The first time I remember hearing the word I was a small child watching a very old black and white film of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and it had a lasting effect on me. Not just the movie, but the word — sanctuary, the sound of it, the meaning and the concept. Sanctuary resonated with me, even at that young age, on a core level.
There are many reasons why writers write. Some want to leave something behind. Others hope to inspire the masses. Some hope to exercise the ghosts of the past, or at least come to terms with them. Others want to share their struggles in order to help a stranger with theirs.
For me, it’s an escape. I build imaginary places that are my sanctuary. My safe place. And that’s what I want this blog and the serials to be — a sanctuary where each of you will know you are safe from the worst parts of life, even if only for the length of your stay here.
I hope I never cause anyone to feel judged or threatened in any way through my stories. I don’t kill off beloved characters. That’s not part of my personal sanctuary.
The ingredients for this episode are from Daniel at Willy Nilly To and Fro ~ The Philosophy of Inanity. Daniel’s beautifully woven tales will take you to a place far apart from your daily life, I’m certain. Please take time to get to know his blog. Prowl around at your leisure. You might even meet a wee Scottish dragon there.
And now I give you Episode-12. Bon appétit!
12. Lentils, Cumin, and Roast Lamb
It was the wee hours of the morning. All three of us were cold, wet, and exhausted. I had nearly drowned. Yet what were we doing? Moving furniture… that’s what.
There would have been enough space in the living room for both Andy and me to sleep, but Mattie Maddox wasn’t about to let the two of us sleep in the same room. As if we weren’t too exhausted to be making whoopee… and as if we would in the first place. Andy wasn’t my beau. He was my friend. I couldn’t even imagine Andy Avis that way… and I didn’t think I wanted to either. It just felt wrong. Andy was more like a brother than a beau. That whole line of thought sort of gave me the heebie-jeebies.
Mrs. Maddox had a tiny sitting room connected to her bedroom, and that’s where she wanted me to stay. I really wanted to sink into the cozy looking chair. It had a ruffled slipcover with an unusual print done in greens and yellows showing pods and flowers of peas, beans, and lentils. Later Mattie told me that she did the artwork for the fabric.
However, I didn’t try the chair that night. Rather, Andy and I moved furniture around to make enough room for me to have a pallet on the floor. We moved a sturdy artist’s easel, a dress form, the chair, and Mattie’s heavy treadle base sewing machine. It was a beautiful piece, black with gold leaf designs. The treadle base was made of swirly wrought iron — that’s what made it so heavy. I would have appreciated the sewing machine more if we hadn’t had to move it three times.
Wearing a nightgown borrowed from Mattie, I finally crawled into the thick stack of soft quilts. I was asleep before my head touched the pillow. However, one thing we had not taken into account the night before was the lace curtains. The sitting room faced east, and the new day dawned brightly through the lace. So I woke with the rising sun. I was awake, but my body was not ready. I didn’t expect to be sore all over. My muscles must have clenched and strained while I tried to fight my way to the surface of the Atlantic when I fell overboard from the ferry the evening before.
An unexpected sneeze escaped before I could stop it. I hoped I wasn’t being rewarded with a cold for my unintended dip in the ocean. I also hoped my sneeze wasn’t loud enough to wake anyone else. My ears strained in the early morning silence. Ah! It wasn’t so silent after all. In the next room I heard Mattie Maddox snore softly and then turn over. I heard those small sounds despite the much louder sawing of Z’s that came from Andy Avis all the way in the living room.
I sat up cross legged in the middle of my pallet of quilts, and looked around the little room. The night before I was too tired to pay much attention to it. It seemed to be filled with small mementos of Mattie’s life. Spotting a photo album just out of reach, I crawled to it on my hands and knees. I sat back down on the quilts and started looking through the album.
There were a few really old pictures, even some tintype photographs. I wasn’t sure if those would be Mattie’s parents or grandparents. An older woman in one tintype resembled Mattie, but her Gibson Girl hair and attire were from too long ago for the woman to be my hostess. As the clothes in the photos became more modern, the number of pictures per page grew. That was to be expected. It used to be a big deal to get your photograph done, so nobody had very many back when that album was started.
Finally I saw a picture of a girl that looked like a young version of Mattie. A boy stood arm in arm with her and they both smiled broadly. However, a closer look showed me that the “boy” was a girl wearing the tomboy style of clothes. That’s how Daisy, the ghost woman, dressed the first time I met her, though at the time I didn’t know she was a spirit. Could the girl in the picture be Daisy? It was maddening! The girl wore a hat that cast a shadow on her face, and I just couldn’t tell.
