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Carlotta checks the stores, with a sigh. There's not a lot of feed left, so hopefully the horses will be able to get some better grazing soon. Money's looking tight too, even with the colt that Will sold.

But she tries to stay hopeful. Now that the war is over, people want to enjoy themselves, and riding lessons are bound to pick up in the spring.

"Carlotta?" Will comes up behind her, holding Molly. "I have something I want to show you. Go get Orion, I'll get Blaze?"

She smiles at him, and goes to get the horse. No need for a saddle, but she gets him a fleece, just in case he's cold in the snow.

"What is it?" she asks, scooping the little girl up to ride in front of her. Molly sucks her little mittens and giggles as Mummy swings up behind her.

"Impatient! You'll see when we get there." Will teases, with a grin. It's nice to see him looking back to his old self. "I know you've been dying to know where I've been riding off to."

She had. Not that she didn't trust him. He was coming back sober without spending any money, and he certainly wasn't acting like he was cheating. He was a born horseman, and there was nothing odd to her about him disappearing on Blaze for hours.

They head to the edges of the stables' land, into an area of trees. Carlotta hadn't realised how big The Oaks was at first, but back before the war the family were well off and owned quite a lot of land. Will's father had been thinking of selling off some of it to pay the bills, but Will was adamant that they should hold off if they could. The land would be worth more in the spring when people could build on it, for a start.

She gasps when she comes to the clearing in the trees, and stares.

"You did this all yourself?" she asks, looking at the cabin. "It's beautiful."

"I had a bit of help from my mates." Will says, bashfully. "If we're going to live here in the winter, it's jolly cold in that caravan, and it's a bit crowded for three in bad weather, and it's not very private if we all have to go in to the parents'... if you didn't like it I was going to sell it. It's not got any electricity or water yet but if I can get a loan we can get it plumbed in."

Carlotta grins. "Nor has the caravan but we do all right." She leans over and kisses him gently on the cheek. "It's wonderful."

"Go and look inside." Will says, dismounting. "It's slightly wonky but it won't fall down, promise."

Carlotta dismounts, puts Molly on the floor, and goes inside the little cabin. It's not an expert job by any means, but it's the thought and effort... and he's right, it is a struggle in the caravan in the winter.

"We'll have to get the fireplace finished, and some furniture." she says. "Before we try and keep Molly in here anyway, or your mum'll have a fit because it's too cold."

She's never planned on being a settler, but it looks like a certain improvement to their current arrangement.
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Carlotta Francis (nee Brown)

February 2014

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