The sun rosé over the mountains as the new day had began, with a new change in the air. For hope was on the horizon as rooster c**k doodle do. The Downing Farm springs to life.
“Well good morning sleepy head.” Grandma said as she looked down at EJ as she washed his forehead and looked into his face and noticed he was beginning to stir and awake.
“Grrrraaandddmmma isss thaat yyyou?” he asked.
“Yes EJ, it’s me. Try not to move around so much yet son. Let’s get you a little bit more awake first ok.” Grandma shook Danny, “Danny wake up son, wake up Danny, EJ’s wakening up,” she said.
That did it. Danny opened his eyes with a flash, “EJ! EJ! ” Martha and Wayne jumped right out of bed, running as fast as they could, looked at grandma, then at Danny bouncing on the bed. “EJ! EJ! EJ's awake!” he said.
EJ stirred a little bit more and tried to talk, but he was hoarse and the pain had settled in and he felt stiffer than aboard.
“Grandma?” EJ asked.
“Yes son?” Sat next too him on the bed as she took her right hand and moved the strands of hair from his eyes so he could see her better.
“Is that really you?” He asked again as if he was dreaming.
“Yes, EJ it is.”
EJ, tried to look around the room, but everything was still fuzzy and pain complicated things.
“Where am I? It hurts really bad?” He said.
“I know son… you are safe. I'll get you something for the pain, just rest now,” she said.
EJ could not rest yet, he had to know. “Grandma?” he asked again.
“Where's Danny?” He asked thinking he might have heard him, but wasn’t sure.
“Danny is right here son! Grandma said as she placed Danny’s hand in his. “Can you feel that EJ?” She asked.
EJ nodded yes. “Good now stay here and let me get you something for that pain ok.” She said and turned to ask Martha, instead she finds Wayne, standing in the doorway “where did Martha go?” She asked.
“To go get some pain medicine and I am to guard the door to make sure he doesn't leave, she told me not too move and I am not moving,” he said.
Grandma seeing how serious he was, all she could do was laugh. “Then I wouldn't move then,” she replied.
“What’s all the ruckus about Pa?” Will said seeing Pa standing there in his PJ's in EJ’s doorway.
“Oh nothen much,” Pa answered back then looked at Will, “EJ's awake that's all.” He said in a causal voice.
“What? EJ's awake really?” He asked.
“Yep.” Pa said as if wasn’t news at all.
“YAH, HOO!” Will started pounding on the bedroom doors. Will, yelling for all he’s worth “HE’S AWAKE! HE’S AWAKE!” Everyone started jumping out bed faster than hotcakes on hot griddle. Wayne looked over at Grandma. “Well so much for thinking we were going to have quiet day here at the Farm.” Grandma and Wayne started laughing to beat all.
“Did someone call for some pain medicine? I put a little broth in to give it some flavor and cut back on the sleeping aid, but enough to make it comfortable so we can clear his little mind a bit,” she said.
“EJ this Martha Downing, she’s been taking care of you. Now this is going to hurt so we are going to sit you up a little so you drink this ok. So on the count of three. One two and three now,” EJ groans as they sat him up. Grand placed some pillows behind him and tucked the blankets around him.
I know it hurts, ok go ahead drink it all down. All right that's better. Give it few a minutes to work ok. Now let your Grandma get dressed. I want you to stay put in that bed. Can you do that? Just nod.” EJ nodded his head yes. “I mean it stay there. Danny, stay right there,” she said grubbing a fresh change of clothing from her saddle bag and a blouse from the closet wishing she had the time to take a hot iron over it. Well maybe later.
“Well, Martha, I think we can take a deep breath for the moment so let's get dressed while this boy clears his head. Danny will guard him like a hawk won't you son?” Then turned to Danny” You won't let your brother out of your sight, right?” she asked standing next to Wayne as he stands aside to let her through the door..
“No way Grandma.” He replied still holding EJ’s hand, making it his personal mission to watch him.
Wayne chuckled. “The best guard dog in town is his own little brother.”
EJ felt some relief knowing that his grandmother is nearby and his little brother Danny is with him, a feeling of calm falls over him. Still unaware as to where he was did not seem all that import as long he had reached his main goals. One: Finding his grandmother and Second: He could feel Danny's hand in his. That was all that seemed important at the moment. Now he could he work towards the third goal. Safety… and he knew his Grandma might be able too help him or give him the solution. EJ waited for the drugs to work and his mind to clear; he could feel some of the fuzziness leaving his body.
“EJ, EJ son how are you doing?” Grandma asked. EJ opened his eyes and tried to focus. The brightness in the room hurt his eyes. His grandmother draws the curtains a little bit trying to darken the room so his eyes could adjust. “How's that? Now can you see me?” she asked.
Still hoarse she bends down so she can hear him. “Yes Grandma,” he whispered.
“Good son. You've been out for a few days and I don't want you to strain your voice so I brought you a notepad and a pencil, so you can ask us questions ok,” EJ nodded yes.
