Outside- Late at Night
After saddling up his horse Nick takes her out of the barn and is about to mount up when Bobby approaching him calls out “Mr. Barkley?”
Glancing over at him “Yes Bobby?” Nick replies.
“I came to talk to you about Heath,” Bobby mentions, “I don’t know if Duke was able to or not.”
“Bobby,” Nick asks, “Could it wait until I get back or until the morning? I am in a hurry and it is rather late.”
“Most of it could,” Bobby replies, “But there is one thing you do need to be made aware of.” Nick asks, “What’s that?”
“Heath doesn’t do anything on his own,” Bobby mentions, “He only does what is told to him. I mean completely and Mr. Barkley?” Nick says, “Yes Bobby?”
“I know that you don’t like having him around,” Bobby notes, “But I just thought I’d tell you that I do. I really think you should give him a chance.”
Mounting up “Thank you for the information” Nick says “We’ll talk more later. Okay?” Replying, “I suppose,” Bobby and Nick bid each other goodnight.
As Bobby heads for the bunkhouse Nick quickly calls out to him, “Oh Bobby?” who turns around slightly and looking up at him replies, “Yes Mr. Barkley?”
“Don’t worry about Heath,” Nick assures him, “I’m going to get him now. Everything will be fine.”
Continuing on Bobby feeling a little relieved goes inside while Nick heads out to the North Pasture where he has Heath erecting the new fence.
On his way he thinks back to everything that occurred from the very moment of Heath’s arrival to the talk he just had with Victoria and of his own behavior.
Starting off he thinks back to what he thought that second night while going to his father’s gravesite.
About his father’s vision, his dreams and what he saw as a better way for all of them. He then goes onto the pride, courage and leadership that were being instilled into each one of them, to his treatment of Heath and about how his father would’ve treated him differently if he was there now.
Next he goes onto the conversation he had with his mother about his being all alone and having no one to care about him wondering and thinking what if he was him and how he would feel if he was treated the way Heath was.
As he continues his ride to the North Pasture he thinks about what took place leading up to this moment.
First his arrival to the ranch, then onto their first meeting on the bridge, his coming to look for work, the fight they had, learning of his being his Father’s bastard son, to his going inside the house and finally telling him that he wanted him out of the house, away from the ranch, out of the valley and lastly telling him that if he ever laid eyes on him again he would finish what he started.
He then goes on to thinking about his not only remaining in the valley but his coming to the Sempleworth’s ranch and helping them with the fight against the railroad. He then moves onto the discussion they had at the table where he learns his mother and Jarrod invited him to come by so they could talk and about his being against it thinking he should have him arrested; thinking he was nothing but a no good drifter only there after their hard earned money and stating that he is by no means a brother of his and that everything he has told them was nothing but a pack of lies.
Going on he thinks more of the talk he had with his mother.
“So what if it was all a pack of lies?” he hears her saying, “Should you still be doing what you can to get him tossed off this here ranch? Where is he supposed to go, Nick? Would you rather he went to a deserted town where there are no people? Would you rather he drown in the creek, drop dead from exhaustion or would you prefer he die of starvation?
“Starvation?” “That’s right! While you went off to town and took care of your stomach and had a good time for yourself Heath had only one meal that he had when Duke brought him to the house and while you were out enjoying yourself Heath was left working on the West Ridge and stayed there until 5 a.m. because who ever you had relieving him didn’t show up and then he goes to work on the bridge and almost drowned.”
The bridge is finished and so Duke thought it was a good idea that the men took the rest of the day off to do what they wanted and for Heath to get in some sleep that he needed but that didn’t happen. You had him taking care of the barn, stacking sacks of grain in the shed and then you have him going onto something else. Where was his sleep, Nick? How could anyone function without any sleep? Do you hate him that much?”
“I don’t hate him. I don’t know what I feel to be perfectly honest,” he hears himself saying and his mother repeating, “I don’t know what you feel either. But that is not important right now. You have to live with how you feel. Did he have anything to eat today? And if so, what did he have and where did he get it?”
“Your father would never have treated him the way you have treated him. Your father would’ve treated him equally. Your father was a generous man, who had a caring heart. He would’ve brought him into the house because it would’ve been the right thing to do.”
He then thinks back to all the yelling he was doing.
From his not showing up for breakfast on time each morning, to his standing around at the wagon while they were out picking apples and peaches, to his ignoring him. He thinks about Gene asking him, “How come you’re not saying anything to Heath?” to his responding, “Gene, just finish up. The sooner we get done, the sooner we get back.”
He thinks back to the talks he had with Jarrod.
