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Seasoning – Epilogue

Summer’s Day in the Flower Garden by Robert Payton Reid


What started as a simple Microfiction Challenge became a story that had more layers to tell. Thank you to everyone who has followed me from the beginning as well as those who discovered it midway through. There is one more chapter to tell. I give you Seasoning, the Epilogue. Read the rest of the story HERE.

Epilogue

It had been months since Helen boarded a train leaving Hannah and Henry with her blessing. Seeing her brother so happy made her happy. “What a lovely young woman she is,” Helen had thought as she waved goodbye through her cabin window. “They will be fine,” she smiled contentedly.

As the train pulled away from the depot, Hannah had slipped her hand into Henry’s. “This is really happening, isn’t it?”

Henry squeezed her hand and smiled, “Yes it is Hannah. Is it too soon to tell you that I love you?”

Hannah blushed, “No Henry. I love you too. What do we do now?”

“We live Hannah. We get to know one another. We embrace each day and we care for each other. Does that sound alright to you?”

“Yes Henry. It sounds wonderful to me.

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Winter seasoned into spring. Hannah spent every free moment in the garden. She hired carpenters to build several arbors, one at the entrance and a bench arbor in the middle of the garden. A slate stone walkway meandered throughout bordered by herbs; sweet basil, parsley, dill, anise and lavender. Beds of fragrant plumeria, freesia, lilacs and lilies, and amaranth, sweet peas and zinnias dotted the space. Climbing rose bushes clung to the arbors and wisteria hung gracefully from the iron fence that surrounded the garden. Trees flanked the far edge; apple, pear and dogwood. As a final touch Hannah added several bird baths and decorative pottery.

Spring crept toward summer. The garden erupted into beautiful blooms. Hannah and Henry’s love for each other blossomed as well. They spent hours together. Henry’s heart, once shut down and broken, opened in ways he never imagined possible. Laughter and life had returned to the once dusty dark halls of Chamber House.

Hannah’s parents George and Elizabeth came to town to meet this man who had captured their daughter’s heart. Like Helen, they recognized the bond between the two immediately. They loved seeing her daughter so happy. George was especially impressed with Henry and the way he treated his only daughter. They had concerns though. It was not proper for them to be living in the same house feeling as they did for one another.

After lunch, Henry asked George if he could have a private word.

“I am so happy to finally meet you and your lovely wife, sir,” Henry smiled, “I believe Hannah has told you about us.”

“She mentioned it,” George nodded skeptically. “Tell me young man, what are your intentions?”

Henry sat up straight, “Sir, I love Hannah very much. I would like to ask you for her hand in marriage. I promise I will care for her for as long as I live. She will never want for anything, sir.”

George sensed that Henry was sincere. With a tear in his eye he spoke softly, “Son, I’ve never seen my Hannah so happy. I do believe you love her. Of course you have my blessing. Take care of her.”

“I will sir. Thank you sir!”

They rejoined Hannah and Elizabeth in the parlor. George winked at his wife and smiled. Immediately she understood.

With her parents as his witnesses, Henry bent down on one knee in front of Hannah, “I can think of no better time than while your parents are here…Hannah, I have a question to ask you.”

Hannah shot a glance at her parents who were sitting nearby, tears in their eyes, holding each other’s hands. “What is this about?” She asked, looking at them, then back at Henry, who had reached for her hand.

“Let Henry finish,” Elizabeth said, smiling assuredly at her daughter.

Henry continued, “Hannah, I feel as though I have been searching for you for an eternity. When you came here I was a broken man. I still can’t believe you stayed after those first days. I was such a beast. Eventually though, I came to see you for the beautiful woman that you are. Now I can’t imagine life without you. I love you Hannah. Be my wife and make me the happiest man in the world.”

Hannah’s eyes narrowed mischievously, “You were a beast! Absolutely incorrigible!” she frowned.

Henry blinked, holding his breath, hoping.

Hannah grinned, “Of course I will marry you!” she gushed, “I love you Henry, with all my heart and soul. Nothing would make me happier than to be your wife!”

They embraced, completely oblivious that Hannah’s parents were still in the room. George conspicuously cleared his throat reminding them. The four broke into happy laughter.

“Well, it looks as though we have a wedding to plan,” Elizabeth announced.