I was so busy turning the photo album every which way, trying to get a better look at the girl’s face that I didn’t hear Mattie get up. I was embarrassed to learn that while I had been fooling around with the pictures, she had been up working on the clothes Andy and I had been wearing. She had steamed and pressed Andy’s clothes and they looked good as new. He was all grace and compliments as he took them from her. Then he ran as fast as he could, out of the room to change. You see, he was wearing one of Mattie’s most feminine robes. I promise that I didn’t laugh at him. Seriously. No, really I didn’t laugh. Well, not much…
“Pip dear, I’m afraid your dress isn’t laundered yet. I did Andy’s clothes first because I didn’t have anything I could loan him. You on the other hand can use one of my dresses,” she said and I tried to keep smiling. Mattie must have seen through me. She patted my hand. “I know it will be horribly matronly on a young lady like you, but that’s better than a saltwater stiffened, dirty, torn frock, isn’t it?” she said with a hopeful tone.
I assured Mattie that I’d be most grateful for the loan of a dress, and I tried to put the dowdy style out of my mind. Andy and I needed to go to that church and rectory with the stained glass window like the one Daisy showed to us. Maybe the “proper” dress would encourage them to share whatever they knew.
By the time I finished changing into the very non-flapper dress I heard Mattie cooking breakfast. I felt guilty all over again. It just wasn’t my nature to let someone else do all the work, especially when I already felt like we were imposing on Mattie. It didn’t matter that she had insisted.
Andy soon got even with me for “not” laughing at him wearing a ruffled satin lady’s robe. Before we got to the kitchen the smoky aroma of cumin reached my nose. It was a pleasant scent, but I wasn’t expecting it at breakfast. It turned out Mattie’s grandmother was from Mexico. She treated us to her family recipe for huevos rancheros.
Mattie said she didn’t get to entertain very often, and she insisted on using her good china and having breakfast in her lovely dining room. I was used to eating at the kitchen table. Wearing a borrowed old fashioned dress and sitting at the gleaming mahogany table, I felt a little awkward. So it was hard for me to bring up the subject of Daisy. How would I bring up a spirit?
I finally realized that I didn’t have to talk about that part. I didn’t handle it smoothly. Even Andy did a double take when I just blurted out my question. “Miss Mattie, did you ever know a woman named Daisy? It would have been a long time ago,” I asked bluntly. “I need to find out what happened to her.”
My hostess looked like she really had seen a ghost. Her face went still and expressionless. Then tears streamed down her unmoving face. Mattie picked up a napkin and blotted her face as if nothing had happened. She stood up and carefully placed the napkin on the table.
“Ya’ll wanted to see the rectory and that stained glass window,” she said calmly. “We’d best get on over there before the vicar gets on his rounds. I think you’ll want to talk to him,” she said and went to get her pocketbook.
Andy and I looked askance at one another and shrugged. I was certain that Mattie Maddox was acquainted with Daisy the Dainty Dish. I had assumed they were friends of some sort, but after Mattie’s reaction, I didn’t know what to think.
Either Mattie was athletic for her age, or my question had truly upset her. She walked so fast on the path to the church that Andy and I barely kept up with her. She didn’t say another word until we reached the church, and then she spoke to her friends, not to us.
I wasn’t expecting so many people to be at the church. However, I reminded myself that several of the passengers on our ill-fated ferry decided to stay the night. There was a good bit of bustle and activity.
Suddenly Mattie grabbed my arm and pulled me along with her. I caught Andy’s hand to make sure I wasn’t getting into some kind of trouble alone. Then I spotted the clergyman and knew where Mattie was taking us.
“Vicar Varley,” Mattie called out to the obviously busy cleric. His expression was a rather harried, but he greeted us with a smile. “These young people want to know about daisies,” she said, emphasizing the word and raising her eyebrows.
The vicar’s face blanched. He took us to a stone path that led to the rectory. I could see the golden and aqua blue stained glass window. It caught the morning sun, and glowed in a way that was not unlike the image Daisy showed us.
We took a few steps down the path. Then I heard an upset and familiar voice behind me.
“Paisley Idelle Peabody!” Granny Fanny exclaimed. “Just what do you mean by running off to this island, and with a man to boot! When I heard what happened to that ferryboat I was scared to death.”
“But Granny,” I began.
“But nothing young lady!” Granny cut me off. She’d brook no argument, not when her dander was up like that.
“But Granny please! Let me explain,” I tried again.
“And to think I made a perfectly good roast lamb dinner. Why it might have gone to waste if not for that nice young policeman who stopped by to tell me where you’d gone,” she complained as if we wouldn’t have eaten the leftovers.
“So Hank let you know everything was okay? Then why are you so upset?” I asked, though I probably should have meekly kept my mouth shut.
“You didn’t get my permission. You can’t just to traipsing off to wherever for an overnight stay! It’s not proper. What do you think that will do to your reputation? No respectable girl would do something like that. I can’t condone it. And then I heard what happened to the ferry!” she said.
Unfortunately Mattie Maddox tried to come to my rescue. And yes, she mentioned me getting thrown from the ferry when the freak storm hit. Granny Fanny’s face turned all colors. I thought she might kill me for not drowning. I took a deep breath and braced myself for the next wave.
“Paisley, I can’t put up with this kind of nonsense,” my grandmother said in a cold voice. I don’t care whether I’ve made a passable cook of you or not. I’m sending you back to Florida to live with your father!”
Video: The Galloping Gourmet – Huevos Rancheros
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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