The coach turned the bend in the track where Kit had last seen Finley. She absent-mindedly scrunched a handful of her skirts into her fist.
As the station came into view, Kit and Clara leaned forwards to see past the medical boxes. A narrow two-storey building dominated the site. A large sign, Quarantine Station Hospital
No.1 stood in a neat garden near the front door.
“My, oh my,” Kit said. “It all looks so different.”
The coach stopped in front of the hospital and the coachman and driver jumped from their seats to help the trio from the carriage.
Spokes carefully lifted Lizzy from her seat and placed her on the ground next to Kit.
“The injury to the lass aside, I trust you had a pleasant journey, ladies.”
“Yes, we did, thank you,” Kit said.
“I hope the little lass’s arm will be all right.”
Lizzy buried her face into Kit’s side.
“I’d better get this one into the hospital.”
“Yes, ma’am. We’ll swing the coach around to your cottage and place your bags outside.”
Kit cupped a hand to her brow and surveyed the station. “Where exactly is the cottage?”
Spokes pointed. “Doctor Walker had it built just over yonder near the drying shed. It faces the ocean.”
Kit smiled. “Thank you and good day to you.” She guided Lizzy into the hospital.
A woman wearing a white uniform sat alone at a large desk. She stood and approached the moment she detected their presence.“Good afternoon, ma’am. You must be nurse Monahan. We’ve been expecting
you. I’m Miss Lafray. I’m new here. I’m so pleased to meet you. Would you like to look around. No, silly me, you must be exhausted from your journey. I could -”
“My daughter has an injury,” Kit interrupted. “I believe she’s sustained a broken arm.”
“Oh, my goodness. You poor thing. Come over here and sit in our triage room.” She put an arm around Lizzy’s back and steered her to a chair. “Are you thirsty?”
Lizzy nodded and so did Clara.
“I’ll get you all a drink.” She moved over to a side table and poured cups of water from a pitcher and delivered them to Lizzy and Clara. She handed the last cup to Kit and stood back, twisting a
small diamond and sapphire ring on her finger.
“That’s a lovely ring,” Kit said.
“Thank you.” She raised her left hand and spread out her fingers and gazed down. "I’ve only had it a month and I’m still trying to get used to wearing it.” She giggled. “I’ll fetch Doctor Walker
Kit tightened her grip on the cup. Her eyes darted to the doorway where Miss Lafray had disappeared. She imagined Tom appearing, sweeping her into her arms and whispering in her ear how he thought
he would die if he had to be without her for a minute longer. She smiled and gently shook her head. She was, afterall, still a married woman.
When footsteps sounded on the wooden floor behind her, Kit stood by Lizzy’s chair and straightened, grasping her hands nonchalantly in front of her as though posing for a photograph.
Tom entered the room with Miss Lafray by his side. He smiled and nodded politely to Kit. “Mrs Monahan, it’s good to have you back once more."
“Thank you, it’s good to be back.”
“Now, I believe we have a patient.” He greeted Clara and pulled up a chair in front of Lizzy. “What has happened here, young lady?”
“I fell from a tree,” Lizzy said.
“It was a really big tree,” Clara said. “We were trying to see the ocean.”
Tom removed the scarf and examined the bruising. “A break I suspect. I’ll need to splint and wrap it with bandages. We’ll have to keep you in the hospital for a week or two to keep your arm
still and stop you from climbing any more trees.” He smiled and swept a finger under her chin.
Miss Lafray fetched bandages and wooden splints and Tom busied himself wrapping the arm from shoulder to wrist.
“There now." He stood when finished. “It’s going to be uncomfortable for a while, but you’ll soon get used to it. You’re a very brave girl. Miss Lafray will take you to a room to rest.”
Clara accompanied Miss Lafray and Lizzy to a room on the sunny side of the ward.
“She’s very young,” Kit said. She watched after Miss Lafray as she placed an arm around Lizzy’s shoulders.
“She’s old enough to be married.” Tom’s voice had a distinctly defensive tone.
