I knew there was a reason I connected to Beatrice all those years ago when I read the journal she began after reaching the “new world”. She had been so full of hope about our potential. I believed her. I believed I was meant for more, once I could figure out what that was. What am I for? What are any of us for? Biology tells us we are designed to survive, procreate. Did Beatrice feel guilty for wanting to be something more?
I left the journal on the desk and left the library. I knew I had been hiding. The kitchen lost its comfort after I “caught” Miranda and Thomas. I missed being with the women but I did what I did best, I retreated. But I was tired of being alone. Didn’t I deserve to be around people? What crime did I commit, aside from being born? None. Why was I constantly punished? Because it was easier than fighting. It was easier than being afraid.
The kitchen was empty. I looked at my watch, the time fell between lunch and dinner. The women had left to work on other things as they had before. Perhaps they were in the gardens. Time outside would be just as beneficial.
“Lanie.” David ran to catch up with me. “I was wondering if I could walk with you.” I shrugged, biting my tongue against the snarky remark I wanted to say. “It’s just that I’ve seen you walking with Thomas, so I wondered.”
I stopped. “I walk with Thomas because it’s something to do while we talk. It’s part of my job.”
He nodded, “I see, well do you think you could find time for something other than work?”
I took a few steps before I answered. “I am doing something other than work. I needed a break. You are always welcome. How’s the plan coming along?”
He laughed, “I thought we were doing something other than work?”
The conversation bounced around our childhoods, our favorites and our perceptions of life on the island. We made our way to the Western beach and walked along the shore. This beach was not as walking friendly as the beach on the other side of the island but the large rocks did not stop us.
We sat on a boulder watching the sun begin its descent. My watch beeped. “What’s that,” David asked.
“That,” I said as I made my way to my feet, “means it’s time to return to the manor.”
We walked side by side back to the path and towards the kitchen door. David’s hands found their place in his pockets and remained until we entered. The smells of dinner were all I needed to forget everything else.
“Ah, Lanie,” called Rose as we stopped to wash our hands in the sink, “what tea do you want with dinner?”
I thought for a moment, drying my hands before passing the towel to David. “White peach sounds good, especially if we’re having pie for dessert.”
Rose shook her head. She was not going to tell me. I watched her reach for the tin of tea above her prep area. I could watch her for eternity as she worked in the kitchen. The tin in her hand came to life. It rattled and shook as if it were filled with mice instead of tea. Her hand released the canister which bounced on the stone floor several times before stopping. The lid flew off. Everyone ducked as the lid was followed by a cyclone of tea leaves.
The smell of dust, tea and peaches filled the room as the devil grew. No air moved around us.
As sudden as it started, it stopped. All traces of tea were gone. The tin sat, empty, on the floor, the lid nearby. I surveyed the room. A sweep of white light flickered near the table and was gone. I could almost believe I had seen the tail end of Marion’s dress disappear into the wall.
“Well,” Rose said, dusting off her apron, “perhaps you shouldn’t drink tea tonight.” I nodded my agreement and followed David out of the room.
As I sat, waiting, I kept going back over the strange events involving my tea. What was that quote – something about once all the possibilities had been disproved, whatever is left no matter how improbable, was the solution. I was certain it was Marian’s ghost I saw in the house. She had to be involved but why?
Jane set a bowl of warm tomato soup in front of me, disturbing my thoughts. I glanced at her and around the room. Only she and Sophie were serving. “Where’s Miranda,” I whispered to her. I looked at Thomas across the table.
“She was following you out of the kitchen after, you know what, and had an accident. Mom had her go lay down until she has a moment to assess the damage. We have no idea what happened.”
Vivica scoffed. “Can you believe this? Did you say she had an accident? I’d say the girl was a walking accident.” Jane went back to her task of setting out soup bowls. “The staff here is lacking,” Vivica continued. Sophie set a bowl in front of her. “You know, let me tell you, it’s bad enough that this island is barely habitable but you have to have good service.” I watched as she picked up her spoon and set it in the soup. She continued her tirade as she brought the filled utensil to her mouth. Instead of her mouth, the red splashed down her white blouse.
“This is exactly, what I mean. No one is going to want to visit a decrepit moldy old island that’s too far removed from civilization.” She shifted to stand up.
In a blur of movement and a loud crack, Vivica tipped and teetered back. Greg and Thomas reached for her but were too late. Her head hit the floor with a thump. Edward jumped up from his seat. There was no support in his eyes. Vivica made it to her feet, pushing away any offered help. She turned towards Edward.
I took a bite of my soup. The tomato was fresh and the soup creamy but it was not enough to distract me from the battle waging between those two. No one else moved. I took another bite, no use in letting the soup get cold. After several minutes, Vivica stomped her foot and retreated.
Edward nodded to the group. The attention turned to the soup. Jane returned to clean up the broken chair and all signs of Vivica’s existence. I smiled at her. She smiled in return. This would be the dinner they would all talk about for ages and not one would remember what they ate. Well, I would. Who can forget homemade tomato soup and the show that came with it?