Category: Vignette. Pre-series. Mal/OFC (very tame).
Summary: They say love makes you stupid. It sure was true for Mal this time.
Note: Written for the random word prompt of “route.”
Word Count: 650.
Mal slipped in the window and breathed a sigh of relief.
He’d made it clear over to Emma’s and back without being caught.
He slipped out of his boots and trousers and slid under his covers.
As he tried to calm down from his clandestine meeting, he listened hard to the house. He didn’t hear his mother up and about, so he grinned wickedly. He’d truly made it.
He fell asleep a bit later, happy as a clam – or as a teenager who’d gotten away with something, which to his mind was much better than any clam.
In the morning, he made breakfast like usual.
When he sat down at the table with his mom, she smiled sweetly at him.
“You sleep alright?” she asked.
Mal swallowed. Did she know? How could she? He told himself there was no way she could and spoke as calmly as possible.
“Yes’m,” he mumbled, shoving a spoonful of eggs into his mouth.
“That’s good,” said his mother, “ I thought maybe you’d gotten up to check the animals.”
Mal’s brow furrowed. “No, ma’am.”
“Oh, okay. Guess we’ll have to hire a night watchman, then. Because someone was out in the yard last night. Funny thing, though. They seem to have come from over on the Johnson farm.”
Uh-oh, thought Mal.
A gentle smile greeted his question, then his mother explained.
“There’s a set of footprints in the snow coming from that way and leadin’ right up to the house. Odd, that. You sure there’s nothing you want to tell me, Malcolm?”
Mal sighed. The game was up. No sense in denying it now. Mal worked his mouth a few times, then finally managed to get the words out, face red all over.
“I went to see Emma,” he confessed.
“I see,” said his mother, standing and starting to clear the table.
She didn’t say anything else for a while, and Mal stewed, wondering what his fate would be.
Finally, she returned to the table and whispered in his ear.
“That’s natural enough, son, but you be careful. I know you know how things work, and you don’t need none of that trouble. Promise me you’ll be careful.”
Mal nodded, still waiting on his punishment. “I will, mama. I promise.”
“Good. Now, one more thing. No, two things. One, next time you go sneakin’ about, make sure to brush out your footprints, boy. There’s fresh snow on the ground. You’re smarter than that.”
Mal nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
“And two, go clean the pig sty and muck all the stalls. I sent Robert home this morning. I figured he could use the break, what with the new baby and all. And it won’t kill you to do it.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Mal muttered, knowing there was no use in arguing.
“Then do all your regular chores and get back in here in time for supper. And then schoolwork.”
Mal didn’t answer his mother this time, but instead got up and pulled on his coat. It was cold out there, and slopping the hogs and cleaning up after the horses would be miserable work.
But he didn’t mind. Emma’s kisses had made it worth his while.
As he worked, Mal thought about those kisses and when he could get some more of them. He knew he’d have to lay low for a bit, or his mama would tan his hide for sure, especially since she knew about his excursion last night. He couldn’t believe he’d been so stupid as to forget the snow, but he’d been too high on first love to care. He wouldn’t make that mistake again. But he had to see Emma again, and not just in church. So he planned out a new route, thinking of areas with little snow cover, and knowing he’d take his mother’s advice to cover his tracks next time.
And there would definitely be a next time.