And what a wedding it was! Set in the garden while it was still in bloom, Henry and Hannah vowed their love and devotion to one another in the presence of family and friends.

Theirs was a love that had spanned lifetimes. They had suffered a bitter ending once, a lifetime ago, that had left them with unfinished hopes and dreams. But this day the fates had smiled upon them. This day, they embarked on the next chapter of their lives, together at last.


Seasoning – Part 29

Woman with a Tea Cup by John White Alexander

Seasoning – Part 29

“The letter?” Henry exclaimed. 

“Yes dear brother,” Helen nodded, “you know the one. I’m not sure how you found it. After all, it was me who Alice had asked to reveal it. Imagine my surprise, after rummaging through those vanity drawers like a mad woman, when Hannah interrupted me holding that very letter! Why do you think I came all this way? I had to see if the rumors were true!” 

“How did you? Alice asked you? What rumors?!” Henry rattled off questions without giving Helen a moment to answer. Exasperated, he slumped into his chair.

“Oh Henry, dear little brother,” Helen patted his hand, “let’s have some dinner and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Hannah, who had gleefully watched the two of them in silence, spoke up, “Yes! Let’s do, before everything gets cold!”

Henry looked at Hannah. She was beaming. He smiled softly. “God, you’re beautiful…” he thought, as his nerves settled to a purr, “oh, how I love you, Hannah.” Breaking the silence, he chuckled out loud, “Well clearly I am outnumbered here!” He reached for a slice of roast beef. 

The three filled their plates and savored several bites before curiosity got the best of Henry. 

“What I don’t understand, Helen, is how you knew about the letter. This is the letter we are talking about, right Hannah?”

“The very one!” Hannah blushed.

“Well Henry, you know you have always been a restless sleeper. Oh, the night terrors you had when you were young. Scared the dickens out of us! Especially Mother! I honestly thought you’d outgrown it. When Alice took ill and I came to care for her, she told me about your dreams. It seems you talked in your sleep, Henry, and Alice, the lovely girl that she was… well, she was so worried about you.”

“Worried? She never let on. I tried so hard to be positive around her.”

“Oh, you did Henry and you were. You were so kind and brave for her. But your dreams Henry; they told another story. There was a woman,” Helen glanced at Hannah, smiling softly, “there was always a woman in your dreams that you longed to find. Alice knew it was not her that you spoke of in your sleep.”

Henry’s eyes welled with tears, “I had no idea. She never told me.”

“Well, Alice wanted to be sure you would be alright…after she was gone. So she told me that she had written a letter to this mystery woman and asked me to hide it in the vanity. If her intuition was true, that one day you would find her, she asked me to give the letter to the woman of your dreams.”

“And how did you know, Helen? How did you know it was Hannah?”

“Oh my dears,” Helen cooed as she gazed at them across the table, “I knew the moment I saw the two of you together.”

Henry reached for Hannah’s hand, “So, what now, Helen?”

“Well, I think that’s up to the two of you.”

Hannah smiled and leaned into Henry.

“I think you’ll do just fine.” Helen softly remarked. “I suppose I’ll be leaving in the morning then.”

“So soon?” Hannah exclaimed, “but you just got here!”

“Oh, don’t you worry!” she winked at Hannah, “I’ll be back in the summer. I want to see that garden when it’s in full bloom! Well, enough talk!  Hannah, I would love some dessert. How about you Henry?”

“That sounds wonderful!” Henry replied. 

” Yes ma’am!” Hannah gushed. She glanced coyly at Henry adding, “…and kind sir. Dessert it shall be!” She sprang from her chair and skipped happily into the kitchen.

Henry smiled at his sister. 

“You both deserve to be happy, you know. Don’t let that lovely girl get away, Henry.”

“Oh, I won’t, Helen. Of that you can be certain. I never will.”

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Other installments of this series can be found HERE.


Seasoning – Part 28

Seasoning – Part 28

The closing bell that Henry dreaded finally chimed. “I could stop by the pub, grab my dinner there, but…” he argued with himself, “no Henry. Be a man. Support the woman you love and face your sister.” He cleared his desk, grabbed his coat and walked out the door without saying a word.

Charles who watched him pass, glanced at a group of fellow clerks engaged in the latest gossip; namely, Henry and his so-called “housekeeper”.

“What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall at that house this evening!” he chimed in.

