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Rose pulls back the curtain and gazes at the dusky sky. It’s almost dark, and Henry should be coming in for dinner soon, bringing Leroy with him. He and that farmhand have become thick as thieves, and she wishes Henry had never hired him. Why hire a farmhand who knew nothing about farming? But at least Henry’s happier, which is a good thing for Rose and Margaret.
“He’s got work ethic. He’s smart, and he’ll do what he’s told.”
Rose didn’t think too much when Henry brought him on ten years ago. She figured he wouldn’t last long; Henry likes things a certain way.
“What’s wrong, Mama?” Margaret’s voice interrupts her thoughts. Her long hair shines in the moonlight, and she pushes it out of her face – just like she’s done since she was 6 – as she joins her mother at the window. “What are you looking at?”
“Just watching your daddy and Leroy. They were heading to the barn. It’s almost suppertime now.”
“Is Moonie about to calve?” Margaret’s eyes widened. “I thought it was too early for that. Maybe they need help.”
Mama can tell she’s thinking about going to help them. “No, it’s not Moonie.” Rose catches her arm. The grip must be too tight because Margaret winces. “They weren’t dressed for that.”
“Wonder what they’re doing then,” Margaret pulls her arm away and rubs her wrist. “If Moonie’s not out there.”
“I’m sure I don’t want to know. I think they took whiskey with them.”
“Oh Mama,” Margaret sighs. “They just need a little help relaxing. The farm takes a lot of work. And then there’s the factory. I hardly get to see Leroy anymore.”
Leroy and the factory. He’s never been too clear about what his job is. Works swing shift, or so he says. “He working days soon?”
“He’s switching back to nights tomorrow.” Margaret frowns and looks down at her feet. “I don’t like when he works nights. It makes him so angry when somebody wakes him up.”
“He’s not mistreating you is he?” Rose wonders just how alike he and Henry are.
When Margaret’s head jerks back up, Rose knows she said too much. Her daughter walks away from the window and out of her mother’s reach. “I don’t understand why you don’t like Leroy. He’s been on the farm for years.”
“I don’t dislike him,” Rose replies truthfully. Leroy is likable. But she doesn’t trust him. Just like she doesn’t trust Henry anymore. “You’re just so young.”
“I’m nearly 19,” Margaret juts out her chin the way she used to do when she was 13. “I’m old enough to get married with or without your permission. The law says so.”
“I know, but you’ll always be my baby.” Rose makes her voice gentler and reaches for her daughter’s hand. But Margaret turns her back on her mother. “And you don’t need my permission. You have your father’s.”
Leroy seemed nice enough when Henry hired him, if a little odd. And Henry was right; he was a hard worker. But once Margaret became a teenager and stopped looking like a little girl, Rose got nervous. She was sure Henry would feel the same because he was so protective of Margaret. He wouldn’t want a man 13 years older taking a carnal interest in his own daughter.
“She’s becoming a woman,” Henry had shrugged. “Men are gonna take notice. Leroy is a better choice than any of those pimply boys she moons over.”
Rose knew then what would happen, and she was right. Margaret had always been a daddy’s girl. Between Henry’s approval and Leroy’s charm, she was bound to fall head over heels.
“He treats me fine, Mama.” Her arms wrap around her mother, meaning she forgives the slip-up. Rose can’t answer though; her throat is too tight. “I promise. We’ll be happy. I love him. In fact, I think I’ll go set the table for us.”
“No, don’t do that. I’ll take care of it. The doctor told you not to be lifting things. You go rest.”
“All right, Mama.”
Rose watches her fill a glass with water and walk down the hall, her back arching to accommodate her growing belly. The worried mother closes her eyes before the tears can come. “Dear God, please let it be a girl.”