Authors: Lindsay Eland
I smiled, quite pleased with our family’s reputation with the lady.
“But,” she said, wagging her plump finger at me, “there was enough smoke billowing out of your house earlier today to kill a person on the spot. I guess these bagels are to pay me off so that I don’t call the cops.”
I shook my head, my curls dancing lightly around my shoulders. “Indeed not, Miss Wiskerton. I am afraid
that Clementine was in charge of the morning baking and quite charred a few loaves of pumpkin bread.”
Miss Wiskerton sat down on her chair and pulled out a bagel. “Well, I’d take her off the baking if I were you. She’s sure to bring you all to ruin and set fire to the entire neighborhood while she’s at it.”
“I could not agree more, though my parents are quite determined that she learn how to bake.” Indeed, she was in quite a trollish mood this morning and I desired to leave at once. “Well, I must be off. I hope you enjoy the bagels and have a most pleasant day.”
The elegant lady huffed, then lifted a small book off the ground. I noticed its title immediately:
, by my own beloved Jane Austen! Though I had not read the book myself, any lover of that famed author was a dear friend of mine.
“Why, Miss Wiskerton. Do you enjoy the works of Jane Austen?”
The lady looked up at me and smiled, her harshness softening. “Yes, I do. I’ve read all her novels, though this is my favorite. What’s yours?”
“Well, I have read only
Pride and Prejudice
, and I must say it is the dearest book to me.”
“Yes, that was my mother’s favorite, too. She had me read it to her every spring and never seemed to get
tired of hearing it.” Her voice caught on the last words, and she dabbed at her eyes. “I haven’t been able to bring myself to read it again just yet.”
Miss Wiskerton’s obvious distress caused my heart to ache with sadness. And seeing that Jack the Nipper was temporarily absorbed in taking out his vicious aggression on one of Mama’s bones, I stole inside the gate and stood by the dear woman’s side.
“Well, be assured that if you would ever care to read it along with me, I’d be most delighted. It is sometimes trying on the soul to be speaking of Mr. Darcy to a group of people and no one around you truly understands how wonderful and noble the gentleman was.”
She smiled. “I’d like that.”
I reached down and squeezed her doughy hand in my own. “You know, dear Miss Wiskerton? I have always doubted the rumors that you were a mean and disgruntled old troll. Indeed, I suspected you were a kindred spirit all along. I’m so glad that it’s mostly true.”
Miss Wiskerton looked at me with surprise and then laughed quite heartily. “Well, thank you, Polly. At least I think.”
I let go of her hand and curtsied. “Good day, Miss
Wiskerton. Enjoy your reading, as I am certain you will.”
“All right, Polly, but still I’d talk to your parents if I were you. Surely they’ll stop that sister of yours before she kills off the neighborhood.”
“Indeed, I shall!” I called back to her. And at that I started off toward home, contemplating Miss Wiskerton’s genuine loneliness, her deep yearning for a gentleman’s company, and her love of Jane Austen.
It was fate!
I must find the woman her one true love, as well as Clementine and Mr. Fisk! Indeed, the three of them were all in desperate need of my help, though obviously they were not suited for each other.
No, each of them would require my special and unique attention. That is, if Mr. Fisk was ready for love. I needed to be certain of this before I began.
But I could feel it pulsing in the air around me! This indeed was going to be a summer filled with romance.
I swept into my home on the wings of this promise and immediately retired to my bedroom, where I read the first four chapters of
Pride and Prejudice
And I was so caught up in the words of dear Jane
Austen that I hardly heard the telephone ringing. “Hello, Madassa residence, Elizabeth Bennet speaking,” I declared, and at once recognized my fault. “I mean, Polly speaking.”
“Hey, Polly. Something’s going on with my dad.” It was my dearest Fran. I could hear distress in her voice. We were so closely entwined as friends that we knew each other’s thoughts practically before they were spoken.
“Oh, dear Fran, whatever is the matter with your dearest father?” Though I did have my own suspicions, I withheld speaking them until I was more assured. Instead, I picked up a pen and began practicing the cursive letter
(for it was the one letter that gave me much trouble when I attempted to write it) over and over again on the small tablet of paper by my telephone.
“He’s making chicken cordon bleu for dinner,
. And then,” she lowered her voice, and I felt the urgency pulse across the telephone wires, “he made a raspberry torte for dessert … from scratch.”
I was startled by this so entirely that I jumped slightly, causing an unsightly bump in the
I had been practicing.
Obviously, being the daughter of the owners of
Madassa Bakery, I know how long it takes to make a raspberry torte from scratch. Mr. Fisk would’ve had to spend at least two hours out of his office, something he hadn’t done since he took Fran and me to New York City to see a show, and even then he’d brought along his laptop. This was highly alarming news.
“Really, a raspberry torte? Whoa. I mean … my gracious!”
“Polly, I just don’t think I can eat the cordon bleu again. He’s made it every single night for the past two months! It’s like he’s torturing me or something.”
“I’m sure that is not the case, dearest Fran, for your father adores you. Still, this is very significant news.”
“Well, what should I do? I mean, this is like the second month I’ve eaten that chicken thing for dinner and it would be nice to have a hamburger and French fries for once, like a normal person.”
“Dearest Fran, there is no need to resort to that. Instead we must meet, for I think I may know what is troubling your father.”
“Really? Well, at least someone has an idea. You wanna come over for dinner? We can talk and … it’d be nice to have someone else to eat with us.”
“Indeed, Fran. Do you not like dining with your father?” Though I was suspicious earlier that she was
lonely, I wondered if indeed she would declare it aloud!
“Well … of course I like having dinner with him, he’s my dad. It’s just that … with just the two of us all the time it still seems kind of … I don’t know … weird.”
