She could feel winter sitting on her back, resting it’s weight between her shoulder blades and reminding her of the burden she was carrying. It was hard to stay motivated after spending the last 3 months hunching her back while pumping gas for her uncle’s petro station. No one wanted self-serve, it was too cold to get out of their trucks.
The thick wool scarf that her Aunt Daisy knit to help keep Kate warm did it’s best to ease the burn of the minus forty degree weather but the days on end of wrapping it around her face wore away at its thick mane of protection.
Kate pushed her shoulders towards her ears one more time in hopes that the scarf would cover her nose and rescue it from completely falling off. The winter had made her look like a circus performer in full makeup, red in the spots that stood out and white on the parts that got covered. Her beautiful west coast skin was burning from the east coast winter that just would not quit.
“Fill her up buddy.”
If she heard one more person call her buddy she thought she might explode. Inside the big blue down stuffed jacket her feminine parts got lost. In a way she enjoyed the anonymity, but deep down losing herself inside her winter coat was becoming far too comfortable and she was beginning to fear its soul clenching arms.
Before she made the move to Labrador her only knowledge of its existence was from a picture on a map at her school. It was not until her mother passed away and social services told her she would be moving east with her only living relative that she got to know the rocky province almost by heart.
Kate’s first day on the Labrador was one of the few balmy days that the north won. To a first timer there could be no better place on earth. Its lush colours from the evergreens made Kate feel like she was someplace foreign but it’s beauty spoke to her in a way that made her feel like she was part of the earth herself. Like she belonged even if she “came from away,” as the others would say about Kate.
Her mother’s great aunt, Daisy Pike, was a women who never had any children of her own and saw Kate’s arrival as God’s blessing. Her husband Roland always wanted a boy and Kate would have to do even if he shrugged his shoulders at the thought of having another female around. Daisy was the master of the house while Roland was the master of his garage. What Daisy said while she was inside her four walls would have to be even if her husband didn’t like it. As long as he had his petro station he was content to let her rule the roost.
The rules around the Pike house were indeed not that hard to follow but they were different from most around the coast. Daisy was a deeply religious women, no scissors on Sunday and no booze or cigarettes ever. Kate had never even known what rules were until she moved in with the Pike’s but she welcomed Daisy’s deep devotion to God and the stability of having a home that never changed. She missed her mother and the west coast weather but she loved not having to watch her mom binge on the drug of the day or the man the hour for that matter.
Kate had no idea what a home cooked meal looked or tasted like until she showed up on Daisy’s doorstep. Kate was nine when her mother died from an overdose but Kate only looked about half her age as her tiny frame spoke volumes about her life up until finding the Pike’s.
“Well mother of God what have you brought to me today?”
Daisy asked for guidance as Kate’s big brown eyes looked up at her for hope on that first day. After Daisy took a deep breath and held back the tears that were mixed with several emotions she brought Kate to her room and showed her where she could keep her things. When Kate looked back up at her holding only a 7-11 grocery bag Daisy knew she had a lot of catching up to do with her little niece. Daisy had no idea that the child’s life had been like something from a Dickens novel.
“Well then my girl, we are just going to have to go the Sally Ann and find you some decent things to wear. Maybe we could even find you a book or two as well. I use to be a school teacher you know.”
Daisy’s pride in her profession sparked something inside of Kate that first day on the Labrador. Daisy had an air of calm about her that transferred itself onto Kate almost in an instant. With her troubled brown eyes and her crumpled grocery bag Kate instinctively knew her life would be changing for the better.
Kate never spoke much in the beginning, her emotions were still locked up inside her leaving Daisy to guess at what her needs were. At first Daisy thought that Kate was mute and left her alone until she was ready to break from her shell. Hearing the sound of her own voice all day long made Daisy tired but she would not give up on God’s blessing, how could she, it was His will. Daisy couldn’t wait for each and every Sunday to come so that she could take Kate with her hoping for a miracle to occur at her little church in the cove.
Roland always tinkered in his garage on Sunday, he had no time for church going but he didn’t dispute the matter with his wife as long as she didn’t in turn urge him on to accompany her. He promised to keep the shop closed as long as she was ok with him working there on his own. It was their funny way of reaching a compromise. It was also the day of the week that he felt most alone in the world with only the comfort of the pit to make him feel whole again.
The pit, as Roland called it was the big hole in the middle of his garage where the magic happened. At least a dozen cars and or trucks drove over that pit a week to be worked on by the great hands of Mr. Pike. God blessed Roland with the ability to navigate an engine like a brain surgeon would a patient. The thing about Roland’s hands that boggled the mind of most of his customers was the fact that they were the size of large bolder’s and as tough as flint. No one dared to cross Mr. Pike when he had a point to be made, they feared his hands like they would God’s wrath-never knowing what they were capable of.
When Kate came to the house she didn’t fear Robert like most did upon meeting him. When she saw the size of his big hands she was intrigued by them, longing to have them pick her up. Her big brown eyes had a way of pulling him in even when he didn’t want them to. On that first day, standing in her oversized clothes Robert found it hard to turn her away. Her hair was cut short and in a lot of ways she resembled the features of a small boy and that to Robert made her more endearing to him.
Kate held up her crumpled grocery bag and handed it to Roland and without saying a word he knew that she wanted him to look inside. As Mr. Pike fumbled with the handles trying to open it, the weight of the bag took him off guard. Inside, was a dirty stuffed puppy that had for sure seen better days and in under the puppy a metal object peered out that put a half-smile on Robert’s face causing Daisy to inquire about the contents. It must have been something good to put a smile on her husbands rugged face she thought, “What is it Rol?”
End of Part One