“Good,” she said. “Now then I already know pretty much what's been going on.” EJ gave her a surprised look, that how do you know look. “By the look on your face I see you didn't think I would find out did you?” EJ shook his head no. “Well I may not know the story behind it all, which you are going tell me, but I do know who and mostly the how and where it happened and the from and I have seen all the damage for myself?”
“Oh yes EJ. I know the whole thing and done some of the patchwork myself and, so has Mrs. Downing twice now son. So there's nothing you can hide from your Grandma. Now then let me put your mind at ease.” Then she put her finger to her lips “Shush now,” and then kissed his forehead.
In her calm grandmothers’ voice as she sat on the bed next too him taking him all in with a sigh of relief. “You are going nowhere. That's it… you are safe. Danny is safe, you are safe, everyone is safe. Grandma has taken care of it all EJ. Do understand what I’m saying so far yes or no?” She said as she waited for the answer.
“Yes,” he whispered.
“Good. Just wait don't be in such a hurry. Alright ask your question.” as she kissed him on the forehead and rubbed his head.
He writes. “When you mean safe? Where I am Grandma?”
“You are on the Downing Farm. You are going to be in their care and nobody else's.”
“What about Danny?” EJ asked as he writes on his tablet.
“Danny's going to be in my care and before you ask about your sisters, they are in my sister's care. Peggy is with aunt Lizy and Dona is with Mary.” Seeing his impatient she just waited for him and sat on the bed bedside him.
“For how long?” EJ asked in the strongest whisper he could muster.
“That part has not been decided yet. It really depends mostly on your parents, if they can care for them or not depends on them. Now as for you dear boy,” she looked him straight in the eye as she lifted his chin. “I'll make you a promise EJ, because you got the worst end of the stick. If you decide that you never want to go back. I will understand son and I can live with that and love you just as much. Nothing will ever change that. I will leave that decisions up to you to make son and I will not have any regrets if you choose to stay here or return home or go somewhere else. But I think you won't find a better family. So give them a chance so, for now just get well. I'll do what ever I can,” she said.
Standing up getting ready to leave she gave a quick wink. “As for as the Downing's go they’re a good family. You couldn't have tried to steal a pair of better sheets, you silly, stubborn boy. What on earth were you thinking?” Then rubbed his hair, “you could have just called me you know. You scarred the living daylights out me. Now give your Grandma a kiss and hug it the least you can do for now.” EJ smiled, trying to give her a big hug, but only managed a kiss on the cheek.
“Now get some rest. I need to get your brother dressed and for heavens sake stay in that bed. But first I want you to write a letter stating… I EJ am not going to get out of this bed and I am going too mind his Grandma...write boy come on, that's better.... mind his Grandma and Mrs. and Mr. Downing I promise.” EJ smiled as she examined the little note she made him write. “Ok that's a good boy. Now she’s going to be checking on you in a little while and bring you in some breakfast. Now back to sleep and don't worry, I’m not going anywhere. I will be here for a couple of days at least. Then we will visit often after that.
“Come on Danny, let your brother rest now, we need to get you dressed and down to breakfast, you have a farm to see,” she said.
“Yes Grandma.” he said.
EJ whispered “bye.”
“EJ, stay put!” Danny says turning around. EJ watched his Grandma and his brother leave then closed his eyes and falls back into a soft sleep.
“Martha, I have a present for you and the Downing family. A signed note from EJ, you can frame if you want too,” she said as she reads it.
“Well that makes me feel a whole a lot better,” Martha said as she laughed then tacks it on the wall, “look Wayne, our first promise,” she said.
“Heck, I would of settled for handshake and called it good,” he replied.
“Well, still not to late,” she said as they both laugh.
“No. This will be just fine. You are right. I should frame it right above his door,” he said.
Wayne rubbed his chin for a minute as an idea formed in his mind. Then taking down the note he sat down at the breakfast table. Martha and Grandma looked at him with a puzzled look. Martha about to ask and he just raised his hand to holder her off for a minute.
“If everyone would please be seated,” Pa asked. “Ok everyone,” as Pa clears his voice. “My Martha this looks good. Now then, it has come to my attention,” as he smiled at Grandma. “That EJ has written us a Promise note.” Pa passed it round the table so they could all read it. I have an idea we should take this promise note and turn into something else,” he said.
“Pa, what do you have in mind?” Julie asked Passing down the eggs and beacon down the table and buttering her toast with homemade apple butter.
“Well Julie, if you would wait just a minute, I'll get to it,” he said taking the plate of eggs and beacon adding to his plate.
“I think it is only fair that we Downing's here also give him a promise in return.” The breakfast table was all a buzz as they whispered back and forth.
“I think that's a wonderful idea,” Martha tried to shout over the noise.
Pa tries to bring the excited children back into order. “A Humm,” clicking the orange juice glass with his knife. “So I was thinking that each of us should come up with a simple promise of our own and write it down.” Then he looked right at Robert, “Robert?”
