Maura set the warm plate on the table in front of her father and kissed his head. “Your favorite today, Papa. Fried ham and fresh corn. Make sure you eat that banana, too, to counter the salt.”
“The corn isn’t on the cob. I like it on the cob.”
“I know you do, but it hurts your teeth. Remember? This is fresh from the cob. I cut it off. It’s the same corn.”
“It’s not on the cob.”
Maura sighed. “Yes, I know. I’m sorry. But please eat well today. Mrs. Jacobs will be here soon to check on you. I’m off to the home now. I won’t be late.”
“Mrs. Jacobs smells like alcohol. She drinks.” He teased the corn with his fork prongs.
“She doesn’t drink, Papa. She’s a nurse. She uses alcohol to clean the equipment and people’s arms before they get shots. Be nice to her, please. I’ll be back soon.”
“I don’t know why you spend your time at that place. You’ll catch something one of these days and then what’ll I do?”
Maura left him rambling. He would likely go on for the next ten minutes about why she shouldn’t volunteer her time at the women and children’s home. She heard it on a near-daily basis, but it kept her hands and mind occupied. And she loved taking care of the little ones, the infants especially. Someone had to do it. Her father said they got themselves into the mess, they should get themselves out. Maybe it was true. Sometimes. But sometimes it wasn’t their fault. Many were war widows, young war widows left with children. The older women could usually find jobs to pay their own expenses. Those with children weren’t often hired, and if they were, they had nowhere to take the babies while they worked. They did their best. It often wasn’t enough.
Even with those for whom it was out of lack of responsibility, as her father yelled about, it was because they weren’t taught well, so she figured. As she worked with them, Maura tried to help them see how to prevent further hardships for themselves. She wasn’t sure it ever worked.
It got her out of her father’s house, anyway, and gave her a break from the way he consistently asked of Cameron. When he was coming next. When he would propose already as a gentleman should. Maura couldn’t tell him Cameron had proposed. She couldn’t accept. Not now. Not until he came back. She’d seen enough war widows struggle to get by. She had no intention of being one of them.
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