Thursday, June 30, 2005

 

the child, seventy-six


Joy triumphantly helped fix supper that night, and many nights afterwards, Her days she mostly spent with Forest. He was convalescing grumpily, annoyed that his broken leg kept him totally immobile. The others could - and did - escape the hot camp daily: Lucy and Linda to find more wild geranium, Jack and James to scout the perimeter for any signs of more wolves (or worse).

And Stone and Starr spent their days strolling, holding hands, quietly talking, contentedly smiling. They had not yet announced their betrothal to the rest - but it wasn't hard to guess that something had changed deeply between them. Anyone with two eyes and a three-second attention span could tell that!

While Forest was stuck in the tent. And Joy sacrificed her own comfort to attend to him. Of all the group, she knew what it was to be in a hot tent all day with no way to leave - so she stayed with him.

Slowly, two weeks passed. And at breakfast the morning of the fifteenth day, it became very clear that Forest had been counting every one of those days.

The company had gotten into the habit of taking their meals right outside the men's tent, so that Forest could join in the conversations. Stone had found yet another sturdy stick to use to prop the tent flap open.

And on that fifteenth morning, once they all had gathered to eat breakfast, and Jack had prayed the Master's blessing over their food, Forest's voice rang out of the tent.

'Moving day!'

'What?' frowned Lucy.

'The two weeks are up now, James,' Forest went on. 'So now we move on. Right?'

James paused with a forkful of food halfway to his mouth. 'Well, that depends on your leg, you know. If you can get up and walk out here - then, yes, we'll pack up and move on.'

To Stone's surprise, Starr suddenly dropped her own fork to her plate and reached over to grab his hand. 'What is it?' he whispered. She shook her head, her lips moving silently, her face pale.

Praying. She was praying. But why?

Inside the tent, grinning with anticipation, Forest rocked first to his right, then hard to his left, gaining momentum to roll over onto his stomach. It was something like the way a door moves on its hinge, with his injured leg for the hinge pin.

And once he was on his stomach, he gathered his two hands and one good knee under him, to push his way upright.

There! Oh, he'd been living for this day!

Swinging his splinted leg forward, the boy prepared to shift his weight. It wouldn't feel good, he knew, to put his weight on the leg that had snapped two weeks before. But it would only be for less than a second, and then he would be on his good leg again. And he was tough! He could handle it.

The first step on the way again to the dungeons! thought Forest.

He stepped.

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