Everyone nodded in agreement, snickering.

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The taxi pulled up to the curb but Henry lingered.

“Am I at the right address sir? Maybe I…

“No, thank you, this is the place.” Henry paid the driver his fee and walked slowly toward the front door.

“Thank you sir. Have a good night!” The cabbie called from the car.

Henry turned with a nod, “Thanks mate.”

As he entered the parlor the aroma of roasting beef, fresh bread and cinnamon hung in the air like incense. Candlelight flickered from the dining room and jovial conversation and laughter echoed from the kitchen. “What is all this?” he wondered.

He walked into the kitchen to an astounding sight. Helen was tossing salad and Hannah whipping potatoes…together! He stood in the doorway, mouth agape for several minutes before Helen noticed him.

“Ha! You’re home Henry!” she exclaimed as she turned around wth the salad bowl. “Be a dear and make yourself useful, little brother. Grab the roast and carry it into the dining room if you please.”

Without thinking Henry complied, with Helen in tow. He had hardly noticed before that the table was impeccably set with the good china, crisp cloth napkins and crystal that sparkled in the candlelight. He placed the roast in the middle of the table and looked up at Helen who was beaming from ear to ear.

“What in god’s name is going on here?” he whispered in dazed disbelief.

“Shhhh Henry,” Helen chided, “it’s been a wonderful day, a magnificent day! Don’t you dare spoil it!”

“Spoil what? I have no idea what is happening here. When I left this morning…”

“When you left this morning…” Hannah interjected, joining them with a steaming bowl of potatoes in one hand and fresh bread in the other, “and I must say I was quite cross at your abrupt departure! When you left, or should I say escaped, I imagine you thought you were leaving a swarming beehive behind. In fact, Helen and I have had a wonderful day. We went shopping and had the most enlightening conversation.”

“Oh good god Henry, shut your mouth and sit down,” Helen chortled.

As he lowered himself into the chair clutching the arm rests for balance he noticed Hannah. She was removing her apron revealing a beautiful yellow dress; her hair was delicately swept up into a cascade of curls that draped her face, slightly flushed. She was stunning.

“Hannah is lovely in that new dress, don’t you think, Henry?” Helen clucked as she joined him at the table.

Befuddled, Henry stumbled over his words, “Uh yes, Helen, lovely.” He gazed at Hannah who posed proudly in her new dress, eyes sparkling as she looked at him for approval. “You, Hannah, are lovely.” His face softened.

Hannah blushed and sat down next to him. “We should eat everyone, before it gets cold.”

Helen reached over patting Henry’s hand. “It’s alright Henry,” she said reassuringly, “Hannah and I talked.”

“Talked about what? Forgive me you two, I am quite confused by all of this,” Henry pleaded.

“I know Henry,” Helen said.

“She knows Henry,” Hannah added, smiling.

“Knows what?”

Hannah and Helen answered him in unison, “the letter.”

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To read previous installments of Seasoning, click HERE.


Seasoning – Part 26 & Part 27

I’m afraid I’ve gotten behind on the installments of our story. So this week, two installments. Happy reading!

“Charles Dickens” a painting by William Powell Frith


Seasoning – Part 26

Henry could not get away quickly enough. He’d had his fill of his sister’s meddling. He hated leaving Hannah alone to fend for herself, but he had learned firsthand that she was quite capable speaking her mind when it was necessary. Still it troubled him, imagining Helen grilling her relentlessly as he knew she could and would.

“She’ll ruin everything,” he muttered to himself as he bounded the stairs to his office. “At least I have work to occupy my mind.”

Charles was waiting for him. In a small town it is impossible to maintain any sense of privacy. News of Helen’s early arrival was already buzzing through town. She rarely visited. Two times in a week was certainly something that required further investigation!

Charles glanced nonchalantly at Henry when he walked in the door; nodding with a smile. He noticed that Henry was clearly flustered and slightly disheveled, which was not at all like Henry who has impeccable taste when it comes to grooming and attire. 

“You look a bit bothered, Henry. Is everything alright?” Charles queried with all the concern he could muster, so as not to be found out for knowing the answer before he asked it. 

Henry never looked up as he rushed to his work station, but he growled in passing, “Helen.”

