Smoke River Family(10)

By: Lynna Banning

 “Now I want you to watch my finger.”

 More silence. Winifred set two cups down on the china saucers, taking care not to make any noise.

 “Now, you look right into my eyes, all right?” Zane again.

 “Your eyes are all shiny, Dr. Dee. And they’re gray, just like Maman’s.”

 “So they are. My mama’s eyes were gray, too. Give me your wrist, now. That’s it. No, don’t jerk it away. I want to feel your pulse.”

 “What’s a pulse?”

 “A pulse is your heart beating. It goes tha-lump, tha-lump. Here, you can feel mine.”

 “Yours is real loud!” Manette exclaimed.

 “And yours is as normal as apple pie,” Zane said.

 Winifred had to smile. Zane was wonderful with the child.

 “She’s just fine, Colonel,” Zane said. “Try to keep her out of the orchard from now on.”

 “Thanks, Zane. Jeanne will be in town tomorrow with a blackberry pie for you.”

 “She doesn’t need to,” Zane protested.

 The man laughed. “Jeanne will never believe that.”

 The front door shut and Zane reappeared in the kitchen. “Spirited little tyke,” he said with a smile. “Likes bugs and worms and everything else that crawls. Drives her father wild.”

 “And her mother?”

 “Jeanne’s used to it. Mothers get that way after a while. I know mine did.”

 “Did you like bugs?”

 “No. I liked horses and swimming. And books.” He grabbed the coffeepot. “I’ll make some coffee.”

 “What about your baby sister? Did she like bugs?”

 Zane looked purposefully at the handle of the coffeepot, then stared past her shoulder out the kitchen window. “Maggie died when she was five. Scarlet fever. That’s when I decided to become a doctor.”

 Winifred could have bitten off her tongue. To lighten the pall that had fallen, she opened her mouth and blurted the first thing that came to mind. “I will scramble you some eggs this morning.”

 His dark eyebrows rose. “You can cook?”

 “Well, not much. Growing up, we always had a cook. But I wager that eggs are easy to scramble.”

 “Celeste couldn’t cook a damn thing,” he said quietly. And then he smiled.

 It was the first real smile she’d ever seen on his face. For some reason it made her so happy she wanted to do something extra nice. Sam seemed to scramble eggs with no apparent effort; they must be easy to fix. She decided to make lots of them.

 While Zane made coffee, Winifred found an iron frying pan and four eggs. She shooed Zane out of the kitchen and set to work. She heated the pan over the hottest part of the stove, cracked all four eggs into it at once and smashed them together with a fork.

 They congealed instantly into rubbery globs that looked nothing like the creamy golden eggs Sam had set before her.

 Apprehensively she scooped the mess out onto Zane’s plate and set it before him. He sat looking at it for a long minute, gulped a swallow of coffee and looked up into her eyes.

 “You can’t cook a damn thing, either, can you?” he said softly.

 And then he smiled again.

                       Chapter Four

 Zane didn’t want to hurt Winifred’s feelings about the plate of hard, dry scrambled eggs she’d served him. But when Sam staggered into the kitchen full of apologies for sleeping late, Zane left him in charge of Rosemarie and walked down to make hospital rounds, check on Sarah Rose’s grandson and his chicken pox, then ended up, as he’d planned, at the Smoke River Hotel dining room.

 “Scrambled eggs, please, Rita.”

 “Sure, Doc. Just come from the hospital, didja? How’s the sheriff’s new twins?”

 “Maddie and the babies are doing well. Can’t say the same for the sheriff, though. Seems he’s been at the hospital the last twenty-four hours. Can’t seem to take his eyes off his twin sons.”

 A wide grin split the waitress’s round face. “Don’t blame him, Doc. Our Johnny’s never been a father before. New babies take some gettin’ used to.”

 A plate of perfectly scrambled eggs appeared within minutes, and after he doused them liberally with catsup, he dug in. Rita hung at his elbow with the coffeepot.

 “Guess you heard Johnny’s been studyin’ those law books Miss Maddie gave him. Gonna run for judge next election.”

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