I MET HIM my first day working at Baylor Manor.
It was my first time going to work in service, and though I tried to be brave, I was mostly nervous. As the wagon came to a halt, I breathed deep and reminded myself that I was a whole ten years old and I could do this. My brother Gavin jumped down before reaching up to retrieve me from the bench.
He set me on the ground, then bent to straighten my shawl and gave me a smile to encourage my own bravery. “Let’s go in the kitchen and find the house mistress, shall we?” Despite his smile, his eyes were sad. He’d looked that way a lot lately, ever since he was dismissed from his duties in the palace gardens. I knew he felt guilty that I had to work, but his lost wages had been significant and I was the only one in the family that didn’t already work. He had tried to find another position, but most people knew that it was the king himself who had dismissed him, and that had left a mark on his character. He assisted my father in his woodshop, but his presence only relieved my father of some of the burden of work; it didn’t create any extra income.
I gave a little nod and forced a smile, determined not to pout. I was already looking forward to the end of the day when Gavin could come back and take me home, but I didn’t want him to feel bad. He took my hand and I clung to it even though I was too old for such things. It was time for me to show that I was grown up and didn’t need to be babied. A difficult task, since I was small for my age and my wild curly hair made me look even younger. Still, I squared my shoulders and tried to walk like I wasn’t afraid.
As we turned toward the back of the manor, the stable doors burst open and out tumbled four boys, all about my age or a bit older.
I retreated, hiding behind Gavin’s arm.
After a moment of tussling, one boy with dirty blonde hair and big front teeth noticed me. “Is that the new kitchen maid?” he asked his friends.
Four pairs of eyes turned to me and I scooted a little farther behind Gavin. I had been hoping no one would take notice of me. If they teased me, it would be difficult to hold my tongue. Mother always said I had too much sass for my own good.
A different boy smacked his friend’s shoulder. “She’s a girl. Be polite,” he admonished before giving me a wide grin and bowing at the waist.
I blushed and looked away. How very strange to have a boy bow to me. Even stranger was that his friends did the same, though none of them were as practiced as he was.
“Welcome to Baylor Manor,” he said.
“Would you point us to the kitchen, lad?” Gavin asked.
“This way,” the polite one said, which prompted all four to run off toward the house. Gavin squeezed my hand and I looked up at him. “They seem friendly enough,” he observed.
I sighed, certain that their polite greeting had been teasing more than anything, but I followed along in silence.
When we stepped inside the kitchen, a woman with a tidy bun and a starched apron was shooing the stable lads back outside. They rushed past, several clutching a biscuit or two. Then she spotted me. “Ah, there you are,” she said briskly. “Say farewell to your brother and we’ll get to work.” She turned without another word.
I took a deep breath, put on a brave smile and waved to Gavin.
“I’ll see you at the end of the day,” he said as I followed after the house mistress. She introduced me to the kitchen staff and gave me my duties, which were simple and straightforward. Mama had put me to work in her kitchen often enough that scrubbing a pot and tending a fire were nothing new. Though our pots were not so big, nor were our fireplaces.
I settled into my work over the next few days, and though I missed being able to run out and play, or visit with my goat, the cooks were kind and I was content to do my work in silence.
The stable lads were often about when I would come and go. Sometimes I would only see a couple, while other times as many as five would be about, usually working at their duties, though once in a while I’d catch them wrestling in the straw. However, the polite young lad that had bowed to me seemed to have disappeared.
A week after starting my duties at Baylor manor, the cook informed me that since I had become familiar with the house, I would be in charge of bringing young Master Rylander his afternoon tea in the school room each day.
Admittedly, this duty made me more nervous than any of my others. In the kitchens, all I needed to do was be quiet and get my work done. Now I would have to wander through the house, possibly passing by the Lord and Lady that lived here. I reminded myself that I was lucky to be serving tea to Rylander, the younger brother, instead of the elder brother, Welsley Baylor, who I had heard tell was a difficult kind of person. My many arguments with my brother Fynn had taught me that I wasn’t very patient with difficult people.
However, I was determined to make Mama and Papa proud, so I retied my kerchief over my frizzy curls and tried to hold my back straight as I carried the tray up the back stairs. The upper corridor was empty and I made it to the school room without passing by anyone at all.
Luckily, the door was open and I was able to slip in without having to set the tray on the floor or risk balancing it on one hand. The last thing I wanted was to embarrass myself by being clumsy.
