Our Girl

Submitted into Contest #160 in response to: Start your story with the whistle of a kettle.... view prompt

10 comments

American Fiction Christian

Nora Mae stood at the screen door of the old, grey clapboard farmhouse and rubbed her lower back. The wind was a welcome relief on her hot, damp skin. The breeze was constant and had been gaining strength as the day wore on. It was blowing from the south and was too warm for this time of year. Here it was already late April. My, oh my, she couldn't believe how time had flown by! Rubbing her hand over her swollen belly, she knew it wouldn't be long now before the baby came. The contractions had grown stronger and more frequent since last night.


She and Dew had waited so long to have a girl. God willing, maybe this would be the one. Ten years of boys, each spaced about eighteen months apart. All these boys were a farm family's wish come true. Lots of hands make light work, so they say. Must have been a man who said that because a mother would say it makes alot of cooking and cleaning too. But those sandy blonde boys were their father's pride and joy. He stood shoulders back and taller than usual every Sunday morning. The future of the Pedersen family lineage marched behind him into the church house in their best hand-me-down button up shirts and jeans. Sunday after Sunday, Nora Mae walked proudly behind them all with the youngest of the bunch in her arms.


Still enjoying the relief of the wind on the porch, Nora Mae jumped as the kettle let out a shrill whistle from atop the wood stove in the kitchen. Sighing, she placed the wet dishtowel across the back of her neck and went back into the hot kitchen. At least the wood floor felt cool under her bare, swollen feet. She hadn't been able to slip her feet into her shoes this week. She took that as another sign that labor was near. At the stove she gave the salt pork and beans a stir in the large cast iron pot where they had simmered all morning and after a little taste, she declared them done. She remembered her grandmother smacking her backside for over-stirring a pot of beans. Grandmother was right, that would make them unfit to eat. She'd leave the cornbread warming on the stove until the boys were washed up. The kettle still screaming, she walked back outside to ring the dinner bell.


She always believed if the men were all deaf, they'd still hear the dinner bell. They'd be especially hungry after a morning of trying to break through the drought-stricken, poor soil. Here in the south part of Illinois, the soil wasn't ideal on a good year, but worse now that it was only April and already this dry.


She watched as Dew and the boys called to one another and marched toward the house. As hot as the wind was out here, it was better than standing in front of that stove. A sharp pain of contraction bolted through her body, taking her breath. She steadied herself by the iron pole the bell was mounted to. One, two, three, count through it, Nora...you've done this before. As she tried to slow her breathing, in the distance, the sky started to churn and get dark.


"Boys, get on over to the water pump and wash up. We may have a little shower coming up on us. Won't that be blessing! Nora, why are you still standing there? Is it time?" Dew walked over to her, concern furrowing his brow.


"Not long, Dew, not yet, but not long. I'm alright, just have to let it pass. Let's get in so you all can eat, Breaking that ground has to give you an appetite." Nora took his arm as they walked up to the house. "I'll get your coffee Dew. Can you help the boys with the beans? I don't want them to burn themselves on the hot pan. The cornbread is already cut into squares, they can help themselves to that."


The boys had already poured ice cold glasses of milk and were passing around the cornbread. While Dew dished out beans, Nora fixed his coffee, silencing the kettle for now. They had barely finished saying grace when sky darkened to nearly black. The screen door slammed open against the side of the house, allowing the warm wind to burst into the house. The boys sat nervously, feeling the sudden change of air pressure in the room.


"Praise God for some rain. Heavens open up and rain down!" Dew was thrilled there would be hope for the spring planting.


Nora rose from her seat and walked to the secure the screen door. The wind whipped past her causing her to nearly lose her balance. She grabbed the door handle and got it secured with the small eye bolt latch. As she turned, she felt a strong contraction start at the front her stomach, spike through her back and on down through her hips. She couldn't move or catch her breath as it overcame her. She cried out for Dew as a loud thunder clap shook the house and her felt her water gush freely between her legs.