“I think you are in a state of shock right now, it must’ve hit you harder than the rest of us, maybe you put Father on a pedestal and thinking he couldn’t do something like this. Take your time. But don’t wait too long; you could be missing out on a great opportunity to know a nice young man that could very well become a good friend, if not a brother. And just remember, I like his being here and so does Mother.” “I know we keep harping on the same subject but I sure wish you would lighten up on Heath. He has worked hard from what I seen of him out there.”
He thinks back to the talk he had with Audra.
“Nick, why do you hate Heath so?” “I don’t hate him.” “Then why don’t you want anything to do with him? I like having him here as a brother.”
He thinks about the talk he had with Duke.
“So, what is it about him that bothers you so much?” “I don’t know, maybe it’s his quietness.” “Have you sat down to talk to him yet?” “I will; it’s just that I’m not ready to yet.” “Nick, can I ask you what has he done to you?” “Nothing!” “Then why don’t you sit down and get to know him?” “I will.” “I like his being here.” He keeps hearing him say over and over again inside his head.
He then thinks about the quick talk he just had with Bobby.
“Mr. Barkley, Heath doesn’t do anything on his own. He only does what is told to him, I mean completely.” “I know that you don’t like him around, but I just thought I’d tell you, that I do. I really think you should give him a chance.”
He then thinks back to his mother again.
“Mother, you don’t understand. I have to be this way. Father left me in charge, to run everything, now that he is gone.” “Safe Nick? I do understand, Nick, but the treatment you are giving to Heath is wrong Nick, very wrong. You even had him thrown into the springhouse and for no reason.” “That was an accident.” “An accident that should never have happened. It seemed that ever since Heath has come here, you’ve changed.” “I haven’t changed.” “Yes you have Nick; I’ve noticed it, Jarrod, Duke, the men that work for you, even Audra and Gene has noticed.” “The moment he came here, you changed drastically.” Nick recalls Duke saying.
“He has done everything you asked and has not asked for one single thing.” “Now what has he done so wrong, so badly to be treated so badly by you? I don’t get it. All Heath said was that he was your father’s son and you went off the wall. I had a talk with Duke earlier. He didn’t get any sleep.”
He thinks back to another conversation he had with his mother when he came in.
“Mother, I’m not gonna be his babysitter. He doesn’t need me to tell him when to come in, he’s old enough to come in on his own, he’s been getting along very well before he came here.” “Nick, how could you?” “You did want me to keep my distance from him.” “Oh, Nicholas! I didn’t mean for you to leave him completely alone.”
“The way you’ve been treating him is like he’s some dangerous and hardened criminal and the only crime he committed was being born to a mother who raised him alone. And because of that he has been targeted and labeled. And you’re doing the same thing to him, blaming him, punishing him or condemning him for something he’s not even responsible for.” “That boy has been hurt enough and has paid a high price for it already. I feel so bad for him. If someone could get him to open up, I’m sure he has one story to tell and it’s not a pretty one either.”
“So put yourself in his place. Tell me how would you like it, if you were him? You are so happy here; you never had it so good. How would you like it if you were treated the way you treated him?”
While Nick is coming to terms with the situation of accepting Heath he as well as the rest of the family must deal with not only getting him to accept what it means to be a part of a family but what it means to accept the hand of friendship. “Another thing that was brought up by you.” “Trust! Trust works two ways, you may not want to trust him, but he probably doesn’t trust you or any of us anymore than you do. I wonder if he ever trusted anyone and if so, did they ever break their trust to him?”
“Back to the working topic.” “I did wonder how he got done with all that work in the barn and the sacks of grain.” “He was up all night doing it. Is that all there is for him to be doing? Work and more work? Where is the fun in his life? It must be a terrible feeling to be all alone and have no one care about him. Well, I care about him.”
With tears forming, “I care about him,” Nick says as he continues thinking of more of everything that took place leading up to this moment.
“The respectful Barkleys!” “The Barkleys have a generous heart they say. Everyone just loves the Barkleys. The Barkleys had time for every person that came here today but where were the Barkley brothers when it came to Heath?” “Non-existent! Too busy! Didn’t have time for him! But mostly you Nick, I’m very disappointed in you. I thought I brought you up better than that, to care about others, I guess I was wrong.”
“No, you did bring me up better than that” he answers, “Why did I do all these things to him? Why didn’t I pick up on it? Why Heath? Why?”
Nick then says, “I’m sorry Heath, I’m sorry Father, for what I did to him. I’m very, very sorry. It won’t happen again.”
Wiping the tears from his eyes “I guess it’s time to find out” saying out loud to no one “About you. There will be no more of what I was doing. From this moment forward, things will be different for you and me. Yes sir, things are gonna start to be different for you and I. From this time forward, you are gonna learn what it is to be a Barkley!” as he keeps going towards the North Pasture to get Heath.
