Catherine only had to hear the Paynes' rooster crow once, to shake herself awake. The still night chill lingered in the little wooden caravan she shared with Maggie Payne, the fourteen-year-old granddaughter of Tom and Kate (also called Payne). Nevertheless, the older girl threw back the covers and climbed out of their bed, careful not to wake a still-sleeping Maggie in the process. Maggie was a sound sleeper, all right; however, the devil in her would rear its ugly head, should anyone disturb her before she was ready!
Making her way out of the wagon, Catherine yawned prodigiously, before greeting old Kate, who was already sitting by a warm fire, busily attending her cooking duties. The smell of hens' eggs, as well as bacon, made Catherine's stomach grumble in earnest. Kate's hospitality, though not exactly polished, was so welcoming! Catherine knew she was in good company, with the homely old crone around.
Kate looked up. "Did you have a good night's rest, Cath?" the old lady asked kindly. "I do hope that granddaughter of mine isn't too much trouble," she continued, monotone, as she served breakfast on wooden dinner-plates. "I had asked Tom and the boys to build another caravan, once it was clear you wanted to stay," she laughed wryly, rolling her eyes. "But you don't live with a man for 50 years, and expect he's going to change in a hurry!" she sighed deeply, shaking her head no. "Men are an entirely different kettle of fish, when it comes to adapting, Cath," Kate explained, still wry as ever, while passing the girl her eggs and bacon. "Don't ever forget that!"
"I won't," Catherine told her quietly, as she began to say the grace. Tucking into her breakfast, Catherine felt her strength returning, following that last, long night. Horribly bruised after having been kicked by a dreaming Maggie, who seemed altogether in the throes of a nightmare, Catherine had spent half the night wondering if she'd...