Still, I nearly dropped it when I saw the boy sitting at the desk. I recognized him right away; a lad who made a habit of bowing to kitchen maids was bound to make an impression. Apparently young Rylander made a habit of running about with the stable lads even though he was part of a noble family. Not that I blamed him. Playing in the stables certainly looked like more fun than sitting alone in this big room, reading big books from his seat on a big chair.
I reminded myself not to stare as I moved my feet forward and slid the tray onto the corner of the desk. He finally noticed my presence and glanced up with a startled expression that was followed almost immediately by a grin that made his pale blue eyes seem a little bit sparkly.
“Well, hello there.” He stood and stepped to the side of his chair before bowing.
My cheeks grew hot. “You don’t need to bow to me.”
“My mother says I should bow to all ladies, young and old.”
“You know I’m not a lady.”
He shrugged. “But you’re a girl. And I think she meant all girls, not only the noble ones.”
“Oh.” I doubted that was what his mother meant, but I didn’t want to contradict him, either.
He grabbed a cookie from the tray and bit into it. “Hm. Betsy must’ve made these. They’re better than yesterday.” He grabbed another from the plate and held it out. “Fancy one?”
“Um, no thank you.”
He held it out further. “Go on. I can’t eat them all myself.”
He seemed to mean it, and I had been admiring those particular cookies all morning. “Thank you,” I said, and took it carefully from his hand, remembering to curtsey as I did. Then I took a little nibble of it and felt my eyes widen at the lovely taste.
“See? They’re always better when Betsy makes them.”
I simply nodded and took another bite. It tasted like ginger and had a little bit of sugar on top. My family rarely bought sugar.
I dawdled longer than I should have, but Rylander ate his cookies and drank his tea, seeming not at all concerned that I lingered over the treat he’d offered. I wanted to finish it before I went into the hallway. Otherwise someone might think I’d snitched it from the kitchen. After I’d swallowed the last bite, I brushed at my mouth and my dress before thanking him again and excusing myself. He gave me a big smile and a wave as I left. Such an odd young noble.
When I returned the next day, he again offered to share his sweets with me. As I nibbled on the corner of a biscuit, he asked my name. Somehow this surprised me even more than his bowing or offering me a taste of his food.
I swallowed and answered, “Kinley.”
“Kinley what?” he asked as he leaned his elbows on the desk.
He smiled. “Well met, Kinley. You can call me Rylan.”
“Very well,” I said, though I knew I wouldn’t. That would be far too presumptuous. I curtsied and left.
It became my favorite part of the day. I would deliver his afternoon tea and he would usually insist I have a piece of whatever cake or pastry had been sent up to him. I would allow myself a few bites, making sure not to take much time, but each day as I saw the stacks of books and parchment scattered around him, my curiosity mounted a bit more. One day I was brave enough to ask him what he was studying. He let me look at the maps and told me what the scribbled writing said. I couldn’t read, so I merely nodded.
He remembered my name and conversed with me as if we were friends. He told me he was eleven years old. I always found him alone, and he never seemed to tire of his studies. I wondered how there could be so much in his books to keep his attention day after day. Did they really hold so much?
“I thought nobles had tutors,” I said, kneeling on a chair across from him as I pinched off pieces of the pastry that sat on the plate between us.
“We do,” he said around a bite.
“Then why is he never here? Did you murder him and leave him in a closet somewhere?” I smirked and widened my eyes at the scandalous thought.
He laughed, covering his mouth so he wouldn’t spit out his food. “He’s here in the morning. Mother arranged for tea to come after he leaves. She knows I always stay behind.”
I pulled a face. “I thought you had to be here.”
“No, I just like to learn. My tutor leaves out all the really interesting bits, so I read about them myself.” He chewed for a moment. “If I get bored, I’ll visit my horse or see if the stable lads are done with their work.”
I shoved my hair off my forehead then rubbed my nose with the back of my hand. “Does your mama mind? That you run about outside and get all dirty?”
“Why would mother mind?”
“I don’t know. It just seems like the nobles are always so clean. Maybe you’ll have to stay clean when you’re older.”
He snorted. “I hope not.”
✼ ✼ ✼
The day I turned eleven, I woke to the unpleasantness of Fynn tugging on my braid. “Ow!” I flipped over and smacked him before he could run off.
