“Table manners, Rabbit!” Carmella roared.
Little Rabbit startled and dropped her bowl, splashing soup all over Crumpet, who opened his mouth to cry but was thumped on the shoulder by Cricket before anything but a squeak escaped. Rabbit looked up the table at Carmella. Her huge brown eyes wide in terror. Her small mouth pinched in alarm.
Carmella threw back her head and guffawed loudly.
“Oh Rabbit, my sweet child, you have so much to learn. You poor gentle thing, I didn’t mean to frighten you! Go, get some more soup, honeychild.” she said in a gentler voice.
Rabbit quivered in her seat. Crumpet giggled and nudged her amiably with a jam covered hand. Rabbit glanced over at Harlen, who nodded, smiling.
Rabbits little hands trembled around her bowl as she pushed her chair back back with her knees. She crossed the wooden floor to the fire, her little bare feet making no noise, and timidly spooned another bowlful of soup for herself out of the huge iron pot hanging over the fire.
Carmella shifted her bulk in her chair and caught Harlen’s eye. She smiled at him and she felt at ease.
These were all their children. Even the ones that she had not given birth to herself, the ones she had rescued. They were all her children. Rabbit was number twelve to join the large family in their huge rambling farmhouse. Carmella never turned anyone away. She would protect them with her life. As would Harlen. Six years they had been together, and she still did not know where he came from. But it did not matter. He loved and watched over her children as if they were his own.
When her husband had died, Carmella was left in their enormous farmhouse with 4 children and a multitude of farm animals. She struggled for nearly 2 years alone. And then one morning, after a terrible storm which had ripped trees down and taken thatch from the roof, Harlen appeared. He smiled at her and took the thatching tools from her hands without a word.
Things had been so much better after that.