"Lord, I'm sorry I swore when I got mad at the twins. Please help me to not do that again."
The violet skies rippled with shade and released a mist to the grassland. Gavin reached toward some of the more obscure blueberries and gathered them into his palm to drop into his metal pail. He started to murmur a melody as he picked some closer to him and plopped them into the pail after the rest.
When the area seemed clear of berries, he reached down for his wooden stool and moved it to the right, then stopped short when he realized his daughter was seated where he was about to put it. She scrambled over so he could set it where he was about to, and wiped the dirt and debris on her palms against her denim jumper and resettled herself.
"You sing a lot," she remarked.
"When I have a song in me heart, it wants to be let out," he answered and seated himself on the stool to pick the bottom level of berries.
"I can get those," Abby said.
"Your hands clean?" Gavin asked. She raised them up and proved that all the dirt and debris that had been on them were now on her dress. He nodded his approval and said, "Go ahead."
She kneeled down beside him as he rose and started harvesting all she could see. He darted between clusters of berries and removed them each gently and with efficiency until the pail was loaded to the brim. Then he reached down and picked it up by the wire handle and traveled to the kitchen with it, where he unloaded it into a cardboard tray and carried it to the pantry refrigerator.
He returned with a second pail so that Abby could continue while he dumped his, but by the time he was on his third and she about a third into her first, the mist grew into steady showers. Gavin reached down to pick up both pails and said, "We can't pick in the rain, or the berries will get mold."
She scrambled up and trotted after him as he started to return to the cottage as a thrush rushed over them, twittering another melody. Ethan saw them approaching and thundered back down the creaking wooden hallway to his room and slammed the door behind him.
"I am going to start the kettle," Gavin said as he opened the door and stepped inside, stopping only to stomp on the mat before continuing to the kitchen. "In case you want some tea."
"Sure," Abby closed the door behind her, stomped her shoes in the same manner, and started toward the kitchen to seat herself in one of the chairs at the table. She watched him fill the kettle at the sink, ignite one burner, and set it on the stove. He reached into a cabinet and extracted a couple different teas and set them on the table. She picked out the vanilla chamomile, and Gavin put that in one cup and a stronger tea in another. Eventually, each had their teacup with some sugar and he seated himself.
"Where is Ethan?" he asked.
"In our room," she answered.
The rooster crowed out in the rain somewhere outside, and some of that rain spattered against the windows. There was a creak of settling wood and the grandfather clock continued to tick in the audible silence between the two people. Abby stared at the mint kitchen, the crimson and ivory checkered curtains at the window above the sink, and the oak beneath her shoes that resembled wheat.
"Have you lived here long?" she asked.
"Since I was seventeen," he answered and darted his eyes around the cottage. "Before that, me brothers and I all lived with Grandda and Grandma in their house. And we spent a year in America when I was fifteen, but the business Da wanted to help start there wasn't successful."
"That was where you met Mom," Abby supposed.
"Yes," he said after a pause. "I met your mom at school."
"She gets really excited about our school. She loves to teach us more than what we learn, and she gets involved with what we learn at school. She says she wants to make sure our teachers are doing a good job so we can grow up smart and know how to make decisions about what we think."
Gavin smiled a bit and nodded. "That's Poppy."
"She really wanted us to get to know you," Abby continued as tears misted in her sky blue eyes. "She sent us here because she knew Aunt Rose would want us when she… she…" here, the tears spilled over until Gavin came around the table and gathered her into his arms. She cried against his shoulder until all the tears were out of her system and only sniffles remained.
By this time, the sky also seemed to have run out of rain. Gavin pressed a kiss to her head and said, "I have to go out and make sure all the animals have water, but can you help me with something?"
"Sure," she withdrew with a sniffle and wiped her eyes with her wrists.
"There are strawberries in the fenced area out that door," he pointed behind her, and she twisted around to see. "Will you pick all the ripe ones and put them on a paper towel beside the sink?"
