She led the way through a big kitchen into a room that barely had space for the cot. It didn't have a window, but that was all right with Adria. Maybe that would keep the bad air from finding its way inside here.
Louis placed Adria on the cot after Matilda pulled back the cover. "What about Florella? Wasn't she in here?"
"She done got better enough that she went on back to see how her folks was doing." Matilda lifted up Adria's head to let her sip some water. "What about this one's folks? You bringing more of them here?"
Louis shook his head. "I got to head back there to take care of them."
Adria spoke up. "They've gone to glory."
Matilda's lips gentled into a sad smile. "Well, now that's a right good place to go when a body's time comes."
"I don't want to go yet," Adria said.
The woman nodded. "Ain't no need in hurryin' the trip."
"That's for sure." Louis smiled down at Adria. "This little missy says her name is Adria."
"Adria. Well, ain't that got a pretty sound?" Matilda pushed Adria's hair back from her face.
"I'd best be about what needs doin'. An'thing you need 'fore I go, Matilda? Do I need to see to them up the stairs?"
"They're all 'bout the same except Mr. Harrod. He's took a turn for the worse. Wouldn't even try to sip the water I give him." Matilda put the glass to Adria's lips again.
Adria held the water in her mouth for a few seconds before she swallowed. She didn't get sick.
Louis sighed. "I'll give him a look when I get back." The big man leaned over Adria. "I'll see you later, missy. You'll be fine with Aunt Tilda here. Like I tol' you. She's got healin' hands."
After Louis left, Matilda brought a pan of water and sat on a stool beside the cot to wash Adria like her mother did Eddie. Adria started to tell her she could do that herself, but she wasn't sure she could. Besides, she liked letting the woman take care of her. She didn't have to think. She just had to lie there and do whatever she said. Turn this way. Hold up her hand. Sip this water. Suck on this bit of ginger candy.
Matilda talked the whole time. Words upon words. Some of them sounded like they might be out of the Bible and then sometimes she sang a few words. Her voice wasn't pretty. Not like Adria's mother's voice when she sang while she worked in the kitchen. But there was a comfort to the sound, and while the old woman was washing her toes, Adria fell asleep. She knew she hadn't slipped off to glory because there in her dream Matilda's voice went on and on. It didn't sound a bit like an angel.
When Adria woke up, she didn't know what time of day it was. Without a window, it was hard to tell. A lamp burned on the table by the bed and the door was open into the kitchen. The kitchen had windows, but Adria couldn't see them from the cot. She thought about getting up, but her legs felt good there under the warm cover. She wasn't shaking any longer and her stomach wasn't hurting. Her heart still felt funny, but that might be because she wanted her mama and not have anything to do with the cholera.
Something was on the pillow beside her. Something soft. She sneaked a hand out from under the cover to pick it up. Callie. The doll her mother made for her. She had black yarn pigtails and light brown buttons for eyes. To match Adria's brown eyes and dark hair. The doll's dress was yellow, and Adria had a dress just the same until she got too big for it. Adria hugged the doll close and squeezed her eyes shut. A couple of tears slid out and down her cheeks anyway.
Voices drifted back to her from the kitchen. Matilda and Louis. Adria opened her eyes and shifted a little on her pillow until she could see Louis sitting at the table, his arms hanging down beside him. Her daddy looked like that sometimes when he came home from working at the sawmill. He said he had to rest up some before he could pick up a fork to eat.
"You looking worn to a frazzle, Louis." Matilda sat a bowl in front of the man. "Eat some of this stew. You got to keep your strength up."
When he didn't move, she went on. "You ain't getting sick, is you?"
He shook his head slowly. "No'm. But there's times I can't help but wonder if them that are laying out there on Cemetery Hill ain't the lucky ones."
"It's a sorrow burying all them folks. A burden on you." Matilda put her hand on the man's shoulder for a few seconds. "Digging all them graves. How many now?"
"Forty-eight counting this new one." He looked over his shoulder toward the little room where Adria lay, but she shut her eyes quick so he'd think she was sleeping. When she opened them again, he was staring down at the bowl in front of him on the table.
Adria couldn't see Matilda now, but she could hear pans clanking.