We were in the kitchen the day Tanner brought Musha: Mother with her sewing, Mr. Tundal with his paper, and I with my sums. We had a parlor, or sitting room as it was sometimes called, and mother had a sewing room. We also had a sunroom filled with plants and light, and then there was the dining room with its great mahogany table and sideboards. However despite all those rooms for sitting in, mother and Mr. Tundal somehow always ended up at the big, oak, kitchen table.
Tanner brought her into the kitchen that day, urging her forward as she seemed to hang in the doorway. She was a tiny thing, not even reaching Tannerís chest and half his weight. She was as dark as the night, pregnant, and wore a white cloth wrapped around her head. She needed work, Tanner explained, and if there were chores she could do around the house to earn her keep, well it would be greatly appreciated. He said all this in a stumbling, roundabout way as he was not good with words, anyway, and was under duress as well.
Mother got it though, got the point of it right away, and cutting through his mumbled rambling, quickly rose, intending to lead the girl to a chair; she looked to fall down what with the fear and the pregnancy and those things she had been through. I never got the whole story, but Musha came from a place where fear was a way of life. She had only been in our area a short time, and when Tanner saw her for the first time, he fell in love. I think it was his big heart, since he couldnít stand to see anything hurt or abused, and it was obvious she needed help and love. So he took her into his heart, and then he brought her to mother and Mr. Tundal for them to take her into their hearts and home and family.
She shrank away from mother, looking ready to run, and thatís when Mr. Tundal came to help. Between the two of them, they got her calmed down enough to sit at the table with a glass of milk and a cut of fresh-baked bread. Tanner ducked his head and mumbled something in the way of thanks, fleeing from the kitchen with a big, goofy grin spread over his face. Mr. Tundal soon found chores that pressed him, too, and escaped as well, leaving mother to deal with this new addition to our family.
And thatís what we were: a family. Musha added a spark we didnít know was missing. When her fear abated, she became herself: happy, quick, sassy, and knowing. She took over the kitchen and the herb garden. She washed the clothes, made the beds, dusted, polished and scrubbed. When mother objected that she did too much, she brushed mother's words aside and went on with her self-appointed chores. She sang as she worked, rhythmic song in the language of her motherís people. Even as her belly swelled, she filled out. She ruled Tanner who was quick to do her bidding, nodding his head and smiling his big smile.
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