Alynn awoke at the same time she always did, halfway between Prime and Terce, and right before the sun turned the clouds from black to grey. She could hear Rowan chopping wood outside, and she rolled over to see Tarin sleeping peacefully. She dressed quickly and ran a brush through her hair. She wanted to look nice on her first day at work.
While the stirabout was cooking, Alynn swept the floor and tucked her bedroll under the bed. Tarin woke up slowly, rubbing his eyes.
“Are we still in Barrygone?” he asked.
Alynn took Tarin’s clothes off the nail on the wall. “We are,” she said, plopping Tarin’s clothes next to him. “Rise and shine, Tarin! I’ve got work today.”
“Did you tell Da?”
Alynn bit her lip. Rowan hadn’t come home from work until well after dark. Tarin was already in bed, and Alynn had nearly nodded off waiting for him. He’d eaten his soup in silence, then halfheartedly kissed Alynn’s head before he fell asleep, murmuring about horses.
“Not yet,” she said.
Tarin yawned. “I think you should. Has he brought the wash-water in yet?”
“Yay! I don’t have to wash my face today!”
“Just because we’re poor doesn’t mean we have to be dirty,” Alynn scolded. She ran a comb through Tarin’s hair as he put his socks and boots on. “You don’t want people to look at us like they’re better than us, do you?”
Tarin scowled. “I don’t.”
“Then wash yer face.”
Rowan came inside with an armload of firewood, set it near the stove, and left for another armload.
Alynn’s eyes stayed on the closed door as if she half expected Rowan to open it again and smile and say, “I forgot to tell ye good morning, didn’t I?” But the door didn’t open, and Alynn sighed.
“Stack the firewood, Tarin, while I tend to breakfast.”
Rowan didn’t say his good-mornings until after he’d prayed for the watered-down stirabout, and he ate without hardly saying a word.
“If I come home early enough, could you mend my trousers?” Rowan asked. “I tore the leg yesterday.”
“Thanks.” Rowan gave each of his children the kiss on the head that they coveted every morning, then left for work. Alynn smiled. She washed the breakfast dishes and was at the O’Shaughnessy’s house by the time the church bells rang the hour of Terce.
“Alynn, you’re here!” cried Fiona. She was already perched on the seat of a spinning wheel, the delicate machinery whirring at her fingertips. She waited for the wheel to stop before she bounced off and hugged Alynn. “Oh, this will be grand! I’ve never worked with anyone my age before. You don’t know how to use a spinning wheel, do you?”
“That’s alright, I’ll show you. This is the distaff, where you put the fleece. And the yarn goes through here, here, and under here, and it ends up on this bobbin here.” Alynn’s eyes tried to follow Fiona’s pointing finger, but nothing worked. “Does that make sense?”
“Just spin the wheel, and the rest is like a drop spindle,” Fiona promised. “It’s easy once you learn it.”
“What do I do?” Tarin asked.
“What you’re doing, lad, is comin’ with me!” said Colum, who had just finished inspecting the wheels for damage. “It’s market day.”
Tarin beamed and skipped after Colum. “Be careful,” Alynn called after him.
“I will!” Tarin promised. The door shut, and for a moment, Alynn was worried for him.
But then, she sat down at the spindle, and excitement pushed out all her worry. She spun the wheel to get the feel of things, then loaded the distaff and started working. Fiona sat beside her and worked the wheel like a seasoned veteran, talking all the while.
“Perchance tomorrow you can eat breakfast with us,” she prattled. “Is it lonely, not havin’ a sister to talk to? My sister Agnes is only nine, but she’s still fierce nice. She understands me better than Seamus. But Seamus is six, and Mum says that if he and Agnes switched places, I’d like him better. I still can’t imagine livin’ without Agnes. And then we have Ceili. She’s two.”
Alynn smiled. “Do you like havin’ a baby sister?”
“I do, but she’s loud and she cries a lot still. It was fierce terrible while she was teethin’. Mum says she’s spoiled because she’s the littlest, but I still think she enjoys actin’ the maggot.” Fiona finished spinning all the wool on her distaff, and she looked at Alynn. “Do you wish you had a sister?”
“Do I count?”
Alynn smiled. Her eyes were focused on her work, but she could still see Fiona’s eyes sparkling. “We’ll see.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.