Taking the invitation to delve deeper, for a busybody like Charles a simple whimper was an open door, he followed Henry, “Oh, your sister, am I correct? I do hope…”

“Oh, she is very much alive and well. Save your worries, Charles, and she is in my house this morning as we speak.” Henry fumed.

“Not that I notice such things,” he lied, “but you have never mentioned her before this week and I thought you said she left to go back a home days ago. She’s back?”

“Oh yes! She is definitely back and meddling as usual. She infuriates me.”

“Hmmm, meddling, you say?” Charles couldn’t resist., “is everything working out with the housekeeper? I think I remember you mentioning it was Helen who hired her. What is her name again?”

Hannah, Hannah is her name,” Henry was growing impatient with Charles and his questions. “Hannah is perfect.” Henry stopped himself, refocusing, “What I meant to say is that she is doing a splendid job. There is absolutely no reason why Helen needed to barge in the way she did.”

Charles curiosity tweaked, “Barge in, you say?”

Henry glanced at Charles. He looked like a cat poised to pounce on a mouse. “Oh, never you mind Charles,” he brushed him off curtly, “Helen was just being Helen. Don’t let me keep you from your work.”

A deflated Charles turned to walk away, “I was just worried for you my friend. You looked…”

“Rushed is all. I have a full day ahead of me.” Henry countered as he picked up his pen and scribbled on a piece of paper on his desk. 

Normally counting the hours until the closing whistle, Henry hoped today would linger as long as it pleased. He dreaded facing what waited for him at home.

Image from fashion-era.com

Seasoning – Part 27

Helen patted Hannah’s hand. “What have you got planned for the rest of the day Hannah? I don’t know about you, but I could use a shopping trip to help all of this settle.”

Hannah thought for a moment. “Well, I have completed my household chores, and dinner is prepped and ready. I have been meaning to go into town to get a new dress. Henry arranged for me to go to Stephen’s Tailor Shop to find a replacement for the one that got ruined in the fire. Do you know the place?”

“Oh indeed I do. I love Jonathan. He is an artist with fabric and thread. It’s settled then. Go put yourself together. We shall have a shopping spree.”

Filled with excitement, Hannah giggled and hugged Helen before skipping happily out of the room. 

Helen smiled as she watched her leave. “I like her. I like her very much.” she thought. Then directing her comment to the vaulted ceiling, she spoke aloud, “Well Alice what a surprise this has all been. My my, you were right, my dear. She was out there somewhere just as you suspected. I do think you’d like her. She’ll be good for our Henry.” Helen blew a kiss into the air and gently tapped her chest over her heart before leaving to join Hannah in the parlor.

The market was bustling with activity when they arrived. Hannah couldn’t resist pausing at each shiny storefront dressed with a variety of wares. There was a bakery shop displaying stacks of crusty bread and pastries, a hat shop, with velvet, feathered wonders and an emporium with household odds and ends. 

Helen chuckled at her shopping companion, “Hurry along Hannah. We have a dress to find!”

When at last they had arrived, Hannah’s eyes grew wide as she gazed at the most beautiful gowns and dresses she had ever seen. 

Helen took the lead as a slim well-dressed man with a measuring tape draped over his shoulders met them at the door. He wore round black-rimmed spectacles and had a thin mustache and slicked back straight black hair. “Jonathan my dear! How very nice to see you. We’re looking for the perfect dinner dress for my friend here. Hannah, meet Jonathan, the best tailor in the region and our good friend for many years!”

Jonathan eyed Hannah from head to toe, as if calculating her measurements in his head. She extended her hand to shake his, “So nice to meet you,” she smiled.

Jonathan took her hand in his and gently cupped it with his other hand, “We meet at last Hannah. Henry mentioned you would be coming. Let’s see what we can find.”

Jonathan directed the ladies to a rack of wispy frilly dresses in silk, chiffon, crêpe, and satin. He slid hangers left to right, glancing frequently over his shoulder at Hannah. At last he stood back with a sigh and turned to present his find to Hannah and Helen. “Let’s try this one on you my dear,” he said with a wink and a smile directed at Helen.

“Oh Jonathan! You have outdone yourself. This one is exquisite.” Helen gushed. 

Hannah gingerly took the dress from Jonathan’s hands and turned, stopping for a moment. 

“The dressing room is just ahead to your left dear,” Jonathan instructed. “We’ll wait for you here. Don’t keep us in suspense too long!”

