“Robert, are you okay?” she foolishly asked when it was clear that he wasn’t.
He opened his mouth, thought better of it, continued to squeeze his eyes shut and nodded his head as the back of his knuckles turned pale white from the grip that he had on the rickety old bench that seemed to be going out of its way to jostle poor Robert every other second as the stage coach made its way north.
“Are you sure?” she asked quietly as she laid one of her hands over his, nearly yanking it back seconds later when she realized how hot it was.
He felt like he was on fire and judging by the pained expression on his face and the fact that his normally handsome tan face had leeched of color, she didn’t think that it would be too long before the other passengers cowering in the corners away from him would figure out that he was sick and-
“He’s sick! Pull over!” John, a large beefy farmer who’d been staring at her cleavage for the past hour suddenly screeched, emphasizing his panic by pounding one meaty fist against the wall of the coach until the coachman finally had enough and pulled the coach to a stop.
The coach had barely had a chance to come to a complete stop when the five other passengers leapt from the carriage in a desperate attempt to get away from Robert and whatever disease they feared he carried. She opened her mouth to chastise them and tell them that they were acting foolish when Robert mumbled, “Oh, no,” shoved the small door on his side of the carriage open and stumbled out of the carriage where he soon fell to his hands and knees and lost the blueberry turnovers that he’d bought at the Inn while they’d waited for the coach to arrive.
Not knowing what else to do, she followed after Robert and knelt down by his side while he continued to cough and his large body trembled. She put her hand on his back to offer his some comfort and nearly swore when she realized that his jacket was soaked through with sweat and that he was trembling. So, when the coach unceremoniously continued its journey to Boston, she didn’t say anything, because she knew there was nothing that she could say to any of them that would change their minds so she didn’t. She simply knelt by her husband, rubbing his sweat soaked back while the carriage pulled away, rocking noisily while she knelt there, trying to figure out what they should do.
“Kill. Me,” Robert groaned, apparently deciding on a course of action as he shoved himself away from what had once been his breakfast and curled up on the rock infested dirt road, closed his eyes and waited for death to come for him.
Ignoring his plea for a quick death, she contemplated their options as she asked, “What did she make you?”
“Beef stew and some brown bread,” he muttered with a pathetic groan as he curled up into a tighter ball, squeezed his eyes shut tightly as his handsome face took on a rather frightening shade of gray.
“Beef stew?” she asked hollowly, because if there was one thing that everyone in town knew about Mrs. Kinnley, besides the fact that she couldn’t cook to save her life, it was that the only thing that she cooked was mutton and that was only if she could get a good price for it, which meant that she usually waited to buy her meat when it was mere minutes from being thrown away.
“Yeah,” Robert groaned in agreement as he rolled over onto his side with a grunt, dug his fingers into the packed dirt marked by coach wheels, hooves and…
Well, she really didn’t want to think about what else the horses had left behind since her husband was now rolling around in it. Rubbing her hands roughly down her face as she tried not to think of a lot of things, but there was just one thing that she couldn’t let go.
“Robert?” she said, trying to figure out the best way to ask this without getting an answer that would terrify her.
“Hmm?” he managed to ask as he rolled over, groaning loudly and making a big show out of dying.
“You do realize that Mrs. Kinnely only cooks mutton, right?”
“And you know that she only cooks one pot of mutton stew, usually the first of the month and she keeps it until it’s gone,” she slowly reminded him, something that he really should have remembered this morning before he did the unthinkable.
“It’s the twenty-fifth,” she pointed out slowly, waiting for comprehension to hit and when it did, Robert swore, rolled over and-
Made her wince as he finished getting sick and ridding his body of the rest of the “stew” that he’d eaten this morning. Well, at least that explained the green, fuzzy stuff, she thought, turning her head as she felt her stomach threaten to lurch.
“Shit,” he grumbled as he rolled back over, a safe distance away from the mess he’d just made and commenced with mumbling for God to spare him so that his children wouldn’t have to grow up without him and that his wife wouldn’t be forced to go on without him, probably never finding a man half as wonderful as him. She missed most of it, but what she did catch had her rolling her eyes and taking another look around, trying to figure out what she was going to do with him.