"I love doing that sort of thing," she answered with a trace of a smile. "Aunt Rose and I used to do that a lot because she got me started on it."
"Good! Maybe you can help me with that often."
"I can do that," she gave a watery smile and picked up the basket he already had beside the sink, then made her way out to the vegetable garden area. The moment she appeared outside and closed the door behind her, she caught sight of a vibrant misted rainbow above and smiled.
By the time dinner was ready, she retrieved two baskets of strawberries into the kitchen. She gave a proud smile when she entered with the second and Gavin, who had been slicing onions and carrots and chicken to make soup since he returned inside, widened his eyes with surprise.
"Well done! I have plastic packages on the counter, if you want to put them in there and get them into the pantry refrigerator."
Abby got started right away and promptly packed each container of strawberries until remainder scarcely covered the bottom of the last one. She raised it up to Gavin and asked, "Could I eat these?"
"Rinse them and have them with supper."
As she completed this last instruction and set the washed strawberries on a napkin on the table, Gavin started to ladle the soup into a red, a yellow, and a cobalt bowl.
"Go tell your brother that supper is ready."
She darted out of the kitchen and ran down the hall, stopping to slap the door with her palm. "Ethan, dinner!" she called. After several seconds, there was no answer and she could hear no movement. She slapped the door again and said, "Ethan! I picked some strawberries to eat with dinner, so hurry up, because I'm hungry. And I'm going to come in if you don't answer right now."
She twisted the knob and pushed the door open to reveal an empty room. Her eyes rounded, and she rushed down the hall and into the kitchen.
"He's gone! He ran away again!"
Gavin dropped the ladle back in the pot and darted to the room to see for himself. Then Abby pulled his sleeve toward the back door.
"See? I told you! We have to go look around."
The two ran outside as Gavin instructed various places she should check and said that they would meet in the living room after dark if they had not discovered him.
. . .
Tears streamed down Abby's cheeks when she sipped her mug of chamomile tea. Flames danced in the fireplace and cast shadows against the back walls. Gavin stared into the ship in a bottle he had made and settled upon the mantle, promising "We will search again in the morning. He must be close yet."
"I made him upset. He wanted to leave."
Although Gavin convinced Abby to eat the soup and strawberry, she was not pleased about it. There was only the clock and sparks to be heard after that. He closed his eyes and prayed in the silence.
A pounding at the door sent the pair leaping to their feet. The moment Gavin reached the door, he wrenched it open to reveal Cairbre standing at the door with a hand clenched around the dark collar of Ethan's coat.
"Discovered him in me tool shed," Cairbre gave him a small shove into the house, and, being caught by surprise, Ethan collapsed to the floor. As he scrambled to his feet, Abby rushed toward and threw her arms around him. "He was going to wait until morning to keep running."
"Tá brón orm," Gavin answered. "Go raibh maith agat. Slán go fóill."
Abby released her brother when Gavin closed the door softly behind his father and crossed his arms with a glare. When he spoke eventually, his words were abrupt.
"Go to sleep. I am not going to handle this tonight."
Abby whirled around and rushed toward their room with Ethan sulking after her. While he dressed, she used the bathroom to brush her teeth. While she dressed, he used the bathroom to brush his teeth.
When each curled up beneath the covers in the dark without a word, Abby released her breath.
"Why would you go without me?"
"Because you did not want to go."
She considered his answer until she was sure he would be asleep. But she propped herself up on her elbows and squinted at his bed as though she could see it.
"I want to be with Mom, but I don't want to leave Dad."
"He's not the same as Mom at all."
"No," she admitted, "but he is good."
She lay back down and soon, each was asleep. The rain started again and splattered against the windows all night until morning, when the sun split the chill of dawn with its warmth and the rooster started crowing again. Abby rose up on her elbows and smiled when she saw her brother asleep in his bed across from her.