Blue gave way to the orange and pink swirls of evening. The leaves flittered and flung themselves against the house in the breeze. As light diminished, the purple twilight made way for the shadows of night to reign. High in the velvety blackness, the moon smiled like a Cheshire cat on its side. Glittering like jewels tiny sparks began to wink and blink there way into the dusky atmosphere.
The shadows stretched casting themselves across the small vegetable garden. Picking up speed the wind swooped down through the trenches knocking Teresa's garden basket on its side. The miniscule contents rolled and tumbled back down into the soil that had bore them.
Falling from the second story window the melody of a crude alto sang bitterly. The low notes swam fluid and deep, building into a crescendo of cracked mournful broken harmonies.
"She's the sweetest little rosebud, this cowboy ever ne-. Eyes bright as dimon's. They sparkle like the dew," Jake tenderly sang over his daughter.
Tending to her in pitch darkness was ludicrous to say the least. Blindfolding her with his charcoal grey silk handkerchief enabled him to dimly light an oil lamp in the far corner of the room.
"Well you can talk about your Clementine an' sing of Rosal-. But the yellow rose of Te . . . . . Is the only girl for me."
Her hands were balled up fists that clamped to the sides of her head. The small curls about her forehead were damp and clung to her pallid skin. Even her whimpers were beginning to increase, though she wouldn't cry. Digging her heels into the mattress, her body would tense and release in waves.
Jake continued to sing as he rung out the linens and changed out the compresses on her head.
"She cried so when I left her. It like to broke my hear-."
"Jake?" Teresa was behind him. She was holding a porcelain pitcher of fresh water in her hands. That song. It made her blood turn to ice in her veins. Nothing good ever came of him singing that damned song. Her hand was clasped so tightly around the handle of the pitcher that her knuckles were turning white.
He had fallen silent at the sound of his name on her lips. Shifting his head back, he squeezed his eyes shut sleepily and exhaled. He told himself it was just a childhood illness. By morning, Teresa would place a bonnet on Lucy's head and she'd be back at the barbershop swinging her feet at his desk.
Opening his eyes, he watched Teresa change out the water and sit on the opposite side of Lucy. She lightly took hold of the child's wrists and tried to pull them down. Yet Lucy held strong to the pressure.
"Lucinda?" her voice was so steady and melodic. "Let momma have your arms."
Jake straighten as he leaned forward observing how Lucy obeyed her mother. Teresa placed her arms down gently against the sides of her body. She motioned to Jake to help her position Lucy so that her head lay in Teresa's lap.
"Now we will see," Teresa said applying pressure to Lucy's temples with her fingertips.
She worked in circles massaging around the girl's cranium. Starting from the forehead and sliding down around to the base of Lucy's skull. The tension did seem to wane as her body went limp. Jake cocked his head to one side and for the first time that night, he smiled.
"Well, now," his tone rose slightly. "Will ya look at that?"
Teresa beamed as she watched her husband's face soften. The tension in his shoulders subsided as he reached out and once again placed his hand on Lucy's chest. Suddenly, like the snap of a rubber band, he lurched forward. His shoulders squared and his mouth dropped. Teresa froze momentarily mystified, at how fast Jake had deteriorated. Quickly swiping under Lucy's nose, he held his finger up so Teresa could see the crimson smear of blood.
Ripping the silk handkerchief from her eyes Jake lifted her limp body into his arms. The child did not stir. He hunched over placing his cheek beneath her nose.
"She's still breathing!" he shouted. "She's still breathing!"