Chapter 25 continued
The story so far: The miners link arms and stage a walkout.
Behind them, Katka heard the sound of hooves. She looked back and saw Mrs. Sherek. Katka walked toward the cart and extended her hand to help the women get down. Everyone was asking questions and Katka did her best to answer. Most of their questions were about their own loved ones. “Did you see my husband?” Mrs. Kivela asked.
“Is my son safe?” old Mrs. Taborski wanted to know.
“My George is fine,” Helmi Nelson said. “I would know if he not fine. When he lost that finger, I knew right then. And I was nowhere nears. My feelings is never wrong.”
Finally, Katka helped Lily, who was rubbing her belly, out of the cart. “How’s the baby?” Katka whispered.
“Excited to witness her first organized uprising,” Lily said. She smiled wanly. “I knew this would happen soon, but Paul told me it would be after the baby was born.”
“One thing he’s good at,” Katka said, “is keeping secrets.” She hadn’t seen Paul since she left him in the cellar. Anton told her he found “other accommodations” for the time being. No one was to let on that he and Lily were cousins. Anton expected word would get out, eventually, and when it did, they’d adjust. But for now, it was just another of many foggy truths Katka had begun to store under her skin.
“Lily Kovich! Lilianna!” A man’s voice was heard, calling from the west side of the crowd. The women looked left and saw Anton making his way through the swarm of women and children. He wore his riding boots and his hunting rifle was swung over his shoulder. Katka could not tell if his face was flushed red from heat, anger or a combination of both. She waved to him and called his name. When he saw them, he gruffly made his way toward them.
Katka could sense his tension. He looked for a moment as if he wanted to strike Lily, but then thought the better of it. “What are you doing here?”
“Mrs. Sherek brought me. I didn’t walk.”
He looked nervously toward the mass of miners at the mining gate. Then he looked at Lily’s belly. “Look, Lily. You can’t stay here. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I promise you, it won’t be safe. You must leave. Go home, I tell you. Katka will take you. If you walk slowly, you will be fine. But you must leave now.”
“We’re not leaving.”
“Yes. You are.”
Anton grabbed Lily’s hand and squeezed it so tightly that Lily winced in pain. Then he leaned toward his wife and whispered something in her ear. Lily’s face went white. Anton let go of her hand and walked to the front of the crowd to join the men.
Lily covered her left hand with her right hand. She was shaking. She watched as Anton disappeared into the sea of immigrants. “Let’s go, Katka.” Katka did not want to go. She needed to see this. She had been waiting for this moment almost since she had arrived. She had heard Milo speak of this day. She was not going to miss it. And surely Paul would be here. “Matchka? Won’t you walk me?”
“Of all the days you could choose to listen to your husband, you have to choose this one?”
Lily said nothing.
“We shouldn’t have to miss this,” Katka said. “It’s not as if you’re going to have that baby today. I need to find a notebook and something to write with. Stay right here and I’ll come back when I’ve got it.”
Lily stayed silent. She looked pale and weak. She started to say something, but Katka interrupted. “Don’t move from this spot,” she said again.
She spotted the editor of The Daily Chronicle and boldly went up to him. She asked him for paper and a quill.
He looked at her curiously. “Can you write, missy?”
“Some,” Katka said.
“Funny time to be penning a letter home.”
“Yes, sir. ’Tis.”
“What’s your name, doll?”
“Maria,” Katka said.
“You look fine as cream gravy, Miss Maria.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The editor reached into his vest and brought out a quill and some paper. He handed her two sheets. “Say hello to your mama.”
Tomorrow: Chapter 25 continues.