Mesa murmured the melody of an old hymn as she pinched the edge of a cherry pie crust to the tin. She smeared the excess flour on her palms against an ochre apron printed with crimson apples and picked up the pie to set within the oven on a rack. The creak of boots on wood sent her darting ahead of the screen door to welcome Rearden and August with a smile and a kiss to their cheeks.

"Good morning and happy birthday!"

August peered around her at the window of the illuminated oven. "Geez, Mesa, you have enough pies in there to satisfy an army."

She darted between the man and the appliance and started to usher them out the rear door of the house by swatting them with a dish towel. "All you need to know is that I need blackberries. Pick some."

The sun peered down at them in the west