Hailey stared at the red Maples turning black in the gathering darkness and then pulled the curtains closed.
Birdie was out—‘gone to market’, her brief note had said.
More likely, preparing for dinner, no doubt.
Birdie had spent her whole life as a servant—first to Mother and now to her. It hardly seemed a purposeful life.
Maybe after she completed fulfilling the terms of the will Birdie might finally start to really live.
But why hadn’t Birdie married? She wasn’t unattractive—just one of those women who seemed to drift into middle age unattached and incorrigibly independent.
She sighed. She’s found her niche, I suppose—not like me—thirty-five and still searching.
The front door opened accompanied by the sounds of thumps and scraping as Birdie struggled to try to close it without setting down her packages.
“Let me help you with those,” Hailey called down the dark hall.
In the foyer, Birdie was contorted into a comical pose, balancing a cardboard box, pressing it against the wall with her backside, while bending over to retrieve a plastic bag that had slipped free from the others still held tight in her grasp.
“No need to trouble yourself, Miss Hailey. I can manage.” Her knit hat was knocked askew and she was trying to kick the door shut with one foot.
Hailey burst out laughing. “How can you say you’re managing when you look like a circus contortionist?”
She grabbed hold of the cardboard box and while Birdie was straightening up, pushed the door shut.
A cold draft of air swirled around their ankles.
“Oh, Birdie—it must be freezing out there. Why didn’t you wait for me to give you a ride to the store?”
“I like the walk and besides, it’s relaxing for me, Miss Hailey. I love this time of year.”
“Spoken like a true Canadian,” Hailey grunted as she hefted the box onto the kitchen counter.
“What’s in this anyway?” she asked as she opened the cardboard flaps.
“I bought you some wine—your favorite, and a few bottles of beer.”
“Beer—who drinks beer?”
“I thought maybe Brad might like the odd glass.” Her cheeks were rosy and not from the cold.
“That’s very thoughtful, Birdie, but Brad’s not your typical cop, you know.”
“Oh, I know that. I just thought he might enjoy a glass now and then.”
“Hmm. I’ll have to ask him on Friday.”
Birdie set down her bags. “Is that when you’re seeing him again?”
Hailey nodded, chewing on a grape she extracted from one of the shopping bags. “That’s the plan.”
“Good. I like him. He’s a real gentleman.”
“So, what are you planning for dinner?” She tried to be nonchalant, hoping Birdie wouldn’t notice the change of topic.
“I thought we’d have medallions of veal, garlic mashed potatoes and snow peas.”
“That sounds delicious. Maybe you should consider opening a restaurant.”
Birdie giggled. “It’s just home style cooking, Miss Hailey—nothing too fancy.”
Hailey sat on one of the kitchen stools as Birdie began making the meal. “Where did you learn to cook anyway?”
“Papa taught me. He worked his way through university as a short-order cook at a lodge in Muskoka.”
“Your father sounds like an interesting man—must have been to attract Aunt Clare. I hear she was quite the intellectual.”
“Mama was,” Birdie’s eyes brightened. “She used to read me all sorts of books and recite her favorite poems. Every night, before she got sick, she’d sit on my bed and read and talk to me for hours.” Her eyes took on a far away look. “Papa adored her.”
“It must have been hard on him when she died. Do you remember much from that time?”
“No. I tried to forget. I couldn’t mention Mama’s name or Papa would cry. I hated to see him sad.”
A pang of regret seized Hailey. “Birdie, I’m sorry for being so thoughtless. I didn’t mean to depress you.”
Birdie waved it off. “It’s all right Miss Hailey—she was your aunt and I know you’re curious to know about her.
Hailey nodded solemnly.
“Perhaps, after supper we can look at the photographs and mementoes I’ve kept all these year,” Birdie suggested.
“It’s only been in the last few years that I can look at them again without feeling much sorrow. I guess time does heal wounds.”
“I’ll look at pictures, but only if you’re sure it won’t depress you, Birdie.”
“I’m sure.” Her firm lip line and the set of her jaw confirmed her words.
Hailey tried to suppress the excitement she felt rising inside her.
Besides being able to put names to faces, she finally might get some insight into her own family.
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.