The moment you’ve all been waiting for, my darlings, is at hand! That’s right! Parts One and Two of Flowers, my short story sequel to The Lady of the Vineyard, is coming to you … right here … right now!
Okay, so maybe none of you actually want to read this story. Whatever. Comment and say you liked it anyway!
Judy Kee was sitting at the top of the stairs, watching the door attentively. She wasn’t allowed to go outside and potentially muss up her clothes, as Granny was sure she would (despite her love for her granddaughter, she didn’t think her perfect), but Judy was quite ready to jump up at any second, her ears perked, alert for the slightest sound of her father’s car.
She ran her hand through her strawberry-blonde hair, bumping the blue ribbon to the side. She had managed to keep her dress relatively unwrinkled, though, and her shoes weren’t scuffed, so Granny’s campaign for a nice-looking little girl was succeeding at least partially.
“How much longer will they be?” Judy called up the stairs to her grandmother, who was doing some unpacking to prepare the nursery.
“I don’t know. It’s a long drive to the hospital, darling. Why don’t you come help me set up this room? Come see the toys your father bought, spoiling his baby already,” she ‘tsked.
“No. I’ll stay here,” said Judy quietly.
She was going on seven in a month or so, and a seven-year-old really should help her grandmother, but … she looked longingly at the door. Even if this was as close as she could get, she wouldn’t get any farther away.
Finally, Judy heard the longed-for roar of the silver sports car. She rushed down to stand at the foot of the stairs, bouncing on her toes. “Granny! Granny, they’re here!”
Granny came down the stairs sedately, laughter in her eyes. “Then you may greet them.”
Judy opened the door and rushed out.
Troy opened the door for her and helped her to her feet despite the fact that she didn’t need his assistance.
“I’ll never be as much of a lady as you are a gentlemen,” Adele commented merrily.
“I know,” Troy replied with a smile. “Let me take her for you.”
“No. I want to carry her home,” she said. “Just get my suitcase, please.”
Troy frowned. “You’re sure.”
“Oh, dear, I don’t know. I might faint halfway up the walk,” Adele laughed, rolling her eyes.
They turned; Judy ran up and barreled into Troy’s legs. Troy picked her up and swung her around. Then he set her down and picked up the suitcase. “Let’s get inside.”
“Yes. The wind might blow me away,” said Adele, pretending to stagger.
“Careful, Della! And you know that’s not it. Though you probably shouldn’t -”
Judy stood on tiptoes and tugged on her mother’s sleeve. “Mother, can I see? Can I hold her?”
“Not yet, Judy,” Adele replied. She walked towards the house quickly. Troy reached around her to open the door as Adele adjusted her hold on her child to do so, Adele pretended to scowl at him and then smiled, and they entered their house.
“Mother, now?” Judy asked eagerly.
“Don’t bother your mother,” Troy said almost sharply.
Judy glanced up at him in surprise. “But Daddy.”
“Judy.” His look was a warning.
Tearful, Judy examined her shoes. She’d scuffed the very tip of the left toe as she ran outside to meet her parents. This brought more tears. What a bad girl she was!
Granny came down the stairs then. She was let to hold the baby, and look at it, and smile at it, and ask why they’d named her what they’d named her – Camilla Estelle Kee, quite a title for a little baby like that.
Judy turned away and walked through the dining room and kitchen and out the back door. She rubbed the tears away and scowled. Didn’t they know that sisters were more important than grandmothers?
* * * * *
He carried her suitcase up the stairs to their bedroom and set it on the floor to be unpacked later. Glancing around, he took in the many unpacked boxes which contained their belongings. Sighing, he rubbed his forehead. He couldn’t leave now. He couldn’t leave until they were settled in their new home.
Calm down, calm down. They’ll be fine. Granny is here, remember? She’ll take care of the cleaning and cooking. Lola will be here later … Lola is splendid emotional support. But … I sure hope You know what You’re doing, God.
Taking a deep breath, he turned and left the room. As he walked down the hall, he ducked his head into the nursery. Granny had done a good job – and a loving job – preparing that room. He had managed to get a few coats of pale blue paint on the walls while Adele was staying at the hospital, but that was all he’d had time for, as leaving Adele’s side had been somewhat of a trial. They had kept him away from her during the hard part; he should be with her while she recovered. It made sense, and no air-headed blonde nurse was going to tell him otherwise.