Rushing to her side, Dew scooped her up in his arms before she would surely collapse onto the floor. The wind was growing stronger and large pellets of rain were savagely hitting the windows.


"Boys, help me get her to bed. It won't be long now, don't any of you worry." Dew's eyes were on Nora but also trying to watch the storm build outside. The littlest boys were crying as the storm was growing stronger and stronger. Dew threw the quilts back off of the bed and settled Nora with pillows to support her head. Nora's eyes never left his face but the waves of pain were coming so fast she could no longer speak.


"Pa, come quick, it's coming across the field, it's coming," their oldest was shouting over the storm and the younger ones were either stone silent or crying.


Pulling the curtains back, Dew could see the storm barreling across the fields toward the house. It was building, twisting, and spiraling as it advanced. His ears popped as the pressure changed again. He knew it had been too warm today. That's always a sign of bad storms in spring and the Midwest.


"Boys, get to the cellar. Now! There's no time to wait. Pull the latch shut after you are all in. I'll come get you when it's over."


"But Pa.." the older boys protested, "What about..?"


"I said go, now! I'll stay with Ma. I can't move her now. Go!"


He watched at the door as the last little head disappeared into the cellar and the door slammed shut. The wind was howling so much that he could barely hear Nora's screams. He grabbed a quilt and threw himself over Nora to shield her from the window's burst of glass. The wind and debris screamed through the room but all he could do was hold on to the big oak bed. The vortex hit the farmhouse and Dew heard the metal roof upstairs peel away then crash into the side of the house.


Dew was no longer covering Nora, he was barely able to hold on himself. But he heard her final cry over the wind and felt the sheets beneath him get soaking wet. The rain was still pelting down on them through the broken window and the holes in the upper story. Then, in spite of the howling wind, he heard the baby cry. Dew rose his body up to see Nora lying back on the pillows, panting, with a smile on her face.


"Dew, she's here. Our girl."

August 23, 2022 03:56

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10 comments

Lily Finch
12:43 Sep 02, 2022

Hi Susan, loved the imagery and the story. The birth coinciding with the storm might mean stormy weather in their future with that girl. Maybe they'll name her Gail. In terms of look fors I only found two minor mistakes: s alot o -a lot, and her felt her water - she felt her. I enjoyed your descriptions and detail. Thank you. LF6

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Graham Kinross
06:19 Sep 02, 2022

Your descriptions are beautiful. Well told, easy to follow and upbeat. This was a nice read.

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Susan Williams
11:18 Sep 02, 2022

Graham, thank you for your kind words.

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Sharon Williams
07:12 Sep 01, 2022

Hi Susan. Sharon from Critique Circle here. I thoroughly enjoyed your story. I love a happy ending! Your piece really invoked a feeling of times gone by in the Midwest. Only one thing which might be improved upon. This sentence: 'The screen door slammed open against the side of the house, allowing the warm wind to burst into the house.' I'm wondering if you could substitute a different word for the first 'house', to avoid repetition. I thought it was really clever the way you interlaced Nora's building contractions and the climax of the s...

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Susan Williams
09:48 Sep 01, 2022

Thanks Sharon! I appreciate your feedback! You are right about duplicate words, it can be jarring to a reader.

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L J
17:32 Aug 29, 2022

love this! and it took me right back to the farm country in the mid 1800-early 1900, good job. Hopefuly, this is a series?

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Susan Williams
03:26 Aug 31, 2022

Hi LJ, Thank you for the feedback. It's an idea for the beginning of novel loosely based on my grandmother's life. Thought I'd test the waters, glad you liked it.

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Philip Ebuluofor
11:14 Aug 28, 2022

There's a couple in my church that has three girls and the third one isn't even up to three months and the woman is about two months pregnant again. They were seeking a boy I believe for the woman developed this funny attitude of carrying a baby boy of another woman that usually sat near them in the church for luck or something. Fine work.

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Susan Williams
12:40 Aug 28, 2022

Thank you Philip.

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Philip Ebuluofor
15:55 Aug 29, 2022

Pleasure mine.

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