Nothing could be more irritating than Cos’s terrible playing. Nothing. No, not even the honking of old lady Gleason’s pet goose was as bad.
Jemma looked at the sky in askance. “Please, Lord, let him learn to play that thing, or for my sanity, let that flute find a home at the bottom of the river!”
A heavy gust of wind was her only reply, rustling her skirts and whipping loose strands of mahogany hair across her heated face. She smiled, smoothing them away and enjoying the brief respite from the languid afternoon heat.
“Jemma! Did you hear? Did you?” Cos sprinted across the partially-tilled field as if he’d won the prize pig at market with his giddy laughter as the applause of the invisible audience.
“Yes, Cos, and I think my head would be much happier for not.”
The words escaped before she could stop them. Blast this heat and her tired, aching muscles. She swatted the handle of the till, not happy with herself for bringing that smile of Cos’s to a rigid halt at half-mast.
“I’m getting better,” he said, his voice stunted and soft as his hand circled the instrument, pulling it close to his chest.
Jemma sighed and took off her glove to rest her hand on his shoulder. Instead, she pulled him into a hug. He was tall enough his head now rested at her shoulder. When had he grown so much? “You’re right. You are getting better. Father would be so proud of you. Now, you run off and keep practicing!” She gave him a slight shove and smiled bright.
He brightened, too, seeming to forget her brief lapse of restraint into honesty. It didn’t matter how much she hated it, that flute was Father’s last gift to him before he passed after a bad fall from the roof last autumn. Winter had been so hard, and the flute had been his only comfort.
Mother couldn’t bring herself to ask him to stop trying to play, and neither could Jemma. She waved him off, his smile now firmly back in place.
He dashed toward the barn.
“Don’t forget to play for Nell! She always gives better milk when you do!”
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