Maggie glanced at Paddy. His eyes revealed that he was as frightened as she was at their mother's worsening health. She didn't know how to help her mother and did the only thing she could do, which was to offer up another silent prayer for her healing. But she had to face the truth. The Lord would soon take her beloved mother the same as He'd taken Da and her brothers and sisters. She wanted to scream and pound her fists. What had they done to deserve this? She drew a deep breath. No, her faith was being tested. She had to hold on. She had to accept whatever burdens the Lord had placed on their family. She couldn't forsake everything Ma had taught her.
"Maggie, you remind me so much of your father. You have his love for the land. You have his courage and strength of character."
"And Da's red hair and stubbornness to match," Patrick said in an attempt to lighten the mood.
Catherine laughed weakly. "My sweet Paddy. The man of the house. So much laid on your young shoulders. I'm sorry, my son."
"I have strong shoulders, Ma," Patrick replied. "Please take some broth now."
"I'm not hungry. Save it for yourselves." She sank back into the pillows and immediately began coughing again.
"Ma!" Patrick said, alarmed at the strangling sounds coming from her throat. He put his arms around her and raised her to a sitting position. The coughing slowly subsided.
Maggie looked at Patrick. His eyes were filled with sorrow, but became brighter as Maggie began rubbing her mother's back and her breathing became less labored.
"Rest now, Ma. Please?" Patrick pleaded.
"There'll be time for that later." She swallowed.
Maggie noted how difficult swallowing seemed to be. "Have some water, Ma. You're parched. Let me get you a cup."
"No," she said in the same raspy hoarse voice. "Tell me about the crop, Paddy. Is it good? Tell me the truth. I hear you and Maggie whispering. Don't lie to me, Paddy."
Maggie's eyes pleaded with Patrick. She shook her head and Patrick nodded. She knew her mother couldn't take the bad news.
Patrick came around the bed and seated himself in the chair next to the bed. He took his mother's frail hand in his and sighed heavily. "I won't lie to you, Ma." He looked at Maggie and shook his head. "The crop is gone."
Maggie had misinterpreted his nod to mean he wouldn't tell her. If she was going to leave them, let her go with peace. She couldn't bear for whatever time her mother had left to be fraught with worry. Maggie anxiously watched her mother's face. Why had Paddy told her? Why couldn't he let her believe they would be fine? She saw the hopelessness in her mother's eyes. The will to fight to live was gone. Ma had no reason now. She could do nothing to protect her children.
"All of it? There's nothing left?"
Paddy blinked and bit his bottom lip. "Yes, Ma. We have nothing left," he replied quietly. "The fields are in ruins. As they were the year before. Now worse."
"All hope's not lost, Ma," Maggie quickly said. "The next crop will be good. We still have five potatoes I put away." She looked confidently at her brother. "We'll survive, Paddy. We need to hang on until next year."
Patrick's forehead furrowed. "No, Maggie. Even if we could find enough food to see us through, there will be no crop next year or the year after that. Don't you see?"
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- I'm Susan K. Droney and I write in several genres: children's books, mainstream fiction, thrillers, mysteries, and sensual/erotic romances. I am published by Torrid Books, World Castle Publishing, and Devine Destinies. Please click on the book covers or visit my website at: http://susandroney.com to read reviews, excerpts or to order my books.