Seasoning – Part 20

Painting by Carl Vilhelm Holsoe – in the dining room

Seasoning – Part 20

“I just realized how hungry I am,” Hannah giggled. She sat down and took a bite of stew, and another. 

Henry laughed as he too sat down and helped himself to more food. “Tell me about you, Hannah, your family. These past few days you’ve felt so familiar but I realize I hardly know you.”

Hannah swallowed and dabbed her mouth with a napkin. “Well, there’s not much to know. This is my first housekeeping position. Until now I have lived with my parents at the Waverly Estate.”

“How long has your family lived at Waverly? Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

“I’ve been at Waverly my whole life. Well, until now,” she grinned. “My parents met there. And no, it’s just me. My Father shared his love of gardening with me…”

“So that’s where you get it. I wondered.”

“Yes. And my mother taught me everything there is to know about managing a household. I started to cook as soon as I could hold a spoon.”

Henry took another bite, “She taught you well! I would like to meet them one day.” 

“You’d love them I think. Everyone does,” Hannah beamed, “but enough about me. I’ve been noticing the family photos on the mantle. I recognized you and Helen, but there were two other children; your brother and sister?”

“Yes,” Henry smiled, “I’m the youngest, and Helen is the oldest. And then there’s Laurel and Samuel, or Sammy as we called him. Laurel is a teacher and Sammy, well,” Henry saddened, “Sammy died the year after Alice and I married.” 

Henry paused. “Alice,” he thought, “in all the excitement this week, I haven’t thought of her. Not once…” 

Hannah felt helpless as the silence grew, “I’m so sorry Henry.” She reached toward his hand but he pulled away fumbling for his napkin.

“Thank you Hannah. Sammy had been sick for some time. We, Alice and I, moved here to help him. She was a nurse. Alice was…” Henry drifted, “she was wonderful with him.” He forced a smile, “Well, I’ve bored you enough. It’s getting late. Can I help you clear the table?”

“No Henry, I’ll have this cleaned up in no time.” The aroma of peach cobbler wafted from the kitchen. “Oh, I almost forgot. Would you like some dessert? Marjorie brought us peach preserves.”

“Thank you Hannah,” Henry stood up and kissed her on the cheek, “but no dessert for me. It smells wonderful and dinner was delicious,” he sighed, “but I think I’ll turn in for the night. Are you sure I can’t help you?”

“You go along Henry. I’ll see you in the morning?” Hannah’s heart sank. He left the room without answering. 

After cleaning the kitchen Hannah returned to her quarters. Her mind was a jumble. Had she said too much? Maybe she shouldn’t have pressed him about the family portrait. Watching his mood plummet stirred up every doubt and insecurity she had.

“Remember Hannah,” she whispered to herself, “you are here to do a job. You’re the housekeeper. This is not your home. It’s her home. She is everywhere. Most of all, it is quite clear that she consumes his memories. No woman, not even you, can compete with a ghost.” Hannah pressed her face into her pillow and cried herself to sleep.


Installment #20 of Seasoning, a fiction series inspired by Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. To read previous chapters click HERE

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