Arriving at the North Pasture and catching sight of Heath slouched over with a hammer in one hand and one arm around part of the fence post he is working on with his head dropped down, leaning against it and thinking over again the talk he had just minutes ago leading up to this moment and his conscience finally catching up to him and as he approaches him he starts calling out to him.
With his head still dropped down and his eyes closed Heath doesn’t hear him calling out to him. Dismounting and walking up to him, Nick calls out to him again this time shaking him slightly as he reaches his side.
At the sound of Nick’s voice and being shakened Heath quickly opens his eyes and jumps. Glancing up at Nick who is standing there before him “Huh!” Heath says “I’m sorry, sir. I only dozed off for a second. Didn’t mean to do it” breathing heavily, becoming frantically and increasingly nervous.
“Heath,” Nick mentions, “It’s late.”
Replying, “Yes sir,” Heath fidgets with the hammer in his hand and is holding onto the fence post with the other trembling, “I didn’t move sir. Honest! I’ve been working. I only dozed off for just a moment. It was an accident, didn’t mean to do it. It won’t happen again. Please. Sorry. I won’t do it again, I won’t do it again.”
Nick asks, “Please? Sorry? For what?” forcefully.
“Didn’t mean to doze off,” Heath answers nervously, “Didn’t mean to, sir. Honest. It was an accident. Didn’t mean to; didn’t mean to.”
“Heath,” Nick then inquires, “Why didn’t you come back to the house when it started to get dark?” Heath answers “Not told to sir,” wiping his eyes briefly.
“Told to?” Doing a double take Nick asks, “Heath, you were out here since this morning,” in a stern voice.
Nervously “Yes sir,” Heath says again “Didn’t move. Honest. I’ve been working. Only closed my eyes for a moment; not any more. Honest! Did what said.”
“What I said?” Nick asks of Heath with a tinge of anger in his voice.
“Yes sir,” Heath replies. Nick then asks, “What did I say?”
Swallowing hard “Said” Heath reiterates “Unhitch wagon; work on fence sir. Did both.” Nick asks “Why didn’t you stop?” Heath replies “Not said to; didn’t finish.”
Nick inquires, “Did you have anything to eat at all?” Heath replies, “No sir.”
“What about this morning?” Nick asks “Did you have anything to eat then?”
“No sir” Heath answers. “What about last night?” Nick inquires “Did you get any sleep at all?”
“No sir,” Heath states again, “Didn’t! Honest! Didn’t move! Did what said. Unhitch wagon; put up fence. Sorry not finish yet.”
“Why didn’t you have anything to eat or get any sleep?” Nick wanted to know.
Heath reiterates, “Not said could; said clean barn, take care of horses, stack sacks in shed. Told unhitch wagon and work on fence, sir.”
“Didn’t you bring anything to eat?” Nick asks, not believing what he’s listening to.
“No sir,” Heath replies. Nick asks, “Why not?”
“Not said to,” Heath answers, “Didn’t know to do that, sir.”
“Aren’t you hungry?” Nick wanted to know, “Or tired? You haven’t had any good sleep since you woke up Sunday morning.”
Shrugging his shoulders, “Not matter sir,” Heath replies.
Asking, “What do you mean not matter?” Nick insists on knowing.
“Don’t matter,” Heath reiterates.
“You mean,” Nick asks, “It doesn’t matter to you if you are hungry or not? If you don’t eat or get any sleep?” Heath replies, “No sir.”
Exhaling heavily, “Heath, it’s late,” Nick says, “Come back to the house. You don’t have to stay out here anymore tonight doing that. You need some dinner and some sleep. You could work on it in the morning.”
Replying “Sorry sir,” Heath fidgets with the hammer he has in hand.
“Sorry,” Nick asks, “Sorry for what?”
Swallowing hard “Didn’t mean to disobey” Heath replies “Didn’t mean to doze off” moving about in a very antsy way “Didn’t mean to. Sorry wasn’t working sir.”
Doing a double take “Disobey?” Nick queries “Heath I don’t know where this is all coming from but right now it’s too late to get into that. Now, come on, we’ll sort this all out at the house.”
As he is about to go over to the wagon Nick looks back and upon seeing Heath just standing there shaking and staring at him with his brow furrowed in thought not knowing what to do nor understanding what happened asks, “Heath, are you okay?” Heath replies, “Yes sir.”
Looking at him, “Well then, Heath” Nick commands, “Did you hear me? Let’s go! That’s an order!” Heath responds, “Yes sir.”
Reaching the wagon and upon thinking of something Nick looks around in and inside the back calls out to Heath who replies, “Yes sir?”
