She moaned, and curled in on herself. Again, I shook her shoulder, and her eyes opened to look at me. When she opened her mouth to spear, I recoiled. Her breath smelled like death.
“Give me the milk then, and leave me to sleep.” She hissed at me.
I handed her the bowl and she drank the whole thing. Thrusting the bowl into my hands again, she rolled back over, and covered her head.
Sighing, I stand up. Obviously she was going to be in bed all day, again. I went back outside to get the bundle I had picked up in town. I was lucky to have paid so little for the amount of meat I ended up with.
I had been taking a few coins from Smythe’s pockets when he was passed out in bed, not enough for him to notice, mind you, for quite awhile. He never thought to bring food back, and I needed to be able to feed myself, the goat, the baby and Mother. The pieces of chicken were wrapped in leather, and we frozen from being under snow. I scooped some snow up to melt for water and carried in into the house, dumping it in a pot to hang over the fire.
Dried herbs from the garden hung from the rafters and I brought down a few plants; basil, oregano, and rosemary. I crumbled them into the pot of snow and hung it over the fire. For a moment, I watched the flames lick the bottom of the black pot. From a small barrel, I fished out a few potatoes, soft and grubby, some onions, and the last of the carrots, which were pathetically soft.
Using a bent blade, I chopped the vegetables roughly, cutting as closely to the bad spots as possible to save food. The pile of bad was far larger than the pile of good, and I was glad that spring would soon be coming.
I wasn’t as picky with the chicken meat, keeping the fat for flavor.
I could smell the herbs cooking in the water and when I look into the pot, the snow was melted and the aroma made my mouth water. I brought the vegetables and chicken over to the pot and pushed them into the simmering water. I stirred them all up the cook evenly and placed a lid over the pot.
Again I tried to feed my sister. her skin was hot and dry to the touch. When she opened her eyes to look at me, I noticed that they were glazed and unfocused. As she began to cry, I could feel her body trembling. The pathetic cries that came out were nothing like her normal, lusty wails.
She took the milk-sodden cloth, but when I lifted her to pat her back, most of the milk she drank came back up. Her eyes were closing the moment I laid her down, and her breathing became soft with sleep.
As the stew began to bubble, the lid lifted slightly, filling the room with the scent of herb chicken. I lifted the lid up to gaze inside and saw a pale liquid with bits of chicken bobbing up and down, with a thin layer of fatty oil covering the broth. I dipped a long thin spoon (carved by myself earlier in the winter) in to stir the stew. I scooped a bit out and blew to cool the liquid.
It burned my tongue but filled my mouth with a wonderful meaty, if a little undercooked, taste.
It would take a few more hours to finish cooking, but I had something to do while I waited. Before I settled down with my sewing, I lifted a string of garlic down from the rafters. I took two full bulbs from the string, and using the same knife, prepared the garlic and dumped it into the pot to further season the stew. I stood watching the water boil, regretting the fact that I had used the last bit of salt a few days back.
From under the corner of the workbench bolted to the wall, I scooped some straw up and tossed it out the door to the goat. After slipping some shoes on, I ventured out to relieve myself. The air was chilled and it left me shivering. The house was cozy though, and I was warmed almost immediately upon entering.
I picked up the pile of scraps left over from making my dress. I had made sure to salvage enough of my old dress and the materials from the new one to make a new cloak.
The seams were almost invisible because I had spent so much time piecing the wool scraps together. The cloak was full size at this point, I was just adding a large, deep hood to keep my head warm and dry in the wet, which was a necessity in such a soggy country.
The scraps, although different color and wear, fit nice together, providing a gradiation from light at the top to dark at the bottom that was pleasing to the eye.
Using a thin bone needle, I pushed dark grey thread through pieces of wool to attach them to the main body of my cloak. My stitches were small and evenly, though closely, spaced. They were both sturdy and attractively invisible.
The cottage was almost completely silent, except for the crackling of the fire and the pot hanging over it.
I could feel my eyelids getting extremely heavy, and I pushed the needle into the seam of the cloak so I didn’t lose it. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes for a short, midday nap.