The next day, Robert, Charles and Danny left early in the morning to go to the nearest city- Aberdeen. Apparently there was some important business to attend to, and Danny was simply along for the ride. Jane wished she'd been invited as well, but it seemed to be more of a 'men only' type of trip, and abstained from expressing her desire to join them.
Instead, she found herself in the kitchen with Mary, who was preparing another stew. Jane had quickly caught onto the fact that Mary enjoyed silence, as she watched the older woman move quickly and quietly around the kitchen. Jane's offer to help had been kindly declined, and she found herself leafing through one of Mary's old cook books. With the war going on before she'd gotten to the age where she ought to learn to cook, Jane had never had much experience in the kitchen. There was only so much one could do with rations, after all.
But as she looked through the book, she wished she'd learned. "Jane," Mary's voice cut through the young woman's thoughts, causing her to jump. "One of the pigs has escaped, do you think you could nudge it back in the pen, please? It's a very gentle creature, you simply need to guide it."
Jane half opened her mouth to decline the request, since she knew she wouldn't be able to fulfill it. However, she knew that would be rude. "Of course." She got up slowly, closing the book and walking out the kitchen door.
It was terribly gray outside, with a misty rain falling in wisps. Jane spotted the creature, leisurely sniffing around in a particularly muddy area. "Wonderful." She muttered, thankful that she was wearing her mother's old boots. At least, she was until her foot sunk into the cold, wet mud. She shivered as her socks became soaked, and grimaced as she took another step. "Pig, come here." It looked at her for a moment, before turning away to examine a piece of grass.
"Pig." She demanded, drawing herself up taller and putting her hands on her hips. It didn't respond, and Jane grit her teeth as she attempted to lift her boot out of the mud and pursue the creature. Unfortunately, she pulled on her foot far too quickly and ended up slipping forwards and into the mud. An indignant scream escaped her lips, and Jane looked around as her face went a dark shade of pink.
She needed to remain calm. Jane hardly ever lost her temper, and she would not lose it over a silly pig and some mud. Standing up slowly, despite her dress' attempts to remain clinging to the slime, she marched over to the pig imperiously and put her hands on its neck. It grunted, obviously acknowledging her, and she began to steer it to the pen it had broken out of.
Once she'd finally gotten it in the pen, Jane sighed with relief. Wiping the sweat off her brow, she grimaced as she smudged more mud all over her face. She must have looked an awful sight, standing there with her clothes covered in thick, brown mud and with it all over her hands and face as well. And the smell was atrocious, giving her no doubts that the mud was not just that.
Mary walked out of the kitchen and stood on the step outside the door, the moment she spotted Jane her wrinkled face broke into a huge grin and she let out a bark of laughter so loud, Jane nearly jumped. "I was wondering what was taking you so long! Oh, you silly lass."
After Jane had changed into a clean and dry pair of clothes, Mary had served her and the younger boys lunch. Charlotte was asleep upstairs, and Mary had little desire to awake her. After everything had been cleaned up, Mary dismissed Jane. "The boys did all the work that needed doing this morning. Go for a walk, but be back before five."
Jane walked down the old dirt road, carefully avoiding the nettles as she did so. Her current skirt went a bit above her ankle, revealing some of her porcelain skin. While she was not particularly bothered by this, she did not have any desire to get stung by the obnoxious plants. While stinging nettles were not the worst pain in the world, they did hurt enough to be annoying, and the rash they made was unsightly.
There was an empty field to her right, and with no animals in sight, Jane figured she might as well enter it. There was a single large tree in the center, with a small pond at its foot. It looked picturesque, and with a copy of Pride and Prejudice in the nook of her arm, Jane knew it would be a perfect place to go read.
The grass was soft by the pond, and Jane placed herself against the trunk of the tree, her back to the road she'd come from. As she sat, a giant sigh released itself from her lungs. I sigh so much, Jane thought with a frown, but she knew she had a reason. Stretching her legs out before her and placing the book on her lap, she was content to simply stare out at the seemingly endless horizon of farmland. It was beautiful.
