When he drew out the plans for the new cabin, a charcoal square on a brown paper bag, she watched with only mild interest from over her coffee mug. He marked a slanted line at the front and said, “There’s your front door.”
Then he drew another slanted line at the back, near the corner, and he said, “That’s the back one.”
She smiled at the way he said it. He seemed to think the front door was hers alone, because it was there for the things only she cared about: Sunday calls and parlor chairs; clean tea towels and soda bread sliced fine. The back door was for both of them, because through it they would each come and go, sunrise and sunset, hauling and dragging the weight of their chores, now and then stepping light because the chickens were laying again or because the summer rain had been kind.
Over his head, while he drew, she watched the twilight turn the glass on their wedding sampler pink and gold. Behind the pastel glare, their names were joined in needlepoint. William R. Hale and Cecily Myers Hale. There were flowers at each corner, orange and yellow and blue. After her mother had grown thin and pale, near to the end, she leaned against her pillows, night on night, and pulled the letters and the blooms up through the cloth, floss by floss, until it was as perfect and bright as her own sampler had been years ago. They moved up the wedding to be sure she could see it. Leaning against her cane, as bent and drawn as a woman twice her age, she carried a joyful light in her eyes when the vowels were spoken.
After the wedding supper, when the young ones were dancing to fiddles, Cecily’s mother sat under an oak tree with a line of laurel at her back, and she watched the dresses whirling out over the grass. The laurel was not yet blooming and the tree had hardly any leaves, save a few stubborn brown ones that clung over the winter. When Cecily went to sit at her feet, she leaned down and said into her ear, “You’d have liked it later, dear heart, when all the flowers were out.”
“You’re the only bloom I had to have today,” Cecily said. She leaned her cheek against her mother’s knee and soon the cool fingers came to gently brush her hair off her face.
“Well, you’re sweet to say it,” her mother said.
They rested there a long while, listening to the strings, the hoots and laughter.
Will drew in a square inside the square, near the middle, and he said, “That’s the hearth. They’ll be a fireplace in front for your parlor and a flue for the stove around the back.”
“So that corner is the kitchen.”
He nodded at her gravely, his ginger brown eyes sweet and clever. Her hand found his shoulder as she leaned in closer to watch his work. “Will there be other windows?”
“Two on the back,” he said. He scratched in a thick line for each, then he added a few more lines inside the cabin. “So this is our room, off the kitchen, looking back on the shed and the back hill.”
“A nice big room,” she said.
He blushed and glanced away, “Well, it looks bigger here.”
“It looks bigger on that little brown bag?” she asked, laughing.
He shook his head, “I mean, the whole place won’t be too big.”
“But we can add on to the back later,” he said.
She sat down beside him and found his other hand, resting on his lap. “Well, I’m happy to grow the house as we grow the family. One thing at a time.”
He leaned his head against hers. “Anything else you want?”
She thought of the little corner of the farm where he wanted to build the house, the way it sat close to the road, with a view out over Buck Mountain. The patch of yard would be small, but she’d fill it with flowers, all the sweet old-fashioned one’s her mother loved.
Her mouth pulled a little frown, thinking about the view and the flowers and how they’d come and go by that back corner door all their days, only opening the front when company came. She gave his hand a squeeze, “I want a picture window in front, so we can see everything.”
He might have thought about how much a big piece of glass cost or reminded her that drifters coming down the road could glance in at them at night. Instead he picked up the pencil and made a thick, long mark along the front, to the left of the slanted line of the door. In the soft light, shoulders together, making lines on the brown paper, they built the dream together, heedless of what the crops, the weather or the bank would let them make.