He laughed, not hurt at all. “I just wanted to be sure you didn’t miss any of your birthday,” he said with what I guessed was supposed to be an innocent expression.
“Liar!” I yelled as he went to the kitchen.
After dressing, I brought a comb to the kitchen so that Mama could work the knots from my hair as I ate breakfast. As she was finishing, Fynn reached out to give my hair another tug, but Mama rapped his knuckles with the comb. “Stop pestering your sister,” she reprimanded, and I couldn’t help the smug smile I gave him.
Janie rushed in a moment later, hanging her shawl on a peg before setting her basket of eggs on the table and taking a seat.
Mama looked in the basket, no doubt counting, then nodded. “Your chickens seem to be doing well.”
Janie’s mouth was already full of breakfast, so she just smiled. I knew she had hopes of taking at least one of the chickens with her when she married. It would be a big help to her and Simon as they started their own household. The question was whether my parents could spare it. She finished her breakfast in record time, then deposited her dishes in the sink. “I have to get to the bakery,” she said, then came to kiss the top of my head. “Happy Birthday, sweet pea.” She winked at me, then grabbed her shawl and was gone.
Simon’s parents owned the bakery and had been kind enough to let her work there. We were lucky that she was able to walk to work.
Gavin drove me to Baylor Manor as usual, but on the way he stopped to pick me a flower.
“You’re much nicer than Fynn,” I said, wrinkling my nose at the thought of Fynn’s antics.
Gavin laughed. “I’m sure he’ll start being nicer as he gets older.”
“Why can’t he just be nice now?”
“Because sometimes brothers think they need to fight with their sisters no matter what.”
“You don’t fight with Janie.”
“Perhaps not anymore, but we fought plenty when we were younger.” He winked at me. “She always thought she needed to be the boss.”
I smiled because as much as I wanted to defend Janie, I knew how much she liked to be in charge.
He looked over at me. “Besides, you’re not always nice to Fynn either, Kinley.”
I folded my arms. “He could at least be nice to me on my birthday.”
“Chin up. You don’t need to be worrying about Fynn.”
“At least Rylander will be nice to me.”
“Rylander? You mean Lord Baylor’s son?”
Gavin scowled. “Is Rylander usually nice to you?”
“Yes. He’s always very nice and he’s not even as old as Fynn,” I declared, thinking how superior Rylan was to my immature brother.
“How do you know Rylander Baylor?”
“I bring him tea and he shows me his books and maps. He even showed me something called a compass that can show you what direction you are going.”
He was still scowling, though I didn’t know why. “And you two are…friends?”
I shrugged. “I guess so.”
“Well then, just…make sure he minds his manners.”
“Oh, he’s very polite. The politest boy I’ve ever met.”
He nodded. “I want you to tell me if that ever changes.”
“All right,” I agreed, kicking my feet against the wagon seat.
We came to a stop and I jumped out of the wagon without waiting for Gavin to help, then waved at him before running around to the kitchen.
I didn’t tell the cooks it was my birthday. I only wanted to tell Rylan, like a secret.
Nancy, the head cook, had to remind me twice to keep doing my work during the morning. I should have been paying better attention, but I was too excited to take Rylan his tea and see what he thought about me being eleven now.
When Betsy finally handed me the tea tray, I had to walk extra carefully so that I wouldn’t spill anything. When I finally set it on the desk in the school room, I couldn’t wait any longer.
“Guess what?” I asked him as he finished bowing like he always did.
“We are the same age now,” I said in triumph, my head held high.
“It’s your birthday?”
He grinned. “I’ll be right back,” he said as he ran from the room.
I was left a little confused, but he said he would be right back, so I stayed put, hoping he wouldn’t be too long. I could never stay for as long as I liked since I was only supposed to be delivering the tray.
Luckily he returned in only a minute or two. He carried a large bundle of dark purple satin and feathers, as well as a gentleman’s hat.
I discovered the lump of purple satin was in fact an elaborate lady’s hat, which he placed on my head. “What is this for?” I asked, laughing as the brim fell over my eyes. I pushed it back to see him donning the other hat.
“My parents always let me wear one of my father’s hats when it is my birthday. So I figured you could wear one of Mother’s and I could wear one of Father’s. Here.” He pushed a plate toward me. “It looks like Betsy even knew to send up our favorite cookies.”