“Where’s your canteen?” Nick asks. With his brow furrowed “Canteen?” Heath mimics.
“Yes,” Nick asks, “Where is it?” Heath responds, “Barn.” Nick asks, “Why didn’t you bring it with you?”
“Not said to,” Heath replies, “Said take wagon outside, drive wagon and you will show me where it will be put up, sir.”
Sighing heavily and going over to Coco Nick grabs his canteen and upon handing it to Heath tells him, “Drink this Heath.”
Replying, “Yes sir,” Heath takes the offered canteen and unscrewing the top does as instructed and drinks from it. Finishing and pulling it away Nick inquires, “Want anymore?” Heath replies, “No sir.”
Taking it from him Nick returns it to where he had it and helps Heath with hitching the team back up. Once they’ve finished “Heath” Nick instructs him “Climb up.” Responding “Yes sir” Heath gets into the driver’s box.
Nick asks of him, “Are you able to drive back to the house?”
As he replies, “Yes sir,” Nick tells him, “Follow me back then.”
Once again replying, “Yes sir,” Heath flicks the reins and upon moving the team follows Nick who mounts up on Coco and leads the way back towards the house. Every few minutes he looks over at Heath and staying with him asks, “Heath, you doing okay?” Heath replies, “Yes sir,” each time they continue on.
Returning to the house “Heath” Nick tells him “As soon as we finish in here we’ll go in and you could have some dinner. Okay?” Heath replies, “Yes sir.”
Climbing out of the wagon, Heath takes it into the barn and upon unhitching it puts the team back in their stall. While he is doing that, Nick takes care of his horse and then helps with putting the wagon where it belongs.
After everything is where it belongs Heath begins unbuttoning his shirt. Catching sight of it and as he is undoing the third button with trembling fingers, “Heath,” Nick asks, “What are you doing?” Heath answers, “Getting ready, sir.”
Perplexed “Ready” Nick wanted to know “For what?” Heath informs him “To be put in my place.” Nick asks “Put in your place? What place is that?”
“Teach me a lesson,” Heath replies, “For disobeying you; for dozing off.”
“Dozing off? Disobeying” doing a double-take “Teach you a lesson” thinking and quickly picking up on where he’s coming from “You mean like hit you?” Nick asks “Whip you?” Heath replies, “Yes sir.” Nick inquires, “Why would I do that?”
“For being bad,” Heath answers, “To put me in my place. For being a bastard; for not putting up fence like told to do, didn’t get to finish. For almost falling asleep when not suppose to. For not doing what said, for disobeying you.”
“Disobeying me?” Nick mimics.
Heath replies “Went with Duke when told to take care of barn. Need to learn respect. Must do what you say; didn’t do that.”
Nick again thinks back to the talk he had with Victoria about Heath needing someone; and of the kinds of stories that happen to children to unwed mothers. Then he thinks about what has Heath done so wrong, so badly to be treated so badly by him and being the innocent victim in all of this and paying a higher price for it. And then thinks about what if someone could get him to open up that he had one story to tell and it wasn’t a pretty one either.
Studying Heath carefully still flabbergasted, “Heath,” Nick asks, “Are you serious? You think I am gonna whip you?” Heath answers, “Yes sir.”
As he walks up to him his eyes narrow studying him more closely and seeing his reddish eyes “You really are serious” Nick says “You think I am gonna give you some kind of whipping.”
Replying, “Yes sir,” Heath stands there like a granite statue and staring up at him who is looking down at him trembling but not moving.
Grabbing hold of Heath’s upper arm who now has his fingers on the last button and gripping it tightly Nick says to him, “Heath, I have news for you.”
Asking “Yes sir?” Heath looks up at Nick and then down at him holding onto his arm but otherwise remaining in the same granite statue stance.
“I am not,” Nick tells him, “Gonna do anything like that to you. I would never whip you. I don’t do that to anyone. Now, button your shirt back up.”
Replying “Yes sir, “Heath does as instructed but with a confused look keeps his eyes locked onto Nick, still shaking. After buttoning his shirt back up he continues to stand there without moving.
“Now” Nick tells him “Go inside. I’ll be in a couple of minutes. I have to finish some work out here.” Replying, “Yes sir,” Heath walks out.
Nick crosses to the doorway and with a newly found concern watches as Heath goes up to the front door of the house and comes to learn some of his answers that he had riding to the North Pasture bringing him back and before going back inside to finish up the work he has left.
Reaching the front door Heath grabs hold of the knob and walking in he is met by Victoria saying, “Heath, how you doing?” coming into the front room.
“Fine Ma’am,” Heath answers.
Taking hold of his left hand into her right, “Are you alright?” she asks of him.