“Could you make us a wood frame to put the note in? We'll hang it in his room to remind him, and to remind us, how much we care about him,” he asked.
Martha, Grandma, wiping tears from their eyes, got up from where they were sitting and went over to Pa and gave him and the each of the children a hug and kiss then went back to their seats and dried their eyes. Pa looked up at them. “It was just an idea now,” he said.
“Yes Wayne, but it was the best idea I have ever heard and we thank you. Now your breakfast is getting cold, I am sure EJ's hungry.” Martha replied as she dried her eyes.
“Pa?” Will asked.
“I have just the name we should call it,” he said buttering his toast and taking a sip of his orange juice.
“And what's that?” He asked chewing between mouth fulls.
“EJ and Downing Declaration of Promise.”
“Will, I could not think of a better name. All in favor?” Everyone raised their hands. “Then after breakfast we will draw one up.”
Ma smiling, “that's a great idea Pa, but let’s keep it a secret and surprise EJ with it later.” Everyone had grins on their faces as they looked over at Danny.
“That includes you Danny boy, you can't tell your brother alright.” Pa said.
Danny gives him a little boyish grin. “Ok.”
“Pa?” Will asked.
“I'll take Danny out to see the farm so there's no way he can tell his brother, just to be safe,” he said chewing with his mouth full.
“Now that’s a good idea,” Pa laughing. “Danny would you like too help Will, with his chores today?” Pa asked sipping his orange juice and giving Danny another helping of eggs and beacon.
“Yes Sir!” Danny said with full of excitement his eyes big as basketballs.
“Then finish your breakfast Danny,” as he rubbed his hair, while everyone around the table seeing Danny's excitement and laughed.
Finishing their breakfast, they cleared the table while Grandma and Martha put together EJ's' breakfast. The children remained at the table with paper and pencil to write their promise for EJ.
“Good morning EJ,” EJ slowly opened his eyes “I am Mrs. Downing. You can call me Ma Downing or Mrs. Downing or just plain Ma. What ever you feel comfortable with son. I am sure you’re hungry dear, so I brought you your breakfast,” she said as she set it on the nearby table. Now then let’s see if we can sit you up a little bit more in that bed,” she said.
Ma grabbed additional pillows, placing them behind his back and helped him scoot up in bed, then placed the tray across his lap… “Well now? That’s better,” as Grandma comes around to the other side of the bed and looked at EJ then he smiled at her. “Martha, I think looking at some those bandages we should change them,” she said.
EJ, looked down at where she was looking, seeing that some to had come a little unraveled and feeling embarrassed pulled the sheets tightly around him and turning a little red because he realized other than the bandages he doesn't have a stitch on besides the bandages. Martha seeing this understands. “EJ just finish your breakfast son, we’ll worry about that later,” and tucked the sheets around his waist. “Just so you know EJ. I have three boys of my own now, 4 counting you and a husband. Plus two girls in the family so you can put your mind at rest son. We will figure something out.” Then bends down placed a kiss on his forehead and helped him cut up his meat.
EJ was shocked by the affection that she gave him as he watched her and his grandma fuse over him. His nerves where frazzled he felt the walls closing in on his as if the distance he could still see and hear the belt snapping in the air. “I must get away the voice in his head screamed and then calmed as he looked deep into grandma’s eyes. The question is can she trust her? And am I truly safe here?”
His Grandma smiled at him. “Now I want you to eat every last bite EJ,” then she wiped his chin. “Now then, we want you to rest awhile after you drink this broth it will help with the pain. Then we will help ease you back down into bed .Ok EJ?” EJ nodded yes they removed the pillows from behind and the tray and lowered him back down and placed the covers back over his shoulders then each gave him a kiss on the cheek and begin to leave the room so he can rest. “We will be back to check in on you in while son.” Grandma said walking out the door where the rest of the children are sitting at the table.
“Ok children, time to get the morning chores done,” Ma said setting down EJ’s tray on the counter.
“So Danny, are you ready to go with Will?” Grandma asked.
“Yes Grandma,” Danny replied starting to head out the door, bouncing up down with excitement.
“Danny, aren't you forgetting something?” She asked looking down at his bare feet.
“What Grandma?” He asked.
“Your shoes,” she said.
“Oh Grandma,” he replied he hated wearing shoes they always felt to small for him and slowed him down.
Martha laughed.” Oh he'll be fine, I can't keep them on Sam either half the time,” and then looked over at Will. “Come to think of it, Will stills has the same problem, oh let him go, he'll be fine,” she said.
Grandma sighed. “Alright, go on then and have a goodtime, but first come give me a hug.”
Danny ran up to her and gave her the biggest bear hug he could give, “thank you Grandma.”
“Now shoo,” and pushed him towards Will and Danny waved her goodbye.
“Robert?” Pa asked.
“Will you take care of the horses today and put them in the northern pasture.” Putting down his newspaper as he turned the page.