Although Martin had by now visited Aunty Joan many times, his forays into the village had been infrequent. Occasionally he would ride with her on her errands to the chemist or to deliver vegetables and eggs to the cafe, but he usually sat in the truck and waited while she tended to her business. He vaguely remembered being taken to the surgery to see the old doctor during one visit; he had become quite ill one spring with the flu and had spent most of his time at the farm in bed. (Aunty Joan had been very worried about him, he recalled, and also quite worried that she would have to call his father.)
Suddenly, because of Joan's participation in the festivities, he found himself being introduced to any number of grown-ups. All of them seemed to be good friends of his aunt, and all of them were more than eager to chat about everyone else's business. Being a ten year old boy, Martin found all the chatting quite dull, and didn't really understand why everybody was so interested in what everybody else was doing. Was this what all adults did? He honestly hadn't been around them in groups before. If his mother held a party or meeting at his home in London, he knew in no uncertain terms to stay upstairs and out of the way. There was a faculty lounge area at school where the teachers would congregate on occasion, but students had no business there. Martin certainly had no desire to know what they got up to-he was too busy making sure he wasn't beaten up or otherwise harassed.
For the first time in his young life, Martin was getting a taste of what it was like to live in a small community. He wasn't sure how he felt about it. He had never been an outgoing child; it was more in his nature to listen and study, standing back and observing things from a safe distance. In Portwenn, however, people seemed to be intent on including him in the festivities, even going so far as to ask him if he would like to join the school children in the singing of Christmas carols during the celebration (a suggestion he politely but vehemently refused). He instead became the runner of errands for a lot of the older folk, due to his possession of tireless legs and the willingness to get away from the crowd.
'Marty, I want you to take these decorations to Mrs. Lewis at the Primary School-she'll be in the office on the left as you go through the front door,' Aunty Joan instructed. 'Tell her if she needs any more to call Ms. Morgan at the chemist's and she will get the message to one of us. You can remember that, can't you? What am I saying, of course you can...' she trailed off absentmindedly, noticing something else that needed addressed before the Fete began.
'Yes, Aunty Joan,' Martin enthusiastically replied, and took off at a trot toward the school.
'Come back as soon as you can; I could still use your help!' Joan called after him.
It was a gray day and the wind was blowing a cold mist from the sea, and Martin was glad he had plenty to do to keep him warm as he quickly made his way from the school and back to where Aunty Joan was working. When he arrived, his aunt was chatting with a young woman who had a baby bundled up in a pram.
'Has it really been eighteen months since she was born? I can't believe how quickly time has passed...look at how big she is getting,' Joan exclaimed, gazing down at the little girl. 'Ah, she is quite a beauty, Eleanor.'
Martin , having just walked up to the three of them, looked into the pram to see what all the fuss was about. He supposed the little girl was all right, as far as babies went: dark hair peeking out from under a knitted cap, pink cheeks, large gray-green eyes fringed with thick black lashes. The baby returned his gaze impassively and then began waving a bottle of milk in the air, entertaining herself. Martin turned his attention back to Aunty Joan, who was now in deep conversation with the child's mother. He sighed inwardly; he was hoping she would give him something else to do so he didn't have to stand around listening to more boring conversation about people he didn't know.
As the two women were talking, the baby lost her grip on the bottle of milk she was holding and dropped it over the side of the pram, where it rolled into the gutter to join some other detritus that had accumulated there. Martin watched with disgust as her mother absentmindedly picked it up and held it out to the baby, who eagerly reached for it with two chubby hands. Was this woman really going to let her child put the filthy thing back in her mouth? Just as the baby had taken the bottle, Martin took it away and walked quickly in the direction of the pub, causing her to wail in protest.
'What do you think you're doing? Bring that back here!' the woman yelled at him, just as Aunty Joan cried, "Martin!" He ignored them and kept on going. He felt irritation he didn't quite understand; he couldn't see how this woman could just pick something up off the ground, a bottle so obviously covered with any manner of germs and bacteria, and hand it to her child without a care in the world. Why should he even care? Why did that bother him so much? Frowning, he stalked into the pub and approached the man behind the bar.
'Excuse me, do you have anything I can use to sanitize this?' Martin asked, holding up the bottle.
The man looked at him bemusedly, and pointed his thumb toward the lavatory. 'Soap and water in there, would that do?'
'I suppose it will have to.' Martin turned in the direction the man was pointing, thanking him over his shoulder.
By the time Martin returned, he found that the baby was no longer crying, but her mother was furious.
'There you are, you little bully! What do you think you're playing at, teasing my Louisa and snatching her bottle away? I'd be ashamed of myself if I were you!'
Martin looked at her indignantly. 'I am not a bully! And I didn't snatch it from her, I only took it and washed it off after it fell on the ground! She could get sick, you know, if she kept on drinking from it,' he exclaimed in an accusing tone. He glanced at Aunty Joan, who was trying hard not to smile, and then handed the bottle back to the little girl in the pram. Martin watched her little face light up as it broke into a huge smile. He felt his cheeks grow warm, and embarrassedly looked away.
My poor story has been put on the back burner do to a new job, but I can hopefully get back on track soon. Thank you for your patience!