Hannah slipped the yellow silk chiffon dress over her head letting it cascade in a whoosh around her ankles. It fit perfectly. She gazed at herself in a full-length mirror feeling like a princess. 

Helen and Jonathan were waiting in a sitting area chatting and snickering over the latest gossip when Hannah appeared in the doorway.

“Oh my dear! You are stunning! Jonathan you are a genius! Of course we will take it!”

Jonathan beamed proudly. 

Hannah giggled, twirling full circle, “Really? Oh I do love this dress. Thank you. Thank you so very much!”

“Absolutely my dear. Now hurry along. We have an important dinner to prepare.” Helen turned to Jonathan, “As always it has been a pleasure my friend. You are a genius. I’ll say it again! You are a genius!”

“Thank you ladies. The pleasure has been all mine,” Jonathan called to them as they walked out the door. “Come back soon. And enjoy your evening!” 

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To read other installments of this fiction series click HERE and scroll down to the story entitled Seasoning.


Seasoning – Part 25

Young Women Talking by Pierre-Auguste Renoir



Seasoning – Part 25

Helen stirred, roused awake by the aroma of savory vegetable soup and brewing tea. “Well, I must’ve been tired,” she told herself as she smoothed the wrinkles in her dress and tucked her hair into a soft twist. She sauntered slowly toward the kitchen taking time to notice how lovely the house looked; clean, everything in its place.

“I smelled that soup all the way in my room, Hannah. How nice of you to fix lunch. I’m famished.”

“I thought you might be Helen. You barely touched breakfast. Here. Have a nice cup of tea while I get you a bowl.”

Helen sat at the kitchen table, beautifully set with delicate hand-painted china, a tray of sandwiches, shiny silverware and neatly folded cloth napkins. “You are very good at this Hannah. Everything is perfection,” Helen smiled as she sipped her tea.

“I had a good teacher. My mother gets all the credit,” Hannah gushed as she placed two bowls of steaming soup on the table and sat down.

Helen wasted no time, scooping several spoonfuls of soup, dipping the edge of her sandwich in the broth before taking a bite.

Hannah joined her, hoping Helen had forgotten her promise to “catch up”.  She hadn’t.

With a bite of bread still swirling on her tongue Helen garbled, “Well now, I am so glad to have this alone time with you Hannah. You know I’m not one to beat around the bush.”

Hannah stopped eating. She felt the blood rushing to her head.

“What I saw with my own two eyes this morning…”

“Helen, I can…”

“Shush Hannah, let me finish.” Helen reached for Hannah’s hand, patting it gently. “When Marjorie and others called to tell me about you and Henry; how well you two were getting along, I had to come.”

Helen grabbed Hannah’s hand and stood up, leading her out of the kitchen, through the parlor, down the hallway, into Henry’s room. She turned to Hannah, “I need you to see something.” She rummaged through the tiny drawer in the vanity, “You’ll understand soon. At least I think you will. When I spoke to Henry this morning I saw it in his eyes. That’s when I knew it was time.”

“Is this what you’re looking for Helen?” Hannah showed her the folded envelope.

“What? How did you? Where did you?

“Henry gave it to me this morning. It’s been such a strange week Helen. Strange dreams, flashbacks. Feeling as though Henry and I have known each other, or knew each other, realizing how impossible that is. And then…”

“The letter.” Helen smiled softly. She sat on the chest at the foot of the bed, patting the space next to her, motioning Hannah to join her. “Hannah dear, I believe Henry has been searching for you his entire life.”

Hannah looked into her eyes, tears streaming down her face. “I thought I was going crazy. Everything felt so familiar. Henry feels so…”

“I know dear. It’s unbelievable. I remember thinking Alice was losing her mind when she asked me to help her write the letter. She was so frail. I loved her like a sister you know, so I helped her write the words and hid the letter as she requested. I figured it would remain in that drawer forever. Still, I did wonder if it could be true.” Helen wrapped her arms around Hannah, “And I promised her this one last thing; that I would tell you this when the time came.”

Hannah looked up at Helen.

“Welcome home, dear, welcome home.”

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This is the 25th installment of a story that began as a microfiction piece prompted by Jane Dougherty’s challenge. If you’d like to read previous chapters click HERE and scroll down to the story, Seasoning.


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