I woke up suddenly to my father banging on my door.
“Hey! Ash! Come one, Buttercup’s giving birth! I need your help!”
I sat up, and fumbled around the lamp. “All right! Be there in two minutes!”
Footsteps thundered down the hall and I finally switched the light on. I unlocked my phone and dialed Mae’s number, putting it on speaker phone. I fished around for a shirt and pants suitable enough to be seen in while it rung. Mae answered on the fourth ring.
“Hello?” she sounded sleepy and confused.
“Mae? I need you and your dad. Buttercup is causing a ruckus down in the farm. Dad said she went in labor and I have no idea how far along we are,” I said with urgency. I tugged on my cloth shorts and my tank top.
“Oh. Oh, yes. We’ll be around in a few minutes, okay? Send me your address.”
“Will do. Thanks, Mae.”
I hung up and shot her the address then bounded down the stairs and outside, not bothering with shoes.
“Dad!” I hollered.
He turned to me with worry in his eyes.
“Ash. What are we gonna do? Stanton ain’t here, and we ain’t gonna be much good at this without a doctor.”
“No worries,” I said between huffs of breath. “I talked to Mae. Her daddy is a vet and she said we could call them anytime for the cow. So I did.”
Daddy looked extremely relieved.
“In fact,” I strained my ears. “If you listen over the sound of Buttercup’s groans, that sounds like a car coming down the street now.”
I jogged to the gate, opening it and heading to the driveway. I made it just as Mae and Dr. Proctor jumped out of their truck.
“Mae, Dr. Proctor. Thanks so much for coming at this hour,” I said.
“No worries, Ash. Please, call me James.”
“Yessir. She’s through here if you’d please follow me,” I said and led them through the gate.
“Daddy,” I called out. “Dr. Proctor’s here!”
“Oh thank God. Nice to meet ya sir,” he said, extending his hand for a handshake as we drew closer. “Buttercup’s just over here.” He hopped the fence, Dr. Proctor following suit.
I glanced at Mae, who rubbed her eyes sleepily.
“Wanna follow them or would you rather get a drink and a snack?”
“Mm. Food, please,” she said through a yawn.
“Come on, then. Did you close the gate?”
“Alright, through here then. You can leave your shoes by the door and take a seat at the island,” I instructed as I guided her through the back door.
“Oh, hey baby,” Mama said. She was sat at the table in her white bathrobe, leaning over a cup of coffee.
“Hey, Ma. Did Dad wake you up or was it Buttercup?” I asked.
“A little bit of both,” she shrugged. “’S hard to sleep through her mooing and his ruckus to wake you up, too. And who’s this?” she added, watching Mae sit down silently at the table.
“This is Mae-Ellen Proctor, but she prefers just Mae. Her family just moved here and her and her daddy offered to help with Buttercup since Stanton is out of town. Mae, this is my mama. You can call her Mrs. Lincoln or Lacey, whatever you prefer. We came in to fix us up a snack, and maybe get them something, too.”
Mae waved shyly at my mom.
“Nice to meet ya, doll. Help yourselves to the coffee and whatever you find in here to eat, okay? I’m gonna check on your fathers,” she said and left.
“Want some coffee? And, uh, I got some bagels in here, if that sounds alright?” I rifled through the fridge. “I know we have some Reese’s Puffs, too.”
“Cereal’s good,” Mae said. “And the coffee sounds nice.”
I got to work pouring two cups of coffee and two bowls of cereal. We ate and chatted for a while. We fell asleep on the bar stools, my head on her shoulder jolted awake by our daddy’s coming in the backdoor, my mama following suit. I sat up straight, not giving myself time to be embarrassed about the position they found us in, and glanced at the clock on the oven. 4:30 AM. Almost an hour and a half had passed since they got here.
“Well,” Dr. Proctor said loudly. “You’re now the proud owners of two healthy baby calves. It was a tricky process but everyone came out good and well.”
The adults sat down at the kitchen table and I stood from my seat to serve them some refreshments.
“And Buttercup is good, too?”
“Mhm,” Mama said after a sip of coffee. “Dr. Proctor really knows his stuff. Took good care of ’er.”
“Yup. Thank you,” he added as I handed him his cup of coffee. “And how much do I owe you, James?”
Dr. Proctor accepted the coffee and shook his head at Dad. “You don’t owe me a thing, Hunter.”
“Nonsense!” Dad looked appalled. "Certainly we must give you something! That's an expensive service you've just given us, and at such a late hour. I insist we pay you or something!"
Dr. Proctor chuckled.
"No, really, it's okay. If you truly feel you must do something in return, how about have us over for dinner? It'll be nice to know our new neighbors. We live just a few houses down the road. And my wife Priscilla was concerned about making friends so it'll be good for her."
Mama's eyes widened at the sound of Mrs. Proctor's name.
"Priscilla Proctor? The Priscilla Proctor? In my house? Oh, I'm all of a dither! Of course, we'd be delighted! How about this Saturday? Y'all can come 'round 6 for supper."
"It's settled then! We'll see you Saturday at 6!" Dr. Proctor smiled. "Well, we must be going. It was a pleasure to meet you all."
Mama and Daddy spoke a little more with him while I turned to Mae.
"See you at school?"
"See you at school," she confirmed. Dr. Proctor called her and they both left.
I face my mama, a smirk on my face.
"Really? I didn't know you were so obsessed with Mrs. Proctor, Ma. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were in love," I drawled out teasingly.
Mama threw me a glare, then fixed herself another cup of coffee. My mother had always loved fashion. It was like her guilty pleasure. Of course, everyone knew she positively adored Priscilla Proctor's designs. She'd been dying to get her hands on some of her clothes since before I was born. Meeting her would be a dream come true.
"You hush up and get ready for school. You can just come home and take a nap, all right? Daddy and I will take care of the farm soon as you leave then probably take a nap ourselves."
"Yes ma'am," I yawned and saluted her. I trudged backup stairs to get dressed. I was surprised to see Hailey waiting in the drive way for me. As soon as I stepped in the car, she bombarded me with questions about 'the new girl.'
"Yes, I've met her. Her name's Mae. Can we do this later? I just wanna get through school, I'm exhausted."
Hailey quit bugging me but by the way her fingers were tapping on the wheel, I knew she wasn't satisfied.
"You can ask her yourself. Or I'll tell you all about her tomorrow after school. I'm taking a nap," I explained and turned over, resting my head on the window as she pulled out of my driveway.
I couldn't wait for school to be over.