Seasoning – Part 18
Hannah added a few final touches to dinner, giving the stew a quick stir, dabbing butter on a loaf of bread and placing it in the oven, before departing to her quarters to freshen up. Soon he would be home. She liked the sound of the word, ‘home’. Earlier this week she had felt like such a stranger, and an unwanted one at that. How things had changed in just a few short days!
Henry barely noticed the closing bell at the end of his shift. He gathered his things and shuffled outside with his coworkers, each darting off in a different direction as he hailed a taxi.
“Yer usual drop off sir,” the cabbie queried, “the Pub on State Street? I hear the cook has a special tonight.”
Henry looked up, recognizing the driver, “No, not tonight Tommy. You can take me straight home.”
“Whatever you say sir. Home it is. Lovely night we’re having, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it certainly is.” Henry leaned back, closing his eyes, imagining her at home, waiting.
Hannah dressed the table with freshly laundered napkins, polished silver and delicate china plates. She prepared dessert, a peach cobbler, and slipped it into the oven next to the loaf of bread which was now golden brown. As she took the bread out, Hannah heard a gust of wind whooshing through the front door. She turned around in time to see Henry coming toward the kitchen.
He stopped in the doorway and leaned against the frame, smiling. Wisps of Hannah’s hair had fallen softly over her brow and her face was flushed from the heat of the oven. “What a sight,” he thought, “there in her apron and oven mitts, holding a steaming loaf of bread.”
Hannah jutted out her lower jaw, blowing upward to displace the hair covering her eyes. “Well hello! You’re home, and just in time. I’ll have dinner in the dining room in a few minutes. Please take a seat. I’ve poured you a glass of wine.”
“Hannah…,” Henry interrupted her, “it’s just me. No need to fuss. I dare say we are past the fussing stage. How can I help you? I have two good hands. Put them to work.”
Hannah struggled with her emotions. It felt out of place to be so informal with the master of the house, and yet she couldn’t deny how she felt each time he was near. Her resolve quickly melted when Henry stepped behind her, reaching around to take the loaf pan from her hands. She felt his breath on the nape of her neck and the warmth of his body as he leaned against her back.
As Henry lifted the loaf pan over Hannah’s head he noticed the subtle fragrance of her hair wafting in the warm air. He set the bread on the counter and took a step back when he realized he had been leaning against her. “As I said, I have two good hands, what shall I carry to the dining room for you?”
“Me…” Hannah thought, blushing as she turned toward him, “get a grip Hannah, this is impossible, you know it is.” She stiffened her shoulders and breathed deeply before responding, “Well, if you are determined to help, I could use your assistance with the stew pot. I’ll tend to the rest.”
“Consider it done.” Henry lifted the cast iron pot and bounded to the dining room.
Hannah brushed the hair from her face and arranged the other dishes on a serving tray. Henry was standing, sipping wine, when she entered. He quickly placed the wine glass down, relieved her of the tray setting it on the table and pulled out her chair.
Hannah tilted her head, “thank you,” she smiled, as she started to sit.
Henry stopped her, pressing his hand on her back.“One more thing,” he interjected, “let’s get this apron off of you.” He slowly untied the apron and slid it from Hannah’s waist. “That’s better. Now you may sit.”
After Hannah settled into the chair, Henry picked up her napkin and placed it gently over her lap. She smoothed it in place before looking up to find his gaze piercing through her. Her neck and face flushed red but she could not look away.
Henry reached for the ladle, “It smells wonderful Hannah. Let me serve you,” he said, scooping a generous portion of stew.
“Stop! Please! This is not right! I should be serving you, sir.”
“Henry, it’s Henry,” he smiled, “please don’t call me sir.”
“Alright…I’m sorry…Henry. Thank you, si…I mean Henry. This has been the strangest week! I’ve been thinking about it all day.”
“And what do you mean by strange, Hannah? I mean aside from our first encounter, and me being such a…well, you know. And then there was the fire. That was certainly strange,” Henry’s chuckled but quickly realized Hannah was upset, “Oh, I’m sorry. I interrupted you. Please go on.”
“Well, I’ve been thinking about all that,” Hannah blurted. “Maybe it was the storm, or the fire, I don’t know. It’s as if a deep memory, if you can call it that, but how is that possible? Whatever these thoughts are, these feelings…it’s as if they were unearthed somehow and I can’t stop thinking about them…or you.” She looked down, afraid she had said too much.
Henry reached for her hand. “I know Hannah, I know.”
She looked at him, tears welling in her eyes as she curled her fingers around his, “What do you know, Henry?”
He smiled softly, “What I know Hannah, is that I know you. Somehow, I just know you. I don’t know how, and it doesn’t make sense, but I have dreamed about you, about us. When I look into your eyes I remember…”
“You do? I thought I was losing my mind. It’s not just me?”
“No Hannah. It’s not. But please don’t fret. It’s going to be alright. We can figure it out together. For now, let’s have this lovely meal you’ve prepared. You can tell me about your day.” Henry patted her hand and picked up his fork.
Hannah watched him eat. “How could he be so calm?” she wondered, “though her mother had warned her, men and their stomachs…” Henry raised the napkin to his lips, glanced up and grinned. In that moment, the dream, but it was not a a dream at all, it was a memory, flashed through her mind. Her heart raced and her skin tingled.”I remember you too,” she sighed, “oh, I remember…”