Hurrying down the stairs, he found that Adele and Granny had wandered into the living room. Granny had Camilla. Troy bit his lip. Would Adele’s first excitement fade? That would hurt. It would hurt almost too much, and goodness knows he was sick of hurting.
“Where’s Judy?” he asked, trying not to look worried.
“She’s … oh, she probably went upstairs. You know how she loves that little attic room,” Adele replied, lounging on a sofa rescued from her apartment.
“Oh.” Troy sat on her legs.
“Gosh, you’re bony.” He stood.
Adele tucked her legs under her. “You’re unbelievable. One moment I can’t carry seven pounds of baby; the next you sit on me. Unbelievable.”
“You’re the one who said I was too … what was the word you used? Predictable?”
“You see what I’m up against?” Adele demanded of her mother.
“I don’t see anything,” Granny replied, giving her daughter a reproving look. No matter what, it was a matter of fact with Granny that Adele was to blame.
“I told you she’d always be on my side,” Troy whispered to his wife. “I’m ever so glad. Your side is already armed with yourself! I don’t stand a chance without some backup.”
Adele sighed dramatically, pretending greater irritation than she felt. A moment of silence was followed by a comment from her. “It’s strange that Judy would wander of, especially since she was so eager to see Camilla.”
“It’s definitely strange. I’ll go see if I can’t find her. Oh, Mrs. Collier, my sister is coming in from London next week. She doesn’t want to be alone at her house. Is that fine?”
“Yes, it is. And you needn’t call me Mrs. Collier.”
“Thanks, and I prefer it.”
“How come I don’t get to decide whether your sister can come tomorrow or not?” Adele pouted.
“Because you don’t care as long as it doesn’t cause you any work.”
“True,” Adele replied. “Bring Judy back here, won’t you? She can help me give Camilla her bottle. Won’t that please her?” she asked almost anxiously.
Troy nodded encouragingly. “It will.”
“Or will she think I’m trying to pass Camilla off to her? Because Judy can take responsibility over any little thing you let her take care of. I remember Millie brought a kitten in from the alley one day, and Judy took care of her so carefully. She was so heartbroken that we couldn’t keep her. You know how I feel about animals in the house.”
Troy laughed. “Don’t Holt and I both know it! But Camilla is hardly a kitten, and I don’t think we object much to keeping her.”
“No, it’s a little different, isn’t it?”
“A little?” Granny asked incredulously.
“A little,” Adele repeated. “Mother, I’m going to see about getting her bottle ready. When Camilla wants to eat, she wants to eat immediately, and it’s best to have it a little in advance. She has a somewhat unpredictable stomach.”
* * * * *
Adele tested the heat of the bottle by dripping a little of the milk on her wrist. She mentally questioned the use of the wrist for this important investigation, and dripped some on her hand, nose, and tongue.
Adele picked up a rag and began washing herself up. “Mm?”
“What are you doing?”
“Um … just getting Camilla her bottle.”
“I thought mothers nursed their babies like cats,” Judy said, folding her arms over her chest and staring at her mother reprovingly.
“Sometimes … and sometimes they bottle-feed them.”
“Like a sick little lamb?” Judy asked.
“Yes, like a sick little lamb, only perhaps a little less out of necessity and more out of convenience.”
“Daddy says having a baby isn’t always convenient.”
“If that man knew what was best for him, he wouldn’t talk so much.”
Judy shrugged. “I guess so.”
“So, where were you?”
“Outside. In the garden. Daddy and I are going to plant vegetables for the war. I hoe it every day. We’ll put the seeds in soon. Mother, how does planting vegetables help the war?”
“Goodness knows!” said Adele nonchalantly. She did know, of course, but she didn’t want to get stuck in another endless string of why’s. “Let’s go feed Camilla, okay, baby?”
“Yes, us! You said you wanted to help with her lots, didn’t you? I need you to. I honestly have no idea how you survived; it’s probably best not to take the risk again. So will you help me?”
“I guess so.” Judy beamed. “I just thought you didn’t want me to. You didn’t want me to hold her, after all.”