“Yes um,” Heath replies.
“Have you been alright while we’ve been gone?” Victoria inquires, “Have you been taking care of yourself?” Heath answers again, “Yes um.”
Smiling “Glad to hear that” Victoria says to him “You must be good and hungry. You had a long day out there and I know you must be tired as well. Why don’t you go upstairs, get washed and then go have your dinner that’s in there waiting for you. I bet you’re starved and then you could go get some sleep. Would you like that?” Replying “Yes um” Heath does as instructed and goes up the stairs to get washed.
As Nick is coming out of the barn he hears Duke’s voice calling out to him. Upon acknowledging him Duke then says, “I want to talk to you.”
Sighing, “I know you do,” Nick then asks, “Could whatever it is wait until the morning?” Duke replies, “Not all of it. Did you talk to your mother?”
“I did” Nick states. As Duke asks, “Where is Heath?” Nick answers “He just went inside. I just went and got him.”
Duke asks, “Are you aware that he hasn’t had any good sleep since he woke up Sunday morning? Or that he hasn’t had anything to eat today at all?”
In a much quieter tone, “I know it now,” Nick admits, “I didn’t at the time.”
“You really need to give him a break,” Duke informs him.
“I realize I’ve been rough on him,” Nick confides.
“Rough” Duke mentions “Isn’t the word Nick. You’ve done so many things to him over the past week that I just don’t understand what he did to you, to have you treating him like that. I think he’s a nice young man and a very good worker,” exhaling heavily, “But you are working him way too much. It’s not right Nick. You don’t treat anybody else here that way; just him. You should really get to know him. He isn’t so bad. I don’t know what you have against him but he really is just a nice young man and I like his being here.”
“I am starting to see that Duke,” Nick notes, “I made a mistake with him, a very bad one. I know that now,” Nick then asks, “Could we finish this in the morning? I do need to go in; I need to go talk to him. I’ll come see you before you head out in the morning, okay? And we’ll finish this then.”
Replying “Okay” Duke and Nick then bid one another a goodnight and upon going their separate ways Duke heads for the bunkhouse while Nick heads for the house.
Coming down the steps after getting washed Heath is met by Victoria in the entranceway asking, “Heath, do you need any help in the kitchen getting your dinner?” Heath answers, “No Ma’am.”
“Okay” Victoria informs him “It’s in the icebox. Help yourself. Nick will probably be right in to join you. I will see you in the morning then. I am gonna turn in.”
Replying, “Yes um,” Heath is then bidded goodnight by Victoria who then starts going up the stairs while he continues on into the kitchen and Nick walks in.
As she is halfway up the stairs Victoria calls out to Nick who reciprocates and asks, “Where is Heath?”
“He just went into the kitchen to have some dinner” Victoria then suggests “If you like, why don’t you go and join him, maybe it’ll give you both a chance to talk.”
Walking up the steps and stopping when he’s on the one just below the one she is standing on, “Yeah,” Nick mentions, “I’m thinking of doing that. Let me go wash my hands first,” rubbing them together and yet looking off towards the kitchen. Nick then asks, “Where are the others? Did they turn in already?”
“A few minutes ago” Victoria answers, “We had a long day out there” noticing Nick looking towards the kitchen, “Nick,” she asks, “Is everything okay?”
Replying, “Hmm,” Nick standing there narrowed in thought; perplexed.
“What’s the matter?” Victoria asks “Is something wrong” putting her hand on his arm. Nodding, “There is,” Nick admits.
“Are you bothered because I raised my voice to you?” she wanted to know, “I didn’t want to do that, it’s just that you got me so damn upset.”
“Mother,” Nick sighing heavily replies, “It’s not that. Even though I didn’t say so when you sent me out there, I will tell you now that you were right for me to do that. I was wrong for not going out there, I was wrong about Heath in so many ways. I can’t begin to tell you.” Victoria asks, “What happened?”
“Some of it was what you were telling me” Nick mentions “I never once thought about him. I had no idea he didn’t get any sleep and I didn’t know about him almost drowning or not having anything to eat. I wasn’t aware of any of that. I never stopped once to think. I just kept giving him more and more things to do.”
“I know you weren’t,” Victoria says.
“And,” Nick replies, “I just got a rude awakening as well.”
“What do you mean?” Victoria asks, “With Heath?”
Nodding his head “Yeah” Nick answers pursing his lips together.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Victoria wanted to know.
“I do,” Nick replies, “And don’t.”
Taking hold of his hand into hers, “What is it,” she asks concerned.
“It’s just that I made a terrible mistake,” Nick replies.
“With Heath,” Victoria asks.
“Yeah,” Nick replies.
