The woman sucked in her breath and glanced at her husband, but remained silent. No, she wasn’t shy. She was cowed, trained not to speak back to her husband, even if he spouted lies. I had no doubt it wasn’t the meek woman who wanted to know about how Luke, Walker and I fucked. Looking at the very unappealing Mr. Thomkins, I had to wonder if they’d actually consummated their marriage.
“Thomkins,” Luke warned.
“You know I didn’t vote for the law,” he began.
Walker sighed, but remained quiet.
“To see it now in effect will change the moral fiber of our town.”
“Yes, we’re aware that not everyone wanted the law,” Luke replied. “But we are a democratic town, even though we are small. Everyone had a chance to speak and the council voted.”
“You’re aware of all this,” Walker said. “You were at all the meetings.”
“Yes, but what about church? The children?”
“We don’t have any children. Yet,” Luke added. “Give us longer than a week to get on that.”
“I didn’t mean your children. I meant the ones in town. What are they going to think?”
Walker came to stand behind me, one hand on my shoulder, the other on my hip. “That we love our wife, that we honor her, respect her and certainly don’t shame her.”
The last wasn’t directed at me, but a barb for Mr. Thomkins. I didn’t like him, not one bit. He’d made it very easy to feel that way. I felt sorry for Agnes. The poor woman had to live with the man.
“We won’t stay and take up any of your time. We are having dinner with Reverend Carnes and his wife.”
I didn’t know the religious couple, but I doubted they would be overly welcoming either. I could imagine the four of them sitting there and gossiping about us over boiled potatoes and stewed meat.
“Then don’t let us keep you.” Luke went to the door and opened it, making it clear he was eager to have them go.
Thomkins stormed out and left his wife to follow. She offered me a small smile before stepping out onto the porch. Without anything to hold onto, she slipped and fell, landing on her bottom, but with her hand out to stop herself. She cried out in pain at the jarring drop.
Luke was crouched beside her as Mr. Thomkins returned up the snowy walkway with care.
“Agnes,” he said, but it was more with frustration than upset.
She held her arm to her chest and her face was etched with pain. I knelt down before her and looked into her eyes. “Agnes, I’m a nurse. Can I look at your hand?”
Perhaps it was my soft tone or the fact that she was hurting so badly, but she held her arm away from her body. Her hand was curled and her little finger, while it should have been aligned with the others, stuck out to the side at an awkward angle. It was very broken.
“I’m sure you can see that your finger is broken.”
“I’ll take you to see Doctor Deeter,” Mr. Thomkins said. Luke, Agnes and I all looked up at the man. He didn’t even want to lower himself to help his wife.
“Celia is a nurse,” Luke said.
Thomkins’ eyebrows went up on his pasty face. “A woman to help Agnes? She’s not having a baby. Her finger’s broken.”
“We can all see that, Thomkins,” Walker snapped. “Let Celia help so Agnes doesn’t have to be in pain longer than necessary.”
Thomkins pursed her lips.
“How do I know you’re really a nurse?” he asked me.
“You don’t,” I countered, then ignored him. Agnes eyed me, but warily. “I am a nurse and I can help you. Let’s go back inside where it’s warmer.”
I looked to Luke over her shoulder and he nodded. He then deferred to Mr. Thomkins to assist his wife back in the house. Once she was settled on the couch, I sat beside her and carefully held her hand.
“Your finger is out of joint, not broken. We need to put it back into place.”
“Will it hurt?” she asked, her voice meek and laced with pain.
Mr. Thomkins scoffed, but I ignored the tone.
“Yes,” I told her. She deserved the truth. “Mr. Thomkins, will you allow your wife to have some whiskey?”
His eyes widened. Until now, I hadn’t realized he had jowls, but they shook and had me noticing the way they wobbled. “Whiskey? Now see here—”
“She’s not going to corrupt her to the devil’s spirits, just get her numb from the pain,” Walker told him.
“I do not need whiskey,” Agnes replied. “I’ve delivered three children, one breech.”
I blanched at the pain she’d gone through. I’d assisted in a number of childbirths to know what a woman went through to deliver a baby, but breech? I cringed and counted her lucky to have survived. Where were the children? With a nanny, grandmother? Or were they old enough to remain alone? Neither Walker nor Luke asked after them, so I had to assume they were fine. I was sure I’d meet them soon enough in a town this small and find out for myself.