Adele set the bottle down and leaned back against the counter. “Now, Judy. You know better than that.”
“Sometimes I do, but sometimes I don’t, either,” Judy explained. “We’d better hurry and feed her before the bottle gets cold.”
“Daddy said the nurses wouldn’t let him touch Camilla barely at all, and they wouldn’t let me come see her. Why do you think they’re so mean?”
“They don’t want the baby to get sick while it’s little and delicate,” Adele explained, leaning back on the couch and closing her eyes.
Troy, sitting on Judy’s other side, pretended to scowl. “That woman had plainly never been a father,” he said.
Adele reached over Judy and slapped his arm.
“Well, she plainly hadn’t,” Troy said defensively.
“Troy, stop your nonsense,” Adele demanded.
Troy smiled and shook his head.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“That I can’t stop my nonsense. I am my nonsense.”
“Nonsense! I’m merely implausible.”
“I give up,” said Adele.
Troy laughed. “That’s the problem with you, Della. You surrender far too easily.”
Adele rolled her eyes. “Just shut your mouth before you get deeper in than you are already.”
Troy faked a long face. “Judy, did you hear what she just said to me? I’m hurt. I am very hurt.”
Judy cast him a sympathetic smile.
“The whole world is against me!” Adele exclaimed dramatically.
“Mother, leave Daddy alone,” said Judy reprovingly.
“I tried. Do you know he sat on me earlier? Just sat on me! There should be some consequences at least! I mean, in my condition …”
“What? Earlier you were telling me how I needed to leave you alone and let you choose your own boundaries, and now I can’t even sit on you?”
“Troy, I swear -”
“Judy, I’m disappointed. Can’t you see the injustice in all this? It’s ridiculous. You should be on my side. I’m the one who’s getting crushed.”
“Oh, that was only physically. My poor feelings …” Troy placed a hand over his heart. “I think I need some chocolate, Judy.”
“I think so, too,” Judy said, knowing anything her father would have would be shared.
“You don’t need anything, least of all sweets. It’s too close to dinner.”
“Judy and I are rebelling against dinner. We find it a silly habit,” Troy announced.
“Yes. You feel the same way; you never eat anything.”
“I need to lose weight.”
“You’ve been saying that for thousands of years and yet you still don’t eat! Eventually the weight’s got to go somewhere, and then you’ll have no excuse. Besides, food is necessary for survival.”
“Yes, but not chocolate.”
“Agree to disagree.”
“Weren’t you just saying something about ‘surrendering far too easily,’ Troy?”
“Mm … maybe …” Troy said slowly. “But I was talking about you, not me.”
“What’s the difference?”
“You’re shorter than I am. And you have brown hair.”
“No, I mean … oh, never mind.”
“Della, what did I tell you about giving up?”
“Oh, I’m sick of you!” Adele exclaimed and marched out of the room.
“Is she really?” Judy asked.
“I don’t know. You can never tell with Dellas. Here, let me take Camilla. Isn’t she sweet? I think she looks like your mother.”
“She does,” Judy agreed as Troy took the baby from her. “At least, parts of her do,” she amended.
“She’s going to have brown hair. Your mother will be very upset.”
“Because Della doesn’t favor brown hair.”
“But she has it!”
“I know, and it looks so well on her! But, like I said, you can never tell with Dellas.”
Judy laughed and Camilla hiccuped.
* * * * *
Adele rolled over in bed and opened her eyes. She laid still for a minute, listening, then moaned and tugged the covers over her head.
“What’s wrong?” Troy asked sleepily.
“I woke up.”
“Oh, dear. How will you manage?”
“I didn’t want to wake up until Camilla did. She kept me up half the night.”
“She woke up twice. I think that’s considered almost drugged for a newborn.” Troy laughed. “You didn’t drug her, did you, Dell?”
“No, but I wish I had,” Adele mumbled.
“I do hope you’re joking. I was.”
“I don’t know. Am I?”
Troy laughed again and got out of bed.
“You keep quiet. I’m going back to sleep.”
“And I’m going into London today.”
“I told you I was going to join up after the baby came.”
Adele propped herself up on her elbow. “Oh, forget about that, Troy! You’re too old!”
