Megan half expected the house to look different from the day she went away. Though it had been only a few days, she felt as if things had changed dramatically since she left to look for her brother Ben. Perhaps it was only she that changed.
She watched Mrs. Johnson’s carriage drive away before taking a deep breath and reaching for the doorknob. The door flew open and Marie and the three grandchildren rushed toward her.
“Auntie Megan,” cried Little Jim, her seven-year-old nephew. “Did you hear we have a new brother? Mama and Dad named him Ben, after Uncle Ben.”
Megan saw her mother nodding at the news. “He was just born. Rebecca and the baby are borrowing your room. She went into labor at dinner and an hour later, the lad was here.
“How are they?” Megan asked.
“Both are fine. The baby’s a little small and a bit jaundiced but he’ll buck up. I’m sure he’ll be as hardy as all rest. Come in,” her mother said, opening the door for her. The little ones rushed in ahead of her.
“Auntie Megan’s here!” they announced to James and Henry. Megan’s older brother and father looked up. James’ face lit up with the smile of a proud papa. Her father frowned, still obviously angry that she’d left the house without his approval.
“Well, praise to Jesus for that,” Henry grumbled. “You’ve been nothing but a worry, girl.” Her father glowered at her from his chair by the fireplace before turning back to glower at the hearth.
“Henry, she’s been out doing my bidding,” Marie scolded him. “She’s come back safe and sound.”
“True enough, Marie my love,” he said, his elbows on his knees, his eyes still focused on the fire. Then he turned slowly and looked at his only daughter.
“But she could have been killed or who knows what else? She was out with all those soldier boys, the Rebs, and who knows what other unsavory characters! What’s more, she defied me. You both did,” he said, and returned to the fire.
Megan knew he spoke the truth but was hardly about to tell him he was right. She didn’t want him to know what she had seen. She didn’t want him to know she’d taken his gun and used it. She didn’t want him to know she’d seen enough death and suffering to last anyone for the rest of his life.
She knelt beside his chair and said simply, “I had to go for Ben, Father. I’m sorry that I defied you. If I hadn’t promised Mother, I never would have gone against you. But I am here now. I am safe.”
“And Benjamin is still not found,” he said sullenly.
Megan sighed and looked at her mother. “Come see the wee one,” Marie said, shaking her head at her stubborn husband.
In Megan’s little room, Rebecca was surrounded by her three older children, all sitting as close to her as they could, as if vying to be the closest to the new baby.
“So this is little Ben,” Maureen said.
“Benjy,” Little Jim corrected her.
“One ‘Little’ is enough in this house,” James said. He transferred the tiny infant from his mother’s arms to Megan’s.
“Welcome to the world, Benjy,” Maureen murmured to the baby who slept soundly in her arms. She took his hand which he immediately curled around her index finger.
“He’s beautiful, Rebecca,” she said.
“Of course, he is,” Rebecca answered with a smile. “He’s the image of his father.”
“No, my love,” James said. “He’s got your coloring and your ginger hair.”
“That he does,” Megan said to quell the discussion. “Beautiful red hair.”
James offered her the rocking chair and Megan sat with the happy family as the sunlight began to dim. Marie came in to light candles and check on the mother and child and offer a bit of pie to the other children.
Megan looked up. “Pie?” she said.
“It seems you’re not the only one who can make a pie, Megan,” Marie said. “Abigail and I made an apple pie this morning. It seems she has been watching you. It was she who suggested we do it.”
She herded the children out of the room which suddenly grew quite quiet.
“Good to be home?” Rebecca asked, her eyes focused on the child Megan’s arms.
“Yes, of course,” Megan said, knowing she wasn’t speaking the truth. She had failed in her mission. She was suddenly unnecessary where she had spent the last few days helping men who truly needed her, comforting those who were suffering or even dying.
Here, she didn’t even need to make the pie anymore, she thought; Little Abigail can do it now — well, with help. She’s a little young to be handling knives and heavy bowls all by herself.
She rocked quietly in the growing darkness, memories of the soldiers she had talked to crowding her thoughts.
This little domestic scene was part of my first draft — but when a reader said there were too many characters in my book, Megan’s brother and his family didn’t make the next cut. I still like the happy little scene. Just not in my revised book.