“Really, it’s weird? I mean, your father is most attentive and loving. I was unaware that you felt perturbed by regular meals together.”
“Well, it can get kind of … lonely, I guess.”
Could it be? Dare I hope? Oh, blessed afternoon! “Oh, Fran! This is most wonderful news!”
“It is? I said I was
, Polly. What’s so wonderful about that? It’s terrible. All alone all the time.” At once I heard the pout in her voice and realized my faulty comment.
“Oh, yes, quite. I did not mean that. I do think we must meet, though.”
“So do you wanna come for dinner, then?”
“Oh my gosh, yes!” I said, and then sighed with relief at her suggestion and composed myself properly. “It is a most welcome invitation, Fran. Indeed, I do not doubt my parents’ consent and so will join you as soon as I am able to leave.”
“All right, I’ll see you in a bit.”
“Farewell, my dear friend. And know that this, too,
shall pass and we together will right these wrongs! Adieu!” And I hung up the phone.
“Was that Fran?” I turned to find Mama standing in my doorway.
“Why yes, Mama. She has asked if I might join her and Mr. Fisk for dinner. It seems that the two of them are quite …
.” I said this last word with much emphasis, though Mama seemed to overlook it.
She smiled. “That’s fine by me. Have fun, and be back before nine.”
I hugged her close to me. I said, “Thank you, Mama,” and placed a kiss upon her rose-petal cheek and descended the stairs.
“Until tonight,” I called out behind me, and, with the words of Jane Austen still on my tongue and the story close to my heart, I was off.
he journey to Fran’s cottage was a welcome one. As I bicycled along the streets I felt the wind rushing through my hair, and the ribbon I had tied to my sunbonnet streamed out behind me in a most elegant way.
Upon reaching her abode, I found Mr. Fisk sitting on the front step, sipping a small glass of lemonade.
“Good afternoon, dear Mr. Fisk,” I said, dismounting with grace from my bicycle. Indeed it was a surprise to find him out in the fresh air enjoying a summer’s day, so used was I to seeing him sitting inside his office.
My heart thrilled at the sight! Surely this was just another sign of his readiness to embrace love once more.
“Hi, Polly!” he called, patting the stair beside him.
“Is my dearest friend at home, Mr. Fisk?” I inquired.
“She’ll be back in a bit. She’s just picking up some sugar for us at the corner store. I used almost all of it to make a raspberry torte this morning.”
“Ah yes, she spoke of this dessert to me earlier today.” Though I wished Fran were here, I was thankful for the time with just me and her father since I could get a much better understanding of his readiness. “And what caused you to try such a delectable dish?”
He shrugged his shoulders, yet a smile crossed his face. “A friend I have on the Internet gave me the recipe, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I think it turned out pretty good.”
“I am quite sure it did.” We sat in silence for a moment, and I contemplated how to approach my next inquiry. It pained me to open the old wound of his former wife, but I knew I must if I was to know for sure that love was in his near future. “Mr. Fisk, may I ask you a quite delicate question?”
“Sure, Polly,” he said. “We’re good friends. Shoot.”
“Well, I also was wounded deeply by Mrs. Fisk’s departure three years ago. But having had time to heal with the help of Fran, my own dear parents,
Clementine, and of course, Jane Austen, I no longer feel anger toward her, and neither do I feel despair for love. Quite the contrary, I am quite hopeful with love.”
He laughed very softly. “If you’re wondering if I’m okay now, I am. As you know, I wasn’t okay for a while, and I never wish that kind of hurt on anyone, but I’m good now … great even. I made it through, and you know, I’m better for it.”
“And I know that your dearest daughter is healing from the wound as well. I try to be most attentive to her feelings on this subject.”
At that moment Fran appeared from down the sidewalk, a small bag of sugar in her delicate hands.
Mr. Fisk patted me on the shoulder. “Thanks for asking about me, Polly. Fran has a good friend in you.”
“You are most welcome,” I said, and then joined Fran on the walkway. “My dearest friend, we have much to speak with each other about.”
“All right, come on, Polly.” And I followed her into the house and to her bedroom. “I just got some new embroidery thread to make some bracelets and also some nail polish.”
“Oh, that sounds wonderful!” Indeed, though I enjoyed creating the bracelets with Fran, I did not like
to actually wear them, but painting my dainty nails an elegant antique pink was highly appealing.
Still I could hardly think of doing either at such a time as this.
My heart was nearly bursting inside my chest at the thought of dear Mr. Fisk ready for love once more, which he clearly was. And though I was quite certain of it—was my dearest bosom friend ready for a new motherly confidante? Surely this woman could never replace the mother who had cradled Fran in her arms and had sung sweet lullabies over her sleeping babe. Yet still, I was almost sure that Fran did, indeed, desire a companion for her father as well as a mother to confide in.
I was in desperate need to know.
“So, beloved Fran. Please elaborate on what you were saying recently to me,” I said with polite delicateness. I reached for the nail polish and cringed at the bright blue color. “You know, about being lonely.”
Fran sighed and plopped onto her bed with little ceremony. “Well, it just gets weird the two of us all the time. It’s like something’s missing.” She twirled a strand of golden hair around her finger. “Maybe we need a dog or a cat.”
“Ah, Fran. I do not think that you need to go to such hairy extremes to find companionship.” A vision of
Jack the Nipper gawking at me with his vicious teeth bared flitted through my mind and I pushed it away.
Instead, I turned my gaze away from her and smiled with elation. Indeed, you do not need to resort to that, dear friend! I imagined a beautiful woman brushing Fran’s long blonde hair as she sat upon her bed, the woman placing a doting kiss upon my friend’s noble brow and placing a delicate necklace around my friend’s slender neck. “I wanted you to have this, Fran,” the woman would say.
“Are you okay, Polly?”
I turned to find Fran looking at me with curiosity.