Tag Archives: Short Story

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 22

thomas-benjamin-kennington-xx-reading-the-letter-xx-private-collection

“Reading the Letter” by Thomas Benjamin Kennington

Henry folded the letter and slipped it back into envelope. He would share it with Hannah tomorrow. How lovely Alice had been to him all those years knowing what she knew. He settled into bed feeling a peace he had never known, and he realized too, that Alice was finally at peace. He no longer felt her hovering presence. “She is really gone,” he thought.

Shades of warm of amber streamed into Hannah’s room gently rousing her as morning broke. She freshened up and dressed before going into the kitchen to start breakfast. To her surprise, Henry was standing at the stove stirring pot of something delicious. The aroma of toasting bread wafted from the oven and coffee was percolating on the stove.

“Good morning Hannah. I hope you’re hungry.”

“I’m sorry. Did I oversleep?”

“No, no, not at all. I was up early, craving coffee. Once I got here, I decided to start breakfast. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Of course not. I take it you slept well then?”

“Yes ma’am, I did. Now take a seat. I’ll bring you some coffee. I have something to show you.”

“Really, it’s not necessary for you to serve me Henry.”

“Sit!” Henry ordered playfully.

Hannah sat down at the small kitchen table nearby and watched him pour coffee. “What has gotten into him?” she wondered.

Henry set the cup on the table in front of her and reached into his pocket, removing a folded envelope. He leaned over kissing her gently on the top of her head as he handed it to her.

“This is for you, Hannah.”

Hannah crinkled her brow and flashed a questioning scowl toward Henry.

He smiled, “Drink your coffee and read it Hannah.”

“But…where…who is it from? I don’t recall a postal delivery this week.”

“That’s because it didn’t come by post.” Henry was clearly enjoying this. “It’s from Alice…”he paused to allow what he had just said to sink in, “…to you Hannah.”

“What? I don’t think I heard you correctly. Did you say the letter is from Alice? Your Alice?”

“I did indeed. I know it sounds crazy, and I wouldn’t believe it myself if it hadn’t happened to me, but I saw her in my room last night Hannah. I saw Alice. We talked, just like we are talking now. She told me about the letter. Told me where to find it. Please read it Hanna, while I finish making our breakfast. It will all make sense to you when you do.”

“I’m not sure about that. Nothing makes sense to me this morning.”

“You do trust me, don’t you Hannah?”

“Well…that toast smells a bit overly toasty…” Hannah grinned mischievously.

“Oh good god!” Henry rushed to the oven removing the toast in the nick of time.

Hannah burst into laughter, took a sip of coffee, and settled into her chair as she opened the envelope, removing the hand-written letter.

Dearest Lady,

You and I have not had the good fortune to meet, but I know you. If you are reading this, then I am certain that our beloved Henry is the common cord that binds our hearts. As impossible as it may sound, I sensed that my time in this life would be short, but I was comforted by the fact that you and he would find each other one day

Hannah looked up at Henry who was busy at the stove, his back to her. She returned to the letter.

I’m sure you must be wondering how I could possibly know you; know about you. Please let me explain. Over my years with Henry, there were little signs. Now you mustn’t think that I ever wanted for anything or felt unloved as his wife. Henry was a wonderful husband in every way. But he suffered from the most distressing dreams. As I lay next to him night after night, I would listen to him calling out for you. He promised to find you again. Sometimes he cried over his inability to save you.  

Eventually I came to the conclusion that you were real somewhere. It was the only thing that made sense.  I truly believe that you and Henry have been together in another lifetime. I dont know if you believe in such a thing, I didnt either. But the details Henry shared as he spoke in his sleep were so vivid; so heartbreaking. I gathered that there had been a flood and that you had been mortally injured. It always ended the same way, with you slipping away from him as he expressed his eternal love for you, crying out, “I will always love you.”

Hannah’s heart raced causing her face to flush. Tears welled in her eyes. How could Alice know this? She read on.

When we were first married, I felt jealous of you. But as the years passed I became accustomed to your presence in Henry’s dreams and occasionally, in deja-vu moments that would sweep him away to another place and time.

When I became ill, I knew I needed to write this letter to you to let you know that I am so happy that Henry has finally found you. I am convinced that you and he have traveled through eternity to find each other. 

Be happy my dear. Trust your instincts. Love Henry with all your heart and with my blessings. He has dreamed of you for a lifetime.

Yours truly,

Alice

The room grew silent. Henry had finished plating breakfast and turned to see Hannah clutching the letter, tears running down her cheeks. “Are you alright Hanna?”he asked softly.

“Oh Henry, this whole thing seems unbelievable and yet, a part of me knows that this…” she held the letter up, “…that all of this is true. It gives me hope that maybe I’m not crazy after all,” she sighed, “or maybe I am!”

“You’re not crazy Hannah. I had no idea Alice knew all of this, or even that she wrote the letter, until last night. When our conversation turned to my brother and Alice at dinner lat night a wave of guilt overtook me. That is why I left so abruptly. I was thinking about the past and about Alice. Please forgive me. The truth is, I love you Hannah and I believe I have loved you, and you have love me too, for a very long time.”

“I do Henry. I love you too.”

“But Hannah, the most important question at the moment is this: do you love me enough to eat my cooking?” Henry chuckled, placing a plate in front of her.

