Illustration for “A Christmas Carol” by Frederick Simpson Coburn circa 1900
Seasoning – Part 17
Henry lied. He didn’t have an early appointment. He needed time to think, to wrap his brain around the strange things he was feeling. It wasn’t just base attraction. Oh, she was certainly a lovely young woman and her damned determination was rather charming, as well as infuriating. Why did she get under his skin? When he looked at her eyes it was like looking into her soul, strangely familiar, as if they had known each other for an eternity. Henry stewed over this all the way to work in his usual brooding fashion, but once he arrived there was something about his preoccupied, less aloof demeanor that turned the heads of his co-workers.
“Getting an early start, eh Henry?”
“Yes, it appears I am. Good morning Charles.”
Charles stood up from his desk approaching him, “Is everything alright Henry?”
“Fine. I’m fine. It was that damned storm last night. Lightning struck several of my trees catching them on fire. Luckily, the neighbors, my housekeeper and I were able to stop it before it reached the house. I did not get much sleep as you can imagine.”
Charles was not accustomed to Henry being so chatty. His normal reply would have simply been, “Fine. I’m fine.” Clearly, there was something more going on. “Ah yes, the Gordons. I know your neighbors. Nice people. I’m glad you were able to contain that fire. Nasty storm it was. We lost a shutter and a few shingles at our place.” Enough with the chitchat, thought Charles,”and what is this about a housekeeper? When did you employ a housekeeper?”
“I didn’t. It was my sister Helen. Always inserting herself into my affairs.”
“You have a sister?”
“Two, and a brother. I’m the youngest. At any rate, she claims she was protecting her interest in the house. It belonged to our parents you know, and their parents before them.”
Other staff members were leaning toward the conversation now, ears tweaked to catch every detail. Charles, the office gossip, was relishing his role as grand inquisitor. “And, how is that working for you? The housekeeper. I know I’d be furious if one of my siblings hired someone, a stranger, no less, and moved them in right under my nose!”
Henry softened, “Oh Helen meant well. And I must admit, she was right. Having Hannah manage the household has been quite helpful.”
“Hannah you say? Is that your housekeeper?” Charles pressed for more.
“Yes.” Henry noticed that the room had grown quiet and that he was the center of attention. “Well, I best be getting to work.” He darted past a sea of raised eyebrows, slid into his chair and fumbled through a pile of paperwork.
Charles strutted back to his desk nodding at several co-workers. “There is much more to Henry’s story,” he thought, “and I am just the person to pry it out of him.”
Henry kept to himself for the rest of the day. Each minute crept excruciatingly into hours. All he could think about was getting home. Home…where she was waiting.
To read previous installments of this series click HERE. And as always a shout out to Jane Dougherty who helped me launch this story based on her inspiring microfiction prompts.