Miriam helped Seth stand; his knees had never been quite right, and pained him even on the sunniest of days. He wasn’t very well-suited to jobs where he had to stand for a long time — hence his chosen profession. Accounting let him work from a desk.
Miriam had strong legs, and she put them to good use. In stout boots, an airy blue linen skirt, and a cotton summer blouse, she had walked all over town. She’d loaded her canvas messenger bag with a sheaf of resumés, a bottle of water, and a ham-and-cheese sandwich. She had simple needs; she was a simple woman.
In this case, she was simply floored.
Nobody had wanted her resumé. Nobody had even so much as let her through the door. “We’re full up,” they said, though their Help Wanted signs gave them up for liars. “Go apply online.” Which, to her credit, she had tried, but the librarian wouldn’t allow her to check for responses. “Your family’s racked up enough fees for a whole classroom.”
Another lie. Miriam’s mother, Sharon, marked every due date on the family calendar in the kitchen. Books were usually returned on time; in certain exceptional cases, they went back no later than a week past due, fines paid in full and then some.
Maybe she would tell her parents that part when the initial shock passed.
Sharon and the children spent their days in the schoolroom, just upstairs from the kitchen. Someone was bound to hear Seth and Miriam’s early arrival, and that someone took the stairs two at a time in order to greet them.
“Papa’s home!” Six-year-old Eden crashed into her father’s waist, clinging for dear life. “Papa, what’s fifty-nine plus twenty-two?”
Seth smoothed the frizz on the top of her head. “Let’s see. If nine plus two is eleven, put down one and carry one.”
Eden nodded. “Okay. Then five plus two plus… one? That’s eight! Eighty-one!” She grinned up at Seth. “Thank you, Papa!” Then the time of day sank in. “It’s not even snacktime. Why are you home now?”
“That’s something we have to talk about as a family, sweetheart.” He stooped to kiss her hair. “Go on back upstairs. I’ll make us an early snack.”
“Okay!” And off she ran, bursting with her surprise. “Mama, Mama, Mama!”
Miriam smiled. “She’ll be all right no matter what happens.” She pulled out a chair at the kitchen table. “Why don’t you sit down, Dad? It’s been a long day.”
“But it’s not even snacktime.” He sat anyway. “You’re a peach, Mimi.”
Miriam arranged graham crackers on a plate with a small bowl of honey in the middle and took a cracker for herself. The sandwich hadn’t been enough for her long summer’s march. “I’m part of a family. I don’t like to forget that.” She brought him the plate, along with a chopping board, a knife, and a handful of fresh-dug carrots. “If you want to help, make these carrots Eden-sized. She can’t finish a whole one, and the girls love the idea of finger food.”
“Sharon been reading them novels again?”
“Cookbooks from the fifties. It’s part of their nutrition curriculum.” Since Sharon only had a few students at a time, she could push them academically; Miriam had earned her high school diploma at fifteen. For the extra few years of her children’s minority, Sharon educated them in all the common-sense things they would have missed at a normal school. Jacob had built bookshelves for the reading room, while Claudia was working on a quilt. Next year, Seth would put Abigail in charge of the garden.
Maybe. Now it all depended on whether Seth could find work — and if the town would let him.