Authors: Lindsay Eland
“Indeed, I am better than okay, dear Fran!” My heart could barely contain my happiness, though I managed to suppress my joy. “Being with you and your father is soothing to my very soul!”
“Well, I don’t know how soothing it’s going to be eating that stupid chicken cordon bleu for the millionth time. I mean really, Polly, what do you think is wrong with him?”
I allowed a small smile to grace my lips, yet I restrained myself from fully putting
forth. “I believe I have found the reason for your father’s sudden love of chicken cordon bleu and for his advancement into the raspberry torte. And indeed it is the
most wondrous and happiest of reasons.” I held up my hand to desist her from asking me questions. “But I cannot reveal my suspicions yet … not until I am quite sure of them.”
“But Polly, he’s my dad. I think I should have some idea of what you think might be wrong with him.”
“Indeed, you are right, Fran. But I do not want to raise your hopes so high when it is merely a suspicion that I have.” I reached for her hands and squeezed them. “I vow to reveal them as soon as I am more certain, and dear Fran, I suspect that will be very soon.”
I could tell by Fran’s face—the way her mouth formed an unsatisfied pout and her eyebrows narrowed at me—that she was not going to stop pestering me for all the world. Yet fate was on my side, for just then Mr. Fisk rapped lightly on the door. “Dinnertime, girls!” and I was saved from the unfortunate task of hiding my thoughts from my bosom friend.
“Oh, no,” Fran lamented, holding her stomach as if in pain. “I just don’t know if I’ll be able to choke down another piece of that dinner.”
I placed a loving arm around her, and together we descended the stairs to the kitchen. “Fear not, my friend. This, too, shall pass.”
The meal was delicious, though I can attest to
my bosom friend’s feelings that to have this meal—however delicious it may be—for two months straight would be a stretch for any palate. This excluded Mr. Fisk, who ate the meal with as much relish as if it were his first time, which did astonish me greatly.
My bosom friend sat across from me at the table, and throughout the meal I watched in horror as Fran spit out bite after bite of her chewed-up food into multiple napkins, so that at the end of the meal she had collected piles of wadded-up paper.
“Ready for dessert, you two?”
Fran was very excited, seeing as she received no nourishment at all during the meal. Her stomach, indeed, was most likely very hungry.
“It sounds delicious, Mr. Fisk,” I said. “For there is hardly any fruit I know of that is as pure and romantic and elegant as the raspberry. And dear me, when you pair that with a torte, I think we shall all be in heaven.”
He smiled, though I am not sure if he understood my meaning until Fran offered a translation. “She’s really excited. Right, Polly?”
Fran helped her father in the kitchen while I was swept away in the romance of what this scene could
be. My gaze fell on the empty chair that sat just opposite of Mr. Fisk. A chair void of any female person. Yet a chair that indeed longed for a … a … sitter (for lack of a better, more refined word). I imagined the woman, slender and beautiful, with merry eyes and a tender smile. In the vision, the woman offered a witty joke that delighted Mr. Fisk, Fran, and myself, their elegant dinner guest. Then once the meal was cleared away, we would all sit down together for a rousing game of whist, followed by a brisk walk along the ocean shores.
Ah yes. They would be a family like one from a book. Indeed, I was sure of it. This was what Mr. Fisk and my dearest friend were yearning for.
“All right,” Mr. Fisk declared as he entered the dining room with a large plate. “I hope it tastes good.”
The dessert was indeed delicious, if not a tad on the sugary side. And though Fran asked if I might stay the night, and I hated to leave her company, I politely declined.
“Dear Fran,” I whispered, as we stood upon the porch. “I must go home and reflect a bit more on your father’s situation. And I vow to call you on the morrow!”
We parted with a hug and the promise of meeting the next afternoon.
Once at my own home, I swept into the kitchen on a cloud of romantic thoughts. There was still much to contemplate and much to imagine before the night was through.
I would need refreshment while I was about the business of love.
Opening the refrigerator, I found nothing that could spark the imagination and nothing romantic enough to aid me in my quest.
Yet I found a dainty batch of frozen raspberries and, having just had a most magnificent torte at the Fisk home, was tempted beyond any resistance to make a glass of raspberry cordial for myself.
Indeed, I could think of nothing so romantic and inspirational than a tall glass of this elegant drink.
And so I set to the task, emptying the raspberries into a pot and adding a little more than a cup of sugar. Then, turning on the stove, I waited for the mixture to come to a simmering boil.
I sat upon a chair and sighed, my thoughts turning over the pleasant events of the evening and the love that Fran and her father would soon find.
Indeed, I was sure of my suspicions.
After three years and two months, Mr. Fisk was
ready to love once more. And it was time for Fran to find a mother. Time for Clementine to have a gentleman upon her arm, and time for Miss Wiskerton to have her own Mr. Darcy.
Actually, it was time for
to intervene in these matters.
Why must it be me?
Clementine was blind to all that Clint was, and Miss Wiskerton was still in the throes of pain from her mother’s death. And then there were Mr. Fisk and Fran.
Mr. Fisk rarely left his office except to make the now-dreaded meal, and Fran was clearly too emotional about the whole situation to see things objectively. Besides, Fran had no other siblings to speak of besides a cat that came each evening for scraps or the dog they were forced to give away on account of its … its urinary tract problem.