The mix of golds, greens and earthy browns made Jane's heart ache. At first it was mostly for her paints, but her thoughts quickly wandered back home to London and her mother. On days as quiet as this, Jane would have been very worried back at home. It was always as if the birds and animals sensed when a bomb raid was coming, disappearing until everything was silent.
Even now, sitting in a field in rural Scotland, she could not help the prickle of anxiety that crept up her spine. Doing her best to ignore it, Jane swallowed and reached up to let her hair out from the bow that tied it up. Waves of soft red hair fell to her shoulders and she shook them out as she closed her eyes. Her thoughts drifted, but they kept circling back to one of her fondest memories.
It had been a family outing, her family along with the Yules. However, back then, Danny and Jane had been the only children. Peter and Sam were on their way, and both Jane's mother and Rose were very pregnant. They walked slowly, with their husbands supporting them as Jane and Danny sped off down the grassy path.
"Jane, come here!" Danny called out to her, standing quite still several paces ahead of her, with his hands cupped closed.
Jane approached slowly, "Is it a spider?" She asked wearily, recalling a previous incident with one of the other boys on the street. Needless to say, Jane did not like that boy.
Danny frowned in obvious confusion, "No." He slowly opened his hands, and resting on his palm was a ladybird. "It made me think of you." He said with a big grin, causing Jane to smile and blush.
"Why a ladybird?"
"Your hair is red and the dots are like your freckles."
Jane began to giggle and Danny joined in immediately; the ladybird took that as a cue to fly away, and did so. Danny grabbed Jane's hand and began to drag her forwards, "Did you make a wish on it?" He asked as they ran along, "I wished we could be together forever."
"I didn't get to wish," Jane pouted, and they came to a stop in front of a patch of yellow flowers.
Danny picked a bunch and stuck them behind both Jane's ears and his own, "It's all right. I got us sorted."
"Daniel, what are you doing over there? Are those flowers in your hair?" Richard Yule called out, having been delegated as the parent to run ahead and check on the children. Jane and Danny giggled, and soon every member of their party had flowers in their hair.
Even now, nearly a decade later, Jane remembered it like it had just happened. Tears formed, and she blinked several times to clear her eyes. But it didn't seem to work. Her breath caught in her throat, and her book fell to the ground as she hugged her knees to her chest.
Richard was never coming back; killed by those vicious German savages for their evil commander. Charlotte would never know her father, Peter would only have a few memories to hold onto, and Jane knew she'd lose the Danny of her childhood forever. Jane's thoughts quickly turned poisonous and she bitterly cursed the evil Nazis, and more tears fell.
Ever since the war began, Jane kept her thoughts controlled. She needed to be strong, confident and optimistic. But the mask was cracking. She was anything but. She sobbed freely, knowing she was too far away to be noticed or heard by anyone. It was liberating.
After what felt like an eternity, her breathing slowed. She wiped her eyes and this time they stayed dry. She would remain under her tree for awhile, until her eyes became less red and puffy. "Jane?" She let out a yelp, and nearly fell over as she turned to look around the tree trunk.
Danny moved quickly and quietly, until he kneeled beside her. "You've found my place."
"We've only been here a few days," Jane attempted to keep her composure as his blue eyes bore down on her. "How could you-"
"-Did something get in your eyes?" His voice had suddenly gone so soft, Jane's heart skipped a beat.
She faltered, "I- erm, yes." Shrugging, she picked up her book and made a move to stand.
Suddenly she felt a rough but warm thumb grazing her cheek. Danny leaned in quite close, "They look very red." He breathed, so close it made the hairs all over Jane's body stand on end. "Let's walk you back; get you a glass of water." He drew back suddenly, and Jane knew he'd curbed his inner desire to be a doctor. He also knew she'd been crying.
They stood up to leave and walked back in silence, close enough that Jane occasionally bumped her hand against his. As they reached the entrance gate, Danny leaned in and quickly whispered: "I have a surprise for you. Meet me back there tomorrow afternoon." And with that walked off to join Robert who had been calling his name.
It felt like another eternity before the blush on Jane's face went down.