I sat down, my special hat magically transforming me into a refined lady. As we ate, I spoke in a snooty lady voice, saying things like, “What a fine young man you are,” and “These refreshments are just the thing.”
Rylan snickered and tipped his hat down over one eye. “It’s the latest fashion, you know.”
Once we had devoured every cookie, I grudgingly gave the hat back to him. He doffed his own hat in a bow of dismissal, and a grin curved my mouth as I skipped back to the kitchen.
Upon returning home that evening, I was happy to see Suzannah waiting for me in the yard. She and I had been friends for as long as I could remember. We spent so much time together that some might have thought us sisters if we weren’t opposites in appearance. She was blonde and I was brunette. Her hair was straight and mine was curly. Even our heights were opposite.
She ran up to the wagon as we came to a stop. “I have a surprise for you!”
I grinned and jumped down. At least she had not forgotten my special day.
“What is it?”
“Our parents have finally agreed that we can go!”
I gasped in delight. “To a dance?” I squealed, turning to see my mother standing in the light of the doorway. She nodded, confirming my hopes. I jumped up and down, holding on to Suzannah’s hands. “We can go!” I couldn’t help it. We could go. We had permission to go! We jumped and squealed together until my mother reminded me that I would want to wash up and have a little something to eat before going to the town square.
“Where’s Janie?” I asked, looking around for her.
“Simon already came to fetch her, now come along,” my mother said as she shooed me into the house.
I scrubbed my face, hands and arms, stuffed my dinner down my throat, and then took the most time deciding which kerchief to wear and how to tie my hair back. Suzannah and I had been begging our parents to allow us to attend dances for more than two years now. I simply knew it would be the most fun I had ever had.
It turned out to be everything I imagined. The music made me want to sing, the dancing left me grinning so much that my cheeks ached, and seeing so many people that I knew and that I didn’t, all twirling and laughing together as though none of us had more to worry about than this moment was everything I had hoped it would be.
Janie was there with her fiancé, Simon. They had been engaged only a short time, and were still disgusting to be around. Gavin danced nearly every dance with Brinna, and I wondered if they would also be engaged before long. I liked Brinna; she was always kind and she did not treat me as if I were so very much younger than she was.
Fynn even decided to be nice and asked me to dance, though I was certain he wished to run off and flirt with the girls his age. However, I spent most of my time twirling about with Suzannah and the other girls our age.
My parents had to practically drag me away from the town square, but by the time we were halfway home, I was ready to curl up on the side of the lane and go to sleep. How wonderful to be exhausted from something so exhilarating.
✼ ✼ ✼
The next day when I brought Rylan his tea, I slouched into the chair across from him before he even had a chance to stand.
“What happened to you?” he asked with a silly twist of his mouth.
I sighed and leaned back, closing my eyes. “I went to a dance last night.”
He made a noise of disgust. “Mother is making me learn to dance. It’s awful.”
“It was wonderful.”
“How was it wonderful?”
I opened my eyes to look at him. “How could it not be? Everyone was so very happy.”
“If you say so.” He stuck his fork into the piece of berry pie on the tray and shoved it into his mouth. Then he picked up another bite and held it out to me.
I shook my head. “I’m just going to rest my eyes for a moment.”
“As you like, but it’s really good.”
I smiled at his assertion and wiggled into a more comfortable position.
My next awareness was the sound of Nancy screeching, “Kinley!”
I sat up straight, looking about and trying to understand what had just happened.
Nancy stalked over and yanked me from my chair. “What do you think you are doing? Get back to the kitchen this instant!” She tugged me toward the door and I did my best not to trip, knowing that I was in trouble.
“Let her alone!” Rylan shouted as he pried Nancy’s hand from my arm. “She didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Master Rylander, she fell asleep when she was supposed to be doing her duties.”
“It’s my fault. I made her stay and listen to something I was reading in a book. It was so boring that she fell asleep. That’s not her fault.”
Nancy’s face said that she didn’t believe a word of it.
Rylan crossed his arms and lifted his chin. “You can’t punish her. I won’t allow it.”
They stared at one another, both refusing to give in until finally Nancy let out an exasperated sigh. “Very well, Master Rylander. Have it your way. So long as she gets back to the kitchen to tend to her duties this moment, I will not punish her further. But no more reading to the maids from now on.”
Rylan gave a stiff nod. “Fine.”