I was the only one that could do the job.
Besides, I was good at all things having to do with the ways of love. I was probably one of the only ones who predicted in the opening chapters that Elizabeth would find Mr. Darcy in the end and that Anne Shirley would eventually become madly attached to one Gilbert Blythe. Matchmaking, specifically, happened
to be my forte. I had introduced the Dalmatian down the street to the bulldog next door. Their relationship had been successful, ending in a litter of puppies that, though they were not much to look at, were adored by their parents.
This was my destiny!
I breathed in deep, sighing at the prospects before me, and was at once alarmed by the smell of smoke, and startled as the fire alarm blared above my head.
Mama burst into the kitchen. “Polly, what’s going on now?”
I sprang from my chair and waved my hands in the air in an attempt to disperse the smoke that had quite filled the kitchen.
“I was going to make a glass of raspberry cordial,” I said.
Once the scorched pot was placed into the sink, the windows opened to the outside, and the fire alarm stopped, Mama stood before me, her face a mystery all except for the touch of anger lingering in her eyes. I smiled and attempted to brush the soot from Mama’s apron.
“Sorry,” I said. “I was just so caught up in the prospects of love that I completely forgot about the delicious drink I was concocting.”
“Polly, this is the second time today you’ve let your daydreams carry you away. And it’s the third time that we’ve smoked out the house!” Mama ran her fingers through her hair, which I thought was unwise since it left behind a blackened residue upon her lovely blonde locks.
“I really didn’t mean to. It’s just that it’s so easy to get swept away and I can’t seem to help—”
Mama sighed. “Well, just make sure it’s all cleaned up before you go to bed. And next time, if you think you might get swept away,
turn on the oven or the stove.”
“But that is partially the problem, Mama. And I’m sure you can remember being lost in your own imagination. I just never know when I might get taken away by the moment.”
“Well then, we need to figure out something for you to do so that you aren’t getting ‘swept away’ or the house is going to burn to the ground. But for now, since you never know when it’ll happen,
turn on the stove. Problem solved.” And she departed through the kitchen doors.
Indeed, it was disheartening that my romantic drink was ruined and my dearest Mama was once again upset. Yet I did not let this ruin my spirits.
Instead, as I wiped down the countertops and scrubbed the scorched pot, I thought of my best friend with her adoring stepmother—the two of them buying clothing, getting their hair done, making bracelets, and then the two of them creating a variety of foods together (none of which was chicken cordon bleu).
For everyone knows a girl cannot live on chicken cordon bleu alone.
olly,” Mama said, an apron hugging her dainty middle. “Since Clementine will be doing the early-morning baking, I want you to do the delivering this summer. Your dad and I will pay you.” She filled a brown paper bag with a dozen bagels of different variety, then stapled it shut. “And I hope that it’ll keep your mind occupied enough that it won’t get ‘swept away’ nearly as often, so we can save the house from burning down around us.”
I closed my eyes and sighed. “I’m so sorry, Mama. But really, this is not a good summer to give me a delivery job, or any job for that matter. I have an important goal to be met in just three months. I’m really much too busy.” I reached for her hands and squeezed them in my own. “It pains me to leave you in such a predicament
but I’m sure there is a local high school urchin looking for a few extra farthings to get them through the summer.” I turned to go but was stopped by her hand on my shoulder, digging a little too firmly into my ivory skin.
Mama smiled, holding the bag with our
logo on the front. “Well, it seems that you will be the local urchin this summer, so incorporate this goal of yours into delivering these bagels to the bank. Be there in fifteen minutes.”
The bag dropped into my arms like a heavy burden. I’d successfully gotten out of a job last summer and I was hoping to do the same this summer. Life is much too short to start work at the tender age of twelve, in my opinion. But by the look on Mama’s face, I figured the lot had been cast in my unfortunate direction and would not likely be changed by any amount of dramatic monologues I could conjure up.
But my spirits dragged upon the ground. How was I to find the perfect match for dear Mr. Fisk while burdened with a job? What about Clementine and Miss Wiskerton? It would be near impossible, and I felt very wretched as I entered the bakery to plead my case before Papa, whose romantic nature would surely understand my plight.
“Dearest Papa,” I said, finding him in the middle of delivering a chocolate chip croissant to a young man. “Please speak to Mama on my behalf. She’s bound to tie me to the world of work this entire summer, while indeed, I need to be about the work of love.”
Papa smiled and looked down upon me. “Oh, don’t worry, Polly. You’ll have fun. And I’m sure you’ll find a way to work love, or whatever it is you’re talking about.”
“Pleeease, Dad,” I whined. And though I highly detested to use this tone or these words, my need was desperate.
Papa smiled—“Just a second, Polly girl”—and turned from me to the customer at the counter.
“I’ve been craving one of your bagel sandwiches,” the woman said. “I’ve fallen madly in love with it and with those chocolate croissants. I just can’t get enough.”
Fallen madly in love, fallen madly in love, fallen madly in love
. The words echoed in my heart, and at once I was revived.
Yes, who could resist a croissant or a similar delectable treat? And what better way to entice young lovers to true and enduring love but with a hand-delivered baked pastry from an admirer? The language
of pastries was a language that spanned age and time and senses.