“What happened” she asks “Something did happen out there, didn’t it?” placing her hand on the side of his face he replies, “You could say that.”
“What is it?” she says, “You could tell me Nick.”
“I know,” Nick replies, “It’s just that he’s not what I thought and thinking maybe you and the others were right about him.” She asks, “Did he say something?”
“Kind of,” Nick answers, “And it’s not only that. But it’s also what you said earlier. I do need to put myself in his shoes. How could I have so completely wrong? So, completely blinded by what I was doing? How is it that I could’ve been so bad to him and not even realized it?”
“I don’t know Nick,” she states, “That is something you would have to come up with on your own, but maybe, just maybe you were trying to look for something that just wasn’t there. You were so busy trying to find some kind of fault with him that you were not looking at the whole picture. You were only trying to see what you wanted to see.”
“I’m beginning to see that,” Nick notes, “And maybe, just maybe there just might be more to him than any of us are aware of.” Victoria asks, “What do you mean?”
“Not sure” Nick answers “But I will tell you that he did need me to go out there to bring him back” exhaling deeply he then says “Let me go wash my hands and then join him in the kitchen and I’ll tell you something more when I know more, okay? Let’s keep it at that for now” as they reach the last step to the top floor.
“Okay,” Victoria replies, “I sure wish you would try to open your heart out to him, Nick,” as they reach the bathroom door, “I think it would mean so much to him.”
Nick informs her, “I’m gonna do that,” with a little grin showing.
Being a little taken back by his sudden change, “You are,” she asks returning the gesture, “Really?” Nick replies, “Yes.”
Moving her head slightly “That’s wonderful Nick” she asks “But why the sudden change?”
“Much of it is a lot of what you said,” Nick says, “I am finally realizing that I was really that bad. I just didn’t realize it. But let me just tell you more in the morning, okay?” Victoria answers, “Sure Nick.”
“Oh Mother,” Nick tells her, “I wanted to also let you know that I am sorry and sorry for how I acted tonight and every other night leading up to this one. You are right; you did bring me up better than that. I was wrong in how I acted, in every possible way. I just had to let you know that.”
Gripping the side of his face, “Oh Nick,” she says with a little smile.
Upon exchanging goodnights Nick closes the door to the bathroom while Victoria continues on to her bedroom.
Inside the kitchen taking the plate from inside the icebox, Heath goes and sits in one of the corners and begins eating, using his hands to eat with and his legs crossed.
Minutes later walking in and catching sight of Heath with a handful of potatoes in one hand and holding a piece of the roast with the other Nick is aghast as he sees him chewing on a piece and doing a double take thinks about “Remember Nick” from Victoria’s voice “He could use a little patience, caring and understanding from you” and going over to him says “Heath, what are you doing?”
Jumping at the sound of Nick’s voice Heath quickly releases the roast he has in one hand and drops the plate onto his lap but manages to catch it before anymore of the dripping drops further. Glancing up at Nick with his eyes wide open, swallowing hard while chewing on what he has in his mouth “Eating sir” Heath answers trembling. Nick replies, “I see that.”
“Your mother,” Heath informs him, “Said to help myself. Sorry if I shouldn’t be.”
“Heath” Nicks says “Of course you could. But first, why are you eating like that? And second, why are you eating all that? There’s enough there for at least ten people.”
“Don’t,” Heath replies, “Know how else to do it; thought this is what I was to eat. Sorry, if it wasn’t.”
“Heath, you could have that” Nick asks “But why aren’t you eating at the table?”
“Can’t sir,” Heath replies. Nick inquires, “Why can’t you?” Heath responds, “Not asked to sir.” Nick mimics, “Asked to?”
“Not said to, sir” Heath reiterates “Can’t sit at table without asked or said to first.”
Nick once again thinks back to the talk he had with Bobby about his not doing anything for himself and doing what is told to him.
Nick asks, “Why can’t you?” Heath replies, “Not allowed to sir.”
“Not allowed to,” Nick then asks, “Since when?” Heath replies, “Since always.”
“Heath” Nick tells him “You’re in our house; you could sit at this here table anytime.” Heath replies “No sir; can’t do.” Nick asks, “Who said?”
“Always been that way,” Heath answers, “Mustn’t sit at table unless invited to. Without invited must eat here. Not asked to, not told to, not said could, so can’t sir. Unless you rather I eat some other spot or eat some other way or not at all.”
“Who told you that?” Nick wanted to know.
Heath informs him, “I’m a bastard. My kind don’t get to do without one first saying I could sir.”
Getting down on one knee and taking hold of his chin and lifting it up a bit and boring into his eyes Nick asks again, “Heath, who told you that?”