“Too old! I’m thirty-two! That’s not too old.”
“Not for army, but you keep talking about planes and such. You’re too old for that. They’ll tell you they can’t teach an old dog new tricks and put you on ground crew.”
“Hmm. We’ll see about that. Go back to sleep. I’ll try to get ready quietly. I’m just going to dress and brush my teeth.”
“And your hair, although I don’t know what good it’ll do for you,” Adele murmured into her pillow.
* * * * *
Troy got back late that evening, driving rather slowly. Adele met him at the door.
“You were right. That’s a first.” He glanced up at her and smiled sadly.
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“Why are you sorry? You predicted it. You expected it.”
“I’m sorry because I don’t like to see you disappointed,” Adele said with some difficulty. “But Troy, perhaps it’d be better … a desk job or something. You might even enjoy it. You like working with people.”
“I would have liked flying an aeroplane.”
“But … why?”
“I told you. It was my father’s passion.”
“Not much to have a ‘passion’ about when he was alive,” Adele commented.
“That was part of the fun for him. Doing something new and excited. Well, I’m not like him in that … but I would have liked to be like him in this. I could do it, I think, too. I have the mind for it. Know a lot about the mechanics, the way things work … have always studied it.”
“But studying isn’t doing.”
“I know. I have flown, though.”
“Yes. Not enough, I know … but some. My friend Jean has a plane you used to let me use all the time.”
“‘Your friend Jean’ who just ‘has a plane?’ Why haven’t I heard about this before?” Adele asked laughingly.
“Haven’t gotten to it much in the last few months,” Troy replied.
“Ah, well, yes. But you never said anything about it.”
“I didn’t think it was worth mentioning. Anyway, I think I’m going to keep bothering the War Office until they agree to let me do something. I could ask Jean to write them a letter.”
“So ‘your friend Jean’ who just ‘has a plane’ and you talk to often?”
“Well, not often. Every month or so.”
“Troy, I’m a bit disturbed to find that you have a life outside of me.”
Troy chuckled, put an arm around Adele’s shoulders, and hugged her. “Thank you.”
“For laughing until I do. Come on, let’s go inside, Della.”
* * * * *
And Troy did ‘join’ the RAF, about a week later after receiving a long letter from one Jean Fontaine and making friends with a few recruiting office people. ‘Join’ because he didn’t so much ‘join’ as slip in under the noses of anyone who might want the inexperienced old man out.
“I don’t really care if they just have me bring coffee to the actual airmen as long as I’m in officially,” Troy confided to Adele with a wink.
“Whatever makes you happy,” she replied, quite disgusted with the proceedings.
So within the month, Troy was gone, doing something to help the war effort even if it was just providing caffeine to exhausted flyboys (though Adele later reflected he might have been joking about that). She gathered from a ‘phone call the night after he left that he was enjoying himself greatly (which she didn’t think was the way one ought to behave during a war), liking being teased with typical Troy bravado.
“He’s just going to slip in the mess hall and break a leg or something. He’ll never get up in the air,” commented Eloise “Lola” Kee-Cole who was now another resident of the ramshackle country house where Adele, Judy, Mrs. Collier, and Camilla were to remain for the duration of the war.
“At any rate, I’m glad he’s gone. We can get to work on the cleaning,” Granny said happily.
Get to work on the cleaning they did. The house smelled strongly of bleach – of turpentine, in some places – and dust floated in the air that had once settled on everything. At least, Adele reflected, It didn’t used to make me cough!
They even attacked the attic, dragging all the old furniture and dozens of trunks full of trinkets left behind by the previous owner – and older man who had apparently kept everything he ever laid hands on – out and littering every other room in the house with them, trying to decide what would be kept and what must go. Granny thought everything should go; Lola thought nothing should go. As they continued arguing about it for weeks on end, Lola technically got her way.
Where were Adele and Judy and Camilla during this flurry of brooms and brushes? Well, they were outside in the garden.
And that’s where the story really begins.
Note that I didn’t do a ton of editing … for grammar, spelling, or historical inaccuracies! But constructive criticism is welcome if you care to. 🙂
p.s. Remember to go to this post and comment your questions any time before 4 o’clock P.M. today!