No one needed to tell me twice. I scurried from the room as fast as I could, running down the servants’ stairs and wondering how long I had been sleeping. Why had he let me fall asleep?
I rushed into the kitchen, keeping my head down, and was elbow deep in scrubbing by the time Nancy returned to the kitchen.
The next day, a different maid was given the duty of bringing tea to Rylan. I was disappointed, but kept my head down and worked extra hard to make up for my mistake. I needed this work. Even though Gavin had found odd jobs here and there, they didn’t pay as much, and we needed the money I made. It was obvious he still felt guilty, and he kept promising that I wouldn’t have to be in service for long. Really I didn’t mind. The Baylors were fair, and I liked talking to Rylan. But if I was let go…that would be awful.
I hoped that I would be allowed to continue bringing Rylan his tray, but the following day, it was once again given to another maid.
An hour later, Lady Baylor appeared in the kitchen.
A hush fell over the room, followed by a clatter as utensils and knives were discarded so that each of us could stand and curtsey. The only word I could think of to describe Lady Baylor was soft. Her demeanor, her smile, even her body, were all soft. She gave a smile and walked over to Nancy, who was only a few paces away from me.
“Good day, Lady Baylor.” Nancy gave an extra curtsey.
“Good day, Nancy. That smells delightful.”
“Thank you, my lady. Might I help you with something?”
“I have just had a talk with Rylander and it seems he is upset with his afternoon tea.” Her face was apologetic as she said it, as if she felt bad for bringing it up. Which was absurd, since she was the lady of the house and could do anything she pleased.
“Oh? Is something amiss with it? Not to his liking?”
She brushed her hand through the air. “Oh no, nothing like that. It seems he has gotten attached to a certain maid that usually brings him his tea, but she hasn’t brought it the past few days.”
Nancy’s lips pursed. “Yes, Milady. I thought it best to give that responsibility to another.”
“Would you mind terribly if you switched it back? He’s such a good boy and it seems like such a little thing.”
Nancy’s smile was stiff. “Of course, Lady Baylor. I’ll see to it.”
“Thank you, Nancy. I knew I could count on you.” She gave a smile to the room at large. “Carry on,” she said before breezing out the door.
I kept my eyes on the floor, pretending I hadn’t heard the request. I liked Nancy and had no wish to upset her any more than I already had.
I was conflicted the next afternoon when Nancy called me over to take the tray. I wanted to do it, but I knew that Nancy was unhappy, and that made me uncomfortable.
“Kinley.” She tapped the underside of my chin to make me look at her. “No dawdling now, you hear?”
I walked the tray carefully up to the school room where I found Rylan wandering the room, tapping a fencing foil on the ground. He stiffened and gave an awkward bow when he saw me. “I’m sorry I got you in trouble.”
“It’s not your fault.” I said, setting the tray down.
“Yes, it is. I should have woken you.” He frowned. It was awfully nice of him to care so much.
“No harm done.” I curtsied. “Enjoy your tea.”
“You’re not staying?”
“Nancy told me not to dawdle.”
“Oh.” He scratched at his wrist. “Very well. Sorry, Kinley.”
“Don’t worry about it, Master Rylander.”
“Rylan,” he muttered as I stepped out the door.
THE NEXT SEVERAL days, Rylan was always waiting at the door for me when I brought his tray. He would have a book, or map, or tool in hand which he would show me and tell me about as I walked his tray to the desk. I, in turn, tended to walk a little bit slower because I really did want to know what a chameleon was, and the idea that there could be forests where it rained nearly all the time was fascinating. As soon as I set the tray down he would try to convince me to have a bite of whatever had been sent up for him to eat, and I would only take it if I thought I could chew and swallow by the time I got back to the door.
As time went on, I learned to hurry up the stairs and down the corridor and then walk at barely a shuffle while inside the school room. I thought the time would all balance out, but apparently my slow progress to and from his desk was enough to make Nancy take notice.
“Your deliveries to Master Rylander seem to be taking longer and longer.” She pinned me with a look that had me shaking with nerves.
“Oh, don’t fuss at the girl,” Betsy chided. “You know how talkative the boy is. No doubt she is trying to get out of there but he is too busy talking about the latest farming methods or the best place to find buried treasure.”
Were there really good places to find buried treasure? I’d have to ask him about that.
“Hmm.” Nancy’s eyes narrowed. “Just don’t let him keep you from doing your work.”