Beginning to tense up and swallowing hard, “Am I bad,” Heath asks, “You gonna give me a licking?”
“A licking” Nick says “No Heath, no. Nothing is gonna happen to you, I promise.”
First looking up at Nick, Heath shifts his gaze to the floor and beginning to pout and sniffle pleads, “Please, I’m sorry; didn’t mean to do it.”
Taking the plate out of his hands as he helps him up on his feet, “Heath,” Nick says, “Come on.”
Asking, “Where to?” Heath continues to tremble and pleads, “Sorry! Didn’t mean to do it, didn’t mean to do it.”
“Heath,” Nick reiterates, “Nothing is gonna happen to you, I assure you,” turning his attention to the cold plate in his hand Nick says, “Heath, this is ice cold. Where did you get this?”
Pointing to the icebox, “In there,” Heath answers “Thought it was okay.”
“Of course its okay,” Nick asks, “But why are you eating this cold?”
“Thought,” Heath replies, “What…supposed to eat.”
“Without it being heated up?” taking hold of his upper arm Nick asks “Without it being warm?” noticing him once again trembling.
“Of course sir,” Heath tells him, “That is what my kind gets.”
“Why didn’t you warm it up for yourself?” Nick wonders.
“Not said could,” Heath answers, “Not do that before.”
“You never eat your meals hot or warm?” Nick asks.
Looking at Nick, “Some I do,” Heath answers.
“How often did that happen?” Nick queries.
Shrugging his shoulders, “Not know,” Heath replies, “When in certain homes. Anytime I finished doing what I was to do, when given something to eat.”
“And,” Nick asks flabbergasted and directly, “You ate a cold meal and sat on the floor to eat it?” Heath replies, “Yes sir, most of time, it’s the way my kind eats.”
“And you’ve always sat on the floor and eaten with your hands?” Nick asks.
“Not all,” Heath answers.
“Was it your mama” Nick asks “Who told you that?” as Heath shakes his head Nick thinks of who would make him do that and coming up with what he thinks is maybe the answer, “Heath,” he asks, “Was it your uncle? Did he tell you that?”
At the mention of his uncle Nick quickly noticed the eye movement from Heath and shifting from looking at Nick to looking down at the floor, Heath begins pouting and swallowing hard again but not saying a word just nods his head.
“Come over to the sink,” Nick tells him assisting him.
“You gonna scold me?” Heath asks trembling.
Answering, “No,” Nick turns on the water telling him, “Wash your hands.”
Placing the plate down on the table Nick watches as Heath washes his hands and adding a little soap powder into them assists him to get them cleaned and wiping whatever spilled onto his pants off. Touching the knees Nick first notices him jerking slightly and secondly catching sight of the little holes on each of the knees with a couple more further down the legs asks “What happened here, Heath?” glancing up at him.
“Fell sir,” Heath answers. Nick says, “Let me take a look okay?”
Replying, “Yes sir,” Heath with his hands still in the water watches as Nick lifts his pant legs up and taking a better look at them says, “You sure did a little number on yourself out there didn’t you?” Heath responds, “Yes um.”
“Got a couple of small scrapes and looks like you skinned both of your knees” Nick tells him “I will take care of that for you” lowering his pant legs back down as he continues wiping his pants off “Heath” he adds “It’s gonna be alright. Trust me I won’t hurt you.”
Placing his hand on Heath’s upper arm Nick noticing him trembling asks “Heath, does that bother you; me touching you like this?” As he looks at him without saying a word Nick informs him “It’s gonna be okay, I’m not gonna do anything to you.”
Still not saying anything but watching Nick who then says “See Heath” turning off the water “That wasn’t so bad.”
As Nick keeps his gaze on Heath who has his brow furrowed in thought while just looking up at him not knowing what to make of him is handed a towel and instructed to dry his hands and then to sit at the table.
As Heath asks, “Where sir,” Nick takes the towel from him answering, “Any place. Just sit.” Selecting the chair at the head of the table “This okay” Heath asks.
“Fine,” Nick then tells him, “Sit.”
Replying “Yes sir” Heath asks as he does as instructed “Am I in trouble?”
“Trouble?” Nick mimics. Heath asks, “Am I gonna be punished?”
“Punished for what?” Nick wanted to know. “To keep me in line” Heath replies.
“Heath” Nick tells him “I am not gonna do anything to you. Let me fix this up for you and get it warmed up and then while you are eating we will do some talking. Okay?”
Replying “Yes sir” Heath keeps his full attention on Nick’s every move who places slices of the roast into a casserole dish, then spoonfuls of potatoes and carrots along side it and after placing the rest aside and putting the dish inside the oven Nick says, “Heath,” taking out two plates, “I thought I’d join you.”