Kit smiled. “I meant young for a nurse, not to marry.”
Tom remained silent. A muscle in his jaw twitched and his eyes averted Kit’s.
“Oh,” Kit said. “Now I see. She’s your fiancée.” She turned from him and drew in a sharp breath.
“You don’t understand. This happened long before I got your letter, before I knew about Jimmy’s illness and your planned return. If I’d known, I’d --”
She turned to face him. “You would have what? Waited for me? Does any of that make any difference now? How old is she anyway? Sixteen? Seventeen?”
“Fourteen! She’s but a child!”
Tom sighed. “We’re not getting married any time soon.”
“And that makes it all right? You’re nearly twice her age.”
Tom shook his head. “I don’t know why you’re making a fuss. Plenty of women have married at that age and had a happy life. You had Clara when you were only sixteen.”
“What does her family think?”
He opened his mouth to speak then paused. “Laura has no family. They came over on a ship infected with typhus. She lost both parents during the voyage.”
“She’s an orphan, then. You took advantage of an orphan!”
“Now hold on just a minute. I didn’t take advantage. I offered her work in the hospital and it went from there.”
Kit made a noise that sounded like a stifled laugh. “Just like you did with me. You simply wove a new web.”
Laura Lafray entered the room and looked from Tom to Kit. Both were glaring at each other.
“Congratulations on your engagement, Miss Lafray,” Kit said.
Laura managed a meek ‘thank you.’
Kit strode from the room to be with Lizzy and Clara.
After Kit had settled Lizzy in her room, she took Clara to the head nurse’s cottage. It was newly built from stone from the nearby quarry and had a sparse but neat fledgling garden of native shrubs
and flowers out front. A small wooden verandah looked out over the ocean and a flagstone path stretched from the verandah’s edge and almost to the sand of the beach front.
“It’s pretty isn’t it, Mama,” Clara said.
Kit stood by the bags the coachmen had left and swept her eyes over her new home.
“It’s grander than I had ever imagined.”
Clara grabbed Kit’s hand. “Come on, let’s go inside.”
Kit bent to pick up the bags.
“No, Mama, come now.” She tugged on her mother’s hand and drew her onto the verandah. “Open the door.” She flexed her feet until she was on her toes as she eyed the door.
Kit turned the handle and pushed the heavy door open.
“Oh, my,” Kit said. “We have a wooden floor.”
“And look." Clara pointed at a bed under a side window. “That must be yours and this must be mine and Lizzy’s.” She ran to the other side of the room and sat on the bed.
Kit ran a hand over the long wooden kitchen table and sat in a rocking chair by the fire. “This is just too perfect.”
“Who lit the fire?” Clara said.
“I hope you don’t mind, it can get quite chilly at night in the early spring.” Finley stood in the doorway. His hair was much shorter than before and his skin more tanned, but otherwise, Kit
thought, he looked much the same.
“Finley!” Clara ran to him, threw her arms around his waist and pressed a cheek to his chest.” “I missed you so much.”
“I missed you too, little one.” He patted her back and kissed the top of her head.
Kit stood and brushed her hands down the front of her skirts. “Won’t you come in?”
Finley stepped inside and shut the door behind him.
“I hope you like it.” He swept a hand through the air. “Some of the town’s people pitched in. The local seamstress made the curtains and the bed covers, the blacksmith the tools for the fire and,"
he lowered his voice, “I made that rocking chair you were sitting in. Just for you.” He strode across the room. “See here." He placed his fingers on the headrest. “I carved your name.”
Kit leaned closer until her face was so near to Finley’s that she could feel his breath on her cheek. “I see. It’s truly something special.”
“So are you,” he whispered. “I’ve missed you.”
Kit’s eyes met Finley’s just before the two were forced to stand up straight as Clara plunged into the chair with a giggle and began rocking.
“I’ll leave you with it,” he said. “I’ll see you both tomorrow.” He ruffled the top of Clara’s head before leaving.
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