When Gavin picked me up that day, I didn’t feel like talking. About halfway home he nudged my shoulder with his. “Is the work getting harder?”
“No, it’s fine. Like scrubbing the kitchen for Mama.”
“I’m fairly certain Mama isn’t nearly the taskmaster that you have now.”
“No, but—” I lifted a shoulder.
He pulled me into his side. “You’re a good girl, you know that?”
I grinned. “Yes, I do.”
“Has Papa finished the chairs for those fussy people?”
I tilted my head to look up at him. “Do you like working on the Derricksons’ farm?” The Derricksons had hired him temporarily. “Is it like working in the palace gardens?”
“There are some similarities.”
“But you don’t like it as much.”
“No, I don’t,” he readily admitted.
“Why did you have to stop working at the palace?” He’d never told me why. I didn’t know if he had even told my parents why.
“That is…a long story.” His eyes were on the road ahead, but I could tell he was thinking of something else.
“I like hearing your stories,” I said, hoping he would tell me, that he trusted me enough to know his secrets.
“Maybe I’ll tell you sometime. But not today.”
I was disappointed, but kept it to myself.
That evening I sat in my father’s woodshop, amid the comfort of wood shavings and Papa’s mellow voice.
I started daydreaming about what it would be like to sit with Rylan for an entire afternoon, reading and learning about things outside of this town.
“What is it, Bug?” Papa asked.
He smiled. “That’s the fifth or sixth time you’ve sighed since you sat down. Are you going to tell me what has your head in the clouds?”
I thought about telling him about Rylan, but remembered the way Gavin had scowled when I had told him we were friends. “Did you ever wish to learn about faraway places or new discoveries?”
“Have you made a new discovery you wish to teach me about?”
“Papa,” I lamented. “Don’t be silly. I’m not an explorer.”
“Why not? There’s plenty to explore around the village.”
“Yes, but what I mean is, do you ever wish you could learn the kinds of things that noble people learn?” I put my chin in my hand. “They have so many books about so many places and people.”
He blew some shavings out of his way before setting his tool against the wood again. “I think everyone wishes to learn something different than what they know. That’s what curiosity is all about. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be happy if we never get it.”
“And besides, we can learn new things. They might not be out of big books, but remember, a few years ago I didn’t know how to build a fancy chair, or make a child-size horse.”
I hadn’t thought of that, and it made me proud that my papa could learn to do new things. He had been the one to teach Gavin all he knew about gardening, but when a cart horse had kicked him in the leg, it hadn’t healed right. He managed to get here and there, but it took a long time, and we could all see that it hurt him. So he’d figured a way to work while he sat. I knew he missed the plants, but he also loved making things. He was right about not having to learn from books, but I still wished to know more of what Rylan knew, more of what was contained in his books. But his books were full of writing that looked like squiggles and curls, almost like the pretty designs Papa put on the top of fancy boxes. I could never learn from a book if I didn’t know how to read.
And that gave me an idea.
✼ ✼ ✼
The next day, I entered the school room and spoke up before Rylan could start telling me about anything.
“I want to learn letters,” I blurted.
His mouth had been open, ready to speak, and it stayed that way for a moment before he flew into action. He raced to his desk, grabbing a parchment, quill and ink. He used it to draw three lines that connected together and then held it up with a grin. “This letter is K. And it makes the sound at the beginning of your name.”
That was what we started to do each day. He would show me letters and tell me their sounds, but it was difficult to remember what they looked like when I could only study them for a moment. He started writing them on tiny scraps so that I could keep it in my pocket and look at it when I got home. I would mutter the sounds that he taught as I did my work, then go home and stare at the little bit of paper.
Gavin caught me staring at just such a scrap one evening as I sat on my bed repeating the sound to myself. I tried to hide it when he asked what it was, but after he asked about it nicely, I decided to show him. He didn’t laugh at me like I thought he would. He didn’t ask why I would need to know such a thing. Instead he asked me to repeat it and tell him more. I pulled out several other scraps that I kept under my mattress. I couldn’t remember all of them, but I taught him what I could. He was excited about it, anxious to see what new letter I would bring home each day and happy to help me review the ones I already had. He was better at memorizing than I was, which I thought was unfair since I had started learning first. But it was nice that he could help me remember the sounds and the names when they started to jumble in my head.