The Gatehouse

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“…and this, ladies and gentlemen, is where the family most oft exited the manor if they wished a stroll down the North side of their estate…”

Well-trained and well-rounded tourist faces followed their guide’s directing hand, staring out the open side door. A few, “Oohs” and phone-clicks captured the view but most eyes slid back, puppy-eyed, to the mustachioed leader. Meredith glanced up from examining the iron stove but the subservient herd completely blocked the opening. She’d look once they trundled on.

“Over here,” the guide continued, “In this alcove, one finds a few items the family may have used for such an excursion.”

*Click* *click* captured the made-in-China umbrellas and slickers hanging on IKEA hooks. Meredith rolled her eyes.

“Shall we continue on to the servants’ quarters?” Murmurs of assent answered him. The tour guide turned smartly and ducked up a narrow set of stairs. “Mind the head,” came back to them.

“And the waist,” Meredith mumbled, eyeing the first few tourists and wondering how they’d get through the space. She stopped, her garden view finally unobstructed. Some force, some memory, some power held her; staring out the opening.

I’ve been here before, she thought. She knew.

But how ridiculous. This was her first visit to England. It was her first visit overseas at all, only made possible by an impulsive coworker’s double-booking. Only Karen would be wealthy and ignorant enough to pay for two vacations in the same week. A similar impulse to now had compelled Meredith to take Karen up on her discounted offer…

Meredith stepped nearer the exit, still not quite in control of her mind or self. Was it the worn, polished stone path; the neat, trim, British grass; or the charming stone brickwork of the cottagelike gate house before her? What reminded her, drew her, pulled at her?

Her eyes flitted to the arched, weather-beaten wood door. Her feet sandaled down the path toward it. From so near the building, she could see and appreciate its age but also the original care and detail put into its workmanship. She could not imagine building the walls and windows, peaks and arch, all with a barrow-full of tools and only the hands God gave you.

Simon. Simon had built the gatehouse. He’d made the door. How she knew that, Meredith could only guess. The further she walked away from the tour group and the closer she drew to outside, the more antique memories trickled into her mind.

Father had asked Simon to build it on the East side but Mother had wished it here, atop a slight knoll before the moors began. Meredith’s pace quickened. The afternoon sunlight danced into her eyes just as she pressed her hands against the garden door and pushed.

“Meredith?” she raised a gloved hand to shade against the bright light to her left. There, beneath a tree, leaned a surprised young man in riding gear.

“Edmund,” she breathed. Recalling herself, she corrected with, “Good afternoon, Mr. Manfield.”

He stood away from the tree and strode toward her in haste. Removing his cap and taking her hand in his, he said, “But, your father said you never again desired my company.” His eyes searched her face beneath her hat brim, imploring.

Meredith could scarcely think above her rising excitement and beating heart. Father, father… She met Edmund’s gaze, blushed, looked away.

“What is it, Mere -Miss Howard?”

“Father,” she began. “‘Twas all Father’s doing. He forbade me to speak with you, but-” Here, she drew enough courage to meet his gaze once more. “I know that, if I heed his warnings, I shall be miserable the remainder of my days.”

A smile brushed against Edmund’s lips and lit his eyes more warmly still. It came again, staying this time. She’d always loved his smile.

He kneeled, right there amoungst the heather and the wet grasses. “Meredith Howard, I could never live, knowing I were the cause of a lifetime of misery.” Smiling wider, he said, “I will go and speak with your father -this very moment- with you by my side.”

Rising, he grasped her hand more firmly. She felt his strength and love through both their gloves as, together, they walked back to the arched wood door. Edmund pulled it open and she glanced at it as they passed. Simon had just stained it, and it looked nearly new.

Remembered for Sue Vincent‘s Thursday photo prompt: transition.

 

© 2019 Chelsea Owens

The Case of the Kitchen Cacophony

Frank stopped to listen; the drip drip drip of the old faucet echoing in an empty kitchen. A possibly empty kitchen, of course. Frank remembered The Escapade of ’18 like it was last year and wasn’t taking any chances.

He peered around a finger-smudged corner; first an ear, then his cheek, then his left eye.

Now that his ear was exposed, a click click click from the old kitchen clock played backup music to the faucet. A whirr whirr swoosh whispered from beyond the old kitchen window. An ergh creak moan drifted from the old kitchen floor.

Now that his eye was exposed, he watched the glint squint of dancing stove light caught in leaking faucet drips. He saw the spooky lift and shake of branches sighing in window wind. His attention flicked to the stuttering movement of clock hand inchings. His feet felt, surely, an undulation or two from the beams beneath them in the groaning floor.

What ear and eye did not see, to their owner’s relief, was any sign of HER. Frank sighed softly. Softly, so as not to alert HER to his presence.

His left sneaker inched to and around his peering-corner. Amidst the drip click whoosh creak of kitchen cacophony his squeak-toed sneakers barely spoke. Soon; his left arm, knee, side, and nose came out. He still saw no whole person; no HER. He decided to fully enter.

Thus he stood, midst stove light shadows and singing sighs. Thus he found things just as he spied. Thus he moved, more stealthily still, across an ergh creak moan floor-sea in squeak squeak shoes past click click hands and drip drip sink.

And reached the silent ceramic pot, alone. Alone, with the sounds; which now, for dramatic suspense, all held their noise and watched.

He stretched an arm.

He opened a fist.

He grasped the white ceramic lid.

He lifted.

Standing just a bit taller on tips of toes, Frank used his eyes to peer inside.

And gasped.

All at once, the old kitchen orchestra strummed to life. All at once, they played in time. And, as Frank returned ‘cross noisome space, their song came clear to his sad ear; a rhyme he knew from preschool years yet hadn’t recalled till now it played in drip click moan:

♪Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?♫

And, sad little Frank answered truthfully, “Not me.”

 

Thanks to Peregrine Arc, for a great prompt idea.

For this week’s prompt, I want you to imagine you are a thief. Whatever motive you have, good, bad, or both, is up to you. Whatever setting and condition the safe is in is also up to you. It could be underwater, in a mine, in a delapidated mansion…Take the wheel of literature and drive us there!

But here’s the twist: you don’t get what’s inside the safe. Do you crack it and the contents are missing? Or do you lose your nerve and get caught? Ponderings. Take it and fly and add a psychological twist for $1000, Alex.

The Apple Pie from the Same Tree

Ann’s mother was special when it came to food. She could scan a printed page, retrieve a container from the cupboard, and *poof* add to the mixing bowl. Later, the family would eat freshly-baked casserole or chocolate-crusted cake.

And that is why Ann thought she might be magic, too. Surely, by the same means, Ann could create with a pinch of this or dash of that.

After Ann’s first attempt, only her father would taste it.

“Ah. Mashed potatoes?” he asked.

Ann nodded, trying not to feel sick as he stirred her mix of potato, milk, and runny eggs.

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Based on the author’s actual experience, and
Stirred together for the Carrot Ranch Literary Community.

Fairy Tale Life

Once upon a time, there was a poor homemaker who barely had enough time to wash the clothes or dress her children. She never seemed able to sweep her kitchen floor.

One night, as usual, she cleaned enough dishes to make it through the following meal, dressed the children and got them to bed, then started some laundry and fell asleep quite late.

The next morning, she was surprised to find that a small army of ants had cleaned all the crumbs off the floor for her!

If you think she’s going to make them little outfits in gratitude, though, you’re reading the wrong fairy tale.