisible energy between them, and she always felt when he was near. It made her crazy, because it made her feel things she had no business feeling.
Deciding she could make a trip into town with what corn they had in the crib, to show Mr. Stein they were serious about repaying his ridiculously inflated debt, she went to the crib. The mill was on the other side of town, and would keep her away from the house for most of the day.
The corn crib was on the other side of the barn, built into the side of it, kept secure from prowling critters and curious chickens. A sturdily built structure, it was smallish in comparison to the massive space of the barn, and held most of a harvest these days. After drying on the stalk, the shucked corn was stored in the crib until it was dry enough for grinding at the mill. Some of it had already been pulled off the ear, mostly for something for the men to do, and bagged up. This was what Emily would take to the mill today.
But the faint smell of soured corn assaulted her when she opened the door, and a cry rose at the back of her throat.
A standing puddle squelched at her feet, and a sense of hopelessness took over every other thought Emily had. The crop was ruined.
Isaack was at her side in an instant, and she could hear Mama as she banged out the front door.
“What’s wrong child?” Her mother’s concern overrode everything else, and tears of frustration welled in Emily’s eyes, but she wouldn’t let them fall in front of Isaack.
“The corn got wet. It’s ruined.”
Rachel stood there, next to Isaack, whose face had paled, even as his lips thinned into a white line across his face.
Wiping her hands on her apron, Rachel spurred into action, pulling the door open wide. “Isaack, pull those wet bags of corn out of there and bring them to the wagon. We’ll spread it out, get the ruined corn out and dry out the rest under the sun. We’ll see what can be salvaged. Emily, help him spread it.” She went back inside to finish breakfast, but her steps weren’t as purposeful as usual, and her shoulders sagged.
As they went inside the crib, Emily couldn’t help but notice the gaping hole in the roof, where shingles had come off. Sunlight streamed in, making the dark space light. Corn dust swirled in the air, and Emily let out another wail, purely against her will.
“Didn’t you check the roof a fortnight ago?”
Isaack’s mouth was still a thin, whitened line, and now his eyes darkened with fury as they met hers. “Yes, I did. It was strong enough a wind couldn’t have done that.”
Then someone had purposely pulled off the shingles. Who would do something to sabotage their efforts like that?
“There’s nothing to be done for it now. I’ll fix the roof after we get the corn out and started drying. Your mother’s right. We need to take care of this first. I’ll find out who’s responsible for this.” His voice was intense, and Emily had the sudden realization he’d been a man of power before the war. The tone he spoke with was one which brooked no arguments, telling her he was in charge.
But it was her family’s farm, and he was an interloper.
“Don’t tell her it was intentional. She has enough to worry about.” She needed something to give herself authority over him. Finding something to boss him about was the only way she could do it, even if he argued with her. But he didn’t.
They worked side by side for the rest of the morning, dragging out bags of corn and spreading the grain out in the bed of the wagon. Not as much was spoiled as Emily had been fearful of, but enough was relegated to chicken feed to last them for months and months.
Working next to Isaack was surprisingly soothing to Emily. His strong assurance was welcome, as he hefted the bags and poured the corn into the wagon, while Emily spread it around to dry evenly. A few times, he opened his mouth, as if to speak, and Emily would always shake her head in fear. She didn’t want to discuss anything, because the only thing to discuss would be the kiss. And she wanted to forget it ever happened, even if there was no way that was possible.