As I have not yet figured out where this book is heading (suggestions welcome), you are stuck with flashbacks. Links to previous installments can be found at the bottom of the post. And coming soon… a page on which to read the collected bits.
I’ve just finished clearing away the lunch things when Edwina plucks at my sleeve and leads me to the back of the house. She’s pinched some paper from the parlor desk and we spend our lunch hour locked in the lavatory, Edwina dictating and me writing in the best hand I can manage while cramped on the porcelain like that.
Dear Mr. Baecker,
“Edwina Baecker,” Edwina giggles. “Isn’t that a mouthful? Is it Baker or Becker, do you think? I’d have to stop and wonder whenever I wanted to say my own name.”
“Shhh… concentrate. What do I write next?”
In response to your advertisement, I would like to become a wife to you, and mother to your family also if you have one.
“You think he might have children?” I gasp. I hadn’t thought of that. How do you become a mother to someone else’s children? Edwina is only two years older than I am and seventeen is hardly old enough to become a mother. Not that she has a choice, Mr. Baecker or no Mr. Baecker. But what if his children are older – as old as her?
“He might. Why else do you have to run an advertisement for a wife?” she says practically.
“I could think of a few reasons,” I say, and then we’re both giggling again.
“Keep writing,” she nudges.
I have many years experience in domestic work and I am a good cook.
“What else?” I prompt.
“I suppose we’d better tell him something about me. He might want to know what kind of package he’s getting in the mail.”
I have lovely brown hair and…
Edwina fingers her hair and blushes. She has no reason to – she’s a million times prettier than I am. My hair is brown, but her hair is that rich brown color like the wood of the dining room table. With her green eyes and little wisps of curls escaping her cap, she looks like she could be a milkmaid in a book of nursery rhymes. My own eyes are the color of manure, as my brother once told me.
“I hate that you’re leaving,” I sigh.
A bang on the door startles both of us. “What are you two doing in there? Other people need the facilities.”
It’s only the stable hand. “Women’s problems. Get away,” Edwina snipes. Then she waves a hand at me. “Just write some sort of description of me and finish it. He’ll either take me or he’ll not.”
…green eyes, like the rest of my family in Ireland. Many call me pretty, and I hope you would find me so. I will look forward to your reply.
“It’s perfect,” she says when I read it to her. “Only it sounds so professional like that he’ll be expecting better than he gets.”
“Well, he’s already getting more than he’s bargaining for.” I say it as a joke only, to make us laugh again, but Edwina winces and puts a hand over her belly, protectively.
For a moment, I feel the sharp teeth of jealousy nibbling at my own belly. Stupidity. This letter to Mr. Baeker is little more than a lark, and Edwina’s condition is a life sentence to poverty. This time next year, she’ll be taking in laundry in a shanty somewhere, or worse.
“Don’t worry so much. It’ll work out,” I whisper, mostly to hide my own thoughts. Then I tuck the letter into my apron and we nip back into the kitchen to help with the dishes.
If you’d like to read the whole story: