It has occurred to me that if one is going to serialize a novel on a blog, it might be best to have some sort of outline. Or plan. Or at least a vague notion of plot. I am hereby declaring that I don’t have those things. This story may disintigrate at any time. Read at your own risk.
If you’re still with me…. This is a flashback, which should come later in the story. But sucks to your outlines, Piggy.
“I’ve found exactly what you need,” I whispered to Edwina. As always, we undressed and slid into bed as quickly as possible, attempting to get under the covers before the chill of the maids’ quarters penetrated our bones. That night, I left the candle stub lit for two extra, precious minutes. It would cost us a dark trip up the stairs later in the week, but it was worth it if the constant look of terror on Edwina’s face would fade a little.
“It’s a newspaper ad I saw in the breakfast room this morning, as I was cleaning the dishes away.”
“What does it say?” Even though Edwina propped herself on an elbow to see over my shoulder, she had to wait for me to read it. My mother taught me before I left home, but Edwina’s mother never knew enough to teach.
I unfolded the paper.
SUCCESSFUL MINER SEEKS WIFE ABLE TO COOK, CLEAN, AND CARE FOR PRIVATE HOME IN CROWSNEST PASS, ALBERTA.
As soon as I said the words, I pinched out the flame, drawing the covers close around my neck and feeling Edwina do the same. It was dark like a coal mine at the back of the house. With my eyes opened or closed, everything was black. Sometimes, I blinked just to figure out if I was awake or asleep.
“Where’s Alberta?” Edwina whispered.
“West. Where they’re building the railway,” I said.
“An ad for a wife.”
“There were more of them, too. But I don’t know. Would you be better off? What kind of man runs an ad like that?”
“What kind of woman ends up like this?” she said bitterly.
I scooted my toes across until they touched her cold ones under the sheet. It was the only comfort I could offer. If she was pregnant by another servant, that would be one thing. The family’s star-touched son was something different.
“Can you imagine Mrs. McLeod’s face if you told her you were going to have her grandchild?” I whispered.
“Her lips would suck themselves in until her mouth disappeared.”
“Her nose would wrinkle up and get stuck like that.”
“She’d wet herself.”
There was nothing funny about the situation, but we giggled anyway. Then we shushed each other lest the sound carry through the floorboards.