2022 Writing Contest

4 It wasn’t until much later in the day that Esther realized that Michael and Daniel had deliberately given her the larger portions of the meals. They ate very little and drank only water. More and more, Esther really wanted to learn more about these two men. But how could she? She had promised to trust them. And they moved so quietly and quickly and always seemed to have exactly what was needed at any time. She wasn’t sure she really believed Michael and Daniel’s comments about packing things well. But what was the truth then? Too much swirled in her head. Esther decided to take a look at the little, impromptu, garden on the side of her house. She hadn’t seen Michael or Daniel since dinner. It would soon be dark and she was a little worried. Not so much for herself, but for Michael and Daniel. In spite of, their assurances that they could take care of themselves, they just seemed too kind and too caring to deal with the people they might have to. Rounding the corner of her cabin, Esther was surprised at the size of the “little” garden. It was only slightly smaller than her original field. She could see corn shoots and potato mounds, tomato seedlings and other starts that she couldn’t recognize yet. If only she had a few chickens and maybe a goat or two she would be set for winter. If the plants survived to be harvested. She sighed, the nights were getting colder and the wind had a bite to it, when it blew out of the north. At least the days were sunny and warm. She paused for a moment, bowed her head and whispered, “Please, God, let me keep this harvest. I need it so desperately.” Esther looked around, where were those two men? She had been standing and staring at her garden for 10 or 15 minutes and neither one had shown themselves. She worried that they might have left, or maybe something had happened to them. Should she try to find them herself? Almost before she finished her thoughts, Michael came walking from the back of the house. “Good evening, Esther. Do you like our little garden?” “This may be a little garden to you, but to me, all of this,” she gestured over the whole garden with a small smile, ” will keep me fed all winter.” The smile disappeared from her face, “If it survives to be harvested.” Michael smiled a little sadly at her. “Haven’t we told you this crop will succeed and you will have enough to make it through winter?” Esther looked at him, wanting so much to believe him, but knowing how quickly winter can sneak up on you, she hesitated. Before she could speak, there was the sound of walking on the porch. She turned and saw Daniel standing there. He had a faint smile on his face but it was a harder, slightly frightening smile. Esther spoke to Daniel, “I suppose you will walk the perimeter tonight? I feel like I’m living in a war zone or something. There’s no one around here for miles.” Daniel shook his head. “You are wrong. There is a neighbor about a mile and a half to the east. From the looks of things, this person is relatively newly settled there.” As Daniel was speaking, a strange, almost frightening look passed over his face. It was gone so fast Esther wasn’t sure she has seen the look. Michael spoke up, “No, it’s my turn to patrol. Daniel will stay here tonight.”