Sarah knows that she's blessed. She is well aware of how lucky she is to have a man like Jack in her life. And if sometimes she feels like something is missing, she hides those fears deep in her heart and gives thanks for all that she has: her husband, her children, the roof over her head and good food on the table. These are no small things.
She works, what mother can afford not to? But the washing she takes in is hardly a burden. Not at all like poor Betty Hanson whose little ones run wild in the street while she slaves away in that factory, coming home with chapped hands to a house full of chores and hungry mouths she doesn't know how she'll feed. Sarah works, though Jack had objected loudly, but her days are spent at home and the older boys are such a help. With them to do the carrying of the heavy buckets of water needed to fill the big copper tub and taking turns at the paddle she has plenty of time to tend to the house and still have a little extra each day, a precious hour she uses to teach the little ones their letters.
And if she were fool enough not to realize how easy she has it, her neighbors are always quick to point out the numerous ways in which their lots differ.
"Such a big, bonny lad, that Jack," Tammy from the building across the street had said in that lilting voice of hers. "Such a good provider. Never have to worry about that one drinking up the days wages or losing more then he'll make in a month on one hand of cards."
"Hardly a harsh word from him, is there?" Lizzy, the wife of the brute in the apartment above theirs, had asked, her bright green eyes filled with a longing Sarah was almost embarrassed to be witness to. "I've never heard him raise his voice to you or your young ones. Not even when the two biggest boys broke out old McKee's window and your man had to pay to have it fixed."
Sarah had muttered something in agreement, cheeks flaming as she tried to ignore the yellow and green splotches circling Lizzy's neck like lace on a fine lady's dress.
Jack was good to her. There was no two ways about it. Much better then she would have believed possible. He didn't go round with thugs, like some of the boys he use to befriend, or spend all his free time at the pub or the track. He showered her with gifts. Nothing too fancy, but gifts all the same. Simple things, like the fresh flowers on the table he picked on his way home from work. Or the set of cast iron of pans, bought one at a time and at no small expense, that she hangs proudly in her kitchen. Small things that make her life worth living.
Even her father, who had loved her mother with every breath in his body, had not been as good a husband as Jack was to her.
Yes, she thought, she had it better then she ever dreamed she would. What did it matter if he never said the things she longed to hear? How could such a small thing compare to the life he had given her? He was a man, after all, and she could only expect so much.
And yet, she wondered.
She saw the way his face lit up whenever her brother entered the room. She would have to be blind not to notice the almost too causal way they touched, hands lingering a second too long, as if their simple handshake was the most intimate caress. She watched the way they smiled at each other, as if no one else in the world existed. And how closely they sat, even when the table wasn't crowded, legs brushing against each other as they ate her home cooked meals. Though her mind told her it was nothing, her heart knew better. And in the depths of it she wished he would look at her that way, as if she were the most precious thing in the world.
In her bed at night, with him sleeping soundly beside her, she would wonder why things happened the way that they did. He married her. That ought to mean that he loved her. But sometimes she questioned his motives. Did he love her the way she so blithely believed that he did when she said yes? Or did he love someone else so much that he made her his wife to tie himself to that other person in the only way that he could?
When he held her in his arms she could forget the nagging worries, the endless doubts. In the cover of night she knew he was hers alone. But in the harsh light of day she looked at the facts of her life and she wondered.