Glancing up at him who keeps his eyes locked onto him, Nick asks, “Is that okay?”
Replying “Yes sir,” Heath watches as he places one plate before him and the other at one of the empty seats closest to him. Nick then says “Now you stay here” placing one foot on the first step and looking back “Be right back. Don’t move!”
Once again responding, “I won’t sir,” Heath watches as Nick ascends the steps but remains in the chair.
Going up the stairs to Jarrod’s room, Nick knocks at the door. Hearing “Yes” coming from Jarrod’s voice Nick replies “It’s me, Jarrod” talking softly “Are you awake?” as he walks in. Replying “Hmm” Nick sees him under the covers with his eyes closed.
“We’ll do this tomorrow,” Nick bidding him goodnight quietly leaves the room, goes into the bathroom where he gets a jar of Old Hickory Black Salve, a washcloth, a roll of bandages, a pair of scissors and then heads back downstairs.
Returning to the kitchen noticing Heath sitting in the chair, “Good, you’re still here,” Nick says, “But then again something inside me told me you would be.”
Placing the items on the counter “Now” Nick then blurts out “Let’s see how this is coming along” and checking on the meal and after testing it feels that it needs to be a little warmer says “Still needs to be in there a little longer” and placing it back inside the oven he goes to grab a small basin from under the sink and filling it with warm water he takes the items from the counter and putting them on the floor he kneels before Heath asking him “Could you turn around here a bit?” talking softly to him.
Replying, “Yes sir,” Heath turns in his seat slightly so that his left knee is facing Nick, “That’s good Heath,” Nick tells him.
“Okay” Nick then says “Let me take care of your legs” and cutting around the hole trying to assess it better but not being able to Nick begins pulling up the pant leg and adjusting them so it stays up starting with the left one “You gonna let me do all the work myself?” he asks of Heath. Not getting any answer Heath just looks at him. Glancing up at him with a raised eyebrow who keeps his full attention on him Nick mumbles “I guess so. It’s okay. I don’t mind.”
Once the pant leg is above his knee, Nick takes the washcloth and after dipping it into the warm water he begins applying it first to the knee, cleaning the blood and any dirt that may have gotten into it. He then moves to each of the other cuts and scrapes he got on the lower area of the leg. Once he’s finished he opens the jar of Hickory black salve and taking a little onto his fingers begins applying it to the affected areas rubbing it gently.
Next, he applies a bandage to each of the cuts on the lower leg. Finishing with his left leg and lowering the pant leg back down; he proceeds to do the same with the right knee. Once he’s done, he says, “There!” to Heath who never takes his eyes off him, “That’ll help it feel better.”
Lowering the right pant leg “It’s okay, Heath” Nick then tells him “We’ll get you another pair and we could have Mother or Silas fix them so that you could wear them in the summer time,” with a smile but watches as Heath remains unemotional and continues keeping his eyes on him at all times.
Getting up, Nick tosses the water basin and the washcloth into the sink and places the jar of black salve on the counter. He then retrieves two sets of silverware from one of the drawers and places one set in front of Heath and the other in front of the other plate for where he’ll be sitting at.
Next he checks on the dinner with him noticing Heath keeping his eyes on his every move. Once it’s warm enough “I think this is good enough” he replies, “Now” as he takes it out and brings it over to the table he fixes the two plates “Let me get us something to drink with that and then we should be all set.”
As he retrieves two glasses and grabs a bottle of grape juice for them to drink he still notices Heath not taking his eyes off of him and then says, “What?”
Swallowing hard, “You’re…you’re,” Heath then brings up, “You’re not gonna hit me? Give me a licking?”
Staring into his eyes “No!” Nick tells him “I just said I wasn’t didn’t I?”
Heath replies, “Yes sir.”
“Well,” Nick informs him, “I meant it. Start eating. It should be warm enough.”
Responding “Yes sir” Heath doing as told is about to eat his dinner with him in the position Nick had him shift to. Noticing “Heath” Nick tells him “You could turn in your seat.”
Replying “Yes sir” again, Heath adjusts his position so that his legs are under the table. Then as he begins eating he slowly moves his fork from the plate to his mouth and back down to the plate again never taking his eyes off of Nick.
Observing in between pouring the drinks “Heath” Nick says “Everything is gonna be just fine. Just relax” putting his hand on his feeling the trembling in them he tries assuring him but Heath continues keeping his eyes on him just the same. Nick decides to let it go for the moment.
Seeing Heath picking up the piece of meat with his fork Nick grabs two steak knives out of the drawer and placing one before him says, “Here, cut that up.”
Replying, “Yes sir,” Heath picks up the knife and begins cutting the piece of meat.