“Well, I’m afraid I may have to think about that…” Hannah burst into uproarious laughter, joined by Henry whose chuckle swelled into full snorting guffaws as he wrapped his arms around her.

From the entranceway a familiar, bellowing voice interrupted their gaiety. “Well now, what is this I’m hearing? Am I in the wrong house?”

Staring wide-eyed, in each others arms, at their uninvited guest as she bounded into the kitchen, Henry and Hannah blushed as they exclaimed in unison, “Helen!”

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This is installment 22 of an ongoing series. To read previous chapters click HERE and scroll to the series called Seasoning.  Thanks as always to Jane Dougherty for the initial inspiration for this story.


Seasoning – Part 18

Painting by Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot

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…”

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This is Part 19 of a Fiction Series originally inspired by Jane Dougherty‘s Microfiction Challenge. To read other installments click HERE.


Seasoning – Part 17

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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.

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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.


Seasoning – Part 16

Reviving a previous painting prompt for this installment and a shout out to Jane Dougherty for her ongoing encouragement and insight. Read other installments of this story HERE.

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Seasoning – Part 16

After Henry finished breakfast he threw on his overcoat, grabbed his hat and tipped it toward Hannah, “See you tonight then. Remember what I said about the landscapers. Whatever you need. And be sure to get that dress replaced at Jonathan’s.”

“Thank you. I will. I may not make it into town today, but I promise, before the week is out. Have a good da…” Hannah’s words hung in the air as Henry closed the door.

She cleaned the kitchen and checked the ice box and cupboards, making a list of items she needed for dinner. After calling the market with her order, she finished the rest of her daily chores. Finally, it was time to begin work in the garden.

Hannah heard the landscape crew in the front of the house. They were busy removing tree limbs and what was left of the charred trunks.

“Hello,” she called to them from the edge of the yard, “I have more for you to do in back when you’re finished here.”

“Hello Miss,” replied the crew chief, “Mr. Chambers said you might. Where can I find you when we’re done with these trees.”

“I’ll be in the back, in the garden…if you can call it that.”

A second crew member chimed in, “Oh yeah, Chief, you remember that garden. We used to help the missus with clearing and tilling every year about this time.”

“That’s right, Joe. It was one of the nicest gardens in the neighborhood, as I recall. Mrs. Chambers had quite a knack with flowers.”

“Well, I’m hoping to bring that garden back to life,” Hannah smiled, “I’m glad to hear that you are familiar with the place.”

“Yes ma’am, we know it pretty well,” said the chief, “we’ll get you started off right. You’ll probably be needing some topsoil too. We can have that back out here by tomorrow.”

“Oh yes, thank you. That will be perfect!”

Hannah turned to head back when a familiar voice called her from across the lawn.

“You hoo, Hannah dear!” It was Margery, arms laden with a basket and several jars.

“Thought you might be about ready for more fresh eggs. And I brought you some peaches too. Canned them myself last fall. They’re wonderful in a nice cobbler or pie. Do you bake? Well, of course you must! But if you’re interested, I have some good recipes. I’m happy to share them with you. Tried and tested on Mr. Gordon, they are. I’m sure you can tell by looking at him, he loves his sweets.”

By the time Margery had reached Hannah she was out of breath, but still clucking away; something about how many fruit trees they had, adding that she also had jars of apples and pears, some apple butter, and vegetables too, if Hannah was interested.

Hannah chuckled as she took the eggs and peaches from Margery. “Helen was right,” she thought, “Margery is quite a talker.”

“Thank you so much!” Hannah interjected, when Margery paused to take a breath. “These peaches will make a lovely dessert. I was just heading back to the garden, but I’d love to pause for a cup of tea if you’d like to join me.”

“Oh, thank you so much for the invitation, but I’m afraid I am on my way to town. Another time perhaps? I’m dying to hear more about the Waverly Estate. You lived there, isn’t that right?”

“Yes I did. My whole life! My parents still manage the household and grounds.”

“I can’t wait dear! We will have tea soon. But, I’m off. Have an appointment. Mustn’t be late, you know. Ta ta! Enjoy those peaches!”

Hannah brought the eggs and peaches into the kitchen. By the time she went back out to the garden, the landscape crew was waiting for her.

“Well, I can see that it’s been a while since this ground has been worked,” surmised the crew chief scratching his head, “I think we ought to start by removing all of that brush for you and then till the ground so it’s ready for topsoil.”

“Perfect!” Hannah replied. “That will be just perfect!”

“We’ll take care of it for you, ma’am.”

The market delivery boy arrived just as the crew got to work. Hannah directed him to the kitchen to deposit the groceries, sending him on his way with a shiny coin from the tip jar on the counter. She hummed a happy tune as she prepared dinner.

The landscape crew had completely cleared the brush and were tilling the soil when Hannah appeared in the back doorway with a jug of fresh lemonade and a tray of sugar cookies.  As the work crew enjoyed a much deserved break, Hannah closed her eyes and breathed deeply, losing herself in the musky aroma of damp earth that filled the air. “This is what I dreamed of, what I hoped for when I came here,” she thought. Hannah leaned against the door frame crossing her arms to warm herself, “and tonight…”she sighed. Her mind swirled with possibilities.


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