Anna’s hands fumbled at the latch on her hope chest. She pulled out a thick quilt and wrapped it around her as she climbed back into her bed. Her breathing was shallow and choppy and she felt unbearably cold in her warm cabin. Anna’s usually steady and pondering thoughts were fragmented and fast moving. There were too many to chase one down, and all promised to be troubling.
She lay there for some time, until biology and an ill stomach compelled her to rise. Once she was out of bed, Anna found she did not want to get back in it. She made tea and tried to concentrate on that act rather than the terrifying noise in her mind. Fill the kettle with water. Put it on the stove. Get the mug. Add chamomile for nerves. Listen for the kettle whistle. Pour the hot liquid into the mug. Stir the tea. For a moment Anna contemplated adding a shot of whiskey, when suddenly she was assaulted with the memory of alcohol on David’s breath as he –
Drink the tea, Anna chided herself, pulled herself sharply away from those unspeakable memories. The tea is hot. The tea is sweet. The spoon is hard. The mug is smooth and warm beneath my hands. Once she had drained the mug of tea, Anna carried it to the sink. Turning the tap as hot as she could, Anna washed the mug and the few breakfast dishes she had left undone yesterday morning before going to David’s house. Before –
The water is hot! Yes, the water was hot, nearly scalding in fact. Yet Anna still felt cold. She turned off the tap and dried her hands on a rag. A fire would be good. Anna pulled a log from the stack and put it into the pot-bellied stove that dominated her small cabin. Focus on the steps. Light the kindling. Make sure the log catches, Anna silently coached herself. She was able to keep herself busy a few minutes longer by putting away the few stray books unshelved, but she kept such a neat home that soon there was nothing left to do but sit and stare into the fire.
Anna did not sleep that night. She did not read or speak or cry. She tried not to think. She just wanted this horror over, wanted to leave it behind like some bad dream she’d had as a child. Her stomach churned and Anna wondered if she might be sick again. Then unwillingly the thought rose up in her mind: What if I am never well again?